If I am not mistaken, today is day two of our ‘Making Mistakes’ series.
In The Beginning
When I was in about 4th grade I did an art piece. It was a collage with painting. It had pieces of newspapers here and there on the paper, with big areas of white and big areas of red overlapping them. When I had got that far I looked at it and thought it still looked boring, wasn’t complete. So I took some blue paint and sort of drip/splattered ala Jackson Pollack, all over the piece. I thought it looked great.
However, my best friend, Craig, looked at it and said something I have never forgotten. He said, ‘You ruined it with that last blue splatter stuff. You always go to far with your art.’ Now I know what you are thinking…4th grade? Really? Who were you two pretending to be, Matisse and Picasso? But as odd as it sounds, that is exactly how it came down.
I remembered that admonition from Craig throughout all my years in High School, College, Graduate School and as a practicing and exhibiting artist. I remember it not because it was true in that particular instance, I still liked the piece and that it was better with the blue splatters, but because it was my first real lesson in looking at art as not just what you do but what you don’t do, what you leave out. It was my first encounter with the verbalized idea of editing.
As I went about getting my degrees in art back in the 70s and 80s I saw the lesson lived out again and again, in my own development and in the development of my fellow artists. The ones who progressed, who moved forward and got better, were the ones who spent as much time discerning, editing and rejecting as they did creating. The ones who languished were the ones who only created and never edited. The created, but they didn’t create art. At least not art of a very high caliber.
The Tale of Three Camps
They were in one of two camps. They either were too easily satisfied, never going far enough or they always went too far. Of the two camps, ‘Camp Too Far’ was always the more interesting and compelling. It’s like a Ferrari that goes too fast. Seeing it speed by is energizing and a bit scary and perhaps seeing the wreck down the road may be hard to look at, but you look anyway. I’ve been in that camp before (As Craig pointed out). ‘Camp Not Far Enough’ is like Ferrari driven too slow by a little old lady. Not only is it boring to watch but it is frustrating because you know the potential is there, they just won’t put on the gas. Rarely have I been in ‘Camp Not Far Enough’.
Of course, for me, the camp I aspire to live in, and do so more and more as the years progress, is ‘Camp Far’. It’s like the driver who may drive fast at times but knows when to speed up and when to slow down. They don’t often wreck, but they also are willing to risk having a glorious failure in their attempt to push their passion to where it needs to go. The driver knows the accelerator and the brake pedals are next to each other for a reason.
The Fourth Camp
Are you willing to make a mistake? If you aren’t then you aren’t likely to achieve much either. You might be in another camp. The one Henry David Thoreau named ‘Camp Quiet Desperation’. You don’t want to be in that camp.
Drawing and Commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by Scott Adams, 1957 – not dead yet, American cartoonist. Creator of Dilbert.