When I did oil painting my favorite part was always doing the sky. Quite literally, the sky was the limit when it came to colors, expression and composition. Once while I was taking a class in High School I made a mistake on the color selection from what I intended, dipping into the wrong color and boldly blobbing it across a pure, pristine white canvas (You always do the background first when painting). A wild orange color when the sky was supposed to be light pink for the class. Oops! Wow! Really?
I let my teacher know immediately and she came over at once to inspect the damage.
“Perfect!” She said (or something like that it…it has been many years ago). “That’s alright, just take your brush like this,” She pressed into the blob of paint. “And spread it out like this.” She streaked it across the sky to the left. “Now, add a little pink and white and smooth it into it.”
In an instant I was in love with sunsets and paintings!
Wow! With the sky even a mistake could be turned into something so beautiful! With the sky you can never come close to matching the variety of real nature, where two minutes with the brush in God’s hand, can make such a complete transformation while watching a sunset.
The painting turned out to be the envy of most of the class because of the sky. It was supposed to be a small herd of elk feeding in a mountain meadow with the herd bull on small knoll overlooking the herd. Yet, what it ended up looking like was a bull staring intently and cautiously toward the horizon where the sky and my dominating orange streak indicated there was a forest fire. The painting took a ‘Special Interest’ ribbon and place in the top three at the county fair…for the sky! Amazing!
Later I used the same principle on a painting, a cabin in the mountains with a sunset in the background. The sunset was supposed to be serene and sedated, but I mixed in a dark grey on the south side and it instantly made the cabin feel cozier and the fire inside just a little warmer. Again, stepping out and taking the risk of ruining the painting it became the envy of most of the class. I know it sounds like I am bragging, I am not. There were other artists there that were very good, some far better than me. Really, if I could accomplish anything by this post it would be to encourage or stir up your desire to, at least once, try your hand at oil painting and to understand the power behind a sunset.
The point of these two stories is to tell you what I learned about art. A lot of people in the class were so afraid of making a mistake that they ended up with a decent, hum drum painting which had no real expression. It was flat, stale, and sterile. That is not to say that in some respects their proportions, composition, or details were better than mine, but it is to say that people looked at them and said, “That’s nice.” When they stepped over to look at mine, they said, “Wow! Look at that sunset…” (Maybe I am bragging a little – but I am telling you that you have to try it…it’s awesome!)
The cabin painting also won a blue 1st place ribbon at the county fair.
As in painting, so in photography, I have try to apply the principle that sometimes what you may consider a ‘mistake’ is actually what makes the artwork. Also, as I told my wife, I don’t want the shot that 4 million other tourists got, I want the one that no one has thought of, the one where you are laying on the ground (second picture in this post), with your face pressed against the wall or bent over backwards. The one where everyone thinks you are silly because they are too afraid of what they look like while taking the picture. Again, that sterile, stale expression. Don’t be afraid to try something new in your painting or photography! You may stumble on something that just becomes a cornerstone to future work.
My art teacher was truly amazing. She had painted so much in her life that her wrist was deformed from bending it to keep it off the canvas. Sadly, about ten years ago she passed away from cancer. She was a sweet lady and I will never forget her love for painting and eternal optimism when it came to ‘fixing’ mistakes.