Friday, 12 February 2010

Mistakes and Putting Them to Use

I suppose the tale I am about to tell in today’s open and free culture may seem tame but when it happened this was far from the case. I came out of a church building fairly late one evening. Standing at the bus stop opposite was a middle aged couple much under the influence of alcohol. They were in fact waiting for a bus that was never going to come, the last one had long gone. At this time I was giving serious consideration to putting my head down and trying to get myself into college as and was always eager and willing to help others. If I was going to be a minister then I had better start practising. I got the couple into the car, not mine might I add, but a friend. We got them round to the address the man had given us. On arrival he asked if I would help him get her into the house. I did that but then he wanted me to help get her into bed. Well I did this with as much decorum as was possible. He got in beside her I put out the lights and locked his door and put the keys back through his letter box.

The next day I popped round to see if all was okay with them. They did not know each other. They had in fact only met a short time before I came out of the church building.

Was this a mistake? Who knows I never hung around long enough to ever find out.

I read a letter in an art magazine where somebody was reflecting on his art master and his insistence on drawing and getting it right. He stated, “Nobody was allowed to touch paint until they could draw.” For those who could draw, wonderful they got to move on to paint for others art for the rest of their life was a dead thing. I had an art teacher who made the same mistake and so it is only recently I came back to art.

We all make mistakes and the artist is no different from anybody else. The wrong colour, the wrong mix, the perspective is all wrong, one kind of gaffe or another. For so many starting out in art these mistakes can be seen as a disaster, they see it as a conformation that they are no good at art. The true artist accepts it as a part of what happens to the artist and learns from the mistake. They note it away and make sure they do not make the same mistake again. If it does happen again then they feel that the lesson has not yet been learned and they start again.

Everyday for the artist is a learning experience. It should be shared with others. I have set myself the task that in the coming year I will open the door to art for at least three people who say to me, “I would love to be able to be an artist, but I am just hopeless.” I will do not to become a tutor or as another source of income but simply to inspire.

As you can see from the painting at the start of this blog,I still cannot draw. That does not mean I did not get a great deal of pleasure in the production of this "picture". I am also aware that it has brought pleasure to many others. Would it be a mistake to show others the error of my ways?


  1. Your blog makes me recall a week of study with a very noted artist. WE first sketched the subject quickly identifying the area we wished to work; then resketched, noting detail; then resketched indicating lights and darks; all the while indicating and using proper mathematical calculations of a good sketch. And, on occasion sketching from a different angle. Then, to add insult to injury we were required to paint on a small throw away canvas dabs of the colours we would use to paint our canvas. Not over yet......then to paint a small 9x12 canvas of the subject to identify colours, lights, darks....etc. By the time I reached this point, I no longer care if I ever painted the final canvas and had lost the heart of the statement I wanted to portray.

    Much more to be said about spontaneity in art I have learned. Go with the flow and the vision; and sometimes the errors or mistakes in this approach has its own appeal for artist and viewer.

    Personally I like the spontaneous approach to a work of art; I think you can always the heart in a canvas where the artist has captured a spontaneous moment and watch the evolution of that moment flow from artist's hands to final vision.

  2. Feel I should clarify my earlier comment as I do not believe I did justice to the clinical, disciplineed approach to producing a visual work of art. I am not saying the sketch, sketch, etc approach is unproductive. Certainly for the person conducting the course it was and he had practiced for so many years his canvases were all and always works of enviable art.
    I meant to say this approach does not work for everyone; especially not for me. I much preferred the approach of a professor who said "go for it, let the accidents happen".