It's that time of year where people commit to losing weight and taking their vitamins. Admirable goals, to be sure -- but don't forget to commit to your art as well this year! What practice goals are you setting for yourself? Remember, the best goals are specific, measurable, achievable and realistic. Let's break that down:
Practice that has a clearly defined goal helps your brain to notice the specific information that you need to help you get to that goal. Without it, your brain will quickly be overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities to learn about in any situation. It also helps you stay engaged, motivated and feeling accomplished by giving you a yardstick to measure your progress.
So don't just say "I want to be a better artist," say, "I want to truly understand how the legs fit into and rotate in the hip socket," or "I want to understand how different types of fabric drape, so I can better render folds in clothing." For more on this, see my article Focused Practice: An Exercise for Real Improvement in 33 days
How do you know you're getting better? Is all the time and effort worth it? When it starts to seem as if your time would be better spent watching reality TV, it helps to know that your efforts have resulted in an improvement you can see. It's true that it can be hard to "measure" improvement in art. Of course it helps if you've truly created a specific goal to begin with!
Try getting a new sketchbook for your practice goal, and put all of your practice drawings into the same sketchbook. As you page through, you will be able to track your progress in that specific aspect of drawing from beginner to expert.
Be sure to read my article on benefiting from critique for one method of getting unbiased feedback on your art. Let your critiquers know what your specific goal was, and they will be able to help you evaluate if you are getting any closer. They will also likely have valuable tips to help you super-charge your efforts and get there faster!
Achievable & Realistic
What's the difference between achievable and realistic? Well, it may be achievable to draw 200 gestures a day if you devote all of your time to it, but if you are a busy mother of three or a full time student with a part time job, it might not be realistic. So challenge yourself, but don't screw yourself before the race has even begun. Pick goals that can reasonably fit into your life, or you will find the resolution was no more effective than making no goals at all.
It always helps to have support and feedback on your journey to becoming a better artist. If you don't have a community of artists to draw on in real life - or even if you do - please feel free to share your goals and your progress on our forums! Happy new years, all you crazy artists!