Fall down. Get up. and don't ever quit.

Overcoming failure, mistakes & setbacks

Overcoming failure, mistakes, and setbacks could well have summarised creating Red Playground Derivative Squared 1 and 2!  But, it doesn’t!

Dealing with pesky studio flops meant, first and foremost, I was human!  So, I simply took a deep breath and laughed.  Out loud!

My year of studio play meant aiming for fun. A good ol’ laugh seemed to dispel any power these missteps had on my thought life.

Then regroup.  Sometimes, this meant take a break from the work, and then come back, even if it is a few days later.

You can use so-called failures, mistakes, and setbacks and transform them into powerful boosts for your creative efforts simply by analysing them.

Let’s have a look at the flub-ups I made creating these works and what I did to remedy them.


Setbacks are unanticipated obstacles or realities that usually slow you down. Here are questions to ask yourself:

  • What exactly is the setback?
  • What contributed to the set back? 
  • Do you still want to proceed in the same manner, given the facts?
  • How can you work around the set-back?
(continued below)

Fall down. Get up. and don't ever quit.
Fall down. Get up. and don't ever quit.

For instance, take my camera and storage issues. No, really!  Take them away!

Creating videos takes a whole heap of Gigabytes of data storage on my iPhone,  iPad, and iMac. It’s an issue all content creators face. And it won’t go away!

Misunderstanding the way that my devices and external hard drive interacted with the iCloud storage system stifled progress.  Organising is probably my least favourite part of this whole video pursuit, but, I’ve learned to tend to my data files on a daily basis. 

Clean up after painting and drawing was one thing; then there was clean up after monoprinting!

Monoprinting required a lot of clean up after all that wonderful fun. To not do a really good job caused a headache later on when I returned to it. 

Ink left on an stamp made at the Sue Cooke print workshop a couple of years ago caused it to disintegrate. Instead, I used strips of canvas to monoprint.  They worked really well, but, they spread even more ink than usual over my hands. Printing became tricky and final cleanup was tedious.There was no work-around.  Monoprinting meant I had to clean up really well!!  Every time!!

I know what I like, and I like oil!

Using oil-based ink has been rewarding and great fun. Oil paint is soon front and centre. The thing is, for what I’m doing, oil-based ink needs to at least set about a week before I could make more marks on or around it. This delay called for rethinking my approach to making and videoing the remainder of the 52 abstracts in order to complete them by my deadline of 31 May, 2024. A work-around is pending.

Many abstract artists work with acrylic based ink and paint, because it dries quickly. While this might be attractive, the workability of oil-based media and having the applied wet colour remain the same when dry is important.


The Oxford dictionary says mistakes are an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong.

Truth is, they are part of human existence.  You just can’t get away from them, particularly in my studio.  But, taking time to examine  them can boost your creativity!

I like to analyse them by asking the following:

  • What are the consequences, if any?
  • What is the best way to continue?
  • What are the lessons learnt?

Working up-side down. No, not me!  


I worked on “Red Playground Derivative Squared 1” upside-down, as shown in the latest video, which you can see by clicking here.

Other than possibly looking the fool on the video, the only real consequence is that the work diverged slightly from the creative path I had anticipated.  I made a simple error and strove to make the best work possible.

And for a hat-trick…Inking the monoprint plate on the wrong side!


Yep!  I did it again! On “Red Playground Derivative Squared 1” I applied ink to the wrong side of the monoprinting acrylic plate. Rather than taking the time to remove the ink (you know how I hate ink clean up) I used it to monoprint the opposite quadrant, because I really needed to complete the work (and video). 

The consequence was, once again, an unanticipated change.  You can watch this particular gaffe by clicking here. Importantly, does the mistake matter? Nothing changes except the trajectory of the finished work. The work may even end up better because of the blunder. It gives me an opportunity to improvise and play.

The lessons learnt from both mistakes is a, pay more attention, and, b, don’t take them too seriously because this is my year  of play.

Now, is it really failure?

The possibility of failure strikes fear in the heart of everyone.

My dad, a self-taught English language and grammar lover, was probably right when he observed that the greater the number of synonyms or words used to describe a particular word, the greater significance that word seems to hold for people and society. Failure has a lot of meanings! 

I’m well old enough to have failed at many things. It’s an unavoidable consequence of living and doing.  I am not, however, a failure. Many things I’ve attempted have failed. Failing is not failure.  It’s just missing the mark you aimed at. Mistakes, failings, and set-backs do happen and can be dealt to if you make the effort to do so. Then you move on.

Failure occurs only when you refuse to learn from the consequences of your choices and efforts. Failure is  to  refuse to show up again after each shortfall.

Fall down. Get up. And don’t ever quit.

This printed admonition, lived boldly on the front of my refrigerator after closing my brick and mortar and followed by ripping up and repairing most of the floors in my home. It has helped spur me to keep on getting up. Faith and determination was needed.

Overcoming failure, mistakes and setbacks is what I’ve done in the studio for over 30 years. Maybe that makes me an expert.  Perhaps. 

I aim to have many more years of overcoming failure, mistakes and setbacks in the studio because it shows that I’m still showing up!

How are you overcoming failure, mistakes and setbacks in your studio? Please let me know in the comments below.

Please watch the second and final episode of finishing “Red Playground Derivative Squared 1 and 2” by clicking here. 

Red Playground Derivative Squared 1
Red Playground Derivative Squared 1
Red Playground Derivative Squared 2
Red Playground Derivative Squared 2

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