Failed Artist

Considering my career choice, it may come as a surprise to some that I essentially failed art in High School. While I didn’t manage to take home an ‘F’ for my efforts, I did receive a ‘D’ – not a mark I was used to.

Personally, I really enjoyed art. I really enjoyed what I created and while I was no Van Gogh (perhaps a misunderstood Picasso?) I didn’t think what I created was bad. Certainly not what I would see as a ‘D’.

Art wasn’t a core subject and at 15, I still had no real idea what I wanted to do with my life. At that stage, I didn’t have a vision of being a business owner, a creative or a designer. I was just happy being 15.

It did niggle at me though. Surely it wasn’t that bad?

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that there is a significant difference between art and design. While both share a strong passion and enormous levels of creativity, they are very different beasts. On reflection, it seems obvious now that what I was creating all those years ago was design…not art.

I’m certainly not saying that there isn’t a fusion between the two or that they are totally disconnected by any means, but there is a clear distinction between one’s approach to an artistic piece compared to that of a piece of design.

While they share core themes around passion, communication, engagement and often evocative messaging, they possess a different function and purpose.

At its heart, design isn’t selfish – or at least it shouldn’t be. Design is about communicating a concise message on behalf of someone else. Our work needs to speak to an audience and drive them to connect and engage with our clients.

Sure, this can be executed artistically…but it’s not art. It is most certainly design.

I appreciate both but I am not an artist. I spent many years wondering how I could have possibly failed art at High School, yet made my journey in the Creative Industries? It became clear to me early on in my career that this distinction existed and that a ‘D’ in art had very little relevance to my ability to be creative.

Failure is a great part of any journey. It provides us with a foundation on which to grow, learn and build.

Perhaps if I had aced that class, my life would have been different? My path altered. My journey realigned. In many ways, it was one of the many defining moments that I reflect on, across my teens, that helped me grow to be the person I am today.

My old man always told me that failure was ‘daring not to try’ and that what we often term as failure is actually just a case of working out a way that didn’t work. I’ve spent plenty of time finding ways that didn’t work. It’s part of the journey and about the only real way to find out what will lead you down the right path.

So here’s to failure and the success it breeds.