Daily Practice

Painting’s not important. The important thing is keeping busy.

— Grandma Moses

The summer has been good to me, because at long last I’ve made a daily practice of painting.

It was a goal I set for myself two years ago, then discarded like an unwanted penny.

It took an art retreat in late June, during which I painted four days in a row for nearly eight hours a day, to show me that a daily practice is powerful.

How stupid of me to think it would be anything but!

Psychologists would sympathize, however, because they know that you only understand the power of a daily practice after you put it in place.

No matter your passion, a daily practice is about getting stuff done.

You can chase after a passion, sure; but, if you’re not getting stuff done, you’re chasing something less than a passion—an abiding interest, maybe; or a hobby or fantasy—and your not chasing very hard.

The work you produce through a daily practice distinguishes real passion.

Ironically, the work you produce may not be good work. It may be lackluster. It may be worse than lackluster.

But you don’t quit—and that’s the key. You show up every day. Stick with it. Put in the hours. Never slack off.

And from your busyness—the repeated focus and preoccupation—lo and behold, painting becomes habitual and you discover the all-consuming feelings that constitute a bone fide passion (from the Latin passionem, meaning “suffering”).

You experience moments of exhilaration, pride, contentment, and competence; and moments of doubt, frustration, defeat, and anger.

Both agony and ecstasy—but mostly agony.

You plod on, nevertheless, and when you stop for the day, you clean your brushes and lay them out in soldierly fashion for tomorrow’s practice.

Because, like the athlete, you understand it’s all practice.

A daily practice is the block of time you carve out to devote to your passion. It has everything to do with the time, and nothing to do with the end-results. But from all the keeping busy, paintings follow. And some may be keepers.

Crazy, huh?

“Painting seems like some kind of peculiar miracle that I need to have again and again,” artist Philip Guston said.

I’m sure that he meant by that his own daily practice.

Above: Honey & Lemon. Oil on canvas. 14 x 11 inches.