How long does it take you to finish a piece? Do you plan your drawings before hand?



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  • How long does it take - really depends on the complexity of the illustration! From 1 hour to 60 hours and beyond, everything is possible!
    I normally plan extensively - character design, comp thumbnails, value and color studies, fully drawn poses and expressions, even prop designs or 3D models.
    I have been drilled to the planning process to the point of becoming a habit, and came to realize that it actually saves a lot of time and gives better results than trying to solve all problems at once while working on a finished piece. It also gives me the confidence that I have explored a bunch of alternatives and this is the best at this particular moment - so I do not second-guess myself while working. Also, I can work in a flow on the finished illustration, without having to stop and reconsider things.
    And yet, of course, sometimes I just start drawing out of the blue and a finished piece comes out at the end of the day without any planning whatsoever...when this happens I always think of the Ancient Greek, who believed that art was not a product of man but of spiritual beings that "possessed" the artist and made him create....;-))

    Anyhow, you have some really great things going on in your work - and the fact that you are doing this on an iPhone is mind-blowing! I think, if you want to do this professionally, you may want to think about which market you are aiming at, so that you can fine-tune in that direction. As of today, your work leans on character design for video games. Is that where you are headed?



  • @smceccarelli character design for video games, and table top rpgs. That is definitely one Avenue I am pursuing. Some of my other work leans more in the book cover direction. -and even more of it heads towards the sewage treatment plant. Hahaha.



  • @mikesikes I'm quite similar to what @smceccarelli said. I use Toggl.com to track my time (though there are other options).

    I have noticed 3 or 4 tier levels:

    1. DAY (1-10 hours) : Simple work, like a character headshot (note: I don't do portraits, but I would assume that those take much longer) Though, I've seen just absolutely amazing work by Artgerm (Stanley Lau) and Aaron Blaise that only took them a couple hours or so (I cry just thinking about it!), and concept artists tend to have to work very, very fast too. @Lee-White references this and other timing in the first part of his "How to Make Money in Illustration" series.

    2. HALF-WEEK (15-20 hours) : Just slightly more complex than above.

    3. WEEK-ish (30-50 hours) : One or two characters with a relatively basic background (by "basic", I don't mean a gradient. I mean that there are background elements but not as involved as #4)

    4. 2-WEEKS-Beyond (60-80+) : These could have just 1 character with an elaborate background or 3+ characters with a basic-to-heavy background. The more complex each character & the background, the more time it will take.

    (Note: This is per the current highly-rendered-and-textured style I've been doing, not my line art, vector art, or other simpler styles. Also, this is where I am roughly at right now, as it seems that I can now do work in half the time as to what it use to take, and the work is even of higher quality than before.)

    These numbers are a little deceptive though. They can be just in-development drawing & rendering time; not included in the timing would be research, brainstorming, studies, etc.

    As Simona discussed, the front work is really quite important.

    For instance, gathering ample visual & educational reference on the elements of the piece is of immense help in designing/rendering and bringing narrative & emotional richness to the work. That research covers everything from a wide range of several photos of the particular element in different angles, lighting, texture details, etc. to use as reference to a range of illustrations done by others of that particular element seeing how they handled it to education about that element's background or way of "operation", etc. (i.e. the history, science, culture, etc. around that element)

    Undoubtedly, this alone could take "endless hours" if you allowed it to. And similarly, doing character/element sketches from different structures, angles, poses, etc. along with value studies, color studies, etc. can add in more "endless hours."

    If you don't have deadlines, have flexible ones or simply a lot of time allocated to a piece, then you can allow yourself to take as long as you feel you need "right now". Get a feel for how long it takes to do each portion (research, studies/prep, "final" drawing, rendering, and don't forget about all the admin stuff: phone/emails/meetings, quoting & invoicing, formatting files, file-folder maintenance, etc.). This will allow you to reverse-engineer the time you have for each portion for when you do have a deadline, because if it takes you a long time to render, you may have to cut down on the amount of studies you really want to do even though it may not be ideal.

    Also, per my little note just below the tier-breakdown: How long it takes to paint a piece is quite dependent upon the style you pursue. I'm sure a Dutch/Flemish layered oil painting technique takes insane amounts of time while a highly painterly digital art piece can be pretty quick or a whimsical line-art with simple watercolor wash can be even quicker. Plus, how long it takes can change as you grow more experienced and/or learn new time-saving techniques.

    Thank you for this topic! I'm always evaluating my time too!



  • @QuietYell thank you for your reply that's a lot of great info. I'm working on taking my time a little more. It's definitely different when you're drawing for someone else.



  • @mikesikes Sure! No problem! I'm right there with you on all of that! :D



  • @smceccarelli I found your youtube channel the other day, and was really impressed, and I also learned through watching one of your videos that procreate has a replay feature. What is ironic, is that I saw how long your replay was vs mine, and my drawing took a four or so hours to complete and only gave me a 30 second video. Your video was around 10 minutes, which showed me how much time you out into your work.

    A side question for you: do you use reference for your backgrounds? In illustration backgrounds seem to be the most distorted aspect of the piece, so I have no clue how one finds reference. I thought I would ask you since I like your backgrounds so much.



  • @Eric-Castleman Thank you for looking at my video! I only did one so far and the response was so surprising that I am always thinking I should do more...when I find the time!
    For this particular illustration there was no reference used for the room. If the background is man-made (interior or buildings) I always set up a.perspective grid and draw out of my head. I may look up reference for details or for ideas of what to put in a room or city view.
    It only takes me ten minutes to setup a grid in Photoshop, but ProCreate has this fantastic perspective grid tool that makes it even simpler and faster - it is for me by far the best feature of ProCreate! I wonder why Adobe does not copy it, it is absolutely ideal.
    If I have a very very complex background, or I am not sure about the viewpoint, or I have to re-draw the background many times from different points of view, I will normally build a crude Sketchup model to use as reference.



  • @smceccarelli thanks for the reply. So far I am on the same page as you in regards to interiors. My brother who is an art major told me to just keep drawing realistic backgrounds from photos and then my ability to make backrounds more absurd will come much more natural over time. Most of my life my art has been mainly drawing characters and barely much background, so that is why I asked.

    Btw, you should definitely make more youtube videos.



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