Overcoming failure, mistakes and setbacks in the studio

Overcoming failure, mistakes and setbacks in the studio

Overcoming Failures -Red Playground Derivative Squared 1 And 2, Finished, In Studio
Final red playground works, except 'red playground extreme 1 and 2'

I’m creating 52 works by 31 May 2024. With this episode of “Red Playground Derivative Squared 1 and 2” I have completed 8 of my target 52 works.

Overcoming Failure, Mistakes and setbacks

Overcoming failure, mistakes, and setbacks could well summarise my experience of creating Red Playground Derivative Squared 1 and 2!  But, it doesn’t!

Dealing to those pesky studio flops and mishaps means, first of all, you’re human!  Simply, take a deep breath and laugh out loud!

This is my year to play in my studio, which means aiming for fun, right? A good ol’ laugh seems dispel any power these missteps have on my thought life.

Then, regroup.  Sometimes, this is achieved by taking a break from the work. But, then, be sure come back, even if it is a few days later.

Why not used these so-called failures, mistakes, and setbacks and transform them into powerful boosts for your creative efforts simply by analysing them?

 Okay, let’s have a look at the flub-ups I made creating these works and see what I did.

Ah, Man! I didn't need this!

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

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

Creating Art Around Life

Please watch, “Unlocking the Unexpected: Studio Failures and the Monoprint Surprise”

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The Inspiring works
Red Playground 1, Finished
Red playground 1
Red Playground 3
Red playground 2 and 3, finished

For instance, take my recent 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!

What contributed to this is not understanding the way that my devices, along with my external hard drive, interact with the iCloud storage system.  Of course I want to continue making these videos. Organising is probably my least favourite part of this whole video pursuit, but, I try to tend to my data files on a daily basis. 

Okay, cleaning up after yourself is one thing; then there’s cleaning up after monoprinting!

Monoprinting requires a lot of clean up after you’ve had all that wonderful fun. To not do a really good job causes you a lot of headache later on when you get back to into it. 

Ink left on an old stamp made at the Sue Cooke print workshop a couple of years ago caused it to disintegrate.  Scrambling for a substitute found me using strips of canvas for monoprinting.  They worked really well, but, they spread even more ink than usual over my hands. The printing became trickier and final cleanup became even more of a pain. There is not work-around this.  If you’re gonna print, you just gotta 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 will soon be front and centre. The thing is, for what I’m doing, oil-based ink needs to at least set about a week before you can make more marks on or around it. This delay calls for rethinking my approach to making and videoing the remainder of the 52 abstracts so I can 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.

Oops, I did it again!

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! They sure are plentiful 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 the artwork turned the wrong way!


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. The way to continue was to accept that I made a simple error and strive 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 is the outcome is, once again, changed.  And, likewise, 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, it seems. 

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 had the opportunity to fail at many things. It’s an unavoidable consequence of living and doing.  I am not, however, a failure. I’ve done many things that 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. When you refuse to show up again, and again.

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

This printed admonition, living boldly on the front of my refrigerator for the past four years; after closing my brick and mortar; followed by ripping up and repairing most of the floors in my home, has helped spur me on. To keep on getting up. My faith and determination is what I need to help me do that.

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 failing, 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, In Studio.
Red playground derivative squared 1, in studio.
Red Playground Derivative Squared 2, In Studio.
Red playground derivative squared 2, in studio.
Fall Down. Get Up. And Don'T Ever Quit.
Fall down. Get up. And don't ever quit.

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

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Is there a better title?

All of the ‘Red Playground’ works only have working titles, so far. I’d appreciate your suggestions for a final title. Post them in the comments below or in the comment section on any of the videos of the series.

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