15 Sep Practice
Experience is merely the name men give to their mistakes.
— Oscar Wilde
Blame Trophy Communism: in our everybody-gets-a-trophy culture, self-criticism is hard to come by.
Which means a lot of weak work gets off the drawing board.
If you’re a Trophy Capitalist, on the other hand, you don’t worry: you know the market weeds out the weaklings.
But self-criticism should be encouraged, if only to grease the market’s skids.
Feeling shame about your failures is just part of the art game and—as an old boss of mine always said—”If you want the name, you gotta play the game.”
I had the recent pleasure of attending a Zoom meeting led by Andrew Wyeth’s granddaughter and chronicler, Victoria.
I asked her whether her grandfather ever destroyed work he wasn’t happy with.
Her answer was immediate: yes.
Like clockwork, every spring and fall, Andrew Wyeth built a bonfire in his back yard and burned work he wasn’t happy with.
He didn’t want it in the world.
Unless it stifles good work, self-criticism strengthens it.
In Daily Painting, Carol Marine admits to wiping her bad—she calls them “practice”—paintings and reusing the canvases (I just throw mine in the trash).
“If you keep your practice paintings, keep them only for documentation of your progress,” she writes.
There’s a lesson here for all painters: don’t sweat your sessions at the easel, think of them as practice; but don’t be so naive as to think every practice painting deserves a trophy, either.
As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain and difficulty.”