A list of mistakes

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Dear Artist,

This morning, Michael Epp of Bowen Island, B.C., wrote, ” ‘Just take away everything that doesn’t look like a horse.’ That’s what the sculptors say. Which implies that as long as you avoid all the obvious mistakes, you’ll end up with something good. By definition, perfection is merely an absence of error. Is there a list of mistakes for artists to avoid making?”

Half Built acrylic by Michael Epp

“Half Built” acrylic by Michael Epp

Thanks, Michael. Your note caught my attention because it had some wonderful assumptions. The horse concept is a vital one because it stresses creation by reduction, in other words the removal of material. This removal does not imply mistakes, but rather the vacuum created to disclose the horse in question. The other three prime suspects in your note are the words “good,” “perfection,” and “error.” In the art game, all are subjective and mighty arbitrary. Nevertheless, I’m on your question like a fat kid on a Smartie.

Don’t assume there is only one way. Don’t assume that mistakes are a bad thing. Don’t think for one minute that everyone agrees with what “good” is. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking perfection is attainable or even desirable. Don’t assume the existence of error. Art is not based on a catechism.

Art is something else. It is, for better or for worse, the bending of personal will. And while some artists may attempt standards such as academic standards, commercial standards or intellectual standards, there will always be significant creators who don’t give a hoot about standards at all.

The main thing you need to think about is process. Your process. Individual decisions cannot be taken from some list. They are the result of your previous moves, including your errors. They are also the result of your noted winnings. This is how you-as-a-person becomes you-as-an-artist.

Funnily, in youth, we are often rigid. We tend to think there is some secret, some Holy Grail that will have great art appear on our easels. We may even dream that fame and fortune will arise from this correctness. As we grow older, we realize just how limiting were our earlier conceptions. Art is something else. Art is fluid, transmutable, open ended, never complete, and never perfect. Art is an event.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” (Scott Adams)

Esoterica: There are two kinds of students — recipe takers and recipe fighters. The former listen to the instructor, try to get it “right,” and often succeed in doing so. The latter strike out on their own, pay the price of rugged individualism, and fail often. In art, it’s all about failure. In art, the journey outshines the destination. In art, mistakes are golden.

 

Perfection is for the Borg
by Bobbo Goldberg, Orlando, FL, USA

 

Kirpal Singh sketch by Bobbo Goldberg

“Kirpal Singh”
sketch by Bobbo Goldberg

I got stuck on that early statement: “By definition, perfection is merely an absence of error.” As if perfection, if it were objectively attainable, were only negative space! Surely something that strikes the mind and heart as perfect is much more than error-free. Some errors take mere competence and render an emotional perfection. The 1933 version of King Kong, groundbreaking in its day, is full of technical “errors” by today’s standards. Yet it outshines the visual “perfection” of the Peter Jackson version, because it displays a simplicity, a heart, an archetypal rootedness rare in any work of art. Perfection is for the Borg. We humans thrive on those deviations from what Robert calls standards, those dissonances that sweeten the harmony, the mistakes that touch us into companionship and confusion, discovery and delight. Perfection need not exist for there to be perfect moments between the artist and the art, or between the art and the audience. It’s a collaboration, and no sum of its mere parts (or difference following subtraction) will ever nail it down.



There are 5 comments for Perfection is for the Borg by Bobbo Goldberg
 

From: Win Dinn, Painted Turtle Gallery — Oct 16, 2009

Love your ‘sketch’, Robert – getting so close to Borg!

From: Anonymous — Oct 16, 2009

Powerful sketch of a beautiful face. Curious about why you chose this subject, and did you work from a photo? Charlotte

From: Charlotte Ensminger Vancouver BC — Oct 16, 2009

I didn’t intend for my earlier comment to be anonymous! Would love to see more of your work.

From: Barbara in Chandler, AZ — Oct 16, 2009

Robert,

I know who the Borg are, but I’m sure many do not! My mother, and 83 year-old artist, surely wouldn’t. “Resistance is futile”.

