I frequently hear versions of this question: “What does it take to get to the next level? Please review my work and tell me where I need to improve.”

I’ve been instructing for a long time now and of course I am in a position to do this. But my advice will not make a single scrap of difference if artists fail to make just one essential change to their process and personal routine—a commitment to practice.

I have the pleasure of teaching a former Canadian speedskating Olympic athlete. Besides her positive attitude and infectious desire to learn, she is also one of the most committed artists I teach. She understands the concept of “practice.” She knows from past experience in an environment of intense athletic competition that advancement requires a commitment and that excelling simply does not happen without it.

I spoke with her recently in our feedback session after my online workshop, The Value of Colour Graphite for pale values. With a smile she acknowledged the fact that her technique was lacking and then she asked for recommended exercises to improve it. That’s easy. I provided them in the assured knowledge that she will take them seriously and not show up at the next graphite online workshop, The Value of Colour – Dark and Deep, without having done them. And she said that she would repeat all the exercises I offered in The Value of Colour – Pale hues & Soft neutrals. I am confident she will because she understands the concepts of “commitment” and “practice.”

This is not to imply that other artists don’t understand these concepts but this example is a good one to share given the background in the highest level of commitment and practice required to make it to the Olympic Games.

In a previous article in Viewpoint I addressed the need for all artists to at least commit to a routine of drawing practice. In my recent workshop quite a few attendees muttered about “being rusty”. Clearly there hadn’t been much practice since the last class. I have no pixie dust to sprinkle to magically transform skills.

So, in the absence of pixie dust, I suggest that you do what an athlete does if you’re lapsing into rustiness—practice. And do some warm-up exercises before classes so that you are better positioned to “get to the next level” when you take your next round of instruction.