Successfully Failing

  • Moderator

    I thought a lot, today, about failures and I tried to come up with a list of my own failures within the spectrum of my art in my lifetime. It was tough, I never really failed before because I never tried hard enough. That in itself is my huge failure. I've failed to fight for a dream because I was too afraid to fail. Ironic, that. I stress the word, BEFORE, though, because this past year I have failed A LOT. I am trying now, and failing ALL THE TIME but they have been small failures because I have learned to not let them hold me back. Early on in the podcast series @Lee-White had said something that has stuck with me. I'm paraphrasing, but basically he said that every piece of art that he made (I think in school) he treated as a draft. Something that he could easily throw away if it wasn't up to scratch. I took that to heart because when I paint something, I tend to LOVE it. Even if its crap. Probably because I'm an arrogant idiot. So much so that I can't see the flaws and I don't learn from my mistakes. So now when I draw or paint, I try not to get attached. It's also helped tremendously that I have art friends now (thank you forum friends!) that help me see the errors of my ways.
    I am truly thankful to you, @Will-Terry. I would not have the healthy mindset that I do if it weren't for you. I have learned more from your YouTube videos and the SVS Podcasts than I ever did in college. I'm glad you're not a correctional officer. 😜

  • This was a great podcast, really got me thinking about all my failures.

    Mine was in primary school, I remember my art and culture teacher failing me and telling me that I would never be an artist.
    I went on to study fine art where my lecturers were not supportive of my character design, they did not see it as real art.
    I decided to show them all that all they have done is motivate me to work harder.

    When I finished studying, I went back to that primary school teacher and gave them a drawing from my studies, at first I wanted to prove him wrong, but it was more of a thank you for making me more motivated to work on my craft.

    I have had loads of failures since then, but they have all taught me something, and have motivated me to be a better artist.

  • SVS OG

    Great episode. I don’t know how many attempts I had at esty shops or thinking “this is going to be the one” art ventures have crashed and burned. Some for the lack of a good product and others I just didn’t have the “know how” to make it happen. Although, most of it I feel was God saying “it’s not time yet.” My kids were small and they kept coming! Ha! But those failures allowed me to still have that spark for what I loved doing, which is creating. Whether it was hairbows, murals, jewelry and the list goes on. I still love to make art because I never had that success which lead to a burn out.

    Now I have more time than ever before. I have a permanent space to keep my paints out and I have a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips. Including the savvy people at SVS! There is a huge group of people that want to tell you how they made it... and help you do the same. Which is AWESOME! So thanks. I feel more successful ever and I haven’t even reached out to any clients. I know who I am as an artist and I know the path to get there. Well, kinda. But that’s enough for now!

    Can’t believe jake has a good storage story. That’s awesome. I would’ve never guessed it. I’ve heard Will’s story on his YouTube. Self control with money can be a beast that people never learn to control in their lifetime. Your story helps me as I think about spending! Thanks for sharing that. And Lee, we need proof of the not so good paintings. I just don’t believe it. We need to see your starting point!

    Thanks guys for another great episode!

  • This was a great episode! I expected to appreciate it, as my personal motto is "Fall seven times, rise eight." I keep little Daruma tokens to remind me to keep getting back up. They are funny little dolls that you push over and right themselves now matter how much you knock them down. There is more spiritual meaning behind them as well, but a great symbol to "keep trucking."

    You guys were really open and I really appreciate it. I've never really heard such direct talk about how to make it as an artist and the pitfalls and reward. @Will-Terry , So glad you stayed doing illustration. I love your classes and thank you for sharing about personal and difficult journey.

    I have failed so much that it's funny because a lot of my friends think I'm brave or successful when really I just dealing best I know how and half most of the time clueless.

    Like Jake-Parker, I started a small business and a year later was back working corporate and had to borrow money from a close friend because I made financial miscalculations.

    Right before that I lost a job, the first time an employer had been unhappy with me. It was crushing and I got divorced at the same time, which was far more crushing. I wasn't really in a place to start a business but I'd wanted it a long time so I tried.

    I've had to learn to walk 3 times. The extra two were definitely thrust upon me from outside my control. But being bedridden for any length of time feels like failure.

    I moved to a foreign country, only to discover I was truly clueless about how bad the housing situation was. I really had no idea it could be so challenging. Fortunately, I was able to get by OK and learned how to live smaller and keep way less stuff.

    Recently I succeeded at launching and maintaining a corporate group to teach kids in low income neighborhoods coding with raspberry pis and my former company maintained the effort after I left. But I'd actually attempted to do similar projects about 5 times beforehand and failed. So the success I'm most proud of started as a repeated failure. It took a long time for me to learn the leadership skills.

    I also was completely rejected from the arts magnet for middle schoolers in my hometown. It set me up for success in some ways though, because while I was really disappointed I went to the science school instead and always had STEM related opportunities. And my "home school" was quite dangerous so even then science was my back up and kept me taken care of when I wasn't there art wise. To be clear, every child should be safe in school and it isn't right at all that I had that only because I had exceptional math scores, but we get by the best we can and then help others once we get through.

    That may have been too many failure stories. LOL. But I'm so grateful for this podcast keeping thing real and being honest and open. It can be risky to be so forthright and I'm really grateful to you all for being real and sharing the wisdom and knowledge you've gained along the way. I'm also deeply appreciative for the classes you guys have made. I watched the art licensing one yesterday and have been watching others about peoples careers and realizing there are ways art can be a larger part of my life than I previously thought possible. Thank you guys so much for helping me see that.


  • SVS OG

    @Jake-Parker @Lee-White @Will-Terry You three are not only wonderful artists, you are also great human beings. The honesty, insight, wisdom, humor, and humility you share on this podcast is so refreshing and it is always the highlight of my week. Thanks so much.