From: Anonymous — Oct 16, 2009

Thanks, Win. LOL- Seven of Nine would be… who knows? Chatlotte – thanks for the nice comments. Yes, from a B&W photo. I’ve been acquainted for some time with this fine teacher and his works, and really like his face. He passed on in 1976, I think. More schtuff on bobbogoldberg.com. Barbara – some are better not knowing. One of my fave lines was one that had occurred to every Star Trek fan, from the “I, Borg” episode: “Resistance is not futile???” My mom’s a bit older than yours, and if I said Borg, she’d ask, “Steinborg or Goldborg?”

 

Evoking the mystery
by Georgianne Fastaia, San Francisco, CA, USA

 

Ballerina's secret oil painting 30 x 24 inches by Georgianne Fastaia

“Ballerina’s secret”
oil painting 30 x 24 inches
by Georgianne Fastaia

I believe that to make art with all the questions answered deprives the viewer of the joy of participating in the act of creation. I believe the self balances tenuously in the ambiguous, misunderstood spaces between people. Exploring the fragility of our connection to each other is the reason I make art.

The primary subject of my work is the existential condition. I use abstracted forms to explore the movement between the joy of kinship and our ultimate aloneness. Self-taught, the choices I make in creating each painting, exploring the border between figuration and abstraction, serve my subject: I want the viewer to feel unsure, pulled into the painting’s surface and left with questions.

My work is informed by the desire to “transform the mistake.” In my process, I re-use old canvases working into layers of paint, actively damaging and rebuilding the surface to give each a “history.” Through this process I seek to express a more authentic concept of beauty while striving to make paintings which retain an evocation of mystery.



There are 10 comments for Evoking the mystery by Georgianne Fastaia
 

From: Liz Reday — Oct 16, 2009

Wow! Great painting.

From: lindell stacy-horton — Oct 16, 2009

I agree with you. Your work has just the right balance between the “known subject’ recognized immediately, and the intrigue of the abstract, drawing even the most jaded viewer right into your world. It is great, and something I am trying to achieve in my work as well. You are an inspiration, for sure. Keep up the good work! Cheers.

From: Annette Mack — Oct 16, 2009

I have been receiving Robert Glenn’s bi-weekly letters for a couple years now and this is the 1st time I just HAD to respond. Your painting is GORGEOUS!!! I could live with a painting like this for years on end. I have been in a ‘funk’ for some time with my own painting and your work is truly inspiring!!

From: Bella — Oct 16, 2009

Lovely painting, but I didn’t enjoy the “art talk” – that sounds to me like something written by a frustrated art critic.

From: Anonymous — Oct 17, 2009

Bella, I had the same reaction

From: John — Oct 18, 2009

me too.

From: Rick Rotante — Oct 19, 2009

You missed the point completely! J-B & Anon

From: georgianne fastaia — Oct 20, 2009

i really appreciate everyone’s comments. of course i am delighted that people “get” my painting style. i was really excited by this piece in particular because it came out the way so many of my paintings do not. in this case the process served the painting well.

i certainly also want my writing about my art to serve my purpose, to add something to a persons reaction to my work… rather than turn people off. thanks for the constructive criticism as well then. warmly, gia

From: Anonymous — Dec 21, 2009

Do more like these George!

From: georgianne — Dec 27, 2009

ok mom!

 

Painting in ‘the zone’
by John Pryce, Uxbridge, ON, Canada

 

Stormy sunrise oil painting by John Pryce

“Stormy sunrise”
oil painting by John Pryce

One of my observations as a painter and teacher of art is the difficulty I have in explaining the creative process. It is particularly difficult to explain this phenomenon to people that have better developed the left side of the brain and need a logical reason for everything. The main reason that I cannot adequately explain the creative process is because I do not understand it myself. All I know is when I am in “The Zone,” that’s when things just “Happen.” This probably is due in part to the many years of practicing the basics, drawing, composition and colour mixing which are likely stored in the left side of the brain. This gives freedom to the right side functions which is more emotion based and is more likely to take chances with colour and brushwork. Interestingly your comments about the Horse is in line with my observations about painting the negative spaces and seeing what comes from it. It is a good practise to take note of those wonderful accidents and we may eventually develop a vocabulary of shapes, brushwork and color combinations that are unique to you. In Art, as in life, it seems “The most wonderful things happen when we least expect it.”



