Resilience in art may just be more important than some innate talent. I teach art classes sometimes, and – in my opinion – one of the most damaging myths in our society is that some people are magically gifted with music or art or creativity, or the ability to run six minute miles while others are not. As a person who is not gifted with any magical “talent,” it’s really frustrating when I hear someone say they can’t do a thing because they “just don’t have any talent.” Nonsense! Talent is utterly useless: it fills people up with bloated expectations that they can have what they want without working for it. I know a lot of disappointed talented people who never accomplish a thing because they don’t have resilience. Resilience is what matters.


the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

sketch of porcupine eating bark

To demonstrate the power of resilience, I’m going to share with you a current project that has completely tanked. As of my writing this paragraph, I have just wasted three hours of work to make a puddle full of mud that was meant to be a porcupine. But, because I’ve had to pull myself out of messes like this before, I know I can make it work.

bad painting of porcupine eating bark to demonstrate the importance of resilience in art

The first pic is my original sketch of the porcupine, enlarged and printed out on printer paper, then painstakingly traced onto illustration board, where I happily spent several hours working on a nice looking little wild critter eating bark. But you won’t know that, because I completely destroyed that promising image minutes before taking this photo.

My painting was proceeding along nicely when I had the brilliant idea of adding a wash of blue to indicate night.


Very bad idea.

As you can see, instead of a glaze as I had intended, all the colors underneath blurred into muddy smears. This is a total disaster, and almost everyone I know would throw it away and start over. At the very least, be too embarassed to show it on the internet. But I am STUBBORN.

So, I’m out for the day, but I’ll be back.

Stay tuned…

Day 2

Another layer of blue to really make it feel like nighttime instead of mud time, and then bringing out a few of the highlights on the animal and the snow.

A sensible person might have been tempted to give up after the disaster above, but, hey! It’s already starting to get better!

bad painting of porcupine eating bark - first draft
children's illustration of porcupine eating bark

Day 3

And…a few more highlights/shadows, as well as lightening the whole thing. I think it’s done, and I am happy with it. I’m under no illusions that this is some grand piece of artwork that will change humanity, but it’s just right for the book I’m making. I think one of the most valuable things I’ve learned from all these years of image-making is that, if you don’t like what you’re looking at, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to throw your hands up in the air and go throw all your art supplies into a ditch. It just means that you aren’t done yet!

success equals resilience over attitude


As I was writing this post, I had to keep the project somewhat under wraps. But now I can reveal that this illustration will be included in Daytime-Nighttime, All Through the Year, to be published by Dawn Publications in September 2017.

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