Beautiful Oops! Making Accidental Art

As the program “Beautiful Oops” concludes its last session, it is nice to reflect on how wonderful the past six weeks have been at the McGoldrick library. Throughout the program, art educators Hana Joo and Jennifer Oppito have been exploring the book Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg and showing the students that “It’s fine to make mistakes!” Each week the art educators used different materials including newspaper, watercolors, cellophane, oil pastels and even kaleidoscopes to encourage their students to explore art making through sensory based directives.   


Setting up art materials for Beautiful Oops!


 During one of the weekly sessions, the students were guided in making art out of ripped newspaper. One of the little boys, Emmanuel, created paper balls and called them different animals, he made a tiger shark, a fish etc. His mother Jessica worked side by side with him and really facilitated his creativity. When they first came in, Jessica shared that he has been really into war books and learning about tanks, so while Emmanuel was making his animal balls, she was creating a tank for him as a gift. The end result was great, a framed tank with animals on the boarder protecting it. Emmanuel was really pleased with the result of all of his hard work and it was absolutely wonderful to watch him engage in art, where no mistakes can be made!   

Emmanuel admiring his tanks.

Emmanuel admiring his tanks.

Crumpling up newspaper.



Utilizing ripped paper is only one of the many ways to make art inspired by Saltzberg’s book.  Educators introduced the idea of making art from stains.  In the book, Saltzberg encourages readers to find a form in the stain made by a coffee cup. As the reader lifts the flaps over the stain, an elephant emerges.  Our children were given various stain making liquids such as cherry coolaid, coffee, hot cocoa and green tea. The deliciously smelling liquids were paired with the actual fruits and grinds they represented.  Then children were encouraged to utilize the liquids as a watercolor pallet to make their art.  They applied the stains with objects such as marker caps to allow the forms to emerge accidently.  Then using watercolor crayons students were encouraged to find a form in their “Oops,” or just enjoy it as is"€¦very Avant Garde!   


Students making art from stains.


Towards the end of each weekly session, the students’ artwork was held up, in which then, the kids had to recognize their own masterpiece and would receive a prize for doing such great work for the day. One of the participants, Daniella, couldn’t believe that her work would be in a Gallery and was so excited about it! Her mother shared with us that when she was little, she told her mom “Maybe you can make a room for me to hang all of my art work and we can invite everyone to come look at it”- Now we can see her dream is finally coming true for all to see!  

Kristina showing off her newspaper and tissue paper Tiger.

One of the main unique elements of the “Beautiful Oops” program is that the students were able to explore resources that they have readily available to them at home and use them in a new way. ArtAccess Educator Jennifer Oppito, observed that this opportunity opened up the lines of communication, making socialization inevitable. The students took advantage of the materials presented and were interested in how each other were handling the materials. They were able to be involved in something new and exciting together to help them to build a sense of community and being part of a group. By utilizing the libraries and making a space in the community available to students who would not ordinarily come together allows for a unique experience. Instructors noticed, the group members reacting to the multi-sensory input with the use of the different materials, music, and movement as opposed to a typical day at school where the students are asked to follow a specific curriculum looking for a specific result.   

ArtAccess Educator Jennifer Oppito demonstrating a student's work to their family.


Another great aspect about this program is that Hana introduced children to the Korean language and was available to support families who need the Korean language support.  Having Hana provide parent support in Korean was crucial to one of the participating families.  In our grant initiatives we want to provide programs with a second language support to meet the needs of our diverse community in Queens. In this way, we are able to extend our support to families who would otherwise be unable to participate in an English only program.  


ArtAccses Educator Hana Joo claps for the proud young artist and her mother.


When ArtAccess Educator Hana Joo, first showed me the book “Beautiful Oops!” I was immediately drawn to the concept of making art from mistakes.  In my work with children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, I found that just like most children, there is a stage when they really resist the idea that they are “wrong” or that they have made a mistake.  I think this happens often to children in special education settings because they are often redirected throughout the day for their behavior or their performance.  Just as the classroom is a place for learning appropriate behavior, the arts can be a place for learning that “chance” is an opportunity to see beauty in the unexpected.  Some might see the unexpected as a “mistake,” while artists often see the unexpected as an opportunity.  Saltzburg says, “When you think you’ve made a mistake think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful.” Learning that it’s fine to make mistakes is very important in developing problem-solving skills and flexible minds in all children.   


John watches his big sister as she creates a masterpiece.

Click on the link to see a 1 minute video presentation of the book, Beautiful Oops! with music by Barney Saltzberg   

I know Barney has been anxiously awaiting pictures from our program, as he has taken a personal interest in following us on Twitter.  I want to thank him for creating such an inspiring and thoughtful book for all children to enjoy. Barney Saltzberg, welcome to our community in Queens!   


An example of an Opps! turned into Art!