This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I think everyone would agree that it takes tremendous work, practice, sacrifice, practice, dedication, practice, faith, practice, and more practice (to name only a few) to become a professional athlete or musician. Once someone reaches the level of professional, practice is still a daily (or near daily) routine.
A professional basketball player, for example, practices free throws, runs, lifts weights, goes through a variety of drills – both solo and with/against team members. And don’t forget scrimmages. It’s essential to put all the practice and training together in a practice game.
A musician will go through scales, arpeggios, etudes, etc. for hours each day. And of course it’s important to practice the set list, too – the actual pieces the musician will perform.
Neither musicians nor athletes perform without a lot of practice. In most cases more time is spent practicing than performing.
Yet, many visual artists think that once they reach the professional level, they no longer need practice. Many have the false idea that they can perform each time they enter their studio to create.
And it isn’t just professional artists. Aspiring artists often take a workshop or class and then feel that they now have all the skills or knowledge they need to perform each and every time. Many artists don’t want to put in the time and effort to improve.
Don’t get me wrong – there are many, many artists who continue to practice and study throughout their life. I commend you if you are one of this group.
But many artists don’t practice near enough. If you find yourself in this group, I hope you will commit to yourself to study. Commit today.
As you practice, add variety. Athletes don’t only scrimmage. Musicians don’t only practice the pieces they plan to perform. As important as they are, it is also important to go through a variety of exercises and drills to strengthen your technical and expressive abilities.
Practice Your Art – this list isn’t all inclusive, but I hope it will get you thinking about a variety of ways you can practice.
- Drawing / sketching – keep a sketchbook with you always
- Create color charts
- Do a variety of exercises to develop different skills from color theory to composition to values, perspective, creativity, expression, etc. There are hundreds of exercises you could do. Maybe I’ll expound on some ideas in a future article, but here is a short list – paint in color from a black and white photo; do 20 minute studies from life; paint with a limited palette (3 colors plus white); turn photo upside down and paint what you see; create a series of several studies of a specific object (nose, hands, clouds, rocks, trees, etc.); do monochromatic value studies; develop a color painting from another artist’s thumbnail sketch; experiment with different tools or techniques; etc.
- But most importantly - the best way to practice is simply create. Create with the attitude that the piece you are working on does not need to be a masterpiece. It does not need to be exhibited. It is simply for discipline. If you go into your studio with that attitude, the pressure is off to perform. But do your best to perform. After a while, as you look at your work, you will find that some, even many, of those works are worthy of exhibiting. You DID perform - often.
- As you create, include working regularly from life – figure, portrait, still life, plein air, etc.
Don’t send everything you create to the galleries or exhibits. Only show your best work – the work where you really do give a great performance. Weed out the inferior work. Don’t worry that some (or many) works fail. They have taught you something. It is practice and study and discipline. They are the scrimmages. They are the dress rehearsals. They prepare you and enable you to perform.