The slippery slope of discovery in art: Joy, failure and fear


Come close my dear fellow creatives, I have a confession to make.

I’m an artist but that doesn’t mean the outcome of everything I create is art. I fail.


I sit down to write. My fingers fly across the keyboard and I don’t check Facebook every four minutes while I write because I am in the zone, that place where time stands still and all I hear are my own thoughts and the sound of my heart. I might cry, I might sob, I write my God damn heart out and yet when I am done, and reread the page an hour later, I might see that my writing sucks.

I head to the pottery studio I work out of in Boulder, Hoi Polloi Workshop, to add handles to some mugs and to finish some neat shapes born from molding in my own hands and as I slide my wet fingers over the clay, smoothing the lip of the mug and then gently carve words on a tile and become even more attached to my art, I know in my belly that it is possible the work will fail because of all the different pieces attached with slip or a glaze snafu and only time will tell if what I have created will put a smile on the face of someone I love or end up in the junk bin.

I take my camera to the front porch because the sun is low in the sky and hiding behind the trunk of an enormous tree with yellow leaves on fire and I think, I need to capture this to remember the light. Or I rush inside to grab my camera during my artist in residency to sigh over the setting summer sun light as it drapes itself across the wooden floor of the cabin’s rustic porch. I might reach for the light only to have it dance elusively from my grasp.

I’m an artist but that doesn’t mean that everything I create is art.

Sometimes the stuff I create just out and out sucks.

Sometimes my heart near breaks over the distance between what I envisioned and what I actually created. Sometimes I say to myself, you don’t know what you are doing, you are NOT an artist and sometimes I think I should just leave the creating to others more talented and trained. Sometimes I fear I will always fall short. I bet you do too.

So, I check Facebook twelve times in ten minutes, send a text to a friend, lie on the floor in the fetal position and let Tigger lick my face, write to my business coach and lament my failings, cry when my boyfriend gets home and then go get a manicure, anything to avoid more failure.

And then…sometimes….

I write my heart out and my words are honest and true and they follow a path I had not planned and I am surprised and happy and my skin fits and I am me and regardless of how many ‘likes,’ comments or compliments, I know that my work has meaning and value because the words are mine. My spirit sings to me and this is when I just know. I am not afraid of failure then.

I slide my hands over clay, a simple pinch pot that I made with scraps from a bigger project and when it is time to glaze, I think well this one won’t amount to much, so no need to fuss, and yet when it comes out of the kiln, it is the piece that gives me the greatest pleasure and my heart is not broken. The without-expectation-of-outcome bowl branded with a dragonfly on the base is beautiful in a way I could never have planned.

I play with composition over and over again in the late afternoon in Moab and wish I knew more about photography as I try to capture the light but I don’t and yet I feel freedom in my attempts and such joy in the process as my hair blows crazy in my eyes and Rob sits patiently and I think he is happy to watch me play and words fail me here — I just exult in the possibility of what might happen. I am an artist.

An artist is defined as a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts, and/or demonstrating an art.

Come close fellow creatives…let me tell you something…if you try, if you practice, if you open your heart to your process…

You are an artist. You are. So go on now and let go of outcome, let go of expectation. Open your heart to exploration, to the journey, to discovery. And possible failure.

Because you are an artist. And that is what artists do.



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