Saturday, May 8, 2021
Saturday, April 24, 2021
Sunday, April 11, 2021
I've discovered how much fun a still life can be. I love this crop where you have a sense of what the scene is, but the focus is just that one red apple in front.
I took some heat for that from a few people in my critique group, but I stand by the decision. You don't have to show everything.
Sometimes a poem is just as powerful as a novel.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
In my day job, we’ve been working on some big projects lately. Learning new things, new platforms, new ways of thinking about things - at the very same time that these same platforms are ‘updating & upgrading’, which means that just as we learn how to do something, it changes. At one point we launched a project and it just wouldn’t work. It was a bit discouraging, but our team has a great mindset and at our next meeting we spent some time talking about the notion of ‘failing faster’.
This is the idea that the object of the game is to blaze new territory, build skills and go where we have never gone before. We remind ourselves that new stuff is…new. There are no crystal balls, you just have to wade in and figure it out. The more you do that, the faster you figure things out and reach your goal. It takes time, effort, and a tolerance for failure and frustration.
This made me think of Thomas Edison’s approach to his own work. You’ve probably heard of his ‘Ten thousand things’ quote. I found the real story HERE.
‘… in 1910 in a comprehensive two volume biography called “Edison: His Life and Inventions”. The anecdote was told by a long-time associate of Edison’s named Walter S. Mallory. Edison and his researchers had been working on the development of a nickel-iron battery for more than five months when Mallory visited Edison in his laboratory.
‘I found him at a bench about three feet wide and twelve to fifteen feet long, on which there were hundreds of little test cells that had been made up by his corps of chemists and experimenters. He was seated at this bench testing, figuring, and planning. I then learned that he had thus made over nine thousand experiments in trying to devise this new type of storage battery, but had not produced a single thing that promised to solve the question. In view of this immense amount of thought and labor, my sympathy got the better of my judgment, and I said: ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’ Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.’’
In 1921 Thomas Edison was interviewed by B. C. Forbes for American Magazine. Edison described an incident that matched the anecdote presented by Mallory although he did not provide a precise dialog [BFTE]:
‘I never allow myself to become discouraged under any circumstances. I recall that after we had conducted thousands of experiments on a certain project without solving the problem, one of my associates, after we had conducted the crowning experiment and it had proved a failure, expressed discouragement and disgust over our having failed ‘to find out anything.’ I cheerily assured him that we had learned something. For we had learned for a certainty that the thing couldn’t be done that way, and that we would have to try some other way. We sometimes learn a lot from our failures if we have put into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of.’
I love that last line.
It’s true for art as well. This is why we work in series - to explore an idea by putting into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of.
Recently, I’ve been working on a series of paintings of Beehunter Creek. [You can see some of the early versions here.] For each study, I have a question: What happens if I use this brush? What happens if I use these colors? What if I reverse that? What if all I do is pay attention to the edges? What if I start this way or that way?…
It means that I end up with stack of things that didn’t work, but slowly, slowly I collect the things that did work and if I keep going, then some day all those things will click into place and a higher and higher percentage of the studies I do will turn out well - precisely because I will already know what doesn’t work and I’ll be able to focus on what does. [The painting above is the 5th study I did of the Beehunter Creek scene. I’ll continue to explore it - larger, brighter, looser, etc.]
I’d love to know the things that you’ve been working on, that you have stuck with until you know the things that won’t work and the things that will. Drop me a line and tell me about it.
Here's another of the studies I did in this series.