Practice Makes…Progress

We all know that perfection does not exist in art. It especially doesn’t exist anywhere in my art, to be sure. So while the old saying may tell us that “Practice makes perfect”, as artists we know that it’s simply not true. 

Practice does, however, lead to progress, and after five years of learning, studying, and patiently practicing perspective, I’m almost starting to feel that I really am making at least a little progress. I know this because I didn’t groan quite as much as usual when I opened William Powell’s Landscapes book this morning and turned to a page on Perspective Tips. I still had my misgivings, yes, but I know perspective is important, so I might as well stop fussing and get on with it. 

A page from my landscape drawing sketchbook.

While my perspective drawings aren’t great, I think they’re a lot better than they used to be. This page from my landscape drawing sketchbook definitely shows a little improvement. My buildings are still wonky, and they probably always will be, but it’s nice to see progress.

I’m especially pleased with the sketch in the lower right corner of the page. I’ve read this book before, and I’ve drawn all these sketches in the past. I remember this one very well. I drew it not in a sketchbook but on a canvas panel. I then attempted to paint it in oil.

It was not a successful painting. The tower beside the church was so awful that I ended up painting over it. First, though, I turned it into a gate, but that didn’t work either, so I took it out. Finally I turned the church itself into a barn — of sorts. All in all, I painted and re-painted the scene several times. Here’s what I finally ended up with:

The colors were a splotchy mess, the whole painting was cluttered and confused, but at least I’d managed to draw and paint a building. At the time, that was quite an accomplishment for me.

As for today’s sketching practice, here’s the churchyard scene enlarged a bit.

Sorry for that red splotch on the tower… it was on the scanner!

It doesn’t look like much, I know. But it’s all there. The church. The tower. The trees. The hillside. It’s only a quick — very quick — sketch, and yes, I know the perspective on the tower still isn’t quite right. But this little thumbnail sketch represents lots of practice, and lots of progress. I can see that progress even if no one else can, and I’m pleased by it.

Maybe one day soon I’ll even take out another of my canvas panels and try drawing and painting this scene again. I think I can probably do a lot better than I did two years ago… and that’s progress!

12 Comments

  1. I agree with you about practice. It doesn’t necessarily lead to perfection but to see the progress it DOES lead to is so encouraging!
    I’m working on faces and I can see how I’ve improved from 2 years ago…
    Happy sketching!

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    1. Oh, yes, it’s always good to look back at where we were and see definite progress. I cherish my old sketchbooks. So many memories! And it’s so much fun to see those first drawings I did. Happy sketching to you, as well!

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    1. I’ve always hated perspective. Even though I understand it, it’s difficult for me to apply the principles. I’ve decided not to fuss too much about it now LOL. I’ll just do my best with it and keep practicing!

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  2. When I am asked, how did you learn to draw? I always say practice. But There’s more, there always is, isn’t there? For me, in order to make progress, I have to have passion for drawing and enjoy that practice. It has taken me fifty years to recognise that seeing practice as a chore is a waste of time and I need to stop Focussing on the product And just be in the moment. This new positive outlook has helped me grow so much. Your studies look great, but just keep on drawing and make sure you enjoy doing it.

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    1. Excellent advice. Yes, we have to have passion to go along with our practice. Of all the different art activities I’ve learned about over the last few years, graphite drawing is probably my favorite (next to oil painting, maybe). To me, what “being an artist” really means is having the ability to draw. It still amazes me that I’ve learned as much as I have in five years. I love to sit down with a pencil and paper and let myself “get lost” in making marks as I draw. It’s so relaxing, so comforting, so peaceful and soothing to my soul. It is definitely an “in the moment” experience. I love it!

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    1. Perspective can definitely be challenging. I understand the principles involved, but I’m not sure how precise and accurate I’m expected to be in drawing and painting. Trying to measure things and line things up with vanishing points… it’s a struggle. I’m not a patient person, and I’m not good with rules and other measuring devices. LOL

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