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Top Ten Excuses When you Screw up a Painting
One of the things all artists like to hear is praise. Sometimes it's kind of empty, the "Oh how lovely," sort of thing, or "very nice," or perhaps the, "that's interesting..." comment when the viewer can't think of anything else appropriate to say. In any case, it takes a little while sometimes, but we gradually accustom ourselves to dealing with it. And of course the most valuable criticism is that in which the viewer doesn’t particularly care for some aspect of our work and isn't bashful about telling us so...even what we can do about it. I still like to stand near my work at art exhibits and listen to what viewers say to each other about it. However along with adjusting to positive reactions, the artist needs to learn how to handle himself/herself in the face of less-than-successful painting efforts. So, in line with that, I've compiled another of my famous Lettermanish lists, this time outlining the top ten excuses artists can give for screwing up a painting.

10. I scanned it and sent it to all my friends on the Internet. They all liked it. (Especially appropriate if you've also followed all their advice as to how to improve upon your original effort.)

9. I accidentally got a tube of acrylics in with my oils (or vice versa). It's a good way to laugh it off. Hey, everybody's done that at least once, right?

8. The cat brushed up against it while it was wet. If you don't have a cat, a hamster will do. Point out the lingering hairs stuck to the canvas to prove your point. It's hard to tell a few stray sables from cat hair.

7. The wind blew it off my easel; I had to chase it clear across a field of clover (or ragweed or stinging nettles...be creative), and when I found it a cow had stepped on it. Substitute a goat if cows are rare in your neighbourhood. Don't try this excuse with still lifes.

6. My husband/wife said the nose looked funny so I worked on it some more and...well, it looks a little better ... Don't use this with still-lifes either.

5. I ran out of white so I tried to mix it. My instructor said one time you could mix ANY colour just using red, yellow, and blue. This one even works on still-lifes.

4. The light was bad in my studio. (Don't mention the part about the batteries running down).

3. I wasn't feeling well the day I did that one. It's okay to mention the Dramamine you took but skip telling about the Prozac, Quaaludes, and Valium, not to mention the beer you used to wash them down (unless you do abstracts, in which case it's not a valid excuse since everyone assumes you're on drugs anyway).

2. My new glasses...the prescriptions not quite right. If you don't wear glasses, Wal-Mart sells reading glasses very reasonably. Keep a pair handy.

And the number one excuse when you screw up a painting:

1. You're just saying that to make me feel bad. You never did like me very much. It's given me a complex, you know? My analyst says I should ignore whatever you say. In fact he says I shouldn't even be seeing you. It's all your fault I can't paint. Here, take it! It's yours...to remind you how you ruined the career of a great artist! This is an especially good one if you hate the damn thing yourself. (Guilt is a wonderful thing, you know.)

Contributed by Lane, Jim
14 September 2000

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