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Eyes In The Night: A Street Corner You Don’t Want To Hang Out On

August 13, 2012

Ever experienced a paralyzing fear of failure? You feel all eyes are on you, and you’re afraid of making a mistake? I think we’ve all been there. The sad part is, we know we
can’t learn and move forward without making mistakes.

A couple of years ago, I did an illustration on this subject for The Partner Channel Magazine. It still makes me laugh, even though it’s clearly a bit over the top. Here’s the final:  humorous illustration for The Partner Channel Magazine showing a frightened man standing on the corner of Fear & Failure by a lamppost at night with a vulture staring down at him and he's being watched by spooky eyes in the night and he's paralyzed with fear of making a mistake

I think the grotesque red eyes on the sidewalk were a mistake. It pushes the humor to an extreme.

Also: it’s too symmetrical. The edges may be frayed, but the border is essentially a perfect rectangle. Gives it an amateurish look. I’ve learned to value white space. Irregular borders are more interesting to the eye.

Ah, well– live and learn. Here’s a close-up:

detail image of humorous illustration for The Partner Channel Magazine showing a frightened man standing on the corner of Fear & Failure by a lamppost at night with a vulture staring down at him and he's being watched by spooky eyes in the night and he's paralyzed with fear of making a mistake

When it comes to bird villains, you can’t beat a vulture. Or is that a buzzard? I can never tell the differencedetail image of humorous illustration for The Partner Channel Magazine showing a frightened man standing on the corner of Fear & Failure by a lamppost at night with a vulture staring down at him and he's being watched by spooky eyes in the night and he's paralyzed with fear of making a mistake

What do you think? Ever struggled with a fear of failure? Is there a fine line between humor and absurdity? Is this an illustration that’s apt to cause eyestrain?? Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2012 9:30 AM

    I think it’s a rare person who doesn’t fear failure at some time. Rare or self-deceptive, anyway.

    The eyes in the cartoon don’t bother me. But the ones on the pavement look more like, ah… balls. 😉


    • August 14, 2012 9:22 AM

      Balls… oh, yes, I see– you mean the big plastic ones that kids like to play with. Yes– yes, I see what you mean… : )

      Thanks, Val! You and your unique vision are always welcome here!! : )


  2. August 13, 2012 9:33 AM

    I love the concept!! And the cartoon – especially the vulture. He has such personality. You should draw more animals, Mark. That’s cool.

    Personally I’m into austere minimalism, so I might even have eliminated the eyeballs altogether. (and I might have called it, Fear of Failure Avenue, LOL)

    For some reason I don’t really fear failure, I more fear I won’t have time to get it all done. I tend to fight forces outside rather than inside.


    • August 13, 2012 10:37 AM

      What? I’m a born naturalist? OK! I’m gonna take a sketch pad and go sit by the birdfeeder. Oops! Just saw a mosquito, I’d better watch the birdfeeder from inside… : P

      Fear of Failure Avenue… Yes, has a nice ring to it. Well, more like a knell, perhaps… : )

      The fear of not getting it all done… yes, I think that’s another one most of us can identify with.

      Always good to see you, Amelie, thanks as ever for all your support! : )


  3. Miss Beretta permalink
    August 13, 2012 9:40 AM

    I often feel like this! But instead of other people’s eyes, it’s my own eyes. You know, the own worst enemy kinda thing. Lovely drawing and I like what you did with the background. There is a lot of movement.


    • August 13, 2012 10:44 AM

      Thank you, Miss B, I appreciate your kind comment very much. I know exactly what you mean about watching oneself too carefully. It’s inhibiting, demoralizing, and supremely unproductive. It’s also a very difficult ingrained habit to break. I can identify. Ah, well, we must battle on against it and persevere.

      I sincerely appreciate your thoughtful comment and support. You are always most welcome here. : )


  4. August 13, 2012 1:57 PM

    What are you doing hanging out in front of my house and drawing? Is that you in that black van? Those eyes keep me awake almost every night.


    • August 13, 2012 8:32 PM

      Ha! I’ve gotten some great sketches of you– the supermarket tabloids are gonna pay me a fortune… : P

      You really had me laughing at that one, Julie. I’m gonna go around and put dark glasses on all those annoying peepers– can’t have them spoiling your sleep!! : )

      Many thanks for the quips and your cheerful support! : )


      • August 14, 2012 1:42 PM

        And right back at you, thanks for visualizing my irrational fears with your razor sharp and oh so witty pen, or markers, or crayons, or whatever medium you use.


  5. August 13, 2012 5:55 PM

    Mark; you’d have to give me a comparison re: White space…

    I love it, and think the sidewalk red eyes are fabulous. Once again, I’d need a comparison to judge the difference.

    Who hasn’t struggled with fear or failure? Stand up and be counted, you freak…!

    No one stood up, Mark…

    As for a fine line between humour and absurdity: Yes, some can go a tad too far, especially when it’s a crass subject; however, I couldn’t see you doing that somehow… 🙂


    • August 13, 2012 8:59 PM

      Ah, Carolyn! What a lovely supportive comment. Thank you very much indeed.

