top of page

A Series of Mistakes

“Love is what we were born with.

Fear is what we learned here.” - Marianne Williamson

It's Not About Perfect:

Are you like me, often repeating the things I have already learned? This is, after all, how mastery occurs. But this is not where I actually learn the most. I learn from working with what I don't know, and in that process, I will make mistakes. It feels risky and scary, and yet, this is where excitement and life vitality lies. Open-hearted orientation comes from vulnerability. While I have been making art all of my life, I have not always considered myself an artist. Ironically, my lowest point was the day I left art school in 1992. I had a degree that said I was an artist, but I had no work I truly loved, and I felt like an imposter. People would ask me where I went to college, and I would say the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The natural follow-up question was, "What did you study?" My reply, "painting" usually came the dreaded response: "So you are an artist!" My sheepish response back then was non-committal... "I went to art school." I felt so out of my limit. Art was my impossible dream. I wanted to be an artist, but wanting implies I am lacking. I dared to dream but did not realize I was the only one that could make it happen. Come to find out, being an artist has nothing to do with a degree or training but everything to do with the process and the desire, confidence, and persistence. You create value by the effort you put into it. I think this is why I have a tendency to overwork paintings. When I get a painting right away, it feels wrong. I need to rework it, mess it up, and then redo it. It is only in the re-do that I feel authentic because it is the repeat of the process that gives precedence to my work. Making something out of nothing feels powerful to me. But reworking something means letting go of the past idea, but is it really lost or just simply evolved? Sometimes it is only through the reworking of the past that the new emerges, for like in life, oil painting holds onto the past and creates something new.

Pentimento is a term in painting where "the presence or emergence of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over." The word is derived from the Italian verb pentirsi, which translated to English means to repent. Many museums are filled with "master's mistakes".During Pablo Picasso’s “Blue Period” (1901-1904), funds for art supplies were tight. Sometimes, when the artist was particularly strapped, he would substitute cardboard for canvas. When he had canvas, it was occasionally repurposed. One of the most well-known examples of the body of work Picasso created during this time, The Old Guitarist, turned out to have been painted over another figure.

Today, I no longer fear the question "are you an artist"-because I Iet go of the worry of failing. What is it that I am failing at exactly? Art is not about a marketing process. It is about creating something that didn't exist before. That means not knowing where you are going. It means walking through the dark. It means letting go of results and other ways of doing things. It means being vulnerable. In a recent interview with a colleague, Philip Hartman, he asked, "why are you an artist, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you." Am I an artist simply because I create objects? I would say yes, but that is only part of the answer. I am an artist because I am curious. I am imbued with wonder and a deep need for understanding. Painting is a way of life. A way of commuting with the world around me. Being an artist is not about talent; it is about exploring and figuring things out. It is simply my vehicle for connecting my interior chamber. It is not about one static thing, but about the layers and layers of our lives, our history, that that makes it interesting.

"There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose because before he can do so, he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted." - Henri Matisse

One painting over another. All paintings are a series of mistakes. It is a series of mistakes that makes art.


The painting and the underpainting.

"Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art."

- Eleanor Roosevelt

45 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page