John Clapp
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Failure

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[...] what i want to know is how you can go on finishing a picture when you know it's crappy and there's no way to save it?  what's your mindset when something like that happens? do you have some sort of mantra (or something?) that helps guide you along? any words of wisdom will help.
Debbie Bruce, San Jose, CA

1.  First of all, your mental state is the most important thing of all, before, and especially during.  If you are apprehensive as you start a drawing, you'll draw that way.  If you expect to fail, you will, and surprisingly enough, if you expect to do a masterpiece, you'll fail too! You should be approaching them with NO expectations for the result, only an expectation that you will focus your concentration intently on your observations.  So I would say, before starting, make sure you're relaxed, interested, happy, and alert.  (It's a lot like a meditative state.)

2.  As you work on a drawing, if you notice it going badly, I would do a few things immediately:  Stop drawing for a moment.  Take a deep breath, relax, lose your negative thoughts about the drawing as best you can, (resolve to pleasantly make the best of it.) and remind yourself to concentrate a little harder, a little more intently.  THEN, as you go to draw again, try to focus your observations a little smaller, a few inches, instead of a foot, an eyelash instead of an eyelid, etc.

I know it sounds very touchy-feely, but your mental state is really more of your enemy at this point than the faults of your drawing.

3.  Lastly, it is ALWAYS possible to save a drawing, somehow, someway.  Is it worth the time it would take? Not necessarily, it depends on the drawing. The reason I say it is always possible, is you can do ANYTHING to it you want: you can add other media, wipe it out and work over it, work over it opaquely, etc., etc.  Sometimes what you have to do is think drastically. 

Remind me, next time we talk to show you this thing called "Oblique Strategies".  It was originally a deck of cards created by Brian Eno and a friend of his to help them in the recording studio.  Basically, it supplies a randomizing element to kick-start the creative process.  When stuck, or when something isn't working, you draw one of the suggestions out and see how it applies to what you're doing.  For example, say you're working on a sketch, and it's going badly, the card might say:

#33
Consult other sources:
-promising
-unpromising

or

#112
Mute and continue.

And you try and think how they might apply to your situation.  ("Mute and continue" might inspire "quieting" down one area of the drawing by reducing the contrast, etc.)

Anyway, what I TRY to do when I have a disaster in progress is get MORE radical in how I'm approaching it.  I have NOTHING to lose, so I might as well take a shot at it.  Who knows?  I might get lucky! :)


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