Failing Upward

Failing Upward

  • On November 8, 2015


Failing Upward

An Artist’s Guide to Growing From the Inevitable



It would be nice if things always went our way. Anyone who’s lived awhile on this tiny blue dot knows that this is not always the case.

In art, as in life, things sometimes (even often) go wrong. The trick is to turn failure into triumph by setting painful emotions aside and looking for the lessons within.




No matter how hard it feels, put your ego on hold and think about what has gone wrong. Be honest with yourself and ask the hard questions: Was the concept flawed? Have you selected the correct medium for your message? Did you put the time in? Were you paying attention to the process or trying to speed towards the finish line? Were there skills you needed that you do not yet posses?


Self-ExaminationWhatever the answers, hang on to this momentary detachment from emotions and try to think of what would have changed in the finished artwork had you made different decisions? Envision the ideal expression of your art and what it would take to get there. Ignore limitations such as money, time, technical knowledge or skills and simply picture your idea if all barriers were removed.


Now make this your road map for the future. Boldly face your limitations and create a plan to systematically remove them. This process will continue for your entire life and the goal will be a moving target, but through the entire process you will become ever better.


The (scarily) beautiful thing about time is that it passes regardless of what you do with the minutes. A year spent watching Netflix or a year spent building your skills will flow past you in the same way. Why not make each day an opportunity for growth?


As artists, we tend to experience life through a highly emotional framework. The very sensitivity and awareness that draws us towards creative expression opens us up to some rough self-examination. So, be honest with yourself, but be kind. Make today’s version of yourself the best; every day you are alive.


Let’s be honest: most of humanity’s greatest achievements were built upon a centuries-deep pile of failures.





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“Any great art work… revives and re-adapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world- the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air.”

– Leonard Bernstein