Learning To Handle Mistakes


Hi, I’m Laure Ferlita! As I’ll be teaching an Introduction to Art Journaling class at Keeton’s soon. Art Journaling is no different from learning any other type of artistic process. It comes with challenges, opportunities and the chance to learn about yourself.

Embracing the learning process and learning to handle mistakes are all part of Art Journaling. Below is a collection of thoughts on mistakes, how to handle them and what to do when they happen.

Learning To Handle Mistakes

Mistakes. They’re inevitable.

They are a fact of life and yet, they continue to confound us all. Especially those of us who put ourselves out into the world in a visual way. Words, dance, singing, sculpture, poetry, painting, sketching, sports…you name it, and there is an element of fear that creeps in because we just might make a mistake and the world will get to see it.

It has taken me long years to learn to view mistakes as opportunities to learn. To NOT invest a lot of anger or aggravation in them. (And yeah, occasionally I still do.) Mistakes only become a big, honking deal when I turn them into a big, honking deal. Even more important, if I get so focused on the fact that I made a mistake rather than what I can learn from the mistake, I’ve compounded my mistake! Big time.

Mistakes are necessary, fundamental, and a requirement for learning. Resistance is futile. They’re gonna happen.

Below are some thoughts I’ve collected over the years in my creative journey I kinda wish I’d known going in. Might have saved me some a lot trouble. It certainly would have saved me some aggravation.

1. Mistakes, nor failure, are fatal. Okay, maybe if your a bomb defuser or a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, but for the rest of us? Mistakes are annoying, aggravating, irritating, possibly demoralizing, certainly demotivating but not fatal. So go ahead, make some.

2. To become a better artist faster, lose your fear of making mistakes. How do you lose the fear? By doing. Not by thinking, reading, wishing, worrying, studying, analyzing or looking at other people’s art on the internet. By doing. If you create more art, you will make more mistakes. Because you are making more mistakes, you’ll learn more, faster, about what works, what doesn’t, what you like and what you don’t.

3. Mistakes are part of the process. It’s just like when you learned to walk. You didn’t climb out of the womb and onto the couch. You had to learn to roll over, sit up, scootch forward or backward, get your knees under you, how to crawl, how to pull up, stand up and stay balanced, how to move your foot forward, then the other one, how to turn loose and…how to fall down. Repeatedly. And then to get back up. Just. Like. Doing. Something. Creative.

4. No matter how good you get, you will make mistakes. It is inevitable. You’re human. Just accept it and move on. Oh, and chances are good, it will be a rookie mistake that you know better than to do. Just saying. So you shrug and turn the page and begin again. The more energy you invest, the bigger the mistake comes. Learn what you can from the mistake and go on.

5. How you respond to the mistake you’ve made is one of the most important choices you will make with regard to your art. Rather than dread the making of mistakes, treat it as a learning opportunity, as no big deal, as a part of the process. If you can’t fix it, turn the page and holler out, “Next!” and begin again… OR…waste a lot of time moaning and groaning and grieving for that great piece of art you were creating. Staying upset and refraining from making art is fear dressed up in grown-ups’ clothing to make you think you’re being wise to not waste time, materials or energy if you can’t do it right. Recognize that nonsense for what it is!

6. It’s not a mistake or failure nor a waste of materials or time if you learned from it. Let me repeat that…if you’ve learned anything from putting a mark on the page, then you’ve gained something even if you deem the end result a mistake or failure. But don’t call it a waste if you got anything out of it that will make you stronger or better the next time you put down a mark.

7. Before you decide a sketch or page in your journal is a complete failure, give it time. Often, when we are in the throes of creating and something doesn’t turn out like the perfect picture in our mind’s eye, we judge our results as lacking, wrong, or as a mistake. Turn the page and go on with another sketch. After a few days or weeks have passed, take another look at it. Many times, when that perfect image in our mind has faded, the work in front of us is often better than we thought.

Puffin Doodle
I have no idea what happened with his legs!

8. Being afraid of making a mistake won’t stop it from happening. How many of us have not put in a darker line or a background or added words to the page because we feared messing it up? I dare say most us. What’s the price? A piece we know could be better if we were just brave enough to take that next step. If we hold back enough, we eventually erode our self-confidence.

9. Sometimes we have to learn what NOT to do by doing it. Yeah, it sucks, but the bottom line is there is no teacher like experience. It’s kinda like getting your fingers burnt after being told not to touch something hot. You don’t forget it. Some lessons are like that and it’s necessary to learn the hard way, but you learn. Don’t let the fear of learning the hard way stop you. Keep creating.

