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Practice Your Art

by Keith Bond on 8/20/2012 7:25:43 AM

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.


Final Thought


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.


Best Wishes,

Keith Bond


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Related Posts:

Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Your Art

The Masterpiece

Don't Be A Slave

Color Test

Why You Should Paint The Same Composition More Than Once

Memory Exercises

Topics: advice for artists | art education | creativity | FineArtViews | inspiration | Keith Bond 

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Richard Rogers
Hi Keith.
I can't add anything to what you have written. You have said it all and you have said it well. It's good advice and a great attitude to have. There is simply no substitute for miles on the brush. And what wonderful discoveries can be made exploring different mediums,techniques, colours, etc, simply creating and not worrying about producing a masterpiece every time.

Walter Paul Bebirian
great advice - every day I feel as if I am just beginning -

Charlotte Herczfeld
Thank you, Keith, excellent as usual. I'm always surprised when artists do not want to make colour charts, as this seemingly boring task is actually a great way to experiment, play, and have fun while learning something. Also that kind of learning that isn't all that conscious, but just happens, so that you don't even have to think, as you *know* what colours to grab for that particular shade of greenish orange.

Some smartphones come with a pen, and as the phone is always with me, I have an inbuilt sketchbook. Very useful, as I also can paint, virtually, with it.

Lorrie Beck
How right you are, Keith. Producing work for shows and galleries is important to making a living as an artist, but keeping the work fresh and high quality requires practice and experimenting with new techniques and mediums. You are so right about not showing every piece you create, but to only show your best. I had a teacher who gave wonderful advice in considering public opinion when displaying one's work... "You're only as good as your worst piece." So true.

Michael Cardosa
Hi Keith,

Thanks for the posting. While I'm always interested in seeing how other artists tackle an issue or stare at paintings in museums by artists I like trying to figure out a technique, practice as they say makes perfect. Usually when I'm trying to work a new element into a painting I might drag out an old canvas and try painting there to give the trial and error approach a little more time rather than jumping into the deep end of the pool on a painting.

I also think that after painting for a while now I can recognize some of the areas that I need help in and can hone in better on the types of classes or videos or whatever that might help.

Thanks again,


Carolyn Hancock
Sometimes I think that my early work, when I knew absolutely nothing, shows more feeling and expression. Now that I work more on technique and pushing the pastel further, the figurative work sometimes looks too fixed, not expressive enough. Maybe it will eventually loosen up, be a happy blending of expression and technique, after 1000 more practices?

Walter Paul Bebirian
as far as the best out of what you do - with abstract work at least - it is difficult to know just what the audience will react to - In a video about Jackson Pollock - the critic Clement Greenberg describes his blue pole painting as a failure and I happen to like that one very much -

Dan Goldstein
i am always reminded of this scene from the old movie "The Deer Hunter" where the soldier temporarily on leave from the bush is stressing about how the enemy is getting stronger while he is getting weaker. There is a lot pressure on our time, with marketing, routine life maintenance, etc., but the designation of daily time to practice our technical skills, to engage artistically is critical. I thank you for your article bringing so many specific ways for artists to stay engaged in that process of daily practice.

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
I think that the continuation of practice is what separates great artists from the mediocre ones. I know what you're talking about with students who take a workshop and then think that they know everything about that skill without having to practice it. I've had students going into a workshop thinking that what they produce *at the workshop* is going to be a top level finished piece. It seems that no one wants to take the time to play around with their medium anymore. But that's how we improve.
Thanks for another great article, Keith.

Yes practice, keep on experimenting and learning for ever! There is no point of arrival,of course if you are able to produce work to a professional standard you already "know your stuff" but this can be a great obsticle to genuine creative work from the heart.
It shows in the final painting too, whether the artists'hands were merely performing a well rehearsed mechanical task or whether their heart was engaged and they really lived the "journey" of the painting.
You can't fake it,it must be kept fresh and alive.In every painting there MUST be an element of risk, of not knowing if it will work out.
So remain a beginner even if you have highly developed craft skills and live each new work afresh,as if it were your first.Then perhaps you can advance your art beyond the false but apparent end of the learning curve.

Jean LeGassick
Keith-- Another wonderful article. On a side note, I consider this economic depression, despite it's hardships, to be a blessing in disguise. With gallerys closing, shows drying up, etc, it freed up more of my time and I had time to play more and experiment with my art. (One of the happy results for me was learning how much I love to paint with a knife!) Thanks for your thoughts about art; they are always interesting!
Jean LeGassick

Marian Fortunati
We were just talking about weeding in my class today.
So much of the work we create is and should be a "study". I think knowing which ones to toss or burn is another learned skill, however. Sadly for many of us... it's probably most of them.

Donald Fox
I well remember student days when I thought every painting should be a work of art. The idea of being an artist was more of an attitude then rather than a daily practice. Thankfully, some of us do grow up.

Brian Sherwin
Keith -- Excellent advice. I'll never forget the day my art professor asked everyone in the class to pick out their best painting. Once everyone did... he asked everyone to scrap it. I can remember the 'deer caught in the headlights' expressions. Ha.

The lesson pointed out just how attached some artists are to their art... and that artists need to advance rather than cling to finished work. The overall work should continue -- and that means being productive instead of holding on to what has already been done. No matter what level you are at... continue to advance.

jack white

When I first started out as an artist I became friends with G. Harvey. One day I told him I was practicing. He smiled and said, "I hope you know practice doesn't make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."

If we practice the wrong way it can hurt more than help. It's like throwing a football...Tim Tebow learned to throw side armed. That with his great physical talent worked in college, but in the NFL he needs to learn all over if he expects to be a top flight QB. He didn't practice the perfect way.

Why don't you do another article and tell the folks what is the best way to practice.


True...practice makes permanent. It's possible to get very good at doing things wrong.

Walter Paul Bebirian
what could possibly be "wrong" with anyone's way of creating art?

Esther J. Williams
Keith, I think your first line says it all:

"I think everyone would agree that it takes tremendous work, practice, sacrifice, practice, dedication, practice, faith, practice, and more practice"

These aspects reap great rewards in an artist.

Art is play and art is work, if art is a business, think of it as play, serious play, then you will forget how many hours you have been at it.

Esther J. Williams
One more thing, I have been painting a lot, paintings for art shows and commissions that is. I recently took a vacation and thought I would create a piece for myself, the family collection. I spent 3 days on it and there is so much joy and spontaneity in that piece, it brought me back to being loose and using experimentation. Because I told myself it didn`t have to be perfect. It just had to be created. I tried new brushes, new color mixes and brushstrokes. From this joyful work, I can now pour that energy right into the next commission or new artwork. Change is good!

Sharon Weaver
New artists do not even know what they don't know. Only as you improve do you realize how much more there is to learn. I only wish I had a couple hundred years to practice.

Brian Sherwin
"Practice does not always make perfect -- but in time, perfection develops from dedicated practice." I'm not sure who said that -- it may be a quote paraphrasing another quote. Regardless of origin... it has truth.


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