Why The Old Adage About “It’s Not The Winning That Matters” Applies To Regular Art Practice


If you grew up in the 1990s, you probably heard the saying “it’s not the winning that matters, it’s the taking part that counts” whenever you did anything vaguely competitive. Although some hyper-competitive people might question the wisdom of this saying, it’s actually a surprisingly good thing to remember when you are doing art practice.

If you are practicing art regularly, then you probably aren’t going to produce masterpieces every day or every week or whenever. You’re going to have days when you feel uninspired, days when you aren’t in a great mood and days when you are tired.

If at all possible, you should still do art practice on these days – even if the end result looks like this digitally-edited painting of mine that will be posted here in late July:

 This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will be posted here on the 31st July.

This is a reduced-size preview, the full-size painting will be posted here on the 31st July.

But, even though this “failed” painting is kind of random – it was more than just a waste of time. Whilst making it, I decided to experiment with a technique called “foreshortening“, which is why the woman’s right arm looks so tiny. This is a perspective trick where, when someone reaches towards the audience, their arms look shorter and wider in order to mimic how this looks in real life.

If I’d actually bothered to look at some reference pictures, I might have done a better job at using the technique. But, although it wasn’t perfect, it looked at least mildly better than I had expected it to. And it looked a hundred times better than if I’d never done any practice that day at all.

The thing to remember about regular art practice is that it’s more about getting used to making art and about learning how to make art even when you aren’t feeling “inspired”. It’s more about being able to fail, to move on from that failure and learn from it. It’s more about trying out any of your ideas that begin with “I wonder if I can draw this…” or “I wonder if I can paint this…“.

Regular art practice is more about learning techniques you can use to make your art look better, even when you aren’t having a good day (eg: the ‘terrible’ picture I showed you earlier is probably still better than any ‘good’ picture I could make 3-5 years ago). Regular art practice is about building up the confidence to be able to make art “whatever the weather”. It’s about building up the confidence to call yourself an “artist”.

It’s also more about learning to avoid perfectionism and to actually finish paintings. Regular art practice is about learning how to make your art more efficiently, in order to get it done within the time you’ve set aside for art practice.

Regular art practice It isn’t about producing masterpieces every day.

Yes, this is something to aim towards and – when you’ve been practicing for a while – your current “mediocre” artwork will probably look amazing when compared to your old artwork. But, if you go into your daily practice expecting to “win” every time – then you’re probably not going to practice very often. You’ll either be too overwhelmed with disappointment or too frozen by perfectionism to actually do the practice you need to do in order to make good art.

In other words, regular art practice is more about the “taking part” than it is about the “winning”.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂


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