When Mistakes are Made, Play

detail of a white painting by kellie day
detail of a white painting by kellie day

detail of a white painting by kellie day

I have been thinking about mistakes lately. I’ve been making a few – in real life, that is – in Art I make them all the time.

It’s tough to get close to creating something wonderful and then mess up, no matter what it is. We beat ourselves up, we “waste time”, we throw out something that could have been so beautiful.

When I realized a large vase of flowers I was working on wasn’t going to make it, I decided to gesso (paint over it in white) and re-use the canvas for another painting. Lately, however, I’ve been falling in love with just whiteness over all the textures and wonderful details of the layers beneath. I spent hours just playing with white paint over this ruined painting – and painting and un-painting to reveal treasures underneath.

 a little flower, uncovered in the layers of a ruined painting

a little flower, uncovered in the layers of a ruined painting (click for a larger view)

I’ve come to believe that there isn’t such a thing as “wasted time”. That it’s just a (sometimes painful) time to learn.

“There is no art which has not had its beginnings in things full of errors.” (Leon Battista Alberti)

To fill the space that follows with play, experiment, and lightness gives a break, a forgiveness, and usually something gorgeous emerges. Even if it takes a little longer than I wish.

detail on a white painting, uncovered

detail on a white painting, uncovered (click for a larger view)


  1. Erika says:

    So much beauty missed
    in the quest to make
    everything perfect.

    You are a stunning work in progress. Thank you for inspiring me always. Xx

  2. Kellie Day says:

    you are to words, what i am to paper. love you dear xo

  3. Kellie,
    I love your abstracted of it all. So lovely and musical.

  4. Andrea says:

    The “whiteness” is so very rich with texture and undercoats. It is lovely and appealing. Question: how do you “take away” or erase to expose the underpainting/history on the canvas? and does this only work with collage? Thank you for sharing your process – I for one can never hear enough times that my favorite artists struggle as hard as I do. I do love to try to “save” a mess, so I keep trying. Every blue moon it works!

    • Kellie Day says:

      Hi Andrea, thanks for your comment. It doesn’t have to be collage. I work in acrylics, so I will do a layer, let it dry, do another layer, etc. Sometimes I’ll keep working while the painting is wet for a quite a while as well. I can use a spray bottle of water or a rubber squeegee to take the paint off the top layer in spots, and reveal the layers beneath. If you just play with wiping away your wet paint in various ways, you might discover some cool stuff underneath. Hope this helps!

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