Failed Paintings Happen. Here’s What To Do.


At the time of writing this article, I was extremely tired. I’d also tried to make an experimental painting, which was originally supposed to be a “traditional”-style painting (without any underlying ink drawing).

The original painting looked terrible and it was only after some extensive digital editing that I was able to make it look even vaguely ok. Here’s a reduced-size preview:

 The full-size painting will be posted here on the 12th October.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 12th October.

It was a failed painting. Failed paintings happen. Here’s what to do after you’ve made one:

1) Keep painting: If you stick to a regular practice schedule, then failed paintings will soon become less of an issue than you think. Yes, you’ll still make them every now and again but they won’t have the same emotional impact that they might have if you only make art occasionally.

Why? Because you’ll have a chance to make a better painting the next day (or three days, or week). Because, if you make art regularly, then your feelings of “failure” only last until you start the next painting. After all, you’ve probably learnt from your mistakes and will soon have a chance to make something better. At the very least, you can restore your confidence by painting something that you know you can paint well when you make your next painting.

If you practice regularly, then you’ll also get used to occasional failure relatively quickly. At the least, your regular practice will mean that you’ll have made a few good paintings in the past. Looking at these can reassure you that your failed painting was just an anomaly and that you shouldn’t judge yourself based on just one failed painting.

Likewise, sticking to a regular practice schedule means that you can’t be a perfectionist. It means that you’ll learn to leave your failed painting (after putting some effort into salvaging it) and move on to the next painting.

2) Remember, it happens to everyone: Even your favourite artists fail every now and then. Even the best artists on the planet make failed paintings every now and then.

However, the reason why you probably don’t think about the fact that your favourite artists also make failed paintings is because they rarely show them off. If an artist hides their failed paintings and only shows off the good ones, then they’ll be able to give the impression that they only make good art.

But, this doesn’t change the fact that every artist fails every now and then. Failure is an essential part of the learning process. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” artist who never produces a bad painting. There are just artists who show off their failures, and artists who don’t.

3) Salvage and post: The definition of “failure” is a very subjective thing. To use a musical metaphor, even a bad song by an accomplished band like Iron Maiden will still be miles better than a good song by a much more inexperienced band. Likewise, if you’ve been making art for a while, then your current “failed” paintings probably still look better than the “good” paintings you made a few years ago.

So, the best thing to do with failed paintings is often to try to salvage them as much as you can (either through traditional methods or through digital image editing) and then to post them online. This might sound counter-intuitive, but there’s a chance that your audience might have a different opinion about your painting. I’ll never forget the time in 2014 where I posted what I thought was a “failed” painting on here, only for it to receive more “likes” than many of my good paintings had.

Finally, if you’re worried about criticism, then don’t be. Generally, if someone is a fan of your work or another artist, then they’ll probably give you constructive criticism that can sometimes be useful. If someone doesn’t like your art, then they’ll probably just ignore it and look at something else instead. If someone leaves a non-constructive critical comment below your art, then just remember that it is one person’s opinion about that one piece of art (eg: such comments are best ignored or at least not taken personally).


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Awesome Ways To Fail Properly At A Creative Project

2017 Artwork how to fail brilliantly

Well, the evening before writing this instructional article, I failed wonderfully at making a new creative project.

I’d started this doomed project in order to shake myself out of the slight creative torpor that I’ve been in ever since I finished making the webcomic updates that will be posted here this month and early next month. It failed after an hour of planning and two hours of creative work.

It was partially based on an older idea I’d had and it was going to be an interactive comedy horror story (similar to the one I wrote for Halloween in 2015), but with comic panels instead of text decriptions. It was going to be a parody of classic survival horror videogames like “Resident Evil 1-3” and “Silent Hill 3” (as well as a few movies, like the first “Elvira” movie).

It would have looked a bit like this:

Here's one of the five and a half "pages" I actually made. And, yes, the 'standing in front of two doors' thing had already started to get boring by then...

Here’s one of the five and a half “pages” I actually made. And, yes, the ‘standing in front of two doors’ thing had already started to get boring by then…

But, despite my initial sense of disappointment when I realised that this project wasn’t going to work out, I didn’t feel too bad because I remembered (from previous failures) that there are several ways to turn failure into winning. So, what are they?

1) Remember that it’s practice: Failing at a creative project is one of those experiences that becomes less stressful with practice. In other words, once you’ve failed (and succeeded) a few times, then you’ll start to see failure as just an ordinary part of the creative process. Without failure, you can’t have success.

After all, for every successful project idea you have – there are probably at least one or two previous failed (or abandoned) ideas that have helped to pave the way for your successful project.

So, see failure as practice. Don’t see it as a waste of time or a disappointment. Just see it as practice and/or preparation for the successful project that you will eventually end up making at some point in the future.

2) Learn to fail early: Generally, the earlier you fail, the better. This is something that you’ll only truly learn through experience but, if you’re able to spot the warning signs of a failed project early, then you can save yourself a lot of stress by either correcting the problems or by abandoning the project completely.

