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The Ugly Phase

Every project I have ever worked on has been through an ugly phase. It is a very real phenomenon that happens to all artists. In the beginning I thought When the project got ugly it meant that I had failed. I would stop and crumple up the project and toss it in the garbage. One day while cleaning my craft room I found one of my crumpled papers that missed the trash can. I took a peek at it and realized it wasn't as bad as I thought and I thought I could fix it. I did fix it with a few strokes it was no where near as horrible as I once thought.


This is when I learned about the ugly phase. My projects start with an outline or sketch or basic marks that lays down the plan for the project. I always start seeing the project in my head and the outline / sketch helps me start the foundation of the finished project I see in my mind. I then I typically add the values in just so I can see my sketch come to life. Generally I am pretty happy with my basic sketch but when I start to add color that is where my project always gets smacked with the ugly stick.


There are times I stop and look at my project and I think "OH NO what have I done". Either the color seems too dark or its not blending well or it seems too flat or there are many times I just look at it and have no idea what is wrong with it, I just know it is really ugly. This specific spot used to get me and I would quit. There are a couple of things I do now to get over it.



- Walk away and take a break. When I take even a 15 minute break it allows my brain to relax and think through the problem. Because essentially I see it as a challenge to bring it back from the ugly. There are solutions that can fix it I just need to find them. Taking a break from staring at it allows me time to think it through on what would be good solutions to bring it back

- Look at it through my camera. Sometimes its just a simple thing of seeing the project from a different perspective will help see the issue. I have heard about some artists flip their project upside down to see it differently and the problem areas jump out to them. For me I like looking at the project through my camera. Some how a picture of it allows me to see the project differently.

- Power through it. Sometimes it just needs more layers and I need to simply stop focusing on how ugly it looks now and focus on what it will take to bring it back to looking good. Practicing has taught me the key elements I need to do to create the realism I am looking to create. So during the ugly phase I focus my attention on the the key elements.


The ugly phase is tough I know in this project, I was really happy with my original sketch. I was excited to get paint on it and bring the portrait to life. As I started adding more and more color it got uglier and uglier. I was getting more scared with each stroke. I had to do the walk away trick about three times because it was getting further and further away from the finished image in my head. Those are the moments when you get frustrated. The best thing to do is walk away for a bit. Remember this creative time is suppose to be fun, but there are so many times we put too much pressure on ourselves expecting every stroke to be amazingly perfect. Guess what? We are not perfect. Another fun fact for you - all artists and yes I mean all artists do not put down the perfect stroke every time on the paper. If you don't believe me ask any artist - seriously, your favorite artist you follow on social media send them a message asking if they encounter an ugly phase in their creative process. I am positive they will say of course they do. It happens to everyone.


Bottom line the ugly phase can be really really ugly. Don't be afraid get excited to take on the challenge to bring the project back by focusing on the techniques that will help you. Adding more contrast or sharpening up your edges or evening out your smooth blends. Take a breath think it through and which technique will help you to get rid of the ugliness. It will be a satisfying moment when you do.

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