No one is happy with their artwork all the time. Even the “best artists”, both kids and adults, will sometimes make art they don’t like. So then what?
What can you do when a child is unhappy with their artwork?
This is not the same as the chronic problem of a child who thinks they’re “not creative”. But for those occasional times when a child is unhappy with their artwork, try asking these 3 questions.
1. First ask, “What do you not like about it?”
This may seem like an obvious question, but it’s important to ask. What you might assume is bothering your student might not be the problem at all!
Once you’re clear on what the problem is, decide if it can be fixed, changed, or redeemed. These options are preferable to starting over.
I try to leave starting over as an absolute last resort. Otherwise, you may find yourself with an epidemic of “S.O.S.” – “Starting Over Syndrome”!
This is a good opportunity to model how to brainstorm possible options. Can the problem be erased or somehow covered up? Can that messy ink splotch become an animal? Or the painting be repurposed into paper for a collage or strips for weaving?
Having to work with something unwanted that’s already there can help to coax out new ideas. Limitations like these often ignite fresh creativity.
For very young kids, reading the book, “Beautiful Oops!” by Barney Saltzberg (affiliate link) is a great way to start this conversation.
But sometimes when a child is unhappy with their artwork, fixing, changing, or redeeming the problem is not an option. If this is the case, can they turn the paper over and start again on the back? At least this alternative saves paper!
2. Next ask, “What’s something you DO like about it?”
Artist *Lisa Bardot, who teaches digital artmaking on the iPad using the Procreate app, suggests this.
“When you find yourself unsatisfied with your art and feeling discouraged, here’s what you do. Look at your piece and say, ‘I like this one thing.’… Identify that one thing… then use it again in another drawing!”
She calls this the “process of re-using small wins”. She also reminds us that this is all part of the creative process and “a fantastic opportunity to learn something.”
3. Finally ask, “What have you learned?”
Learning from our mistakes always feels so encouraging to me. We redeem our mistakes every time we choose to identify something we learned from them. This is a vitally important life skill to share with our students!
*Lisa Bardot is a fun artist to follow even if digital art is not your thing! And if you or your students want to learn to draw on an iPad, check out her website. It’s FULL of helpful resources and inspiration.
an inspiring quote
“At the end of the day, if you discover just ONE thing about your art or about yourself as an artist, that is a HUGE WIN.” ~ Lisa Bardot
I’ve heard a similar theory about attending conferences… if you leave with just ONE good takeaway, it was worth going.
I’ve found this to be true, and it works wonders to keep my expectations in check. So, when I read this quote from Procreate artist Lisa Bardot, I could immediately relate to it.
We can also share this principle when a child is unhappy with their artwork. This encourages them to look for what they’ve learned in every situation. It will help them glean nuggets of wisdom not only from their art but from their everyday life as well.