Why A Failed Painting Is Never A Total Failure – A Ramble

The afternoon before I prepared this article, I made a failed painting. It was meant to be a memory painting/self-portrait which would show me sitting in a room I used to live in. It was to be illuminated entirely by the streetlights/headlights outside the room, in order to create a cool “film noir”-like look.

Unfortunately, the final digitally-edited painting looked nowhere near as good as I’d hoped. Here’s a preview of it:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th October.

Still, as annoying as this was, it wasn’t a total failure for a number of reasons. After all, a failed painting is never a total failure. But, why?

Firstly, failure means that you’ve tried. This isn’t a “participation medal” motivational statement. It’s a fact. If you’ve failed at making a piece of art and you feel bad about it, then this means that you care about making art. It means that you want to make good art. It means that you have intrinsic motivation. So, your failed painting isn’t a total failure because it can remind you of how much you care about making good art.

Secondly, failure usually means that you’re trying something new or different. For example, the painting I showed you gave me a chance to try out a slightly different technique for painting light and rain. If you look at this close-up of the window, you’ll see that the raindrops surrounding the headlights are the same colour/brightness as the headlights.

The raindrops surrounding the headlights are brighter and/or more yellow than the raindrops in the background. I’m surprised I didn’t think of doing this before…

Although the painting as a whole wasn’t great, it gave me a chance to experiment with new lighting techniques. Which means that, when I make a good painting, I’ll be able to make it at least slightly better by using this technique (if I remember to use it). So, failed paintings usually mean that you’re learning new stuff.

Thirdly, a failed painting is never a total failure because failure is relative. If you’ve been making art for a while, then there’s a good chance that your current “failed” paintings will still look better than the “good” paintings you made when you were less experienced. In other words, a failure can remind you of how far you have come as an artist (and how far you still have to go).

Fourthly, a failed painting is never a total failure because you actually made it. Seriously, even a failed attempt at painting or drawing something is much, much better than just thinking “I can’t do that” and doing something else instead.

So, even if the painting turned out badly, you still made it. You still followed your inspiration or tried to challenge yourself or something like that. In other words, you did more than 99% of people probably would have done.

Finally, a failed painting is never a total failure because it can teach you what not to do. If you’re able to work out why you failed, then you can use these lessons to improve your next painting.

For example, in the failed painting I showed you earlier in this article, it failed because I got the composition wrong (eg: I should have used a “camera angle” that included two windows) and because I was a little bit over-enthusiastic with my use of shadows in some parts of the picture.

Yes, it can be easy to forget the lessons you learn from a failed painting. But, even if you have to fail ten times before you learn something, each failed painting you make will teach you something.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

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Failed Paintings Happen. Here’s What To Do.

2017-artwork-failed-paintings-happen

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).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

Four Logical Reasons Why Other People Seem To Like Our “Failed” Paintings (Or Drawings)

2017 Artwork Why Do Other People Like Our Failed Paintings

It’s a long-standing clichΓ© that artists are their own worst critics. There’s a lot of truth to this, if my own pessimistic thoughts are to be believed about a digitally-edited painting that I made a few hours before writing this article (and consider to be a “failure”).

The full-size painting will be posted here in early February, but here’s a reduced-size preview:

Ironically, it actually looks mildly better at a lower resolution. But, the proportions are wrong and my attempts to make the background look more interesting (via digital editing) have actually made it even more boring!

Ironically, it actually looks mildly better at a lower resolution. But, the proportions are wrong and my attempts to make the background look more interesting (via digital editing) have actually made it even more boring!

Still, if experience has taught me anything, there’s a significant chance that other people will actually like it. Every artist has probably experienced something like this once or twice. We make what we think is a failed painting, only for other people to really like it (either online or in real life). In fact, our failures can sometimes prove to be more popular than our successes.

So, what are the reasons for this strange phenomenon? Here are a few possible explanations:

1) We judge our art relatively, the audience doesn’t: Generally, when you make a terrible painting, you don’t plan to make a terrible painting. You plan to make a really cool/interesting/detailed/dramatic painting. But, somewhere along the way, something goes wrong and the painting ends up being a massive disappointment.

