Managing Mistakes


It is inevitable that in the course of producing their wonderful art work, children will make mistakes.  For some children, this isn’t a big deal, they just carry on regardless and accept that imperfections are part and parcel of making art.  For other children, the fear of making  a mistake can be virtually paralysing, making them hesitant to a degree that results in work rarely being finished.  This is something I come across a lot in our After School clubs, particularly with older children.  To combat this, I have rationed the use of erasers and have been asking them to draw in black fine liner as often as possible.   Many find this scary at first as a mark made in the wrong place cannot be undone.  However, it forces them out of their comfort zones and eventually results in bolder, more confident ( and finished!) drawings.

I am not a complete meany though and obviously it is upsetting if a small mistake disturbs a picture that the child would otherwise be pleased with.  In this case, I am teaching the children a couple of ‘tricks’ to help them out.

The first if to see if they can change the mistake into something else and by doing so camouflage it.  One child at Art Club recently drew the line of a field through the trunk of a tree by accident and the horizontal line was upsetting her.  With my help she managed to add some bark textures to the trunk and in the process made the line all but disappear.  One happy artist!  Most small mistakes can be disguised in this way, all you need is a bit of imagination.

The other technique is to trace the picture minus the mistake and then carry on as if nothing happened!  This is a great way of preserving all of the elements the child is happy with while allowing them to ‘start over’ at the same time.  This can be done either directly onto another sheet of paper if it is thin enough to trace though or the image could be transferred using tracing paper.  This is also a handy method if the drawing is good but the composition has gone slightly awry.  Don’t like that tiger on the right side of the picture?  No worries – try him on the left!  Once children have been taught these techniques they feel quite liberated and the fear of mistakes diminishes greatly.  The irony is that most also find that the knowledge that they can remedy their mistakes increases confidence, hence less need for fixes!

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