Well, since a couple of my recent paintings have been.. well… awful, I thought that I’d re-visit a subject that I last wrote about a few months ago. I am, of course, talking about what to do after you’ve made a terrible picture – like this one:
If you make art – then there are going to be times when you fail miserably. It happens to all of us since it’s impossible for an artist to produce literally nothing but masterpieces. And, any artist that claims that they do probably has a large stack of failed paintings and/or drawings hidden away somewhere.
So, failure isn’t the devastating thing that you might think it is when you look at your latest failed piece of art. Still, how can you deal with it? Here are a few tips:
1) Make something you know is going to be good: If you’ve just failed miserably at making a piece of art, then it can be easy to feel disheartened and to lose confidence in yourself. After all, you’ve poured a lot of effort into your artwork and you’ve probably had a clear mental image of what it will look like – only to be rewarded with something that looks absolutely terrible.
It can be enough to shake anyone’s confidence in their own artistic abilities. And, well, one of the best ways to win your confidence back is to produce something that looks great. But, how do you do that?
Simple, you do something that you feel is “easy” and/or almost guaranteed to produce good results. Of course, what exactly this is will vary from artist to artist – so you need to know what works for you.
For example, some artists might find painting still life pictures to be an almost impossible challenge, whereas other artists might find it a relaxing break from the difficult task of painting from their own imaginations.
Likewise, some artists might put a lot of thought and stress into making a piece of fan art, whereas other artists may just make fan art as a bit of light-hearted relaxation. Every artist is different, so make sure that you know what you personally find to be “easy” types of art to make.
2) Make something even worse: For me, failed paintings don’t usually exist in isolation. Usually, when I make something crappy, there’s a good chance that I’ll end up making a couple more crappy pictures before I finally start making good stuff again. Your own creative processes might be different to mine, but I’ve always found that failure attracts more failure.
So, how do you stop this turning into an unstoppable downward spiral? Simple, you produce something even worse that – to you at least – makes your original failed picture look good by comparison. This can be a very sneaky way to re-build your artistic confidence just enough to get back into the mood for producing better work.
For example, a day or so before I produced that terrible “pyramid” picture that I showed you earlier, I made another painting that I thought was kind of rubbish. It was a rather quick one that I produced when I was fairly tired and I was kind of disappointed by it when I’d finished:
But, although I still don’t see this picture as one of my best, I have a slightly better opinion of it now than I did before I produced my “pyramid” painting.
Why? Because my “puffer fish” picture actually has vaguely good composition, a slightly coherent colour scheme, vaguely realistic shadows and lots of other fairly basic things that were missing from my “pyramid” picture.
3) Get used to it and keep going: This might sound kind of harsh, but it isn’t supposed to be. You see, one of the great things about making art on a regular basis is that you get used to failing every now and then. It’s annoying when it happens, but it doesn’t feel like the end of the world.
Why? Because it’s happened to me quite a few times before over the past couple of years. And, every time, I know that I’ll end up producing good art again eventually. It might take a few days, it might even take a week. But I know that if I keep making art on a regular basis, then it will get better again.
And this has changed my entire perspective on artistic failure. Rather than seeing it as a personal failing of any kind, I see it as more like a spot of bad weather.
Yes, the weather in England may be searingly hot and annoyingly bright on a particular day, but no-one thinks that it will last forever. After all, the delightful gloom and vibrant rain will always return after a while.
But, well, you’ll only end up having a perspective like this if you keep making art on a regular basis – even during the times when you’re producing nothing but failed paintings. So, keep going!
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