Practice Makes Progress: What My Mistakes Look Like

Watercolor Mistakes Pin.jpg

We all know by now that most social media is just a snapshot in time and heavily curated to portray a beautiful and perfect lifestyle on screen. Meanwhile on the other side of that screen is real life. The messy, boring, ugly parts of real life.

This is true of creative work on social media too.

Now, before I write further, I just want to address one thing:

Anything creatively made is subjective. What one person thinks is beautiful another person could beg to differ.

Some people may say that my examples of “ugly” work are not ugly. However, I’m using my own work as examples to illustrate that practice makes progress - which hopefully can be seen from the photos!

When an artist is posting their work, it’s likely that they are showing their “best” most beautiful work. What’s not usually being posted are the mistakes and self-judged “ugly” work that isn’t deemed worthy of being seen.

What we see online and on social media is often times the final product rather than the journey it took to get there.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of doing that. I (usually) only post what I believe is good enough to warrant a spot in my digital space.

But here’s the thing that bothers me: As much as it can be a source of inspiration for others, it can also be very discouraging.

I know because it happens to me.

I browse the work of many artists that I admire and most of the time I feel inspired to keep learning and improving. But there are days that it has the complete opposite effect. Those are the days that feelings of inadequacy and disappointment hold me back.

And I know I’m not the only person that feels this way.

In those moments I fall victim to expecting myself to paint something perfect in the first attempt. I tell myself the story that these people I admire just whip out those paintings without making mistakes or needing to practice. So I should be able to do that too. The pressure of feeling like I should know exactly how to do it and execute a masterpiece in the first attempt sometimes causes me not to try in the first place.

So in hopes of encouraging the people looking at my work and thinking “I could never do that”, I want to share my mistakes. Because in real life, we all have to make mistakes and practice before we can make something that we are proud of.  

Below, I share three examples of paintings I felt inspired to try (that I never tried before) and what it looked like when I was figuring out how to paint them.

Painting splashy lips

Watercolor Lips

I decided I wanted to try painting lips in a loose style after seeing this post on instagram by @suzie_tse.

I fully expected to fail multiple times so I pretty much just “went for it” (an attitude I learned to adopt after taking my long creative break).

I made the first attempt and thought it was a failure (top left). So I moved on to the next (top right) and then the next (bottom). Well, turns out of the three, I felt like my first attempt looked the best. And that’s what ended up on social media.

I can’t even say for sure I know how to replicate what I did, but you’d better bet that I’ll be attempting this again...and again.

Painting Colorful Poppies

Can you tell I approached these practice attempts with reckless abandon? I feel like I just threw water and paint down on the paper to see if it would do what I wanted it to do (it did not).


But I did learn from it. I figured out how I wanted to paint the background first, and the flowers after. I got a better feel for the timing, so the paper wasn’t too wet or too dry. Even then, I still struggled with the final attempt. Again, what I ended up posting to social media (below) is no masterpiece (to me) but it’s closer to what I was trying to achieve.

Watercolor California Poppies


I saved the best for last. This one never made it to social media because it needs more practice. I’m not even sure you can tell what it is if I didn’t tell you.

Purple Watercolor Sky Practice
Purple Watercolor Skies

I’m still working on challenging myself to paint a cloud-filled moody sky the way I’ve seen it painted by artists I admire. But for now, these attempts were a good way to learn and get a feel for what I need to do next time I try to paint this.

I hope that seeing my mistakes and practice helps inspire you to go out and make your own mess. Trying new things, especially ones that we feel inspired to try, is a fun way to learn.

Did you enjoy seeing the messy mistakes and practice work? Let me know in the comments below if you thought this was encouraging/helpful.

Thanks for reading,