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  1.  (9680.1)
    Okay, so over at Bleeding Cool, people are whinging about Ryan Ottley Burning old art of his that he doesn't want to see ever again, and embarrasses him, as he's grown as an artist since the time he drew it, and all he sees when he looks at it is GAHHH NEWBMISTAKES, and he thinks it looks like shit.

    My questions are these:
    Artists, do you ever destroy old work, sketches, drawings, things that are torn, embarrassing, etc? If so, how do you do it? Fire? Paper shredder?
    Or do you give it away, or just keep it?

    How do you deal with excess and sub-par art?
  2.  (9680.2)
    I'm constantly destroying my artwork. occasionally one of my studio mates might stop me from destroying a piece because they want it. I only agree to let them have it if I never see it again and that they never show it to any one. I'm so vain...
  3.  (9680.3)
    Conveniently, a flood took out about half my art school work, and while I was throwing out the unrecoverable stuff, I also chucked the... unrecoverable stuff. My previous method had been to tuck it away so's never to have to look at it. Apparently I tucked it too close to the floor.
  4.  (9680.4)
    When I finished my art degree I dumped all my artwork from the 3 years in a skip (as did several other of my fellow graduates).

    I continue to destroy work that I don't think is up to standard - whether that's because of what I perceive of as technical failings in the works, or merely because it fails to resonate with me (a more intangible quality).
  5.  (9680.5)
    I burned a large watercolor once. It was a commission, and I wasn't happy with it but I couldn't seem to start on a new version while the first one still existed.

    So I took it out and laid it in the driveway and set it on fire. It was really interesting - even beautiful - to watch, because it just slowly smoldered away, the colors turning to greyish pastels as the ash grew out across the paper. It all held together until it had all turned to pigmented ash, and then a breeze came up and blew it away. So it's not like I recommend you rush out and do that, but it was quite the experience.
  6.  (9680.6)
    I still find awful, awful sketch books from the early to mid 2000's...well anything prior to 2009 really...and unless I can salvage the paper the books get torn into bits and pulped with washing-up liquid in the sink (I do this with stacks of old bank statements and anything with identifying info on it too...).

    My big concern now is that as I mostly work digitally and a lot of my work makes it online I don't have that same control over work that I suddenly realise is awful. A couple of years ago I had to murder my 2004-era DeviantArt account because it was just so very horrible--and I had no idea those accounts were so hard to kill.
    • CommentTimeMar 24th 2011
    I have trouble throwing stuff out, so I have little stacks and piles of old art (personally I think it verges on Hording D: ). Every once in a while when I clean I will tear up and throw away some old stuff I come across, but not often. (My room/office is a terrible mess because of this). But I understand Ottley's take and why he burned his old stuff. He's since posted a contest where contestants can win some Invincible pages he was pleased with.
  7.  (9680.8)
    I never destroy my old work. Seeing stuff that's not up to my current standards is a nice reminder that my skills have grown and developed over the years.
    • CommentAuthorSpike3185
    • CommentTimeMar 24th 2011
    I rip up and throw away my old art almost every time I find some. About the only way a piece of mine lasts more than a few years is if it's not in my posession anymore or if I forgot it exists. A few of the better ones get to stick around and I probably still have every sketchbook I've ever had but until recently my finished pieces were always such a disaster I couldn't stand to look at them.
    • CommentTimeMar 24th 2011 edited
    My wife (who is also a painter/illustrator) and I moved to larger apartment 5 months ago, and to do so we had to get rid of a ton of old art.
    We purged 10+ years of artwork that had been overwhelming our living space in an almost Hoarder-esque fashion. She Roothlessly (ha!) pitched her stuff- lock stock and barrel - into the bin before we moved, keeping only a few canvases (mainly to salvage the canvas and frames).
    I was more sentimental about my stuff (MENTAL being the key part of that word,in hind sight) and spent many hours sorting thru every scrap, sketchbook, page, napkin, notebook, thousands upon thousands of large drawings and still life studies from college.... there was no end to it. Tons of it had to go.
    Two weekend ago I was asked by my folks to sort thru my art stuff from college that had collected in their basement years ago. And there again I went thru every page and trashed 90 percent of it.

    It was a good thing to do, I photographed some of what I couldn't keep... but looking back I sort of wish I had taken the same road my wife did and just pitched (or burned) the whole lot. She seemed very freed by the act, while I spent hours sorting and saying good bye.

