Overcoming “Not so Happy” Accidents

We’ve all been there.  Even the most gifted artists make mistakes during the creative process.  The question is, how do we remedy the situation?  I know of many mixed-media artists who uphold the motto of, “There are no mistakes in art…just creative opportunities.” But what if a mistake is a legitimate mess on your substrate?  I remember drawing a farm landscape in pen and ink when I was in my early twenties.  I “accidently” spilled a few drops of ink while crossing over the paper. I yelled, cursed, stomped my feet and wanted to die thinking about the amount of work I had already put into the drawing. After several minutes of self-loathing, I suddenly realized that I could turn those drops of ink into additional trees in the background!  In fact, it actually improved the overall drawing…as though the composition gods had forced that ink to spill, enabling it to be fixed!  The farm scene lived happily ever after!  Don’t you wish all accidents ended that way?  Because they don’t always, let’s look at some options when mistakes do happen:

Option 1: Try to make the splatter or spot into something else (like above)  Add to with paint or ink, rather than trying to take away or cover up.

Option 2: Collage over the mistake with paper and build up layers until you get a pleasing design.

Option 3: If you’re working on paper and it can’t be fixed, tear it into smaller pieces to be used in future collages.

Option 4: For a canvas painting beyond repair, simply gesso or paint white over the entire surface and recycle for another day or mind set!

Of course, many artists working with watercolors or alcohol inks “brace for impact.”  In other words, they anticipate accidents happening and then build their creation around them.  Abstract or not, it’s exciting to manipulate these mediums to see what interesting shapes, textures and colors accidently result in a beautiful creation.  How do you overcome mistakes in art?  Let’s discuss!     


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