The Need for Bad Art

Here is my finished painting from Arnold Fletcher’s oil painting exercise in perspective:

Cottage (2)


It’s a very small painting — 5″ by 7″ — which seems appropriate for a very small house. Once I finished the house — or the cottage, as I call it — I couldn’t resist adding in a tree.

As I sit here looking at this cottage, I’m finding myself in a bit of a silly mood. Silly paintings can do that to me. So silly things are coming into my head, and they’re in Dutch.

Ik denk dat Piet misschien in dit klein huisje woont.

Translation: I think that maybe Piet lives in this little cottage. Yes, Piet. You remember Piet, right? That gruesome face that’s still staring at me from across the room. I think he lives in this cottage. In fact, I think maybe he built it.

As Piet’s warped visage continues to stare at me — or glare at me — I can almost imagine him coming to life, shaking his wild-haired head a bit, and asking why I’m torturing myself and those around me by insistently painting bad art.

Yes, it is bad art. You might see potential in it. You might encouragingly tell me that art is a process and that there’s no such thing as bad art, really. We’re always learning, changing, growing. Sure, you can say all of those things, and you’d be right. Art is a process. It’s subjective, as well, and we can’t really define it as either good or bad.  Art simply is — whatever it is.

Except that sometimes we need to willfully, deliberately, and consciously create bad art. That’s what I’m doing now because this is what I need to do.

But why do I feel this overpowering urge to create truly awful pieces of art? As Piet asks, why am I torturing myself? It is, you see, a somewhat painful process. So, why am I doing this?

Right now, our world is crazy. People are all but locked-up in their own homes. Schools are closed. We’re separated from our friends and families. Symphonies have cancelled their seasons. Galleries have shut down. The world as we’ve long known it is suddenly “on hold” and whether or not it will ever come back to normal remains to be seen.

But that’s not why I’m making bad art. At least, I don’t think that’s why. Maybe subconsciously there is a bit of rebellion inside of me, a bit of frustration that I’m taking out with my paints and brushes, but even so, that’s not the main reason.

I think I’m feeling compelled to make bad art — truly bad art — as a way of pushing myself ahead. I think bad art for me is a way to avoid complacency, a way to shake up my artistic viewpoint, and focus more on the process itself and not the result.

Now that I’ve come to see myself as an artist, I’ve also begun putting a lot of expectations upon myself and the art I create. That’s wrong. Art should be expressive; art should be free; art should be a natural part of who we are.

In recent months, I’ve found myself feeling a bit constrained — and maybe the pandemic lock-down has exacerbated that feeling. I have this wild desire to tear down any rules or restrictions about art, about what it is, about how it should be created, about any process that must be followed.

I don’t want to bother myself right now with worries about creating good art, worthy art, beautiful art, inspirational art. I just want to grab my brushes, grab my paints, grab a canvas — on whatever else I lay my hands on — and spill colors everywhere. I want to forget about the elements of art, the rules of perspective, the principles of design.

I just want to make bad art. I need to make bad art. I need to create the most hideous-looking, cringe-worthy faces and places I can. And maybe afterward, I can look at those monstrosities I’ve made and see what’s really bad and what might actually be good.

Part of it comes, too, from setting up here in my new studio. It’s a new start. I’m feeling like I know nothing about art, as if I’ve never held a pencil or paintbrush in my hand before. It’s an exciting feeling. Everything is new, so why not have fun with it?

And right, now, the most fun I can have comes from making bad art. Bear with me, please. It’s definitely part of a process, and it’s what I need to do.



  1. Be kind to yourself! You’ve just moved, you now have this fantastic studio and that comes with such big expectations. You’ll need time to get back into the swing of things, to get used to the new physical space and how that works for you, how you work in there, every change takes time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great blog. Though, as an artist you will recognise good from bad. It is good to make mistakes, as it teaches you what it is you wish to achieve. It’s certainly good to change your mediums, style. Basically just head onto that page or board not using the brain too much and see what happens. Nice to meet you, Vivienne

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A pleasure to meet you, as well! Thanks for the kind words about the blog. I hope I’m learning to see what’s good and not so good in the art I create. It’s been quite an experience over these last few years since I began learning to draw. 🙂 I’m really having fun now with watercolors, and that feels good.


    1. Occasionally I create something nice… and then the next piece of artwork is horrible! My husband looked at a painting today and just shook his head. I don’t blame it. It’s awful! (It will be posted on the blog June 3. Be sure to check it out!) 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yesterday was the first time my husband actually laughed at a painting. He usually finds something non-committal to say if something is bad, like “That’s interesting”, or “That’s different,” but yesterday it was a real laugh. I know the painting is awful — you’ll see — but still, I was crushed. LOL My own husband! My biggest supporter! I was devastated. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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