Makin Mistakes and Movin On

Pedernal-20x27Pastel.jpgI confess. When I’m interviewing an artist and he or she admits to times of struggle, I love that. It may not reflect well on me perhaps, but I find these glimpses of humanity encouraging. Knowing that others who are involved in creative pursuits face obstacles, make mistakes, hit dead ends—what a comfort! But what the great artists demonstrate time and time again is that the key to success is to keep painting, to learn from mistakes, to grow.

I recently interviewed artist Mary Silverwood whose vibrant Southwest landscapes illustrate the confidence of someone who has learned a thing or two in her time (her pastel, Pedernal, shown here). Yet Silverwood could easily recall her early days when she shoved most of her pastel work under the bed. Even now, there are times when the artist has to let go of a painting—usually when she’s chosen to go ahead and pursue a painting, even when she felt the photo was lacking. When it happens, “Well, into the trash it goes,” she says. “You work and you learn. I’m way past feeling a failure is painful. It’s a learning experience!”

Silverwood says that the mistake for most beginners is that they let their self-esteem get wrapped up in their work. “You get this sick feeling inside,” she says. It takes some work to get over it, she says, but once you do, your biggest disappointment is in the waste of materials. “Now I’m usually thinking, ‘Oh no, there goes another $4 piece of paper and a couple $8 sticks of pastel! But I don’t let my ego get involved. If a piece fails in the process, I think about what went wrong and then move on.”

You can read my feature on Mary Silverwood in the upcoming May/June issue of the magazine on sale on our website April 22 and on newsstands beginning May 13.

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