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Day 054

centaur 0

What, did you think I was not going to do Drawing Every Day just because I did a Photoshop graphic for the Lent entry?

steamgoggle sketch

So, today’s exercise was something very difficult for me: abandoning a failed rough and starting over.

You see, many artists that I know will get sucked into perfecting a drawing that has some core flaw in its bones – this is something I ran into with my Batman cover page. I know one artist who has worked over a handful of difficult paintings for literally 2-3 years … but who can produce dozens of new paintings for a show on the drop of a hat. But it’s hard emotionally to let go the investment in a partially finished piece.

This is tied up with the Sunken Cost Fallacy Fallacy, the false idea that if you’ve decided a venture has failed you should cut your losses despite your prior investment in it. This is based on the very real ideas of sunk costs – costs expended that cannot be recovered – which should not be factored into rational decisions the same way that we should prospective costs – costs that can be avoided by taking action. The “Sunken Cost Fallacy” comes in when people don’t cut their losses in a failed venture.

The “Fallacy Fallacy” part kicks in because in the real world costs do not become sunk as a result of your decisions. When a self-proclaimed “decider”(1) chooses to proclaim that a project is a failure, the value invested in the project doesn’t magically become nonrecoverable based on that decision and the classical Sunken Cost Fallacy does not apply. I have seen a private company literally throw away a two million dollar investment for a dollar because the owner didn’t want to deal with it anymore.

Fortunately, most artists are better businessmen than that. Deep down, they know any painting could be the ONE that gets them seen; deeper down, each painting is an expression of their creativity. Even if the painting has flaws, one never knows whether the piece will be fixable, even ultimately excel. I have seen paintings go through years of work and many difficulties, only to finally turn up amazing. Drawings, paintings and novels are like investments in that way, always tantalizing us with their future potential.

But, deep down, I feel like it’s possible to do better than that. That by painting or drawing more, and being more ruthless earlier in the process, that it’s possible to recognize wrong turns and truly sunken costs and to start over. Once a huge canvas has covered with paint over many months, or a large manuscript has been filled with words over an equal period of time, it represents an investment in images and ideas that can potentially be salvaged … but a sketch or outline, now, that you can throw out straightaway.

You may not get the thirty minutes doing the sketch back, but at least you’ll be starting in a better place.

In my case, I was starting here, the cover for Steampunk Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos I had lying about:

I started what I intended to be a quick sketch, and got partway into the roughs …

steamgoggle failed rough

… when I decided that the shape of the face was off – and the proportions of the arm were even further off. I started to fix it – you can see a few doubled features like eyes and lips in there – but I decided – ha, decided – no, stop, STOP Anthony, this rough is too far gone.

Start over, and look more closely at what you see this time.

That led to the drawing at the top of the entry. There were still problems with the finished piece – I am continuing to have trouble with tilting heads the wrong way, and something went wrong with the shape of the arm, leading to a too-narrow, too-long wrist – but the bones of the sketch were so much better than the first attempt that it was easy to finish the drawing.

And thus, keep up drawing every day.

-the Centaur

(1) I’m not bitter.

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