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How often Do You Practice Your Art

Ian Watts Photography and Digital Art - Practice your Art

How often do you practice your art? A serious question. Not how long do you create art, but how often do you practice your art or specific techniques?

So let me start at the beginning. I love watching tutorials. However, what I tend to do is watch a tutorial, give it a quick go, and then mentally tick that off. Learnt, on to the next.

The problem with this technique is that it doesn't stick, and a week or two later, you've forgotten it.

Psychology to Help you Practice Your Art

Take a look at the following infographic, and let's see how we can apply it to art:

Ian Watts Photography and Digital Art - Practice Your Art
Reproduced from

So let's look at how many of us learn new skills - anywhere between lecture and demonstration I would imagine. That means the maximum that we will retain is about 30%. 30%??? That's shocking. That means if most of your learning comes from video, then the maximum you are going to retain is 30%.

So how can we improve?

Ian Watts Photography and Digital Art - Practice your ArtLook at the bars in red. Group discussion (50%), Practice by Doing (75%) and teaching others  (90%). Wow - what a huge difference. So what does that mean for your art, and how does it relate to the theme of this blog - practice your art.

First, group discussion. You might watch a video and either not see the point, or not get parts of it. Group discussion can get us around both of these as we learn from others. Also in the process of discussing it, we are repeating it. Psychology 101 tells us that repetition is a proven way to get things from our short-term memory to our long-term  memory. Our long term memory can only hold seven (plus or minus 2) items at once. Try and keep more than that in short term memory and something is getting kicked out of your minds door.

Secondly, Practising by Doing. The more we do something, the more we develop muscle memory. Sports people use this to their advantage a lot. By constantly practising the same stroke with correct technique, the tennis player can eventually hit that stroke without thinking about it. The muscle itself holds the memory of how to do it. Your brain works the same way, but in the brain, it is called Neuroplasticity. The more you do something the more you strengthen the links between those parts of your brain. The stronger they get, the more permanent they become.

Thirdly, Teaching Others. This helps us to retain a whopping 90%. In having to explain to others, and be able to answer their questions, we retain more than any other technique.

In other words, to practice your art, and really learn from that practice, you need to discuss with others, you need to do it more, and you need to teach others.

So, my five top tips for helping you Practice your Art more effectively:

  1. Join a Facebook or Goole+ group around your area and get involved in discussion. 
  2. Join a mentoring programme (I can highly recommend The Arcanum - you get feedback from others, you discuss and you get to teach others)
  3. Practice, Practice Practice. If you have just watched a tutorial, then really practice that technique. Don't just run through the tutorial, but apply what you have learnt in different ways. Practice it until it becomes second nature.
  4. Show others the results of your practice. They don't have to be great, but if you can discuss your practice efforts, then you will be combining the first two 'Red' methods of learning - that can only increase the percentage of retention.
  5. Create some Youtube Videos and teach others. In doing this, you will have to break the process down into logical chunks. This again will help you retain the knowledge more. 

Ian Watts Photography and Digital Art - Practice your ArtSo what is happeneing while you do all this. First you are pushing knowledge from short term memory to long term memory. That means you are more likely to remember it in a weeks time, or a months time. Secondly, you are stregthening your neural pathways in your brain that relate to these techniques. In  other words, you are strengthening your artistic muscle memory, and making the techniques become second nature.

I guarantee that is you follow these five tips, and invest time into each technique, your artwork will increase in quality, and your ability to use these techniques that you are learning will just get easier.

For me, it's back to some basics that I know, but that really need strengthening.


All of this knowledge has come from a variety of sources - too many to mention. However, I wish to mention the following

  1. Janice Sullivan - she was my first mentor in The Arcanum and helped me believe in myself. A truly inspirational person.
  2. Robin Griggs Woods - my second mentor in The Arcanum who pushed me beyond where I thought I could go, and introduced me to the understanding of creativity in photography.
  3. Sebastien Michaels - he runs a number of online courses / communities, including Photoshop Artistry, Awake and Kaizen. A truly inspirational creative person from whom I have, and am learning so much.

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