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Every Little Thing is Gonna be Alright

The Power of Mistakes



“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” ~ Bob Ross


In my last blog, "Dream on, Dream on, Dream Until Your Dreams Come True", I wrote about the power of vulnerability. If you have not already read it, I suggest you read it first, as context for this month’s article. Speaking as a recovering perfectionist, I believe that mistakes are important for growth. Often, we see setbacks as disastrous, but hindsight often shows us the opposite – these challenges are opportunities for success.


Unfortunately, society had led us to believe that mistakes are taboo and so we fear making them. I saw this in the education system where parents demanded that their children be A+ students. It happens in the workplace with bosses who are so driven with the bottom line; they forget the human element. Even our personal lives are not immune to the impact of mistakes, which can negatively affect a relationship be it with friends, family or partners.


The Alternate Perspective


With the worry of making errors impacting all of us I can admit that fear held me back for a long time as an artist. Among the various obstacles I created for myself was the feeling of having to be perfect. In hindsight this is almost comical from a creative perspective. Look at any abstract work and there is no way to determine what is right or “off” with the piece. While there are more concrete ideas as to what looks better or correct when re-creating an icon, there are still various interpretations of how the artist sees or creates the subject which allow for imperfections. As an “A type” it took me a long time to appreciate the value of mistakes in my art.





The Game Changer


My current process for painting, without giving away all of my secrets, is to use various photos of the icon which I use to create the initial image of the celebrity. The rest of the piece develops organically and I will often change up ideas or add things as feels right. However, this was not always the case. Prior to my painting of rock stars, I focussed on other subject matter. My practice involved sketching out almost every detail to the point where it felt like a giant colouring book page or paint by number. While it provided me comfort it took from my creative mindset, as my art became very procedural in the quest to avoid “errors”.


During an experimental phase I was designing what I like to call de-constructed abstracts. At one point I made a huge mistake with an addition to the piece. This mistake was the most intriguing and captivating part of the entire painting. Rather than try to cover up the “mistake” I used it as the focal piece. From that moment on, I started to see things differently.


The Impact Today


Today I continue to make mistakes. Some of them are frustrating as f*ck and in some cases it may take multiple attempts to get the image correct, especially facial features and hands. In other cases, it is a matter of experimentation with techniques or tools that do no create the desired effect. It does not make my art a disaster and I refuse to let it ruin the piece or my mindset. I may need time away from the work to come at it with a fresh perspective, but the trialing of the idea makes for a powerful growth experience. If it works, I have a new technique at my disposal. When something does not go as planned, I adapt and learn from that too. Either way I have learned – be it what works, what does not work, or what has potential – with some refinement and practice.





The Power of Mistakes


Part of growth is not only admitting to mistakes but embracing them. To see a mistake, not as failure, but as an opportunity requires a sense of vulnerability. While this may sound quite philosophical, it also has an important function in the development of an artist. By its very nature art cannot be without mistakes and artists cannot hone their talents without trial and error.


Mistakes in art are often the starting point of very innovative concepts and original artworks, as I discovered firsthand. Errors reveal what we do not expect and in the process we are introduced to a whole new world, a world where something incredible is possible. In some ways it opens a creative door that we did not even know existed. This opening, a lucky accident, can lead to inspiration and creative genius. These makes leads us on a pathway to new possibilities. Most importantly, it challenges our pre-conceived notions, allowing us to truly be immersed in the creative process.

 

The unspoken truth is that there is both beauty and power in errors, because it reveals our vulnerability. Mistakes in an artwork may convey a deviation of style, a loss of limitation, and a willingness to reveal ourselves on a whole new level. In some cases the error is so distinct, it creates a unique image that cannot be reproduced. Mistakes impact us in the moment, but the impact does not have to be detrimental.


If we approach things with a growth mindset there is powerful learning to be unlocked, both artistically and personally. While not all mistakes are created equal, take a step back and see the benefits of making errors. Sometimes these can be the best experiences of all! If anyone is feeling vulnerable and wants to share a “mistake” that was an impactful, please share your story. I look forward to sharing more of my art journey with you, with a focus on painting and rock and roll through Artist Confidential. If you have topics, you would like me to blog about, please feel free to contact me. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.


Thanks for reading. Stay creative! Rock your day with everything that you do and enjoy the experience of making a mistake and growing from it!


Cheers,


Al


 

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