I realized that if I want to be known as a master of my craft, I can’t let my skills stagnate.

Drawing is obviously a major part of Iconoflage, but I finally admitted to myself that I’m not an amazing illustrator. I mean, I don’t think I’m bad; I can draw things and you can understand what it is. But the accuracy and cleanliness of my drawings aren’t always the best. As I came to this realization this week, I was also reminded that even though I’ve been at this skill level for the past couple of years, I can still improve with deliberate practice.

Even the Pros Practice

Here’s a fun fact that everyone knows, but sometimes forget. Pros like Stephen Curry, Tom Brady, Lionel Messi don’t just show up to the game and dominate. On non-game days, they work on mastering the basics, improving their skills, building muscle memory, and getting more efficient all to better themselves at what they do.

Jake Weidmann, the youngest Master Penman, is constantly practicing. He looks for ways to incorporate practice into everything. That includes working on his calligraphy when he writes his checklist for the day. Could you imagine what his grocery lists look like?

Understanding how often pros practice, you realize there is always room for improvement.

My mistake was I had tossed this knowledge aside and left my illustration skills at “okay” in my mind. It was enough to do the job, but what if I was to improve those skills? What if I could draw those straight lines in one stroke or draw the profile of a complex shape correct in one motion? That’s when I remembered to become a stand-out professional, I need to practice.

Benefit of Practice #1: Improvement

The main benefit I’m trying to get from practicing is improvement. Now, this may not be a quick transition, but I know that by practicing every day, my illustration skills will improve over time.

To do this, I need to be very critical of my work. As I practice, I want to take a mental note of when I do something wrong. Then fix it by redrawing on top of the first line, but correcting where I messed up. This will obviously make these drawing look like crap, but since these drawings are only for practice, it’s okay that the final thing doesn’t come out perfect. The point is to improve my skills, not have a masterpiece.

Benefit of Practice #2: Warm-Up

The second and more immediate benefit from this practice is it provides an excellent warm-up before I start working on an Iconoflage project.

Here’s a fun story. I played little league baseball when I was young. We had baseball practice throughout the week where I played with the other kids on my team. But what made me stand out was that my dad also took me to the batting cages to get a couple of rounds in before my games. Can you guess what happened?

I had the best batting average on the team.

I can tell you first-hand that warming-up with some deliberate practice before the game or working on your masterpiece will immediately boost your performance.

Wow. That sounded a little cheesy, but it’s true! Knowing this, I’m scheduling my practice before I start working on my Iconoflage projects to take advantage of this benefit.

I’ll be documenting and sharing my experience

Just to be more transparent about my improvement, I have decided to share my daily practice sessions.

You’re probably following my Instagram account @scotthofford where I share my Iconoflage projects, but I also have another account, @shofford. This is where I share more personal stuff, but I have also started sharing my practice sessions there along with my Facebook page. Check them out if you want to follow along.

And if you want to see me attempt to draw any specific topics, send me a message or comment on one of my posts.

Find something you can improve

Now, this post has mostly been about me, but I want it to help you. Whether you’re into hand-lettering, illustration, or even logo design, there’s always something that you can improve on. Even if it’s just the basics.
Start by putting aside 30 minutes to work on your fundamentals before you dive into creating a big piece. If you do this every day, you will start to notice your improvement. Things that were tricky are much easier and you will get faster at it as well.

And don’t worry about your practice being perfect. The point is that it won’t be at first, but over the next few weeks and months, you will get better and better.

You’re only as good as you allow yourself to be

I had stopped practicing when I thought I was “good enough” to draw whatever I needed. I wanted to spend my time working on projects, not drawing random stuff in a sketchbook. But this led to a stagnation of my moderate skills.

It finally hit me this week that I could improve my illustration skills to the point where I could draw anything I wanted with ease and be faster at creating Iconoflage. That would mean I could create more of what I enjoy in less time!

So, I need to practice drawing every day by picking a topic and filling a page in my sketchbook. Yes, this takes about an hour out of my day, but after a few days I’m already feeling and seeing the improvement in my work.

Without a doubt, I know you can also improve with deliberate practice. Don’t be satisfied with “just getting by.” Start a habit of daily practice and become a master your craft.

What are you wanting to improve with your craft? Send me a message below. I’d love to talk with you about it.

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