What I do When I Think My Projects are Ugly . . .


It’s true, even I can find myself in a streak of art projects where everything totally fails on me. This streak can make me feel like I am not good at anything or even come close to wanting to quit. I want to share a few things I have done to get past those feelings, get out of my creative slump and get back to having fun being creative.

There have been times when I start using something new to me. Like a new brand of pencils or a new type of paper or like most recently I started painting with watercolors. I have a grand idea of how it will turn out, but since I am not familiar with this new art supply, I find myself creating something ugly. I tend to over correct and I realize (sigh) it's getting worse. That is the moment I need to get up and walk away. Not for good just for a little while. It is important to clear your head in moments like that. Learning to let go for a few minutes and come back with fresh eyes is such an important lesson. Sometimes my frustrations are so bad I need walk away and wait a day before I come back to it. Putting my mind in something else for a long period of time helps me let go of what got me all riled up. A day later I fine that I can see the solution to make my project better. It is rare that is don't finish a project because I am determined not to let it defeat me.


Another thing I do when I feel like I am making the ugliest thing in the world is "Ask a Friend". Now, I caution you when you ask someone else for help or feedback you must prepare yourself for what they may say. If you ask for someone's opinion don't get sensitive about what they are saying. It is their opinion. If you are feeling sensitive, be specific when you ask for feedback, narrow in on a particular part of your project that is troubling you. For example – prefacing your request for feedback with something general like, “I believe I ruined this project what do you think”? Being this general leaves the person giving you the critique free range to point out all kinds of things that may not even apply to the area(s) in your project that you are looking for feedback on. By asking more pointed questions like, "I am frustrated with the clouds I made they just done look realistic to me; or what do you think about these clouds; or how would you make those clouds look realistic". Being specific will result in getting feedback that will help you work out the areas you are the most frustrated about. Getting feedback is tough especially when you are frustrated. So being very clear on what feedback you need will help you to get past the creative block and move on quickly.

I don't know who said this to me years ago, but this message is very true--when you are at a frustration point and everything you create seems go wrong or it seems too difficult, you are on the verge of a breakthrough! I didn't understand this message the first time I heard it or the second or third time, but I have seen now how that statement is exactly right. So here is the thing, typically when we are getting frustrated with our work it is because we are starting to expand our horizons by having an idea in our head that you know and believe you can achieve but what you are putting on paper is not what you see in your head. That is because your brain is working faster than your hand and your brain is going to get the message to the hand it just will take a little more pushing. You are about to experience one of those coveted “lightbulb” moment as soon as your hand translates what the brain is trying to tell it. That is when you will say "ohhhhh now I get it" or "that's it I figured it out ". After the lightbulb moment strikes you will be past the ugly phase. The trick is to not let the ugly phase stop you from working it out. What keeps me pushing through the ugly stuff is knowing there will be a lightbulb moment. Maybe it won't turn on today or on this exact project, but I know that if I keep working at it I will find a lightbulb that will make me say "YES - this makes sense now."


Bottom line here is that making things that you believe are failures is only temporary if you keep working at it. The best thing about failures is that you can study and learn from them. Learn what went wrong, how you can try something different the next time to get closer to the image you see in your head. Failures are a part of an artist’s life, but they don't have to be the end of your creativity. Instead, let it be the spark that leads to new discoveries as you continue to move along the path of your creative journey.

What's happening in the Corner . . .


Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you are attracted to an image, so much so that you want to color it too? Whether it is whimsical or realistic, chances are it's the shading of the image that caught your attention. Join us this month as we focus our practice on the creation of clean edges and smooth color transitions.

If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Clean Edges & Smooth Color Transitions here.

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