Ugly Paintings Are Necessary - Part 1

Updated: Jun 23, 2019

Have you ever painted a painting that just didn’t work for you - no matter what you did so it got put in the Naughty Corner - or The Ugly Pit? Welcome to the world of Ugly Paintings. Did you know that we all, at some point, will paint not just one but probably several of these beasts?

An ‘ugly’ painting is what happens when I create a painting I don’t like and the reasons I don’t like it may be many and varied. More often than not it has not reached the stage of perfection that I feel it should have done. Sometimes there is a particular part of the painting that just won’t behave - hands are notorious for this.

In order to drag a painting from the ‘naughty corner’ sometimes I need to leave it for a while and do something else. Now if I'm not in denial about my own level of expertise, the most productive thing I can do is recognize why that part of the painting isn’t working, or why the painting as a whole isn't working. So if we think about more realistic subjects for the moment, here are some of the reasons that might be:

• I don't have the basic skills needed to draw or paint that object.

• I am not paying attention to the underlying structure

• My own way of working is working against me.

• I feel threatened by the work because it exposes my vulnerability and need for control.

• I am blinded by my current way of thinking about what my work should look like.


These points are discussed in more detail below.


To the left is a painting 'Panning For Gold', which I worked on last year. At this point it was definitely in the 'ugly' stage. Half of the painting is a chaotic mess, and certainly at odds with the rest of the work which has a more serene stillness to it.

In this instance my thinking was working against me - I was being too littoral in my interpretation. I was putting too much into the work, thinking that I need to describe everything. Below is my solution - found

some days later.

So let's go through these points one by one and look at them in a bit more depth.

Basic Skills

The first point is pretty easy to solve - I just need to go away and do a bit of upskilling. In the meantime, work on something that's not quite so challenging. One of the big no no’s when starting out is attempting something too difficult because this ends up making me discouraged and sometimes I even manage to convince myself that - ‘ well I always knew I didn’t have enough talent anyway’ and I quit, because of course, I have now proven that I was ‘stupid’ to even try in the first place. The solution to this dilemma of course is to identify the skill I require and get some tuition in it - whether I watch a YouTube video, buy a book on the subject or take an art class.

Next Weeks Post: Continues this discussion - covering the remainder of the points in detail.


© 2018 Kadira Jennings​