Friday, December 30, 2016

There Are No Mistakes in Art

When I walked into my kid's preschool rooms I could spot their artwork even though it usually hung among twenty or thirty like pieces. My girls' work almost always looked bigger and brighter. My boy preferred autumnal shades of black and fangs. Starfish, tacos, planets. They all had fangs.

In later years we had an episode in which I had a disagreement with one of my boy's art teachers. One President's Day when I picked him up at school, he stood outside drooping. He thrust his picture at me angrily. I DID IT WRONG! he said, stomping off to sulk. I had to chase down the teacher to find out how a kindergartner can color Abraham Lincoln wrong.

"He's PINK!" she fussed. 
"Yes," I observed. "And so?"
"I told the class to use flesh tones."
Now I could have pointed out that pink is a flesh tone, or that my boy was colorblind and any shade of pink from Shocking to Pepto Bismal is flesh tone if you can't see the red in it. Normally his mismatched clothing and penchant for picking weedy flowers in every shade of brown were clue enough to how he saw the world. Although the teacher hadn't realized his color perspective, suddenly something else seemed far more important to clarify at that moment. Long before that day I'd adopted a philosophy I'd learned from professional artists, one that seemed most important.

There are no mistakes in art.

Ms. Conformity begged to differ. So in a nod to the importance of following directions whether or not you understand them, we expanded upon my philosophy. While there ARE no mistakes in art, there ARE revisions.

Sometimes you have to follow certain rules.

Those rules come into play when your audience is more than yourself.

That means when you sketch a face and accidentally knock over the bottle of ink onto the page, that we'll now put a tree branch in the drawing. Revision. It also means when your kindergarten teacher gets her knickers in a twist over your pink Abraham Lincoln, that you color a new one in whatever shade she likes. Revision, as your audience demands.

Revision also means you expand your skills and put your best foot forward in your art. 

My No Mistakes in Art philosophy means first and foremost that you don't let anyone suck the joy out of your work. We create with our heart, putting all we have into our work. But writing needs editing both to please readers, and to be certain to please ourselves when we see how what we intended can be expanded upon, polished and grown. Artists and Actors perfect their skills and grow their craft for their audience, and kindergarten students pander to their teacher's ideal of Abraham Lincoln.

Michelangelo is purported to have said, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." Imagine patiently and confidently chipping away at a block of marble to release the angel within. What would you create if you had that type of certainty? 

Michelangelo's Pieta

Trusting creativity makes me fearless, but respecting my audience is why my writing goes through editors. My No Mistakes in Art philosophy lives on. It's hard to see through all the changes and revisions, but it's there, because if we worry about doing it wrong we'll never create anything. 

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