Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Practice and the Pursuit of Secrets

Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.  - Ludwig van Beethoven

Whether your art is music, 2D or 3D visual art, dance, writing or something else, there is one exercise that holds true for all - practice practice practice. But what does Beethoven mean to "force your way into the secrets of your art"? I interpret this as being relentless in our practice so that we learn every nook and cranny of our craft. I also feel the statement encourages us to learn how our art resonates with us and what it feels like when it resonates, which to me is the experience of "the divine" - being in alignment. I know it's going well when I'm not fighting w/the painting, when I'm relaxed and it just flows. I often lose time in those spaces - time flies when you are having fun. Sometimes it means getting back to basics. Occasionally, I get complacent and dive straight into a painting w/o a plan (thumbnail sketch), planning my color palette etc. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not. A failed painting is enough to remind me to review my steps. When you draw the same object several times, each time you learn something more about it. When you practice that dance sequence or lines of music, you learn something new each time. You learn it until it becomes a part of you, second nature. That's part of the blogging process for me as well. It's part of my artistic history keeping, seeing what works and doesn't work ,including posting the progress shots when I take them.
There is no better teacher than experience and to gain experience we have to practice our craft. When I rekindled my artistic journey, I was thirsty for knowledge of the technical aspects of painting and drawing, but I also wanted to learn more about the business aspects. One of the resources I read was from Jason Horejs "Starving to Successful". In that book, one of the things covered is production volume. The author describes suggested output of 80+ paintings a year, and breaks it down into weekly goals. He notes how the typical response to this volume suggestion is "won't my quality go down?". Au contraire! The quality goes up! My own personal experience finds this to be true. I took up the daily painting movement challenge with the goal of course to paint daily. Painting small not only can lead to a finished product every day, but also encourages more experimentation and relaxed work since it's "only a small piece". I don't always achieve my goal to have a painting every day. When I travel for work, I take my sketchbook and doodle - practice practice practice. I draw what I see in airports, my hands, my feet. I doodle the jack rabbit in my back yard from my animal photo inventory. Over the time that I've been honoring this practice, truly, my competency has gone up - and I've learned a few "secrets". Fact is, they are not secrets at all. They are simply the product of practice, learning and honoring the divine gift I have been given.

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