So I think there’s this huge fear among mixed media artists to make ugly art.
I’ve been making some form of mixed media art since I was in undergraduate school (so, like, 10+ years ago). I started with collage/gluebook, then added in paint, then markers, etc. and now I do a mix of collage and media.
This whole decade plus of making art has, by necessity, meant I made a LOT of ugly art. It’s how I grew as an artist! Ugly art is how I STILL GROW.
The internet has changed how we share art.
But I see less and less ugly art being posted online, and I see way less artists trying to do something different. I see a lot more artists using pre-made stickers/tape/stencils/stamps/etc. and trying to copy other people’s art style than I did 10 years ago.
Part of this is because we’re all much more online now than a decade ago. Social media, fast internet, and cheap cameras (phones) mean that everybody’s posting photos of their art at a rate that was unheard of back in the Olden Days of the internet. Which is great! But it also means there’s a lot more pressure to be seen as a “good artist.” (More on that later.)
Also, the world of mixed media art has expanded a LOT since I first started doing it in 2006. It’s part of a major media empire now, with books, TV shows, Youtube channels, classes, entire product lines, etc. etc. Whereas 10+ years ago we were hobbling together paint and magazine clippings, now we have entire product lines we can purchase to make a mixed media book.
Very cool, but…I can see a downside to this.
As brand-name supplies have increased in availability, artistic individuality has diminished.
Like, yes, Graphic 45 paper is very very pretty. But if you make an entire book out of their paper, then it just looks like Graphic 45 with very little individual input. And I see this more and more as mixed media art supplies become an ever bigger business. It’s cheap to stock up on stamps/stencils/whatever, and they’re easy to use– so people use them more and more in their art.
But it’s important to not DEPEND on those supplies. Use them as a starting place, but then spread out and find your own style.
Art should be highly personal.
Especially mixed media art, which should be messy and drippy and cobbled together from whatever you have around you. That’s the whole point— to have fun, and use weird art “supplies” you found in a drawer. Combine materials in ways that haven’t been done before. Experiment! Get messy! Get weird!
There’s much more of a resistance to making weird art than before…maybe tied into social media (and wanting more likes), but also because people have gotten scared away from go off-script with their art styles.
Here’s what I’m guessing people are thinking…
“Ugly art doesn’t get likes on Instagram. Ugly art doesn’t get new followers or subscribers. Ugly art doesn’t get sponsorships from art companies. Ugly art is BAD ART, and if I make bad art, I’m a BAD ARTIST. Right?”
Ugly art is how you find your individual artistic style.
Ugly art lets you practice new techniques! Like, I copy stuff all the time. If I get a new paint or just want to try a new technique, I almost always copy another piece of art to make sure I’m doing it right. I’ll do this over and over, until I’m used to the new technique…but then I’ll try making something new.
And that new thing will probably be UGLY.
Because I am practicing, and trying out new things. I’m figuring out how I want my art to look using this new technique, so if it’s ugly, it’s okay!
Just because something’s ugly doesn’t mean that the process that made it wasn’t important or useful.
We’re all so afraid of making an ugly thing and putting it out for people to see– especially in the age of Instagram, where prettiness reigns supreme– but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and you can’t get better at art without making a few ugly pieces first.
One of the reasons I started this blog was to get more comfortable with sharing my own art, ugly or pretty or just totally boring. I’ll be sharing my experiences trying new techniques and materials, and I’ll show off my art journal pages however they end up looking.
It’s about the process.
You have to trust yourself and trust the process. Let go of fear, and make ugly art.