Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Good, Bad and the Ugly

I feel like I have either written about this topic, or I have wanted to in the past, but never got around to it. But I believe there is a lot of value in creating bad art.  I feel I learn more from a piece that went wrong than one that turned out well. And part of us having the desire to create is usually in search of discovery... a new technique, a new style, enlightenment on problems we are trying to deal with, or discovering a new passion that engulfs us in the need to be creative.

Lately, it seems I have been having this conversation more and more with my students. Being a high school art teacher has it benefits.  It makes me reflect on my own personal beliefs in my own art and what I am teaching my students.  Sometimes they are not exactly the same thing.  I have noticed my teaching style and beliefs have changed since my journey has begun.  I believed that it was only about create great pieces of work, or building up to that.  Within the last few years, I have begun to transition on the importance of play, experimenting with materials, and just drawing no matter what it looks like. 

Today, one of my AP studio art students asked me about my education background and how did I end up teaching.  She began telling me that she doesn't think she is a good artist and that she can't see herself drawing her whole like.  I explained to her that her feelings are of a true artist.  I don't think any of us ever think we are good enough.  It really takes a lot of effort for us to stand back, look at our work, and notice what we have done right.  I told her that I feel as though she has found that medium, or technique, or subject matter that lights that fire of creativity within her and drives her to mass produce.  I don't think she'll never draw her whole life.  She has lots of talent.  This might not become a career for her, but I think she will continue with it as a hobby.  I shared with her how at one point in my life I felt unbelievably lost in life, where I didn't even recognize myself in the mirror.  I told her it didn't feel sad. It felt empty.  Art saved me from that feeling.  I began creating and creating more.  I explained to her that I have many pieces of work that are never finished, or turn out really bad.  I just keep producing work.  I have an openness to ideas and trying new techniques, which allows me to just play with my work.  If I stop creating for 2 weeks that empty feeling comes back and I begin to feel lost again.  But now that I've been creating more and more work, I have fewer pieces that turn out absolutely horrible. 

I know she doubts herself and as we get closer to the AP portfolio due date I continually try to get her motivated.  I told her that she needs to just keep producing work, collecting images of animals, or things she likes, and to just trust her and create.  And in that mass production of work, there will be art work that is horrible, ugly, okay, and absolutely beautiful!  But it takes making a lot of work before the beautiful begins to show up more than the ugly work. 

Here are a few unfinished or unhappy artwork that now occupy parts of my home until I decide to finish them or throw them out.


  1. It's the same with writing. You can't be afraid to write badly or you'll never get any better.

  2. I agree with you and I thank you for posting your works-in-progress. We have so much pressure to be perfect, when the real pleasure and value of artistic expression comes from the process. Thanks for encouraging your students and readers. Your works posted here all have a lot of vibrancy -- I'm sure they'll become exactly what they're meant to be.

  3. Thank you, both, for your comments. I feel like our world just encourages these perceptions of "perfection" and it creates such insecurity in everyone. It has taken some difficult times in my life to finally understand and appreciate the beauty in flaws, whether they are personal, personality, in nature, or in our art forms. And if the flaws are not beautiful, there is something beautiful in the fact that we can learn from them. Mistakes are often "Happy Accidents" when you can let go of having to control it, explore, and learn from it.

  4. I just stumbled upon your blog, but I'm glad I did. It's a very inspiring read, especially this piece. Thank you for sharing this wisdom.