The biggest mistake of all

Out  On A Limb IV
Out On A Limb IV

As an artist, what do you think the biggest mistake you can make is?


My vote for the biggest mistake is being afraid of making mistakes.


Nothing will slow down learning or progress more than the fear of getting something wrong, of making a mistake. It is a fear that immobilises some people altogether.


It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve had people walk out of workshops before they even had a chance to learn something new, let alone practice a new skill, and all because they didn’t instantly get a great result. Such unrealistic expectations preclude any possibility of learning or further growth.


The truth is mistakes are inevitable. They are part of the learning process. They need to be understood and accepted as that, not avoided.


I am not saying I actually welcome mistakes. I would love to be right all the time and to get things right the first time, every time. But that is not how life works, and it is not how I or anyone else learns.


We crawl before we walk. It is the nature of things.


What mistakes give us are results, and what a result is, is feedback. For that reason even a bad result is good, because the feedback we are receiving gives us an opportunity to learn something new, to work out how to do things better.


Drawing provides the perfect illustration (pardon the pun) for how ‘mistakes’ can be used as feedback to get better results.


For example, imagine drawing a landscape and putting the horizon line in the wrong spot. If the line is erased completely and you try again, you are in effect starting from scratch and there is no guarantee you will get a better result. If however the line is not erased, it can be used as a reference point. Should the new horizon line be higher, or lower than the previous one? Using ‘mistakes’ as a reference point help you get the drawing ‘right’ much more quickly than if you are continually starting over.


It is much better to make mistakes than to do nothing. This applies not only to painting and drawing, but also to many other things, including marketing your art.


It is not a cosmic rule that people learn from their mistakes. Some people never do. But we can, by being willing to make mistakes; by observing the results; and then considering how those results can be improved upon.

The biggest mistake is to fear failure so much that you do nothing. Remember, the tortoise only makes progress by sticking its’ neck out. Do the same and make more mistakes. Don’t think of them as failures. View them as results, as feedback, opportunities to learn and improve.


Happy painting.


Your thoughts and comments are welcome.



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