The Sight & Insight Podcast

Episode 22: Practice, Practice, Practice

September 3, 2018

Greetings, art lovers; we're back!

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"Learning the art of painting is not an easy task. It takes a great deal of intelligence, keen analysis, study and practice." — Edgar A. Payne

Practice, practice, practice. We’ve all heard this adage from parents, teachers and everyone else who wants to get in on the act. But how much practice do we have to put in before we get anywhere? And will we ever succeed, or will we be students all our lives, trying to put into practice what we’ve learned and get that one perfect picture, essay, novel or piece of music?

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left: John Constable, Landscape with a Double Rainbow, 1812

right: John Constable, Rainstorm Over the Sea, c.1824-28

"There has never been a boy painter, nor can there be. The art requires a long apprenticeship, being mechanical, as well as intellectual." — John Constable

Of course, if you love painting, or writing, or researching history, then working at it doesn’t come across as hard work, or practice; it’s just an opportunity to do something we love and a learning opportunity that makes us better as we go along.

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Lorwen C. Nagle Sketch at Brave Boat Harbor 

"Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing, you will in good time, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about. Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know."

— Rembrandt

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David P. Curtis Sketch for Summertime and the Living is Easy

"Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory."

— Leonardo da Vinci

After an illness in 2016, David found himself struggling to get back into painting mode. "In order to motivate myself," he said, "I began painting a whole series of 12 x 16 canvas board sketches, trying to get a fresh look - alla prima - rather than feeling I had to get a perfect painting every time. It turned out to be enjoyable. It lifted the pressure of having to produce a finished canvas while I was still recuperating. Just practicing on 12 x 16's on a regular basis, really helped me get back into top gear."

So there we have it; pratice is a great tool, and can help take us to the next level, not just by improving our technique and skills, but also by taking the pressure off having to produce a masterpiece everytime we pick up a brush, or pen. Wasn’t it the great Italian painter Titian, who said on his deathbed, “I don't want to die now, … I am just beginning to learn to paint.” Which suggests the artist - or any creative individual - should always be a student; always learning, always challenging themselves to achieve something greater.

“I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it.” — Ray Bradbury