Practice Matters

practice sheet
watercolor, 15 x 22 inches
I have a friend in Myrna Wacknov. She is a fellow watercolor painter, teacher and a likeness of me in her art habits. So What, you ask? She practices a lot.

Check her blog out and look back at the incredible amount of practice and challenge she puts to herself. Her recent article about the value of value studies talks about her struggles with them, but it reveals an aspect of her character: that she is determined to conquer the most basic elements and decisions prior to making a painting. Do you suppose that is why she has so many successes over and over again?

Looking at the last few posts here, you know I am working on this one idea of a lot of figures in a single scene.

So, the mood must be set properly. The lighting (values) and the figure movement and placement must be right. That is a sure set up for becoming neurotic and tight in the painting process. This image needs to be loose and free to go along with the mood of the piece.

I am lousy at painting figures, (but getting better every time I do it). I need to be better at the gesture with a brush in making the figure. I need to practice until it is second nature.

No pouting allowed, Mike. Practice it until you get good at it. Just like throwing a ball. No good at first, but the skill can be developed. I am only interested in using a big brush and laying down a simple few marks to indicate a moving figure. No details.

This could take WEEKS !! Really! Yes, it IS that important to me. Practice matters.

This piece of practice was a 45 minute exercise with 3 sizes of figures, using three different sized brushes: a ¾ inch flat, a one inch flat and a 1 ½ inch flat. All for the want of simple, direct moves . . . .flicks and twists of the brush to indicate human movement and mood.

I often remember my learning process in the skill of handwriting as a child. You probably remember, too, how much practice it took to become nearly unconscious as you make the letters now. Practice matters.

8 thoughts on “Practice Matters”

  1. You flatter me too much! I learned from the master, Master.
    Interesting that you are using flats to create round figures. Check out Chinese calligraphy for interesting ways to manipulate a round brush. They use just a few strokes with amazing results.

  2. Mike, blogs by people like you and Myrna are so valuable to artists working to improve their skills. You show us all the hard work — practice, practice, practice, and planning — that go into creating a successful piece of art. Keep up the great work.

    I’ve started a blog to challenge myself to do the hard work.

  3. Hey, I see I’m not the only one who is back to figures. You’ve been doing great work. Especially like the painting with the people walking on the wet granite. Beautiful shadows/reflections.

  4. Yes, this is a wonderful exercise, and a wonderful reminder to practice. I agree with everything you said EXCEPT the part about you being “lousy” at this. No so!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and Myra’s website.

  5. I think you may get more fluid movement if you use a round… I find that despite thinking I have found the best brush for a particular subject I always end up with my old favourite in my hand.

    If (when)you do the exercise again why not put your brushes out ahead of time and make an intuitive choice rather than an educated one?

    Interesting blog, thanks for sharing your processes.

  6. Hello Kay . . .thanks for coming by and commenting. I must answer your thoughts about my choices of brushes. I have more rounds than flats. The reason I chose to use flats versus the rounds was not an ‘educated’ choice, but one knowing how I paint with a round . . .and what I know of my self. To keep the technique and content consistent and in agreement, my choice of flats is to emphasize uncontrolled shapes and allow the brush to behave in a loose manner, while echoing the same sort of shape derivations in the rest of the painting . . . .and knowing that I become quite tight and controlled when using rounds.

    I hope this answers your thoughts.

  7. Interesting… it is quite the opposite for me.

    I am about to play with a new mop… I wanted one for years, and when I finally splashed out on a good one she became too precious, she had to wait until I was ready for a new project. I have named her Sabina, and I suspect she will have me dancing loosely over the paper!

    Flats tighten me up, but I have a useful slanted brush with enough body to be free as well.

Join in and comment!