Bad Painting of a Desert


Sometimes I think it’s important to share a bad painting. It doesn’t have to be a painting, of course, it can be a poem or a story or whatever. Sometimes it’s good to soften the focus around what we consider to be “good” in order to let “okay” into the frame, or “interesting” or, as is the case with this painting of a desert–even “bad”.

There are several reasons I think this important: the first being that a simple scale of good and bad when applied to artistic endeavours is generally unhelpful. There are, of course, matters of technical aptitude that can be applied to art (in any form) and yet even these rules break down as we switch through mediums and styles, reminding us that art is not a set of rules that cleanly differentiates between what is good and what is bad.

I might add that art is not “the opposite” of such rules, but rather: it exists distinctly apart from them: art cannot be bound by any system of rules or standards, it is an ever-changing living communion between the artist and the world; it is nature and nurture and it is neither of those things. It is the breathless voice of the wind.

Another reason that I feel like it’s important to share “bad” art: although, as artists, we may claim to exist beyond these rules and suppositions mentioned above, we are undoubtedly cowed by them. It is easy to feel obligated to exist within these arbitrary scales and it is no secret that the artist is the harshest (and often cruellest) judge of their own work. However, the simple fact is this, and it’s such an important fact that I’m putting it in a quote block:

You can never trust an artists’ own opinion of their work: this includes your own.

Thirdly, distinct and yet related to the points I have already made–we live in such a society where the much of what we see has been highly calibrated to appear “perfect”.

What we don’t see is that even when something appears perfect it is actually a composite: built from the effort of years, built from practice, built from dozens of rough drafts. For every “perfect” painting perhaps ten bad ones must precede it. For every perfect sentence the same. And still, perfection is such a vacuous concept; if Leonardo DaVinci were alive today would he claim that the Mona Lisa is perfect? Personally I think he’d want to burn the thing, or have another go at painting it. Because that’s what artists do.

By sharing images of the process (which many people do online), or even completed “bad” paintings like my desert, we open ourselves up to learning and we can help others learn. Instead of merely showing the best of myself I also seek to show the imperfections and in doing so, I become more true to myself; I become more real.

My “Bad Painting of a Desert” is a practice piece, it is me messing around with (digital) brushes while the TV is on in the background, it is me studying images of sand dunes and of clouds and of colours and of trying to replicate what I see (or perhaps, even more importantly, what I feel). I consider it a “failed painting” which is to say that I had no intention of ever posting it, but then for the reasons above, I changed my mind.

Maybe, one day, I’ll create “A Mediocre Painting of a Desert”, maybe I won’t. In essence it’s unimportant, because from the very moment I hit publish this work ceases to become a “failed painting” and becomes something else, it becomes exactly what it is and what it always was: it becomes “Bad Painting of a Desert”.

It is art.

And it is not the only “failed painting” I have shared so far. For others, check out Egypt and Shovel; both of which see me experimenting with entirely new mediums. Objectively, neither of them are good paintings and yet, by virtue of their very existence, they are art.

So? Don’t be afraid to make bad art and if you’re brave enough: share it. Because the world needs it. Other artists need it and maybe… you need it too.