Monday, March 12, 2012

Guest Post : Emily Helck on the Beauty of Mistakes

Emily Helck, created around age 4
In elementary school, art was always my favorite subject. So much so that it didn’t even feel like being in school. I worked hard, but with exuberance, and was always proud of what I could accomplish. At a certain point, when I reached fourth or fifth grade, things began to change. I turned a more critical eye to my artwork. When drawing, I became easily frustrated at mistakes, and I would tear through sheet after sheet of paper, starting over every time my pencil moved in a way I didn’t like. My pile of unfinished projects, full of what I considered mistakes, soon dwarfed the things I finished. I stopped making art for a long time.
In college, I found my way back to drawing. I experienced many of the same frustrations -- I would make small mistakes, and feel like a whole piece was ruined. Then one day, motivated a little bit by how expensive my paper was, I decided not start over after a misstep. I did a drawing and left all the mistakes in. And I loved it.

Emily Helck, Dear, 2006
I loved seeing my thought process, my decisions, play out on the page. After that, everything changed for me. I started to accept my mistakes on the page as part of the work, part of the process.

Emily Helck, #4 from 5 or 6 Houses Drawn from Memory, 2008
To say that there are no mistakes when making art doesn’t feel quite right, because sometimes there are. Sometimes the hand holding the pencils wavers, and a nose doesn’t come out quite right. Or sometimes the glaze on your pot drips down in a way you didn’t want. Or any number of other things. The point is, a mistake doesn’t ruin a piece of art. Sometimes, it’s even what makes it great.

When I work with kids on art projects, my hope is that I can impart a bit of this knowledge. It is something that each child needs to learn on his or her own, but I try to do my part by encouraging them not to get hung up on what they see as imperfections. It's probably a good lesson not just for art, but for life too.

~Guest Post by Emily Helck for Cupcakes + Owls 2012

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