A ‘FAIL’ and What Came Afterwards

In case you haven’t caught up yet, I am taking Life Book 2015 this year.  This past week we had the opportunity to watch an artist at work and then, if we wished, to follow her process and have a go ourselves.  No instructions were given, so it was a case of wing it, be inspired and have a go.

First up I have to admit I wasn’t that inspired.  It wasn’t the artists fault.  I really enjoyed watching her process and what she made.  I think I felt the process was finished right there.  But as I want to try new things this year I decided to get stuck in.

I decided to use an already collaged A4 water colour paper – the fact that I didn’t like the colours on the paper should have been warning number two – but apparently it wasn’t and I pushed on doggedly.

I made this

Tightrope original

It’s an epic ‘FAIL’ There is nothing in here that is pleasing in any way.  Layers of colour turned muddier and muddier – the figure is – just awful.  I certainly learned a lot about what not to do ……….

So I tried again.

The rest of this post is specifically for Frank, who asked me to document my process – I hope you will enjoy seeing the stages

First I sketched my whimsical walker

tightrope1

Then the first layers of colour are applied to the face and body

tightrope2

tightrope3

I worked with these three colours until I got the shading, shape and depth I wanted – maybe eight or nine layers of colour – I wasn’t counting.   Next some red is introduced

tightrope4

The hair colour is ‘Payne’s Grey’

tightrope5a

tightrope6

She’s well and truly in ‘the ugly stage’.  I know to keep going, it’s just a phase!

tightrope8

I’m still working on the face, adding layers and details, backwards and forwards, switching between eyes, nose, mouth, legs …..

tightrope9

Suddenly and abruptly, she leaves the ugly stage and starts to come alive.  I paint her tutu

tightrope10

tightrope11

Her underskirt appears and words are added.  Later I discover I don’t like the word ‘Walk’ here

Tightrope12

The background colour is painted in and I’m in the zone

tightrope13a

I work for another hour and a half, collaging and adding in the background detail, painting layers over, toning down with gesso and bringing back up with more yellow and green.  ‘Walk’ is discarded.  The face and hair get final attention.  I take no photos, I am too engaged with what I am doing.  Finally I am happy, she is done

tightrope14a

The Tightrope Walker, holds her heart in her hands and walks out onto the high wire.  Her eyes are closed, she is intent on her inner world, her intuition, her trust, her faith and her knowing.  The sounds and activities of the world do not pull her off balance.  She is in the zone.

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

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82 thoughts on “A ‘FAIL’ and What Came Afterwards

  1. Fascinating watching the process and how your beautiful creation takes form Pauline, you are so talented. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to visit as much as I would like, things have been a bit tough lately one thing after the other, not least of all with laptop issues, but I’m hoping that this week brings a fresh start. My blogging has taken a bit of a back seat. But I did want to pop in and see what you are up to and I can see you have been wonderfully busy 🙂

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    • Thank you for travelling back in posts Sherri 🙂 I keep you both in my thoughts from time to time – and hope laptop issues are sorted out now. They can brings our lives as we know them to a screaming halt! I am having a wonderful time learning and playing about with colours and forms – this is my year to really develop as an artist!

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  2. Wow I loved getting a peek into how your creativity works. I love your final girl but I while I do like your second painting I don’t think your first attempt is a total failure, she’s just different but still beautiful.

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  3. Hooray … and thanks! 🙂 …Interesting how your “failure” led you to the new creation … then again, I can see how that fits into the process. Love the way the music and words background appeared.

    The fact that you remembered and acted upon my request creates a smile at this end.

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    • Glad you enjoyed it Frank! I’m also glad you asked, as I also enjoyed it – the act of remembering to stop and photograph the steps is a challenge, but such a good record of process and change.

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  4. Wow. I was fascinated with the process and then you added the background and POP! Really wow. Thanks for showing how you executed the piece. Of course, as with any creativity, the vision is a mysterious mix of the ineffable…

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  5. Wow! This is quite a process. I’m glad you shared it with us. I just love the finished product.
    Her faith, her trust, and her intuition are those things that make her so peaceful in a noisy world. You are such an inspiration, Pauline.

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  6. Like the other commenters I , too, am fascinated by the process and the end result. The second work is in the ‘zone’; you can see it all over the delightful figure. Now, tell me do, what do you do with the “fail”? Is it kept for reference, binned, hidden out of sight, used for collage, shredded to add to the compost?

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  7. I feel almost as if a magician has revealed his secrets to the audience–amazed at the process, and gobsmacked by the skill. Pauline, your work is mesmerizing. I so loved seeing the stages of creativity and creation. What a treat. And of course, you DID ‘live in trust.’ Your gut told you what was steering you down the wrong path, and the correct direction you desperately wanted to go toward. I loved the parallels.
    Another week of wonderment. I will never cease to be surprised by the depth and breadth of your talent.