  • This episode really resonated with me — I have always loved drawing, took a bunch of art classes in high school, and have my 2 year degree in visual communication and a certificate in character animation, but ended up taking a retail/tech support job to pay for my school. This went from part time, to full time, to being there for 5 years, to getting a corporate tech support job to escape retail — plus getting married and having my son along the way.

    On the surface it doesn’t look like failure but it feels that way to me a lot since I am not primarily employed in a creative field. I do freelance work very occasionally, but mostly I am too worn out from working 40 hours a week/commuting/taking care of a 1 year old to do much with art when I do have free time. I beat myself up a lot for not “going for it when I had the chance” and feeling like it’s too late and I missed my opportunity to pursue what I’m passionate about.

    It was really encouraging to hear Jake’s story about the period of time between quitting the studio job and getting to a steady point as an independent creator — a good reminder that things take time, yes we need to push for our goals but we also need to be patient with ourselves and give ourselves some grace when we have to be in a less than ideal work situation to support our families.

    Thanks for making this podcast — I’ve listened to most of the episodes in the past month and it has been soooo beneficial to my mindset, and inspired me to work on taking a step at a time towards my goal of having art be my main gig instead of an occasional side hustle.

  • This is the best episode! I love every episode but this one make everything balance and make sense! thanks for sharing this 🙂

  • Since I am not yet published, the only failure I can think of right now is when I stopped drawing a little over 6 years ago. We had a new baby, so I lost my office to make a nursery. I think not having my art materials readily available stiffled me somewhat as it was a bit of an effort to get everything to paint set up on my small desk in our bedroom. Fast forward about 3 years, and the bug bit me and I was back at it. While I can't say I necessarily regret the haitus under the circumstances (love my daughter), I wonder where I would be now if I had kept at it.

  • Pro

    I have failed a lot in my art journey, so many things I applied for (jobs, grants, awards, contracts, agents etc.) that I didn't get. At the time, each of them cut deeply and left me feeling unworthy, like a complete failure. But now that I look back, I have trouble even remembering specifics. The ones that I did get, although fewer, were far more memorable than the ones I didn't get, and all I can recall now is how much more happy I was when I did get one because it was hard to do. All that's left now is the feeling of pride when I see how far I've come, despite the fact that at the time each failure felt like I wasn't moving an inch. And after listening to the podcast I find myself feeling proud for failing a lot, because I realize now it only means I tried a lot!

  • Pro SVS OG

    I have nothing really clever to say... just that I loved, LOVED this episode. It was so uplifting and overall amazing! Thank you guys!

  • This episode was well-timed for me, as I'm right in the middle of a "fail period" at the moment. Which is really exhausting and challenging. After two years of illustrating books, setting up Redbubble shop, increasing exposure on social media and such, I suddenly have to take a step back from my illustration career. I'm still not sure if it's mostly because of financial reasons or because of creative burnout after having been thrown into the business side of it all without really being prepared for it. And I guess it feels like a failure when you have a hard time keeping up the momentum, so to speak.

    It all reminds me of this great analysis of the Studio Ghibli movie Kiki's delivery service. About how failing when you are working with your passion can be a double blow, as you're both failing in your career and in your identity - leaving you with a feeling of being lost.

  • Hi Guys! I want to say thank you for this podcast.
    it's by far my favourite.
    This episode was much needed as we all go through this failure, in big and small scale, all the time.
    The classes at SVS are for me an anchor as I am starting out understanding a bit of illustration and also that it's a BIG thing, design, composition, style ,etc.... Things that in a fine art degree nobody really thought me.
    Failing to me goes a lot with TRUSTING, or better the LACK of it. Often I would do a piece which represent the best I can do at that moment, and as soon as I stop there is an inner judge which makes it a failure no matter what.
    So, here we go. Lot to learn about TRUST together than failure.... PLEASE KEEP GOING with this podcast, you are such amazing teachers, humains and make me laugh so much! I hope one day to be part of one of the live classes to get my work under your hands!

  • I'm currently drawing, writing and colouring my own original comic book and its called "The Failed Artist" - this was a great listen and great thoughts have come from it.

  • This episode reinforced a lot of my feelings. I never went to formal art school. I have a degree in nutrition and work retail. After i found this site it made me feel like i can get there with hard work! I devided to participate in the contests and treated my submissions as homeworks and projects, i never won one as of this day however the one for January I did get a runner up shout out and that made me feel encouraged to keep going. It’s the little wins that have really helped.

  • Moderator

    I'll just add to the chorus of thank-you's for this episode. I've taught Costume Design at a local university part-time for the last 20 years, and I can tell you the response to failure for the current generation of students is very different than the ones when I started... So many of the younger folks I teach now have grown up with the idea that if something can't be mastered quickly or without effort one shouldn't attempt it. There is an overwhelming pressure to have "talent" in something which should thereafter define what your future is going to be. There is very little room for failure, and when one does fail it seems to carry so much more weight than it used to. So folks are fearful of trying things that are hard to accomplish or take time to develop (like playing the piano or tap dancing--or <shocker> ART).

    I didn't start to learn how to sew until I was a junior in college. And now I teach others how to sew for a living. I've worked at major regional theatres as a costume technician on shows that have gone on to Broadway. If I had defined my path by what came easy, I'd be a professional food sampler and mattress tester.

    There is something to be said for having an end goal in mind and working toward that goal and accepting failure as a necessary part of that trajectory. I worry for folks who instead use failure as a compass for determining their path in the first place.

  • SVS OG


    "If I had defined my path by what came easy, I'd be a professional food sampler and mattress tester."
    So wise and soooo funny! Thanks for the perspective and thanks for the laugh!

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