An Artist Journey With Her Ugly Painting and What it Taught Her

Woman on stool with paintings

I Took an Intuitive Painting Class, Made a Painting and Hated It

Years ago, I took an intuitive painting class. It was stupid really because I was brand new to painting, and, for goodness sake, how can you operate from intuition if you don’t even yet know how to do the thing? It drove me bonkers and made me feel like such a failure.

I started off painting my heart away, adding color after color, shapes, and lines. Then, I layered that thing UP, twisting and turning the painting, trying to get that sucker to take FORM! But it didn’t. It just stayed a mess, without some crucial things when it comes to art, like composition, balance, and point of view.

I HATED that painting. Hate’s a strong word, I know. But boy, did I hate that thing. I felt like a failure and a fool. Like I’d never be any good at painting again. And after all that promise of feeling good about making art, with the class I took and all the money I spent, I was bummed. Know what I mean?

But then something interesting happened. I took that big ol’ lady painting (she was a giant canvas), and I shoved her behind my dresser and vowed to never paint again. And I thought I really meant it.

Time went on, and I did paint again. But I never pulled that painting back out FOR THREE MORE YEARS. I went about my business and forgot about her. Literally, couldn’t even remember what she looked like. She became unknown to me and unremembered.

The Painting I Hated Became The Painting I Loved

One day, I was cleaning up my bedroom, and the corner of the canvas tucked behind the dresser caught my eye. So I walked over and shut the door first so I had enough room to slide that big old painting all the way out from behind the dresser. When I finally shimmied that painting out from behind the dresser and could properly see it, I gasped.

IT WAS GORGEOUS!!! Knock-dead gorgeous. I’m serious. I was in complete awe and shock. Colors exploding all over the place. Interesting shapes. And the layers. Oh, the layers. They were deep, playful, and fun!

And then I knew what I know now. IT JUST WASN’T FINISHED YET!

I didn’t know that at that time. I was too undeveloped, too immature in my painting practice to recognize that I was in the middle!!


I didn’t suck. No way! I just wasn’t done! Now, I love her so much I can’t even touch her!! I can’t bear to lose any juicy bit of that glorious, uninhibited, drippy rainforest of color. Her wild brush strokes bursting with energy. Her lovely little details that draw you to her.

Yes, she still lacks composition. She’s still wonky, lopsided, and decidedly NOT DONE. But, man, is she pretty. So much so she might just get to stay that way. Just so I can remember who I was at that moment.

I’ve Grown to Love the Imperfect Painter That I am

I love that painter in me, hopeful, trying, learning a new thing. A good painter, just not there yet.

And I’m still that same painter today. But now I have more wisdom and timed experience to know the difference between a sucky painter and just not done yet.

Woman in front of painting
A little glimmer of the ugly painting in the background.

3 Truths if You’re Stuck in Your Project

If you are a new painter or if you aren’t new but in the middle of a piece of art and are feeling like a failure:

  1. You’re not alone. That’s just the truth.
  2. You may need more experience or more time to work it out or figure it out.
  3. Your art will wait for you. It’s a patient, loving friend that doesn’t give up.

Keep Going. Keep Learning. Don’t Give Up.

Do you find yourself thinking…

  • My art’s sucky, I can’t stand looking at it, and I feel like a failure.
  • What should I do next?
  • Throw it all away?
  • Hide it in a drawer?
  • Quit while I’m ahead?

No way! You’ve got this.

Try this instead…

Keep going. Keep learning. Take breaks when you need them. Allow yourself to fail, to wonder and wander, and have patience. And don’t give up! You WILL grow. And you will get better. For sure, you’ll get wiser. The experience let’s us do that. You got this!

Colorful Acrylic Painting
“Color Through the Clouds”

If You See Yourself in This Story, Here’s a Tip for You

I’ve been doing The 100 Day Project, except my cheeky version of it, The Pretend 100 Day Project with the hashtag #pretend100dayproject, which I wrote about HERE. Along with creating a kinda sorta but not really daily piece of artwork for the project, I’m also writing a tip to go along. Here’s tip #8.

🌟Tip 8/100 🌟

Hit Pause. Walk away. When you come back, you may see it differently with new fresh ideas or be more soothed and ready to try again. We often need to see it with new eyes for a different perspective, new thoughts or to give ourselves space to love what we already have.

Woman Holding painting with mantra

Share Your Journey With Us

Have you been in a middle spot? Ever put something away saying you’ll never do it again, only to pull it out later? What helped you through these rough patches? What happened when you kept going? I’d love to know. Tell us in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “An Artist Journey With Her Ugly Painting and What it Taught Her

  1. Lisa says:

    Thank you, Shay! This article is gold! Your encouragement and sincere positive outlook always seem to land in my inbox at the exact moments I need it! And your color palette instantly calms me. Love your article in Voyage Tampa. Big love!

  2. Shay Kent says:

    Awe, thanks so much, Lisa. Your encouragement means the same to me. We all need that sometimes don’t we? Wishing you all the good things in life!

  3. Leslie Alexandriuk says:

    You are such a bright light, a welcoming warm heart, & just know all the positives to lift one’s spirit & artistic challenges. Love you & your work so much!

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