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    • You are very generous Shelley, thank you! And yes, I learned there is a voice that says ‘rubbish!’ that is not criticising, just being really honest and one step ahead of the game! 🙂 When it works out it is quite nice isn’t it! 🙂

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  8. Hello dearest Pauline! Look at you ‘work it’ girl. That’s so interesting to see all the steps. Wow, I would never know there’s so many colours just for the flesh parts. I actually like the face, hair-do and juggling hearts in your first work. Nice you went ahead and finished her rather than abandon it completely. I’ve done projects that have taken time and materials only to be underwelmed in the end. It’s a learning opportunity I guess. Her little frock is so cute, my colour as you know but I also like the lacy slip.

    Do you hand print in the backgrounds or add printed paper and then paint over it? The white dots are just perfect, they add so much light. Like little stage bulbs. I linked over to Life Book 2015. Super colourful and fun looking. I’m having lots of fun in the craft room these days with the paper collections that are out right now. I just love all the colours. Lots of seafoam and aqua and coral, just like they were made for me. I’m heading there now. Hugs and love sent your way xoK

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    • I like that ‘underwhelmed’. That is such a good way of putting it! 🙂 I must adopt it immediately!!

      I think when we work creatively we will always have projects that just don’t work out and it is okay. It’s grist for the mill and very often a leaping off point to something that really works. I don’t have a problem sharing my fails and can feel quite cross when people insist on saying ‘It’s lovely’ when I know it isn’t. [Thank heavens you didn’t say that!] For instance, the little frock and lacy slip you so admire in the fail was supposed to be a tutu 🙂 The colours are muddy, not clear and bright, so also a fail for me. If you biggify the fail picture you can see the smeared paint from layer after layer being added, the rough pen and pencil work, again from layers built up unevenly and the surface no longer being smoothly workable. All the red pen work was added in at the end to try and brighten the thing up, it worked a bit – but not enough. If I enlarged this it would look even more awful, but if I took the second one in to be printed out on A3 paper [she’s on A4 now] she would enlarge seamlessly due to the depth of ‘good’ work in her. These are all the things I judge a fail and a success by. Then, whether or not someone actually ‘likes’ a picture is entirely their personal choice based on a hundred different personal preferences and nothing to do with the quality of the work. Does this all make sense to you? [I just felt I needed to explain why I called it a fail – which I didn’t actually do in the post, silly me!]

      The background in the second painting is a combination of torn scraps of a musical serviette and a large script stamp I am fond of using as a background layer. I have just recently fallen in love with making little white circles as part of the background too – don’t ask me why, I just like it 🙂 I realised after I had made them that they were representative of the world she was blocking out in order to listen to her inner voice……… Part of what I love discovering when I am in the zone is that stuff appears without me thinking intellectually about it.

      So glad the paper world has gotten together and made papers of just the right colours for you this year. You must be having an absolute ball at that shop!

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      • ooops, I should have clarified. It’s the Aqua frock of your second gal that I admire. That’s something I’d want to wear ice skating.

        As for lovely paper, it’s just too hard to resist. Do you find yourself collecting product because it’s new, it’s fresh? I’m running out of room. Thanks for sharing the details on construction of your background. I like the white dots too, I don’t know why either, ha. xi

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        • You go ice skating?? Now that is impressive!! The second frock – nearer to a tutu, but still not quite there….. the colour is just gorgeous isn’t it 🙂 I find myself putting that particular colour into every painting – I can’t resist it!

          Apologies for the lecture, especially as it wasn’t even that painting you were referring to – [I really don’t like the ‘fail’, can you tell?]

          I no longer collect product just because. If I live to be a hundred and make something every day I would still not have used everything in my stash, nor all my stamps, dies and templates. Now I just buy pens and colouring things – paints, pencils, pastels, charcoal and art paper, as necessary to restock. I’m being good 🙂 I’ve been thinking of selling off some of my scrap-booking stuff as I seem to have stopped that avenue of creativity ….. though never say never!

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  9. I’ve always said I am more a process person than a destination person; and here you are, sharing your process! Thanks so much; it’s not always easy to share the ‘fails’ (although if we never fail, we never achieve, either). I like the hair and the shape and placement of the words best in the second one. The words were a bit distracting to me in the first. The second gill looks more serene, too; less as if she is trying to balance; she just IS balanced. Love this. Hope you share more in future. You may need to buy a camera that can be focused on your work space and take pictures every 10 seconds or something . . . then you wouldn’t have to stop for taking pictures. It’s so much easier to accomplish things if we just keep on going, but it’s so much more fun for your readers if you pause for pictures . . . 🙂 ~ Linne

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    • Thank you Linne – It does appear that most commenters were interested in seeing the process unfold – I was glad I stopped to take the shots and wish I would have remembered more towards the end. It is also helpful for me to look back on the process and note where things ‘happen’. I should love to have a video camera one day and then I could film the process and share a fast forward now and again! 🙂 One day!

