“…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”
Will Durant (though this quote is often attributed directly to Aristotle)
Whilst I was painting the other day, I noticed a particular habit that I have developed. Every time I went to scruff up an area, I would do this pattern of two long strokes and a short dab. It seems to have become my default response to whenever I encounter a certain situation in a painting.
This may seem harmless, but over the course of a whole painting this kind of habit can build up some unnatural looking brushwork.
Have you thought about the habits you have developed?
Some habits are great, like….
- Practicing your drawing each day for 10 minutes; or
- Cleaning your brushes thoroughly after each painting (something I need to do more of…); or
- Having patience when mixing colors (and not relying on guesswork); or
- Taking the time to think about what is actually going on in your painting.
Other habits are not so great, like…
- Making weak and timid strokes, rather than committing to your strokes; or
- Relying on guesswork rather than proper decision making; or
- Procrastinating on your next painting; or
- Failing to clean up properly; or
- Going straight for the titanium white every time you need a highlight; or
- Relying on blacks and browns for shadows; or
- Waiting for the “perfect subject” to paint; or
- Working too fast, or too slow.
Next time you are painting, have a think about the habits you have developed - the kind of things you do over and over again without second thought.
Then consider if they are good habits which need to be encouraged or bad habits which need to be dealt with. This is important because whilst excellence may be built on good habits, mediocrity is certainly built on bad habits.
You might want to take it a step further and actively think about what good habits you can start today. It is not only about avoiding bad habits, but also developing more and more good habits over time. This is the reason why some artists become masters after many years, and some artists stay amateurs.
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