Making mistakes with confidence

January 12, 2016 | Leave your thoughts


I make mistakes all the time! If I didn’t make mistakes I would get bored and have little motivation to keep sketching and developing my own work.

One of the most helpful aspects of sketching in a personal sketchbook for me, is that I have the freedom to document these mistakes without the pressure to display my artwork on a wall. Of course, if I share my work online, that is an equivalent to hanging it on a wall – but ultimately I have the decision whether people see it or not.

I have learned to accept my mistakes a lot more since I’ve been keeping a sketchbook, and when I realise that I have made a mistake mid-sketch, I love the challenge of continuing on with confidence. Often great new things come out of mistakes.

A little while ago I share two different techniques for recovering from the ‘major mistake’ of running off the page  – it was a major mistake for me as an architect – “I should know better!” But today the mistake I want to share with you is a little bit more fundamental: Basically I can’t count to twelve! 


I start every sketchbook with a sketch of my palette – so I have plenty of experience in drawing these little rectangles – but for some reason I got myself in a tangle this time. My solution at the ‘oh! no! moment of realisation’ was to leave the extra rectangle blank, and keep going – with confidence! The result is an interesting composition but I think was a better solution than if I tried to add some additional lines and patch up the mistake.

I know my title is a little misleading… I don’t set out to make mistakes but I am confident that it is all ok when they come!


While preparing this blog post I was wondering when I started my tradition of a palette title page and it was back in June 2009. It is interesting to see how much my palette was a bit of ‘a kitchen sink’ back then. It was early days though and I hadn’t started the process of refining my selection – I was more in the collection stage! I also hadn’t tried any Daniel Smith paints yet!

If you missed it, my current selection of watercolour paints (as seen in the top photo) has been ‘locked in’ for three months. Click here for more about that and if you want to know what my current pigments are.

I would love to hear how you cope with mistakes in your own sketchbook. BTW if you haven’t realised by now, my general solution is laugh at myself, turn the page and do a second sketch! I later reflect on my mistake and then the next day, keep sketching!

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