Create a terrible work of art

Your Prompt: Create a terrible work of art which challenges your core beliefs of what good artwork is. Or alternatively, create a work of art which challenges institutionally entrenched ideas of what a good work of art should be.

Today you will get the first prompt which involves creating a terrible piece of art. Terrible can be defined by your own personal taste, or can run counter to the definition as it exists in an institutional framework. We will be looking at aesthetics and what is considered “good’ and “bad” and how these different ideas overlap. Over the course of the next two weeks you will be creating a short project in a time based medium (sound, projection, video, performance) or a traditional medium ( paint, ink, clay, etc.) which you consider to be terrible for the aforementioned reasons. It is important not to focus just on technique, and quality, but also what makes something conceptually weak as well. These studies can lead to strange places, where sometimes your vision of what is bad becomes good, and what is good becomes bad. But it is only through questioning these beliefs that we can explore new limitations, and possibilities.

Dos and Don’ts

You should feel uncomfortable making this piece. Since you are working with a medium which you are familiar with and using it in a way which you find cringe inducing.

You should not create this project hastily. While the prompts are done in conjunction with the production of your studio work, you should use the time wisely over the next two weeks. It’s easy to do something which you consider terrible in a matter of minutes. This work should challenge your core beliefs about what is good. Take some time to create it.

This work should not appear amateurish, which is an easy way to make a bad work. Use your skill set to create something purposefully bad.




Picasso ( at age 14 )

It’s obvious that both Bouguereau and Picasso had acquired a great facility of painting. Picasso was clearly a genius from a young age, but think about why he choose to stop painting in this realistic manner. I imagine if you showed a 12 year old Picasso who was trying to master realism; the paintings he would do later. He may have referred to them as “bad, or awful”. That’s because our aesthetics often can change.

Personally I can’t stand Bouguereau, and his fluffy angels. But that doesn’t mean I think he’s a bad painter necessarily. One of the things I noticed during my studies was that often I’d see a painting at first, and not really like it. But as I learned more about the period in which it was painted, and the person who made it. I can’t help but end up liking it. Perhaps you’ve experienced this with a song that you grew to love the more you listened to it.  Treat art in the same way, don’t just immediately turn off to something if it has one element you don’t like. Dig deeper into the context in which it was created and the ideas the artist is working with. After doing this, it becomes simpler to pinpoint exactly what it is that you think is bad.

Make a list of qualities which you tend to gravitate to.

Do you like artists who handle paint loosely or more meticulously?

Do you value concept over technique?

What color schemes are you attracted to? Which ones make you want to puke?

Do you like the surface of a painting to be smooth, or textured?

Do you like to see paint built up, or carefully blended?

What subject matter do you like/hate?

Once you’ve finished this list. Make a post on your blog containing five different art works which you think exhibit bad qualities of art. Write about why you think they are bad. If you don’t feel comfortable saying “good and bad” then talk about aesthetic choices which you feel are weak, and explain why you don’t like.

Everyone has different tastes about art. In the previous exercise you should have begun to whittle down the things which you value in your art as well as the work of others.  Be seeing what is bad, we can begin to appreciate more exactly what it is that we are drawn to.  Let’s look at some other words that are typical heard in critiques about qualities which are considered unappealing in the contemporary art world ( unless they are done knowingly, which of course, they are ) . That’s often the problem. Walking the line between something which is too contrived, and something which is too free and unplanned.

Words which have been used to describe bad art.

trite: overused and consequently of little import; lacking originality or freshness. It is overdone, and unsurprising.

contrived: deliberately created rather than arising naturally or spontaneously.


sentimental: of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.

bland: lacking strong features or characteristics and therefore uninteresting.


amateurish:lacking skill and polish

kitsch: art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.




Cliche:A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.

Brave as a lion: This describes a very brave person.

Opposites attract: This means that people who like different things and have different views are likely to fall in love or to become friends


Switzerland Exhibition

Jeff Koons


Mohamed Al-Fayed (commission)

The Michael Jackson Statue is a plaster and resin sculpture of Michael Jackson commissioned by Mohamed Al-Fayed and originally unveiled in 2011 outside Craven Cottage the ground of Fulham Football Club of which Al-Fayed was chairman. It was removed by new Fulham chairman Shahid Khan in 2013 and moved to the National Football Museum in Manchester in 2014.



Jim Carrey


Macauley Caulkin




Portrait of a child


Damien Hirst

Richard Dorment, art critic of The Daily Telegraph, wrote: “If anyone but Hirst had made this curious object, we would be struck by its vulgarity. It looks like the kind of thing Asprey or Harrods might sell to credulous visitors from the oil states with unlimited amounts of money to spend, little taste, and no knowledge of art. I can imagine it gracing the drawing room of some African dictator or Colombian drug baron. But not just anyone made it – Hirst did. Knowing this, we look at it in a different way and realise that in the most brutal, direct way possible, For the Love of God questions something about the morality of art and money.”


Your list of things which you do and don’t like aesthetically.

Your bad artwork

Examples of other works you don’t like posted to your blog. Write short descriptions underneath each image as to why you don’t like it.

A short description of what you value in art posted to your blog.

Back to: Crash Course in Contemporary Art: Studio