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Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Merrick" original oil 12x16"

"Genius is actually the eventual public recognition of dozens (or hundreds) of failed attempts at solving a problem. Sometimes we fail in public, often we fail in private, but people who are doing creative work are constantly failing."

This is a recent quote from Seth Godin's blog (he's a marketing guru on the cutting edge of the changing face of how we communicate with each other, and how we choose to buy today - namely social media). This thought found me just after  I had spent 3 days on a 12x16 portrait and then wiped off half the face in frustration, and was headed back to the studio sooooo reluctantly for another crack at it. The thought gave me a good push on my way back in, but after another day spent I felt no further ahead and by now was fully fed up with the piece.

I was trying to get a submission ready for the Portrait Society of America, with only one day left (never a good idea and something I ALWAYS do), and having used up the better part of a week on the first attempt, I was left with a very small window to pull something out of the hat. I got out a new 12x16 panel, chose a different subject, and 8 hours later I had completed this portrait, which came surprisingly easily and was a pleasure to paint.

I believe the 4 prior days spent thrashing around on the first canvas led me to the ease of the next one. Seth says, "Fail often." - like it's a goal to shoot for. I believe what he means is something I've come to believe about mistakes - there aren't any, only progress toward truth. The trick is remembering this while you're in the midst of one.

PS: The model is Merrick, a beautiful young woman whom I have painted from life numerous times. This portrait was done from a photo taken of her while at the studio.


  1. Gorgeous! It's all handled so beautifully : ) And the skin just glows...
    Gwen shared this quote with me and I now have it taped up in my studio. I just have to remember to really take it in.

  2. Absolutely lovely and perfect in so many ways, the mood, lighting and shadows, composition..and perfect hands, so hard to pull off! Looks like the previous failed attempt was the long lost recipe for success!

  3. Beautiful!! Such warmth—thanks for sharing. It happens to all of us— it's nice to know I am not the only one this happens to. I am so glad you slayed the lizard, as Seth calls it.

  4. Thanks you guys! Yes Carol, I may have wrestled the lizard down in this one. For the rest of you, this is the second part of Seth's quote:

    "When the lizard brain kicks in and the resistance slows you down, the only correct response is to push back again and again and again with one failure after another. Sooner or later, the lizard will get bored and give up".

    Personally I don't find the old lizard brain gets bored nearly often enough!

    (Also thanks to someone who anonymously corrected my grammar in the last line of this post.)

  5. God Lord, Liz ... I'm gonna have to kill you for sure. What a beautiful portrait of Merrick!
    I so loved reading your description of how it came to be. I could 'hear' your voice and it made me smile a number of times. Love your honesty, Love you!

  6. Wow! All I can say is Wow. Gorgeous. Lovely. Looks completely daunting to me, but you really pulled it off!

  7. ok, someone else already used my Wow!, But Wow.. that is sooooooooo good. The highlights in the hair, and the way you did the arm.. you nailed it.

  8. The warm light on her skin is just stunning, Liz. I am sure that lizard has been in my studio for a too long of a visit these past few weeks. But it's true, although the reaction is, 'well, it's just not happening - go do something else' - it's best to wrestle the ba$*#rd and tell it who's boss! I really get enjoyment at looking at your color and hue.

  9. Wow it's lovely, the lighting is great - and skin tones fabulous.

  10. I am also a Seth fan and appreciate you quoting him and applying his wisdom to this scenario! I absolutely agree that mistakes are progress! (esp. if you don't continue to make the same ones! :) ) As a wife of a coach, a mother of four athletic kids and a coach myself, this is a daily reality and frequent topic in our home.
    You have beautiful work Liz! Thank you for sharing.