Daily Practice

We all know that daily drawing will help us improve our skills. Or daily painting, or pouring, or whatever form of visual art you practice. Doing it every day is a sure way to get better. But do we always do it?

I tend to go in spurts. I’ll get excited about a project and I’ll hurry to the studio each morning. It becomes a habit. It’s part of my routine… for a while, that is. But then something happens. Usually I get a bit tired of whatever I’m doing, and once I lose interest, it’s over. I’ll find lots of reasons — excuses — for not doing my daily practice.

Consider my “Going in Circles” sketchbook theme. It was a lot of fun — at first. Every day I sat down with a multi-media sketchbook and drew circles. I used different media, sometimes using stencils for very accurate shapes, other times doing free-hand — and very wobbly — circles. I enjoyed it, and I intended to fill up an entire 60-page sketchbook.

One morning I created “Marbles” — or maybe it’s “Candy”. I could never decide for sure what this little watercolor reminded me of.

This was about the time when I began making a lot of “messy art“, and the messiness here was fine with me. This was my morning playtime, after all.

In looking at this now, I wonder if I meant to do more with it. Maybe I was going to keep going with it, make it larger and larger. I’ll never know because for some reason I set it aside and I never went back to my “circles” sketchbook.

And then there’s my “100-Day” Neurographic Art Project. I got more than half-way through and finally decided not to finish it. Yep, that’s right. I bailed out on my “100-Day” project. I completed the project the first year I did it (2020)  and again last year. This year, nope. I just wasn’t feeling it. I had other things I wanted to do, and sitting down to do another neurographic drawing each day was simply not fun.

There are a lot of drawing challenges available for us to follow along with, most of which are designed with the specific intention of helping us form that “daily drawing” habit. The thinking is that once we’ve established the routine, we’ll continue on with it. Sounds logical, but with art challenges, I’m not sure it really works that way.

Consider Inktober, one of the best-known annual art challenges. I’ve successfully completed the challenge twice, and by the time I’d come to the end of the 31 days — the challenge takes place each year in October — I was ready to be done with it! I didn’t want to sit down and do another ink drawing for a long time. But that’s mostly because of the medium, I think. I do love drawing with ink, but it is challenging for me.

I wrote before about art challenges and how we can find ones that are right for us, but how about doing a daily practice that’s not part of a specific challenge? Can we create our own art habits? Definitely we can, and of course, we should.

When I first began learning to draw, sitting down at the kitchen table as soon as my husband had left for work was my routine. You’ll remember that in those first few weeks, I was keeping my drawing a secret. Nobody knew I was doing it! Oh, how I missed my early morning drawing time on weekends! Fortunately the secrecy didn’t last too long, so soon I was doing a bit of drawing every morning whether my husband was at work or at home.

As I branched out, though, and began learning other media, it wasn’t quite as convenient to sit at the kitchen table to do my art. That’s when I got out of the habit of drawing every day. Although I still do some sort of art almost every day, it still feels scattered and disorganized. I’m someone who needs a bit of order in my life. I need routine.

I seem to have found exactly what I need through “Daily Practice” classes at Creative Bug. I’m not saying you have to sign up at Creative Bug to do any sort of “daily practice”, of course. You can easily make up your own 30-Day art experience choosing a media and a subject that excites you.

Doing a “Daily Practice” is simple, really. It’s a bit like an art challenge, but it’s much easier than something like Inktober where you’re expected to complete a drawing every day. It’s more like dipping your toe in the water instead of jumping into the lake. It’s fun, it’s quick, and it’s easy.

That’s how Joy Ting’s “Color Play” was for me. I’ve mentioned this class several times before. In it, Joy presents 30 short videos about working with colors — and specifically with oil pastels and colored pencils. What I loved most about this program was that the longest video was 12 minutes. Most were no more than 4 or 5 minutes. I could quickly watch the daily video, and then I was excited and eager to create my own version of what she’d just done.

I didn’t get bored with the program either, because Joy offered four different subjects. For the first seven days we drew flowers. For the next week days we drew plants. The third week focused on landscapes. And then, for the final week, we drew still life compositions. And I looked forward to each of them.

Now, my month of “daily practice” with Joy Ting has come to an end. What next? Having had such a good experience with this 30-day class, I quickly enrolled in another. This is very different. It’s led by Lily Sol, and focuses on creating a Goddess Sketchbook — inspired by feminine energy.

A quick search at Creative Bug shows that there are 71 different “daily practice” classes. As far as I know, each is a 30-day class with a short video clip for each day. Some are about drawing and painting; others are for different art skills such as stamping and book-making. There are even “daily practices” for quilting and embroidery.

The point of these classes is to get us going, to create excitement, energy, and enthusiasm for our art. It’s not a long, involved daily practice that requires serious concentration. It’s all about having fun with art.

I’ve discovered that 30 days is definitely a good time frame for any sort of art project, especially if the “theme” or focus changes during that period. I probably would have gotten bored drawing oil pastel flowers for an entire month. Same with plants or any other single subject. As it was, I was able to really “get my feet wet” with short, simple drawing exercises. I had fun. I learned a little about how to use my oil pastels, and I discovered how much I enjoyed them. I think overall my skills did improve. I gained a lot of knowledge. And I found a new enthusiasm for the art I was doing.

Again, I’m not here to promote Creative Bug. I’m just here to remind you of the importance of a daily art practice. My intent is to point out the pitfalls that can happen — spending too much time, doing art we don’t like, losing interest in a project, feeling disappointed in our results — and suggesting ways to avoid those problems.

So make up your own 30-day practice. Choose a medium, such as watercolor, pastels, or graphite. Choose two or three subjects so you can break the 30 days up a bit. Don’t try doing complete drawings or paintings each day — just focus on one aspect and make a fun game of it. Think of it as a series of enjoyable little “warm-up” exercises.

As an example, with the new “Goddess Sketchbook” practice I’m doing, we’ve been focusing on a single stylized feature each day. I have a page in my sketchbook filled with nothing but quick “noses”, another filled with eyes, another filled with quickly-drawn mouths.

Most importantly, stick it out for those 30 days. It’s not that long, really. Even if you feel your attention flagging a bit in the first few days, keep going. Anyone can do anything for thirty days, and if, at the end, you truly didn’t enjoy it, fine. Tell me I’m crazy; blame me for leading you the wrong direction. I think, however, that after 30 days of a creative daily practice, you’ll be ready to start a new 30-day practice.

Now, I’m off to Creative Bug to watch my morning video. We’re putting a few features together this morning, I think. Whatever it is we’re doing, I know it will be quick, easy, and lots of fun. It’s a great way to start my “art day” in the studio.

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. I am pulling back on challenges. I did the sketchaday app for 300 days a few years ago. I belong to several social media art groups and that has resulted in too many monthly and now weekly challenges. In the gouache group I created on one platform, I might stop posting challenges in 2023. I have no shortage of inspiration files and views to paint. The one truth in all this is that I become very cross if I do not sketch or paint daily.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Challenges and group projects can easily become overwhelming. There are so many of them! As long as you’ve found your own way of being creative every day, that’s good, and you don’t need lots of added challenges on your agenda. I wish I could be like that, but I need some sort of routine in how I approach art every day. I’m loving the little “warm-up” exercises because they’re fun and they’re easy. They get me excited about coming to the studio each morning. There’s always a sense of “Oh, I wonder what we’ll be doing today!”

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