Starting Over

Posted on September 1, 2014

“Augh! I messed up!  I want to start over!” exclaimed my son in a fit of frustration.  “I can’t draw.  Look this doesn’t look like an ice cream cone.”  My son Shane is a very bright eleven year old with a razor sharp memory.  He is used to things coming easily to him.  However, drawing and art are both challenging for him.  I can relate.  I was never good at drawing as a child and come to think of it, this is still the case.  I chalked it up to something that I just can’t do but I’ve been reading that most people aren’t great artists from birth and that one can learn to draw and paint.  It’s like riding a bike or any other skill.  We don’t put our kids in the driveway with a bike and say “ride!”  We incrementally teach them how with training wheels until they can build on their skills by themselves.   As I’ve witnessed my son struggle with class assignments and be demoralized, I’ve realized that this is an opportunity to help him and myself.

Mistakes in art can shed insight on mistakes in life. We all make mistakes.  We can be forgetful, irresponsible, and inconsiderate.   When faced with the consequences of our words or actions, there are many times when we would like to ‘start over’.   We want to wipe the slate clean as though the incident never happened.   If only we could just rip up the paper and pretend that it never happened.   Sigh, we know this is not possible but perhaps it’s not desirable.

As I have been studying how to teach art to kids, I’ve learned that if you make a mistake in a sketch, you can integrate it into a different kind of drawing.   Let’s say, for example, a line doesn’t go the way we intended, we can use that line for depth, texture, or to make the object into something bigger or different.   One author encourages kids not to use a pencil but rather a black sharpie so they can’t just erase their error.  By drawing with permanent black ink, the child is forced to be more thoughtful with their depictions and when a shaky line happens, they must integrate their ‘mistake.”

Amazingly, with the right frame of mind, the error in the illustration can make for a better drawing than originally intended.

It is the same for us.   Even though our mistakes may be permanent, by acknowledging and learning from them, we become better people than we were before.  When we are inconsiderate of our friend and they tell us of their hurt, we become more aware of the impact of our words.   When our spouse is upset that we forgot an event of significance, we learn what’s important to them.   When we yell or say something regrettable, we learn strategies in managing our temper.    Our mistakes when recognized can help become wiser and more compassionate.

My son took his error and finished his drawing.  He is learning to take his mistakes and integrate them into his pictures and his confidence is increasing.  May we be able to learn from our shortcomings, as we approach the High Holy Days, and work towards being better people this new year.