The School of Oops

There’s a lot to be said for learning on the job—in other words, learning from mistakes. I’ve learned a lot that way, and I’ll pass some of that along to you so, if you choose, you can learn from my mistakes rather than making quite so many of your own.

My first major mistake as a painter was to allow myself to be talked into participating in a small community art show before talking with anyone else about it. Oops! I soon discovered that the other participants were professionals, with much more polished and mature work than I had to offer. (My first clue of trouble should have been that they asked me to participate—the organizers’ choice of qualified participants was obviously limited. The pros all agreed for the sake of the free exposure in that immediate area.) All was not lost, however. Not only did I learn almost instant humility, but when I confessed my plight, I was taken under the sympathetic wing of one of the pros involved. Joan, bless her heart, mentored me patiently, encouraging my strengths and gently suggesting ways to improve my work. She loaned me how-to books and industry magazines, introduced me to wonderful supply catalogs and websites, and offered me tips on mounting, matting, and framing.

When I first agreed to participate in the show, I had almost no work available to display. Oops! The rapidly approaching art show provided me with not only a strong incentive to improve my skills but also to develop a reasonable body of displayable work in a very limited time frame. Over a period of a couple months, I turned out vast quantities of gradually improving paintings. With each attempt I learned some small lesson and gained some worthwhile experience. (Fortunately, the show was eventually canceled, so I was saved the humiliation of exhibiting still very amateurish work within that elite company.)

As you saw in my “Color-Contrast Catastrophe” (March 8, 2010), I’ve encountered other Oopsies along the way. So now and then I may admit to yet another Oops, and pass along the lessons it imparted. You’re welcome to audit my classes any time at The School of Oops!

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