      Re white space: this is just one man’s opinion; here ’tis: an illustration that’s squared off (square or rectangular shape) has a somewhat rigid, unnatural shape. True, it might have perfect symmetry, but visually, it’s not that interesting. It might be pleasing, but it’s not compelling.

      White space and irregular borders create interest. They can also create a natural focus: they draw the eye to certain important elements in the illustration. I took a quick look through my own stuff; this piece about the Egyptian uprising is a pretty good example of the power of white space.

      I appreciate your thumbs-up for the “sidewalk eyes,” and must admit, I do get a kick out of them myself. But looking back, they seem a little campy for a business magazine (even one that really likes my work). Not wrong, just, well, self-indulgent perhaps… : )

      Your thoughtful comments and kind support are most sincerely appreciated– thanks again! : )


      • August 13, 2012 9:21 PM

        Egyptian Uprising: I take your point – there is perhaps ‘more focus’ using this method.

        You’d know best, I’m sure. As with everything we do in life (hopefully) we develop and grow. I’m sure though; your earlier work was admired just as it was!

        I can only tell you that I enjoy your blog and the uplifting commentary to be found. If a little ‘self indulgence’ finds an inlet, there will also be others of the same ilk who will enjoy!

        As a mere common reader and admirer of those (like yourself) who have the talent of portraying life in the manner of ‘ caricatures’ and drawings, I stand in contented space (perhaps not white!) knowing that there are those who hold such mastery.


        • August 14, 2012 9:01 AM

          A mere common reader…?? Tish-tosh! I must take exception to that characterization!! You are a most uncommon reader, with an uncommonly generous spirit.

          And I’m a very lucky chap to have you as a reader. Thank you, dear Carolyn!! : )


  6. August 13, 2012 10:05 PM

    I love coming to your blog because I always learn something new!

    I clicked on Egyptian Uprising (WOW) and saw what you meant about white space. And the Egyptian Uprising isn’t symmetrical either which makes it pop out at you more. It’s subtle but there is a difference. I think you’ve captured all eyes on your fear really effectively anyway!

    My most horrible experience with all eyes on me was when I had to try out for a drill team in high school and the ROTC boys picked who they wanted. We girls each had to go in one at a time and march turning right or left on their commands. I’m horrible with right and left so it was pure torture.

    And if I had it to do all over again? I wouldn’t! HA!


    • August 14, 2012 9:15 AM

      And I love your coming to my blog, because… because… well, because you’re you… : )

      That drill team tryout sounds like a truly ghastly experience. And the boys were in charge?? Knowing the kind of mischief I was capable of in high school (and still am), I can picture them marching you into walls, up into the bleachers, etc.

      Sometimes the best thing about high school is knowing we got out alive! But I know it helped make you the diabolical humorist you are today, and that’s something we can all be grateful for… : )

      OK, back to work now: Hut-hut-hut-hut!! And thanks so much for marching over!! : )


  7. August 14, 2012 3:24 PM

    You know how I feel about this one, it ties with Ruby Botticelli for your best work ever? I’d love to get a print of it to put in the office so we can show folks what reading Tremendous Books can help banish 🙂


    • August 15, 2012 12:16 PM

      What?? It ties with Ruby Botticelli?? Man, that is high praise indeed!! : )

      Thanks Tracey, really glad you enjoyed it that much. And that guy could kinda be a poster child for those wonderfully uplifting Tremendous Life Books?? Hmm. I did retain rights to it. I could upload it to Fine Arts America, so you could get a print, or we could make some other arrangement. We must promote Tremendous Life Books– I insist!! : )

      Thanks as always for your wonderful support!


  8. August 17, 2012 10:37 PM

    I do believe that less is often more, and white space helps accentuate your point. But in the case of this cartoon, I believe you have heightened the man’s fear the eyes crowding him. Giving him no space to breathe.

    Well done.


    • August 18, 2012 2:20 PM

      Incredible! Judy, you’ve managed to validate my second thoughts (white space is good) and validate my original concept (all the eyes are good), in the same delightful comment!!

      Is it any wonder that I’m always vacuuming the red carpet prior to your visits??? : )

      Many thanks for your fantastic support– most sincerely appreciated. : )


      • August 18, 2012 11:51 PM

        🙂 Can I be cheeky, like Mae West, and say, “Come up and see me (my blog) sometime” ?

        Glad you enjoy my comments. I certainly appreciate your artistic skills.


        • August 20, 2012 3:01 PM

          Wait a minute– I thought “cheeky” was your natural disposition… : )

          Well, you certainly may, and I certainly will– see you soon, Judy! : )


  9. August 18, 2012 7:43 AM

    Hi Mark,

    LOVED your work for two reasons:

    1. I did my doctoral dissertation on getting rid of negative emotions, then worked as a school psychologist and a psychotherapist in private practice for 32 years- before coming becoming an artist myself. One of my references is a book called The Human Side of Human Beings by Harvey Jackins delineates the natural discharge of fear as not only trembling and sweating through a cold skin – but also by LAUGHTER. Your work “hits the nail on the head”, as it were.