There are 7 comments for Painting in ‘the zone’ by John Pryce
 

From: LKPerrella — Oct 16, 2009

One of my favorite quotations: (supposedly by Juan Gris) – “You are lost the instant you know the outcome”. I just gave a mixed media workshop in Manhattan, and one of the participants surprised me by asking, “So – really – What is the point of all this, unless we end up with an END PRODUCT?”. At first, the question set me back, but it certainly deserved a respectful answer. In trying to respond to the student, I realized that I could have talked for hours about my zeal for “working without an outcome”. To me, that has been the pathway to the best ideas. Also, I admit that I feel that working towards an “end product” is a surefire way of shutting down all natural creative impulses. In mixed media (and perhaps other artforms) there is an aspect of “the happy accident” that is undeniable. But, if we are only intent on making an “end product”, I doubt that we are going to entertain any accidental eruptions of joy or happenstance. We are going to studiously remain “on task”. The question in the classroom really allowed me to examine how I feel about working in an instinctive exploratory way, and I hope I helped the student to give it further consideration. Either way, it was a “teachable moment”.

From: Raynald Murphy — Oct 16, 2009

When asked the same question last night at a workshop – whether I was working in left brain or right brain – I fumbled for an intelligent answer which came through as garbled nonsense. I sometimes feel when asked such a question that the student really wants to know if there is a fast route to painting creatively, which there isn’t. It’s plainly a lot of work, a lot of focused process not worrying about the mental process or product too much if at all.

From: Bob White — Oct 16, 2009

Interesting comments coming from teachers. I guess when you don’t know where you are going, any path will do. It must be easier to teach that way.

From: Elizabeth (Betty) Jean Billups — Oct 17, 2009

Being in “the zone” as it is called in this presentation, is something that has ALWAYS been perhaps THE ONLY REASON I ever have any work come to a completion and a success!

I never quite understood this, until I started teaching: while doing demos in a class situation, and whenever someone would ask me a question, I found myself having a really difficult time answering them, and then a difficult time getting back into “the space” of creativity! I felt like I was jumping a wall, or something like that … I just always felt “stupid” or “out of control” or “less than an artist”… never understanding this, always caused me to feel so very “stupid”!

The process is strange, because I never realized I was “in the zone”…

Reading this from Robert helped me understand this, after over 37 years of painting and teaching! Deep inside, I really didn’t feel the above things mentioned, but I always felt so intimidated by others, because I could not chit chat while painting! NOW, I am beginning to have a healing!!! AND I thank Robert, from the bottom of my heart!!! In helping me heal!!!

Would love you to visit my web site: http://www.bettybillups.com And share the wonder, of our belief in ourselves! What each of us feels deep in our hearts, is there, to be realized!! If only we believe, and then put the effort to learn our craft!!!

From: Cyn Richardson — Oct 17, 2009

I, too have lurked in the “audience” for a while now and have to respond to Bob White’s post, which comes across to me as oh so close to insulting — when in actuality, there is nothing “easy” about teaching this concept — so many of my own students, as well as others who have been in classes with me, have no concept of the idea of playing, and just letting art happen from their subconscious, or right brain, or whatever you want to call it. They want instruction on how to do something the ‘right’ way, to know how to do what you do, exactly by rote or step-by-step instructions. They want to be perfect before they ever touch a brush…and it IS the journey, not the destination that make both making and teaching art worthwhile.

