Serendipitous Accidents, or How to Make the Most of Your Arting “Mistakes”

Serendipity is putting a quarter in the gumball machine and having three pieces come rattling out instead of one – all red.

~ Peter H. Reynolds

Do you have those times when you think you’re about to paint something, and you drop the paint-laden paintbrush right smack on your canvas?  In the wrong spot?  Do you ever spend an hour carefully cutting out a piece of something in the beautiful scrawl of a word, to use as a background stamp, and then as you finish the last little snip, realize that you forgot to flip the word around backwards before you cut it out, so that it would print frontwards?

Alrighty, I admit that I’ve done both of those things particularly, and many more.  Many, many more.  So whaddya do?  Fall apart?  Or do you just keep on painting, or use the word as a mask now instead of a stamp?

What do you do with the “mistakes”?

We’ve all done those kinds of things along the way.  How we react, what we do with the “mistake” is an important part of that which defines us as artists.  Sometimes the mistakes or blunders that seem to be the hugest are the very things that later become the most awesome new techniques!  Am I right??

I’ve been fiddling with some image transfer techniques, and I’ve been trying the techniques with different kinds of papers, from magazine to copy to photo paper.  Each takes a different hand and technique.  And each kind of paper is better suited to different kinds of transfers.  While I look at tutorials and books and so forth, it’s not quite the same as actually practicing.  Not often does the real deal work just how I saw on youtube.

But it doesn’t mean it’s all bad, just not always what I was thinking I was going to get.

Image transfer gone bad, or less than imagined

The page I’m sharing with you today is a great example of all of this.  I actually tried an image transfer of an entire page-sized magazine ad.  I’ve been holding this ad for a while now because I though it was neat and cool (yes, neat and cool).  I was thinking I would someday use snippets of the ad, but I didn’t cut it up to save it, cuz I didn’t know which pieces I’d ultimately use or how I’d cut it up.

Yep, I tried the transfer with the whole page.  I guess you’re supposed to practice on smaller transfers and get good at them before you try something larger.  Seemingly I got impatient…

It did not come out all clean and perfect like the image I had in my mind.

But I kept after it, rubbing on the paper and eventually sanding it a bit with fine sand paper.  I typically save the serious workings for canvas, so this is quite the time commitment for me in my journal.  While the background did not in fact turn out all clean and clear like I thought, it did turn out to be a great background.

The washed-out look to the colors and the weathered look to the background sent me digging around in my papers boxes.  I had saved a piece of a wood grain sample Christopher had made up to show some customers (he does beautiful custom faux finishes in people’s homes).

The look went perfectly with the background, and after much fussing, pieces of it became the weathered fence.  Add some grass and flowers and the goofy bird, and Voila!  A whole scene!

Another unexpected lesson

On a side note, the other important lesson here for me is that if I stop worrying about sketching out the character I want, and if I just get to painting it, I can paint a character that actually looks like something.

Prompt: Find an old arting “mistake”, maybe an old journal page that is sitting in your book or stacks.  Pull it back out and do something with it.  Add a whitewash to blend it all together.  Stamp some texture over it.  Turn the “mistake” into a background for something wonderful.


2 thoughts on “Serendipitous Accidents, or How to Make the Most of Your Arting “Mistakes”

  1. Pingback: Little Book of Quotes Art Journal | St. John Studios

  2. Pingback: Textured Caulk Hearts for the Art Journal | St. John Studios

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