These warning signs will be different for everyone, but they’re something that you’ll learn to spot quickly after you’ve failed quite a few times. Yes, you might try to ignore them at first (like I did when I was planning my failed interactive comic), but you’ll hopefully still be able to spot them fairly early.

If you fail early then, although you might feel disappointed for a little while, you’ll also feel like you dodged a bullet. Not only that, you’ll be able to think of and start your next project idea even more quickly (and enthusiastically) than you would if you’d devoted days or weeks to a doomed project idea.

3) Do a post-mortem: This is a fairly basic and well-known piece of advice, and it’s well-known for a reason. It works! Basically, just take a deep and honest look at why your project failed. Even if you’re overcome with feelings of disappointment, then this is still worth doing for reasons I’ll explain in the next paragraph.

The trick here is to not only learn some lessons from your failure, but to also remind yourself that the project probably couldn’t have succeeded in it’s current state anyway. In other words, it also helps you to feel less disappointed for the simple reason that, with the flaws in the project, it couldn’t have succeeded anyway.

This is easier to do if you’ve failed a few times before, since you’ll know what kinds of mistakes to look out for. But, even if it’s your first time, then try to find as many mistakes (eg: with regard to structure, timing, planning, your motivations, what you don’t know etc..) you can and then try to work out how you can avoid them in future.

For example, one of the many reasons why my interactive comics project failed was because I thought that making interactive comics was similar to both writing interactive fiction and making traditional webcomics. It isn’t!

It requires a totally different approach to characterisation, storytelling and humour. Although I tried to work this out as I went along ( resulting in a two-dimensional, and constantly sarcastic, main character), I hadn’t really put enough thought into it.

4) Salvage: In order to reduce any feelings of loss you might be experiencing, try to salvage as much as you can from your failed project. Even if the only thing that you salvage are a few lessons about what to do differently next time, then your failure isn’t a complete loss.

For example – if you’ve got decent artwork from your failed project, then see if there’s any way that you can re-purpose it. If you’re project is writing-based, then see if you can turn any of the parts you’ve made so far into a short story. If you’ve got a blog, then write about your failed project (like I’m doing right now).

There are lots of ways that you can salvage something from the ruins of your failed project but, even if the only things you salvage are experience and knowledge, then your failure won’t be a complete loss.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

The Joy Of… Trial And Error

2014 Artwork Trial And Error article sketch

As ways of learning how to do new stuff go, trial and error is often overlooked. This is understandable in situations where making an error could cause serious problems, but when it comes to things like art and image editing – the risk of a making a major error is often outweighed by both the benefits of making something cool (if you succeed) and learning new stuff (if you fail).

And, let’s face it – trial and error is more about errors than anything else.

So, why should you bother learning new creative things through trial and error, rather than just searching for a guide online?

Well, for starters, it’s a lot more fun. This is why, for example, fiendishly difficult old computer games are often a lot more enjoyable than their dumbed-down modern counterparts.

You might get “stuck” on one level of a game for days – but, when you finally figure out a way to win – it’s far more satisfying than just strolling through an simply-made level which has no real challenge to it. And, well, the same thing is true when it comes to creating art too.

Yes, you could just look for a guide to how to do something online (and, if you’re in a hurry or you absolutely can’t get anything wrong, then this might not be a bad idea). But, if you’ve got some time to spare then it might be worth trying to figure it out for yourself and trying to see whether you can solve the puzzle. Trust me, it’s way more fun when you eventually do.

The second reason why trial and error is such a good way to learn new things is that not only does it mean that you’ll memorise what you’ve learnt far more effectively (because you’ve actually had to work out how to do it, rather than just reading about how someone else did it) but it also means that you might inadvertently learn more than you expected to learn too.

For example, if you’re messing around with an image editing program in order to work out how to create transparancies, then you might also try out a few other features in the program whilst you’re doing this and accidentally learn something new. In fact, I actually wrote about doing exactly this a few months ago.

Finally, learning by trial and error also means that you’ll become less worried about failure too. After all, if you’re terrified of failing at anything artistic, then you’re not really going to try out anything new.

If you’re an artist, your ideal reaction to failure should be a combination of mild annoyance and a desire to find out what exactly went wrong (and learn from it). But, if even the idea of failing at something makes you turn away, then you’re never going to learn anything.

So, get used to failing – because you can’t really succeed unless you fail first. And, of course, every failure teaches you something new too.

In fact, here are a couple of my recent failures just to show you that even someone with a couple of years of art experience can still fail from time to time:

"Frozen Summer" By C. A. Brown

“Frozen Summer” By C. A. Brown

This is a painting called “Frozen Summer” I made a few weeks ago. I mostly made it in order to practice drawing and painting realistic ice on a variety of surfaces – and, well, I failed miserably at it.

There aren’t enough reflections in the road in the middle of the picture and the reflections on the frozen pavements are completely random and unrealistic too. Likewise, the hedges in the background have far too much frost on them and not enough detail.

So, yes, this picture was a total failure – but at least I tried. And, although I might still not know exactly how to draw or paint realistic icy surfaces, at least I now know what not to do.

