Work 10000 on a subject and you will become a true master of it.
The 10 000 hours of practice rule was popularised by Malcolm Gladwell and became quite famous in the art community. It states, that in order to become a true master in a subject, one has to spend 10000 hours studying and practising that said subject. Whether this is completely or true is unclear and there are no clear indications of this being true.
Undeniably, practice is crucial when it comes to improving your art skills, and no theory books or courses in the world will make up for the hours actually spent practising.
Practice lets you try things out and make mistakes. And only by committing mistakes can you analyse and learn. This leads us to our second point, which is receiving constructive criticism. While practice alone is great, a practice which allows you to learn quickly from your mistakes is favourable. By practising value painting and exposing yourself to constructive criticism you will be able to make progress so much faster, as you will be able to learn from your mistakes quicker than by trying to figure everything out on your own.
In that aspect, I do believe that working smarter is more important than working harder.
Another misconception I often encounter in the artworks is that artists who don’t claim to spend 8-10 + hours a day painting are considered lazy. I often wonder where this whole idea emerges from. Why is someone mostly taken seriously if this person sacrifices personal time, family and any other hobbies?
This same concept doesn’t apply to other professions such as doctors or housing agents, yet I dare you to claim at an art convention, that you only paint a few hours daily and you will earn yourself pitiful looks and comments about how THEY do work for hours and hours on end without weekends off.
The biggest issue with this kind of work ethic is probably health.
We sacrifice our physical health. Carpal syndrome is a common issue with digital artists, back pain from sitting for hours on end, poor eyesight is only a small part of the problem. Working with little breaks and no clear boundaries can also have a negative influence on your mental health, raising the risk of depression.
All work and no play might make you a better artist, but at what cost?
Isn’t the reason we first embarked on that journey that we love what we do? Why turn it into a chore at a high cost? It’s common to sacrifice social time, entertainment or any other hobbies deemed unproductive in exchange for work.
I do believe, in the short term, this can be beneficial and important, yet there are artists who would spend years on end living this lifestyle, resulting in them becoming better but utterly unhappy professionals.
I believe balance is key. There is no way around hard work and practice. But studying with your mind present at the task is more important than 8 hours of mindless photocopying. 4 hours of productive work and some time off in nature or doing other things can become more productive than spending the whole day in front of the canvas or tablet.
Changing the activity, talking to people, walking, moving and doing sports can actually contribute to the creative process. They will refresh your brain, give you new impulses for your creativity and help you process what you’ve learned.
But most importantly, they will let you live a happier, more balanced life.
Work is not everything there is in life. Don’t forget to live.