Monday, November 19, 2012

On Mistakes

Yesterday, I wrote about how I went to the fine art museum at the Bellagio, and that I saw Grainstacks at Sunset, a painting I mention in Across the Universe. I saw another painting, and it really struck me as amazing, and I want to talk about it now.


This painting, Woodgathers at the Edge of the Forest by Monet in 1863 was one I barely glanced at when I started wandering through the collection. I thought there was an odd shadow in it, but thought nothing of it. Fortunately, the docent tour started soon after, and the docent spoke about this one specifically.

See, if you look at the painting just right, you can see the faint remains of a tree sprouting right in the middle of the painting.

I've looked online (to no avail) to find a detailed image of this. It's the sort of thing you'd NEVER see unless you just happened to be standing in the right corner, when the light hits it just so. And suddenly, you can't help but see the perfect outline of a tree hidden behind the blue paint of the sky and the green of the grass.

It was there. Monet just edited it out.

It was sort of amazing to see a mistake in a work of art by Monet. We see the end result, and we often forget the work that goes into it. There's a saying--it's been going around Pinterest but I can't find it atm--about how we usually judge others by their end results whereas we're still looking at our own finished products. It's easy to see how brilliant others are when all we see is the finished result. I read books sometimes and I stand in awe of their brilliance and despair of my own work. But I am looking at my tree that I've yet to cover up with paint.

8 comments:

Beth said...

Love this! It's so nice to be reassured that effortless, first draft perfection is not the goal.

Natalie Aguirre said...

So true Beth. Thanks for reminding us that even the brilliant authors have those mistakes to hide or fix.

Phoebe North said...

I used to paint, too (wish I still did, more!), and it always seemed to me to be a sculpting art rather than a linear art--one where the final piece is fluid, where you add and take away until you get something that looks right, regardless of if it was your initial intention. And so my instinct isn't to call this a mistake but part of the process--one that perhaps makes the end result richer.

Actually, that's a pretty nice way to think about writing, too. Words are never wasted--they enrich the final book, even if they're just telling us what NOT to do.

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story man said...

Indeed. Even great people make tiny mistakes. Moral of the story:

"You can make small mistakes !"

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Nickie said...

Well said. I've kept a copy of my first draft so that I can go back and see all the 'paint' added to fix the mistakes. It's easy to lose track of how much writing improves after each round of drafting/editing.

Bonnie Rae said...

Amen to this post and that painting!