|photo by Chuck Murphy|
Before I begin on practicing....just in case you want to know! ...the photo is from our local OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) office where those of us who practice art were asked to display our work....as you can see I've definitely diversified a bit! There are two quilts, four watercolors and one acrylic, to say nothing of a printer and a card file! The quilt on the left is "Bluebeard's Castle" from my Hamilton, ON, steel mill series (by way of Bartok - he chose the colors!). The quilt in the middle is one of a series I've done of Athens, GA - a college town in the SE of USA. The right hand watercolors are both of the pond in the neighbourhood, a nice morning walk while I ponder upon the day's practice....
have no idea how that Yorkie on the left crept in...must have been having a whimsical moment!
Anyway, to the topic of the day:
I've been reading a lot of books and articles about practicing...these are mainly focused on athletic activities like golf or music, but I think much of what I read also pertains to art.
Let's face it: whatever IT is, you don't get better without practicing. Of course your goal might not BE to get better...but I think for most of us (and definitely everyone reading this blog!) improvement in our art making is a major goal.
If you were to die tomorrow, would you rather leave behind you 200 hohum quilts, or 10 brilliant ones? Think about it.....
And yet how often do we push ourselves to make something that we've not really thought about very much,? Halfway through we become aware of its mediocrity but still we feel we MUST finish it.
I used to have this very foolish goal of making more work every year than the preceding year....but finally (and hopefully not too late!) have come to realise it's not quantity but quality.
And how do we achieve quality...in whatever it is we do?? I would say three things:
1. Time ...putting in at least an hour a day, but four hours would yield much more progress. give yourself time and don't resent it, enjoy it! It is very very good for you, and should be a high priority - don't allow excuses!
Getting enough time..may involve saying NO......(thank you, Sharon, for this suggestion) ...so practice saying: "I'm awfully sorry...but ..no".
Practicing is very calming....don't be thinking about finishing the product in time for the guild meeting or to enter a quilt show, rather, enjoy the process, enjoy the flow...the lovely rhythms of cutting out the pieces, laying out a design, so satisfying. And then gently one by one picking up two patches ambling to the sewing machine, sewing them together...then a slow saunter to the ironing board where everything is made smooth and lovely....and the pair now united join the rest of the arrangement! Smooth, flowing, gently breathing like floating down a slow stream, letting your thoughts drift and your body relax....
Sounds good doesn't it???? Not: Make Quilts Fast! A Faster Quicker Way to Make That Quilt!
Short and Easy! Notice how hard those words sound....no wonder we often feel in a frenzy!!
Do, please, give yourself time. Enjoy the practicing....
2. Thoughtful practice as opposed to mindless making. You get nowhere learning a Chopin waltz while planning what to cook for dinner - believe me I've tried it!! And creating a strong design for an art quilt whilst watching soaps on telly??? !! Research has shown over and over that we actually can't do two things at the same time...multi tasking isn't that, the brain is rapidly switching from one thing to another - fine if all you need is seconds on the task....but creative work needs more than seconds.
Think it through before you begin...what is your aim? what is your process?
3. Objective assessment - which could be lessons, or coaching, or critiquing.
We all need that objective help.
I'm still continually seeing work into which the artist has put a tremendous amount of time, but to the objective eye the arrangement of shapes is boring and predictable, the colors garish and often childishly literal: e.g. bright blue sky, bright green leaves on trees with solid brown trunks, bright blue water...you know the sort of thing. No coherent message, no real involvement with the topic, no fresh outlook........but hours and hours spent on fancy quilting!
Even advanced musicians get lessons and certainly beginner and intermediate ones do;
the athlete gets a coach, and probably a trainer too.
Quilters might take a one day workshop where the teacher demonstrates a new technique....which is fun...but it doesn't help you move forward with your own work.
So, if you really want to improve....please think on!
and if you have been, thanks for reading.....
also: would you add anything to the above list in the search for improvement? What has helped you the most to go to a higher level? Comments! please.....