However, it’s important to remember that the only person who knows what the painting should have looked like is you. To you, the painting is a disappointment because it failed to meet your expectations. To everyone else, it’s just a painting.

No-one else sees what we imagined that our paintings “should” look like. As such, they judge the painting on it’s own merits. Since they don’t have another imagined version of it to compare it with, then they are slightly more likely to think of it as a “good” painting if you’ve had a bit of art practice….

2) You’ve had practice: Many people who look at art online aren’t artists. As such, if you’ve had a bit of art practice, then you’ll probably still end up producing something that looks like “art” even when you fail miserably.

What, to you, seems like the depressing product of 1-2 wasted hours (or more) might also look like something that has been produced by someone with more art skills than some members of the audience have. As such, they are just as likely to be impressed by one of your “failures” as they are by one of your “successes”.

In addition to this, try comparing one of your current “failures” to one of your “successes” from a couple of years ago. Because of all of the additional practice you’ve had during those years, there’s a very good chance that your new “failure” will actually look significantly better than your old “successful” painting does. If people liked that old painting, then there’s a good chance that they’ll also like your new painting.

3) There are worse failures out there:
Regardless of how bad you think that your painting looks, there is almost certainly a worse one out there on the internet. There’s a 100% chance that your audience have also seen worse paintings than yours at one point in their lives. It’s a universal truth that, whatever you do, there will always be both someone better at it than you and someone worse at it than you. Everyone is somewhere in the middle.

We often judge our “failed” paintings in comparison to the “good” paintings that we’ve seen and/or made. The audience judges it compared to every other painting that they’ve ever seen. As such, because the standards are different, they’re more likely to have a positive opinion about your “failed” painting than you will. They’ve almost certainly seen far worse.

4) Different people have different tastes: Back in 2014, I’d planned to make a bold and vibrant high-contrast picture of an underpass near the train station in Brighton. Due to my lack of understanding about colour theory, and a catalogue of other failures, the final painting ended up being a drab confusing mess (with terrible perspective too!)…

"Brighton - Sunset Station " By C. A. Brown [2014]

“Brighton – Sunset Station ” By C. A. Brown [2014]

And, yet, when I posted it online, it quickly racked up more “likes” than many of my “good” paintings do. Whilst my own preferences are for bold high-contrast art, I guess that a lot of people either like more muted art or art that has a vaguely abstract look to it.

At the end of the day, different people have different tastes. So, whilst you might consider one of your paintings to be a “failure” because it somehow didn’t end up fitting into your own idea of what a “good” painting should look like, it might accidentally fit into someone else’s definition of a “good painting”.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Even More NEVER SEEN BEFORE Failed Paintings From My Sketchbooks :)

2015 Artwork sketchbooks November sketch

Well, I was kind of stressed out a while before I was going to write today’s article (due to technical issues. On the plus side, I now know how to oil a computer fan). So, instead of an actual article – here are four “never seen before” failed paintings from my sketchbook. None of these pictures got past the initial drawing stage, but I hope that they’re interesting.

Originally, I'd planned to make an extra painting for Halloween. It would have been a "Left 4 Dead" fan art piece, featuring the characters from my "The Horror At Hardtalon Hall" comic. Unfortunately, I was too busy with the comic at the time to really finish this painting.

Originally, I’d planned to make an extra painting for Halloween. It would have been a “Left 4 Dead” fan art piece, featuring the characters from my “The Horror At Hardtalon Hall” comic. Unfortunately, I was too busy with the comic at the time to really finish this painting.

This was going to be a painting of a private detective but, for some reason, I lost enthusiasm/inspiration shortly after starting it.

This was going to be a painting of a private detective but, for some reason, I lost enthusiasm/inspiration shortly after starting it.

This was going to be a painting set on a rainy mountaintop of some kind. But, I think that I was feeling uninspired or unenthusiastic at the time, so I ended up abandoning it.

This was going to be a painting set on a rainy mountaintop of some kind. But, I think that I was feeling uninspired or unenthusiastic at the time, so I ended up abandoning it.

