Saturday, September 29, 2012


A painting can come together in a whole lot of different ways. It can begin with an idea or an image, a colour or a design, an arrangement of elements or a feeling. It can even begin with a mistake.

This painting was begun on the evening before my first, and so far only, exhibition of March 2010. It was a whim: there was a tempting blank canvas, there were paints and brushes, and there was panic. Did I have enough pictures to hang? Were any of them any good?  What was "good" anyway? Would anyone come to see them?  What was I thinking of, to hold an exhibition at all?

Panic can cause either a total freeze or a frenzy. I squeezed out a blurt of blue direct from the tube onto the canvas and then splashed some water at it. The water caused a swirl to develop which I encouraged by tipping the canvas about.  A splodge of white paint helped to create a foamy look, a squiggle or two of black gave depth and focus and, I thought, watery interest. Wateriness.

Then I made a mistake. On the so far blank right side I applied a broad stroke with a brush loaded with red paint. I was immediately appalled.  What had I done?  Gone was the loose, watery look and there was a huge thick patch of red.  Rude words filled the air –  &%^*#@ and &%$+*.

Well, goodness me, I'd been selling the bromide for ever that mistakes are an inevitable part of the creative process. If you never make mistakes, you'll never make anything. Mistakes must be used, dealt with, worked around, incorporated or in some way overcome. I decided to throw water at this one too and as chance would have it, I tipped the canvas down to the right and allowed several dribbles to form. A bit more splashing around and swirling and brushing and the canvas was more or less covered. I left it to dry overnight.

In the morning, in the bustle of packing up nearly forty paintings, I called the still damp canvas "Abstract".  A friend saw it and said "Shrimp!" Another threatened to bring her own offering to the exhibition – a placard warning of "WET PAINT!" A Japanese tourist saw the painting and laughed delightedly. I was content.


  1. I like it. I'm waiting for the wave to break over the red surfboard. Proves you can't ever confidently label anything a mistake. Our out of control moments with a wild red paint brush may be our best.

  2. I guess that is part of what a painting (or a book or a poem for that matter) is meant to do - give you something to explore and think about. Thanks, Jane