Practice makes perfect is a slogan that has been put into our head since most of us can remember. Think about how you learned how to tie your shoes, how you learned to drive, and maybe even how you learned to be an outstanding parent. While the word patience might come to mind first, I can guarantee you that mastering these skills took practice, practice, and more practice which results in progress. As artists we know that practice does not always make perfect (cue Bob Ross’s famous “happy little accident” quote) however, practice absolutely makes progress and has been a part of every artists skill development at one point or another throughout their lives.
Think about the different ways athletes practice; drills, sprints, weight lifting, no two teams or individual players use exactly the same technique. The same can be said for some painters that have found unique ways to practice and refine their skills. Take Charles Addams for example, most famously known as the creator of The Addams Family and watercolor illustrator for The New Yorker, who refined his skills when working as an illustrator for True Detective magazine. Addams’s job, before the invention of photoshop, was to retouch photos of people and crime scenes. In this position he refined his famous ink wash technique that eventually landed him a job with The New Yorker. Another famous Charles, Charles Burchfield, was known as a young adult to sketch small pictures on his walk to and from his house at lunchtime. While standing at an easel, which is rare for watercolor artists, he would then turn these sketches into the watercolor landscapes that he is most famous for today. Unlike Addams, Burchfield used a dry-brush technique and was known for using vibrant colors in his paintings. Winslow Homer, a self-taught watercolor artist known for his landscapes and unique subjects, began refining his technique in watercolor after an inspiring visit to Massachusetts. Many would say that he fell under the “practice does not always make perfect” category as critics often stated that he made a sudden plunge into the field of watercolor. He was also known for utilizing his watercolor painting as preparation for future oil paintings and sometimes would turn some of these pieces into finished works.
Although each artist’s style and technique may be in a constant state of evolution, it’s always interesting to examine the path of refinement and skill development each one has decided to explore. Think about the ways you have decided to refine your skills, did they happen spontaneously like Burchfield when he walked home, did you get paid to refine your skill just like Addams, or do you just pick up a brush and let the magic happen like Homer? Do you have a unique way you practice your skills or an interesting way you learned how to refine your craft? Feel free to share your endeavors and tips with others on the blog and don’t forget to practice, practice, practice!
Allison Lusk is an aspiring museum professional and student at Buffalo State College.