Is This What it Feels Like to be a Parent? (How I came to love my ugliest painting yet)

Ok so every now and then I get an urge to make something. A sculpture, a quilt, a video, a song… anything, really. Depends on my mood. On this particular night, I wanted to paint. I’d received a new set of acrylics for Christmas, and I was excited to try them out.

“Maybe I’ll paint a beautiful purple lady in a sunset scene.” I thought to myself. My sister is visiting, and she thinks it’s a nice idea, so I get to work.

I lay down the underpainting. I want it to be a very red sunset- really contrast the purple of the lady. Make her stand out.

So far, so good. Next step- scenery. Will I paint the lady on a hill? By a lake? I’m not sure yet. 

My hand slipped. I am in shock. My sister is horrified.

“Is that an egg?” she asks me.

I can’t answer. It was supposed to be a cool color-blocked background for the broccoli (???) I was going to paint. I had been worried that the broccoli would be too small to see.

“I can fix this.” I tell her. “I’ll just finish the face. It won’t look as scary when the face is finished.” 

“Please stop showing me this.” My sister asks. “I don’t like looking at it.” 

At this point, I’m starting to lose hope. My beautiful lady looks like an oily salesman and a floating fried egg with a yolk that’s too big. Still, I press on. I started this project, and I am determined to finish. 

“He’s probably thirsty.” I think, painting him a refreshing glass of water.

“Why is the broccoli so big.” My sister asks. I can only shrug.

“It looked ugly when it was small…”

“Looks ugly when it’s big, too.”

I accidentally dropped my brush on the canvas and left a big green dot. I hate it.


“I can fix this.” I tell her. She just puts her headphones back in. I am sad. I abandon ship and go to sleep. This is a bad piece of work. I’ll probably throw the canvas out in the morning.

The next morning, I am feeling much better. I decide to try again. I’m in too deep, and I need to see this one through.

Step one. Dealing with that unsightly green dot.

Mission accomplished.

There is still two problems.

The painting is off balance.

The man is thirsty, but he can’t reach his water.

I am finished.

There is nothing else to be added.

The deed is done.

Looking at my painting, I’m not sure how I’m feeling. Shame? Fear? Disgust? Not quite. This piece is hideous, but I was the one who brought it into the world, but there’s something inside me that’s pleased.

“I did this.” I whisper.

It’s unsightly. I still don’t really like looking at it, but I’m proud of it. The top hand looks really great. The shading on the neck? Really nice. Even the nose and ears aren’t bad, and it’s really hard to paint noses and ears.

I usually give my art pieces away, but I decide to keep this one. Everything we make contains a little piece of our soul, and maybe I’m embarrassed that this piece came from inside me, maybe I’m impressed, either way, I don’t want to part with it. I show it to everyone who comes into my office, with mixed reactions. It’s kind of like my child, and I have to wonder if this is what being a parent is like.

“Ha ha look at this thing that I made it’s really horrible and really great and anyway it came from my body and so I love it and I’m proud of it and if you say anything rude about it I am never speaking to you again xoxo PaintMom.”

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