Power-Leveling for the Busy Artist
Not a lot of people are in a position to devote eight or more hours a day to grinding their way to professional level skills. For most of us, if you want to develop your skills, you’ve got to shoehorn the practice into your already busy schedule.
Think of art-making as music-making. Anyone who has learned an instrument will tell you that you have to devote daily practice to it over the course of years. There are a lot of repeated, technical exercises to go through – scales, chords, fingerings – stuff with an almost complete lack of creativity involved (at first glance). It can be downright boring. From day-to-day it is hard to see any improvement in your skills. All it takes is one look at a better player and you can find yourself in a funk – your motivation smashed, you can go from slow progress to no progress.
So right off the bat, you have to prepare yourself for the slow pace and the danger of losing your momentum. If looking at the work of better artists is going to smash your confidence, then spend less time looking at the work of better artists. (This is something that I have to do myself.) If you are likely to get distracted by, say, television or games or the internet (as I am currently being distracted right at this moment) then do what you can to avoid the temptation.
And at the heart of it all: get yourself on a practice schedule. The most progress that I ever made at the piano was when my teacher had me practice for an hour a day, every day, with no days off. I now apply this to my oil-painting habit. And as with the piano-practicing, much of what I do with the paints is technical. I have been focusing on color, value, manipulation of paint, and so on.
I have found that a particular time of day works best for me: first thing in the morning. I get my hour of painting done, and then afterwards I go to work, run errands, exercise, and play.
Different schedules are going to be optimal for different people. Maybe you’re more productive before going to bed. Maybe three hours every other day suits you better. Maybe you’ve got a bus schedule that gives you fifteen-minute increments twice a day that you can use to draw. That’s great! Figure out when your “power hour” is, and stick to it. Keep a log of the time you invest – it’ll help you get regular and turn the activity into a habit.
If you want to get even more specific with your practice time, then try this: pick a weekly goal. For example, “this week I am doing self-portraits”, or “this week I am doing color studies of light as observed on real objects,” or “this week I am drawing robots using perspective.” Put your goal in writing. Put your daily hour or equivalent towards reaching this goal. And if you want to do any additional art above and beyond the drill, then you can do that – after you have done your daily hour.
I would think up some catch way to conclude this, but I really need to get my own butt downstairs to do my daily painting. Happy art-making!