Creative Oops

Last week on twitter, I saw a tweet asking for artists to participate in Joanne Hawker’s Creative Insight column on her blog, Origami Chicken.

Not considering that I would qualify to participate, I re-tweeted the request in the hopes that a talented artist out in twitter land might be interested in participating. Then Joanne asked me if I’d like to do it!

Of course I said yes.

I set aside a few hours one afternoon to make the painting and take the step-by-step shots I would need. I was very organized about it.

I first took photos of my studio to share, then of the supplies I would need, then the paper and how I draw my guide lines. You can see those intro photos in my Creative Insight post on Joanne’s blog. What you won’t see on that post are the following images.

Continuing the process, I snapped shots of my paint selection and how I mix paint and test out the color on paper:
selected colors


Next I paused to photograph the very first lines that make up the starting shape of the geometric painting.

first lines

Then I applied my first wash to fill in some of the shapes, and the clouds gathered, the wind started to blow, and disaster struck:


Ok, perhaps I’m over dramatizing a bit. It doesn’t look too bad I guess.

Be that as it may, the paint didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Instead of mostly sitting on top of the paper, or absorbing the paint in the beautiful way watercolor paper absorbs, the paper sucked up the paint and distributed it just under the surface in the not so beautiful way that only drawing paper can. It created a gritty, grainy texture while threatening to wrinkle and warp the paper beyond hope.


Yes, I had mistaken drawing paper for watercolor paper, and I knew I could not continue.

Well, at least not for the post I wanted to write.

But I did continue, taking the opportunity to just keep working on it without expectation. In a way, this was a very freeing mistake because at this point it didn’t matter what I did! To keep it loose, I used the same green paint I already had, focusing more on filling in the space with shapes.


Even before I was finished painting, I knew I would add detail lines not only with paint, but also with pencil.

gouache and pencil

It didn’t take long to complete this painting once I got over the initial disappointment of choosing the wrong paper. In the end, it was a happy mistake, not only for letting me explore something new, but also to loosen me up for the next painting I created–the one that I did use for the Creative Insight post.

How do you deal with creative “mistakes”? Do they ever derail you, or do you embrace them and incorporate them in unexpected ways?

It’s been far too long since I wrote about my process on my blog, which is always one of my favorite topics to cover. Perhaps you can imagine how much fun I had writing up a process post for Joanne’s column.

Here’s a little sneak peek of the painting I created after the “mistake” painting was finished:

Painting for Creative Insight

Head on over to the Origami Chicken blog to read the details, and also be sure to check out the other wonderful artists and illustrators who have previously written Creative Insight posts!

5 Replies to “Creative Oops”

  1. Seriously, this painting you ended up posting on Origami Chicken incredible. Something about the contrasting lines atop the solids are just electrifying to me right now.

    I’ve been listening to the audiobook version of Jonah Lehrer’s book, “Imagine”, and he talks a lot about how one of the most crucial parts of the creative process is making mistakes — it’s what pushes you away from an idea you might be stuck on and leaves you open to a completely different insight. I find it encouraging. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! I admit I was pretty happy with the outcome too. 🙂

      I’ve been stalking “Imagine” on Amazon. Haven’t quite pulled the trigger to order it just yet, but now I’m even more intrigued! I’ve always embraced mistakes as almost an integral part of my work because they always inject an element into my work that I can’t predict, which then will spark new ideas, or create unexpected shapes.

  2. When it comes to creative mistakes, I’m definitely an “embracer.” Like Bob Ross, I make happy little mistakes. 🙂 If I make a mistake, I run with it, and I end up incorporating it into something greater than what I had originally intended. Only every once in a while do I make a mistake that actually ruins a work, in which case it goes in my inspiration archive to use parts of it for later, so it’s never really wasted. When that happens it’s clear that there was nothing wrong with the art that day, and it’s just that I was off in some way, so I then doodle without purpose and meditate to get back to a state of proper flow. In fact, my entire style is based around mistakes, which I think is what gives it its organic quality.

    I absolutely love what you created — both of them, happy little mistake included! Just beautiful..

    1. Thank you!

      I feel like maybe out philosophies are similar. Mistakes really do factor into my work in a big way as well. Often I convert them so in the end they are part of the piece and look intentional, but it’s always interesting how they can direct my art in ways I couldn’t have imagined on my own. Happy little mistakes, indeed!

      1. This, exactly this! Completely agree with you. I found myself grinning and nodding along when I read your post. That experimentation that happens when we make a mistake and keep running with it is how we grow as artists, and I think it’s also WHY we’re artists — to create something we’re proud of even in the face of difficulty.

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