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Ugly Paintings Are Necessary - Part II

Last week I was discussing the creation of ugly paintings . I looked at some of the reasons why it happens and why it is necessary in the long run, in your art practice, that these works are created. Sometimes we have to go backwards in order to go forwards. The second reason I mentioned last week was...

Not Paying Attention to Underlying Structure

In the last painting I was working on, I came up against this problem. I was using a composition that included part of a previous work, however, I didn't really think the thing through properly. This resulted in repainting a large proportion of the painting, only to find that it still, really wasn't working. At this point I knew I had to make some radical changes. therefore I ended up actually redrawing about two-thirds of the painting and then repainting on top of it.

Because the underlying structure which was basically the composition, didn't work in the first place, there's no way that the painting was actually ever going to work in its original form. (See next week's post for a more in depth look at problem solving with this work.)


My Own Way of Working is Working Against Me.

I find this is a point that often occurs when working with students. One of the favourite things that they do, is to put colour on the painting simply because they happen to have that colour on their palette. This will often happen at the end of the session because they just want to use that colour up. Of course what it means is that the colour is completely wrong and they end up having to repaint over it again anyway. The other thing that they do which gets them into strife is they paint a large area of a painting in a particular colour, because they see that colour is there, however what they miss is that certain tracts in the painting didn't need that colour at all. The result is the colour becoming muddied as they paint over it. Again this evolves into a lot more over painting, which in turn can lead to the painting looking very overworked.

Ugly paintings
Changes to the above composition reworked, however the values in the water are still too dark


Another reason paintings may not work for me is because the topic of the painting is raw and the vulnerability is too much for me. When I work on paintings that are highly personalized, it can be very challenging and might lead to abandoning the work without finishing it. In this case it is not necessarily that the painting is an ugly painting, although I might be feeling that from an emotional point of view.

Also beginning artists always compare what they are doing to others who have often been painting much longer than they have. They see their work as lacking, they feel vulnerable and discouraged and see their paintings as ugly compared with others.

Running Before You Can Walk

The last point is that ugly paintings can be created as a result of my current way of thinking about what my work 'should' look like. When I set my sights too high as to what I can realistically achieve at any given point in time, I set myself up for disappointment and failure and probably a whole lot of ugly paintings. It comes back to the old, 'I can't know what I don't know', situation. I want to paint wonderful paintings before having the requisite skills to do so. What this usually requires is spending time going back to the basics and upskilling . I find that these days many people who come to art lessons don't have the patience for gaining the necessary underlying skills. The most important of these is drawing. A good example of this is wanting to paint portraits without ever having drawn one! Now this might work if you are not going for realism but otherwise it doesn't.

Many people just want to paint without really drawing. This fuels a lot of people's desire to do abstract painting, because guess what, no drawing required.

So embrace your ugly paintings as they will more often than not teach you much more than one that goes well. Every step on the artist's journey has its place, and painting an unsuccessful work is a necessary part of that. Embrace your ugly paintings and thank them for helping you create better works. Your best painting ever always lies in the possibility of the next one you are creating.

NEXT WEEK: Studio Update - whats happened in the studio this month?

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