“Nothing is as empowering as real-world validation, even if it’s for failure.”Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Rounding up my first semester, I face planted into a puddle of humbling muck. I naively took on a project that I was not equipped for. It was a resin lamp inspired by the bioluminescence of an anglerfish. The process went like so:
At this point, I began constructing a model to be used for a laser cut frame of the angler fish skeleton. I scanned in a drawing of what I believed this to look like and edited meticulously the pixelated form in Illustrator. I didn’t have much experience with Adobe software, which resulted in so many wasted hours of cleaning up the vector.
Once I finally got the image right, I did a bunch of trial and error runs with the laser cutter. Finally I had the right size cut out on an acrylic sheet. This was just the beginning however. I had to knock out all of the spaces in between the skeleton, which sucked because a lot of the thinner pieces would break off, and I would have to cut out a new frame and start from the beginning.
The resin cast was a fucking nightmare. FIrstly, resin is super expensive. It also requires a lot of attention because it is a chemical reaction that needs to be mixed exactly or the consistency will be too soft, or it will explode.
Sculpting it was nightmare #3. I had no idea what I was doing. I tried using a Dremel to “sculpt” an angler fish body out of the resin, but holy fuck, what a wrong move. It was such a mess, and I am almost definitely destined to have lung cancer in my 60’s.
The end product was far from what I had hoped for. On the last day, I had accidentally severed the wires of the lights while sculpting out the resin cast. At that point, I was running on 5 hours of sleep for the past two days. My lungs and apartment were filled with resin dust, and the damn thing couldn’t even stand up properly. I ended up shoving a lamp post up its ass as a last resort.
The problem was, the inability to separate perfectionism from my art. I have this tendency to strive for realism in my work, but it’s a redundant aim. Nature cannot be replicated. Even if it could, what’s the point in going through such a tedious process to end up with a fake version of the real thing? It’s because I was afraid. I was not confident enough in my own imagination to construct a device resembling my interpretation of nature. This has been a problem for me as an artist for a while, but it was a problem I needed to understand the hard way.
At the final critique, I could barely keep my eyes open. The design school had imported well-renowned designers to serve as judges. When it was my turn to present the concept of my illumination device, I stumbled and made a fool of myself. Plain and simple. The fucking thing looked grotesque in the finely manicured hands of the judge and I could feel my classmates cringing at anticipation of the assessment.
The remaining lights that did work, could not be see in our classroom due to large window lighting. I don’t even remember what the judge said, but it wasn’t good. In fact, it was humiliating, and it was the truth.
This was the first time in my life I had experienced failure. And not failure because I didn’t try. It was the worst kind of failure. It was failure after an entire month of trying, and damn, it hurt. I actually left the critique early because I could feel this sickly combination of embarrassment, lack of sleep, and fury about to come out in a slimeball of emotional reaction.
I sent an email to my professor after leaving:
In conclusion, fail. Fail HARD. The sooner you fail as an artist, the better. Get that shit out of your system, and then fail again. Learn to be comfortable with failing. Learn to love failing, because in the end if you can see the moments of failure, you can adapt, and become better.