    If you wonder what’s under fear- once it’s completely discharged- it’s usually relaxation & zest, ready to tackle the jobs that need doing. There might be, though, also some disappointments/sadness and anger -as well as boredom & tension also impeding the underlying relaxation, zest, and insights that would be present but which needs to also be discharged first in a different way. (I hope you’ll understand and even appreciate my psychology in a nutshell.)

    2. I also like your work because it’s in the style of Ken Koskela – a piece of whose work I bought back in the 70s. His illustration style -but not content -is similarly wonderful to yours.

    P.S. my art is mostly embellished fabric collage and I haven’t put my psychology to use in it as I might’ve wished. My art (which I do hope you’ll take the time to review too) is born of my silk, suede, cotton, organza, etc. fabric scraps left over from my sewing hobby.

    I will sign up to be a follower of you.



    • August 18, 2012 7:01 PM

      Drina, I was simply bowled over by your amazing comment– my sincere thanks to you.

      Your analysis of fear, and the stages one must pass through to discharge same, was fascinating. What a wonderful choice for a doctoral dissertation, since dealing with negative emotions is such a universal challenge, something we all struggle with. I’m flattered that you think the illustration captures the “stuck” stage, at least to some extent. I can’t really claim any conscious psychological insight– must have been an accident! : )

      I’d never heard of Mr. Koskela, and I appreciate your bringing him to my attention. I took a look at his work, and I love his colorful, playful, and very whimsical style. I’m very flattered to have my work compared to his– I thank you for that as well.

      Your own art sounds very intriguing, and I shall certainly make it a point to visit your website and take a detailed look.

      Thanks again for sharing your insights, and for your lovely comment. Delighted to have you with us! : )


  10. robpixaday permalink
    August 18, 2012 3:46 PM



    I’ve spent a lot of time on that corner.

    Love this, in all its forms.

    That bird is channeling Poe!

    And my favorite part (aside from the guy and his expression, those EYES, the street sign…etc.,) is the puddle of what I assume to be flop-sweat at his feet. PERFECTION!!!!!



    • August 22, 2012 8:42 AM

      What?? A great painter like you has spent time on that corner?? Huh. I’m surprised we haven’t run into each other… : )

      Channeling Poe– ha! Yes, maybe he thinks he’s a raven. Or a blackbird. I can never tell those apart either, not even with my Doomsday Bird Guidebook… : P

      I knew you’d like the eyes. I believe you’ve done a few of those yourself– aye!

      Flop-sweat! You had me laughing there. Yes, let’s assume that’s what the puddle is– alternative explanations are disturbing to say the least… : P

      Thanks as ever, Robin, for your uniquely exuberant support!! : )


  11. August 21, 2012 12:52 PM

    I really like how you have composed the eyes, and that there are not two that are the same. It’s a nice touch also with the vulture is eyeing up its prey, ready to catch the man off guard in the mindset of failure.

    I know numerous of times I have experienced such fear of failures over the years. But either way there is no turning back when it comes to actions, and one can only push forward from learning those experiences and try not to fail again on similar circumstances.

    I cannot imagine anyone not bearing that feeling. Even the most fearless would secretly have some fear engraved into them.


    • August 22, 2012 3:29 PM

      Many thanks, dear Sabine!

      You know, that’s a very interesting interpretation you’ve given the vulture: the idea that having a failure mindset leaves us vulnerable to negative forces; e.g., discouragement, depression, despair, etc. That’s a great insight, and I really can’t take credit for trying to build that into the illustration. So take a well-deserved bow, and many thanks for sharing that.

      And you’re absolutely right: failure is part of life; best to just sally forth, resolved to learn everything we can from our mistakes.

      Sincere thanks for your excellent comment! : )


      • August 22, 2012 6:49 PM

        You’re very welcome as always, Mark ^^

        Honestly, I didn’t actually think about the whole vulnerable feeling one would be situated in. Never came to mind when I was typing that comment, haha. ^_^’

        We can share out the insight as both our inputs have helped analyse your wonderful illustration even more : )


        • August 23, 2012 2:24 PM

          Excellent!– that’s it exactly! When two great intellects like ours get together, great insights emerge– it’s inevitable!! : )


  12. September 2, 2012 6:14 PM

    I did ever struggle with fear of failure and perhaps many times I did it. 😀


    • September 5, 2012 10:42 AM

      Join the club, Inge, and I’ve got a feeling it’s a very big club indeed! : )

      It’s a fear I’ve struggled with my whole life, and I think a lot of it springs from perfectionism– the misguided notion that everything we do has to be perfect down to the last detail. Since that’s a totally unrealistic goal, we wind up putting ourselves in quite a box… : (

      But since you and I are towers of strength, we shall battle on to victory!! : )


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