Is There Such a Thing as Bad Practice?

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

I used to fall into the enticements of coloring classes, where I thought all I needed to do was take more classes to get better with my coloring. I would see a sample of the class project and think, “wow I need to learn how to create that”. I also foolishly thought if I took a class that had beautiful flowers in it that meant when I finished the class I could color beautiful flowers just like that from now on. So when my flowers didn't look as great as they did after that last class I thought I needed take another class and another and another. It never ever dawned on me that I needed to take time to practice the actual techniques I learned in that class to produce a pretty flower. The trap I fell into was thinking I needed to simply follow the tutorials to get better, but I was not learning why each step was important. Until I found the Vanilla Arts classes that explained to me the reason why we were using Copic B34 underneath a Copic YG17. That is when the light went off - there are specific techniques I need to pay attention to and then practice them to get better. Just like that I found my obsession with practicing.

I have come to find out that there is bad practicing. Practice doesn't always make perfect, but practice does make permanent. It has been proven by scientist that the repetition of doing something over time will cause our brains to trigger signals and sensory stimuli to our nerve cells. This is how we get that thing we call muscle memory. So, to not bore you with a ton of neuroscience jargon, the bottom line is no matter what we do over and over it will become permanent in our brain good or bad. So if you are going to practice make your practice a good one.

Let me give you some tips on how you can turn your practice into something that is beneficial for you to grow your skills and stop the mindless practice. When you are ready to start practicing there is one thing that is a MUST - remove all the distractions from your practice space. These distractions include - having the television on while you are practicing, multi-tasking by doing the laundry at the same time or cooking dinner, or even watching the kids in the backyard. I know it is tempting but if you are ready to make practice time effective you need to remove the distractions. The second MUST is only practice for about 20 minutes. Again, without going into the scientific jargon about why there are several studies that show our brains need a break from concentrated focus about every 20 minutes or so.

Now that you have set up your practice spot with no distractions and you have set the timer for 20 minutes here are a few more tips that will help you make the most of your practice time.

Deconstruct the technique

Slow down and focus on the technique and break it down into its smaller parts and start practicing slowly on each part. For example, let’s say you are practicing pencil pressure. You will need to look at the sharpness of the pencil, the paper you choose to use, how you hold the pencil, and practice each pressure level. It will feel uncomfortable at first and you may feel you are too slow. This is okay because you are practicing the right steps. As you practice it again and again you will get faster and faster because you are making this good practice a good habit that is ingrained in your brain now.

Repeat it

Ok, this is the most important part of practicing. Now that you broke down the different parts of the technique and you slowly practiced it - took notes - maybe even scribbled color combos on a scratch paper. Put all the notes away and practice what you just did without any helpers. Yes, do it on your own - prove to yourself you can do this without a step-by-step tutorial. Once you have repeated the technique with no helpers compare it to your original practice sheet you did with your notes and the help tips.


Now is the time to be honest with yourself with the good and the bad. Do you see progress? Did you get better on the one you did with no help. What areas are you still struggling with? What part of the technique did you forget? The great thing about a self-critique is that you can always go back and practice again.


Yes, I wrote sleep here and I am serious about it. Get some sleep. Here is the thing about sleeping, when we learn something new or challenge our brains on improving something our brains are still working on it long after we have finished. When we sleep there are no other distractions going on so your brain is still thinking about the basic parts of the technique you worked on earlier in the day and you are still thinking about how you will do it again the next time you practice. So be sure to get good sleep. You don't need to go to sleep right after practicing, just know that you need a good night’s sleep after a solid practice session to ensure all your learnings are planted firmly in your head.

Doing these few things will help you ingrain the things you learned into long term memory. You will not only have a strong understanding of the technique and when to use it, but you will not need to rely on a step-by-step tutorial to help you make your next pretty project. The confidence you will have to take on that next class will have you sitting front row ready for the next challenge your teacher throws at you.

What's happening in the Corner . . .

Do you struggle to get dimension in your coloring? Is it flat no matter what you seem to do? Do you create a base layer of color before you color an image. Join us in the Practice Corner for the month of August as we guide you though practicing how to color for depth and dimension.

If you are reading this after August, don’t despair, you can still explore and practice this technique by purchasing the "Coloring for Depth & Dimension" Technique Practice Pack here.

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