10. Do not feed the fear [of making mistakes]. If you find yourself obsessing over making a mistake or messing up on a piece of art you really, really like, ask yourself what is the worst that can happen. You totally destroy the piece and get your artistic license revoked. Then ask yourself what’s the best that can happen. You create a gorgeous piece of art and go on to win the most prestigious prize in the country and world acclaim. Now, decide where you want to put your energy and efforts. You’ve got at least a 50/50 chance of being right!

11. So you took a chance and totally bungled the page, now what? Go play. Seriously, all expectations are gone. You’re ready to tear the page out of your book anyway. This is the best possible opportunity to play and experiment with some new idea or technique that you don’t want to try on a “good” page. Do something fun or outrageous or different. What do you care if it works out at this point? You were going to tear the page out the book anyway!

12. Is it a mistake or is it an imperfection? How many times have you bought a garment that had a tag saying something about how the imperfections were part of the nature of the fabric? What about a piece of pottery that was prized for the imperfections? It’s not just semantics. It’s how you think of the matter that is important. Learn the difference.

13. Did you fail? Fail better the next time. Much as when you learned to walk, each time you got up and tried again, you did a little better. So it goes with art. Embrace the opportunity to learn and make a new, different mistake the next time so you can learn from that one, and the next one, and so on.

Fear is often the end result of having made mistakes or failing. This type of fear can paralyze your efforts to be creative, stunt your growth, or at the very least, slow it down. Fear of this nature often sounds rational, reasonable and very adult-like when it whispers in the back of your mind that you don’t want to put pen or pencil to the page because you’re just wasting time and materials or you might mess up. Again.

If you’d listened to that voice as a baby, you’d still be lying on your back waiting for someone to come along and roll you over!

I hope you’ll join me on Saturday, November 8th for An Introduction To Art Journaling: An Imaginary Visit To The Farmer’s Market! We’ll be learning about drawing, page layouts, lettering and adding texture from unique objects.

Get Your Creativity Back! 10 Ways to Overcome Artist’s Block

By Nicole Tinkham

10 Ways to Overcome Artist’s Block

One of the most frustrating things we’ve come across among artists is a thing called artist’s block. If you’ve heard of writer’s block before, it’s essentially the same thing. When an artist experiences artist’s (or creative) block, they lack inspiration and motivation to continue on with their creative passion. Artist’s block is devastating but don’t let it get you down. There are ways of overcoming it and we’re here to help. It may be difficult but we know you can do it. Here are 10 tips to help get your creativity back!

1. Study and copy work of the masters
When you can’t think of a subject that inspires you to draw or paint, turn to your favorite artists. Study their work, learn from them, and copy their techniques. This may steer you in a different direction artistically, opening up new possibilities.

2. Clear your mind and exercise
Going for a run or hitting the gym is probably the last thing on your mind when in a creative rut. Sweat out your frustration and you should feel rejuvenated when returning to the studio.

3. Get a good night’s sleep
Also good for your health, sleeping gives your brain time to relax. One thing that could be causing your creative rut is your brain being overworked so turn it off and get some sleep.

4. Find new inspiration
Chances are, you’ve already sought out new inspiration and are still feeling stuck (which is why you’re reading this blog right now). But maybe you’re just not looking in the right places. If the internet is your main source of inspiration, step OUTSIDE and explore the world.

5. Try a new medium
If your focus is drawing, pick up a paintbrush and go to town. Or maybe you dabble in both drawing and painting. Why not take your artwork digital? There are a ton of options out there so learn something new and watch how it transforms you as an artist.

6. Study anatomy
You may do quick sketches of the human body but you can take your skills to the next level by learning anatomy. It doesn’t just have to be anatomy though. Learning any new skill can improve your work. Taking an art workshop is a great way to learn new techniques and stay motivated. Here are some exciting workshops we have coming up: The Artist’s Corner.

7. Do the OPPOSITE of what you’re used to
You can easily find yourself stuck if you’re continuously creating the same type of artwork over and over again. Leave your comfort zone by doing the exact opposite of what you normally do. For example, if you normally sketch your composition before putting it on canvas, dive right in with paint!

8. Move to the next project
If you’ve lost steam working on a particular project, try moving onto the next project. Come back to the project when you’re motivated to finish it.

9. Just do it!
Artist’s have many fears when starting a new project, one of them being perfection. The fear of failing can stop you from beginning a project and can be difficult to overcome. Our suggestion: JUST DO IT! Art isn’t supposed to be perfect. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them.

10. Take a break
If all else fails, you need to take a BREAK. You may not like taking time off but when you’re totally burnt out, it’s the only way to recover. Make sure to take at least a few days to do anything but art. You’ll come back feeling refreshed, recharged, and ready to go!

