Failure

Mar 06 2015

Like most of my blog posts, this one took a few days to write. For over a week now I've had the idea in my head but found it hard to open up Vim and actually write it down. It's easy to get distracted by more pressing things, but there was more than that going on. And something that I experienced recently opened my eyes to what it is.

Since the beginning of the year I've been going to a weekly basic drawing class at an art studio near me. I signed up for the class on a bit of a whim. I never really draw because I'm not very good at it but I admire the people that can. It's quite an awesome skill to be able to create a picture of something just from your head and hand that can mean something to another person.

The class has been for three hours every Thursday evening. Every week I tell myself that I'm too tired to go through with it. While it can be exhausting, I've also found that it has been my moment of complete relaxation for the week where I'm able to forget about everything else and just concentrate on the form of what I am attempting to draw. And I've learned in a short amount of time about composition, depth, shading and more. I can see progress in my work every week and I'm picking up the concepts quickly.

Last week we had our first live model to draw. He was a distinguished older gentleman and no, he wasn't nude. For this class we were only concentrating on his face, which was quite interesting. I set out determined to realistically portray his facial features. The ratios of the human face are really predictable in a beautiful way, for instance, the pupils of our eyes are usually vertically aligned with the edges of our mouth. So I concentrated on getting everything aligned just right, taking into account the angle at which I was positioned in relation to the model and so on. I erased and attempted to correct the mistakes that I made. I was purposely deliberate. As the instructor walked around the room, he asked us what we thought about our drawing so far. As I often am, I was critical of my work, pointing out the places where I could improve. His reply: "I think it's pretty good, considering it's the first time you've ever drawn a human face, right?" And that's when it dawned on me: he was right, it was the first time I had seriously drawn a human face, but I was acting as if it was my last.

When we are creating something, it's human nature to want it to be the best that it can be. Some people, like myself, take this desire to an extreme level where we obsess over our work and exhaust ourselves until the thing is as perfect as it can be. We are more critical of our work than anyone else and we constantly deconstruct what is wrong with it. We act as if it is the last chance that we will ever get to do that thing. That if it isn't perfect, we will be outed as a fraud and will never be able to do that thing again.

Only now, as I write this out, do I see how ridiculous this is. In the grand scheme of things, what I do and the decisions that I make aren't like Frank Underwood attempting to avoid a war with Russia. If it doesn't work out this time, I can do it again. I'll be able to draw another portrait in the future, and over time I'll get better at it. Profesionally, I'll be able to work on other applications and no one will see all of the stupid mistakes while I am coding it because they'll only see the finished project. Most of the time there really isn't such a thing as failure. It's better to get your thing out there so that you can learn from it. And then do it again.

So in that spirit, here's my attempt at a portrait from last week. The coloring definitely leaves something to be desired and the porportions aren't quite right on the left side of his face. But that's ok, it won't be my last drawing.


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Dave Walk is a software developer, basketball nerd and wannabe runner living in Philadelphia. He enjoys constantly learning and creating solutions with Go, JavaScript and Python. This is his website.