(illustration by Demetri Martin from This Is a Book)
About a week ago, Joanna Goddard from A CUP OF JO wrote about how intertwined success and failure can be, and I absolutely loved the post. You can read it here. It’s a short post, but it really hit close to home for me. While I’m not one to dwell on my failures, I tend to get over them rather quickly and find other stuff to get excited about, I do have moments where I step back and think ‘Am I doing this right?’
Fortunately (and unfortunately), there is no ‘right’ way to do anything and all we can do is find the way that works best for each of us individually. In that process, failure is a guarantee. But of course, failure never really feels good, so it is also reassuring hearing about other people’s failures (credit for finding this article also goes to A CUP OF JO), especially when I know those failures were just hiccups on the road to success.
I was once showing my portfolio to a grad school professor who worked at a school I was really intent on attending. After looking through my pieces, I was told that my work was good, but if I wanted to get in, I would have to change my art completely and start making something else. It wasn’t a ‘push your work further’ or ‘develop these ideas more’, it was just ‘change it’. Out of the multiple schools that I had met with that day, that was the only school that really mattered to me at the time and it was very disappointing to hear that feedback. But what it did was just get me more defensive about my work. 1) I am extremely stubborn that way but also 2) one person’s negative opinion should not have the power to change anything about anyone. I never did end up applying to that school, figuring we probably would not have had a good run even if I did get in (this was a professor I would have been working closely with). I ended up applying to one other school since I wasn’t super intent on grad school in the first place and it was the only one I actually got excited about (they also ended up rejecting me, by the way, but I did get all the way to interviews with this one!). So, instead of going to grad school, I ended up getting a private studio at Spudnik, stopped working M-F/9-5 and received a grant from Illinois Arts Council. These three changes are probably the most meaningful and defining experiences in my art career thus far and although I don’t know where exactly grad school would have led me, I can say with confidence that I probably learned just as much from the past year as I would have in school. I learned to function on my own, to consider what I find most important and do it for the sake of doing it, and not because it was assigned or a graduation requirement. I’ve always had insanely and extremely supportive teachers and professors, from beginning of grade school (I distinctly recall a second grade teacher praising and hanging my drawings of Clifford) to high school to college, so my major adjustment after college was to learn to trust in what I was doing without constant reinforcement and direction, something that grad school would probably not have been very conducive to. Of course, that’s not to say I wouldn’t have found grad school equally beneficial, but I guess what I’m getting at is that squiggly arrow path to success at the top of this post. No matter what direction we are headed, we keep going forward towards that success, growing through all our experiences, whether we expect it or not.