Artwork that Failed

Not every artwork works all the time.

Sometimes you work on something and then you realize it’s just not working and you produce a big pile of crap.

This post is dedicated to some of my unsuccessful paintings, why they are deeply unsuccessful, and what lessons I learned.

1. “The clack of the knitting needles’


One day I decided to paint one of my 1920s oak carver chairs, just as an experiment on painting a chair. I wanted to try and get angles and the wood down. Well I guess you can see it’s a chair – but I hated doing it, had not planned the picture out at all before i started, so it’s all over the shop, and a couple of goes in, I gave up on trying to get the chair looking good. I thought I’d do something interesting in the background – massive error of judgement. Plus since I had no idea what to do in the background, and the whole thing was distressing me. So I drew in these blob creatures which never really had a reason for standing around a chair, and I gave the light fitting a go, which didn’t work with the angles at all, and then I drew in stripy wall paper –if in doubt, stripy backgrounds will save me — NO THEY WILL NOT. Not if they are crooked and half-assed.

The lesson of this painting: don’t set yourself a task to do cause you think you should learn it, if you really are 100% uninterested in doing that. I still want to figure out how better to paint wooden items, but maybe as a background, not as a foreground.

2. Get your drawing right before you do anything.


I don’t mind the idea of a crazy giraffe, and i recall wanting to just do something in one session. This was painted in acrylics at a time I was mostly doing water colors so it was out of phase for me at the time. I rushed it too.

What i needed to do was take a step back and look at the composition of this painting before I started squeezing those tubes, which is frankly terrible.  the only thing i like is the colour which works, but the picture is so very very naff.

3. I have no words for this one. Well, very few, and ‘yukky’ is one of them!

DSCN2715 - Copy

Was I on crack?Seriously!

What i was trying to do here (I think) was a BBQ on an alien planet – but i just drew in these isolated passive figures that are not interacting with anything. The bad drawing of the middle dude and the seated dude might be ok if they were all looking at each other or something. I like the dude with the paddle, i like the colours, and i still like the concept and should do it again.

Actually I like passive alien things on other planets – here is one that worked – The Willendorfs of Venus (a bit of a play on that 25000 year old statue, you may notice they all have the shape of the Venus of Willendorf):


This worked cause i has going somewhere with it form the start. Plus it’s got a really cool creepy thing going for it.

I’m fond of creepy and passive – which is why it was so nice to see Google search bar doing a homage to Eward Gorey the other day! Gorey is one of my inspirations.

4. Cassandra and Apollo.


I painted this one for my second exhibition “Legends” and I never exhibited it. It sat uneasily in my stomach, and I have disliked it for years. I deliberately dicked with human form and stuff for that show, so that’s not the problem here – Ii just really hate the composition. And that snake. I hate that snake. Possibly it’s the snake that I just look at and say FAIL.

5. Badly drawn, disinterested rush jobs

This was the last time I tried to do a group composition in acrylics or oils even. I guess the main thing is it was so complicated to start with that I lost interest about as soon as I started –  so I rushed it and just bodgeyed my way through it. The only figure i like is the one sitting down with the towel on it’s head, and even then I can see what a mess it is.


I should really redo a version of this one in watercolour, which has many benefits for painting something with multiple figures in it (for me anyway).

6. The shoppers

Too squashy in format, wrong canvas size (square is hard to get right), not enough details, and not enough soft/cool colour. Could have worked. Never did.


THEY HAVE NO NOSTRILS. I only just noticed that. ARGH!


My shopping monsters have no nose you know! Really, how do they smell? THEY DON’T.

And finally:

7. Girl and dragon


Ok –  to be fair,  I started this in what, the early 90s, and I picked it up and finished it one day cause I felt like it. I like the background mountains , they look generically ok, but the shading is out, the dragons neck is going to cause it to fall over all the time, it has no wings, and that chick has the most twee look on her face, urgh.  Also…shading. really. what shading.

This is so not my style of painting but I guess it sort of used to be when I was really into medieval things and before the monsters came out of my brain (though how the monsters came out, that is another story for another time).

So there you have it.

I have a lot more wrong paintings out there, but this is a good example of the ones that went awry.

The thing I have really learned about me and painting is:

  • if I feel an obligation, I can’t do it (which is why commissions are distressing and cripple me),
  • if i am trying to teach myself a lesson, I can lose interest very quickly
  • if I rush the under drawing or start without a real idea, it fails helplessly (not that I plan out all the details all the time, but I need to have an idea for what is going in it and in what order before I start –  or it goes no where).
  • if it’s too complicated at the start, i lose patience and rush it through.

This has been an interesting post to write – putting all your failures out there for comment is quite difficult. So please – go through my good stuff as well and don’t stick to just looking at this stuff!!!