learning from mistakes

My need for perfection in my art started when I was young and was a big inhibiting factor in my advancing as an artist. It’s in the fear of making a mistake that became the single most crippling element to my creativity. In elementary school I learned not to waste paper, not to take chances, and by fourth grade, I learned apples were red and round. In effect, I was learning how to conform. I had become afraid to express myself. This kind of teaching is damaging to young creative minds. I often have adult students in my drawing classes who are afraid to make a mark on paper when they first start with me. They’re afraid of embarrassing themselves. What if they mess up?

I’ve become an observer of other people’s mistakes. In a way it’s become a short cut in learning for me. When I see something that isn’t working, I’m not likely to repeat it. We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.

One of the most common errors I see amongst my artist peers is how hard it is to leave their comfort zones. These artists tend to repeat themselves without growing from the experience. The work becomes stagnant and predictable, and while the art might have been unique once, it isn’t anymore. What I take from this is to reach beyond what comes easily and continue to strive for new ways to advance my art. Great art never comes out of the comfort zone.

Another mistake, which I find the most egregious, is when an artist closes off their mind from any discussion on how to improve their work. What I take from this is the importance of surrounding myself with artists I respect so I can brainstorm with them. It’s important to listen to what is said even if it hurts. I want always to have an open mind so I don’t get in my own way.   

Most of all, when someone says something isn’t possible, all I hear is someone who is too afraid of failing to take a chance . There’s always a way to solve a problem and pushing through the impossible is where true innovation lies.