Why Painting Badly Is Good

Jan 19, 2023

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I had a mystical dream two nights ago, it was one of those crystal clear dreams that feel so real while you’re in it, but goes a little foggy immediately after waking. The parts I remember very vividly is that I was painting in a candlelit cave, and I remember what I said right before I woke up. (I should preface this with the fact that I never have dreams that I’m painting, I can’t remember one anyway, so that alone was noteworthy).


So in this dream, I’m in this cave, painting folds of a dress made from lavender fabric on a canvas, and I’m speaking to someone next to me as I paint. As my brush works the highlight of a fold, I turn to that person and say, “I want to paint enough in my life that my brush does exactly what I envision it to do, and I also want to paint enough in my life that I’m not afraid if it doesn’t.” Come through, dreamy wisdom!


The next day I tried remembering more details but, as it happens with dreams, those details had already slipped through the sieve of my subconscious, probably gone forever. But I remembered what I said very clearly. I even shared it in our leadership meeting the next morning. It struck me because it got me thinking about confidence, failure and perseverance, and how creative confidence comes from knowing both successes and failures. In other words, you have to be able to paint badly if you want to be able to paint at all.

A comparison of Hillary Wall's first 'Moonly Blossoms' painting for Cork & Chroma and today's rendition.

Hillary’s first painting of ‘Moonlit Blossoms’ circa 2013 (left) and the current version for all studios (right).


Recently at a team event, I sat across from Emma, one of our amazing Cork & Chroma Brisbane artists. We were chatting about her studies, and then she asked me about when I studied art. I told her that I’ve never studied art formally. She said supportively, “Oh, I’m surprised! You must be naturally talented at painting then!” I sort of laughed it off and said, “I guess so…!” But then, I caught myself. Mental images of some of my first years of paintings flashed through my head. “Actually, Emma, I’m not. I’m not naturally talented at painting.” I went on to tell her how I think my skills improved dramatically because of my proximity to talented painters (like Emma!) for almost a decade. I’ve watched other people paint, I’ve talked to people about painting, I’ve taught beginners how to paint, and of course, done a lot of painting myself in those ten years which has all added up to me being able to put a nice painting together now. And still, some not so nice ones, too.


I’m sure many of us at some point have looked at someone with talent and assumed that talent must be a gift. I love the quote from Macklemore, “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot.” At Cork & Chroma we often remind ourselves and our guests that painting is a skill. In the same way that you can practice and improve any skill, the more you paint, the “better” you get. Often times our guests will mention how theirs doesn’t look like ours, and many of the artists on our team will then let them know that this is the 35th time we’ve painted that piece! We paint a lot.


A comparison of Hillary Wall's 'Woman in Gold' paintings at Cork & Chroma

Instagram caption by Hillary Wall on painting at Cork & Chroma

The artists at Cork & Chroma paint enough to have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen with our brush when we put it to the canvas, just like my dream said. But in the second half of my dream quote, my dreamy, wise self reminded me that creating is a process, and it’s important to allow ourselves to create “badly” as well as “well.” It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that every piece of art we create has to be perfect or “good,” but that’s not the case. The process of creating is just as important as the final product. Important to note, this is a concept that is much easier said than done. Frequently we have guests in the studio who feel frustrated, or self-consciously poke fun at their creations.


Creating “badly” allows us to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from them. It’s through the process of creating that we develop our skills and gain the confidence to create something truly great. By not being afraid to create something that may not turn out well, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and new ways of thinking.


It’s important to remember that creating is a journey, not a destination. It’s about the process, not the end product. By allowing ourselves to create “badly,” we give ourselves the freedom to explore and grow as artists. So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and create something that may not be perfect. Embrace the journey and enjoy the process of creating!


If you’re looking for a place where you can give yourself time and space to create without expectation or judgement, come join us at Cork & Chroma. We offer sessions and workshops where you can develop your skills and have fun at the same time. You’re free to spend time being creative in an environment that is supportive, and that celebrates the process, not the end product. It’s nice to take something home that you’re proud of, but what we really love about our paint and sip sessions is to celebrate the experience you have while painting. Creative output is something to practice and something to enjoy, and they go hand in hand. Book in and see for yourself the joys and benefits of creating with confidence.

Guest looking at camera with paintbrush in hand at Cork & Chroma

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