Today’s tip from The Art of Practice is another one with which I can agree — but only to a degree. Here is the tip:
Failures, risks, successes, experiments, struggles, new friends, and research are yours alone. Your best learnings are intimate.
When I first began learning to draw, I certainly did keep it a secret. I told no one. Absolutely no one. It’s not that I was concerned that others might scoff at the idea. Quite the opposite, actually. I suspected that if I shared my decision to learn to draw, my friends and family would be very encouraging. So, what was wrong with that?
Simple. They would encourage me, and they would also expect progress reports. They would be watching me, expecting to see results, and I was afraid I would have nothing to show, or that what I might show would simply prove my belief that learning to draw was a foolish idea. I was certain I would fail, and I wanted my failure to be a personal, private thing. Nobody else needed to know.
Within a few weeks, however, I was surprised — astonished would be a better word — to see that I was making progress. I was so happy I felt as though my heart might burst. I had to share my little success with someone!
This little drawing of a cluster of leaves far exceeded any expectations I had. I was so surprised to see this appear in my sketchbook that I had to show it off!
You’ll see that it’s numbered “6” — meaning that it was my 6th attempt at recreating the illustration in my drawing book.
Yes, practice does lead to improvement.
My husband was in another room watching television. He had no idea I was furtively hiding away with a pencil and sketchbook. I went running out, calling to him, shouting, “Look, look! You have to see what I did.” Of course he had no idea what was going on, and I quickly started with a disclaimer. “Now, don’t laugh,” I began. “I decided I wanted to learn to draw — which is a ridiculous idea, I know. I’ve never been able to draw anything. But, look! Look at what I drew.”
I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. It was one of the proudest moments in my life. And here’s where I begin to disagree somewhat with today’s tip. When we have such proud moments, we want to share. Even more, I think, we need to share.
Art can be a solitary experience — which may be why many of us choose to pursue it — but it can become lonely, dark, and discouraging. I truly doubt that I would have come as far on this journey as I have without the support of my family and my friends. Without the connections I’ve made — both in the real world and online — I would probably have given up.
It wasn’t until I began sharing my art — my experiences, my risks, my successes, and my failures — that I really began to grow and develop as an artist.
Of course, the decision to share our art is a very personal one. We must each make that decision for ourselves.
And even when we choose to share, we don’t have to share every step of our journey. Sometimes I share my struggles and frustrations; other times, I struggle alone, knowing that I will work through the difficulties with patience and perseverance. I do share many of my little successes — and I believe it’s important that we recognize and share even the smallest accomplishments — and I hope my successes give encouragement to others who are following along on this journey. I want other aspiring artists to know that if I can do it, anyone can do it.
Sharing my art research is also enjoyable. I love reading the life stories of master artists, and why shouldn’t I share that knowledge with others who may be interested?
Today’s tip tells us that our best learnings are intimate. While I may understand the meaning, I’m not sure I can agree. There is, indeed, an intimate point in learning, a point at which what we learn becomes meaningful to us on a personal level. Again, we don’t have to share everything, but isn’t art about our feelings? Isn’t art an experience that comes from the heart? Isn’t art about reaching out, expressing ourselves, and touching others through lines, and shapes, colors, and forms?
Yes, it is. I remind myself, though, that this tip is intended as a practice tip. So maybe I should see it more in that light. I don’t share every page of my daily drawing practice. I don’t list every book I’m reading or resource I’m using in my ongoing art study. I don’t post the many drawings I’m struggling with as I work once again on mastering linear perspective. It’s not so much that those are private things; it’s just that those things aren’t going to be too interesting or exciting to anyone else.
In writing, authors are often advised to skip the boring parts and move to places in a story where actions and conflicts occur. Maybe it’s the same when it comes to sharing our art. I try to skip the boring parts. Nobody wants to see all the little boxes and rectangles I’ve been making every morning as I work on drafting techniques.
So, maybe we should keep a few secrets in art, at least during our art practice. As practice leads to improved results, however, I believe we should shout out our successes and share them with the world.
But, that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?