What to Do When You Create Art You DON’T Like

I just made a painting, and I don’t particular like it. Typically I would never share this information publicly. I’m in the business of selling my art, and no one wants to hear me groan about something I made and didn’t like.

Especially if they like it!

Imagine This Scenario:


I’m at a shows and a potential customer walks into my booth and says, “Wow this is great! What inspired you to paint it?”
and I respond, “Well I was inspired by the colors, but totally messed it up, and was very disappointed with the outcome.”


After a response like that, I bet they would smile at me awkwardly as the slowly make an exit out of my booth.

A negative attitude is not usually very helpful when it comes to selling art.

It’s also not helpful when making it either!

Here’s What to Do When You Don’t Like Your Art

If you’re like me, then you make art because you like to, but making it doesn’t always mean you like it when it’s made. If you ever feel this way about your finished piece of art, then you need to ask yourself why you feel this way. I teach all my students to critique their art when they’re done making it. That includes asking themselves what they liked about what they just made and also what they learned from making it.

I recently critiqued my latest paintings, and for the most part was very happy with what I made. I felt great joy for all my creations except one.

Here they all are:


Golden-Crowned Kinglet


Lady Slippers

Blackburnian Warbler

Apple Blossoms

Upside Down Chickadee


Can you tell which one I don’t like?

One of these eight paintings is a failure in my eyes. I was trying to achieve a certain look, and it didn’t not come out the way I envisioned it in my head. Because it didn’t come out the way I imagined it I have forever labeled that piece to be a failure.

But is it really?

I’m the only one who thinks it. Someone else could look at it and think it’s wonderful. They don’t know what my intentions were when I painting it, and would relate to the piece of art totally different than me.

Art usually means something different to different people.

This is why when it comes to people liking your art there is only one person that really matters, and that is yourself! If you struggle to like your own art I have a few helpful tips to get you on the right path to liking it again.

Helpful Guidelines to Follow When You Don’t Like Your Art

  • Step back and critique your work. Find something you like about what you made and something you can learn from.
  • Remember, creating art is a process and you should learn from everything you make. Not liking something can be valuable information pointing you in the direction you want to go in. This is helpful when your struggling to define your style.
  • Know not everything you make will come out perfect. Don’t be too hard on yourself!
  • If none of the above works, put it aside, and pull it out at a much later time (a few months). Chances are you will look at it and not even remember what was bugging you in the first place. I have done this many times! I completely forget what I was being overly critical about, lol.

Creating art is a life long journey and it’s not always a smooth path to walk on or even a clear path for that matter. This is why we need to step back often from our work and critique it from a distance. It will give you fresh perspective of your art, and give you a chance to enjoy the parts that make you happy and help set the course for what you need to do next to fix the parts that aren’t working.

Remember to stay on the path that makes you happy, but to do that you need to know what those things are.

If you like your own art then it really doesn’t matter what others think.

Still struggling with self doubt?

Watch this video where I share with you the moment I hit rock bottom with my art, how horrible I felt, and how I discovered joy in painting again!

Want to know which piece of art above I don’t like?

I should probably not tell you.

I’m a big believer that art means something different to different people. One of the things I enjoy most about art shows is listening to how my customers interpret my paintings. I love seeing what I create ignite another’s creativity and evoke emotion! But I also like teachable moments. So if knowing which painting it is I don’t like, and why helps you, then here it is:

It’s the apple blossoms.

I tried to make them fade into the background, and over worked them in the end. By overworking them I lost an interesting balance of positive and negative space which I achieved in all the other paintings. I actually wasn’t even concerned with the balance of positive and negative space in this particular piece, and didn’t realize how important it was for me until I step back and critiqued it.

I’m learning not only do I want to capture a fun attitude with my creatures (birds in this case) and color and texture with nature, but that I also want to have a strong balance of positive and negative space in my paintings. Now that I’m aware of this, I can use it to help me the next time I paint!

Do you ever struggle to like your art?

If so what do you do?

Share your comment below!


10 thoughts on “What to Do When You Create Art You DON’T Like

  1. Interesting! Your work is beautiful. I can relate to not being happy with an artwork but can sometimes improve it by cropping out the less successful elements and improving the balance as well.