    It's funny, but the stuff that I kept (about two big binders worth) was mostly stuff from before art college. Lost of high school notebooks, and even some stuff from when I was in grade school... seeing that stuff lit me right up, and I had to keep it all.
    Going thru my stuff from college though - life drawings, media studies, still life work, object drawing and technical construction drawings/lessons - none of them really gave me a charge of any kind, and didn't do much but remind me of how hard I worked as I honed my craft in those days, but it didn't give me much of a charge.
    I dunno who that young Mike Rooth kid from before he went to art college was, but that cat could draw (or dreamed that he could anyway) ;)
  8.  (9680.11)
    I'm not prolific at all. Some of my larger paintings have taken me hundreds of hours over a period of up to eighteen months to complete, mostly due to my hyper-obsessive filling in of detail with a size 00000 brush, so I've never had a huge backlog of stuff to clutter up the place. I lost about twenty years' worth of work in a house fire started by a sociopathic roomie in 1991, and apart from the stuff I've sold or given as gifts I still have every piece I've made since then. And of course a good deal of my recent work is digital, so there's no problem with physical space.
  9.  (9680.12)
    I don't paint, but I burn writings. Overly emotional and unthought out pieces, stories or descriptions that I can't see having any sort of positive effect for readers. They're either purged on the moment, lining a metal bin outside, often the flames fighting against icy winter air, or if they have more personal, delicate connections, I'll burn all but one copy, and that one copy I will fold into a crane before sending it off a bridge into my local river.
  10.  (9680.13)
    A lot of my old instrument-creations I tend to strip for parts and turn into other things. I'm far too much of a recylcing/reusing person to get rid of things that could possibly be useful someday. I think if i painted/sketched i'd try and do the same? or just use old stuff to experiment with.
    • CommentAuthorJECole
    • CommentTimeMar 24th 2011 edited
    I keep every single bad piece of writing and artwork I create. I'm of the firm belief that you learn as much from a mistake than you do from a success, and that you need to keep your bad work close at hand to remind yourself both how far you've come and how far you have to go.

    Edited to add
    I only ever destroyed my artwork once. I was sixteen and i had given up drawing because of the comments of several morons who opinions i held in high regard. One Saturday afternoon I collected every single piece of art i had created up until that point and burnt it in huge bonfire in my garden. I didn't pick a pencil to create a piece of artwork for another six years.

    I've come deeply regret that decision.
  11.  (9680.15)

    I do and I don't.

    At some point I threw out or destroyed most art I did as a kid, a decision I highly regret now for I actually had a truckload of interesting concepts in there (and the few surviving bits give me greater understanding of how my current stuff evolved), and the part I most regret is the old comics. I'd really give a lot to be able to see the Ghostbusters comic I did (which was all in colored markers with tiny stick figure black marker drawn team of ten or twenty ghost catchers shooting red rays as green and blue ghosts floating in air... and destroying them rather than catching) and that's just one of them.

    On the other hand I don't have any special attachment to the art itself. I draw on cheapest paper and after the pages are scanned in for inking, I just toss them around from corner to corner in loose piles of dogeared sheets.
    • CommentTimeMar 24th 2011
    When I finished art school/university, I took 90% of the work I had done over the four years (including 14+ large canvases, minimum size 5' x 3' upwards to 14' x 8') made a huge cairn in the middle of the FA building parking lot, poured linseed oil, turp, and acetone over it, and flipped a lit cig onto it.

    Partly because I wanted to 'purge' the past, having a clean start (since I was driving to LA the next day), partly because I didn't have space for storage, and partly because I was a pretentious little fucker. Only 3 pieces from that period survived... I look at them now and think "good god, what a miserable fucker I was"
  12.  (9680.17)
    when working my floor becomes a mass or concepts/sketches/doodles, i dump whatever i don't feel was part of the evolution of the piece, i love process and keep stuff at different stages incse i want to go back and do a better inking job of it or stuff like that, i dumped a lot of stuff from life drawing class, four hours a week for three years meant alot of a1 sheets also all my tach graphics drawings they weren't easy on the eye much.

    i like to see where i started and i post most of what i do on on online gallery and the good stuff goes into the portfolio, i'm not ashamed of my begins, it's nice to see how i've changed and approch things differently but this is gonna vary depending on the artist, if ryan ottley wants to destroy his work let him.
  13.  (9680.18)
    Hmm...I actually post all of my old stuff to the internet, and plan to keep doing so--so that as I get better you can see my progression and growth as an artist. That's me. Why hide it? I like when artists show their old stuff. There's no shame in the fact that you've improved. But I think it's helpful for others to see that you didn't just pop out all fully formed and everything. It's interesting to see how someone evolves as an artist. That's vitality.
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeMar 24th 2011
    I think it's bad to destroy information, period.
    Unless it's information that needs to be destroyed.
    However shitty you feel like your omgn00b works are, you should never eliminate the possibility that they can still teach you something.
    • CommentTimeMar 25th 2011
    I always feel that my old works had good ideas, but were just executed poorly. I keep them around in the filing cabinet as things I should go back to when I'm much smarter about how to render them. But I'm also the sort who only records things when they're burning up my brain maybe once a fortnight, instead of every day, so it's easy to keep these things around.
    Otherwise, I'd probably just put them in the recycling bin and be done with them.

    Because of this attachment to the preciousness of ideas, when I was much much younger, I used to toy with the idea of taking everything I'd done and worked for and simply destroying them. Just to see what I would do without them to fall back on. Would I just spend so much time trying to recreate them or go forward with new ideas and completely disregard the past as a lost thing?

    Then I got too busy for such wankery and became a hoarding hermit who lives in a house made of filled up sketchbooks.