30 in 30: There are no mistakes in painting. It’s all just practice.

Landscape in oils of Pescadero Beach. Sometimes we all must fail.
Pescadero Beach, January 6
Landscape sketch in oils. Sometimes we all must fail.

Monday I was fortunate to attend a landscape painting class taught by Halcyon Teed. The weather was balmy, the light exquisite. I was excited to be there.

But painting that day was like trying to run through sand; a slog all morning. It’s been a while since I painted in oil, and I just couldn’t re-friend my colors. My thought at the end of the day? Fail.

I’m showing you this stinker because I think it’s important to fail. And it’s important for those of you, dear readers, who may be knotted up in your own artistic struggle, to see other artists fail. (And if you’re a successful artist, well then, feel free to snigger.)

So often when we look at the work of others, all we see are the successes, the award winners, the masterworks and show pieces. We don’t see the fumbles, the embarrassments, the groaners. The awkward marks and homely scumbles that get rubbed out before anyone can comment.

I think it’s a false picture. It’s an artistic version of the Facebook effect. Everybody is a mo’ bettah painter than I am. And when I’m scrabbling away at frustration, all that perfection from others is demoralizing.

But it shouldn’t be.

Emily Jeffords, over at Hello Beautiful Blog says,

“The first thing you have to do is pick up the brush. Then, make as many mistakes as you wish. Every stroke is just practice.”

That’s a good mantra to paint by. Part of the reason I’m playing the 30 in 30 challenge is because I want to pick up that brush everyday and make as many mistakes as I can. Spending a specified amount of time each day painting thoughtfully is also creating a lot of work, and the more work I make, the less precious it becomes. I’m better able to sort through the clinkers and find the shiny stuff.

It’s kind of like playing scales on an instrument; sometimes they’re just scales, sometimes they’re noise, but occasionally, they’re music.

Once in a while, I may make a painting.

This is part of a series exploring one 1-hour painting (nearly) every day in January as part of Leslie Saeta’s series, Thirty Paintings in Thirty Days. To see my experience with the entire series, click on the category, 30 in 30, at right.