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ganges | oil on panel

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

Play it Again, Saraswati
This is my painted interpretation of the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, a holy place in the Hindu religion where people make pilgrimages to die and be reborn in another form. I like the idea of reincarnation – the idea that you can live a life of mistakes and still have another chance at getting it right. I also like the idea that I can summarize the beliefs of an entire religion in one sentence. I’m pretty sure that the ability to do that and the fact that I’ve been to India, now qualify me as an expert on Hinduism and India on my 24-hour cable news channel. Seriously, I can reincarnate an opinion into fact faster than Vishnu can transform into one smokin’ hot Mohini. (Hindu joke – who’s with me?)

Sorry, I always forget that this is an art blog. I also forget that I should drink after I write. This is one of those paintings that’s been reincarnated, hopefully, into something better. It’s a painting on top of a big, fat failure of a painting – a painting of a girl with a parasol turned upside down. The bottom painting exemplifies one mistake after another, costing lots of time, some money, and a bit of artistic embarrassment. It was one of those paintings that I may have done better not to attempt at all. But honestly, if I worried about wasting my time trying to create something that I didn’t have the skill to pull off, I’d never pick up a brush. Because when you try something new, it’s usually a failure.

A Fine Mess
A few weeks ago, when I posted these process videos, reader Jenny asked, “At what point do you get scared of messing everything up?” To which I answered, “Around Step #2.” I don’t know at what point the fear of making a mistake sets in, but it always happens. I’m always aware that one mistake can bring on some Shiva-spawned sandaas-storm (second Hindu joke – who’s with me?). I just try to draw on experience, make what I hope is the best decision, and then make a move. Obviously, we’re talking paintings, where mistakes are superficial and easily rectified. Worst-case scenarios cost only time, money, and material things; but aren’t those the excuses that usually hold us back from creating something new with our hands and minds? Aren’t they the same excuses that usually hold us back from creating something new with our lives?

I’d ask someone like Jenny (an interior designer turned U.S. Peace Corps volunteer now living and working in South America) – a person seeking something different, a person seemingly unafraid of making a “mistake” with her life – “When you pack up and move to a foreign country, when you’re willing to trade a life you find unfulfilling for something different, at which point do you let the fear of making a mistake, the fear of ‘messing everything up,’ hold you back?”

“Messing everything up” doesn’t always equal wasted experience. Creating something new, while not always working out the way you planned, doesn’t have to end in a negative. Sometimes those mistakes form the foundation of our successes, their colors peeking through, creating depth, enriching who we are and what we become. It’s not the mistakes and failures that scare me, because they can be reincarnated into something better. Rather, it’s the thought that sooner or later, I will run out of time to make them.

ganges (underpainting) | oil on panel
Can you see the colors from the first painting in the final one?

4 Responses to Beginning Again at the Beginning

  1. I guess that’s why I keep saying that life just gets better and better as I get older- I guess it’s because of all the mistakes I made, and keep making!! Hahaha!! Thank you Nick for those true words of contemplation and wisdom! (Glad I can inspire people other than second graders these days!) It’s refreshening to be reminded that mistakes can open so many more doors and so many more perspectives that keep you humble, well rounded, and hopefully not too broke!!!

    This painting made me very reflective, partly because I was trying to figure out what was going on with it, but once I did, I felt like it told a story. I won’t flap my artist’s analysis lips, but to sum it up… I like it!! Glad you are expanding the themes of your paintings. I always like to see what the next one brings!

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