936_The One Thing that Makes Your Art ValuableGouache painting of eraser by Nicholas Wilton


Sometimes making my Art feels choppy. The hardest days in the studio are the ones where I go down one road before I realize I wanted another. I was mistaken. So by the end of the day, I have to come all the way back to where I started. It seems like I went nowhere. It is frustrating.

However after repeating this pattern over and over again, I see that these wrong turns, these mistakes are not only unavoidable but also essential in creating the value in my Art. In the end, they simply improve it.

In the words of Thomas Paine, “That which we may obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value.”

My Art process has demonstrated this essential truth repeatedly.

Mistakes are challenging, however they always happen. They always will. Why then do we have such a fear of making them? Why do we feel so much pressure to be always correct?

The mistakes are the very thing that creates our best Art. We need them.

Art making is the ideal teacher of this apparent truth. In fact I would say Art making for me has become mostly about trying to remain uninhibited despite the fact that the next mistake is surely just around the corner.

It is only when we no longer fear making mistakes that our true uninhibited self can come forward, can enter the room and begin to make decisions based on our intuition and authenticity. I can see in an instant when I make a brushstroke or a mark that is tentative. I can feel in my life when I am reacting out of fear. I end up doing things I don’t really care about. True desire is somewhat sacrificed.

In reaching, in stretching ones self, mistakes – missed cues, as I like to call them – are going to happen. As a result, however, they allow you to then move forward with a new understanding. A new knowledge found from going to the wrong place first. The prize, the take away, is a new found conviction, a sureness that invariably improves your Art.

It is important to understand and constantly remember this pattern. It is behind the scenes of our lives and always in play. It can be hard when all seems to be falling apart, when the road is petering out, and when we begin to get the hunch that we are actually mistaken. If the disappointment can be short lived as a result of understanding this game then we can more quickly take the next step in the right direction.

This realization that our desire, the value we are attempting to bring to the world is created from the difficulty, is actually incredibly liberating. Working and even living ones life without concern for the inevitable mistakes along the way kind of takes the pressure off. Every wrong turn invariably gives you the necessary lift to anywhere you need to go next.

I am not sure who exactly figured this all out or who set it all up but it truly is amazing. The game in the end feels rigged. It is all in our favor. There is a conspiracy of sorts working behind the scene of our Art making, our lives, to take us where we truly desire.

What has your experience been with mistakes? Those who comment below and are signed up for my newsletter will have a chance to win the original pink eraser gouache painting. The winner will be randomly chosen and announced in next week’s blog post.

In gratitude, Nicholas