Sometimes Art Happens

We all know about happy accidents when it comes to art. We’re drawing or painting and something happens, something we didn’t intend, but it looks good. We smile and appreciate our good fortune in having one of those happy accidents befall us. Maybe it’s the way our watercolor dripped and ran down the page. Maybe it’s a brushstroke in oil paint that wasn’t what we intended but which actually works better than what we meant to do. Maybe it’s just an odd graphite or charcoal mark that slipped onto a drawing. Whatever it is, we thank the art gods for smiling down upon us.

It’s part of what we might call art happenstance, one of those things that happens along the way as we go about the process of creating art.

There’s another sort of art happenstance, too. This sort of happy accident comes about when we least expect it, at times when we’re not even attempting to create art. It happened to me one morning recently after I’d played around with my watercolors a bit.

I don’t even remember what I was doing. Most likely I was painting some sort of landscape, but nothing was going right. I shrugged, set the painting aside, and went on to other things. But somehow, as papers shuffled around in my messy studio, the wet sheet I’d been working on got pressed up against something. I’m really not at all sure what happened or how it happened, but when I picked this up again and separated it from the other sheets of paper, I was left with an oddly-beautiful watercolor.

Now, let me say this. From the image below, you can’t really see the beauty in this. It is beautiful. It’s soft, delicate, ethereal. My first thought was “I’m looking at a fairy garden.” It has exquisite flower stalks, a suggestion of sunlight, and bits of colorful mists.

I can see the green leaves of a tree. I can see little puddles of water, so maybe this is an image after a rain. Of course, you might not see anything in it other than a mess, and if that’s your point of view, you’re right, too. So much of art — and life — depends on how we choose to look at it. I choose to see something lovely in this.

Messes do happen in art, and lately, as you know, I’ve been making a lot of messy art. But sometimes art happens, too. Maybe it takes a bit of imagination to see it and appreciate it, and I’d like to think that if you were here in my studio looking at this actual watercolor, you might also agree that it is art.

I can’t take credit for it. I want to believe that maybe there are happy little art fairies or gnomes or elves who come into our studio when we’re not looking, and when our backs are turned, they create little works of art for us to find.

I’m going to be a bit more watchful now, because I truly believe some mystical forces are at work here. I’m going to be more observant, quicker to see those little bits and pieces of art that just happen around the studio. And now, I think I know why things sometimes disappear — like those white charcoal pencils I’m always losing. Right now, I seem to have misplaced my Kuretake “dot markers” — and I’m wondering “How could I lose those?” I’m fairly sure the art fairies have absconded with them and are having lots of fun.

Yeah, this sounds silly, I know. But I do believe in art fairies! How about you?


  1. For all of us control freaks, this is a refreshing lesson in the art of letting go. Once I broke my right humerus but still had a costume design deadline. I knew my left hand wouldn’t have fine movement control (I could barely read numbers written with my left hand.) So I chose to use bigger paper than usual and dry media for simplicity. And to my surprise, I could make costume sketches good enough to communicate with the director using my left hand. Not expecting perfection was wonderfully freeing! I learned that, but soon forgot it! Perfectionism is a character failing!

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