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A long rambly post about creating and failing

2016 March 28
by elizabeth_admin

Hi to whomever is left!

I know I’ve been a bad blogger.  Leaving you for months at a time.  I have realized I won’t be a full time blogger ever again really.  I’m ok with that.  And if you’re reading this, maybe you’re ok with it too.

The last thing I sewed for myself were a couple of dresses that I made for my NYC vacation earlier this year.  I picked up the New Look 6298 pattern for a winter knit dress and made two in quick succession after getting fitting help from my LA sewing friends.  This dress was a winner after fitting.  I am not going to write a full on review here.  No time for that.  But I will mention that the sleeves are ginormous and needed a lot of alterations.  I probably could have solved a lot of the fit problems by making the sleeve pattern a two piece sleeve pattern, but I loved the dart detail at the top of the sleeve and wanted to keep it.  Now that all the hard work is done, I can just make this dress over and over.  I also kept the back seam in as it really helped with shaping.  I added more shaping as well at the side seams. Here are some pics…



At a sewing meet up in the Garment District

At a sewing meet up in the Garment District


I was so happy to get to see Carolyn, Karen, Claudine and Janice while I was in town.  So fun.  Of course I saw Kashi as well.

But other than those dresses, it’s strictly been sample sewing for my adult and kid sewing classes, sewing-wise.

In non-sewing news, I was accepted into the Art Certificate program at UCSD and just finished my first paper (for Art History) in almost 20 years.  I’m enjoying the classes immensely, especially the painting classes.

And this now brings me to the subject of this post, creating and failing.  This is my third degree program.  I’ve been around the block a few times now.  I’ve had many different careers.  As I’ve mentioned before, you have to have a pretty thick skin to be a musician, auditioning all the time and getting rejections or constructive feedback all the time. But you can rationalize a lot of that negativity.  One does have to be brave though, facing that negative possibility every time.  When I was a kid, searching for what would become my instrument, I chose something I excelled at without trying hard, singing.  Guitar was too hard.  Clarinet was too hard.  Piano was too hard.  But singing?  Oh I was already good at that.  So I chose voice as my instrument.  Little did I know how challenging it would be to excel at it, but that’s another story.

One of the most memorable voice lessons I ever had was when I was at University of Michigan.  My teacher asked me to dance around her studio as I sang.  But not just dance, but dance ridiculously.  I couldn’t make myself do it.  I couldn’t let myself act ridiculous in front of her or my accompanist.  It was not something I would risk.  Eventually I did it, but it took a lot for me to overcome my fear of looking ridiculous.  I realized she wanted me to loosen up, have my body concentrate on doing something else so I could free up my voice.  I knew it would help me, but I couldn’t let go.

Years later, I would have my own singing students do silly dancing while they sang.  And I demonstrated it to them not fearing being ridiculous at all.  It takes maturity, and overcoming fear to do something silly in front of other people.  It also takes practice.  What if I had practiced silliness earlier in life?

That fear, I think, is the fear of failure.  Maybe all fear is fear of failure.  Anyway, it’s coming up a lot for me right now and, in thinking about it, I realize that it’s always been there.  It was there when I started learning to sew and every time I would sew up a new pattern.  And it was there, way back when, every time I went to art class in grade school.  I told myself I wasn’t an artist from the very beginning.  If I didn’t draw a perfectly round circle, if I couldn’t mold the clay just like I saw it in my mind, I wasn’t perfect.  Ergo, I wasn’t an artist.  Because an artist would be able to draw it or mold it correctly on the first try.

Remember when I wrote about being an artist?  That post generated a lot of discussion.  I can’t believe it is almost two years ago now since I wrote that post.  So much has happened and it still feels fresh to me.  Now I am fully embracing my inner artist.  I am taking class after class completely devoted to art.  I adore painting.  Maybe as much as I love making mosaics.  Am I good at it?  No, not yet.  I have some good days.

Painting class homework

Painting class homework

painted while watching a youtube tutorial

painted while watching a youtube tutorial

painted while watching another youtube tutorial by the same teacher, Will Kemp.

painted while watching another youtube tutorial by the same teacher, Will Kemp.


But I have some pretty laughable days too.

unsuccessful landscape #1

unsuccessful landscape #1

Unsuccessful landscape #2

Unsuccessful landscape #2


Why am I showing my “failures”?  Well, I have always shown my sewing flops, so why not the art flops too?  I feel the need to keep it real.  I’m not perfect.  I suck at a lot of things as most of my family would love to tell you, schadenfreude being one of our shared loves.  But most importantly, if you are too afraid to fail, in public or private, two things happen: You never try and you never learn.  I won’t learn how to paint abstractly if I don’t attempt to paint abstractly.  I won’t ever make art if I never attempt to make art.  I can’t let failure or fear of it stop me.  I have to be ok with looking ridiculous.  Maybe I am ridiculous.  I’m ok with that.

I am always wary of people who say they like to learn from other people’s mistakes.  You see, I don’t think you can.  Seriously.  Not the real mistakes.  The living life kind of mistakes.  Yes, you can learn from someone else burning themselves on the hot stove.  But can you learn how to love without actually loving?

Did you know that Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27?  Did you know that he died at the age of 37?  He painted only for 10 years.  That’s it.  Just 10 years.  I’m rambling now, but that really inspires me.  It’s never too late.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  It’s a teacher.

