Working speed

  • Since I've started seriously working on my art, I've been hoping to get faster at painting. I feel that I'm still in the learning and experimenting and perfecting-my-technique stage
    But faster is just not happening!
    My process is painstakingly slow. I've experimented with different methods but this is the one I feel comfortable with. It fits my style.
    But there's no way I will ever make a living at that rate!
    ok ok, I admit, I procrastinate sometimes... but as do everyone I suppose? and I'm at home with 4 young children and only less than 3 hours on my own everyday. but still, every full spread takes me ages and I notice that if it takes too long, I kind of lose interest on the piece and finishing it becomes so hard.
    does it REALLY ever get quicker? if so, WHEN???
    any tips welcome

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @audrey-dowling when I first started working in digital, it would take me weeks to finish a piece. Now i can do one in a couple of days. Not full days, couple hours here a couple hours there. What would take me so much time was zooming in and really trying to fine tune an area that no one would look at. By watching videos and practice, sometimes staying loose and not getting all caught up in the details can save tons of time. So now I tend to stay loose but i will get tight on the areas of focus.

  • @audrey-dowling I have 2 things to say:

    1. I don't know how long you've been at this (or how complex the piece your working on is) but I would say that speed really doesn't come until 1000s of hours of practice/work.

    2. There are so many non-art related areas of work/workflow whereby just seeing someone's work process can make you faster.
      What I mean is: I've done several odd jobs in construction in my life. I am not a handy person and I don't really have the "mind for construction" (if you know what I mean). There have been several projects I've been on where it will take me hours or days to get a task done. One example is that I remember it taking hours and hours to tear shingles off of a roof.
      Then, someone who is a pro comes along and by simply seeing how they do it it's like a light comes on and you either see a new technique that makes things faster or, and this is crazy, they just do it the same way you were doing it but in half the time. It's hard to explain but just by seeing that faster process it suddenly becomes clear to you that certain things can actually get done in a short amount of time.

    So keep learning and researching painting/drawing videos, books etc. Maybe there is a process that you'll come upon that will help you.

    I'm rambling now but for an art example: I remember that I had a really painstaking, slow painting process until I started seeing how many pro's would simply fill in a line drawing with a solid base color (in about 30 sec) and then quickly paint in the shadows (in a few minutes) and build up from there. I was blown away by just how quick & powerful that little workflow/technique was.

  • SVS OG

    Get good first. Get fast second.

    I feel ya with the being a mom with limited time to work, though I currently only have one little one. I'm impressed that you get any illustrating done with 4! Wow! Hooray for moms, eh? Not to get all political, but post-feminism motherhood I think is alot HARDER than it was before, because how we're kind of expected to not JUST be moms--we can do more, so we SHOULD do more... the pressure is real. I don't have a solution, because I want to be a mom AND do art just like you. Just sympathizing.

    But really, I'm noticing the more I work and fine tune my process, the faster it gets. Of course, now I'm experimenting with changing my process so I may slow back down again... ah well. Keep moving forward...

  • I have been trying to speed up my process for awhile now. I've been trying to not worry about the details, practicing every day, and studying others' techniques. All have helped me--but only slightly. (I'll take any extra speed I can get!) But the thing that has helped me the most to date was something @Jake-Parker said in a pod cast ( around minute 19). He discovered what time of day he was most productive and creative and worked the hardest during that time. It caused me to evaluate my day. Mornings are out--I'm too tired and I have 3 kids to get ready for school. Late afternoons I'm exhausted and I have homework to help with. And, while I draw at night, I am never very productive because I'm worn out. But between 9-1 I have tons of energy and little distractions. So, that is when I produce the most the fastest. I try not to waste that time on less intense things. Granted, snow days are a challenge ;)! Good luck! Hope that helps.

  • SVS OG

    I too feel like I’m still in the stage of refining my technique and my process. I am getting quicker at making finished pieces though.

    I think the whole streamlining your process thing, over time, doesn’t just happen because you physically paint faster, it’s because your experiences over time help you to eliminate mistakes, dead-ends and experiments that you now know won’t work out (but previously, you tried them and then had to re-do). Just eliminating all that and doing the exact same piece without all the mistakes and experimenting can save hours!

    And the decision-making beforehand - e.g. getting better/quicker at going through the process of making a good selection of thumbnails quickly, deciding on the best one and refining, etc.

    I think it’s a bit like when you walk a new route for the first time….you’re checking your way at each junction…but once you’ve done it enough times, you do the same distance without having to think about it so carefully, because you did it before…and even though it feels the same you do it more quickly. Maybe you cut corners a little bit, or learn a side-route that shaves off some time.

    I’m also personally hoping that as time goes by, I will have a bigger ‘library’ of textures and pre-existing elements that I can adapt to each piece rather than having to make every traditional element afresh each time. (this is specific to my own current process but not just me)

    Hope that makes sense. I’m sure eventually, you will get faster!

  • Everybody is different. Will Terry says some of his pieces take up to thirty - forty hours, and some have taken him a hundred. I swear I have heard Lee White say his style is much quicker. It definitely depends on how each person goes about their art. I know Lee White detests rendering, and his work is much more heavy on time in the planning stage, and the actual piece is the shortest time, at least that is the way it seems.

    For me, if I had the time every single day, I could probably knock out a piece every other day. My style is very similar to Lee White. Even before I came to SVS I did crappy drawings, with watercolor type process, and could be done in a day. Look at how someone like Quentin Blake works. It is very systematic, yet, incredibly loose. Just mess around with different approaches I would suggest.

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    I just posted a fan art piece I did. It took about 2 hours. I didn't want to spend anymore time on it, it was just a way to get an idea out and I made sure I used only one brush for the whole piece. I am happy with the outcome of it and will probably work to redefine the process some. It was fun to turn something out so quickly.

  • Pro SVS OG

    Just tuning in not to comment on speed (it definitely gets faster the more you work, that is my only, frankly boring piece of advice), but on looseness. So, I got this undercurrent feeling that my style is too "tight" for the current market and I have been experimenting with loosening up - leaving the lines visible, let the brush strokes rest unblended, don't obsess with keeping the shape borders clean, etc....
    Turns out, that the looser I get the more resonance the images get - and the faster they are to make! I got this feedback from social media, from SCBWI and - very clearly and directly - from my agent. She encouraged me to include looser pieces in my portfolio, pointing out that an art director can always indicate which "style" or image type they prefer if my portfolio offers diverse options and examples (we also talked about style evolution, but that is a different conversation). She also advised me to keep the book dummy sketches looser and not perfect the drawing so much (another time-saver).
    So, I will definitely take the many inside and outside voices seriously - and woe and behold, that makes everything faster too!

  • SVS OG

    @smceccarelli That is really interesting to hear, about what styles the market is seemingly preferring right now. I've seen a lot of new published books on my Twitter feed, and often they are circulating around a certain style which you could say is quite loose... Well, I will look forward to your SCBWI post with a lot of interest! I hope that the conference has been good for you 🙂

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