why it’s good to make ‘bad’ art

Why its good to make 'bad' art
We tend not to like making ‘bad’ art. {I use inverted commas because obviously, it’s just a judgement; art is so subjective and of course one person’s beauty is another’s total hideousness.}

Unless we are completely confident in what we’re doing, to the point where anyone else’s opinion will have no effect on our feelings or actions, it can be hard to silence the voice that tells you that what you’re producing isn’t good enough.

Which often means of course that at the start of a new thing, when we don’t necessarily know much about what we’re doing, but when we arguably need an extra burst of confidence the most, is exactly when the mean voice is loudest.

There is of course also the approach I tend to take, which is that of preferring not to know what I’m doing, or I’m likely to be overwhelmed and change my mind! Like anything, this one has it’s pros and cons too.

There’s a much-shared video of Ira Glass talking about the ‘gap’ between the work we create as a beginner and the work we want to be creating, which you can see here:

His comments ring very true for people ~ which is why you’re likely to have already seen this ~ and there is some relief to be found in them, which for me is always a sign that there is truth there.

As an extension to what Ira’s saying, I think that gap can actually be invaluable not just as a route from A to B, but because of what we learn on that route and how we learn it.

Trying new things is fun, but can be frustrating. It can be easy to become disheartened, especially if we fall into traps of comparison or shoulds, and in my experience the nature of the journey will reflect the nature of the outcome. A miserable route to something is not going to lead to a joyful destination.

These are the ‘three Ps’ {just invented that, how handy} I try to remember when I’m lost in Downtown New Projectville without a map, making bad art {or whatever I’m making} left right and centre and wondering if I’ll ever work out how to get up the hill where the view is better and I can see where I’m going.


Which could equally be called persistence. Just Keep Going. Yes you may have made 17 drawings that are shit, and you may need to make 39 more until your hand learns how to better express your vision. Give up too soon and you’ll never know.

And patience is arguably one of life’s most important skills to master; if you can apply it to everything you’ll know peace. So there’s that.


Since you’re cultivating patience so beautifully, it’ll be easy to practice, especially once the initial shine has {temporarily} worn off.

I have this weird personal phenomenon that always manifests as getting it spot on when trying a new thing for the first time, followed by at least two subsequent attempts that are dreadful. You might call it beginner’s luck but I don’t believe in luck so I just call it my weird personal phenomenon. Perhaps you have it too; if you do please let me know!

Those two or three not-so-great efforts after the initial triumph can be anxious making ~ maybe it was a fluke the first time? ~ but after that I find it picks up again and becomes a more balanced rhythm of ‘yes, I’m happy with this’ interspersed with ‘ugh…no’.

And let’s not forget the main point about practice; it makes you better at what you’re doing. If you could do something perfectly first time round {and ever after}, there’d be no challenge, no growth, no learning, no development into what’s unique to you.


As in, learning yours. At the start of something, the world is your enormous gourmet buffet, and you can pick and choose from a seemingly endless and therefore overwhelming array of options. Because this thing you’re doing is new, you don’t know yet what you like and don’t like, and there really is only one way to discover that.

Pick a point ~ I like to go for what looks like the most fun ~ and just begin.

Some things you’ll love doing, some things just won’t really work for you. For example, I love the mess and chaos of having my fingers in the paint, whereas digital art just leaves me cold, apart from the odd extremely basic graphic. I’ve had a little go with it {and yes, only really scratched the surface of the surface}, but I know in my bones that for me it will always be about paint, canvas, paper, charcoal, easel, brushes and anything that helps me express myself in that visceral, tactile, hands on way.

But you won’t know any of that if you don’t try a whole bunch of stuff, so learning your preferences allows you to refine and hone what you’re doing into something that becomes a pure form of the unique expression that you are. Call it research, let go of it needing to be this or that, and dive in!

So I say, go forth and make some really bad art! Better some than none at all, and no one ever has to see it. And don’t forget that something you hate and think is crap, someone else could love, so let that give you courage to share it, whatever you think it looks like.


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  • Jazzysofia says:

    Dear Tara,
    Thank you so much for your posts, and this one in particular.
    It describes so well what I’m experiencing at the moment.
    It is so encouraging.
    I can’t affort taking your class at the moment, but I’m sure that the lucky ones that do, will make a big step in their development.
    Wish you all the best!

  • I love this post! What a great reminder (and you’re SUCH a good writer/teacher!)

  • Nigel says:

    Oh, I’ve made plenty of ‘bad’ art in my time. Some of it gets recycled into other art, but anything in my art journals is left as a reminder.

    Good luck with the course, I’m sure it will be fantastic for those lucky enough to taking part.

  • Sherry Smyth says:

    I believe there is something to be learned from “bad” art, the art we don’t love and the things that didn’t turn out like we had hoped/envisioned. Like everything in life, we learn from our mistakes, our trials and our errors.

  • Swastik says:

    You didn’t say anything about what to do when you realise you ‘published’ a work of art, which you are not satisfied with(or otherwise, call it bad art if you consider it bad). Sometimes the realisation dawns too late and it feels really terrible then.

    • Tara says:

      Hi Swastik – that’s a good question! I have certainly put things out there that I have felt embarrassed about further down the line! I wonder if that’s inevitable to some degree since we are always evolving and growing the more art we make. Something else I’ve learned is that how I feel about my own work has nothing to do with what anyone else is thinking about it. Often people love my least favourite pieces, and misunderstand or don’t love my favourites. My feeling is that once I’ve ‘released’ it into the world, I let go of what it’s doing out there, and keep my focus on what I’m doing now.

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