The Art of Making Mistakes



"Drawing is discovery" says John Berger who goes on to say "...each mark you make on the paper is a stepping stone from which you proceed to the next, until you have crossed your subject as though it were a river, have put it behind you."


With him I agree, sketchbook drawing is a process to move through - like a mindful meditation - it is about acknowledging where you are but not holding on to that, allowing yourself to let go of those images that fail to materialise or realise their potential.


Why are we so afraid to make mistakes? Our training as school children was always to 'get it right' to strive to 'be the best' and yet as pre-schoolers we made mistakes, learnt by them. Life was about trying, and trying again, until we could. We didn't put one step in front of the other without falling many times before we walked, and then ran. Learning to ride a bicycle was fraught with bumps and bruises - but we got there!


And yet, join an adult art class and we have unrealistic expectations of early success. If we see each drawing as a new day, a new moment, a choice to begin again, perhaps we can engage our inner child and allow it to go wrong. What if we seek out the mistakes, some of which become the 'happy accidents'?


As a mixed-media artist there is a tightrope to walk, a juggling act to be performed of keeping the different elements of line, shape, pattern and texture and colour - all in the air, all playing to their merits. It doesn't always go to plan.





There are pages in my books that get left blank, pages painted over, pages whose tentative explorations are not worth a second glance. Then there are parts of drawings that draw the eye, where line and collage and colour begin to sing and there is a sparkle of potentiality. Then there is the challenge to take those wins and rework them, to try and recreate the sparkle again.


There is definitely a two steps forwards, one step back approach. Just as I think I am winning, I overwork a piece, lose a sensitive line under a piece of collage, or overwork it, taking it through to stodge. And that is the time to try again, to peel back the layers and re-find some freshness. Yes there is a stodgy page, yes it feels uncomfortable, but don't break the flow.





Being in flow allows you to make mistakes, to keep making them, to fill books and books with them! If I attained perfection my life's work would be complete and I could move on to a different art!


It is easy to compare our struggles to other's simple outpourings of beauty, to see theirs as good and ours as a poor imitation of 'art'. That is the discomfort of being human. For eventually we go through the processes of making art again and again and it begins to feel less uncomfortable, less like failure - We find a formula for creating that works!! And does it feel wonderful?! NO!!!!!


We feel we are working to a formula, and art, like life is not a formula. One of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite films is:



Art captures a moment, a moment in a fluid existence. The process of art is a pendulum, a swing to and fro. When it becomes static, formulaic, it loses its sense of 'life'. And so we swing back to the beginning - take a new class, pick a new art form and begin again.


There is nothing stuck about being creative - find your flow, accept the process good and bad, and allow yourself to make mistakes.



New online course dates for Autumn/Winter 2020 are now available to book.




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Helen Hallows

Artist-Tutor-Mentor

Nurturing Creativity since....

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