Updated: Oct 20, 2020
There was a time when I thought if I color every day, I will get better at it. In some sense yes that is true, and I was good at coming home every night and spending time to color. However, I was not necessarily getting any better at coloring. What I mean here is that my coloring skills were not getting better, but I was good at keeping the routine. Basically, I did this for about a month before recognizing that my coloring was not any better than the month before. There was something missing and it took me awhile to figure it out. I was missing the essence of what real practice is about.
Practice, or should I say effective practice, is focusing in on specific skills or techniques and refining them. Did you ever stop to think how sports players don't get better at their sport by just playing game after game? They get better by focusing their practice sessions on drills to improve one skill at a time. I knew that but I guess I thought art was different or I just thought there was a magical talent that was blessed on artists. Well, eventually I started to apply what I knew about practice in terms of focusing on a skill and that’s when my coloring truly started to improve.
Improving your skills requires these things:
Practice the basic techniques of the skill
Self-reflection/assessment of the skill (make any adjustments needed)
Repeat the basic technique to get comfortable with the skill
Apply this skill (what you have learned or improved) to a real coloring project
For me, I want to get better at coloring faces, which means I must break down the techniques and skills required to color faces well. I need to learn how to color components such as hair, eyes, noses, lips, and skin. I can color all of these at the same time but to really get better at each of them, I need to focus on only one thing at a time.
So, I decided I would focus on how to color hair for a couple of weeks. I spent time learning the key elements in coloring realistic hair. Then every night I would color just hair. I did this the first week and at the end of the week I looked at all the hair coloring I did that week and compared what I did to what I wanted it to look like. I noticed I needed more contrast (darker values) and I needed more color pencil layers.
I took these notes and searched out a few classes to help me with my technique on hair. The great thing about our world today is that you can take a class instantly online about anything. There are so many people teaching their techniques in their style that you have access to, day or night. This is what I was missing in my daily coloring routine. It was learning how to do a technique the correct way and then practicing the technique until it was natural for me to do every time I color.
When I started practicing techniques, instead of simply coloring, things completely changed for me. This is where magic really did happen. Practicing hair techniques for just one more week made a HUGE difference from the beginning to the end of the week. I have to say, at first, I was scared to color hair because it seemed like a lot of work but when I focused on the technique and practiced it that fear went away. Today I love to color all types of hair styles because not only did I improve my skill level, but I gained a lot of hair coloring confidence.
I laugh at myself now because I really believed talented artist were magical. I really thought only a select number of people were blessed with this magic that meant every pencil or paint stroke they made were always perfect. The reality of it is every pencil and paint stroke they make has been practiced until they come out beautifully every time. I have come to the realization anyone can be an amazing artist, not just a select few. Everyone who practices their techniques and is willing to honestly assess their own work and apply what they have learned to a real project will produce amazing work.
The thing about practice . . . you should never stop practicing. Think about this for a moment, the are pro athletes who have been playing their sport since they were kids, I am positive they know their games inside and out, so why do they still practice? If the pros constantly practice their skills, why shouldn't the casual colorer do the same to keep growing their skills?
Since I have started this type of practice routine focused on improving my skills, I have continued to take classes. Before when I would sign up for a class, I would get anxious, worried that I could even pull it off like the teacher. I would even agonize over the fact that my project didn't look like the teachers. Now, now when I take classes I have confidence because I know I can do it even if it is a technique I have never done before. I know I can practice the technique to get to the level the teacher is at. Now taking classes is fun and trying new things is fun. All because of the magic I found in effective practice.
What's happening in the Corner . . .
Do you like to color images with people in them? Do you freeze when you get to the point you have to color skin? Don't know if you should approach coloring legs or arms different than a face, what colors to use, or even how to shade skin?
If so, come spend a month with us in the Corner while we will focus our coloring on skin. With practice, you can overcome the fear of coloring skin.
If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Practice Technique Pack for Skin here.
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