From: Bob White — Oct 19, 2009

I really apprecite teachers who are clear in advertising their classes – being clear if you are teaching basic techniques or the philosophy or art is fair. Beginners need to know that before they register.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Oct 20, 2009

Wow! I am having a moment of understanding that has escaped me for some years now. I have been teaching for about 10 years, both weekly classes and workshops occasionally. I have also had a bit of success with my artwork sales and awards. But, I have friend that keeps telling me to quite thinking so much. At the reading of Betty’s comments above, I had a small revelation. I had just told my weekly classes that after the holidays, I will take a hiatus from teaching. I told them the reason is I need to spend time in the studio playing, which is what I tell them to do. This letter has reinforced that for me. Thank you all for your responses!

 

Sincerity valued
by Candice Edwards, Turner Valley, AB, Canada

 

Your letter reminded me of the many discussions I have been involved with over the years regarding “What is art?” It also reminded me of the definition I was given by a drawing instructor I once had. She refined the discussion we were having in class down to the comment, “Art is always sincere.” I think sometimes, as artists, we spend too much time worrying about outside criteria, judgements, whatever, and we forget to go with what we are sincerely trying to create — which doesn’t mean it is good, bad or indifferent but, if it is at least sincere, it becomes an important and valuable part of the journey of our own art.



There is 1 comment for Sincerity valued by Candice Edwards
 

From: LKPerrella — Oct 16, 2009

Thank you for passing along the statement that art is always “sincere”. I can’t say that the word rang true to me — but, thanks to you, I looked deeper into myself and challenged myself to find a different word. Perhaps several other readers did the same? Anyhow, I wonder if “intention” would also work in this instance? “Art is always intention”. In my experience, creating art gives us a platform, or an arena (even a private one, experienced only in the studio) to illuminate our deepest-held awarenesses. Even the ones that are still simmering WAY below the surface of our own consciousness. When I work in my studio, I am working with the intention of spending time with ideas that seem important at that moment, no matter how murky or undeveloped they are. I know that, if I just show up and work, something worthwhile will be revealed and acknowledged. Thanks for joggling my mind, and making me think further.

 

Art neither wrong nor right
by Mike Young, Oakville, ON, Canada

 

Untitled sculpture by Mike Young

Untitled
sculpture by Mike Young

Mistakes suggest wrongness. An Art piece cannot be wrong, or right. It can be liked or disliked, but that is not right or wrong. It can be poorly executed or well done, but this does not make it wrong or right. Art works simply are. There are no absolutes in Art.

I am reminded of Magritte’s This is not a Pipe. It is a painting. Only a pipe is a pipe. Then there is sculpture. A horse is a horse. A sculpture of a horse is a sculpture. And so on. None are wrong.

 

 



There are 4 comments for Art neither wrong nor right by Mike Young
 

From: Ron — Oct 16, 2009

I get it,Mike.Well put…

From: Gregg Hanggebrauck — Oct 17, 2009

You are right, or wrong… I think…. In art there is only opinion. What dazzles one ( expert ) wants to make the other ( expert ) have to run to the lavatory. I am sure the art world needs standards. But who is the being who brings these standards to bear on us artistic mortals?

I think animals should paint.

From: Gregg Hangebrauck — Oct 17, 2009

Name is spelt wrong in the previous instant comment. I did see an elephant paint in a utube video. If it was real I wonder if other elephants loved it or hated it?

http://www.ghangebrauck.com/ shameless plug

From: Catherine McLay — Oct 19, 2009

At the Calgary Zoo, Kamala (an elephant) paints and sells her works worldwide. The following is a quote from the zoo website: “Kamala the elephant resides in the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada. Kamala expresses her mood through a form of ‘finger (or, should we say, trunk) painting’, …”

 

Finding creative focus
by Marion Barnett, UK

 

Sun god original painting by Marion Barnett

“Sun god”
original painting
by Marion Barnett

I think it’s useful to arm ourselves with words, the evidence that other people have been there, done that, and found it hard (but not impossible). My favourite quote, though I don’t have an attribution, it’s one of these things that gets passed from mouth to mouth… ‘Perfection is the best you can do on the day.’ I recently wrote a book about finding your creative focus, and perfectionism, surprise surprise, got a bad press, along with procrastination. Both of which come from the same place, I think, a fear of some kind. And as my teacher said…’the secret is, there is no secret. There is only turning up and doing the work, every day, without fail.’

