We don’t call it mistakes, we call it a work in progress

Life is the art of drawing without an eraser. - John W. Gardner


I have many students, and sometimes adults, that approach art with the fear. Art brings out the fear. The fear of making a mistake, the fear of doing wrong, the fear of creating something that someone may not like or approve of.


There is nothing better than the Arts, that allows one to break their own mold within the comfort of a sketchbook, a handheld sculpture, a giant piece of paper with scrawls of marks, or a small digitally manipulated photograph of your cat saved on your computer. Critics of art may say it is wrong, but what they are really doing is questioning our fear, resilience, and confidence to be who we are and what we ought to become.


I always carry an art journal with me and I highly encourage my students, friends, and even family to do so. It’s another means of documenting, expressing, and evaluating your emotions and surroundings in a visually aesthetic way. No one has to see it. It’s for yourself. Just like a diary, an art journal is a personal platform to comprehend the good, the bad and the ugly. Best of all, it’s a work in progress. When my students see my journal (on occasion) they always ask - why do you have painted tape stuck on the page? Or, why did you just add ink patterns on top of your finished drawing? The answer is sometimes simply because I wanted to. However, most of the time, I layer and rework pages because it is the process and action of what I, as a person (and artist) think, feel and believe in at that given time. The work that I create may be the beginning of something extravagant later or it is a detailed drawing that may never be completed but is a study for a future idea. When students create works in class they are not comfortable or happy with, I ask, “What can you do to change that, without erasing all the time and effort you have already placed on the piece?”


I encourage them to rework what they already have without picking up that eraser. Simply repainting a part that doesn’t fit or drawing in some patterns and tones over top can transcend the fear into a new work that takes on a different and positive perspective. Students  sometimes breathe a sigh of relief or go “a-ha!”. It doesn’t always happen, and at the very least, I ask them to save it for later and turn the page over to develop the idea further.


Actions in art are about believing in yourself. Trusting those marks you make or images you compose is a fearless act in trusting what you see and know. It’s neither wrong nor right, good or bad. It’s being you. To some that might be the biggest fear of all.


So, let art shake that fear out and help you become comfortable with taking risks. It can only make you grow, and where’s the mistake in that?


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