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Sometimes a piece just isn’t coming together. You’ve been working on something for hours and it still doesn’t look right. What do you do?
Delete the file in shame? Turn to oil painting instead of digital collage? Quit being an artist all together?
Hell no! Don’t give up!
I have this problem ALL the time– in fact, the collage for this post’s featured image was a STRUGGLE to complete. It took me days! Being unhappy with your collage is totally normal and happens more often than you think.
Here’s the four steps I go through to try and fix an ugly collage:
How to fix an ugly collage
1. Leave it alone for a while.
This is my go-to solution for when a collage isn’t coming together right away. Something’s not working, and I can’t figure out what’s wrong– so I just leave it alone for a while.
This could be a few hours, days, weeks, or even months. I set it aside and then come back to it when I’m ready. I try not to think directly about the collage, but just sort of casually consider the problem way in the back of my mind. By the time I come back to the collage, the solution’s been percolating deep inside my psyche for a while and BOOM, now I know what to do.
2. Go grayscale.
This can be a good solution if a collage has a lot of bright colors or mis-matching patterns. Sometimes it’s TOO busy, and I can’t see the right way to finish it because I’m too distracted. Turning everything grayscale can give me a new perspective to the overall composition of the collage, which can lead to a happy solution.
If you already work in grayscale, try doing the opposite: turn everything into a color. Switch your perspective from the usual and see what shows up!
3. Make a copy (or two) and add/remove elements.
One of the benefits of doing digital artwork is that you can edit a piece as many times as you like. That said, sometimes you may want to make BIG changes– in that case, it’s better to make a copy and edit THAT rather than mess with the original.
With Canva it’s very easy to duplicate a page in the same design tab, and then edit the new version without messing up the old one. (Sign up for Canva here if you haven’t already and give it a try!)
I like doing this because it lets me totally change up the collage without worrying about “losing” the original. This has particularly worked for me when it’s the larger image elements that are messing up the collage, since I’m usually loathe to delete them. With a copy, I can delete at will.
If I like the new version better, then that’s great! If it’s even worse than the original collage, then I can just delete it. Super easy!
4. Ask for help.
Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for their help with your art. If I’m still totally stuck and not sure what to do, I’ll post my in-progress collage piece to an online artist forum or community and ask for input. Sometimes you’re just too close to it to see what it really needs, and another pair of eyes may see a solution for you.
(Honestly, I don’t do this a lot because I’m very particular about my collages and don’t often agree with other people’s suggestions…but it’s potentially a very good idea!)
If you’ve done all these steps and the collage still doesn’t look right, well…sometimes art isn’t perfect. Take what you’ve learned from this ugly collage and move on to another piece.
Just whatever you do, don’t give up on making art because one or two pieces haven’t gone the way you wanted them to!