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The Artist's Perspective - Improvement

Acquire new skills!
Acquire new skills!

Improvement. This one word is so true of creative longevity.  Honestly, it may be the key to longevity period.  You know you pretty well.

Now imagine a better you.  Not a new you, but an improved you.  Who wouldn’t want a better version of themselves?  A software update to version YOU.2 with new or improved features! Count me in right?

Well, self improvement is just that, a software update for the old you, and in the case I’m speaking about today, a creative update. One which keeps your mental, dexterity and cognitive performance up to speed. The problem is, while most of us improve throughout life, we don’t focus on our improvement much as adults. We tend to focus on titles and possessions, rather than skills and experiences. Artists are no different. 

Improvement in your artistic skill only comes in two ways, doing it and/or expanding past fears or a comfort zone. With adult beginners, who have forgotten their inner child, just getting started can be overwhelming. What do I buy, which way do I turn, will I be any good? Then there’s that person in your life who may have always mentally held you back with crippling comments like, you can’t draw, you can’t sing, you can’t dance. It happens a lot and so let me just start by saying, brush that crap off and move on. They had or have no right and you are in control of you now.

Being artistic in any way is a skill, one people can learn. Sure, there are some that will come into it easier, but this is the case with anything we learn. It doesn’t matter if it’s math or art. But with any skill we have to just do it, and do it, and do it and keep on doing it. You begin by just having fun, no pressure, let it happen naturally. Enjoy yourself and understand you are beginning to learn a new skill. As you begin, especially with adults, it’s natural to see you aren’t a master, but don’t be overly critical or hard on yourself.  Let it be fun.  When you are having fun, you want more fun and in the case of learning a new skill, the more fun you’re having the better you get. One day what was hard or frustrating is neither and you will have improved. You will be a better you than you were before you began.

Drawing, painting, pottery, sculpting, singing, playing an instrument, acting, dancing, all take a fair amount of practice or hours to improve, but the improvement doesn’t just come all at once after weeks or months, it comes gradually. Just like being around a puppy growing, you may not easily see the growth, but others who haven’t seen the puppy so frequently, see the change more easily.  Often to really see our improvement we have to keep examples of the old us to compare with the results of the new us. Sometimes the improvements will be small and other times we will see very measurable gains. It’s like ascending a flight of stairs, where the landings set us up to rise again, but if you keep going, rise you will.

Then we have those with years of artistry under their belts. Seemingly not in need of much improvement.  I would respectively disagree as we all should care to improve and grow.  I see this a lot.  The same old thing, over and over again.  It’s as if the staircase and the ascent has ended.  Sometimes if growth within one’s chosen craft has stagnated, it’s time for another chosen craft or artistry.  I’m a painter and have been for 30 years.  I’m a writer and have been at least since high school.  I’ll be frank in saying that more of my growth these days is happening with writing than with painting.  It’s the place I look most for improvement because both are my creative voices. 

Realized gains in the self-improvement of one’s skills is a feel good thing though.  For me it’s a valuable currency, something I can spend and save.  A measurable wealth and one I hope to continue making sizable deposits to with the years to come. I don’t see a time when I can say I’ve improved enough.  All done, fini, skill bank is all full. Look at the thing you would like to artfully accomplish as a treasure chest and the word improvement as sacred and I see happiness in your future!