Is There Such a Thing as a Bad Painting?

Whereas it is not useful to compare one artist against another, what is the point, it is; however, useful to go back to your own old paintings to see how you could improve them.

Some reasons to examine your old art:

  1. To see how far you have progressed.
  2. Bad paintings offer great learning experiences.
  3. To critique the art for improvement.
  4. To use as inspiration for new art.
    1. Instead of trying to find new inspiration sometimes you can use your old ideas in fresh ways. 
    2. You may get a better painting now that you have better skills.

How to improve your old art:

  • First make a black and white image of the art so that you only see shapes and values.
  • Then go to two values to see the major shapes.
  • Look at the art and decide what is the main focal point and make all other elements supportive.
  • Try to paint shapes and not objects.
  • Look for strong light sources.  It is easier to take away light if you have too much of it than to add light to a painting. 
  • Make value map.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify!

Is there such a thing as a bad painting.  Of course, there is!  Just as we know what is right because we know what is wrong so also, we know what bad art is, because we recognize good art when we see it. However, this opinion should be determined by the artists themselves.  Art is very subjective so the only opinion that counts is the artist’s opinion.  Now that opinion may not get your art into galleries because there are criteria used by those who judge art.  However, for the purpose of making art that pleases you, just keep honing your skill and enjoy the journey!

Below are four images. The first column is the black and white version to show a balance in light, medium and dark values. The first attempt had both pros and cons. I like the purple haze to the sky and water but the trees, especially at the focal point where the trees are growing near the water, are not good.

In the better version, the entire painting is much more vivid and the focal point trees look realistic. I think the black and white image looks crisper as well. Eliminating the trees behind the focal point makes the focal point more visible.

Black and White Version
evening sky
First Attempt
better art
Better version