7 Things That Happen When You Practice Your Art Regularly
The past few weeks I have been in a deeply creative spell which I have mostly embraced. This creative high tide ( remember what I said about inspiration being a wave, so you better learn how to surf in this really old post from 2015? ) hasn’t translated to writing, that is until now.
So what’s been happening? I have been painting up quite a storm! I have desired to paint better (for me) and more often (for me) for a long time. I finally started painting a series and the results have been really good which I am really excited to share with you. I have wanted to add my paintings to my artist portfolio but I hadn’t really produced many paintings that I was really proud of in a I-would-sell-this-kind-of-way. Perhaps I may not be fully where I want to be but I am moving in the right direction!
Now! I know you’re dying to know so here are a few things that happen when you start practicing your art regularly.
1. You Show Up & Practice More
This is a pretty duh point. Initially, this might be challenging and a discipline for you if you’re not accustomed to practicing regularly. All students of any craft know we need to practice, practice, practice. As a child, we’re irritated when our parents insist we practice piano for so long but then as adults we wish we had less responsibilities so that we had more free time to devote to our crafts. In order to practice regularly you have to schedule it in and make it a date and then you can’t cancel on yourself. I could write 20 blog posts about just how hard getting to this point in the creative process. Be disciplined with yourself though because when you follow those simple steps of scheduling your art time and not canceling on yourself, a CRAZY thing happens, you practice more. The hard part is you will have the best intention to start but then you’ll will all of the sudden need to do the laundry, then a friend will call and ask if you’re free, you’ll think “oh I was only going to focus on my art but how selfish, yes I am free” NO! You’re not free. You have to show up and practice and work.
2. You WANT to Practice More
This is where it starts to get fun. When you practice more you WANT to practice more. It’s amazing. Your new drug is your art or craft. All of the sudden that date with yourself doesn’t become something you both desire and dread, you WANT to practice more. Before practicing regularly you thought at max you could produce X amount of work, and could only work at the most for X amount of time a day/week/month, but now you have increased your stamina because you want to be creating more. Painting begets painting. Writing begets writing. Creating begets creating. Art becomes an addiction, but in a good way.
3. You Find More Opportunities To Do Your Work
This is where practicing regularly starts to snowball. Because you want to practice more (point 2) you will find fringe opportunities to do so. All of the sudden, a project or task that would have taken you longer before, you get done sooner because you find hidden time to work on it. You also start to realize how valuable a few minutes of working on your craft helps overtime. For example, tonight I painted a few leaves of a tree that I am working on. I spent maybe 15 minutes working. In the past, I never would have thought to paint for that short amount of time. But because I have been practicing regularly I have learned how long it truly takes me to accomplish something in a piece. In painting, it also helps that I have never truly cleaned my work space up. Since I am practicing regularly it helps to always keep my paints and brushes out and ready to be used. (More on having a studio space in a future post).
I think part of the reason that you find hidden time to do your work is that when you practice regularly your train of thought is continuing and is less sporadic. The first time I paint a canvas I work on the background. Then, I need to let it dry so that I can come back and work on my main subject. Hence, one canvas takes multiple “work” times. Another reason that you find more opportunities to do your work is that by practicing regularly you exhaust the “shitty first drafts” as Anne Lamott calls them in Bird by Bird. I am kind of stealing her concept and applying it in a different way here. When you practice regularly you use up bad ideas. When I am painting, the first 10 minutes of strokes can be the sloppiest or the least defined. I am still developing where this painting is going. In writing, the first few paragraphs or pages can be the writer brainstorming and getting all the ideas on paper. I have heard one writer say that he wishes he could delete the first hour of writing he does and then start because that’s when it starts to get good. How does this help you find hidden opportunities ? Imagine a chef or you making a completely home cooked meal. In order to start cooking you have to prepare all the ingredients. Before you even start “cooking” you have to chop vegetables, cut meat, chopping, cutting, chopping, cutting. For the artist, practicing her craft is the chopping and cutting. This is how you find hidden opportunities to create. When you practice regularly you are “chopping and cutting” your artistic vegetables which means the next time you’re in your “studio” you can turn up the heat!
4. Your Work Becomes More Productive
When points 1-3 are occurring it follows that when you work, your work is more productive. The more often that you practice and want to practice the more productive your practice time is going to be. Of course, there are outlier sessions when you mostly just feel frustrated (which is a good definition of creativity at work in my opinion), but the point is that the more often you are practicing regularly the more times that you are encountering the frustration and challenges that is common to creative endeavors. And most importantly, you are conquering those frustrations and not letting them prevent you from coming back within a few days. There have been painting sessions where I felt defeated but because I was practicing regularly and I had multiple projects going on (more on that in the next point) I came back to that “problem” canvas shortly and completely painted over the offensive work. Sometimes, becoming more productive means you get an unproductive step out of the way.
5. Multiple Projects Can Be Worked On At the Same Time
Painting is a fun medium because the analogies regarding art apply to it so perfectly. Painting is a time restrictive art form (I work with acrylics). What I mean is that once I have wet my paintbrushes and squeezed paint out of the tubes I have a finite amount of time before the paint will harden. This is why it helps to be working on multiple projects at a time. I can use some of the paint I am using for finishing touches on one painting, the focal point on another, and lastly the background for a painting I am just starting. This way I waste less resources and I maximize my time spent.
6. Your Work Becomes Better
I know that there will be plenty of readers who disagree with this point because who can definitively tell you if your work has been better? For starters, I think you will notice. When you diligently apply points 1-5 you will enjoy your craft more and the work you birth from it. And that’s okay. Artists can be such bad salespersons for themselves and I completely understand being your own worst critic but your work will get better. I knew my work had been getting better when I noticed the first painting I did in my new series. It had been weeks since I had made that piece but there it was hanging on my wall and I looked at it and thought I really do like that. So fierce! Such a huge artist success.
7. The Artist in You is THRIVING
One thing I really struggle with is being addicted to productivity – pretty sure I am a 7w8 on the enneagram or an 8! Being addicted to productivity? That probably doesn’t sound like a real problem but it is because I am NOT satisfied when I check something off my to-do list. Chances are it just means that I added 3 more things to do. This is an area that I am working on (yet another to do item – Holy Spirit, help!). One of the ways that I am working on this though is by taking a mental moment to really appreciate the fact that I accomplished something I have been wanting to accomplish. This is hard for me. But throughout this post for example I have observed that points 1-6 are operating in my artist life and since I was thinking that the healthy number of completion #7 would be a great way to round out this list it makes great sense for point number 7 to be that if 1-6 is happening, then the artist in you IS thriving (How fierce!). Go back through the list if you doubt me. Maybe none of these practices are operating in your artist life right now but just imagine if points 1-6 were happening would 7 be true?
Now, go create fierce art!
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