Make Bad Art

One of the literature professors I had in college gave us all an assignment to write a bad poem. A truly awful bit of verse about an apple. When we finished, they announced that anything we created henceforth would be better than that.

The idea of creating bad art stuck with me. It’s not about setting the bar low, but more about getting you to overcome the inertia of doubt. We all have great ideas, but the critical voice in our heads holds us back. Why start when we can’t create something as awe inspiring as the posts that scroll by on Instagram? In our minds, our project must be perfect right from the start. 

That hurtle of internal judgement is a hard one to leap over. But what if we let ourselves create bad art?

The inspiration for this post came from a news article I chanced upon about Ricky Brown — a New York portrait maker who advertises “Really Bad Portraits.” True to form, the drawings are done quickly with a sharpie on white paper. Yet as I look at them, I can’t help but see the artistic intent behind the squiggles.

Art is a way to think.

One of the commenters on his Instagram posts says: “There has never been a time while looking at one of your posts that I haven’t become extremely happy!” And isn’t that the point of art? To bring joy?

Francoise Cachin, the former director of the Musee d’Orsay, was once asked why she liked bad art. She replied: ”Oh, but I only like the best bad art!”

Bad art becomes a release from the elitism of the past. Bad art is democratic, anyone can attempt it. Again, it’s not the notion of lowering the bar on what makes art. Even Ricky Brown has another Instagram account where he features his more serious art. 

Bad art is a license to experiment. It’s a liberating adventure that can spark your creative juices and lead you to even greater things. 

What if, rather than attempting to make everything perfect right from the get go, we let ourselves explore something bad? Allowing little bit of failure can over come the inertia that holds us all back. 

Tim Kane

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