Studio Day Today – Art and Mistakes

IceFormStriped_2756, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Mistakes happen and today was no exception. For me, today was, “fix my mistakes” day in the studio. Allow me to explain.

Encaustics, you see, are a bit tricky to do. I’m going to come out right and say it, they’re hard. I mean, they aren’t “hard” like rocket science is hard but, you know, if you really want the melted molten wax to flow to *just* the right place, if you really have something in your head that you are totally trying to “match,” well, encaustics are (or they can be) downright impossible. Encaustics are difficult to get to turn out exactly the way you want them too. I tend to view each encaustic piece as a sort of “happy accident.” I work with a color palette, yes, and that does give me some control, but “some” is the key word here. Actually, “little” might be a better choice of words for it. Encaustics can be hard to control and, let’s face it, they are an art form probably not best suited for the totally “anal retentive” of you out there maybe reading this. Let me put it to you this way: if you are a control freak, don’t take up painting with wax. Better stick to knitting if you know what’s good for you. But me? Yes, I almost enjoy these “happy accidents” (do notice, please, that I said, “almost” there. Almost as in, not always.)

So, what’s a girl to do?

As I paint, I gather my mistakes. I save them off and treat them with equal respect as I do my “finished pieces,” you know, the ones that I like. I save them all and I decided later (after I have had time to think about it) which pieces I want to re-work and which pieces I’m going to just give up on. So far, anyway, I’ve “given up” on only a few but re-worked many, very many in fact. That’s part of the process. I don’t beat myself up about this. I’m a beginner, and I’ve allowed myself time to make mistakes. Just today, in fact, my mother told me, “you learn from your mistakes.” Indeed, you do or you should try to anyway. Mistakes can be viewed as learning experiences. Like a teacher in a jar, of sorts.

So, today I had this pile, this ever-growing pile of mistakes and I thought that, well I felt like anyway, re-working some of these, and that’s just what I did. I went out into the studio and re-worked some of my prior “fiasco’s.”

I had this one piece. It was sort of red mixed with purple and it had some brown in it. Yes, I know, these are colors that don’t really work well together. So, originally, I thought, “I know! I’ll add yellow!” Oh, that was a mistake, let me tell you, a BIG mistake. It wound up looking like a victim (loser actually) at a paint-ball camp. It was horrible, a horrible, horrible, mistake. Think “clown vomit” and you are kind of about half way there. Oh, what was I to do?

Some of the “tricks” I use to cover up my mistakes in encaustics included putting yarn on them (yarn looks really good stuck on top of encaustics and, let’s face it, I’ve made so many mistakes now that I do believe I have an entire “yarn” series in the works. Glory be! Who knew that, as it turns out, simple yarn is capable of covering up a multitude of artistic “sins.”) I also use opaque white paint to add an extra thick “top coat” of paint and wax. This creates a nice soft “top layer” like and also covers up a multitude of “sins” as it were.

So, there you have it. This was going to be a piece of cake. Piece of cake, I tell you! I was going to take the ugly paint-ball victim, yarn it up, maybe throw some white on top and call it a day. Yeah, go me! This was so going to work, I could hardly wait to try it.

Oh the horror!

For starers, the yarn looked even worse. It just looked like yarn atop a hot mess (come to think of it, that might be a good name for this, my new series. Hmm. Then again, maybe not.) Then the white paint made it look even worse. It looked like white paint floating atop yarn stuck onto the top of a hot mess. Oh, I was falling fast, let me tell you. You ever get that horrible sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? Yeah, I was so there, I was so all over that one.

I kept putting the piece aside, working on something else, going back to it, laughing at myself for thinking I could fix it, wondering how much wax I was going to waste trying to fix it, scratching my head, laughing again, thinking it was hopeless…you get the idea. This was like a downward spiral made entirely out of “clown vomit,” yarn and white paint. Mistake after mistake, entombed in layers of wax. I had created a disaster! I couldn’t make something this bad if I had set out to do just that. This thing had “train wreck” written all over it. It was just abominable, but I was not going to give up.

I just kept layering and layering the wax and the paint and working it, over and over. Working with the layers of the wax, fusing, adding more wax. I was determined to make something of this hot mess. My “clown vomit” was going to be fixed, fixed, I tell you, fixed. Fixed! It had to be, it just had to be fixed. Finally, after much trial and error (ahem, read “more much error than trial!”) I *finally* got something I sort of liked. It finally looks like something half presentable if, you know, if you squint just the right way. Phew! About time! (Don’t you think?) Only took me 20 layers of wax, tons of yarn, and lots of bad luck getting there, didn’t it?

Of course, now the damn thing weighs about 20 pounds. It’s a 20 pound painting made with “clown vomit,” yarn, tons of white paint, and great big gobs of melted wax. Hey, I bet not many of your friends have one of *those* right? I mean, not too many anyway. Well, maybe not unless they know me and have already purchased a wonderful encaustic from my, ahem, “hot new yarn series” that is. (*Grins.*)

The point I’m trying to make here, the reason I’m telling you all of this is that today was “mistake” day in the studio. Mistakes are part of art too. We’re all human and we all make them. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, your mistakes can turn into your most beloved pieces. There’s now something about this piece, something special about it. I will always remember fondly working it, working it over, re-working it, thinking, “Ha! That will never work!” only to prove myself, in the end, wrong about that. Nothing makes me happier than being wrong here too. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my mistakes, seeing them play out before your eyes because that’s the only way you will see me grow. I’ve enjoyed my mistake, both making it and fixing it. Ok, so maybe it’s not the best piece I have ever done, maybe it’s not the most rewarding, but, at this point, I have to admit, it has a special place in my heart.

The piece has so many layers, each layer representing a different “mistake” I made trying to fix it. I’ve even decided to name this piece, on account of the “mistakes” and the process by which it came about. I’m going to call it “Circumstantial Undertones.” Circumstantial because it is just layer after layer of mistake and “undertones” because, in the end, that’s what it looks like. Lots and lots of tones and undertones all fused together.

At some point, I’ll post an image of my new “Circumstantial Undertones” piece and you too can judge for yourself, if you think it was a good idea for me to work and re-work the piece. I have to say I do think it was worth it, at least I had fun doing it. I enjoyed making it. I enjoyed making all of the mistakes that I made in the process of creating it. Encaustics are new and fun for me and this, these mistakes, they are part of the process too. Frustrating at times, yes, but mistakes are there too, for all of us to enjoy.

So, for today anyway, I’m embracing my newly found “mistakes” as being a necessary part of my artistic development. Art and mistakes: two great tastes that taste great together.

Until next time…



  1. Great Grandma Lin
    December 24, 2011 / 2:31 am

    Well, I for one want to see your big mistake. Wise mother you have…

  2. Carol
    December 25, 2011 / 1:21 am

    Thanks! Pics soon, I promise.

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