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Make Mistakes Work for You (Rather Than Against You)

We all hate making mistakes, but they will happen in every painting. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are. There will always be a color you get slightly wrong, an edge you mess up or something which just looks wrong.

But there is a way of painting so that your mistakes work for you, rather than against you. Let me explain…

Say you are painting a dramatic sunset. Your big idea is to capture the warmth and vibrancy of the sun.

A mistake which would work for you would be making your colors too light, warm and saturated. This mistake would work in favor of your big idea. The warm and intense colors may not be accurate, but at least they will be in the right direction.

A mistake which would work against you would be making your colors too dark, cool and dull. This would work against your big idea (it would be difficult to paint a vivid sunset with cool, dull colors).

Here are some more examples of painting in a way which your mistakes work for you:

  • If you are painting a landscape with a strong sense of depth, it would be better to push the sense of depth rather than to make everything seem compact and close (make those mountains in the distance seem further away than closer).
  • If you are painting a dry, Australian landscape, it would be better to err on the side of warm colors, than cool colors.
  • If you are painting a dramatic, stormy seascape, it would be better to paint looser than tighter.
  • If you are painting an elegant female portrait, it would be better to make everything a touch longer and more elegant, rather than shorter and more compact.

The point is, make sure you are always working towards your idea. If done well, your mistakes may not even look like mistakes, but rather purposeful exaggerations of your idea.

Also, I will be opening up the second round of my Landscape Painting Masterclass next week on Tuesday, 5 March 2019. This is my 6-week online course for those of you who want to take your landscape paintings to the next level. More information to come.

Have a great week!

Thanks for Reading!

I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I hope you found it helpful. Feel free to share it with friends.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

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Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

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8 comments on “Make Mistakes Work for You (Rather Than Against You)”

  1. Hi, Dan–I just wanted you to know that your mistake re: the date happened to work in your favor in this case. I hadn’t seen the original email, but was intrigued by the word “Oops…” and so opened this. I thus discovered the original email, and found it enormously helpful andcreative. Thank you so much, Sheryl


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