For Christmas my brother had asked for “ugly art.” He often asks for odd things if he doesn’t have anything specific, or need any more socks or pants!
I took this as an opportunity to play around, especially as I’ve really not exercised my creativity much this year. If it was to be “ugly” then it didn’t matter how it turned out.
Just to be clear, I didn’t chose to do a portrait because I think my brother’s face is ugly! Portraits are just what I naturally gravitate towards, a landscape or a vase of flowers just doesn’t spark inspiration. Of course there is a that childish sibling satisfaction in implying that he is ugly!
I spent a bit of time pondering what “ugly art” could mean (I did ask him, since this is such a subjective term, and he said it was completely up to me!). The obvious route would be to go for a Naïve art style, and there are also a lot of examples out there since apparently “ugly portraits” has been something of an online craze lately. None of those felt right, I didn’t think I could set out aiming to copy someone else’s style or if I tried on purpose to make something bad that it would look right, if that makes sense? (This is I am sure something about sincerity I’ve not fully formed the thought for yet!)
I used to draw almost every weekend when I hosted a Meet Up group. About 10 of us would sit around a big table in the Waterstones café, chat and work on something – most of us drawing or writing. I loved doing that, and I made a mix of sketches with my pencils that I’m quite proud of, and ones that turned out kind of terrible but really make me laugh anyway. I do enjoy “bad” art. So I had a sense that if I tried to do a portrait it had a high chance of coming out wonky in some fun way (usually its the eyes, my embroidery portraits also tend to have funny eyes!).
Here are two of my favourites past works from this time!
Cheating with a light box
I didn’t 100% free hand draw this time though, mainly because I was so short on time to get this done. I have a lightbox that I use for tracing my embroidery so instead I used Procreate on my iPad to trace a line drawing, printed that out and then traced it onto the canvas.
My usual medium would be embroidery but that again need more time that I had, so paint had to be the way to go. I hadn’t painted anything with acrylics since I was in school, so I had no idea what skills I actually had to work with! My loose plan as I started out, was trying get a good base down and then to try to ape Fauvism by overlaying some garish colours.
But, I quickly got carried away and forgot the “ugly” brief! After I lost hours to it, I looked at what I’d done and I found I was striving to actually make something I thought looked good! I then couldn’t bring myself to ruin it by attempting different colours (especially as I am not adept at mixing paint colours!).
But still, as we said at the start. what constitutes “good” or “beautiful” or “ugly” is a matter or taste of opinion, so he might still think its ugly!
I am actually very proud of what I painted! It’s not bad for one weekend when I’ve not painted anything earnestly with acrylic since GCSE art!
I do wonder what would have come out thought if I’d had an extra weekend and been able to attempt a free hand drawing! Maybe I’ll just do a series and give him another next year! (I had no idea if his girlfriend was consulted about this ugly art that he presumably is going to hang up in her house!).
I had a lot of fun with this, maybe I should get my paints out more!