Deliberate Practice

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Deliberate Practice

Postby ubem » Fri Jan 15, 2016 7:09 am

(Updated TL;DR June 2017) Basically, Paint > Feedback > Do excercises around the feedback > Repeat

Over the past couple years I've noticed my improvement seemed random and unreliable. This led me to search for a better way to go about studying. After trying dozens of exercises, techniques, and methods, I think I've stumbled on something that has been of the most value. The scientifically researched road to mastery - Deliberate Practice.

However, I think there's a lot of misconceptions about what deliberate practice really is. I've seen many authors skew, distort, and reinterpret the fundamental meaning of deliberate practice in order to appeal to the general public. I had to dig deeper to the original source to find out what the scientists were really trying to say. Here's the unadulterated famous article by K. Anders Ericsson, which I highly recommend: Deliberate Practice

What I've learned so far:
Deliberate practice is difficult, improvement oriented, and requires complete focus. It's when you work on any type of assignment, either from yourself or a mentor, that will strengthen those weak spots and that are at the very edge of your abilities. They may consist of repetitive and challenging actions that work to strengthen a bigger complicated skill set. During your practice, you tweak your mistakes here and there until you get your desired outcome right. Having good, immediate, and accurate feedback, then adjusting your methods accordingly is what it is in essence. But this is a poor summary compared to the vast amount information on this subject.

My experience:
Looking back in my couple weeks of experience, I've found learning through deliberate practice is extremely effective. The evidence of improvement are clearly visible, even after just a couple of hours of practicing. However, the work is intense, mindracking, and fatigue inducing. I've found myself needing naps, breaks and longer stretches of sleep after these drawing sessions (may be Directed attention fatigue). In short, it's deliberate hard work.

Also I'm skeptical of the idea '10,000' hours or 10 years of deliberate practice will make you an expert; the data is kind of vague on the true practice time experts have accrued over the years. In my limited experience with deliberate practice, I believe expertise could be achieved much much faster when using an optimal method of practicing.

Here's a few videos that explain Deliberate Practice well: ... wmeCbXc4z8 ... wmeCbXc4z8 ... wmeCbXc4z8
Last edited by ubem on Tue Jun 06, 2017 8:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Deliberate Practice

Postby Erik » Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:45 pm

I'd like to hear more about how you're implementing deliberate practice in your painting. The design of the activity is also important, I think. My biggest successes have come from doing "closed-book" studies. I try to paint something from memory, then pull up reference to correct it. Have you got any drills you like doing?

Also, there's this book, The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, that collates a lot of this research. I read through it a few years ago, highlighted a bunch of stuff. I'm going through those excerpts now, looking for some art specific stuff. Not seeing too much, but there is this bit on Picasso:

One can also find evidence for practice in Picasso’s career development, which reveals a pattern similar to that seen in Mozart. Picasso’s father was a painter, as well as a teacher of painting, so Picasso, like Mozart, was exposed from an early age to training from a professional (Weisberg, 1999).

In addition, Picasso attended art school, and some of his early works that have been preserved show him practicing drawing eyes and facial profiles, as well as the human body in difficult poses. This is concrete evidence of the young artist carrying out deliberate practice. In addition, the Ten-Year Rule also applies to Picasso: the first works that show a unique Picasso style did not occur until more than ten years into his career (Weisberg, 1999). This analysis of Picasso also calls into question the claims made by Sternberg (1996) concerning the extraordinary level of Picasso’s early development. Again, it is not absurd to say that the paintings produced by Picasso over the first ten years of his career are also matched by most painters as they work their way through art school. Pariser (1987), in an analysis of the juvenilia of several painters known for precocity, including Picasso, Klee, and Toulouse-Lautrec, concluded that they all went through stages of development that were the same as those traversed by all painters.

In sum, Picasso’s overall development accords with the Ten-Year Rule, and Guernica was based on his domain-specific expertise: he began with information from previous works, his own and those of others, and used that as the basis for the creation of a new work. The outline in Figure 42.1B can be applied to Picasso’s situation in creating Guernica, and, to summarize Picasso’s thought processes in producing that innovation, we would put a notation close to the center of the diagram. As noted earlier, the adequacy of the precise structure of Figure 42.1B is not at issue here. However that structure is depicted, it seems clear that Picasso’s creation of Guernica was another example of domain-specific expertise serving in creative thinking.
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Re: Deliberate Practice

Postby ubem » Tue Jan 19, 2016 12:17 am

Thanks for the book recommendation! I'll definitely have to peruse that one day, expertise is such a fascinating topic. And cool quote, Picasso is a fascinating guy. He totally revolutionized the art world, unfortunately to the detriment of realistic art. Though It's nice to know about his academic background before he started 'innovating'.

I definitely agree the design of the activity is paramount to improving, the more specific, the more effective learning can become. For example, a student learning in a general classroom of a 100 would probably progress more slowly than one coupled with a good tutor that identifies individual weak points and creates good tasks to improve them. I think Brad Rigney has the exact same process as you for learning how to paint, painting something then pulling up references for corrections, no doubt it is a good method if you're finding it effective.

I'm still relatively new to deliberate practice, but the way I approach it is first being hyper analytical and objective with my pieces. After looking through my work, seeing where my weaknesses are and keeping in mind where I want to take my art in the long run, I would say, for example: "I'd like to improve in making castles."

Since I'm no expert teacher, I have start by making attempts at different methods of practicing to find that sweet spot of where I can practice at the edge of my abilities. First I'll try painting a fantasy castle from my imagination - after some time I see too many errors and everything looks terrible - I conclude that's too difficult right now. So then I'll try drawing simple boxes in perspective - after a few minutes I realize this is too easy, I've got a handle on boxes already. Eventually I'll find that doing perspective overlays of castle photos is challenging enough but not overwhelmingly. I realize this helps me learn how castle looking-structures work in perspective and at the same time expands my visual library - exactly what I need! Each time I start another study I'll keep that as my primary focus.

I'll continue to repeat this until I can objectively see I have a grip on it and is no longer challenging. Then I'll take it up a notch - maybe start constructing them without the photo overlay. After that, maybe I'll start adding values, then believable details, then designing silhouettes ect. all the way until I can paint interesting believable castles from my imagination.

As there's many roads to Rome, I think any drill can work, so long as it's tailored to your goals and is adequately challenging. Also looking at other student's work (especially those at Art Center) or how the masters practiced and seeing how effective it was for them, can be a great way to learn about new methods of practicing.
Thanks again sharing that book and quote, hope this helps!
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