 

 

 

An affirmation
by Elizabeth Patterson, Hollis Center, ME, USA

 

Water Plus Sunshine<br>coloured pencil 16 x 20 inches by Elizabeth Patterson

“Water Plus Sunshine”
coloured pencil 16 x 20 inches
by Elizabeth Patterson

Your last couple of sentences really struck a chord with me: “Art is fluid, transmutable, open ended, never complete, and never perfect. Art is an event.” These words could serve me well as an affirmation, spoken each time I declare a painting “done.” For me, working in a realistic… but not photo-realistic style, choosing a stopping point is not a clearly defined thing, but more dictated by a gut feeling. What I have come to realize is, once the piece itself gives me the same feeling that viewing (and being inspired by) the actual subject gave me in the first place, there really is not much more to be done.

The event is the joyful sharing of my perception, made even more joyful when others see and appreciate that imperfect, transmutable perception!



There are 10 comments for An affirmation by Elizabeth Patterson
 

From: sjensen — Oct 15, 2009

your painting is absolutely spectacular, just love the shine and depth ,thanks for including it in your comment for us to view

From: Ken Flitton — Oct 16, 2009

I agree with those that say your painting is BEAUTIFUL!! The shine and depth, the glass the…..

From: Karen R. Phinney — Oct 16, 2009

….I agree with the other comments, and to think it is coloured pencil! Wow!

From: Susan Hildebrand — Oct 16, 2009

I have been putting off my art…but after seeing this work of art I will be picking up my brush. Thank you for sharing! Stunning!

From: Lynne P Alexander Hollingsworth — Oct 16, 2009

I visited your website and found it a transporting experience! thank you Elizabeth.

From: Celeste Gober — Oct 16, 2009

What a wonderful feeling I have, looking at your beautiful work.

You have achieved what you set out to do. On this cool and rainey day in New Jersey, it is such a joy to experience again, the beauty of summer, through your artwork. Thanks.

From: Darla — Oct 16, 2009

What a joyful painting! I love it!

From: Anonymous — Oct 16, 2009

What a lovely, stunning work of art! I can feel the sunshine looking at it. Thanks for sharing.

From: Chris Essler — Oct 16, 2009

Sorry, left my name off!

From: Cheryl Ann Morgan — Oct 16, 2009

The Water Plus Sunshine brought an immediate smile to my face. Loved referring to your site. Thanks for the inspiration, Elizabeth!

-Cheryl, San Francisco Painter

 

Mistakes are golden
by Louise Francke, NC, USA

 

Westward Ho original painting by Louise Francke

“Westward Ho”
original painting by Louise Francke

I always enjoyed printmaking because surprises ascend out of mistakes more readily than they do in painting which is more direct. When my children were young, I wouldn’t allow them to throw away a drawing with mistakes. My advice was, and is, make your mistakes work. Guess I follow my own advice and the infamous quote “Art is anything you can get away with.” Art for me is pushing the psychological and individual boundaries, testing and breaking the rules. There is no right or wrong. It’s just what works and what doesn’t in the mind’s eye. Sometimes we don’t even see it until months have passed.



There are 3 comments for Mistakes are golden by Louise Francke
 

From: Liz — Oct 16, 2009

As the great philosopher and paper seller, Wally Dawes, often said: “Make your mistakes in the planning stage”.

