Critique and The Importance of Making Ugly Art (Part 1)

Let’s please take a moment to truly appreciate this hideous, butt- ugly, pug-fugly painting I did back in 2010.

Thin, stingy layers of paint; really weird color relationships; a half-hearted attempt at making things look photo-realistic; and on top of it all, it’s obnoxiously boring to look at. WHAT a bad painting!

Not only is it displeasing to look at, it’s big. We’re talking almost three-feet-by-three-feet of ugly art. I don’t know why at the time this was passable to me, but I’ll level with you on a few facts:

1.I worked really long, hard hours on this piece.

2.When finished, I was pretty out-loud-proud over this piece.

3.At the time, this was the best I could do.

 I feel like that last one deserves a moment to really sit in: Sometimes, your best really is that bad. And in my heart, I believe that that’s okay. I was a baby painter at the time (in ways I still am!); you can’t count on yourself to make beautiful things at every stage of learning. It is important, however, to be able to tell the difference between “Wow! I learned a lot with this piece, and I got to a place I’ve never been with my work, and I figured some new things out!” and “Wow. I worked hard on this piece, but sheesh, what a stinker.”

What’s more, it’s really healthy to know the WHYS of your ugly art, and to tell yourself the truth about it! Or:

How to Give Yourself a Quick, Healthy Critique for That Ugly Thing You Just Made

1.”How’s my technique?”

◦You should already be aware of and familiar with the basic rules of your craft, whatever it is (and if you’re not, learn them!) Does your figure have correct proportions? Are your watercolor washes muddy? Is your oil paint thin and chalky? Does it just not look right? Obvious problem areas should make themselves clear; it’s alright to suck it up and notice them if you haven’t already.

2.”Does this piece look anything like/evoke the same feelings as pieces from Master Artists I’m fond of?”

◦Check out some work of a painter you like, or a painting that’s captured your eye; what about it makes you love it? Did you handle your piece in a similar way? How did they handle the trouble areas of their pieces, and can you learn anything from it?

3.”Is this piece BETTER or WORSE than the last and most recent 3 pieces I’ve finished?”

◦It is possible that even though the ugly thing you did is a flop, it may have areas that are noticeable improvements from your last works. As a maker of things, you want to continually strive to get better and learn from mistakes; are you continuing to make the same mistakes, or are you learning from them and simply making new ones?

There are a slew of other helpful points and questions to go over with yourself about your work, but sometimes you just know: I tried to not, but I made an ugly thing. So, add it to the pile and make the next thing; maybe you’ll get lucky and it wont be so pug-fugly.

(Comment in the doobly-doo if you tell yourself the same kind of stuff, or if you have some ugly art worth showing off.)

(up next: how to critique someone else’s work and do it in a way that’s not being a dick)


2 thoughts on “Critique and The Importance of Making Ugly Art (Part 1)

  1. I loved reading this post! You had me laughing out loud. I really needed to find this today because I spent the last 8 hours making a butt-ugly, pug-fugly painting today! Everything you said is so true! Looking forward to following your blog. ~Rita

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