Practicing with purpose helps you get better at the things you care about, while keeping you from being overwhelmed with comparison. It’s about having a firm grasp of what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how well you are equipped to do it, so that you can get the most out of your practices.
What are Your Means?
Many artists you admire have a dedicated studio, can afford top-line supplies, and make art for a living. If you work a double-shift, have only a few hours super-late at night to spare, and are constantly worried about how you’re going to keep the lights on, you won’t have the time or concentration to progress by leaps and bounds.
There’s no need to feel bad or like a failure once you know this. Acknowledging your means will help you appreciate that you have your own unique circumstances and recognize your accomplishments in spite of them.
How much time do you have to practice? How much energy do you have when you do sit down to practice? How long can you concentrate? Do you have a mental or physical condition that makes practicing difficult? Do you have a workspace? Do you have all the supplies you need?
Set proper expectations for your practice sessions according to your means. It will take pressure off where it doesn’t need to be—like participating in 30-day draw every day challenges you don’t have the bandwidth for–and it will focus your energy on practicing things that are within your reach and important to your personal development.
What is Your Medium?
Practicing with paint is different from practicing with ink, which is different from practicing with pencil. The type of paint, brush, pen, pencil or paper changes what you are able to accomplish when you sit down to practice. As does something as small as using a sharp pencil.
You can’t produce clean, fine detail with a dull pencil, no matter how much you practice with it. You shouldn’t expect to produce similar results to that one speed-tutorial you found on YouTube without the benefit a digital drawing tablet, a graphics program, some premium brushes, and the Undo function.
When you acknowledge your medium, you practice using the right techniques with the right tools for the right purpose. This saves you the frustration and needless self-blame for not being as good at something you don’t have the resources for.
What are Your Goals?
Practicing with purpose also means working towards a practical goal, rather than a popular one. I’m sure you have come across dozens of popular things to do and ways to be as an artist, so I don’t need to tell you. Things that would cost a lot of time, and money, and sometimes stress & anxiety, if you were to make them your goals.
Personal development is a practical goal. Learning to draw a near perfect circle or straight lines is a practical goal. Amassing hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers is a popular goal. You can practice to achieve practical goals. Popular goals tend to be mostly beyond your control, which can make practicing at them seem fruitless and leave you demoralized enough to quit.
When you choose practical goals to work at, you will have an easier time accomplishing them. The more you accomplish, the higher you can raise your own aspirations. Let your enthusiasm and aptitude dictate how your art develops, and you’ll find purpose in your practice.
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