Richard Holman on managing creative calamity

When something goes wrong in your work, it’s easy to think that everything is ruined. But, points out Richard Holman, it doesn’t necessarily follow that every failure is a disaster

It’s summer 2012. The hot Spanish sun is unforgiving as it beats down on the quiet streets of Borja, a medieval town a few hours north-east of Madrid. Cecilia Giménez, an elderly resident, takes shelter from the heat in the church of the Misericordia Sanctuary.

As Cecilia sits in quiet contemplation, she’s unable to take her eyes off a painting of Christ by the artist Elías García Martínez. Already over a century old, the paint on the fresco is starting to flake. It upsets Cecilia. The church is a special place for her; it’s where she married some 60 years ago. And Cecilia knows just how bare the church coffers are, and how unlikely it is the painting will be restored.

So she makes a decision. A decision that will change not only her life but the life of the ancient town in which she lives. Cecilia decides she will restore the painting herself.