As a young developing artist, I used to work quite meticulously, striving to gain more control over the medium and avoid any evidence of mistakes. Yet, I soon found that I made a lot more mistakes than I was able to cover up. I was even frequently surprised at how much more interesting and visually appealing I found these mistakes than my original plan. I discovered that often in giving the medium freedom, I came across new effects and techniques, which with practice, I learned to reproduce and use to my work’s advantage. The acceptance of such mistakes, gradually began to change the way I created and threw out a welcome mat for experimentation. Mind you, some mistakes are just plain mistakes that seem irrevocable; but, I can still learn what NOT to try again. Supporting this theory much more intellectually is Cedric Van Eenoo ‘s essay well worth reading, ‘The Art of Making Mistakes’ (International Journal of Arts 2012, 2(3): 7-10):
“What we may consider an error is to the great minds of art another step closer to a great finding.”
I can’t help but now be much more attracted to the spontaneous, to the risk that a work may just not…well, work. And as I get older, I’m becoming more ok with not always creating perfection.
“To Err is to Create…When facing the inadvertent, one must forget the expertise, the skillfulness and the regulations to open to uncommon reality and discoveries. Blunders in art are often the starting point of very innovative concepts and original artworks. Many a creator based his project and style on a misunderstanding, a failure or farce. Mistakes reveal what we do not expect, hence, what the artist is really looking for in his research… With errors comes a certain energy, it brings a smile, a distance, a new view. Parody is a powerful tool for example, and it comes with mocking an artwork, referring to what goes wrong. It appeals to our critical judgment, and so do mistakes. Hence, it is important to allow a certain space for the unexpected…
Unexpected events in an artwork convey a loss of domination, a loss of limitation, and a loss of constraint. Mistakes are fascinating: they carry a one-of-a-kind style recognizable and without equal, because they rely on the fact that mistakes cannot be reproduced to the same. Errors have this special feature to be absolutely extraordinary, and for that particular reason, they are invaluable and meaningful.”
– Cedric Van Eenoo, excerpt from ‘The Art of Making Mistakes’
I’m also realizing that behind one good piece of art often lies a trail of lacking attempts. Even, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, one of the masters is recorded as saying, “I’ve spent my life making blunders.”
In addition, I have heard of the conviction and practice of some artists to leave their mistakes intentionally in their work so as to support the fact that we are only human and unable to create true perfection.
I admit that often the art I create does not look anything like I pictured initially in my mind. It is as if my hands can not quite perform to the same caliber. No matter how hard I try, no matter how clear I see it in my mind, I just can’t seem to create it. I’ve learned that I must continue living and creating under this artistic tension and the discontent of artwork evolving into something different than I envisioned.
I came upon a quote uniquely expressing this struggle by the painter, Ron Dicianni:
“…normally, I see the painting totally finished before it’s ever done. The bad part of that is I could never do it as well as I’ve seen it. That’s because God is implanting something in my mind to strive for, and humanly I’m able to come only as close as I’ll allow God to do it through me…”