Just Practice

January 28, 2015

It’s time to make time for making! Scheduling in even 5 minutes a day of creative time can have outstanding results. This month, we challenge you to challenge yourself to … Just Practice!

Artwork by Jayleen Weaver

Watch our video series Just Practice for more inspiration!

If you admire the work of another artist, you can be sure that their work is the result of a dedication to their craft. Whether you employ a similar dedication or just dream of doing so, setting a daily practice challenge for yourself is an effective and fun way to hone your abilities.

Whatever your motivation, a plan to practice your art every day can have numerous benefits: a feeling of accomplishment (no small thing!), improvement of your technique, further development of your style, and knowing you can create without having to wait for inspiration to strike.

Professionally, challenging yourself may also bolster your career. Not only will you have a huge body of work that you might not have had when you began, you may find opportunities you couldn’t have imagined at the beginning, too.

“Collection a Day 2010, 365 Days of Hand Lettering, and The Reconstructionists are all personal projects that have forced me to create regularly. And while none of them paid initially, they all led to more work in the end, and in a couple of cases, book deals.”
Lisa Congdon: Frequently Asked Questions: Making Use of Studio Time, lisacongdon.com

Imagine what you might create! Here are some great tips for getting started on the path to practice.

1. Decide on Your Focus

Consider your intentions: do you want to try a new medium or master an old one? Break out of a rut or create a new routine? Is there a theme you’ve wanted to explore? Portraits? Landscapes? Abstract art? Maybe you’re wanting to get into the habit of making space in your schedule for practicing art, or to push yourself to new limits creatively and explore areas outside of your comfort zone. Whatever you decide, remember – it should be fun.

2. Set Your Goal and Schedule It in

Make your goal tangible and measurable. This could mean producing a certain number of works or spending a specific amount of time on your focus. Commit to a time frame: a year, a few months, 30 days. Decide how long, and how frequently you want to devote to this practice: an hour a day? 5 minutes? Whether you plan to do it daily, every other day, once or twice a week, or even once a month, just schedule it in and stick to it, like you would any other important activity.

3. Is This a Personal or Public Project?

Know yourself. When you commit to a personal project, are you able to keep yourself on track, or is your success more likely to happen with the support of others? If it is the latter, start posting on your blog, or use a social media platform or image sharing website such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, Google+, Tumblr … the list goes on!

If you don’t wish to share your journey with the world but still want some support, enlist a trusted friend (or group of friends), or a mentor, to provide support, inspiration and help keep you accountable when you need it.

“It’s easy to say/think you’re going to commit to something (or someone), but it’s the follow through which proves to be most challenging. You can’t have the commitment without the follow through. And one way to ensure follow through, at least for me, is to announce my intentions online because once it’s out there, I can’t take it back.”
— Sandeep Johal: HAPPY NEW YEAR + 2015 30 Day Drawing Project–Week 1, sandeepjohal.com

4. Practice with Purpose

The investment of time is important, but even more so, is how that time is spent. Practice that is deliberate, executed with purpose and intention, is key. Perfection is not the goal; the process is what counts. Pay attention to how your project is progressing. Notice whether you are moving forward or simply treading water – make lots of mistakes that you can learn from!

5. Document Your Progress

Whether it is a log for yourself, or something you publicly show online or share with a friend, keeping track of the fact you stayed on target is beneficial. Try simply marking off each day you work towards your goal on a calendar, or gathering all that week’s or month’s work together and assessing how things are developing. You’ll not only be wowed by your ability to follow through, but will see where you are doing great and where you need to adjust.

“One of my most important tricks is to create an image, each month, of all of my paintings and drawings that I created that month. I can see if I’m actually working in a particular month or not. I can see if I’m improving or just reinforcing bad habits.”
Doug Hoppes: How to Dramatically Improve Your Art, finearttips.com | doughoppes.com

6. Have a Plan to Push Through Setbacks

A taxing day, lack of motivation, time, or money, supplies not easily at hand, or big life events, all offer legitimate reasons to deviate from your path. The key to getting back on track is to have a plan: ways to complete that day’s work in a lesser way, or allowing yourself to take a day off and jump back onboard after an absence.

“It took amazing discipline and energy to do this, I had some migraines, I traveled, I was busy with other projects and some days I just didn’t have the will to get up and do this. But I did it anyway, every day. And I loved it, even the hard times.”
Jennifer Orkin Lewis: My Sketchbook, How I do it, augustwren.com

7. Allow the Goal to Evolve as You Do

As you move through this process, you may find your initial idea was too ambitious or not ambitious enough, that your skills are improving, or your interests are changing and that you might benefit by allowing your goal to change accordingly. The only rules are the rules you set for yourself. One of those rules can be to adjust your course and set forth in a new direction at any stage of your journey.

8. When It’s Over… Is It Really Over?

Once you reach the end of your stated goal, what’s next? That’s up to you! Step back and look at what you have accomplished. How has it changed your work, or how you regard your abilities? In what ways did this habit of practice benefit you? Incorporate what you have learned into your practice, from technical skills you have amassed, to the knowledge that you can do more than you had previously imagined. Consider continuing your project or even starting a new one!

“I think what’s happened, slowly but surely, is that I’ve been feeling a kind of sadness everyday when I’m finished and I think I’m one step closer to having to stop. So then I just started thinking, ‘What if I just don’t stop?’ ”
— Lorraine Loots: Paintings for Ants, lorraineloots.com

Start your year with a burst of creativity – the Opus Daily Practice Challenge is back with an Art Every Day challenge, February 1-28!