Messing up is necessary

When I first learned to draw I was terrified of messing up. A tiny mistake could ruin my drawing. And worse: Ruin my mood and self confidence!

Since then I’ve changed my perspective on mistakes. I accept mistakes and try to  welcome them and fit them into my artwork.

But I still feel the horror when I’m in the middle of a painting: ‘Will it turn out ugly?’

Perhaps you can relate?

Let me share a story that has helped me become a bit more relaxed and okay with mistakes. It’s about my most successful piece ever: A little gouache painting called: Words are unable to speak of love.


It’s a Matisse inspired portrait of a young dreamy woman. She looks like she has had some experience with love. Good or bad. 

When I was painting this piece, I had just finished a portrait course at I was excited about applying my new skills in colour mixing and skin tones. But when I got to the face, I was so afraid of making a mistake…that I completely ruined it! Her nose got too big and I misplaced her mouth. I felt disappointed at first. But then I felt relieved. If the piece was ruined anyway I might as well let go a bit and relax my super-tense arms and shoulders and just have some fun with the rest.

So with my arm and hand totally at ease, I started painting a little imaginative pattern in the background. Just for fun.

A couple of months later I was opening my first print shop. I went through my artwork to see what to include in the shop. I was in doubt about ‘Words are unable to speak of love’. But I decided to include it anyway.

Today it is my best selling piece. And I have even come to love it myself.

The mind is so limited

I try to remind myself that my rational mind is very limited. It assesses each movement I make with my brush. But it doesn’t understand the whole picture. Making art is not an individual act of perfection. It’s a big collective process of learning. We’re all in it together. All the artists in the world. Making art is hard. But it’s also the best kick. Better than coffee, alcohol, chocolate or any other ‘kick-giver’…And whereas coffee doesn’t teach us much in the long run. Art can actually teach us to love ourselves. And our mistakes.