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guitar 5 - Copy

Guitar 5. 11×14 in. canvas. Acrylic paint, texture media, and varnish with metal leafing.

Guitar 5 started out as something else entirely. Twice. Maybe three times. Sometimes, you run experiments, and they fail. Many of us fall into the trap of not experimenting or trying new things simply to avoid that failure. In life, people often respond to failure with powerful emotions of frustration, grief, or even guilt. But if you approach life like a scientist, you know you need to run lots of experiments to learn anything meaningful.

On the canvas, as in life, we need the freedom to explore and experiment. Learning and advancing never come to us without falling on our face a few times – just like when we learned to walk. Where would we be now if we had given up the first few times we failed to get on our feet?

I used to paint houses instead of canvases. Running my own painting crew included finding work for them. To find work, I walked from door to door all over the city of Ann Arbor, MI. My days often consisted of being told no and having doors shut in my face. But, enough people said yes that I was able to employ my crews, or at least find enough solo work to feed myself. My experience landed me a job with a professional crew that came out at my request to fix one of my crew’s mistakes. I had a great working relationship with them for years, and learned a lot.

In the end, people congratulated me on my success. I worked for myself, set my own hours, and got good enough at refinishing decks that I only had to work about 3-4 days per week in the summer.

What does that have to do with painting canvases? Take Guitar 5, for example. It told me no several times. It shot down a lot of what seemed like good ideas. But, I kept coming back to knock on its door. I ran some experiments on it and just had fun with it. What happens if we try…. this? Or that? In the end, it wasn’t what I set out to do — but it ended up rocking anyway.

As you can see in the detail below, a rich, complex, colorful surface resulted. My experiments with Croma Krackle led to even more confident use of this texture media in Guitar 7. I discovered some different ways to use water and alcohol in color washes, which served well for Guitar 15.

I’m glad I kept going.