Consider your audience

A painting for a new baby

The project started so innocently. I planned to paint a picture as a gift for a friend’s granddaughter’s birth. My concept was a whimsical and cutesy butterfly. I knew my friend loved purple hues. I tend to draw a basic outline of my concept in pencil, and then slowly layer paints on top of it.

An abnormally sized butterfly in pinks on a green background.
This is the beginning. My intention was to create a whimsical, graceful appearance.


Shortly after, I discovered I was plagiarizing the logo for a local Thai restaurant in town. It’s delicious! Some of my friends commented that the wings reminded them of other things, but I won’t get into that. It’s not a subject about which I have much expertise.

I drew inspiration from the Muppets when designing the face for the butterfly. I ended up with a nightmarish creature. What little girl wants that face looking down at her at night?

A creepy butterfly face.
Muppets should be left to Henson.

I worked to recover the piece by adding more detail in the background. The flowers are really pretty. The image below is just the base coat, and I think with more detail they could have been gorgeous. I also had to work on the wings. I’ve always loved painting eyes. Since they’re often present in butterfly wings, I went with it.

A giant purple human eyeball appears on the wings of a butterfly.
Probably not “crib appropriate.”

The result is a beautiful eye and a beautiful background, but an incredibly disturbing image overall. While removing the muppet face was a good solution, the painting was just not working for me. I couldn’t go on any longer. In the end, the initial concept was scrapped and changed entirely. It’s beautiful and certainly more accessible. I incorporated what the recipient actually liked, instead of what I “wanted” to paint.

Ultimately, I change the color scheme a bit and enhanced the outlines a bit. I’m really pleased with the final product. I hope she still has it!

The Final Product

I lost a lot of time because I started over, but I think this is a much more tasteful painting, and I’m pretty pleased with it. Having the deadline of a party to attend does help speed things along, but it leaves some of the shadowing and details to be desired. Ultimately, this is an excellent learning lesson about painting.

Blue hummingbird with butterflies, roses and lilies.
I finalized the painting by increasing the contrast of the lines, and changing the color scheme of the hummingbird.

Lessons learned

Don’t get attached, start over if needed

At a certain point, it might be best to just start over. Paint a fresh coat and start from scratch. Your audience is likely to appreciate it much more. Plus, when you work becomes famous and they x ray it to find out your secrets, it will delight art historians!

Think about your audience ahead of time

I think if I had thought about my friend a bit more in the first place, I probably would have started closer to the finished product. Image how beautiful the painting would have been if half the worked wasn’t scrapped!

Ask your friends their perspective

Especially for important projects, ask your friends what they think when they see your work. It’s important to get an outside point of view to refresh your creative energy.

Posted in: ID