The Art of Practice – Tip #10

I’m not at all sure I agree with today’s tip — the last in The Art of Practice. For what it’s worth, here it is:

Let Inventory Be Your Teacher

The more you paint, the luckier you’ll become. Small is best. You’ll make more if you work small. (Many, many more.) Avoid sofa-sized work until you turn 90. Then you might be ready. Until then, just don’t. You’ll be happier with inventory.

Painting Inventory

When I read this tip, it seems to be saying that quantity is better than quality, and I definitely don’t agree with that. Sure, it’s nice to have lots of completed paintings, but given a choice, I’d prefer to have a few very good works of art in my inventory than a room filled with mediocre paintings.

InventoryTrust me, I know what it’s like. I do have a room filled with mediocre paintings. Although my husband believes every canvas I paint is a true work of art, I’m honest enough about my abilities to admit that many of my paintings are downright awful! Others are better, and a few are better still.

Learning oil painting is an on-going process, and I hope my paintings continue to improve. That does mean making a lot of paintings — so there’s the idea of quantity again — but today’s tip seems to imply that we should be happy with our present level of skill and merrily churn out dozens upon dozens of works without giving thought to improvement.

Maybe there’s also a suggestion there, though, that getting better is inevitable if we keep churning out those paintings. The tip tells us that the more we paint, the luckier we’ll become — and maybe that means we’ll get better results.

Still, I don’t like the way the tip is written. Luck is great in any endeavor in life, yet I also want any success I achieve to be attributable, in part, at least, to skill. We all work hard to improve. We invest time. We put in effort. We deserve to give ourselves credit for what we do.

The tip also repeats the idea of working small — The Art of Practice – Tip #2 — and I don’t fully agree with that one, either. According to today’s practice tip, very few artists would ever be ready to paint a large work. That’s nonsense, don’t you think?

Overall, I find Practice Tip #10 to be demeaning and discouraging. I don’t want to focus on how many paintings I make, nor do I want to create lots of little paintings. And if I feel like doing a sofa-sized painting, that’s exactly what I will do!

The purpose of practice is to improve, not to be content with where we currently are, not to count on luck to get us through, and definitely not to limit our expression or discourage us from attempting bigger and bolder works.

I understand that I will have to make lots of bad paintings in order to get to the good ones, but doing those paintings should be seen as a means to an end — improvement — and not the end itself. Isn’t that what practice is all about?

Your thoughts?




    1. LOL, yes! I’ve learned to take my old canvases and use them for practice — I’m planning to do a post on that topic very soon — and I’ve also completely started over with a few. Happy painting to you, as well, Sharon! Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I actually agree with this tip, although it could have been worded better. I did a 30 in 30 challenge at the beginning of this year and doing a large quantity of small work in a short amount of time improved my painting skills more in that 30 days than in all of the previous year. At the end of the challenge I was consistently painting with more skill and produced several paintings I’m incredibly proud of. Those painting were also some of the fastest and “easiest” paintings I’ve ever painted. Not that the subjects themselves were easy, I had just improved my skills enough to not struggle with things I had previously. In producing a large quantity of work, you’re practicing painting substantially more often than if you only produce a small number of painting. What I think should have been explained in this tip is that quantity leads to quality. If you’re producing more art, then you’re practicing all of the painting stages more. I think it can be beneficial to work small because you can finish a piece faster, cheaper, and with using fewer resources… it’s just practical in the quantity leads to quality sense. I don’t think you should limit yourself to only small works though. Painting large requires a slightly different set of skills that also need to be practiced.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like your explanation for this tip, and yes, I think it could definitely have been worded better. As you’ve pointed out, there is some good advice there, but the wording makes it a bit tricky to find. It’s great that you set yourself a challenge and had such success with it. That’s important as part of our practice. We do need to challenge ourselves, try things that are outside of our comfort zone, and explore new techniques. Doing lots of little things certainly can help us with that. I’m currently out of small 5 x 7 canvas panels, and I miss them! I need to stock up on my next trip out. I do like doing practice work on the small panels. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Amber.

      Liked by 1 person

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