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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

...Leave the Ugly alone...

Artists and writers may perhaps be the recipients of some very vocal internal critics.  We edit, we critique every mark, we hem and haw about the subject matter, the colors, the mediums we use…every little ugly bump or blemish.

Our first impulse is to cover it up or get rid of it.  If it helps, pretend I’m your mother (if you ever listened to her) or your favorite teacher that you respect when I say, “Don’t do that!”  Put that gesso bottle down.

If you are convinced your piece is ugly, blemished, ruined, blah blah blah you either need to commit to trash it completely (again, hear this when I say, “Don’t do that!”) or allow it to find a home in your work.  At least for a little while.  Explore why it bothers you but don’t do anything to it.  Work around it and leave it alone.

Okay—this is a kinda gross analogy but think of that Ugly area as if it is a zit.  If you had a mom like mine, she always said, “leave it alone.”  If you mess with it, it could get worse, could cause an infection, or leave a scar.  This is true in art and writing also.  Just leave that Ugly alone.  It is more than possible that if you focus elsewhere it will take care of itself.  Remember, your definition of ugly may be quite narrow and others may have an entirely different view of what you see as ugly.

I’m not saying never cover over anything in your work.  I’m saying to pause to consider how that Ugly could be an asset.  If nothing else, if the work is well and truly Ugly and ruined, consider sending it to the Museum of Bad Art or intentionally making a series of Ugly to put into a gallery show featuring work of the inner Critic.  If you absolutely must cover up the Ugly, do so after you have stopped to consider why you are covering it over.  If you are convinced it must go, then, finally, give yourself the permission to cover up the Ugly.