Making Art and Making Mistakes

Mistakes are a natural and healthy part of the creative process.


View with Room by Carol McIntyre

“View with Room” by Carol McIntyre


The next time you’re frustrated by not quite getting it right, remember – through making mistakes we gain skills, find innovations and develop our artistic voice:

Gaining experience with your medium. Hundreds of hours of studio work, often begun in art school or in an outside class, become your journey with different mediums – and ultimately lead you to the one(s) you choose. Your technical education can and should continue throughout your art career, since there are always new things to learn which build your skills and help you find innovative ways to work. The beauty of the learning experience means that making mistakes is an essential part of your inquiry, and achieving a true understanding of your medium and how you wish to use it.

Necessary experimentation.  As you create over and over again, you see that certain fine details need to be perfected. Does the handle on the teapot you’ve thrown feel perfect, or does it need a little tweaking? Is there a better way to create an edge, a curve or a surface? How will people use each item you make, and how can you add value by making it more useful, more distinctive, more versatile?

Developing your signature style. An an artist or craftsperson, your signature style is incredibly important. It sets you apart, giving you that “extra something” that attracts and delights your customers and potential collectors. It expresses your own authentic voice as an artist, and makes a statement that is uniquely yours. There aren’t shortcuts. A signature style isn’t something that can be faked or copied. It comes through experience and thoughtful studio work.

Confirming your Choices. You might believe you want to be a production potter. Make one hundred pots, and then re-evaluate. Is it still your choice? Working this hard and ultimately choosing to go another direction isn’t a mistake – it’s the “research” you needed to arrive at your decision.

“Color Maestro” Carol McIntyre teaches artists to mix paint confidently, achieving better dimension and clearer color in their work, and she asks her student to embrace their mistakes.

“It is critical to be open to experimentation and ‘failures’ because it is the only way you learn about your own personal preferences to color and to the properties of your tubes of paint,” she says. “Could you have learned how to ride a bike without skinning a few knees? It is also a joy . . . a very internal joy when you discover your own color palette.”


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