Creative possibility comes from getting it wrong.

Studio mess – my home – time to de-clutter. 8’X11″ charcoal quick sketch.

“Oh, I could never draw or paint like that.”

“I’m not a writer like you.

“My photographs don’t compare to yours.”

If I had a dime for each time I heard these comments or others like them, all of my creative work could be used for charity fundraising because I would be independently wealthy. The sad thing is these statements are not true. They are lies we come to believe because we compare our attempts with finished products rather than the process that lead to their creation.

Here is a best kept secret: creative excellence comes from getting things wrong. Yes, wrong. As I commented on Coffee Messiah’s blog this morning, one of my drawing teachers, Glenn Howarth, was fond of saying things like: “It is the shoulder or wrist you struggle to draw that teaches you the anatomy of an arm.”

This is why I have committed to showing you my first morning “awakener” sketch. These first sketches are to engage me in the creative process. My sleepy eyes begin to frame, compose and dig at the relationship between elements I am about to sketch. My stiff arm and hand begin to respond to these relationships. In these first sketches, few mental barriers about “getting it right” have been erected. My judgment is left aside – these are not “keepers” they are “awakeners.”

In a three-hour drawing class, I often do 30 quick sketches that progressively increase in length until it is time to settle into the last hour-long sketch. When I am doing a photo shoot, I may take 150 images with maybe three becoming “keepers.”

Hours and days of exploring “that which is not yet quite right” leads to the creative possibility for success. This is where we discover our unique creative expression. This is where we learn our craft. We learn what is possible by getting it wrong.

My first quick sketch of the day is to inspire you to say to yourself – “hey, I can do that!” And you can.

Here is the last of my chosen three out of 150 shots of mist…

View and purchase full resolution image here.

Sprout Question: What do you do to strengthen your creative possibility?

p.s. Glenn Howarth was the most outstanding art instructor I have had the pleasure of working under. I am forever grateful for the few short years I was in his figure drawing classes. Glenn Howarth died last year at the age of 62. Very little of his thinking and work is on-line but here is an article he wrote that was published in  Canadian Art and Art Resource Directory: “Pictophile – Plein Air Painting”

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

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Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

14 thoughts on “Possible

  1. Sprout Question: What do you do to strengthen your creative possibility?

    We can learn from our mistakes. I assure you that the reason my family and friends refer to me as “brilliant” is because I’VE MADE SO DARNED MANY!

    Rather than let mistakes weigh me down like stones, I shift my perspective and use them as steps to get from point A to point B.

    Example: In answering the blog question in the Gaia Community this morning, I thought it said, “Where are you?” I wrote my answer, took a photograph to support my comment, and posted it. When I went back to look at it, I saw that the question was “Who are you?”

    Did I delete it and redo? No. I changed the question to reflect what I thought it had said, and then posted an additional comment with an explanation. I think it’s quite possible someone may benefit from reading my answer to the first question.


  2. I keep telling myself to be like a child, since they never worry about making a mistake, ’cause if they do, they simply try, try again! As an adult, a conditioning part of life hard to let go of for some reason.


  3. Well I draw everyday. i try to experiment, drawing different ways and being open to learning something new every day.
    I liken it to when i was learning to read as a child, all the new words were just delightful. Every time i learned something new I understood how much more there was in the world to discover.

    • Jerry, I think you have added yet another element to the “possible” equation – to do your creative activities everyday. A little creative time everyday is hands down better than a two week creative retreat on your vacation. If you can do both, great. If you need to choose – pick the 15-30 minutes each day.

      Another aspect to consider if we are having difficulty finding time to create is to ask “where is my creative energy going?” For example, when I was employed as a Program Coordinator, I was developing programs for children who witnessed abuse or women who had experienced violence. During these creative endeavours for my work, my painting and other creative work would be dormant. My creative energy was already engage in another activity. I was choosing (as a means of livelihood) to engage my creative abilities for my employer.

  4. I was dormant for almost ten years. For a long time I tried to get back into doing something creative but I was stuck on being ‘perfect.’ I made so many rules for myself that I could never start because nothing was just the way it was suppose to be. Finally November 2009 I told myself it didn’t have to be anything but time spent pushing pencil against paper. It is my time to release whatever is ailing me. Forget about the rules. The worse off it looks the better it is. I began loving my imperfections and ignore anyone that says it should be different.

  5. Beautiful photo Terrill! This one really speaks to me. 🙂

    What do I do? Hmmm… I suppose I just hold my nose and just DO! Like it has been said in some of the posts before me, sometimes we get hung up in our version of how we think things ‘should’ be. Part of my art path has been about taking away the ‘shoulds’ and just doing.

    Once I start doing then magic seems to flow. 🙂 Sometimes I have to tell myself that only I will view whatever it is I’m about to attempt. That seems to help and then other times I just adopt a very flippant attitude and go for it!

    • Itaya, you are so on. That is a big part of being willing to be wrong is about – “taking away the ’shoulds’ and just doing

      Thank you for dropping in and contributing to today’s sprout discussion. I like your strategies for getting out of your own way:)

  6. I love your morning “awakening” drawing practice and your description of it. I generally write Morning Pages, a la Julia Cameron – THE ARTIST’S WAY. Might be a good idea for me to do some drawing.

    As I was reading your post, I started wandering, “What big mistakes have I made?” Ironically, nothing came to the forefront… ironic, because so much of the time, my “little voices” are afraid of doing something wrong.

    The one thing that I was strongly reminded of was a piece I wrote in Picture to Ponder, 5 years ago, on “accidental art”. It includeds the “accidental” photo I love that sparked it. See http://www.eteletours.com/accidentalart.html. I also described my “accidental” businesses.

    Thanks for the suggestions and the reminders.

    • Thanks Sheila for sprouting a response to today’s question and for your excellent link. I’ve been working with The Artist’s Way but I usually I wake in the morning in full creative bloom. By the time I wind down about 1:00ish… well, it is no longer morning so no pages. So I decided to keep the resource handing for a time when I may require or desire to either get unstuck or to go deeper. I do make artist dates though:)

  7. Tee hee, Terrill: “I could never draw or paint like you!” Yep, that’s what my inner voice sometimes thinks when it looks at your magnificent paintings/drawings.

    Yet when people say that about my writing or photography I feel the same way as you. And why would they want to do it like me anyway? Each of us has such an incredible voice, an incredible eye, if we just allow it to birth, to come forth, in our uniqueness and individuality.

    • Your answer Kathy is exactly what I was getting at. I think this mystery is partially created from seeing finished work. But I have also watched talent watercolour painters in action and shaken my head at the ease and flow with which they ferret out an image in the moving pigmented water on the paper.

      Creative expression is so much more than technical skill. We need to allow ourselves to appear in our work. I teach people art exercises for team building and to examine feelings and emotions – how to engage our whole-being so it flows out the end of our crayon, our pen, our brush… a letting go of “what is art” and being with pure expression. This is similar to being child-like or using a beginner’s mind. Purposefully, finished works are not to come out of these exercises – but the following work that is realized because of the exercise is often divine. Like meditation, it is a practice in clarity, acceptance and full-engagement in the present.

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