Speaking of teaching, I teach my son’s 3rd grade class art twice a month.  California schools don’t have art classes with certified art teachers.  They have parent volunteers, most with no art background whatsoever, come in to teach some old art program that the school district purchased years ago that they recycle every year.  This is all the art instruction these kids get.  Just twice a month, sometimes only once a month depending on break/holiday schedules.  And they don’t even get it from a real art teacher or with an education degree.  That is depressing to me.  And then I hear these kids say at the ripe old age of 8 that they’re not artists.  How sad is that?  Every time I’m in that classroom I tell them they are artists.  I tell each of them something I like about the piece they are creating that day.  I tell them there are no mistakes, only design features.  I tell them about Van Gogh.  They’re probably sick of hearing about Van Gogh by now, but I don’t care.  I want them to experience trying, and failing, and I want them to realize they can learn and that they are artists too.

Don’t worry, I’m going to wrap this up soon.  I just want to leave you with one thought.  I don’t expect to become famous.  I don’t think I’m especially talented or like Van Gogh.  I don’t even expect to make money being an artist, whatever kind of artist I am (mosaics, sewing, painting, drawing, etc).  What would please me though is that when people think of me, they think of me as someone who creates and who isn’t afraid to fail.

If you need me, I’ll be dancing ridiculously in my studio.

14 Responses leave one →
  1. Dawn permalink
    March 28, 2016

    Smiling, here. Toughest dang lesson to learn. Dance on!!

  2. March 28, 2016

    Great post! It’s the flops and failures that define us the most…

  3. Martha Ann permalink
    March 28, 2016

    Oh my goodness! How did you get into my brain? I am saving this post, printing it so I can read it every time I don’t start something for fear of failure – dance and sing – no way Jose, negative must be my middle name! Thank you for writing this one!

  4. March 28, 2016

    Yes, fear of failure is also that ‘friend’ that hangs around, you even invite them sometimes, but most times you actually still go on and do whatever anyway, and most times it’s not a fail. But still, it’s there. I feel for the kids not getting art classes! No matter if they are to be ‘artists’ or not, learning and doing art helps you appreciate it all around you for your whole life. How can future leaders appreciate the need for funding and proliferation of the arts if one hasn’t done art? Nice to hear from you.

  5. March 28, 2016

    Beautifully put. I’m with you. I want to keep failing and failing better each time. Because, otherwise, I wouldn’t be trying new things.

    BTW, I finally got on Instagram (someone else registered an acct w/ my email address and it took a long time to sort out). I got your msg. The last couple of years have been very eventful. I’m now 2/3 in Boulder and 1/3 in LA.

  6. March 28, 2016

    And your paintings on your better days are great. Keep improving!

  7. alana permalink
    March 28, 2016

    I loved your post. What an inspiration it was. Thank you.

  8. Yvonne permalink
    March 28, 2016

    Love this post. I believe the greatest fear of all is the fear of the unknown. If we can ask ourselves “what will np happen if I do —— and it flops?” And see that the answer isn’t something catastrophic and continue to walk through those what ifs, step by step….we can conquer anything.

  9. March 29, 2016

    I am so glad I stumbled across this post Elizabeth. I don’t read blogs are regularly as I once did and I can tell by my blog stats that lots of people have drifted away from reading blogs. But i digress!

    You are touching on things that I think about, especially knowing that I will have more time to devote to art as soon as I retire /resign from the rat race. Please keep blogging and talking about it! I love seeing your art and thank you for including the failures. Your work looks really good!!

  10. Wendy permalink
    March 29, 2016

    Yup. I tell my voice students, because I realized it myself, the same thing: you have to be willing to make a fool of yourself in front of a lot of people. It’s incredibly freeing to let go of the fear.

    Please post whenever you can–I always love what you have to say.

  11. Jenna permalink
    March 30, 2016

    You just made me smile! I love your “voice” and your drive to be a lifelong learning. You are fearless and creative. Your art is beautiful. Looking forward to more posts when you have time. xox

  12. Leah permalink
    March 30, 2016

    Great article, and some good advice too. I’ve been working through my own fears over the past three-ish years. My fears come partly from being told growing up how lucky I was that I had no talent because nobody was going to push me to do art the way my extremely talented relative was pushed. That is such a sucky message but I internalized it and developed a deep terror over attempting to convey what bounces around in my head on any medium. I left off blogging, went on a soul search, discovered weekly group critiques and powered through three years of terror, humiliation, failures, learning, and occasional successes. I’m kind of in a regrouping time right now but feel the process has moved me through “someday, long from now, I’ll try to do that, maybe, although it is scary, maybe not though” (rambling fear) to “There’s so much to learn and I’m not going to die trying!”

  13. March 31, 2016

    This post is so EXACTLY. I am not good at failure, not at all. I wish I could say I’m trying to get better at it. Maybe I am.

  14. Anna permalink
    April 2, 2016

    Hi Elizabeth. I really loved this post, a lot. I think when someone shows you their failures it has an honesty and trust that we rarely see. I fear our/ my children start sentences with “I can’t do it” because in their minds if it isn’t ‘a perfect circle’ it isn’t art. If they don’t sound like Adele or Rhihana, they’re not singing. If their body doesn’t look like a Kardashian, they’re not beautiful. If asked what is my favourite thing about being a mother is my answer is when my three teenage children take a leap of faith (sometimes fail, sometimes succeed).

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