Is painting by numbers cheating or an artistic process?

Is Painting by Numbers Cheating or an Artistic Process? What Constitutes Cheating in Art?


Is painting by numbers cheating? Can you say that you’re a real artist if you only paint by numbers? Should you take credit for the final piece? If you’re an enthusiast of this art, then I bet such questions linger in your head a lot.

Well, paint by numbers is not cheating. And in a short while I’m going to show you why that’s so. Also, you are a real artist even if all you do is paint by numbers. In case you have some doubts, just look at the definition of art.


What Is Art and What Makes Someone a Real Artist?


Leonardo da Vinci defined art as:

“the queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world”.

If whatever you’re painting communicates some form of knowledge and can be viewed by current and future generations, then it is art. Da Vinci should know, he is one of the greatest artists to have ever walked this earth.

Literally every paint by numbers painting communicates something. Take a look at this masterpiece as an example.

It conveys intimacy without relying on words. That’s exactly what art does – it communicates in different ways.

And if you get that particular piece, it will last for hundreds of years because it’s an acrylic kit. Ledgebay does have it on sale; feel free to get yours here.

If you can paint something like that, then you are an artist; at least according to da Vinci’s definition. However, most people take the dictionary as the go-to tool for definitions. How about we look at what the Oxford Dictionary says about art:

“the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”.

Painting is right there in the definition. Do you know what paint by numbers is? It is painting!

It’s an artwork that you create using pigments on a surface. In other words, it is an artistic process. And painting by numbers makes you a real artist.


What’s Cheating in Art?


Since we know it’s art, is painting by numbers cheating? No, it’s not. Again, I’m going to show you why.

The definition of cheating is pretty relative and subjective, especially in the context of art. Take tracing for example. Many artists and enthusiasts will say that tracing is cheating.

But if you think about it, tracing is actually copying someone else’s work. As long as you don’t take credit for it, it shouldn’t be cheating. In any case, copying has been in art since forever and it has been “acceptable” to some degree.

That’s why Pablo Picasso said “good artists copy, great artists steal”. I’m guessing he wouldn’t have condoned it but he probably wouldn’t have called it cheating either. It just goes to show that there’s no single definition of cheating in art.

For the sake of uniformity, let’s turn to the Oxford Dictionary again and see how it defines cheating. It is to:

“gain an advantage over or deprive of something by using unfair or deceitful methods”.


Two things stand out: gaining an advantage and using unfair or deceitful methods.


1. Advantage


Advantage is reward. Is there an aspect of reward in paint by numbers? Absolutely! Positive attention and admiration are both rewards. And they’re very common in art.

We hang our finished paint by numbers projects because we want people to acknowledge and possibly admire our efforts. In some cases, we even gift them to our loved ones or try to sell them. That’s how highly we regard these projects.

In fact, if your painting is that good, you can even showcase it to the world. LedgeBay has an entire section on its website dedicated to DIY paint by numbers projects. Don’t feel shy to showcase yours and get praise for it; reward – material and non-material – is a part of art.


2. Unfair means


Now, the big question here is: do you have legitimate claim to the reward? If no, then you cheated. If yes, then it’s not cheating.

Take this illustration for example. Assume you have a very nice paint by numbers kit. Your sibling, niece/nephew or even child sees it and then starts painting the canvas before you do.

By the time you realize, he/she has completed it and the final piece is a beauty to behold. So you take it, post it online and credit the masterpiece to yourself.

Now that would be cheating because you didn’t paint the art. Whoever does the painting should get the reward. If it’s a shared effort, everyone should be rewarded according to their effort. That’s the general rule of fairness in art.

So, Is Painting by Numbers Cheating?


As an art, it’s not cheating. It does not give you any unfair advantage.

More importantly, it requires you to use your own hands to put paint on canvas, just like any other type of painting. You basically create an artwork that didn’t exist. And the process involves applying the right paint in the right spot, pretty much like all other forms of painting.

By the way, paint by numbers doesn’t even use some of the most controversial art techniques. There’s no tracing when you’re painting by numbers. It doesn’t require you to paint from a photograph.

You won’t use any software to digitally edit the final piece. There are no grids involved, no projectors, and no rulers. All these things are usually construed by some people as cheating.

But you won’t have any of them in paint by numbers. It’s just you, your canvas, brushes, paints and probably a cup of coffee of whichever beverage you enjoy most.


Painting by Numbers is Not Cheating Because There Are No Rules in Painting


Thus far we have determined a few key points:


· Paint by numbers is art and if you’re doing it then you’re an artist.

· Painting by numbers is not cheating unless you’re using unfair methods to gain an advantage.


Now, the big question is, what constitutes an unfair method?

The thing that makes art so unique is that it doesn’t have rules. It’s so unlike other things that people do for fun or entertainment.

Take games for example. In chess, if you move a pawn horizontally then you’ve broken a rule. That would be cheating. But at what point do you say that someone has cheated in paint by numbers? Which rules or principles should apply here?

(Un)fortunately, art – especially painting – is not governed by rules. It wouldn’t be art if there were limits to what you can do, right? After all, art is all about expressing imagination; and imagination is infinite.

Nonetheless, you’ll come across some general principles of painting like how the artwork should have balance, proportion, emphasis, variety and so on. Which then begs the question, is painting by numbers cheating if it doesn’t follow these principles?

Absolutely not! In fact, it is not cheating if you disregard every one of those principles. And that’s not just in painting by numbers, it applies to all types of painting.

Nobody will call you a cheat because your painting doesn’t have some form of emphasis or because it lacks balance. Critics might criticize, but that won’t make it less of a piece of art.


What About Submitting a Paint by Numbers Project to a Painting Competition?


Another good question, is painting by numbers cheating if it’s entered in a competition?

Competitions usually change the artistic process because they typically introduce rules and regulations. For example, a competition can require all participants to use oil paints only. In that case if you use acrylic or any other type of paint, you will have cheated.

Now, to answer the question, is painting by numbers cheating in the context of a competition? It depends on the rules of the competition. If the rules don’t allow using a pre-printed canvas, then entering a paint by numbers project would be cheating.

On the other hand, if participants are allowed to submit any type of project, then it won’t be cheating if you did some painting by numbers. The same applies if the competition requires entrants to strictly submit paint by numbers projects.


In Conclusion


Is painting by numbers cheating? No, it’s not. It’s an artistic process.

Cheating only becomes a possibility if there’s a competition with set rules. If you do enter your paint by numbers project in a competition, and then flout the rules while painting it, then you will have cheated.

You will have an unfair advantage over the other competitors. That is not acceptable in paint by numbers. In fact, it’s not acceptable in all forms of art.


What’s Hot Right Now in Paint by Numbers?


As long as you’re here, I thought I should introduce you to some cool paint by numbers kits. They produce amazingly beautiful artwork.

More importantly, painting by numbers is something that everyone should be doing. It doesn’t just inspire the artist in you, it’s therapeutic as well. Those are two solid reasons to check out these cool kits:

“Art is a mad search for individualism” – Paul Gauguin.

Paint by numbers might just be what you need to find yourself.




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