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The ugly stage in paintings and in life

I often discuss the ugly stage of paintings in my classes, it's somewhere in the middle of the painting creation process and it's uncomfortable and awkward. You've started the painting with some excitement and you'd like to get it to a completed state you're happy with but what you have now is not looking promising. You want to throw in the towel because it is not a pleasant feeling - a no man's land of doubt. And yet, if you resist the temptation to quit, push aside the doubt and fear and keep going, it's almost always rewarding. It comes down to your tolerance for discomfort honestly. After a while, you learn through experience that the ugly stage is simply part of the process, it's supposed to happen and so it doesn't derail you. This comment from Leslie, one of my students, prompted this newsletter topic as I realized the parallels to life regarding the ugly stage: "Y'all want to know what the most profound thing I have learned from Suzanne is? The ugly stage. No one ever said that before. Not my artistic friends and not the art teachers from high school. Once I understood this, it changed everything. Now I take photos of different stages in my pieces to prove it to the kids I work with. I think we tend to give up just before the magic appears. Never stop." You may have heard me say how I think art is life and life is art. In my own life, I've noticed that personal growth comes in cycles. It hits a plateau that is a lot like the uncomfortable ugly stage in a painting and then it feels as though a breakthrough happens. Then months or even years later the cycle begins again. This same process seems to occur when we start something new and it gets tough and we want to give up. Perhaps these are all uncomfortable "ugly stages" that are potential gems in the making if we just keep going. What do you think?



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4 Comments


Thank you for posting this. I'm going through that now & have to push myself to keep going. Your wise words are just what l needed to hear🙂

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Suzanne Allard
Suzanne Allard
Feb 09, 2023
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That’s wonderful to hear! Keep going!

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Love the painting in this post- so beautiful!

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Suzanne Allard
Suzanne Allard
Feb 09, 2023
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Thanks so much!

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