Practice Makes Perfect?


Macrocosm, 10 x 10″ acrylic on illustration board

“Artists are notorious for spending more time ‘producing’ paintings and spending little or no time ‘practicing’. “

– Tom Lynch

I will admit it – I am very bad about practicing anything. Making art is no exception. So I am one of the “notorious” members of the non-practicing art crowd mentioned above. Are you also?

I don’t know why this is. I know that practicing specific techniques or subjects would probably produce  better results. But I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t even be bothered to spend 5 minutes doing a value sketch, much less a full study. Nor can I bear to spend any of my precious, too-little time I dedicated to art working on something that has no chance of being a finished masterpiece because it is just practice. Not that many, if any, or my efforts become finished masterpieces anyway!

This character flaw is very evident in my piano playing – once I reach a stage where I can stumble through a piece in a recognizable fashion, I move on to the next piece. I would much rather learn something new and be less than skilled at it than be a master of one or two pieces.

I prefer to learn by doing rather than practicing. It is probably not as efficient but more fun for me! Maybe it means I’m not serious enough about developing into a better artist.

Have you found for yourself the right balance of practicing and producing?

8 responses to “Practice Makes Perfect?

  1. Bob I agree with you; let me do, make, create. I don’t respond well to drudgery. And my paper and paints are not so precious that they can’t become the practice, anyway. I think it’s a simple matter of honoring our style of learning, working and being in process. For other creative people learning in a step wise fashion, with clear practice exercises may be more comfortable. No right, no wrong, just different. I am enjoying both of these new series of yours.

  2. Not to worry. In art, the doing is the practice and whatever keeps us doing is is more important than anything else. I think an artist “practices” art his/her whole life and never really reaches the ideal. Others may think so, but never the artist.

  3. I am exactly like you, Bob. I simply can’t practice. I have tried many times, but I failed. In art and all other things. But I have the immense luck that I am very focussed when I do something, series for example, working immensely much then, and I do believe that the producing brings a lot of practice with it.

    In sport, above all in golf, I have noticed something unpleasant though: when you have a bad style, let us say the wrong swing, the most you play, the most you practice your mistakes (If there is not somebody, a teacher fro example, to correct your style). The errors in the swing become like a body reflex, and it is then very difficult to get rid of it.

    But I have no idea if this applies to art… and honestly: I don’t care! I just want to have fun when i paint, and not to get bored with endless exercises… and not even with 5 minutes exercises!

  4. For me, this is the difference between writing and doing art. In the former, it seems to be all about going over and over the same thing to make it perfect–practice, in a sense. And art is just about what happens in the moment and seeing the perfection in that.

  5. Well, so far it seems unanimous – no one likes to practice!

    As Leslie and Susan say, maybe the best way to think about it is that making the art is itself the practice.

    Leslie points our that with paint and paper, this is practical. Perhaps a sculptor working with expensive materials or a glass maker engaged in complex processes must practice before making the art. I like the way in which paper and paint doesn’t constrain my artmaking.

    It’s sort of like how easy it is to take digital photos which don’t cost anything rather than shots with film where you have to buy and process the film. Some would say that the ease with which we can take those photos now leads to less quality and they may have a point!

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