Episode 20: The Miracle of Mistakes

Aug 4, 2015

In this episode, we see how — when viewed in the light of process — something we first thought of as a mistake in a painting turns out to be anything but.

An excerpt from The Miracle of Mistakes . . .

I believe there’s something miraculous about these situations that arise when we’re convinced we’ve made a mistake in a painting. We think we’ve done something that’s not appropriate, or not intelligent, or that doesn’t belong. When someone reaches a moment like this in the painting process, I get very interested. I notice the moment occurs on two levels: The first level is the “mistake” itself, meaning the object or the thing that appeared. It may be a color or a form or a shape. Something has arisen in the painting that we’re convinced is a mistake. We can get very focused on that. But the deeper level is the feelings that come up.

Believing we’ve made a mistake in a painting has a physical, visceral quality of disturbance about it. You can feel it in your body. You can feel how the adrenaline gets riled up and how the first tendency, of course, is to throw it off and not have that disruptive feeling. This might mean tearing the painting off the wall and blaming the teacher, or covering it up, or changing it or fixing it — anything to get rid of the feeling because we believe there’s truly been a mistake. But if I can, in those moments, I’ll try to bring another level of perception and intrigue to somebody. Maybe there’s more going on here than meets the eye. What if we don’t fly off with the need to change something? Then we can stay in the burn. We can be willing to feel the intensity of the emotion. It may have a quality of regret, shame, or blame. You can let it burn. You can let the fire rage and keep painting with a quality of respect.

I might at that point suggest taking a little brush and painting with care, because there’s such a contradiction in those two states — the internal raging while simultaneously being externally respectful in your actions. When those two opposites come together, something new is born. I see this happening again and again. There’s something that arises out of the so-called mistake which is of course a changed perception of your painting. You feel, having stayed with the experience and lived through it, that you actually like what happens next and that this thing you thought was a mistake is intriguing and interesting. But more than that, your actual state of being has changed.

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