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  10. Most of the time we get to see finished product. a “picture”. Even if that picture is awesome we can only engage with the finished product, there isn’t any degree of personal involvement with that piece of art. We might love it but it is definitely in, and of itself, a finished product. Here we get to see the layers, the colours, the actual hard graft that goes into painting and creating a gorgeous artwork like this. SO MUCH WORK Ms Pauline! All of that tiny writing, the colours and you are right, she DOES suddenly come alive. You couldn’t have put that into my head in words but the photos take me on a real journey. I feel privileged to have come along with you on this creative ride from start to finish. Thank you for sharing this amazing journey with me Ms Pauline 🙂

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    • Thank YOU for this amazing comment! There is about six hours of work or maybe a bit more in this A4 sized painting – it is a process and always a learning curve! I am so glad you were able to feel you were following along and building a relationship with what arrived finally. Imagine how I feel when I make something that I actually like. 🙂 The ‘tiny writing’ you mention is a stamp and the music is a collage made with printed serviettes. Not everything is as it appears 🙂

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  11. Beautiful, and I am so impressed that you documented FLOW. When you’re in it, it’s tricky to step back and take a picture. 🙂 Thanks for the gift of process. Love you! xo

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    • Absolutely right – I just finished saying that very thing to the previous commenter. When I truly disappear into it towards the end, there are no photos – that is where the magic really happens for me. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed seeing the early stages. 🙂 Arohanui xoxo

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  12. I love the glimpse behind the curtain of the creation process. Very beautiful work and so representative of you.

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  13. I really like the first one but the second one …oh my gosh!! It is truly fantastic. It is so interesting watching you build from nothing to something. Leading up to the finale so interesting and inspiring. You gave me a new appreciation of the effort it takes to put something so intricate together. I love the finished product and I love how she does look trusting on that tight wire. I hope you know what an amazing talent you really do have. Your style is very unique! You really need to display your work so that more people can appreciate them. 😊

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    • Thank you – those are very kind thoughts! I’m really pleased to hear you enjoyed watching the process – I have never been sure if that is interesting to others. It appreciate hearing what my readers think – and I love honest feedback!

      I do have a link to my Etsy shop at the top of the blog – do I need to have an ‘Art Gallery’ as well I wonder? That might be fun!

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  14. You changed her eyes..they are closed:-) There is a feeling of peace on her face now:-) It goes with “trust”…hmmm…I noticed that as I went back to observe the process. Thank you for sharing your process:-) I bet you are in the “zone” when you do this….you inspire me to be in the “zone” again. She is lovely!

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    • The second one always had her eyes closed Robbie – she came that way 🙂
      I get more and more into the zone as the process continues – once the whimsy appears as herself I get completely lost – which is why there are only the two photos of the final stages – I am oblivious to anything at that time! I sometimes finish and look up to find a cat sitting next to me on the work bench and a puppy sitting looking up at me from the floor and I have no idea how long they have been waiting patiently ……

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      • oh, I am sorry. I thought you did not care for the first one so you took the same idea and created a new one based on the first + it pleased you:-) l liked the eyes closed for the quote:-)

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          • lol…awww…I found it interesting and encouraging to read your post for it made me think—-….when I do art, it does not have to be perfect the first time—lol..I love the messy process and to show a work in progress is hard to do-but when you do it shows great confidence as an artist!
            I spend so much time with flowers + ride a bike…my dirt is my canvas now + when I do draw it is to doodle these days! I no longer dance, but ride my bike which is not the same…but at least I can move!

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            • I love that soil is your canvas – perhaps you need to make peace with the fact that your garden is your art studio – the photos on your blog certainly attests to that fact! All movement is good – and I do not do enough of it! But I enjoy that I can still toddle about with the puppy 🙂

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              • lol-“toddle”…love that word…I toddle on my bike-had to say that-LOVE IT:-)
                Yes, I know my garden is my “art” but I still want to explore where it can lead me:-) It is endless what you can grow and create with! I do love to sit and watch it move in the wind-it dances for me now!

