Mistakes versus Failure when you Create

Hi and welcome back to another week on the Chrissie Murphy Designs Blog. I’ve been reading my way through the Zentangle Primer, a book by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, the founders of Zentangle. This is a real “how to” kinda book, one that goes into depth about the art of zentangling. There’s a comment they make about the unplanned nature of zentangling that has captivated me, “How can you fail when you don’t know what the result is supposed to look like?” It’s something I want to explore this week, so come and join me as I look deeper into mistakes versus failure when you create.

Mistakes versus Failure when you Create

So first up my brain went to the times I had made mistakes

When I read this comment in their book, my mind immediately went to the times I’ve messed up. And I didn’t have to go back too far! I’ve been working on a lesson with Eni Oken’s Art Club called Fan Tangles. It’s about creating a tile on a grid based string that’s narrow at one end and wide at the other (giving the appearance of a fan). In the lesson, the structure of each fan portion is puffy in appearance, but when I first tried it, mine weren’t. I wasn’t pleased with myself!

A Fan Tangles tile that’s full of mistakes

So I tried again and I was much happier with my second attempt.

Fan Tangles with Eni Oken Art Club

When you fly wide of the mark you know it!

Rick and Maria’s comment says “How can you fail when you don’t know what the result is supposed to look like?” With my latest Eni Oken Art Club lesson, I did know what it was supposed to look like. Eni is such a wonderful teacher and she leaves us with a picture of the tile she created, as a guide for us working through her lesson.

We aren’t trying to create carbon copies of her designs. Each of us interprets her lessons in our own unique ways and we improve as artists under her critique and guidance. It’s an Art Club, and I believe Eni Oken’s Art Club is so much more than just zentangling. It’s about learning different drawing techniques and applying them to your work. We all have a good idea of how our work is meant to look, so when fly wide of the mark we know it!

I decided that to think of my recent work as a failure in this way only proved the validity of Rick and Maria’s statement, “How can you fail when you don’t know what the result is supposed to look like?” Because I had a vision for how my tile was meant to look, this quote implied I was going to open myself up to the possibility of failure.

Zentangle Primer by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas

But that doesn’t mean I buy into the failure mentality

Sure my tile missed the mark, many of them do, but I learned so much along the way. I really see creating as a very big opportunity. It’s an opportunity to learn. It doesn’t matter what I do, I roll with the punches and learn from my mistakes. I get back in there and give things another go.

In a lot of ways, mistakes have grown me as an artist. They’ve helped to shape me into the artist I am today. To me, mistakes are to be highly valued and are never to be seen as something final, something that has the power to end a bigger goal. Mistakes are just a speed bump on a much bigger journey.

Failure isn’t though. Failure does have the power to end big goals. It’s the end of the road, because failure signifies your journey has come to an end. When you become aware of the difference between mistakes and failure, I think you open up a whole new part of your mind to creativity, because true failure rarely happens.

So what then of Rick and Maria’s comments?

How can you fail when you don’t know what the result is supposed to look like?” Zentangle is the most joyous way of creating I’ve ever encountered. Because there’s no plan, there’s no expectations, and because there’s no expectations, there’s no boundaries to control your intentions. You’re completely free to go where your pen takes you, and that, my friend, is the joy of zentangle.

You do not have an idea of what your tile is supposed to look like, it grows organically before your eyes. It doesn’t mean there’s no mistakes though. Yes, mistakes can be made, but you’re encouraged to work with them, embrace them and have them become a part of your overall design. They are not something that ends your tile though. Why? I believe it’s because when you allow a mistake to end your tile, you’ve allowed the mistake to become a failure. Zentangling as a craft, if done properly, is without failure because you embrace your mistakes.

I love the idea of embracing mistakes

I love the idea of embracing mistakes, because I think it’s a godly principle. The Creator has embraced me, full of mistakes, flaws, blemishes and inconsistencies. He’s embraced all of me, my good bits and my not so good bits. When He looks at me, He sees the overall picture, He sees His overall design and He says its good! Those mistakes have become part of my overall design. I’m not loved any less because of them, they are part of me. And this is how we need to be with our art.

I love how some of the things we consider to be flaws or mistakes, can end up being endearing qualities in us. What we see as a flaw, or one of our mistakes, can end up being seen by others to be one of our most striking features or qualities. I believe in this so strongly. And I love that zentangling does too. It’s about the overall design, mistakes and all.

Mistakes versus failure when you create

So in summing up, I think it all comes down to how you process your mistakes. When you create, do you allow your mistakes to be the end of your journey or not? If not, then I congratulate you and encourage you to keep powering on!!

If you do, can I suggest you take a step back from things and see whether you can incorporate your mistake into part of your overall creative process. It might mean starting the piece again. But next time you’ll be just that little bit wiser to things.

Blue Sun with mistakesMy Blue Sun lesson with Eni Oken Art Club

Above are two pictures… both of the Blue Sun lesson I completed with Eni Oken. The first one has a circle around a mistake I made where I smudged gel pen over my completed design. The second is where I tried again, this time, wiser to the behaviour of my gel pens. I made a mistake, I hit a speed bump on my journey, but I did not allow my journey to come to an end. I’d encourage you to do the same.

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Until next time, listen to your heart and sharpen your coloured pencils. A masterpiece awaits!

Bless you my friend

Chrissie xx

2 thoughts on “Mistakes versus Failure when you Create

  1. Chrissie, what a great article! And I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the Art Club and learning so much!

    1. Chrissie Murphy Designs March 8, 2019 — 6:59 am

      Thank you Eni, I’m loving the journey. Earlier this year I said I wanted to slow down and experience the “creative process”. All components, the entire walk from inception to completion. And I’m loving how much I’ve grown where embracing my mistakes is concerned. I value them so highly now, because they are the place of so much growth in the creative process. I think many people feel like I’m being hard on myself, but I’m not. I’m just loving the creative process and all it reveals and feel like I have grown more in the last 12 months than in the last 3 years.

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