A math professor at Williams College bases ten percent
of his students' grades on failure.
Mathematics is all about trying out new ideas -- new formulas...
and knowing that the vast majority of them will be dead ends.
To encourage his students not to be afraid of testing
their quirkiest ideas in public, he rewards rather than punishes them for
coming up with wrong answers.
from Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit
Ms Tharp continues: "If Leonardo and Beethoven...failed on occasion, what makes you think you'll be the exception?"
I am trying to embrace this. Honestly. But it is much harder than it sounds.
Playing a wrong note is one thing....hauling off failed canvases is quite another, at least to me.
But back to the willingness to fail.
I have become more aware of the emotion expressed in certain pieces of abstract art ( - mainly because I have become more aware of abstract pieces in general.) But none of my attempts seem to satisfy me.
So again I try...willing (almost expecting) to fail.
Some warm ups by cutting up pieces of patterned papers in black and white:
These exercises are a wonderful way to experiment with pattern and variations of size and contrast.
Just make a pile of different paper "fabrics," then cut and paste (photo below). No subject, no message, I just wanted to make the final configuration pleasing.
Time for something large and in paint. So I started with charcoal and a fixative on a large square support and blocked out shapes inspired by a photo of heavy clouds rolling in over a field. Somehow I lost both photos. Then I lost my nerve and put the painting away for quite a while. I was totally indecisive as to how to finish it.
Fast forward to this week: I've been working in turquoises and oranges and they give me such a rush of energy that when I spied that forgotten board leaning against the wall I grabbed it and began painting. I let the underpainting guide my response to dark and light but used only the colors I was already using for another piece.
I was liking this ...a lot.
A Perfect Storm
24 x 24 on board, painted 3/4" edge, no frame
It would be a bit presumptuous of me to claim this a "perfect abstract" but it was a perfect storm of energy, color, preparation and nerve. It is going to remind me to be fearless. And it is not going off to the dump anytime soon.
Finally, I have framed and hung the abstract masterpiece below where I see it daily when I leave for my studio. The wild abandon, the obvious lack of constraint and the vibrant colors all say "GO FOR IT."
Go For It
mixed media abstract, 12 x 9
done by my 2 1/2 year old grandson
I can sum up my week's lesson this way: Go for it and you might create a perfect storm. Or not!
Either way, a math professor at Williams College is wise enough to give you credit if you fail.
LEARNING IN LIVING COLOR,