With the new year 2019 upon us, many of us think about what we have done in the last year and what we want to do differently in the new year. Although actually a quite arbitrary day in the year the 1st of January gains importance by being used as a starting point for new developments and challenges for so many people at the same time.

I’ve also looked back at 2018 and asked myself, what I wanted to do differently. [I know, the title of this blog post kinda gives my topic away, but please feel free to take a moment and reflect on your year]. I noticed, that I was often afraid to make mistakes and if I made any I was usually terrified of the outcome.

So for this blog post I would like to focus on my (art) mistakes and on what mistakes really are. Let’s start with the second one!

What are mistakes?

From my experience, a mistake is an action that does not result in you coming closer to your goal. Usually, it’s an unexpected outcome, a divergence from your goal. Artists often experience this as drawing something that looks just perfect in your head – and horrible on paper. I’ve had that many times, too. Often, these results are based on wrong or not goal-leading decisions in painting a certain line, choosing a certain colour, or not being able to perform in an unknown medium as well as a known one.

Take a look at this artwork I painted from a “Rogue One” screenshot (somewhere along the first 10 minutes into the movie if you want to see the original). I only gave myself 15 minutes to paint it on my iPad and I already knew that it was going to be a tough challenge. And I was right: I did not like the result. I had made mistakes in carving out her face, the colours seemed off and my time was up. I had failed, right?

A not so pretty speed paint.

Mistakes are not a bad thing.

No, I had not failed. In fact I had found out so many things! Artistic mistakes are only a bad thing if you do not learn from them. That’s probably true for many mistakes in our lives but not my expertise 😉

Let’s recap:

1) I (again) learned how complex faces are. When you look at young Jyn on the left, the light and her hair was much easier to draw. A face seen from the front is made up of so many complex hills and valleys and eyes are a full study object on their own.

2) Since I am not very adapt at quickly drawing faces (or at least this face), it’s something I understand I have to revisit and relearn, maybe look at some more reference material, study faces etc. My inability gives me an opportunity to look into what I can improve.

3) The reason that I want to improve on this topic shows me that it’s something in my interest. I could also have noticed my inability to draw that face and concluded that I did not like drawing faces or people in general. That is luckily not the case and I have painted many more screenshots after this one.

How to go on from here

Once I had understood my process and learned from it, I took the only sensible route. I scrapped the face on the right side and started over new. My painting was only the work of a few minutes but it feels tough to press delete. If you are not being very brave at that moment, feel free to save a copy of that layer.

Start over new!

A word on talent, while we are at it: I read a study once that talent may help you in the beginning but after a short initial period it’s discipline, practice and simple fun at doing what you love. Passion helps more than than bit of talent.
And it’s practices like these, speedpaintings, learning from your mistakes, studying yourself and other artists’ processes that help us improve. Here’s my second face – absolutely not perfect, but much better than the first! And the best thing is how much I’ve learned on the way.

Not perfect but better.

To sum it up…

Don’t be angry about your mistakes. Learn from them, try to understand your process and use the things that diverge you from your goal as showing you your direction. That can be very valuable.
And for the new year I’m planning to make more mistakes and be braver. And learn even more from them!

Below is my process video to see the whole speed paint of this image and three more, each 15 minutes.

Let me know what you think!

What have you learned from your mistakes? Felt the same about making mistakes or completely different? Leave me a message in the comments! 🙂


*[Unpaid ad due to naming companies]

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