From: Leslie Edwards Humez — Oct 16, 2009

I think that there is a qualitative difference between “seeking perfection” and “attention to details.” As I reflect on the sculpture which will walk out of here tomorrow, I’m happy with the results. I had fun. The work feels complete, yet in the final reflection I am aware how alternative choices in details, a different choice of paint colors or a change in structure might have affected — or perhaps even improved — the intended end result. I am careful to recognize that striving for perfection is a potion to banish creativity.

An important part of process is allowing the plan to lead me through to its own natural conclusion without forcing preconceived notions. In the end I polish the results by visually dotting all the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s.” Inattention to the fine details and fighting the process are the only mistakes we can make whether we are musicians, writers or visual artists. clevelandartseast.com

From: James R Vondrasek — Oct 17, 2009

I start every day, full of energy, eager and looking forward to all the mistakes I can possibly make in the day . Only to make them just a bit different in the next.

I never fail as long as I start. JRV

 

The artist’s perfection
by Mary Susan Vaughn, Charlotte, NC, USA

 

Center of the Known World oil painting 36 x 24 inches by Mary Susan Vaughn

“Center of the Known World”
oil painting 36 x 24 inches
by Mary Susan Vaughn

Although Art is subjective, and what is considered “good” or “masterful” art is what artists aim to achieve, I believe that if I, the artist, am not satisfied with the result as I want it to be, then I have to learn how to achieve that result. That is how we, as artists, grow. We reach out to other artists, living and past, who are telling us what it is we wish to know about attaining a certain “perfect” result in our paintings — even if that “perfect” result is our own opinion, that is what we aim to achieve. The mistakes are the ones that take away from the result we want to achieve. Every mistake and every perfection is as individual as the artist.

 

 



There is 1 comment for The artist’s perfection by Mary Susan Vaughn
 

From: Anonymous — Oct 16, 2009

Susan, I love this painting. I would like your permission to post it in two places, with attribution of course, and a link back to the site of your choice, 1) on the “Charlotte of the World Unite” page on facebook, and 2) on my website. I am a Charlotte, of course. http://charlottebabb.com

 

Experiments in creativity
by Nina Allen Freeman, Tallahassee, FL, USA

 

A wise man watercolour painting by Nina Allen Freeman

“A wise man”
watercolour by Nina Allen Freeman

When I was younger, I thought I would find a style or subject that I could rely on to sell and keep painting it endlessly. While on the side I could experiment with other media. I did find some paintings that served this purpose, but I finally realized that this is not me. I am bored painting anything endlessly. In fact, I change media and techniques so often I have no consistency — talk about your fluid and open-ended! As a result, I do experience failure a lot.

Your comments about process really hit home with me. I see this all as a process of my growth as an artist. Over the years, I have been learning what I can do and what I am made of. My experiments in creativity are bringing me slowly around to be that artist I am meant to be. Maybe the process of painting, experimenting, failure and success continues until I am no longer able to paint, never knowing where it will end.



There are 2 comments for Experiments in creativity by Nina Allen Freeman
 

From: helen tilston — Oct 15, 2009

Nina, very original. I love your use of colour and the mystery surrounding the painting. Beautiful work

From: J.McLernon — Oct 16, 2009

I like your idea of experimenting with creativity. What else is there to do?! Failure or success are for each of us to decide for ourselves (outside of a commission). If one feels they are failing, then clearly they are not finished!

Keep experimenting! And have fun. Creativity is power!

 

 

Evolving
by Sandy Sandy

 

“Don’t assume there is only one way. Don’t assume that mistakes are a bad thing. Don’t think for one minute that everyone agrees with what “good” is.” ~ Robert Genn

WE All, as human beings and artists, learn from our mistakes. If you’re afraid to make them, you’ll never grow and evolve. Many, many paintings are redo’s of the previous one or an echo of, or a lesson from the past.

