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Readers Respond: What Have You Done That's Ruined a Painting?

Responses: 46


You know that sinking feeling when you realize you should not have done something but it's now too late? That extra glaze, little touch of white, or just quickly fixing this or that? What is the worst thing you've done that's ruined a painting?

Big Bird

My painting disaster started as a nice watercolor of a ship at full sail. I had all my family as characters on the boat. A miniature character of my daughter and her friends as well as my boyfriend at the time. It was a picture of perfection. I had their faces and figures set perfectly against a morning sunrise. We were sailing blissfully into the morning sun. Then I got this idea to put in a couple of seagulls. I painted in a couple following the ship and that was fine. Then I got this notion to put in a huge seagull in the upper right corner with huge claws. It looked like it was about to jump out of the picture. First of all, seagulls don't have claws. Their feet are webbed. Second of all, attention was now directed at this stupid bird that looks like he's about to attack the viewer. It hung on my wall for about five years as a reminder that when I get to the point that I am happy with a painting I need to hide my paintbrushes.
—Guest Cherb


My employer requested I do a mural for the break room that required an orange, a toolbox, and our mascot. I was new to painting in the first place but every person that came in kept telling me that my orange looked like an apple, so I changed it. It ended up looking like a basketball and was ruined forever. I had to look at it for three years until they tore it down. Never again will I listen to someone else.
—Guest tygerlilie


Not knowing when to stop is a problem for me, but at least I realize it now, and know enough to set it aside for a tomorrow relook. Also I can only paint when the mood strikes - if I'm near completion but have lost inspiration or enthusiasm, the unfinished painting gets put away - for however long as it takes - I'm starting to feel the itch to get out a waterfall/fall scene acrylic that I started last winter, but it probably won't be until fall or later until that happens.

Mother Mary

I painted my version of a bust of Jesus's Crucifixion. It turned out quite nice, and could sell easily. Quite intense for a first religious painting I must say, and judging from the reaction of others as well. So, I wanted to add Mother Mary; if you have the Son, His Mother should be there. So, after her pretty eyes, nose and mouth were done, I started to work on her hands, in prayer. Then I repainted over them, and again, and again...and again. The more I painted, the older her hands looked compared to her face; she looked as if she was praying and pleading for the mud to come off her hands. It was ruined in capital letters! Perfectionist busted! All in all, next time, if I think my painting looks nice, and my sister thinks so too, I won't try to make it better if it was fine in the first place. It's best to leave well enough ALONE! And Jesus is, (alone) as I won't attempt to paint His Mother again! Now, dear Mary is looking towards Heaven with muddy hands. Amen.
—Guest Djowanne

Listening to Others

I ruined a wonderful painting by listening to someone who probably meant well, but said my creation which was what I thought was a great blue heron...was incorrect...and when I couldn't find the original photo to see what the title was on this bird... I decided to go back into the painting and "correct". I feel it loss so much character and spontaneity. Next time I will just say "it's my artistic license" and leave it alone. Or do a second painting.
—Guest keki43

Painting Disasters

Ha! I could probably write a book on a million ways to destroy a painting. I'm an expert on the subject!


I have ruined several paintings lately by painting too lightly then going over with a darker tone. Ruination! Test on scrap paper first!
—Guest Paul bennett

More Steps Can Ruin a Painting

I paint a little differently. When I paint, my finished product usually ends up digital. Lately my paint of choice is watercolor. I use it for illustrations. I've been using sketchbooks for portability. The paper itself lends to lots of buckling. I compensate by painting washes and then blotting. The result is a transparent effect that looks like it was printed. Too many times I've went too far and didn't stop. I loose the nice transparent light washes. I've also painted layers when I should have let the paper dry first. I also learned the hard way when transporting, not to put artwork in the same bag as a water bottle, no matter how tight the lid is secure. When working digitally I still need to remember when to stop and not take away from the original. Then there are other computer problems like saving over a file after resizing to save a web version. I had that happen to a picture I really liked. Bummer.
—Guest MJI


I am agreeing with so many of you regarding overpainting! I started a portrait and was really getting somewhere, however, in my delight went too far. Putting the painting aside in disgust with myself, finally took the painting (watercolor)to the sink and washed it. When the painting dried, I was surprised to see a misty beauty that couldn't have been done any other way. My friend was thrilled with it and hopefully I will get to the point of "Misty Watercolor Memories" being executed in a less drastic way.
—Guest lee jirka

I Know I Should Not Do It

But I did... my sky and clouds looked a bit darker where lighter seemed appropriate. So I changed the hue, and changed again and it all became a mess I hated so instead of waiting for it to dry and watch and learn. I started all over again and ruined a painting that needed only minor correction. I had to throw it away, I hated it.


I painted something and then looked to add two final details. Well, of course, I couldn't wait between steps and ended up over-painting and ruining what was a nice original work. I still have pictures of the old way it looked, but it kinda sucks now that it's ruined.
—Guest mike

I Need to Paint What is in my Heart

I can always expect disaster when I allow someone to convince me to do a piece for them that is out of my element. My hubby talked me into attempting a big deer head which looked worse as it progressed. I finally told him that my heart just wasn't in it and returned to my real passion ... landscapes.

Share your Art Disasters

I was completely happy with a painting and showed it to someone who was supposedly more knowledgeable than I am. I did what she suggested, to improve the painting, and ruined it. It's not always good to listen to someone else's idea of how things should look.
—Guest Yabut

It's Going to Work! Oh Wait, It's Not

I had to make a piece for a play "Alice in Wonderland" and I got all the paint out, it had to be wacky and abstract. I slapped the paint on and I started painting . . . but I made a mistake. So I colored over it, and then I colored over the whole thing. Which obviously messed it up even more. Determined and frustrated, I kept on painting and painting until it looked like someone had eaten a big lunch at a buffet and puked all over it . . . and not in a good way. But it was going to work! So I kept on painting for who knows how long until I was half way out of my paint. Looking even worse than before, I took the piece of "artwork" outside to the drive-way where I there continued to run over it. Then, realizing how stupid and pointless that was, I put it on a shelf. I now have a whole book case dedicated to my art failures. And my favorite one is still the run over, and definitely wacky, piece of "artwork."
—Guest skitlezz


So, I painted a really nice light colored abstract last year and had 2-3 people that wanted it... Yesterday, while painting a night sky, I left the painting behind my easel, and it has blue blobs all over it. It's pretty much ruined.
—Guest ab828

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