Misconceptions about practice

One of the biggest misconceptions about improving one's artistic skills is that all you need to do is practice. Many people tout the phrase "practice practice practice."

However, I've come to the conclusion that artistic growth is not about doing the same exercise again and again until you become proficient, and artistic growth doesn't come from making 10,000 brush strokes. It comes from understanding how to interpret visual elements. In other words, you need to focus on improving your visual skills. Technique is useless if you cannot see the subject properly.

It's not about who can make the finest line

I often see artists overemphasizing technique when training. While some technique is necessary, it is not the most important quality needed for superior results. Many times, I've observed artists who possess great airbrush control, yet had mediocre paintings, because they had failed to develop their observational skills.

Quality matters

Practicing bad technique does an artist no good. They end up reinforcing bad habits and compromising the quality of their work. It's more important to train for shorter periods correctly than for extended periods with bad form.

How to train

For the fastest growth, you need to train to failure. It's not unlike going to the gym. You won't experience great gains unless you push yourself further, even to the point of suffering a bit.

Instead of practicing the same exercise over and over, take on a challenging subject. Yes, you will fail and screw it up, but in doing so, you will learn so much more than if you repeated an easy exercise over and over. 

Try taking on an "impossible" project that is beyond your current skill level. You'll experience many failures, but in doing so, you will arrive at new revelations. In my early years, I attempted paintings that were, in my mind, impossible, but every mistake I made (and there were many), came with the gift of understanding.

You learn more from your failures than your successes.

It's not pleasant to fail, but in doing so, you learn more than you would from succeeding. Think about how you never forget those costly lessons in life. The same goes for airbrushing. 

Playing it safe retards growth

The next time you find yourself saying, "I'll paint that when I get better," or "I'll take that workshop after I improve," stop and realize that your best path towards rapid improvement is to shoot for the moon. If you only make it halfway there, you've still gone further than you would by not trying. It's really just a matter of how fast you want to grow.



Don't fear failure. The worst thing that can happen is that you will learn something.

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19 comments

Craig minor

August 27, 2023

Thank you Dru ,
I realize now this is where I have been holding myself e back I always say I’ll do that project when I get better now I understand just go for it and learn from the mistakes. Fine detail and portraits are what intimidate me the most .

Taleah Ebey

August 27, 2023

You are so right Dru! Thomas Blackshear once told me the same thing. As an accomplished like yourself he said success only comes with failure. Learning to see visually is number one. Thank you for the reminder!

Jen

August 27, 2023

Hi Dru
Why don’t you have a video on the Misconceptions about Practices?
Thanks,
Jen

Grégory BOYER

August 27, 2023

Absolutely agree !! Thank you for these tips, Dru.

Ryan Barkley

August 27, 2023

Amazing article as always Dru!

Terry Don Dew

August 27, 2023

totally agree

Annie

August 27, 2023

I absolutely love what you said. I’m in learning stage of airbrushing, my way of learning is to set my mind to an art project as it motivates me. Sometimes the outcome is good sometimes not but I keep looking at it to see how I could have done it differently. The learning in class also gives me aha moments.
So thanks for the confirmation

Rob Hourigan

August 27, 2023

I couldn’t agree more! You don’t grow if you don’t push yourself. When I first saw your class at an Airbrush Action Getaway I thought “that will never be me”. But I have done what you said and pushed myself to try stuff that would be beyond my skill level. Now , I have the confidence to take on most projects. As soon as I can, I am going to take one (or more) of your classes in person. That will be my ultimate challenge and goal! Thanks Dru!

Michael Ward

August 27, 2023

Good advice for life in general.

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