“As we grow older, we realize just how limiting were our earlier conceptions. Art is something else. Art is fluid, transmutable, open ended, never complete, and never perfect. Art is an event.” ~ Robert Genn

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Tina Mammoser, UK  

'Eastbourne Tide by Tina Mammoser, UK

Eastbourne Tide

acrylic painting
Tina Mammoser, UK

 

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Jill Brooks of MB, Canada, who wrote, “That was a great column with which to start off the week! Think of perfection as an affront to the gods and do away with it as a goal. Replication could also be jettisoned. T R A N S F O R M A T I O N is a much more fruitful and exciting objective!”

And also Roxanne Dyer, who wrote, “Often, I try to explain to my design students how important it is to make mistakes, and that failure is necessary and can be very liberating.”

And also Richard Mason of Pittstown, NJ, USA, who wrote, “Amen, or as the fat kid with the Smartie said, that was good…”

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for A list of mistakes

 

 

From: Bonny Current — Oct 13, 2009

I love this – very appropriate to our journey as artists. I think Picasso was a master at this process of simplification and exploration. He was technically proficient as evidenced by his earliest works. I think this is where many of us stop – myself included – thinking we are where we want to be, able to produce technically skilled work. But now that many of us have the fundamentals, we can now begin to break “the rules”. It has taken me a long while to give myself permision to try out these ideas.

Thanks for your always thought provoking words!

From: Richard Smith — Oct 13, 2009

I think it was in grade seven when my art teacher gave me some great advice. He said, always make something from your mistakes. So if you stop and say, this mistake has made the piece a failure, then that’s the end of it. But if you just think of it as just a part of the work that needs more attention, then all your pieces are potential successes. Sometimes the mistakes are “happy accidents” and can stay in just as they are.

From: Vidor Kring — Oct 13, 2009

If mistakes are golden, I’m going to lock my whole life in a vault.

From: Maxine Pelton — Oct 13, 2009

These days I usually do not make mistakes. I get exactly what my technique has been developed to provide. It’s all trial and assessment. There isn’t a mistake there at all, if I don’t do something stupid like drip from an overloaded brush or tip my easel. The assessment is often that my technique is deficient in this or that way, and I get busy working on that. The only mistake would be not to.

From: Barbara Snoek — Oct 14, 2009

The movie “Local Color” illustrates this “list of mistakes” most eloquently. It’s very appropriate for artists at all levels.

From: Tinker Bachant — Oct 14, 2009

I’ve long had taped to the corner of my easel support, a piece of paper that in essence says, “Perfectionism can create excellent results, but the cost of getting there can cause stress!” So instead of striving for perfection, I aim for excellence in all I do. I give my best effort and apply my energy joyfully. If there is no joy in my work, it’s isn’t “happening.” So do over, or try a different approach. OR tear it up.

From: Lynda Hartwell — Oct 14, 2009

Robert! Now you’ve gone and done it. Dashed my hopes that great art might someday appear on my easel. What? No fame and fortune from my correctness? Rats… that’s really rough! On second thought, maybe I’m still okay. I haven’t seen too much correctness lurking around my studio lately. Yeah, I think I’m okay… no correctness here! Phew, that was a close call!

From: Mel Davenport — Oct 14, 2009

So succinct that I’m printing this one out to read to my high school art students tomorrow. I’ve tried and tried to say it this eloquently and failed, sure hope your words strike as much home with them as they did me.

From: lesl — Oct 14, 2009

Some of my best and most favorite paintings contain what a teacher once called “happy accidents”. I think they only happen if you are open to them. Other wise all accidents seem decidedly unhappy.

From: Mary Moquin — Oct 15, 2009

I tell my students to make all the mistakes they can because it is only through the mistakes that we learn what works for us. The worse thing an artist can do is refrain and be timid in their approach. Art is plastic, it can be changed, molded, erased, scraped, adjusted, and corrected endlessly and often that process is what creates the best art. I know a painting is finished, when I’ve “corrected” all the mistakes. If I didn’t make any mistakes, there would be no painting!

