Is “practical” art OK?

If you daily work (or study) is in an area that isn’t art - but you are still interested in practicing it for professional development, or for personal enrichment - you must, too, face this decision pretty often. “Should I put an extra hour tonight toward trying an art idea I was thinking of - or X?”

We always have to choose

The formula varies, but the choice is the thing that’s always there. I know it is for me. I’m a UX designer interested in art, and I’m working on making art projects fairly regularly. But also keep reading, researching, and looking at culture in different ways. These things must happen on my “off time” from work, and of course, they compete with things I could do for general well-being like cooking, cleaning and working out - and things I could do to build relationships with family and friends.

Art requires exercise, for example practicing a technique or experimenting with a new idea. But because the result is not always clear (and it shouldn’t be! It’s an experiment!), this type of practice often gets de-prioritized relative to things with a clear outcome, such as a clean kitchen, an awesome stew, or a dinner with family.

How to actually get the exercises done

To make an excuse to bring the open-ended low pressure experiments back into my schedule, I was inspired by The Drawing Club of Improbable Dreams for the exercise format, and by my Pinterest board of healthy snacks for content.

Here’s what I did: I picked some of the healthy snack ideas I always wanted to remember before reaching into the fridge, and decided to draw little reminders for each one. I used a 3 x 3 grid format from an earlier exercise after Matisse, and drew some of the snacks from reference, and some - from imagination. Each drawing was repeated three times, to help improve both the idea and the mechanics.

But am I spoiling my art?

It might seem like a compromise to try and fit art ideas into a utilitarian objective like eating better. But that’s an acceptable compromise for smaller, routine exercises. Think of it this way: if it’s more likely that experiments and practice drawings will happen when you bundle them together with another activity - go for it! This way, you’ll make incremental progress, and leave more time and energy for the larger, serious explorations.

If bundling a creative idea with another to-do on your list feels like it’s a compromise in both directions, don’t do it.

Try bundling activities of your own. Not everything will feel right together - but most things can. And enjoy the results!

Maria Matveevafifth-9