True Tales of Fabulous Flops, Volume 1: Series 4
FEATURING: Jim Cogswell, Professor, Stamps School of Art & Design

Let's face it:
Failure is a part of life. It is an essential part of creating, and an important thing to experience. Everybody has had a project or idea go terribly wrong. Even brilliant makers and thinkers like painter and professor Jim Cogswell sometimes have epic fails that teach them something important about themselves and their creative practice.

It all began in 1990...
...when Jim had just been hired as a professor at the University of Michigan. He had been working in his at-home studio on a series of paintings he was going to show in a Texas exhibition.
He had been working tirelessly for weeks on these paintings, and the night before he was going to pack them up and ship them to Texas, he invited his new colleagues over to view his work—including the most senior professor of painting.
He watched his colleague walk silently around the paintings, looking closely at each detail. When he seemed to have gotten a good look at the paintings, he stopped, turned to Jim, and said loudly in front of everyone:
'YOU SHOULD BE embarrassed.'

Jim was shocked and mortified. He felt like a failure. His mind raced: what should he do? Should he start his paintings over? Tell the gallery he wasn’t participating? He was at a standstill; he had no idea what to do or say next.

The next day, Jim took a deep breath... and sent the paintings out anyway.
The exhibition opened, the paintings were well-received, and the world didn’t end. (And as you know, Jim is still here, a fabulous painting professor...
...still making mistakes often, but painting with confidence!

so, what did he learn from this?

'I learned that in order to make it as an artist you have to have really thick skin. I was in an atmosphere where they played hardball; I learned that you can’t make everybody happy. I learned that I would have to distance myself from what other people had to say about my work if I was going to make any work at all.'

Artists and designers need thick skin; select the critiscisms you let in.


created by mia cinelli, 2013 • Jim Cogswell: epic fail #4