This was going to be a gothic painting of some kind, but I thought that the background looked too random - so I ended up abandoning it.

This was going to be a gothic painting of some kind, but I thought that the background looked too random – so I ended up abandoning it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚ Hopefully, I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow πŸ™‚

NEVER SEEN BEFORE! Even more failed paintings from my sketchbooks.

2015 Artwork sketchbooks October sketch 2

Well, when it came to writing today’s article, I was too tired to really write a proper article. So, instead, here are a few more failed paintings (none of them got past the sketching/ inking stage) from my sketchbooks. Hopefully, there will be a proper article or review posted here tomorrow πŸ™‚

A few hours after I wrote my article about painting from memory (which was posted here earlier this month), I tried to paint the picture from the article from memory. Unfortunately, I could only remember the basic details by then - which is why you should try to sketch out things you've memorised as soon as possible after memorising them.

A few hours after I wrote my article about painting from memory (which was posted here earlier this month), I tried to paint the picture from the article from memory. Unfortunately, I could only remember the basic details by then – which is why you should try to sketch out things you’ve memorised as soon as possible after memorising them.

Although this painting started out well, I was feeling pretty uninspired at the time and I couldn't really think of a good idea for the background (even though I started sketching someone else before I abandoned this painting).

Although this painting started out well, I was feeling pretty uninspired at the time and I couldn’t really think of a good idea for the background (even though I started sketching someone else before I abandoned this painting).

This was my first failed attempt at painting the current background image for this blog.

This was my first failed attempt at painting the current background image for this blog.

Even though this painting started out quite well - I couldn't quite think of a good idea for the background, so I ended up abandoning it.

Even though this painting started out quite well – I couldn’t quite think of a good idea for the background, so I ended up abandoning it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚ Again, hopefully, I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow.

NEVER SEEN BEFORE! More Failed Paintings And A Page From My Sketchbooks

2015 Artwork sketchbooks September 2 sketch

Well, I was running slightly late when it came to writing today’s article, and, well, I was in too much of a stressed/panicked mood to write a proper article (I don’t know, I really don’t react well to time shortages of any kind).

So, instead, here are two failed fan art paintings and a random page from my sketchbook (with some of my abandoned plans for a sequel to my “Diabolical Sigil” comic). Sorry about this, but hopefully, I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow.

This was a (miserably failed) attempt at making a fan art paitning of the "Dopefish" character from an old computer game called "Commander Keen IV". Since the Dopefish turns up as an easter egg in lots of other games, I wanted to see if I could paint him in my own art style. Unfortunately, I can't...

This was a (miserably failed) attempt at making a fan art paitning of the “Dopefish” character from an old computer game called “Commander Keen IV”. Since the Dopefish turns up as an easter egg in lots of other games, I wanted to see if I could paint him in my own art style. Unfortunately, I can’t…

This drawing was originally going to be the basis for a gothic "Dracula"-themed painting. Unfortunately, I quickly realised that I couldn't draw Drcalua holding his cloak in the traditional movie-style way. So, I ended up abandoning this picture a while after I started it.

This drawing was originally going to be the basis for a gothic “Dracula”-themed painting. Unfortunately, I quickly realised that I couldn’t draw Drcalua holding his cloak in the traditional movie-style way. So, I ended up abandoning this picture a while after I started it.

A while after I'd finished making my "Diabolical Sigil" comic (posted here in late July/early August), I'd planned to make another comic featuring the same characters. This comic would have been in the style of a 1920s/30s "Wordless Novel". As for the characters, Roz  would be a communist agitator, Harvey would be a Gendarme, Derek would be an office clerk and Rox would be a film noir-style "femme fatale" character.

A while after I’d finished making my “Diabolical Sigil” comic (posted here in late July/early August), I’d planned to make another comic featuring the same characters. This comic would have been in the style of a 1920s/30s “Wordless Novel”. As for the characters, Roz would be a communist agitator, Harvey would be a Gendarme, Derek would be an office clerk and Rox would be a film noir-style “femme fatale” character.

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Sorry for the short blog post today, but hopefully I’ll write a proper article or review for tomorrow πŸ™‚