We know artist’s block is something no artist wants to encounter but unfortunately, is unavoidable. View this difficult time as an opportunity to GROW as an artist. Learn new skills, study the masters, find new inspiration, and do something DIFFERENT. Remember, it’s normal to go through this and you’re not alone. Every artist has their own way of staying creative and we want to hear what works for you. Share your story in the comments below!

36 Art Journal Tips For When You Run Out of Ideas

By Nicole Tinkham

Art Journal
Image from Flickr Creative Commons by alicia bramlett.

Keeping a journal of your life can have many positive benefits. If you did so as a child, you know that reading it years later would bring up thoughts and emotions and memories of your childhood. In the same way that journals remind us of our past, they can also be great tools of encouragement and motivation for the future. The same goes for art journals. Whether you’re starting your very first art journal or just need a few new ideas, we’ve got you covered with these 36 tips.

1. Get inspired through books, magazines, Pinterest, Instagram, art blogs, art museums, etc.

• Top 12 Pinterest Boards for the Artist
• 15 Instagram Pages Every Artist Should Follow

2. Gather materials: You want to have a variety of fun supplies such as stamps, ink pads, paper (in a variety of colors and textures), an assortment of pens, ribbon, paint, stencils, and more on hand. Also start collecting scraps like ticket stubs and hand written notes.

3. You’ll need to make space to work but a full art studio is not necessary.

4. Focus on the process, not the end result. Don’t try to copy other art journal pages. Your journal should be 100% YOU!

5. Experiment with color by switching up your palette. Choose colors that you wouldn’t normally work with.

6. If you’re not sure where to begin, change it up and start with a border.

7. Experiment with water-soluble pencils. These are so fun to play with!

8. Challenge yourself. There are many art journal challenges made to help when you’ve run out of ideas.

9. Journal everyday! You don’t have to spend hours on your journal everyday, although we bet you’d like to. It’s important to have some “you” time and focus on something you enjoy, even if it’s only for 5 minutes.

10. Try something new and journal on canvas. You will find that you end up with a totally different look!

11. Use your foot as a stamp because why not?

12. Ask yourself “what if” and create something you would never have thought of.

13. Create a travel journal. Bring what supplies you can on vacation with you. Being in a different place is the perfect opportunity to get creative.

14. Don’t forget the cover! You may be so concentrated on the inside of your journal that you completely forget about the most important part, the cover. Tip: Make sure the cover expresses what’s inside.

15. Learn new techniques. There are so many techniques that can be incorporated into your art journal. You can learn new tricks through art blogs, Youtube videos, and even art groups in the community.

16. Have projects ready to go. You can work on other projects that can later be used in your art journal. Use sketches, paintings, handmade cards, even poetry in your journal.

17. Journal to organize all those creative ideas bouncing around in your head.

18. Be patient. One art journal page can have many details and may take awhile to complete.

19. Practice Zentangle, the art of organized doodles.

20. Work on your writing. Art journals are often a combination of image and words so unleash your writing skills!

21. Learn the art of lettering. Since you’ll most likely have some type of words in your journal, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your calligraphy skills.

22. Art journals tend to be random but think about the composition of your layout and where you want the focus to be.

23. Prep work: Prep every page with masking tape and a coat of gesso. This will prevent paint from leaking into the binding of the book.

24. When you’re all out of ideas, work on interesting backgrounds.

25. While painting in your art journal is a great idea, don’t over saturate the pages. The wetter the page gets, the more it will curl.

26. Experiment with different paper. If you tend to use a lot of watercolors, consider using watercolor paper in your journal to avoid the issue in #25.

27. Think of your art journal as your diary and make it personal.

28. There is no wrong way to art journal. There are many techniques for art journaling but don’t count on yours looking like everyone else’s. You don’t want to anyway!

29. Failure is not an option. If a page doesn’t turn out how you expected, you can always keep it to learn from or gesso over it and start again.

30. Art journaling is a way to experiment and get messy. It’s not supposed to be perfect.

31. Never give up. We feel that everyone has a touch of creativity in them. It’s just a matter of getting it to come out. Don’t become frustrated, just keep trying and you will eventually find your niche.

32. Schedule time if you need to. We live in a busy world and sometimes we actually need to schedule time for ourselves.

33. Get involved by taking art workshops (there’s always something new to learn that can be used for your art journal) or join art groups in the community.

View The Artist’s Corner for upcoming workshops at Keeton’s.

34. Get advice from friends and artists to learn and share new techniques and tips.

35. Choose the right journal for you. There are many different sizes and types of journals out there. You can even make your own! Check out your options before making any commitments.

36. Most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Have an art journal tip to add to the list? Comment below and we’ll add it on! Also, connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter for new product info, great resources, inspiration, and more.