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  • Jane Anne Woodhead

Fixing Mistakes

Updated: Aug 14


This is a plein air painting that was supposed to be part of a show a few months ago. I ended up not using it, so it’s been sitting in my studio ever since,

banished to the dark recesses of the many stacks of failed paintings.


This view is from along the Murdock Canal Trail which is an 11 mile stretch of running, walking, and biking trails across northern Utah County. It’s one of my favorite places. I run along this trail three days a week and will often go there to paint. It has become a place of refuge for me. You will usually fine me there in the early morning when it’s quiet and not too crowded, where I can ponder about life and the day ahead of me. If I happen to be painting, I will try to convey through the paint, my observations that come with the gratitude I feel for the beauty I see around me.

I’ve met some really nice people along the way too, some of whom have become Instagram friends. A few weeks ago while I was painting along the trail, a famous artist, Gary E. Smith walked by with his wife and they stopped to talk. We had a nice conversation and he was kind enough to give me a bit of a critique, for which I was grateful. So, I’ve had some pretty memorable experiences along this trail, but it can be frustrating when what I want to convey in a painting, does not produce the hoped for result. My skills seem to fall short of what my eye sees.


One day a few weeks ago, I was looking at all the piles of paintings in my studio, most of which won’t ever see the light of day, and I was frustrated that there weren't more paintings I could use for shows. I had a distinct thought that I should look at them again, but this time, try to figure out why they weren’t working. I needed to study and learn from them and maybe if I looked carefully, there might be a few that had potential after all. As I started flipping through them with that thought in mind, something interesting happened. I started to look at those “failures” in a different way. I started to see the paintings differently. I began to discover some things I could change that would help them become better paintings. I started to see potential, and I got excited about painting again.


















This plein air painting is the first one I pulled from all of the piles. I spent more time on it and tried to solve some of the problems. It’s still not a perfect painting, but I’ve changed a few things and I think it’s a little better. I’m now taking some time to work on other failed attempts to see what I can learn from them. What I’m finding is that I am becoming a better observer and I actually have more paintings that have potential than I thought. It’s been, in some strange way, refreshing. I’ve been able to see the progress I’ve made over the last several years, and that there is more potential in my work because of the mistakes.

I think that’s how life can be sometimes too. I have found that when I am intentional about learning from my mistakes and failures, rather than burying, ignoring, or getting discouraged by them, I begin to see more potential, not only in myself, but in others too. Sometimes all it takes is just a little tweaking and I am better able to see more of the good, rather than faults and imperfections. I am a better person because of my mistakes, not because I’ve tried to hide or bury them, but because I have learned from them. And I’m much more forgiving of others' mistakes and imperfections as well. It’s actually quite amazing.

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