Your Mistakes Are Your Practice

Laura Quilligan
3 min readMar 16, 2021

Every morning I have flocks of Robin Redbreasts in my yard eating the berries from the Russian Olive Tree. It’s really cool to see these Robbins trotting through the yard. They stand up really straight and they remind me to stand up straight when I see them. They have this very confident and proud kind of vibe. Being a keen observer of our surroundings helps us to stay connected and grounded to our day.

One of the things that is most important in the creative process is allowing mistakes to occur without judgment.

Your mistakes are your practice, and not failures.

I have been creating pen and watercolor drawings as greeting cards for my Etsy site. I really enjoy the simplicity of the medium. It’s far different from silk painting that I’ve been doing for 19 years. The different medium is interesting and fun, a smaller format, and using paper as my painting surface.

I recently did a piece for a greeting card that seemed too dense and aggressive. I used bold markers, instead of fine line markers. I finished it, but it didn’t reflect my “softer” version of reality. I saw the bold aggressive marks, and realized that at that moment I was somewhat anxious while drawing the image. I didn’t like the composition placement as well. After I finished it, it wasn’t soft enough. The feeling of it was somewhat harsh. It showed me that I didn’t want to feel harsh and aggressive, and needed to reframe my thinking.

It was important that I saw the drawing as practice, rather than a mistake or failure.

Art making is a reflection of your mindset at that point in time. It’s an interesting way to observe your mind when you make marks or paint. This reflection of your mindset occurs most often in the Expressive Arts hands on art practices. When I saw the drawing I realized that I would like to soften down my thinking, so that it encourages and supports me in thinking in softer tones.

The “softer tones’’ thinking supports a healthier viewpoint. I do like bold lines, and expressionism, but at this time in 2021, for me, it’s a good practice. After observing the bold lines piece that I drew, I realized that it’s not the direction I wanted to go in. As a practice rather than a mistake, it gave me insight as a way to understand my focus and decision of pursuing “softer” lines. This realization also occurred after seeing a watercolor I did 15 years ago. The image was soft, calm and I wanted to return to this style.

While I was in production for 18 years painting hundreds of silk scarves and kimonos, I always tried to move on to the next blank piece of silk in order to start again, if I didn’t like it or felt I had made a mistake. This is how I learned that mistakes are your practice. This is most true in the creative arts whereby moving on to the next canvas or paper, and not dwelling on any type of mistake that you thought you made.

There are literally no mistakes in the expressive arts.

This concept is very different from working in a traditionally trained art medium, usually to show and sell to the public. What art schools teach is based on decades of formal art principles such as; composition, value, perspective, color palettes, and rendering. This relates to painting and drawing. So making a mistake in an art class, can require a pivot to understand the principles of the lesson. However, the best art teachers will acknowledge the importance of mistakes as a practice in all the art lessons.

If you need to make loud, harsh, and aggressive marks it’s just a reflection of how you are feeling at the time. If you are feeling calm, serene, and soft, that too is a reflection of your moment in time. Both are equally valid.



Laura Quilligan

Artisan, certified Kaizen Muse Creativity Coach. Your creativity is a journey of courage and perseverance. I can help with your blocks.