Coming back from failure

So, I’m posting this now because this was voted highest in my informal Facebook poll and because most everyone is isolated at home and it’s new content that may help people in the Times of Extra Crafting.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this out, or if I should. The thing is, failure isn’t something that people are usually proud of or want to talk about. In this case especially, making art for others makes it especially hard to talk about when things go awry. I’d never want to belittle a gift for someone, they should have the freedom to appreciate it without the flaws flaunted.

This happened a while ago and I’m not going to get into specifics because that’s not what this is about. This is more about recovery than failure, to be honest, because it would have been easier to run away than it would be to come back to it. But also, this is about my recovery because I kind of feel like I need to write this out to come back completely. 

What happened, in a broad sense, was real life chaos paired with me taking on too many projects (i.e. not paying enough attention to my limits), and a healthy side of personal drama, came together to make me feel incapable of tackling anything. But of course, I still had those too many projects on my plate, most with due dates and still had to deal with the real life things or they would get worse. I had a really rough time for a bit and that affected my productivity. 

I powered through all of the difficulties of feeling unmotivated, overwhelmed, and stressed. At times it was like trudging through mud, but I did it. In the end, my final project felt just horrible and I didn’t have time to work on it anymore. I knew that I could have done better and I felt like I let myself, my mentors, and really everybody down. 

But, I don’t want anyone to feel badly for me because a lot of this growth in the aftermath of that was to take responsibility for my failures and to set myself up for success in the future. But it took awhile to get here and to accumulate inspiration again. I should have known that something like this was apt to happen but, I thought not to me! Sometimes I can be wrong.

So, how did I get back to it from that really dark, discouraged place that I had sunken into?

First, I wasn’t jumping at new projects. I knew that taking a moment to breath was important. I needed to evaluate where I was. Sure, a success may have helped pull me up from it but… another failure could have sunk me. I took a moment and then when I was able to collect myself I allowed myself to start on a new project fresh. When I say that, I mean with a fresh emotional state. I think it’s crucial to try to leave all the emotional baggage behind you and just retain the lessons learned. It was lucky that I was assigned a project that I was able to just enjoy and didn’t have a lot of pressure attached to it. 

Second, I had to come to terms that everyone fails sometimes. I’m (unfortunately) included in everyone. Ugh, this was hard for me because you see all the amazing things online and you want to believe you’re the only one that didn’t do well. You’re definitely not the only one. Trust me.

Third, recognizing that you can come back from failure. And I think that’s the really important part. You gotta keep moving forward despite setbacks and perceived failures because those things are where growth is cultivated. And if you can do that, you will be stronger in no matter what area you felt like you faltered. 

So that’s it. I have since moved on and have continued my pursuits in art. If you’re struggling with this, I hope you can too! 

Stay healthy and safe everybody and happy crafting!


Arts & Sciences Champion Scrolls for Queen Margarita

I was absolutely delighted to get the scroll assignments for the Arts and Sciences Champions for Queen Margarita. I’ve had the opportunity to do champion scrolls before (these ones) and it’s fun because it feels like I can be a little more free with my design. Immediately, I thought this could be a great opportunity to do a couple of tiny scrolls!

After much research and contemplation, I found this adorable book, The Imhof Prayerbook. It’s a 16th century Flemish prayerbook, only about 90 x 62mm, meant to be carried around by its owner. I really fell in love with this adorable and tiny book. 

I had some challenges though. I had to make it a little bigger to fit the text (with a line for the recipient and a line for the Queen’s signature, both to be filled in at the event.) The final size of my piece ended up about 120mm tall. I really wish I could have made it the right size, but maybe that’s a goal for next time! 


I also spaced the background pattern of the Crown’s Champion scroll a little bigger than I wanted. That was partially because I found a tool that I could use to keep the spacing consistent, not realizing just how wide it was. And, also about the background on the Crown’s Champion scroll, the shading was too light. This was really disappointing to me because it looked right just until I got the rest of the paint on the paper. Now it looks faint. 

The last thing I want to mention is just something that I missed in the details until after. The original painting is done as if the borders are raised and because of that, the 4 sides are not outlined the same. Two sides are darker and two sides are lighter. This is something I should have picked up on but I unfortunately didn’t.


I did really like working small. And I really like doing this style of art with the gems, bugs, and flowers. I think it was an additional challenge to have to work the shading so tiny but, with the right brush, I think it was manageable. I think with even more practice, I will be able to get my lines thinner, or I may experiment more with using a nib. 

I have also been working on my calligraphy and even though it doesn’t match the original manuscript perfectly, I still like it. I had fun making little flourishes on the letters or at the end of lines. I really like my last flourish on both scrolls. I do, however, have ideas on how it could improve but I think I will be working on my calligraphy for a very long time! 

Materials: Gouache and iron gall ink on bristol

Source: The Imhof Prayerbook

Words: Nicol mac Donnchaidh

“By the hand of Margarita, Queen of the Eastern Kingdom, <name of recipient> is named the Crown’s Arts and Sciences Champion this 29th Day of February.  Let word be sent to all baronies, provinces, and shires from Our Barony of Dragonship Haven. Scriptus et finitus est arbitrium iste in oppido Anno Societatis 54.

By the hand of Margarita, Queen of the Eastern Kingdom, <name of recipient> is named the Consort’s Arts and Sciences Champion this 29th Day of February.  Let word be sent to all baronies, provinces, and shires from Our Barony of Dragonship Haven. Scriptus et finitus est arbitrium iste in oppido Anno Societatis 54.”