    1. Thank you Diane! Yes, I agree with cropping out, it can be a lifesaver sometimes! Excellent advice and one I didn’t think of:)

  2. Just letting you know that I love the “Apple Blossoms” painting. It was my favorite of all of them. 🙂

    1. Susan thank you so so much! I can’t tell how much I appreciate you saying that!

  3. Oh my goodness, Tracy, thank you sooooo much for sharing this!!! I sincerely could not guess which one you saw as a failure and when you said it was the Apple Blossoms I went back and looked. Tears sprung into my eyes because it looks so Beautiful to me! I paid attention to what you had pointed out, but I thought you did an excellent job and the effect is absolutely beautiful <3 I Love it so much! If I could, I would buy up the original right now to inspire me all the time! I'm a writer working on my first novel and have gone through such a long, painstaking process of finding my voice and my craft. Though the road is far from over, I have overcome so much. Sometimes I used to end up cringing and crying on the floor in a fetal position, crippled by thoughts that I would never be good enough, never be smart enough, never write well enough for my future readers and to do justice to the story that means so much to me that I'm hoping to convey. I feel your pain – I have gone through it, and still do at times. Your courage in sharing your vulnerability and honesty is more powerful than anything else you could have shared today. Now knowing about those Apple Blossoms reminds me that, though I may see a part of my work as full of flaws, someone else may see it as honestly and absolutely perfect. So thank you again, so much, for sharing this with your followers <3

    1. Hannah you are amazing! I feel your pain too. It’s hard being a creative, especially when you are by yourself without others to get feedback from. I was so happy with the other 7 paintings it made it ok that there was just one in the bunch that disappointed me. It hurts something awful when you pour your heart and soul into a project and it just doesn’t come out the way you intended it. It can break your soul if you let it. I try to focus on the act and joy of creating. It drives me and pushes me forward. If I didn’t do that I could curl up in a ball and stay that way. If I couldn’t create I wouldn’t be able to breathe.

      Have you shared your novel or other works? Sharing helps! I hope you get your work out there in the world. That’s where it needs to be to spread your joy to others. My favorite part about sharing my art is seeing how others perceive it. It opens my own eyes to things I never realized and that is an awesome thing:-)

      My favorite saying is: the road to success is the same as failure, it’s just that success is further down the road.

      Good luck on your novel, and keep heading down that road!

  4. Hey Tracy, I am completely surprised that the Apple Blossoms is your least favorite. (and I went back and forth many times)
    I think this piece is beautiful. However, reading what it is that you were trying to achieve with this painting…well…I still like it, but I understand. Just a thought….do you ever evaluate your work and make a decision to change direction and work on it some more? For instance, I’m in complete awe of your treatment of trees and bark, like in the Blackburnian Warbler piece. What would happen if you went back to the Apple Blossoms and made the bark look real, instead of faded out? Could that “save” it for you? Or maybe you’re like me, when I hate it…I hate it. I just move on.
    I do so appreciate your honesty, sharing our vulnerablilty as artists can be unsettling…..but it’s how we grow and learn. Maybe it’s a good thing to get all the “bad” out on only one piece!!! Leaves all the goodness for the others.

    1. Hi Susan,

      Great question! If I had the time I may have played around with it more and like you suggested, define the bark, and lifted out the faded shapes in effort to go in the direction I wanted. If I completely ruined the piece I would have chalked it up to a learning experience. As it is now, I know I can find a good home for it. It will never be my favorite, but no one else knows that (well now they do! lol). This last group of paintings was a success in my eyes because I love the other 7 that I made. It’s rare for me to paint a series or a collection and love them all. There is always one or two that give me grief, and it’s those that make me a better artist!

  5. Hello Tracy!
    Fellow artist from Rockland, ME. I just found your website on IG, love your work! Especially the blossoms, the fade out is beautifully done. Really love your honesty in this article, and is particularly meaningful to me as I am struggling with this right now. I recently reopened a website, and was torn on whether or not to list my older artwork. I like them, but don’t love them. I feel I’ve grown since doing them, they no longer represent me, and that they are failures because they havent sold yet. On the other hand, I realize that someone else could love them and want to buy them. I finally made the decision not to list them, or try to sell them any more. I am seeing them as lessons learned, the paintings served their purpose and helped me become a better artist. Now I am donating them to local fundraisers for a new beginning, and I feel great about it!
    Thanks again, you have a new fan and I am looking forward to seeing new works from you.

    1. Hi Mae, It’s wonderful to hear from you! I’m excited for you and your journey to go forward with your future art. You’re optimistic outlook will lead you to success (Don’t ever forget this! I know how easy it is to forget at times). I think donating your older work is a fantastic solution to placing your art in a good home. So smart! Keep getting your artwork out there! Us artists usually prefer to be making then promoting, and the truth is we need to promote more then we make. Good luck this summer:-)

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