Courage to Ugliness -Why you should paint an ugly picture

My first and second attempts to draw and paint were brutal, I stumbled and crushed under my own expectation, the perfection I had in mind didn’t happen. My painting was unclear and ugly. The beautiful scene I had pictured, had become a nightmare on canvas.

I am a designer by trade, help people to unleash their inner artist, support them to explore colors and patterns. I am known to gently push my customers outside of their comfort zone, but that’s my job. I work with fabrics, colors, and stains, and I feel confident enough to not be shaken by trends.

I wanted to give painting another try. Every Christmas and birthday I wished for supplies. An easel, paintbrushes, watercolors, oil paints, finally I had it all together -paint wise. However, somehow I never felt brave enough to start.

I sat in front of an empty canvas, tried to find an image that I wanted to paint. Perhaps the old oak tree across the street, or one of our dogs that had passed away. How about a bird, or flowers, a landscape I had a photo of?

The old farmhouse and the mountains in Tyrol were so vivid in my mind. I started painting and a short time later, the disaster was finished. It wasn’t what I had had in mind -not even close. I got so mad with myself. I just had to accept the fact that I am not an artist. My picture was hideous!

Then I read an article and it changed everything.

I needed to give myself permission to paint an ugly picture, preferable even a few, and to my surprise, this simple task set my inner artist free. How could I fail this assignment, after all, so far everything I had created fell right into the “ugly category.”

I can imagine that at first glance it seems a bit strange to you when you have to paint an ugly picture but it’s so worth doing it.

Most of the time it’s the other way around and we strive to paint something beautiful that gives us praise and the recognition we all long for. We want to show what we can do and hide what we can’t. We want to be at our best, be liked, and be proud of our achievements.

Paint an ugly picture and be proud of it? No way!

To openly show the seemingly ugly that we often suppress, that we don’t like to deal with and that we don’t like to share with the outside world? We all have fears and emotions like anger or sadness. We encounter things that repel and frighten us. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to express all this in our pictures?

How do my nightmares look on canvas?

It can be very liberating and relieving to express all the ugliness -or our perception of it- through painting.

If you consciously break all the rules and paint an ugly picture, or at least allow yourself to get ugly, it’s like a little test of boldness that expands your limits and gives you creative freedom. Everything is possible and nothing has to be accomplished. Painting and creativity take courage, but it’s worth it because your world becomes big and wide, instead of small and restrictive.

How to paint an ugly picture?

It’s so easy! Just do everything as usual -no, kidding -but don’t forget you want to paint an ugly picture.

Grab your canvas and just start. Listen more to your feelings and less to your head. Your picture is getting too dark? Great, now get more black. The one part that looks pretty disgusting and daunting and you normally would paint over it? Put it in the spotlight. To orange or yellow? Don’t sweat it.

The horizon line has to go to a certain height because of the golden ratio and so on? Nope, you’re really putting them somewhere else now. You have learned not to mix too many colors at once because dirty mud tones are created? Use all the colors available to you and just see what happens. Is it getting too restless and chaotic now, says your head? Answer with wild doodles. I think you know what I mean.

Doodling ๐Ÿ™‚

Choose a scene you find ugly or boring, and then really poke about it on paper. Put all your disgust in your strokes. Feel inside yourself what feelings the thought triggers in you, and try to express exactly that when painting. Have fun doing it, be open, curious, and mindful on the way, the rest will come by itself over time.

Why should you paint an ugly picture?

As soon as we not only give ourselves permission that our picture does not have to be beautiful but even deliberately want to paint it ugly, there are no expectations, no failures, no mistakes. This also means fewer disappointments and negative thoughts and we just perceive it as it is. The picture may even be particularly expressive at the end so that you do not find it ugly at all, in contrast to a picture that should be beautiful and you have not succeeded as much as you would have liked.

Whatever the result may be, creating an ugly painting is so much fun. I had a good time and some of the results surprised me. It also allowed me to ‘play’ around a bit, not just with colors but with different paints, pencils, and all the other things I don’t know anything about.

I am drawn to modern art. I like colors and bold presentations, so it comes as no surprise, I will never paint beautiful birds or stunning landscapes.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. As for ugliness, that’s debatable!

