Do you want specific strategies to improve your skill as artist? Look no further. Hi, my name is Carrie, and today on Artist Strong we’re going to review the book called Peak, written by Anders Ericsson. It’s all about expertise, and talks about specific strategies we can use to help improve our skills in any discipline. Let’s get started.
Anders Ericsson studied experts for 30 years, and what he discovered is that there’s no such thing as talent. There is, however, a specific way to build your skill.
People seem to think that we have this fixed potential, and we can all only work up to a certain level of ability. In fact, his research shows across all kinds of disciplines that this is entirely false. The thing that every expert has in common is that they have a specific formula they use to build their skill.
I have a quote for you today from the book: “The right sort of practice, carried out over a sufficient period of time, leads to improvement.” What is this right kind of practice? He calls it purposeful practice, or deliberate practice, and there’s a bunch of qualities that this kind of practice possesses. Let’s break that down.
The first piece of the practice puzzle is that you need to have very specific goals.
What kind of skill do you want to achieve? What level of skill do you want to achieve? What kind of techniques do you want to learn?
You should know what you’re aiming for so that you can then, which is the second ingredient, build baby steps to help you get there.
Once you have those baby steps you can make focused effort on each smaller step, which will lead you to your larger goal.
All this needs to also have another element, which is the fourth piece, and that is feedback.
You have to have feedback from someone who can see your mistakes, or see your strengths and weaknesses, and help you then create strategies to build on those weaknesses to grow your skill. Feedback is an absolutely necessary part of your practice if you want to build your skill.
The last piece of this puzzle is you not only have to practice to build your skill, you have to go outside of your comfort zone.
All of these ingredients together are why so few people are experts in their discipline. No one wants to do the focused practice that means boring repetitive practice to get better at a skill that they are developing.
No one likes being outside their comfort zone. It’s uncomfortable. You don’t want to be there, you want to be somewhere that feels comfortable. Yet the more you can keep yourself outside of that comfort zone, the more you’re going to see growth in your skill.
The only reason you stop getting better at your art is because you stopped trying to improve. That’s the big message and take away from today’s book, Peak. The only way that experts get better and become expert at their discipline is through this focused practice.
Tied to this feedback part of the puzzle, you also need someone who knows techniques that you don’t know. Our techniques can limit us unless we have a teacher, someone who is ahead of us, and this could be a one on one teacher, this could be an online environment, this could be free videos that you find online, or even from books. You find the resources that have this information but you need to learn new techniques that help inform your practice to build your skill. A teacher is a part of that puzzle.
Another piece of this expert puzzle I found quite, well, surprising to be honest, when I read this book was that in addition to this focused deliberate practice that experts use to build their skill, and maintain it, and continue to grow it, they also have really strong library of mental representations in their head. What do I mean by this?
It’s this idea that they have, they can picture then working with a specific technique really easily, and it comes to them comfortably. A lot of athletes, for example, will imagine themselves playing a really good game right before the game that they go start working, they start participating in, or competing in.
That visual representation helps them be better during the actual game. By having those mental representations in their mind, they can anticipate problems before they come, and even know how to adjust their choices and technical choices that they’re making to accommodate the problem before it even happens.
Ask yourself what kind of mental representations you have of the artist techniques that you want to be achieving. Can you picture yourself drawing photo realistically? What would that look like? How do you hold your pencil or pen? How do you angle yourself? What kind of environment are you in? How do you measure things to help you get the information down onto your paper? All of these mental representations will help inform and build your art skill.
The last piece of today’s puzzle that I’d like to bring up for you is that you have to have solitary practice.
That’s another ingredient that all of these experts that Ericsson research share is that they made time for solitary practice.
Now I want to be clear here, part of his goal with this book was not to tell everyone how to become an expert, not everyone has the time, nor is willing to put in the time needed, to become an expert. Expert violinists have to practice for at least five to eight hours a day. Well not everyone has time for that kind of practice.
However, you can still build your skill and that’s part of the point of his book is that if you’re willing to put in even a little bit of focused effort every day; maybe just the 15 minutes that I often encourage people in our community to make time for in terms of art making.
If you could put in 15 minutes of focused skill building activity a day, you’re going to improve your skill, and that’s the point of today’s book review. You don’t have to become an expert if you don’t want to, but you can reach to improve your skill, and if that’s something you really want, then these are the steps you take to get there.
Be Creatively Courageous: Today in the comments below, I’d like you to tell me about one technique or skill that you wish to develop, and grow, and be better at, in the arts. Then outline three smaller steps you can take to build and improve that skill. I look forward to seeing what you have to say, I’ll give you any support I can in the comments below. Let’s get that conversation started.
Today’s book review, the book, Peak, actually inspired me to develop an entirely new program. It’s called Better Drawing Bootcamp. I’m using the research from the lessons I’ve learned in today’s video and from the book, to develop a research based program that helps us build our drawing skills.
If this sounds like fun to you, or you know that you want to build your drawing skills and you’re not quite sure the formula to get there, you don’t want to have to build it yourself, then consider joining me and learning more about my program, Better Drawing Bootcamp. I have a 7 day training series that’s free, that will get you started on drawing, and give you more information about the program. All you have to do is sign up below. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.
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