Art Is A Sport: How To Improve? Deliberate Practice

Introduction

This is an artist’s attempt on an artist take, on some of the concepts from the lecture series: “Psychology of Performance” by Dr Eddie O’Connor mainly aimed at Sports Psychology and Performance.

I was inspired to do this after seeing how related to art it can be, after Marshall Vandruff mentioned it so many times in the Draftsmen Podcasts.

I wanted to do a version for artists who want to get the practical gist of it and/or need an artist’s perspective on it, if they feel like it’s not applicable to practicing art. Some chapters like being a good sports parent don’t really apply for example.

There is some overlap between chapter points that I will try to condense for succinct points for quick reading, summarized as best as I can and art related examples of certain points to show how it can be applied to practicing art.

The original material are strongly recommended if you require more information/scientific evidence of the concepts.

Deliberate Practice

Purposeful Deliberate Practice Over Time Produces Results

Purposeful Deliberate Practice is a cycle that includes these concepts:

Specific Achievable Goals

Striving for moderate difficulty goals works best for improvement.

“Do/try your best” goals work somewhat but not as well.

The SMART acronym to planning goals can apply here as well.

Specific: A specific goal, which can be for each practice session or an overarching goal to be achieved in.

Some examples:

“Learn the anatomy of the top view of the hand”

“Learn how to draw the hand without reference”

Measurable: Simply put, can you see a measured improvement in what you want to do from wanting to achieve this goal.

Have you improved after some practice sessions, moving towards your specified goal?

This ties in with feedback and response, you can have a mentor judge accordingly (who can also give you specific goals to work towards). Or you would have to feedback on your own work accordingly and honestly.

Achievable: Have a goal you can achieve, hence a moderate difficulty goal and not a endgame elite goal, it gives you motivation when you achieve it.

It’s stepping stones towards your desired end goal.

Realistic: Is your goal realistic? This ties in with the Timed and Achievable aspect of goals, where you ensure that the goal you set can be achieved in the time limit you set yourself.

Your goal cannot be something too unrealistic and unachievable within the time frame you set yourself.

Timed/Timely: When do you want to achieve this goal you have set for yourself? Within the practice session or after a certain period of time or by a certain point a time.

This affects your goal in different ways, it puts a fire under you, to make sure you are working towards that specific goal within the time frame.

The time-frame also limits what the goal can be, you can’t master drawing everything in the whole world in a week (I think…)

Intense Focus

Intense focus on what you are practicing.

It’s natural to lose focus, its nigh impossible to maintain 100% focus all the time, choosing the right time and what to give 100% focus to and catching yourself when you lose focus is key to focusing.

When you lose focus, catch yourself and refocus again. This builds up mental strength by repetition of this process.

Semi-related/short intro of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness Practice is:

Paying Attention

On Purpose

In The Present Moment

Without Judgement

More on this in a future post, you can consider them as a subset/supplement to deliberate practice like not judging too harshly as you draw.

Outside Comfort Zone

The goals/subjects you choose should be outside your comfort zone, therefore usually unpleasant and not fun to do.

People usually don’t want to do or find Still Life studies boring and unpleasant, they don’t want to do them.

Experts recognize and accept that there are things they don’t want to do because they are boring or unpleasant but do them anyway, in order to improve to do what they want to do well, so do consider some goals/subjects that make you feel icky but you know you need to put in the work to become good.

Feedback And Response

Feedback and response from a mentor/teacher about the deliberate practice work you have done in order to refine it and improve on how you practice the next time.

Once you develop your own critical eye and get good enough, (or if you can’t afford a professional mentor/teacher, you have to feedback on yourself or post on an online forum where you have to filter feedback) you can provide your own feedback and respond accordingly to what you have to improve on.

Effective Mental Representations

Clear picture of what you want in your mind, related/can work hand-in-hand with Imagery, where you envision the piece you want to do or you yourself drawing in your head, like you are out of your body looking at yourself. You visualize yourself performing the action and the problems you might face while having to perform the action, the feelings you might feel, the lack of focus you might have and how you will correct them.

It’s a lot like a simulation but not a perfect one where you imagine yourself performing everything perfectly, it has to be a realistic one where you envision yourself encountering some problems you might actually encounter in real life and how do you handle them.

Deliberate Practice Cycle

Mental Representations > Deliberate Practice > Feedback/Improvement > Refined Deliberate Practice > Mental Representations > Repeat

This is the cycle of practice that lets you go through it easily.

How To Practice With Motivation

Have just 1-hour clear of obligations and distractions. An hour is quite optimal for practice. Purposeful practice works best with concrete visible signs/goals of improvement to motivate yourself to continue working harder. Keep that in mind when putting your goals on what to achieve in mind.

I will be writing about more stuff pertaining to improvement in art in the future, please follow if you want to be kept up to date. Here are some more articles I have written:

Art Is A Sport

When Art Lecturers Don’t Show Their Portfolio

Art School Or Not (Singaporean Edition)

If you liked what you read, please consider supporting me on Patreon (monthly) or ko-fi (one time donations).

Stay safe~!
JR

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