Learning From Your Creative Mistakes

What do you do when you make creative mistakes?  Do you give up? Do you mentally beat yourself up? Do you quit? Do you throw your work away?  Do you try again? Or do you learn from your mistakes having a forgiving attitude?

In my experience in teaching junior high and high school students, I have seen many different reactions to creative mistake. Many students want a do-over, they want a new piece of paper so they can start fresh.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that if you learned from your mistake.

For example, maybe the student was drawing a still life with many different items. When they drew the sketch they realized the composition was too crowded. So, they draw the sketch again leaving something out. They end up with a much better composition. They have learned from their mistake. They make better artwork through a learning process.

Some students quit.  They won’t try again. They get down on themselves. They wad up their work and throw it in the trash. They cross their arms and say they can’t. It usually takes a lot of encouragement to get these students to continue.

Other students have a different attitude. They turn their mistake into something else.  They go with the mistake working it into their artwork as if it was meant to be.  Some of my students have really done well working through their mistakes in the creative process. They have what I call creative forgiveness.

I like the following quote about mistakes. Publisher Katherine Graham said, “A mistake is simply another way of doing things.”  What a great attitude. Making a mistake can lead you in a totally different direction. You may discover a new technique, a new way to use the medium you have been using for years.

Making mistakes can give you insight and experience in problem solving.

Maybe you realize you used the wrong color in part of a painting. You begin to think of ways to change the color by glazing over it. Or maybe you find out through trial and error that the color will actually lift off the paper with a little help from a kitchen sponge. Or you might cut out part of the painting you don’t like. You then glue what is left to another sheet of paper. You end up with a product that is different, inventive, or creative.

So, what will you do the next time you make a creative mistake?

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2 Responses to Learning From Your Creative Mistakes

  1. Lara says:

    In the book Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes, she only wants children to draw with marker. That way they have to think before putting down a line as well as live with whatever line that put down. She has them then be creative with their mistakes and change the planned drawing for the new one. It is an interesting idea! I know that my kids when given an eraser can sometimes not get past one shape and literally wear the paper out with their eraser.
    .-= Lara´s last blog ..Circle of Life =-.

  2. Sometimes I find myself erasing all the time too. Drawing with a marker is a great exercise for children or adults. Give it a try yourself. I will put Mona Brookes’ book on my reading list. Thanks for the information.

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