The Art of Mistakes – Nicholas Wilton – Ep 95
August 16, 2023
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
How do you handle mistakes? Early in my art career, I avoided mistakes at all costs. But now they are easily the most interesting part of my work. On this episode, I’m diving into all things mistakes! Join me as I explore different kinds of mistakes, the fear around them, and how to leverage your mistakes for creative success.
Listen if you are interested in…
- Unpacking the problem with mistakes [2:00]
- Exploring different kinds of mistakes [5:39]
- Why the fear around mistakes is worse than any error [10:29]
- Leveraging mistakes for creative success [16:08]
- Special 100th Episode announcement [29:31]
Reframe the brain
Mistakes are such a natural part of the art-making process that dealing with them should be second nature. The problem is we’re hardwired to avoid mistakes, and we live in a world where they are typically met with consequences. Granted, some consequences should be expected, but it reinforces the idea that new and surprising is scary and bad. We have to completely reframe our survival brain when it comes to art-making. Trying new things is how we grow and change as artists. In fact, mistakes will come at you a mile a minute when starting anything new. The key is learning how to leverage them to make better, more authentic work.
Close the gap
Knowing how to leverage our mistakes for creative success means understanding the different kinds of mistakes we can make. A big one is the mistake of expectations. I call it “The Gap”. It’s the distance between what we think we want to make and what we actually can. I am someone who always believes the work is going to turn out better than it does. And when the work doesn’t meet our expectations, we have to learn how to reframe it as a part of our growth. Each painting should serve as a building block for whatever you’re building towards. No creative attempt is a waste. Don’t let unrealistic expectations get in the way of your progress!
Face your fear
The biggest hindrance to our growth as artists are the mistakes we imagine we’re gonna make. Picture it: You’re in your studio grappling with a new direction on the canvas, and suddenly, the future mistake reel starts playing in your head. You can see your failure clear as day, screaming for you not to make that mark. Anxiety enters your body, stiffening up your muscles and narrowing your perspective. Even if you were to take the leap, the fear of mistakes has zapped every ounce of confidence from your mind and hands. What could have been a bold choice has turned into shaky brushwork at best. If this describes your art practice, it’s time to reframe! Mistakes aren’t just a part of life and art-making, they are essential to the process of becoming who we are meant to be.
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the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.