I was having a conversation with a fellow artist this past weekend, and we both brought up this wonderful Ted Talks lecture by Tim Harford, as a fantastic example for why experimentation, and thusly failure, is so important in art.

In this video, Tim discusses an experiment by Unilever to create a hi-fidelity spray nozzle. It may not sound particularly applicable to our field at first, but it really is. When you watch this segment of the lecture (at roughly the 9:00 mark), consider it’s correlation to the process of creating thumbnails.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5wCfYujRdE]

After I watched the video, I was reminded of the fantastic lecture I heard Greg Manchess give on “talent” at this year’s Illustration Master Class. Thinking it would interest him, I decided to forward this video to Greg, and here is what he had to say:

For the past two years, I’ve given a lecture about the term ‘talent’ at the Illustration Master Class. It’s really a lecture about failure, why to use it, and why to embrace it. The lecture entails understanding something we all experience, must experience, in our lives, especially involving our artistic skills.

Our great institutions of art are not interested in dealing with this most precious teaching tool as they are all about discovery, and not about the process of finding. In short, they are only interested in the talented, as if this springs forth out of nowhere in only the ‘gifted ones.’

Learning to become an artist is all about training, and training is all about embracing your failures, to learn from them and press on. Generally, my lecture to the IMC students is to implore them to utilize the failures that are inevitable, necessary, in the process.

It’s most certainly not a pep talk. In fact, it’s about how painful the process can be. It isn’t fun, until you’ve been through it. Survive it, and keep going.

I just heard one of my favorite quotes, this one by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, on the radio again today. I hope you can embrace it:

“Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

I know that I, for one, am guilty of relying on a process too much. I have stumbled across a method that consistently reaps good results for me. Thusly, I have very little incentive to experiment. After all, why risk the possibility of failure when you can play it safe and guarantee moderate success? The trouble is, good results are not good enough… I want great results. And to achieve that, failure is necessary.

I am going to challenge myself to take more risks, and fail more often. I challenge you all to do the same.