Well, although I’ve written about the topic of failed paintings a few times before, I thought that I’d return to it today.
This was mostly because, despite attempts to salvage it with various digital effects, the heavy metal-themed painting that I’d prepared a few hours before writing this article was something of a failure. Seriously, it looks like a piece of badly-made abstract art! Here’s a preview of it:
So, how do you deal with the emotions that can appear when a painting you had high hopes for ends up turning into absolute rubbish?
1) Don’t judge yourself: Although it’s always useful to think about the reasons why a painting failed (so that you can try to avoid the same mistakes in the future), try to remember that you are more than just one painting. In other words, don’t judge yourself.
One failed painting, or even a hundred failed paintings, doesn’t mean that you are a failure. All it means is that you either had a bad day/week/month/year, that you need to learn/practice more or that you made some kind of technical mistake in that one painting. It doesn’t make you any less of an artist. All artists make failed paintings (even if many don’t show them off). Failure is an essential part of being an artist.
The fact that you actually finished a painting, however badly it turned out, means that you’re more of an artist than many people. The fact that you care about the fact that your painting didn’t turn out well means that you’re more of an artist than many people. So, don’t judge yourself. You are an artist! Just work out what went wrong and then get on with making the next painting as soon as you can.
2) Remember, it won’t last forever: One of the good things about practicing art regularly for several years is that you start to see patterns and trends. The main one of these is that periods of failure and/or uninspiration don’t last forever! In my experience, they usually only tend to last a few days or a couple of weeks at the very most.
So, if you keep making art, there’s a very good chance that you’ll end up making a good work of art again. In fact, that chance increases with every subsequent “failed” painting that you make – for the simple reason that repeated failure will prompt you to either try new things or to work out a way to get around the failure.
The only way that a period of artistic failure and/or uninspiration can last forever is if you give up and don’t make art again. But, if you keep making art, then – even if it takes a while – you’ll start making better art.
3) Congratulate yourself: After you’ve made a failed painting, it can be easy to feel that you aren’t very good at making art. Ironically, if you feel this emotion, then it probably means that you are at least slightly good at making art.
Why? Because you’re probably comparing your failed painting to other paintings that you’ve made, some of which are probably reasonably good. And, if you made those good paintings, then that means that you are good at making art. If you weren’t, then you wouldn’t have made those other paintings.
Think about it this way. If you’re an absolute beginner at making art – then failure doesn’t usually feel too bad. Since you’re new, you don’t expect to produce something great instantly. So, although failure can be annoying, it doesn’t feel too bad because it’s an expected part of the learning process. However, if you’ve been making art for a while, then failure can feel bad… because you’ve made good art before. So, feeling bad about failure means that you are already good at making art.
The other important thing to remember is that everything is relative. A terrible painting that you make today will probably still look better than a good painting that you made a few years ago. Feeling bad about making a failed painting just means that your painting is a failure in comparison to the good paintings you’ve made within the past year or so.
So, if a failed painting makes you feel miserable, then congratulate yourself. It means that you are a good artist – even if you’ve had a bad day or an uninspired moment.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