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  • Writer's pictureBethany Drake

Practice makes Progress!

Hi everyone, I'm back again with another blog post! It's been a while since I wrote one of these but I'm excited to get back into it. Today I'm going to be talking about creative improvement.

I'm sure you've heard people say before that 'Practice makes Perfect', well I'm here to debunk this saying. I believe that that saying should be more along the lines of 'Practice makes Progress'. Don't get me wrong, I heavily value practicing skills and making self-improvement but I don't believe we should be striving for perfection.

In relation to my own practice as an illustrator I am constantly creating new work and seeking out new and interesting ways to illustrate things. I have realised most recently that research prior to creating new work is absolutely crucial to creative improvement. I'm sure this is obvious to other people, but I was always under the impression that if you were a proper artist you should just know how to draw things - if you had to find references then it was some kind of failing on your part. This of course is silly as all the great artists have used references.

I wondered why I had this misconseption and think it's to do with how art and creativity is looked upon within our society. Though as children we are all encouraged to create art, as we grow up it seems we get far more critical of our abilities and many people stop making art altogether. Coupled with this, as schools seem to favour academic subjects over creative ones many students are forced to chose whether to pursue creativity or good job prospects. More often than not it is the 'naturally talented' artists that continue on, with many others believing that they just don't have enough talent to make art. I disagree with this way of thinking. I believe that when learning any new skill, it is the time and dedication to improvement that makes you good at something as opposed to naturally ability.

'Where's Teddy?' Picture book illustration 2017

Using some examples from my own work, I decided when I was on my foundation art and design course before my degree, that I was interested in making work suitable for children. Before this point I had be creating mainly black and white fine-liner pieces of dark subject matters - a complete contrast! Therefore I was literally starting from scratch learning how to create this completely different type of work.

Instead of being completely overwhelmed with all the different things I would need to learn in order to make a decent picture book, I decided to focus on one area of my illustrations at a time and try to improve it. Firstly, I wanted to improve my characters and so set myself a challenge of drawing a character a day for 100 days. I then wanted to practice colour, so created a series of folktale themed illustration all with varying colour schemes. I wanted to improve my animals and environments, so created the animal adventures series. Basically, with every new project I aim to improve one area of my work. And each time I am trying to make new improvements I do research!

Folktale Week 2019 - Colour Practice
Animal Adventures Week 2020 - Practicing animals and environments

It's important to remember that you aren't striving for perfection, but improvement. There is no point putting off creating work because you're not good enough yet. The only way you can become better is by putting in the time to make gradual improvements.

It can be hard to see how far you have come sometimes, I recently decided to recreate some of my old work from a few years ago and was shocked to see how much my work has changed.

Alice in Wonderland Front Cover - 2021
Alice in Wonderland Front Cover - 2019

Mischievous Gnomes 2021
Mischievous Gnomes 2019

It's very easy to be bogged down with seeing other artists work and believing your work isn't good enough, but taking a step back from the bigger picture and focusing on small parts of your work at a time has been so helpful to me. I hope this will also be helpful to others!

Beth :)

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