From: Barbara Wolfe Gittleson — Oct 15, 2009

In reply to mistakes and or how to do things — having done pottery for over 40 years, having a degree in art (1970’s when anyway is good) and growing up with my Uncle, Charles S. Chapman and learning the classic approach to painting, I am now painting seriously for the first time in my life. I take seminars and go to meetings and I have to laugh at the rules. One teacher says don’t use Paynes grey. It will ruin all your colors. The next says don’t use black, use Paynes grey instead. It does more fun things with your mixes. Blah. Blah. So hooray to there are no mistakes and rules are to be broken. Find your own way. Be open and modest all at the same time, while learning how other artists did things successfully.

From: Brad Greek — Oct 16, 2009

I have to say that once I started painting plein air, mistakes, accidents, etc…. went out the window of concern. Then I went from a brush to a palette knife and rag to paint most of my work. You learn to ignore a splash of color out of place or a line not completed. Great stuff starts to happen. Painting a couple hundred paintings a year also helps. One of my favorite sayings are: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

I see so often artists struggling with their teachings, trying to do everything right. Calculating each brush stroke like a surgeon’s knife at the operating table. For me, this would drive me crazy and wouldn’t be enjoyable at all. That’s just me.

From: Elizabeth (Betty) Jean Billups — Oct 17, 2009

The ONE MAJOR thing I have learned as an artist:

the world will know whether you BELIEVED in what you were doing,

the moment you place a mark on the canvas!

SO, if that be true, do ALL THAT YOU DO,

with EVERY FIBER IN YOUR BEING,

and even if you are not SURE what you are doing,

Do it with conviction… and the power of the stroke,

will convince people that YOU DO KNOW!!!

And who is to say, otherwise!!!

There really are no “mistakes” in art… Just that perhaps one thing does not “sing” well with the thing next to it…

Maybe it just needs one small “note” to connect them…

I have saved more paintings, by merely giving up the “failure” energy, and giving it my full abandon!!!

And strange thing happens, it becomes it’s own being!!!

Uncontrived, unique, from anything you’ve ever done before!

And isn’t that what true creativity is all about!?Creating, not from all that we KNOW, But perhaps from all that we are trying to discover!

So, back to the quote:

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE!

From: Shaun McLaren — Oct 19, 2009

This is an almost unbelievably brilliant site

From: Rick Rotante — Oct 19, 2009

What is missing in many artists’ work is Risk. As one person who is interested in always advancing my process, I look at a great deal of art, master and otherwise, and I see many playing it safe and not going the extra mile to push themselves or their work to the brink. They stop short too early and end with just a “good” piece. If all you want is a “good” work then so be it. For those who struggle to be better and fail often, my hat is off to you. For in my mind that is where true art is created. I don’t support offering up bad work, I’m not saying that, but we are too concerned with convention, acceptance, sales, gallery representation and fear we will not be taken seriously as serious artist. I’ve said before the greatest disaster in art is success. The demands made on successful artists forces many to repeat that success ad nauseium and prevents an artist from moving forward. Many galleries don’t want work that doesn’t look like the previous work. They don’t want you to change to a new approach or genre. If they make sales on your present work, they discourage personal advancement and we’ve bought into this thinking. We subvert our standards to the current trends and don’t rock the boat for fear we won’t get our work to the public.

What is more important, to make art or make sales? Which side of the question you fall on will determine your output and quality level.

Artist like Georgianne Fastaia might not sell as well as some innocuous bland landscapes but to me it says more about art than most of the works I see on a daily basis.

From: Richard Mazzarino — Oct 19, 2009

“What may look like a mistake to some, will look like brilliance and daring to others.” R. Rotante

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Oct 20, 2009

I truely believe this is one of the best letters and responses ever. At least at this point in my own career it resounds with advice I need to listen to. Rick Rotante said it very well! And others, of course. I want to print this out for my students, or send the letter to them to read. It is what some of them need to read right now! thanks to everyone for their response.

 

 

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