30 thoughts on “Courage to Ugliness -Why you should paint an ugly picture

  1. What do you do with the finished canvases, Bridget? Are some on your walls, some in a stack in a corner? I haven’t painted since school so it’s obvious I have no aptitude The materials are expensive and I wouldn’t be able to display my artwork, if ever I got that far. I have very different tastes from my husband so there would be a painting or two under the bed, out of sight. Shame, but I like the idea.
    Your artwork is full of you, and some of it looks very skilful to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t decided yet. I might frame on or two, but so far they are just laying around. Still starting to explore style and techniques. I am having fun.

      I love modern art, my husband loves more conservative painting where he can see what is painted, so our taste is not the same either.
      I had to smile when I read the last paragraph “Your artwork is full of you.”

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  2. I am almost afraid to comment because you might not think I’m being sincere, but I really like what you painted. A lot! LOL! I think the concept of having the courage to show our ugly sides, whether in our interests and talents or personalities and perspectives, is a truly interesting thought. We are bound up in perfection, when that’s never attained. Keep up your painting, Bridget. If this is your “ugly” art, I’m going to be very interested in what comes next!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think so many like my “ugly” pictures because they are colorful. I went straight into color, got it out of my system. The result surprised me as well. Trying to paint an ugly picture is not as easy as it seems. The permission to do so, was all that was needed.
      Thank you for the compliment. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. I really like the thought process behind your ugly work. Though, I have to admit, I really enjoy your ugly ones. The colors and all… Even though they’re your ugly ones, they really have a lovely charm. Makes me very curious towards the ones you decided to really go for it! ๐Ÿ˜

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      • Yes it is such a powerful mindset, it controls you more than you may think. So it’s great to be able to let go, to allow yourself a thought process beyond those previously set “boundaries”.
        There’s no such thing as real ugliness in art, I think it either attracts you or not. It’s a very personal thing. I really enjoyed your ugly works and am curious to see some of your “masterpieces” ๐Ÿ˜‰ have a fabulous day!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much. “Loose and full of life” is a great compliment. The “ugly session” allowed me to experiment and while I don’t like all the results, I like a few. I finished them at least and didn’t walk way disappointed.

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  4. I attended a painting class once and my sister totally dissed it because it wasn’t like everyone else’s. But, I have gotten stronger and more accepting since then. I am going to try again with a friend and be proud of whatever I do!
    Your pictures are awesome, as is! As they say, “Beauty Is In The Eyes Of The Beholder”, don’t dis yourself or your Art.

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    • My pictures will never be the way I want to paint in my mind, but now at least I can see the direction I am taking. I will always be a little abstract, crazy, modern, the Michelangelo’s I had in mind will never happen.

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  5. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder and to my eyes your paintings look fresh and lovely. I enjoy their whimsicality as well as the combination of colours. If this is your ‘ugly’ (for reasons you make elegantly clear) then your ‘beautiful’ must be stupendous. Please, keep on painting!

    Liked by 3 people

    • My frist pain session (years ago) was a total disaster. The teacher had high expectations and didn’t spare us his opinion when we didn’t pain the way he did. I left after two sessions and never went back. As for painting ‘ugly’, I think knowing that anything goes and ugliness is the goal, is all it takes to unleash creativity. Reversed psychology .

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      • I am waiting for more free classes to be offered at the library. I need more lessons. ๐Ÿ™‚ Our first painting was of the Aurora Borealis. It looked like a tornado to me. But my daughter guessed what it was, and I was so happy! I do hope to paint some in the future.

        Liked by 2 people

        • What a great assignment. I had to laugh when I read “my daughter guessed it.”

          I tried years ago, but didn’t enjoy it much and the teacher and many of his students had different ideas about painting or art. So, now I am ready (again) and the “ugly pictures” was fun.
          I am really impressed, I am not sure I would dare “Aurora Borealis.” However, the tornado is a good idea too.

          Liked by 1 person

    • How sweet of you. But…if you could see what I had in mind when I painted some of these, you would know why they are UGLY? ๐Ÿ™‚
      I love art and to accept the fact that I will have fun, but will never be good, is a nice challenge.
      I just started (again) and I think I will continue.

      Liked by 2 people

      • LOL I raised an artist daughter, who surpassed my artistic abilities when she was five, so your comment has tremendous meaning to me. ๐Ÿ˜ Art, in all its varied forms, enriches our lives, both creating and spectating. Please continue! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

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