Back in the day, I wrote a post about turning ‘failed’ paintings into gifts, which has {rather surprisingly}, become very popular on Pinterest.

Now that I’m so much older and wiser 😆 , {omg I just looked and it was 9 years ago?!}, I have more ideas!

And yes, I will always put inverted commas on the word ‘failed’, because I don’t think it’s helpful or productive to call anything a failure.

Sure, some things don’t work out, but they always come with a built in opportunity to learn, so can anything truly be called a failure?

So, here are eight more ideas, to use on your own ‘failed’ paintings.

Some will only really be doable on paintings on paper, but there’s something for any kind of painting here.

1. give it a chance

The first thing I’d always suggest is maybe give a painting you consider ‘failed’ a chance and try to fix it, with the caveat that if you’re just DONE with it, then I’ll let you off the hook.😉

{Although you might be surprised how effective walking away and not looking at it for a few days/weeks/months can be.}

If you’re up for giving it another go, try pushing it further – check out this post for an example from a student who was willing to do that and share the results.

Another thing you can try is the Bold Move. Super cathartic and often surprisingly effective.

You’ve got nothing to lose if you really consider it beyond redemption, so have at it! Worst case scenario, you then need one of the following seven ideas!

2. ‘discover’ the painting

This is an approach I share in Loosen Up. I made up that title but it’s a common practice.

Essentially, you can do whatever you like to the painting, and once it’s a chaotic mess, you can then go back in and excavate shapes, and pull out something completely new from it.

You can use a single colour, like white, or many colours, to carve out a new painting by blocking out areas to create a new painting.

3. weave it

This is a really playful, easy, low key way to rescue a painting on paper, and one we also do in Loosen Up, with some rather lovely results. {She says modestly.}

Simply cut the painting into strips – depending on size, you could go for 1cm width strips, or something much wider, or even a combination – and then weave them under and over each other to create a completely new and abstract work.

This could be something lovely in and of itself, or you could make several small ones to stick onto one of a kind cards to send to friends and family.

Mini woven painting made from 'failed' paintings

4. use as wrapping paper

Even a relatively small painting on paper can be repurposed to wrap a small gift. Why not?

If you’ve used very sturdy paper, like thick watercolour paper, you could go nuts and make a little box from it to hold a gift for someone. One of a kind gift wrap!

5. swap with a friend

Find a friend who also has a painting they feel didn’t work out, swap, and work on each other’s.

Perhaps establish upfront that if the painting continues to not work, permission is granted to let it go!

This will be one way to test just how done you are with a painting, at least!

The prospect of handing it over to someone else to mess with might just convince you to have another go at it!

6. ask for ideas

Typically I don’t recommend crowd sourcing for input on your paintings, as it can be confusing and dilute your access to your own voice.

However, in this instance, since we’re making use of that ‘nothing to lose’ mindset, it could be a fun experiment to put it out there and see what people say!

If you’re going to do this publicly, such as on Instagram, be sure that you’re not attached, and remember you don’t have to take any of the advice!

7. cut {or tear} it up for collage

Collage pieces can be used to activate a surface ready for a painting, or part of the main features of a painting.

There’s a video in this post showing an example of this.

8. let it go

Burn, recycle, gesso over and start again. It’s your art; you can do whatever you like with it. 😉


What do you do with your ‘failed’ paintings? Anything you would add to this list? Share in the comments below!


Fancy a simple AND easy project to use up some of those ‘failed’ paintings and recreate them into something lovely?

I have just the thing!

The Make Cards From Your Art workshop shows you a very easy to follow process for repurposing that stack of paintings that didn’t work out or just aren’t going anywhere.

It’s also very affordable at just $9. 😊

Click here to find out more.