To be an artist is to know failure. We know it intimately, in our smudges and our typos. We fear it, anxiously hesitating before we draw the second eye, afraid that we cannot replicate the perfection of the first. Failed It! by Erik Kessels challenges these feelings, arguing for the beauty of our mistakes. It’s part photobook, showcasing many beautiful and hilarious examples of imperfection across different creative mediums. But it’s also part guidebook, seeking to dispel our fear of mistakes and, in doing so, remove an obstacle to reaching our full potential as artists.
While some of the photographs in Failed It! may only give you pause to chuckle, many others show precisely why we shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes in our work. It is often the unintended strokes that make things interesting after all. In the words of the immortal Bob Ross: “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” To Kessels, a thumb obscuring the lens doesn’t ruin the photograph—it just makes the photograph about something else. Failures become transformative.
In a world where we have the ability to perfect everything, there is something precious in the imperfect. When we can Ctrl+Z away a slip of the hand on our computers, there’s something daring about pencils and nibs and brushes. Kessels asks us not only to be unafraid of failure but to view it as an element of what makes our art worth caring about at all. If art imitates life, perhaps it should be imperfect, just like the humans who make it.
Failed It! is out now and can be purchased here.
Header Image: Mistake by Bradley Higginson