When I Find Myself Failing

At the beginning of the year I declared that I would make more art in 2018. I’ve always been a creative person. But I find that it’s easy for me put off my own work to do something else. That’s what it’s like with stuff I really care about: music, art. It’s hard to do because it’s so personal. But I knew I’d hit bottom yesterday when I found myself scrubbing the bathtub instead of drawing. Ouch!

So when I find myself failing, playing this hide and seek with myself, I sit with it for a while. I notice it. I tell myself not to beat myself up over it because I know, logically, that shame is a road to nowhere. And I also know, logically, that failure is a sign that I’m trying and trying is a good thing.

The next thing I do is set a small goal. Why small? Because part of why I hide from art is that I’m overwhelmed by my options. On the one hand, I’m so lucky in that I can work in a lot of different media. You’d think I’d have art pouring out of my fingertips and eyeballs. But it’s the opposite. All of those options feel overwhelming. I don’t know where to start. The trick here is to choose something small. This time, for me, it’s Ukrainian folk art.

I’m Ukranian on my father’s side. I’ve always appreciated the colors and patterns on Ukrainian eggs and textiles. So why not learn to make it myself? I started yesterday on a floral pattern. So far, so good. I don’t have to think too much about it. I just have to copy and analyze and play.

I discovered two illustrators to help me get started. One is Dina Mirlatipova. Her book “Imagine a Forest” provides tutorial after tutorial on nature-inspired folk patterns. It’s a beautiful book. The second illustrator is Peggy Dean who is a master hand letterer with dozens of lettering classes on skillshare. But the book of hers that I’m using isn’t on lettering. It’s called “Botanical Line Drawing.” Again, a beautiful book.

So the trick to pushing through failure:

  1. Sit with it for a bit
  2. Don’t beat yourself up over it
  3. Find a small way to start