Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Practice Makes Near Perfect

The Museu Picasso in Barcelona has hundreds of sketches and paintings that Picasso made while he was a young man, still living in Spain, before his move to Paris. There are seascapes painted on pieces of cardboard box, and sketches on thin pieces of wood. Case after case contains sketchbooks of landscapes and animals. It appeared that if, in the Picasso household, there was a scrap of paper, or box, or cardboard around, it was immediately sequestered to become a small painting. Why?

My theory is that some people feel the obsessive drive to constantly create. As one author once noted, "Genius comes in fragments." When we complete an artistic task or solve a creative problem, over and over, we start to see closure. We also start to see a sort of perfection, and the work becomes more fine, and our skills slowly advance. But, this progress cannot be made without constant practice.


Several years ago, I worked in display design for Macy's. It was a very creative job, and I seemed to have no problem supplying a seemingly endless amount of solutions to display problems. I started to worry that my creativity would "dry up", with overuse. As a painter, I had hit slumps, when I felt frustrated and unproductive. So, about every two weeks, I would make my way to the public library, and check out five or six large art books. Each morning, while eating breakfast, I would fuel my creativity by browsing through these books. Although, I was half asleep, the images and ideas were somehow imprinted on my subconscious. I often thought that this technique kept my mind nimble and creative. But, now that I look back, I think it was the daily practice of solving display problems that actually fueled my creativity. 

The biggest part of art is in the doing: the getting down to business. I think that Picasso understood that quite well. This explains why he was so prolific as a painter, and a sculptor. When you constantly create, not every piece that emerges from the studio is a dazzler. But, without the flow of constantly making, the pieces that shine, would never appear. 


  1. The art-making is the artist, I believe. A process - a verb? - with an important but incidental result/object. An illusion? Maybe. But a really, really good one. You totally get this, I know, but thanks for writing about it.

  2. So totally agree -- I cannot solve a problem unless I have my hands on it. But plugging new imagery into the system is also important and a nice way to get the gears moving. And I'm always amazed at how great I feel when I'm working on something -- especially if there's been time away from the studio for any reason.


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