You Never Know Where That Little Splotch Might Lead You

Sumi Ink on Watercolor Paper

As a Calligrapher I work in ink almost all the time. Early on I learned that ink smears in all sorts of ways, leaves marks all over your hands and clothes and can ruin the best of your work. I was recently working on a piece and smeared, then got splotches, then said some very unladylike words. I did this piece on the smeared areas to remind myself that splotches happen.

Usually smears and splotches come when I have forgotten to be cautious, or I got impatient and worked on the lettering too soon, or got too enthusiastic and neglected to let the ink dry. Whatever the reason, over the years I have learned to embrace splotches. There is a saying among artists, make a mistake…it’s not a mistake, do something with it make it a feature! Being able to work with your own mistakes takes courage and letting go of perfection. As a lettering artist there are only so many times you can rewrite the text over again after making splotches.

Funny thing, now I actually have developed methods and tools to create splotches. I know how to “control” where the ink goes when I am splattering AND I have taught my artistic eye how to work around and with them when they arrive. It’s not always true that “control” works. Let’s just say I have become friends with splotches in whatever form they take.

There are these ‘happy accidents’ (as Bob Ross would say) in all sorts of things that we do. Being able to embrace them and not take it too personally shows great experience and wisdom. Some of the best work I have done has come out of a splotch, a goof, a smear or just a mark I was not intending. They seem to be the pieces people like the most. There is something magical about being able to incorporate the random into work. Thinking on your feet, finding a solution, staying calm in the midst of a mistake, all of these take patience and experience. They also make us more human and allow others to relate to us as believable beings. No one is perfect, so using the unexpected is a gift. So embrace the splotches in your own work and let them take on a new path, one you may not have thought of or imagined. You never know where that little splotch might lead you.

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