That’s no photoshop my friends. Last night I grabbed a painting and ripped it right down the middle.

You’re all probably thinking, whhhaaaaaat. Who rips up their own artwork!? Well, I couldn’t write this post without showing you I’m serious, could I?

Simply put, I completely believe in detaching yourself from your work. Now, I’m not telling you to go rip up all your best artwork. I’m just telling you to remember your artwork is something that’s within you. The actual art… well, it’s just stuff when you think about it. If it’s all burnt in a fire tomorrow, you will still have your technique, your ideas, and your creativity.

The first time the idea of detaching myself from my art came about was when I was applying to college. I remember applying to RISD, and part of the application required you to do a tedious drawing assignment…and then fold the artwork into a small square. At the time, I was thinking why on earth would they have me spend hours and hours on a drawing just to fold it up?! Throughout the years, the idea has stuck with me.

Being able to let your art go is not only something that will help you grow, but it will also allow you to create a business with your art (if that’s your intention). There are SO many times I’ve wanted to keep a painting instead of selling it. I’d say, “but this is my best work!”. Sometimes, I  have to remind myself that it’s just one piece, and if I wanted to recreate it, I could. If I held on to every painting I ever thought was my absolute best, I’d never be able to make a living off of my artwork.

Make lots of art, and don’t be afraid of ‘ruining’ it. If you do a painting and wonder what will happen if you splatter bleach all over it, go for it! If it ruins the painting, so what!? At least you tried. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that those ‘mistakes’, are just great discoveries.

Be passionate about making art, but don’t be afraid to let go!

I could go on and on about this topic! What are your thoughts?! Do you get attached to your artwork? I’m curious!

  1. Since this is my first comment I just wanna start by saying that I’m a huge fan, your tips on watercoloring are among the best I’ve come across; you should consider writing a book. This tip was a real eye-opener. Keep up the good work!

  2. My jewelry teacher used to tell us “you know the artist” when it came to selling your work. As in, even if it is the most intimate, important, special piece of work you have ever created, you know where to get another one… Because you know the artist. I also think if you feel like you are selling a piece of yourself when you sell your work, you must be doing something right…

  3. Hello Katie.
    You know, when I was reading this post, I couldn’t help to think that on the day you ripped your painting you were in a bad mood.

    A few years ago, I had to teach myself how to detach from artwork! It’s not easy… but when I started selling my paintings I noticed that they don’t belong just to me: they belong to who ever enjoys it and admires it too. 🙂

    I’ve sell or even offered many paintings that I completely fell in love (and sometimes regretted doing it), but I started thinking that maybe it’s all part of doing art: you just have to let it go…

    I’m always thinking ‘I can do better’ (many professors told me that this is a good thing to think…) and maybe that’s why I’m capable of ripping my work and throw it in the trash.

    I think it’s a matter of maturity and by letting go your art, you’re growing, and growing and becoming better at what you do.

    ‘A guilty conscience need to confess. A work of art it’s a confession’. – Albert Camus

    Maybe this post you made, was the way your consciousness was capable of ‘talking’ and ‘letting go’ that painting your ripped… and many others that will have the same fate: but you will become better! That’s for sure!

    Thank you for taking the time to read my comment. All the best! 🙂


    1. haha! no, i wasn’t in a bad mood :). and normally i don’t rip my paintings, but i wanted to make a point about letting go of your art. but yes… it’s very mature to be able to let go of your artwork!

  4. Well, I do think you’re right. Sometimes I get read out my work, some of them, because I think I need that to get along with other stuff, in order no to be very attached. I feel this more as feng shui release. I don’t know how to explain this quite well. Is as if I need to release the old in order to receive the new( a new perspective of drawing, experiments, so on).

  5. I’m so happy you wrote about this. I’ve been struggling with this since I started drawing when I was a little girl. Both things happen to me, I get attached to my best work and it’s a little tough to let them go sometimes, and I also get that initial fear of looking a blank piece of paper and feeling overwhelmed by it’s vastness. Most times I start new work I get the feeling that somehow what I drew before looked good out of chance and I won’t be able to do something as good or better. This reminds me of mythology, almost as if my muse had taken over me and done all the work through me.
    With a lot of practice and just telling myself to start new work with no fears or expectations I’ve been getting better at it.

