I often hear from people that they cannot draw or have no talent for art. That sitting down and starting to draw or paint or play a musical instrument is not something they could do.

Most of us cannot. Picture the child learning play basketball or use a skateboard. It takes determination and practice. We see skateboarders practicing the same move over and over and over until they've mastered it. Coaches too use skills and drills to help children and adults learn the techniques, practicing and building upon what they learn, until muscle memory kicks in. 

The same holds true for drawing and learning other art techniques and for playing an instrument. We need to learn the techniques to transfer what we see to paper, to practice the musical instrument and to learn to read music. 

Whether we are self-taught or taking a class, we can learn at any stage of life so long as
  • we have the desire
  • what we are learning is meaningful to us, and 
  • we are willing to take the time to practice, then practice some more, then practice again. 
Practice helps us become not only technically proficient and build muscle memory, but also so we can breathe life into a piece.

It's easy to keep practicing what we know, not so easy to practice what we don't know. But practice is what it takes to become good, even a master at what we create or the instrument we play.

And it's important to be present while practicing, concentrating, mindful, struggling to get through the bits that we find challenging. To not be present means we are just practicing without really paying attention, not noticing where we could improve. 

That's the challenge I faced when I was growing up and taking piano lessons. I disliked practicing, especially scales, and wasn't actually that interested in playing. So while I practiced every day because I had to, I never learned to play well and I don't play today. 

And it was a pleasure to watch several women in a retirement home learn to draw using coloured pencils. Most had only started to make art after moving to the home but they enjoyed it, found meaning by creating pictures from old photographs, and practiced between classes, improving to the point where some of the pictures even made it into an art show at the home!


"Music is full of longing and movement.  Painting should be the same." I read this quote in Hundred and Thousands: The Journals of...