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Getting through the ugly stage

There is a module in my online Sketchbook class called, "Getting through the ugly stage," where I begin an abstract painting, it gets very ugly and then after working on various ways to solve its problems (which I work through and discuss in the class) it turns out pretty well, in fact, I came to love it. This has happened so many times to me in pretty much all paintings, but especially abstracts. Florals will appear unfinished but not necessarily ugly. Anyway, I decided to embrace that stage and that's what led to the module on it in the class. I now talk about the ugly stage all the time and in our student Facebook group* we laugh about it and even celebrate it. The huge learning about the ugly stage has been to push through it, to not give up. If I had thrown out paintings when they hit that stage I would have a lot fewer paintings that I love and I wouldn't have grown. And believe me, they are really ugly at that stage. The urge to crumple it up, throw my hands up, and say, "you can't paint, you don't know what you're doing, yadda yadda," is very strong. I tell myself and my students to hang in there, don't panic! Just focus on solving one problem at a time, walk away and take a break, and come back with a fresh perspective. But mostly I say, DON'T GIVE UP. The reason is that the ugly stage - that awkward middle part - is where the best learning is. It's where you really grow as you work on solving those challenges. You figure out what works and what doesn't, what you like and what you don't, etc. This morning as I was walking the dog it hit me that life is like that too. We all have ugly or difficult stages in our lives, sometimes they go on for years it seems, and sometimes it's just a day or a week. Either way, we push through, and we figure out how to survive until we can thrive again. We want to "throw out" these times in our lives (I know I do!) but maybe this is where there is a lot of learning and growth for us too? So, here's to finding the determination and grit to get through the ugly stages in creative endeavors and also in life! 💪


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