Its OK to Suck

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Aside from photography I also do a fair bit of freelance writing. Auxiliary Magazine recently afforded me the opportunity to interview Doc Hammer from Adult Swim’s The Venture Brothers for their october issue (and to collaborate with my good friend, NYC based artist Ron Douglas, who went above and beyond to get an 11th hour photo session in with Hammer). In addition to writing one of the most intelligent and funniest animated shows on television, Hammer is also a musician and accomplished oil painter with an interesting view on how sucking motivates him to excel in his chosen fields.

Too many people fall in love with their own work to the degree that they become overconfident and sloppy. This overconfidence can sometimes lead to stagnation in their evolution as a creative. When you feel there is no need to improve and love every single piece you create as if it were your magnum opus, quality begins to suffer and motivation will disappear. For some people its the adversity of constantly trying to improve that allows them to thrive. I wanted to share a passage from the interview that I feel sums this idea up perfectly, it relates specifically to oil painting, but as Hammer goes on to say later in the article, it can be applied to any endeavor.

…Painting is showing up and dealing with sucking, that’s the big tip, that’s what I want people to walk out knowing.

A lot of artists want people to think that they are magicians, that it’s easy and no one else an do it and that they just shit this stuff out, and it’s untrue. People with skill and passion can do it, that’s the talent. The thing that you are born with isn’t the ability to render figure, you can always learn that. What you are born with is the drive to fucking do it, and to want to do it in the face of constant failure. Painting is entirely failure, and if your painting wasn’t failure then your not moving forward and you are not correcting your own mistakes. What’s the point of making another one if you’re so fucking good that you have painted your masterpiece already. Every painting that a good painter does, they hate it, it sucks, and that’s what gets them going to do the next one so they can learn. That’s a hard thing to do, to have your occupation, hobby, life, be a place where you suck and you know you suck. People will get on me and tell me that I need to relax and take it easy, that I’m not really that bad. What they are missing is the arrogance of what I am saying, the fact that I know I suck proves that I know I am better than this, which is a very arrogant thing to do, so people should not be concerned with my self esteem. When I say I suck, it actually means that this is not a representation of my ability, I know that inside me is better. Dealing with my sucking and proudly saying this sucks is how I get up and do it again. I can’t let that thing get out there, I have to apologize for it with my next piece.

– Doc Hammer

To read read more about Doc Hammer’s thoughts on style, menswear, music, painting, and his show The Venture Brothers; or to view the rest of  October issue of Auxiliary Magazine, go HERE

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Its OK to Suck

One thought on “Its OK to Suck

  1. […] Failure is one of the most singularly useful tools in the world to motivate you to improve. If you have never failed then you have nothing to illustrate what mistakes you have made in the past. Experimentation is a big part of this. Always give yourself the ability to play with your work. Try new things in your personal work and learn from the mistakes and successes to create a better product in your professional work. With client jobs, once you have the safety shots and have met the layout requirements that have been set forth, try to take a few more daring images. Oftentimes you will fail, but you will occasionally have a brilliant success as well. Perfection and a 100% success rate are admirable notions, but rarely achievable. It’s far more important, in reality, to strive for a perfection you will never reach. This will have many more benefits for you in the long run. There is no such thing as a perfect photograph. Even the best can improve upon what they have already done. If you never risk failure and play it safe constantly you will find that yourself and others will start to view you as competently and consistently average. They won’t really have anything bad to say about your work, nor will they have the impetus to hire you for your singular vision and style. For more reading on the topic of learning from mistakes and letting them improve you, check out It’s OK to Suck. […]

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