Recently I've reflected on how practice really does lead to marked improvement. I've seen it working for professional authors and artists, and I'm hoping to see it work for me. In this post I will refer to specific works, and I hope the authors don't mind my mingled compliments and criticisms
Two months ago I read through most of the archives of the Schlock Mercenary webcomic by Howard Taylor (one of the hosts of the very excellent Writing Excuses podcasts). I started with a random storyline in the middle, then eventually decided to read the entire thing. Comparing the artwork in his first year of strips with those that came later, I was honestly surprised that they were drawn by the same artist. Candidly, his early illustrations were pretty terrible, but it only took a few months for him to develop an entirely competent style of his own. Then, year by year, he has continued to improve and develop new artistic skills. In addition to following the capers of Tagon's Toughs, I had fun watching Howard try out new techniques, and then master them to great effect.
Seeing Howard's progress is part of the reason I decided to draw the banjo pigs. I thought, "Hey, if Howard can do it, maybe so can I." Obviously I'm at the beginning of that curve, but if I work at it with some semblance of consistency, I'm sure I can start to improve.
Another artistic example is the Gunnerkrigg Court webcomic by Tom Siddell. The artistic ability doesn't change quite so much as artistic style. At first he used a very derivitive style that was flat and cartoonish, but he has actively tried new things and developed a skillful and visually pleasing style of his own.
It was interesting to see a similar effect in the writing of Brandon Sanderson, who I have mentioned before as one of my favorite fantasy authors. Though I highly recommend his epic-length books, he has written several short stories, available on his website, that can give you a flavor of his writing. Comparing an early work to the more recent "Defending Elysium" reveals the same trend. This latter work is a fabulous story that is both well written and about so much more than what happens.
I have been inconsistent in my poetry practice, and more-so in my writing, but even so I feel like I am improving (though I'm hardly an impartial judge). I've begun to sing more than before, and my it is getting easier to hear the parts, and to hit the notes. I hope to make a scheduled habit of these arts in my life so that I not only enjoy them but also get better so that others can enjoy them too.