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          • + I checked out that site you posted about the art class–I can see how neat it must be to spend time together with other creative souls that share your same passion! How neat! You all have a style + look that is colorful + exciting!
            I was researching “ecological artist”-the other day-lol…maybe my thingy-..for I am interested in making my own art supplies from my garden-this should be an interesting adventure! I just ordered a book about making nature printings and paints from it—I am an eco-art-wanabee! LOL
            I’ve used natural colors from the garden for paper making-that was fun!

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      • I guess, a more creative word would be “flow”…creative flow…zone sounds like a sport-lol…time passes in a creative flow:-) the best way to pass time!

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  15. This is fascinating! I loved watching the work change through the stages and come to life–and, yes, I do think the second attempt is much lovelier than the first. But the first one served a purpose, right? And made it possible to know how to approach the second more successfully!

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    • Yes, you are right! It also taught me to NOT start working with a background in place, especially if I don’t like the colours and placement of the collage! You will note I did the background last on the second piece, which is my usual modus operandi ………. Sometimes I just need to remind myself I do things a certain way simply because it works best for me 🙂

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  16. I loved watching you work. How you got the words in the background looks like a fascinating process as well. I see this kind of art and love it but have no ability to draw even the simplest of things. So I get to enjoy watching you do it. Thank you for sharing your process and work. Do you seal your art with anything to protect it when it’s complete?

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    • How I got the words etc in the background is answered in two different comments below yours, if you are interested to find out more. Re the sealing, it depends what I am working on – this is done on 300 gsm art paper which is quite thick and heavy bodied and requires nothing added as it is expected the original would be framed behind glass. The painting you have purchased however is done on a rigid canvas board and can be displayed without framing if wished [though framing enhances the beauty in my opinion] and those pieces are always spayed with a couple of coats of sealer to protect the layers and surface.

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      • Thank you and I will look back at the post to read the other comments. It’s a bit hectic here this week. My ex-daughter-in-law is due today for a weeks stay. Yes, that’s correct. My son’s ex-wife is here to see him and help move stuff. I am glad they are good friends still.

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  17. I see we both found this week’s lesson a challenge. I think your fail – muddy colours aside – is far more successful than my fail and your finished, final piece is certainly much better than mine. Thank you for sharing the stages of your progress with us. I need that guidance since I am new to working with acrylic.

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    • I am growing quite fond of my second walker – the first just reminds me of how far I have come. Which is a good thing! 🙂 I’m pleased you found some help in watching the progress – it was interesting for me to photograph it!

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  18. I don’t think anything you create is ‘awful,’ Pauline. Your talent continues to amaze me and the Tightrope Walker is MAGNIFICENT! Thanks for sharing the progression. xo

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  19. The Tightrope Walker is beautiful, she looks so serene and peaceful. And I love the text in the background, did you write the words? I also think there are some really nice bits in the first one too, I like the little red ‘button’ hearts x

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    • Re the first one, I was trying to lift her from her sludgy doldrums by adding in some red and some of it is quite effective – thank you for finding something good in her. 🙂

      The background music is torn up strips of musical serviettes, collaged in place, then painted, gessoed and painted over again. And the words are from a very big stamp I love to use as a background layer.

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  20. I would have been happy to produce the First Lady to be honest. But my oh my how lovely is that second gal. I love the peaceful look on her face, just a wonderful creation.

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    • I think you just nailed it Kym – the first one is an example of my beginning level of painting – disjointed, disproportionate, muddy, over worked and unsatisfactory. That’s why it’s a ‘FAIL’ for me. As the level of my work improves, I find it is a tad disconcerting to dive back to my beginner stage again! 🙂 Thank you for helping me clarify that xo

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  21. I enjoyed seeing your process too, I was impressed that you knew to keep going past the ugly stage…there’s trust. True, the colours in the first one are a bit muddy and don’t pop, but her face is lovely and alive, and her eyes, with their introspective focused gaze, have a sparkly twinkle, so I don’t think she’s a fail. Yes, well done Pauline x

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    • The faults far outweigh any positives in attempt #1 for me – but bless you for seeking out something to like 🙂 All my paintings begin like that [ugly] – I’m working to find the expression from a sketch that has the beginning of it …… they look ‘ugly’ for much of the process, and I am focused on watching the slight improvements appear as I add tiny bits of paint here and there and then, suddenly, she will abruptly pop into life. When I first started painting faces I would stop too soon not knowing to keep going ….. most of the early faces are not quite right! 🙂

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    • I don’t do soft colours well – that was part of where it went horribly wrong first attempt. That and several other major reasons! I really like the colours in this one too. Thanks for your honest comment, I really appreciate it!

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    • I am glad to hear you found it interesting – it is actually a good process for me too – as long as I remember to click away as I’m working. It’s always interesting to find the points where things come together – the rest of the tie I’m working in trust 🙂

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