    This reminds me of something that happened to me last year. I had drawn a portrait of Salvador Dali for class and somebody loved it and wanted to buy it on the spot, which totally surprised me and caught me off guard. I was really unsure at first but I was able to sell it and I’m glad that this happened because it helped me learn and improve in this area.

    1. that’s great someone wanted to buy your painting! i think it’s hard at first, but once you do it- it’s such a wonderful feeling. to know that people want to pay for your artwork! it’s a huge compliment.

  6. One of my favorite pieces i did can from a painting i had dropped my black paint brush right in the middle being angry I instantly ripped it into three pieces. later on I ended up taking each one of those ripped up pieces and creating multiple awesome new pieces with much more creativity then the original piece. sometimes its good to fuck up. =]

  7. i totally understand what you mean about hanging onto paintings. the amount of times i’ve finished a painting for an exhibition and been reluctant to give it up for sale. or when one does sell i have this blind moment of panic and think ‘but it was one of my best’ blah blah blah. i think your words here are very inspiring and also reassuring to other perhaps somewhat ‘clingy’ artists that regret ruining or passing on their work. brilliant post 🙂 xX

  8. Love that you posted this! I used to drive my students crazy (when I was a high school art teacher) because I would do demo projects and then just rip them up and throw them away after. They felt the need to treasure every sketch sometimes…but “art” is so much more than the product! It’s the process as well that matters!

  9. I have this problem with the clothes that I sew. I can easily throw out or give away clothes I bought, but not what I’ve made. Even if it doesn’t fit anymore, I have an inner conflict & I’m even worse when it comes to pieces I’ve made for customers.
    I get very upset when they don’t treat “my” clothes with the love & care I think they should.
    And even if they have paid for the clothes & it’s theirs, to me it will always be “Mine” 🙂

    1. yeah i know the feeling. but if you kept every thing you ever made… yeesh you’d probably need to rent a storage box! 🙂 at least i would…

  10. Love this! The implication that our value comes not in the final product, but in the creating itself. (Even so, I still cringe thinking about you ripping up your amazing work!)

    1. thanks hudson! yeah… but you know. the painting looks kinda badass ripped in half. i might have to frame it that way!

  11. I’m not a painter, but am an interior designer/art director for an architectural firm. This post is genius. This is something no one talks to you about in school!

    I find that I get so attached to the things I create for clients that I get mad when they don’t like it or don’t get it. I can get hurt. “Why don’t they see how amazing this is? I killed myself on it! They don’t get it!” Blah blah blah. Separating yourself from your work helps you step back and see it with less bias. You made something awesome! Guess what? Now you’ll do it over and it will be awesome, too! Lucky us that we get to keep making! It helps me to stop seeing one answer to a design problem and come up with many.
    Every piece can’t be our best and they are all building the base for what your art is to come. It’s still hard for me, but sometimes you just have to look at it and say “Eh, moving on.”

  12. Such great advice, Katie! I can definitely relate to you about the RISD part. I remember folding my drawing, feeling a little bit of pain, but realizing that it’s basically part of the test. Now I work in the admissions office, and the people who send their drawings in rolls end up with their work folded anyway, and it also reflects on their artistic character pretty poorly. It’s certainly really important that you produce so much work that you get over the attachment issues. That’s something I definitely have a problem with, but it helps to work on non-archival quality paper that’ll eventually deteriorate anyway…that way, it’ll encourage you to try new things since it won’t last forever.

  13. I am in my final year at University studying Printed Textile Design for Fashion and one of the hardest things I find – and something I am always asked to do from tutors – is to be freer with my work. I make everything so precious that I don’t actually allow for things to develop and flow naturally. And if within minutes I am not happy with a painting I immediately scrap the idea instead of letting it develop. This post has certainly made me think about how the best pieces sometimes come by accidents and others, from patience. Whatever happens, happens!!

    Thank you for such a lovely read and lovely work!

  14. This is the main reason why I got a graphic design degree and not an art degree. I always felt that giving away my art was like giving away a part of me and many times I settled for mediocre work because I didn’t want to” ruin it” and now I find the need to “perfect” my art and I no longer have anymore fun and I find it so stressful I don’t even paint anymore. Your advice is perfect and I think I might try a looser more free approach to art . 🙂

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