Two Basic Ways To Cover Up A Failed Painting (Or Drawing)

As strange as it might sound, there’s nothing “bad” or “wrong” about making a failed painting (or drawing). Quite the opposite, in fact.

Making a failed painting means that you’ve dared to experiment with something new. Making a failed painting means that you’ve boldly and valiantly kept up your art practice even when you were feeling “uninspired”. Making a failed painting means that you are wisely following your imagination, even when it is miles ahead of your current skill level.

Unlike some other types of failure, failing at making a painting or a drawing is an honourable and noble thing. And, like with learning any skill, failure is a vital part of the process. However, your audience might not know this – so, here are two very basic tips for how to disguise your failed paintings.

1) Distract your audience!: Here’s a reduced-size preview of the digitally-edited painting that I made the day before I wrote this article:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 10th August.

Believe it or not, this is technically a failed painting. I’d originally planned to experiment with a different type of perspective, and I messed it up. This is probably most noticeable if you look carefully at the woman on the left-hand side of the painting – not only is she extremely tall, but her arms are too long and her hips are in completely the wrong place. In terms of perspective, proportion and anatomy – this painting gets a solid “F”.

But, you might not have noticed this if I hadn’t pointed it out. Why? Well, because of all of the other stuff happening in the painting….

There’s an ominous-looking hand in the foreground holding an old phone that appears to be haunted. Above, rain pours down dramatically. The badly-drawn woman stares intently at a retro-futuristic internet kiosk. A mysterious punk guy lingers in the background, smoking something. The arch of a music festival arena towers over the scene, with the stage tantalisingly obscured. Finally, the position of the hand and the slight curves at the edges of the painting hint at the fact that the painting is from the perspective of someone who is fainting or dying from fright.

If your painting contains enough visual storytelling, mystery, intriguing details and/or other attention-grabbing things, then your audience are a lot less likely to notice the parts of the painting where you’ve completely and utterly failed.

It’s a bit like stage magic. Most stage magicians rely heavily on misdirection in order to trick the audience, and you can use it too to disguise failed paintings.

2) Image editing: If you are posting your art online, then you can always try to cover up your mistakes using image editing software. After all, even if you make traditional art, then you’ve still got to digitise it (with a scanner or a digital camera) before you post it online.

If you don’t have an image editing program, then you can legally download a free open-source one called “GIMP” (GNU Image Manipulation Program) here. Although there are too many sneaky ways to disguise failure with image editing programs to list here, I’ll mention two of the basic ones.

If you’ve messed up the colours in your painting or drawing, then most editing programs allow you to alter the colours. Look for the options titled “hue/saturation/lightness”, “RGB”, “colourise” etc.. and experiment with them on either the whole image or a selected part of the image.

Likewise, if you need to make small corrections look less noticeable, then look for feature called “pick colour”, “colour picker tool” etc… The icon for this feature usually looks like a pipette or a dropper in most programs.

What this feature does is that it allows you to click on any part of the image with the pipette, and the colour of your digital brush or digital pencil will change to the exact colour of the pixel that you clicked on. So, click on an area right next to the part of your picture that you want to correct.

What this means is that your corrections will be precisely the same colour as the surrounding area – this makes them a lot less noticeable. If you just use your editing program’s stock colours for corrections (or try to manually select the colour), then it’s probably going to be at least slightly different – and it will stand out from a mile away! So, use this tool when making small corrections!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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