Surrey Art Gallery to host artist talk about embracing failures

Brad Duncan will share a monologue about how failure plays in the creative process

Brad Duncan is a multidisciplinary artist who recounts his failures through humour and humility writing. (Submitted)

Brad Duncan is a multidisciplinary artist who recounts his failures through humour and humility writing. (Submitted)

It can be intimidating and vulnerable sharing your work for the public to see, whether it be a painting, a written piece, or a photo, and sometimes things can go wrong. 

But for multidisciplinary artist Brad Duncan, he embraces the feeling of failure and brings it into a positive light with humour and humility. 

On April 7, Duncan will speak at the Surrey Art Gallery for their Thursday Artist Talk series from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm. 

His talk titled “Failure – A Work in Progress” will showcase six or seven paintings, photographs he has taken, and digital collages, and share Failure: A Monologue, a piece he is writing for the Fringe Festival Circuit

Duncan began as a painter mostly working in acrylics, with his current focus on photography and writing. Duncan has written various pieces, from stage plays to short stories, and has been working on a novel for the past few years. He splits his time between his studios in Surrey and Nova Scotia. 

“It’s just such an inevitable part of the creative life. There’s really no way around it,” Duncan says. “You’re going to try things, and you’re going to fail, and you have to figure out how to get through that.” 

The monologue will touch on his personal experiences and other artists who went through similar challenges, how failure can play a part in the creative process, and how people can overcome their feelings when a project doesn’t work out. 

Although he is still creating the monologue, he says the most challenging part is developing the flow of the written piece and making sure everything is organized in a continuous narrative.

When artists enter the creative world, they don’t really expect projects won’t go well, or people won’t enjoy their work, he says. 

“That can be the worst part of creating something,” Duncan adds. “Especially if you’re doing a painting or a sculpture. It’s really a part of you, and you’re taking that out and presenting it to the world.” 

“You’re going to put things out there, and sometimes they’re going to work, and that’s going to be a fantastic feeling. But, sometimes they’re not, and you really can’t dwell on it.” 

Duncan hasn’t always felt this way about failure, and it can be challenging to learn how to overcome that feeling. When projects don’t work out as planned, he says it can lead to other ideas or inspirations.

“That’s the real thing about creative people is you do get another idea,” he says. “You think of another painting, image, or another film…. Something else comes along, and that’s really what saves you, and then you start all over again,” he says.

“The alternative is to become one of these people who just never does anything again, who just feels like it’s so shattering,” Duncan says.

“It’s so upsetting that you think, ‘Well, I’m not going to make another painting, story [or] textile.’ You have to get over that in order to continue.”

For those who fear failure, his advice is to accept that it’s going to happen, but be confident with yourself and be happy with the work you made. 

“It’s a little bit like in sports. In sports, you’re going to lose, and you have to take the field again, and in the creative world it’s the same,” Duncan says

“You really put yourself out there, and you put your heart on a plate,” he says. “In order for your journey to go on, you sometimes have to fall down, get up, dust yourself off and continue.”