Bad Art Year

The Bad Art Year Origin Story

I don’t know if this is just true for me, or if it is true for everyone, but I always thought that at some point we were expected to be consistently good at things. When you’re in a creative field, this idea can be daunting. For me it manifests as a desire to be perfect. It’s not enough to be good. I can’t just be passable. I always feel like I have to make things extraordinary and, fundamentally, I know that this is hurting my writing.

Or…it would hurt my writing if I were able to write at all. I’ve been suffering from an extended writer’s block on par with Fran Leibowitz. The only problem is that, unlike Ms. Leibowitz, I was never fortunate enough to publish an essay collection. I can’t really pinpoint when this block started, though I think it hit hardest shortly after I had an article that I was hoping would be career-altering annihilated by an editor who, as luck would have it, had no background in editing. It was a massive failure and absolutely the most embarrassing thing I have ever had to deal with, except for the part where I’m pretty sure no one read it anyway.

Is this writing? Pouring your heart and soul into something only to have an editor alter it entirely before presenting it to an indifferent audience. One would think that this would make things easier. Why should I spend hours obsessing over putting the right words in the right order if nothing I did mattered anyway? Why was I so caught up in the idea of creating a masterpiece if all my little darlings are going to be destroyed and ignored and made nothings of?

I think perhaps the problem was that I had fed myself the story that I was a good writer. I told myself for years that this was supposed to be my profession. I found all kinds of excuses to write and write and write until I couldn’t write anymore and then I was stuck. If it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become great at something, and I had already put in 20,000, why wasn’t I perfect already? Every attempt at an essay became an albatross. I abandoned imperfect drafts before they took off and my words began to fester and fall away from me.

Enter Bad Art Year. If my problem with writing is that I can’t get a first draft down for fear that it won’t look like my final draft, then I need to find a creative space where I am free to fail. I need to remind myself that it is only when we allow ourselves to be bad at something that we grow to create the things that we are truly meant to create in the first place. Bad Art Year is an experiment in failure.

I don’t know much about visual art other than that I always liked creating it. The last art class I ever took was in my sophomore year of high school, so I’m definitely going to be dealing with a learning curve. It’s a relief in a way. I know I’m going to fail. I know the things I make aren’t going to be good. I know that there are a lot of people who will look at my art and think that they could do it better. They probably can! And now that I don’t have to worry about creating something incredible and delicate and perfect, I can create anything I want.

The art supplies I use are mostly cheap and purchased from either Amazon or Meininger’s (a Colorado-based art supply store) and I work in mediums that I remember enjoying when I was in middle and high school. Oil pastels are in and so are watercolors. I’ve been making a lot of linoleum prints because I had been fiddling around with the idea of making stamps in 2021 and this felt like a natural progression. I sometimes sketch and often mix media with little regard for form. It’s liberating without being demanding and I’m finding that by forcing myself to do at least one creative thing per day, I’ve started to look forward to creating and I’ve become more creative.

The art is bad. It wouldn’t be Bad Art Year if I was making things that were actually good. The beauty of this project is that I can create bad art without feeling pressure to be perfect. I know I never will be, and by forgiving myself with this I’m learning to be more forgiving with my words. I don’t know how this will progress throughout the year, but I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Thanks for reading,