Work In Progress

The Seven Stages of Grief in making a failed art project.
February 21, 2010, 9:02 pm
Filed under: Artists, creative process
  • Shock and Denial

    In which the artist suddenly realizes that his/her piece is not coming out the way s/he intended. At first the artist may deny that it matters much. There are other paintings to be made, other directions to be pursued. Shock will protect the artist from feeling too much at first.

    • Pain and Guilt

    The shock wears off and the artist will be forced to confront the reality and pain of his/her project not coming together. Typically this is when the artist turns to other substances or activities to numb this pain. Drugs, sex and alcohol are frequently abused.

    The artist also experiences immense guilt. Perhaps s/he should have researched the project more. Maybe s/he isn’t devoting as much time to the work as s/he should.

    • Anger and Bargaining

    The artist at this point will try to bargain with the work. Thoughts such as “if I just don’t sleep for the next week maybe it’ll work” or “If I just keep going it will totally work out in the end” or “All I need is another $100 in supplies and the work will come back to me.”

    Once it becomes clear that the bargaining will not work, the artist will turn to anger. The artists’ general worldview towards art, art criticism and the gallery system grows increasingly dim.

    • Depression Reflection, Loneliness

    It is at this time that the artist sadly reflects on everything that went wrong with the work. During this time, the artists friends and family will offer well-meaning but useless advice that the artist should “get back on track” or “maybe its time to become an accountant”.

    • The upward turn

    Things begin to look better. The artist might do things like, organize his or her studio. Read art theory books again. The artist is not making work but acknowledging that art-making was once an important part of his/her life.

    • Reconstruction and Working through

    The artist starts to work out how his/her work will continue without the failed project. Perhaps the glimmer of a new work is working around the corners of the brain. It is at this point that the artist may store or throw-out the remnants of the failed project.

    • Acceptance.

    The artist has accepted that the project is not going to work out. Furthermore the artist is ready to make new work with the wisdom gained from the previous project.