On the Subject of Practice

Me playing an Eddie Van Halen guitar

I always cringe a little when another artist talks about their art “practice.” The word doesn’t fit what I do in my studio. Maybe it’s that it sounds slightly pretentious to me – and by that, I mean that I would feel pretentious using the word “practice” in this context. Again, this is just my opinion as it relates to what happens when I make my own art/animation. If you have an art practice, cool! That’s great, I hope you keep it up, and that it works for you.

From the Internet:



noun: practice

  1. 1. the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it. “The principles and practice of teaching”
    synonyms: application, exercise, use, operation, implementation, execution, enactment, action, doing
    • the carrying out or exercise of a profession, especially that of a doctor or lawyer. “He abandoned medical practice for the Church” synonyms: profession, career, business, work, pursuit, occupation, following”such was his disillusionment that he gave up the practice of medicine”
    • the business or premises of a doctor or lawyer.plural noun: practices “Dr. Weiss has a practice in Essex”
      synonyms:business, firm, office; More
  2. 2. the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something.”current nursing practice”synonyms:custom, procedure, policy, convention, tradition, fashion, habit, wont, method, system, routine, institution, way, rule; 
    • an established method of legal procedure.
  3. 3.repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.”it must have taken a lot of practice to become so fluent”synonyms:training, rehearsal, repetition, preparation, exercise, drill, study;
    • a period of time spent practicing an activity or skill.”daily choir practices”


verb: practise;

  1. 1. perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. “I need to practice my French”
    synonyms: rehearse, run through, go through, go over, work on, work at, repeat; 
  2. 2. carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.
    “We still practice some of these rituals today”
    synonyms: carry out, perform, do, observe, put into practice, execute, follow, exercise
    • actively pursue or be engaged in (a particular profession or occupation). “He began to practice law” synonyms: work at, pursue a career in, have a career in, go in for, engage in, specialize in, ply, follow; More
    • observe the teaching and rules of (a particular religion). “They are free to practice their religion without fear of persecution”
    • ARCHAIC scheme or plot for an evil purpose. “What a tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive”
Me at guitar center playing one of Steve Vai's autographed Ibanez JEMs.

I have given a lot of thought as to why this bothers me. Chiropractors have a “practice.” Lawyers have a practice, as do dentists. As for myself, I practice Kung Fu, Tai Chi, mindfulness, and the guitar. I don’t think that I practice art. For me, the process is what’s important. The process of making art is the living, breathing space where something happens. Once I complete a piece and post it here, I have mild feeling of “empty nest syndrome” around that work. I need to move on immediately to the next piece, because the work is in the making. I wrote about the two sides of this coin in my defense of Jim Carrey – what happens for the artist in the creative process, and then what’s left for the world and viewer. Both things are vital, and different sides of the equation.

I read a quote at Hyperallergic and it resonated with me, so I want to share it.

It’s by the late Carolee Schneemann, and it sums things up perfectly:

 I don’t have a “practice,” I have a process. My work has concept, but is not conceptual as such; I don’t “unpack” anything except my travel bag.

from https://hyperallergic.com/

The full quote, in context, is below:

There is currently a fundamental difference in the way students initiate their process, because of its digital mediation, and because increasingly formal art education encourages them towards a predetermined concept of what the work must be. There is a sense of, “you tell us what to do and we will do it, then get a gallery and sell work.” I let them know it is chaotic out there in terms of commercialism, I let them know I reject common academic language: I don’t have a “practice,” I have a process. My work has concept, but is not conceptual as such; I don’t “unpack” anything except my travel bag. I tell them to question rhetoric, to stop being fearful of history, to look at what excites them, and to what has vigor and history. You belong to what you inherit and can transform.

from https://hyperallergic.com/

Thanks for reading this. Perhaps you agree, and perhaps I’ve missed the point entirely.