02 / 11 / 21

Lessons from the artworld

It happens to us all, we’re working on a design project, lose sight of the bigger picture (i.e being focused on the brief) and get sucked down that rabbit hole, shuffling elements around and endlessly riffing on a misdirected solution when it’s clear, there’s something wrong. Face it, it’s not working. The problem is that we have the incessant deadline clock ticking in the background and we’ve now committed so much time to pursuing this idea that we find it difficult to stop, reassess and change tack.

In Babylon
On the boulevard of broken dreams
My will power at the lowest ebb
Oh what can I do?

Island of Lost Souls - Blondie

As you probably know, as well as being a graphic designer, I’m also a serious artist and can appreciate the overlaps and shared pain between the two disciplines. (Visit www.lennon-art.co.uk). Like the design problem, you could be working hard on a painting over a long period before finally stepping back and looking objectively at the work. Merde! Muttered curses are heard as what should have been an obvious flaw is now revealed in all its naked glory. There is no unseeing it, but how do we salvage it? This becomes harder as you progress through the work as you’ve made a significant investment of time and, let's face it, don’t want to admit defeat. One of the biggest challenges (this relates to the similar design problem), is that there is an element of the work that you like and are therefore reluctant to let go. The pressure of trying to preserve what you have already done can cloud your good judgement and make you timid in your strokes. Instead of rectifying the problem you pussy foot around it, wasting time and creative energy in the process.

As painful as it may be, sometimes we have to accept that the work can’t be salvaged, that’s not to say you should give up at the first sign of adversity, but the reality is that we now need to take a deep breath and start over again. The lesson here is that it is OK to let go, it’s not a failure if we learn from the process. I used to feel bad if I wanted to give up on a book I was reading, enduring but not enjoying. However, I only recently realised that my time is more precious (yep slow learner). Having given myself permission, I now stop, exile the rejected book to the abandoned shelf and eagerly anticipate a fresh literary adventure.

Many times I have reached this give up point in both design and art, but instead of automatically capitulating, I toss away my inhibitions, become carefree (substitute reckless), “what’s it matter, it’s ruined anyway!” Yes you guessed the occasional outcome, this fearless new energy can result in a radical reworking far outwith your normal comfort zone. The end result may not be as anticipated or totally successful, but the liberating experience will have opened you up to new possibilities and pushed your learning. The lesson here is when all seems lost, be daring, take a chance. Remember, the comfort zone may be a nice place but nothing grows there!

“Coming out of your comfort zone is tough in the beginning, chaotic in the middle, and awesome in the end…because in the end, it shows you a whole new world.”

Manoj Arora

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