The other failure that I made recently was actually going to be the subject of today’s article… if I hadn’t failed miserably at it.

Since I got a pair of old-fashioned “red and blue” 3D glasses a few weeks ago, I thought that I’d try to see if I could turn some of my art into 3D images using colour corrections, layers and transparency in an image editing program called “GIMP“.

Since I guessed that it wouldn’t be too different to making stereoscopic images, I thought that I could do it quickly and then write an article about it. Alas, it wasn’t as easy as I thought and I ended up with something that looked like this:

Yes, it's JUST as two- dimensional if you're wearing 3D glasses.

Yes, it’s JUST as two- dimensional if you’re wearing 3D glasses.

And, whilst I haven’t learnt a huge amount about how to make 3D images from this attempt at it – the fact that I’ve failed has made me more curious about how to succeed. And, it’s also made me wonder about whether I should try using other image editing programs for some parts of the process.

So, yes, trial and error might be more about making errors than anything else – but don’t overlook it.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Things To Do After You’ve Drawn A Terrible Picture

2014 Artwork Terrible Pictures Three Tips Sketch

As I’ve probably said before, if you’re serious about art and you practice regularly (and put your work online to keep yourself motivated) – then you’re going to produce “failed” pieces of work occasionally.

You’re going to produce terrible pictures, abysmally badly-drawn pictures, uninspired pictures and awful pictures. It happens.

Hell, it even happened to me when I was preparing tonight’s painting. Here’s a preview:

The full picture will be posted later this evening....

The full picture will be posted later this evening….

However, the most important thing isn’t that you’ve made a terrible picture – it’s what you do afterwards.

It’s perfectly ok to feel disappointed for a few minutes, especially if you’ve put some time into your “terrible” picture. But you’ve got to stop that disappointment from turning into despair.

Disappointment is a temporary thing which is a perfectly normal reaction to producing something crappy. Despair, on the other hand, is a much more drawn-out and chronic thing that can completely ruin your creativity for at least a few hours, days or even weeks if you aren’t careful.

So, how do you stop your disappointment from turning into a full-blown attack of despair? Here are three things that might help…

1) Take a look at some of the good stuff that you’ve produced in the past: Yes, if you’re feeling disappointed, then your first thought when you do this will probably be “I’ll never make something as good as that again” or “I was having a good day back then“.

The whole point of looking at your good stuff is to remind you that you are indeed capable of producing great stuff. Yes, you might have been having “a good day” then, but all this really means is that you’re having a bad day today – it will pass.

2)Try to learn from your terrible picture: Study your failed picture like a detective examining a crime scene and try to work out what went wrong.

It might be that the perspective is off, it might have been that you just didn’t have any good ideas when you started drawing, it might be that there isn’t enough interesting stuff in the background or it might just be that you need more practice at drawing something or someone.

Yes, this sounds like the kind of trite advice that you’ve probably heard a million times before – but there’s a reason why people say this all the time. And it’s not what you might think….

The real reason why it’s a good idea to study your failed pictures and work out where you went wrong isn’t really because it’ll help you learn new stuff but because it’ll make your feel like your failed picture wasn’t a complete loss.

In other words, even when you fail– you’ll still get something out of it.

3) Put it online anyway: Yes, you heard me correctly. If you don’t like putting your art online, then be sure to show it to someone in person.

This might seem like the last thing that you want to do – since you think that your picture is horrible. But, as I’ve said in another article, you can never quite predict how people will react to your work. In other words, some people might actually like your failed picture….

"Brighton - Sunset Station" By C. A. Brown

“Brighton – Sunset Station” By C. A. Brown

This happened to me in July with a painting of mine called “Brighton- Sunset Station”. I absolutely hated this painting and I considered it to be a complete failure – but, when I posted it on here, it got something like eleven “likes”, which is probably the most that I’ve ever got for one of my pictures.

And, if this doesn’t happen and people don’t like your failed picture – then, don’t worry. After all, you don’t like it either – so you can actually agree with your critics for once.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Copyright-Free Clipart (Or My Failed Attempt At Making It)

2014 Artwork article sketch Copyright Free Clipart

Well, since I couldn’t think of a good idea for a proper article today, I thought that I’d try (and fail) to make some clip art using this interesting guide I found online (which also taught me an easier way to create transparency in images too – although I don’t know if the transparency works or not in these images).

Unfortunately, I messed up the brightness/contrast levels for the last two images (so they look kind of pale), but I’m quite proud of the first four clipart images though.

Since these are just the result of me messing around and trying out something new, I’ve decided to release these six clipart images without copyright. Since, if anyone can actually find them useful, I don’t want to get in the way.

Hat, Cane And Monacle Clipart

Hat, Cane And Monacle Clipart

8 Ball clipart

8 Ball clipart

Polka Dot Dress Clipart

Polka Dot Dress Clipart

High Heels Clipart

High Heels Clipart

Pale Tortoise Clipart

Pale Tortoise Clipart

Old Book Clipart

Old Book Clipart

Sorry about the filler article today, hopefully I’ll write a proper article tomorrow.