Practice makes perfect. Sounds good, but it needs to be perfect practice. Well what is that??
I have heard it advocated that one should ‘paint a picture a day’ and this will speed one to artisthood. Maybe this comes from Malcolm Gladwell’s observation that it takes about 10,000 hours to become a ‘Master’. Maybe it does, but standing over a canvas on the floor and drizzling paint out of a bucket for 10k hrs. will not make you Jackson Pollack, sorry. No it has to be 10k hrs. of actually doing something. Let’s stick with Pollack. There is a lot going on in a Pollack painting, and it isn’t jump out at you illustration. You have to “contribute” to a Pollack to get something out of it, whether it is the landscape, or the portrait, or the still life. And they didn’t get into the painting by just drizzling paint. Look up some of the videos of him at work, it’s work.
If you look at the larger body of some Old Master’s work, someone who’s left a lot of paintings, and sketches, and etchings, etc. you see that there are the same, or very similar, poses and figures. Here in Guido Cagnacci’s Death of Cleopatra he has used the same face and he is able to put the different emotions on it, not by chance surely.
There is no quick fix nor is quantity alone an answer. You won’t become a Master by turning out one piece of crap a day, but you will get better if you turn out one perfect hand/leg/arm/nose every drawing session. Discover, recover, uncover the basics of drawing a hand, foot, etc. and then do that, drill the basics. When it becomes your own it will not leave you.
Hugh MacLeod in a talk made 20 points about success here is what he says about mastery:
“17. In a word: MASTERY. They’ve MASTERED something. Something interesting and valuable. They are MASTERS of their craft. It may be an old-fashioned word that makes people uncomfortable, but that’s only because it’s something that eludes most people.
18. Though, having watched these masters carefully first-hand, I can honestly say MASTERY is more satisfying than money. If you’re up for it, yes, MASTERY MATTERS MORE THAN MONEY, MASTERY MATTERS MORE THAN SUCCESS.
19. And it’s portable. It travels with you, wherever you go. No landlord, no boss, no recession, no Wall Street analyst, no newspaper critic can take it away. It’s something that truly belongs to you, for always.”
I like that last, “It’s something that truly belongs to you, for always.”