Artist of the Month: “Experiment: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail”

Jim Morris displays portraits painted using a variety of techniques.

Jim Morris displays portraits painted using a variety of techniques.

LaVerne Kyriss

While he calls himself “just a Sunday painter,” you shouldn’t imagine a lazy Sunday afternoon setting for SaddleBrooke artist Jim Morris. Morris is very focused and disciplined about continuing to stretch and grow as an artist. In fact, each year, he sets goals and a theme for his art.

“I try to complete five or six paintings a month. I post the completed works to a private website so I can track my progress. It helps keep me motivated if I get busy with other activities,” he explained. “I also set a theme for my work each year so I continue to grow and don’t just get complacent, doing the same thing over and over. This year’s theme is experiment. I’m consciously working to get out of my comfort zone.”

“I’m also an art history buff, so each day I try to learn a little about a painter I don’t know—not the great masters, but more recent artists—those who laid the foundations for what artists are doing today. I’m interested in what motivated them and why. It inspires me to see what’s possible,” he reflected. “I never set out to learn their styles or copy their work—just get ideas.”

For instance, Morris has been experimenting with destructive techniques this year, including learning about the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, or the idea of revering items that are weathered, worn out, and repaired more than the original brand new article. “I took this idea and applied it to a painting I was working on. After creating it, I intentionally removed paint using various implements, to give the work a weathered, worn out, antique look,” he said.

“This led me to realize that I can recreate and restore something that’s not right in a painting. If a particular section isn’t right or some brushwork is wrong, you can redo it to whatever level. So, I don’t have to get so hung up on the minute details and can focus on the bigger picture,” Morris explained. “Right now, I’m working on a portrait and I haven’t yet got the face color right. I’ve tried twice so far. I’ll try a third time next week,” he reflected. “And if that doesn’t work, I can paint over it,” he laughed. “Don’t be afraid to fail. That’s how we learn.”

“In a given year, out of 60 or 70 paintings, I end up with two or three that I really like. The truth is,” he says, “many of us create many things we want to throw away. But we generally learn something during the process.”

Morris noted that it’s important for artists to share their work with other artists to learn from each other and to discuss techniques in a supportive way. To that end, he leads a monthly non-critique session for the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild. “We average 15 or more participants year-round and several don’t even bring work to share. They come to learn about what people are doing and why. Come join us,” he smiled.

For more information about the guild, visit their website at