Friday, March 14, 2014

Art: The Beauty of Limits

Much of the beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium.  Henri Matisse
This quote is solace for my heart. I would love to devote more time to my piano practice than what I have. It's not my top priority and therefore doesn't get two or three hours a day. Instead I'm spending time with my husband, teaching my kids, and caring for my home. And that's ok. It's wonderful actually; the limits contain the beauty. The scales used, the medium for the painting, the interests of your children are all boundaries in art. And they are necessary.  Limits have taught me a few things about my work/art. 

1. God blesses obedience. Always. If I obey Him and follow His priorities for my life, He will bless my other work.  He has greatly multiplied my ability already and it's not relative to my talent. If I were to skip other priorities to practice longer my art, my work would suffer. Instead I will trust God and let Him make up the difference. 

photo courtesy of salvatore vuono/

2. The limited time helps me to focus. If I had three hours to practice every day I would waste a lot of it. I don't have that option. I must know what I'm going to practice. That's why I made a practice schedule so I would know what skills I was focusing on for the month (or other time period.) When I sit down to play I know what to start on; I don't have to waste time flipping through music. I know what skills I am working on while I practice. Right now I'm working on transposing. I'm not going to practice many hymns and not transpose most of them. 

3. I must do the work. I can't use my limited time as an excuse to not do anything. While God is blessing in the limited time if I were to stop practicing the blessing would stop as well. Yes, God does His part, but I must do mine. I must actually practice. I must practice purposefully. 

4. The finish leaves me excited to return. I am never "finished" practicing. I quit because my time is up and my attention is required elsewhere. Usually snack time and some more preschool work. I am always ready to work at practice time because I have a goal and that's my only time. 

5. Enjoying the progress helps the process. Enjoy the beauty of the art. It's fun to remember how far I've already come. What I can do now that I couldn't six months ago. What I can do now effortlessly that I didn't know was possible four years ago. 

6. Sometimes the process isn't beautiful. My practice can sound ugly as I work through classical passages and search for chords while transposing. Sometimes I get up more frustrated than soothed by the work. That should not stop me. 

7. My practice time should challenge my skills. Practice should be hard. If it's easy and comfortable I am not practicing correctly.  I am coasting on what I can already do instead of learning and applying something new. Learning is uncomfortable and halting. 

8. It's ok if it takes time. I don't have to be an expert now. I don't have to need to be able to transpose flawlessly or sightread classical music beautifully yet. It will come if I keep practicing. I have years. It takes years. 

Without the struggle- the struggle for time, the struggle in learning- much of the story would be lost.  These principles easily carry over into any area of your life. We have no infinite resources, but we can take advantages of our limits.

How is your time limited? How are you meeting that challenge?

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