Sometimes the internal pressure our youth feel to be perfect can prevent them from taking creative risks. They may feel like they would be wasting materials to even try to cover a canvas, or might repeatedly start over on new ones due to perceived flaws. To counteract this, we try to help our youth recognize their growth and gain confidence from their successes. At the same time, we reassure them that creative exploration doesn’t have to be about perfection. It’s okay to explore new materials and make a mess along the way.
At the end of our sessions we occasionally have leftover paint from the various projects made that day. To avoid wasting it, we may ask the youth to utilize a small canvas and re-purpose this paint into a work of art. It’s possible that they spent the session meticulously working on a detailed piece and felt the need to make it absolutely perfect. Being handed a random assortment of colors gives them the opportunity to explore without that self-criticism. This gives them one last opportunity for creative expression for the day while helping us clean up.
There are no rules to this activity. Some youth smear the palette of paint directly on the new canvas, creating swirls of colors. Others have used the small canvas to wipe the paint off their fingers and find new inspiration in the resulting image. Looking down at the finished pieces, our youth have discovered snakes, stars, and so much more hidden in their abstract expression. Not everything has to be planned, not everything has to be perfect. Like Bob Ross once said,
“We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”