If you’re new to making art, then it can be easy to feel discouraged. After all, even if you practice regularly, then it can sometimes be difficult to see improvements on a day-to-day basis. But, even though your improvements might be very gradual, you will get better at making art if you keep practicing.
When preparing a remake of an old painting of mine the night before I wrote this article, I was reminded of an amazing quote (from this page) by the webcomic creator Winston Rowntree. Rowntree’s quote is: “Practice is weird: pyhsically, you just do what you’ve always done, except one day you notice it’s resulting in far better artwork.”
Never have truer words been spoken!
Anyway, the painting that I had decided to remake was an old painting of mine from 2016. It’s one of my favourite paintings from that year and I’d finally got the push to remake it after realising that I felt too uninspired to think of a good idea for a new painting.
Still, as I began to sketch out my new version of it, I initally started to worry that it wouldn’t look as good as the original. But, as the painting progressed, I suddenly realised how much I’d learnt over the past 1-2 years of daily practice.
I realised how my experiments with limited colour palettes (red, yellow, green, blue and black in this case) in late 2015/early 2016 had – along with some other inspirations – led to the eventual discovery of my current colour palette.
I realised that, 1-2 years ago, I didn’t know some of the digital image editing techniques (eg: for adding rain effects, realistic shading etc..) I use regularly these days. I realised how much the lighting in my art had improved over the past 1-2 years. Here’s a reduced-size preview of the new version of the painting:
So, yes, art practice works. You won’t actually notice improvements happening literally every day, but every extra piece of art that you make will make you a slightly confident and better. And this builds up over time!
One way to think of art practice is that it is like a stalagmite in an underground cave. Whilst an individual droplet of water might not look like it is doing anything to the stalagmite – over time, the mineral deposits from lots of water droplets can result in a really impressive-looking stalagmite.
Yes, art practice can feel more like a marathon than a sprint, but it is important to keep going. Once you’ve been practicing for a while, then even an uninspired painting that you make on a bad day will still look better than the “good” paintings that you made a few months or years ago.
Likewise, your art can also improve in slightly strange ways too. For example, the bulk of the improvements in the comparison I showed you earlier weren’t to the actual drawing itself but to surrounding things like the lighting, colours and shading. So, if it looks like regular practice isn’t improving one part of your art much, then it usually means that another part of your art is improving instead.
But, in summary, regular practice works! It might not work quickly, but it certainly works!
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