Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Art of Efficiency Part 1

Efficiency is a strange word, often evoking thoughts of assembly lines and clean cut men at desks with calculators. But efficiency is really about producing the same product faster and better. For some, the idea of working faster means to physically move faster, like Mozart expecting his violin section to play at inhuman speeds. If you've ever tried "working faster" then you're probably the proud owner of a lot of sloppy artwork.

This is where the word efficiency takes meaning. You don't need to have moves like Neo to produce work quickly. All that's needed is an understanding of how to organize your work in a way that costs you the least moves. This is why you should... 

Break things down into phases, and focus on one phase at a time.
Handling the entire work in an efficient way saves a lot of time. One thing to focus on is your Stroke Economics, minimizing the amount of times you make paint strokes to your painting. If you want to watch a pro at work, Bob Ross is a perfect example. 

This isn't just a matter of learning to be more efficient by picking up a technique or two, but a constant attention to how long it take you to do things. This is an overarching perspective that covers all your movements and takes time to get used to. 
 I like to call the act of constantly evaluating your movements Self Auditing.
This requires you to keep in mind whether or not something helped or hurt you in the long run, and to pay attention to all the times you find yourself fixing things or painting over stuff. After you've completed your work, take some time to think about how you could have done it better. What did you spend too much time on? What took you the longest? How can you approach it next time?

The answer to these questions should never be "do it faster," as that doesn't solve the core issue. If you're having trouble painting something efficiently, then it requires more study, because... 

Studying actually saves you the most time.  

In simple terms, the best way to be more efficient is to figure out what the hell you're doing before you do it. Of course it's good to let the creativity flow when you're working, but don't let that get bogged down by being unprepared. 

Cracking open your sketchbook and giving your subject a few test runs doesn't just help you with the painting you're working on. It also helps you develop skills for all your other works in the future. Now, when you approach your work, you know what to do because all the sloppy stuff is out of the way.

This whole thing is the act of freeing your creative side to work without roadblocks. Allowing you to work efficiently, one stroke at a time.   

Next week I'll have some tips and tricks to help you create quickly without moving quickly when I cover Stroke Economics.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Thanks AJ,

    I needed a reminder on this. I'm guilty of not working very efficiently. I've been meaning to take more care and pay more attention to the process and your blog has me in the proper mindset for that now.

  2. Glad to hear it. Treat it like a habit you want to form and you'll be doing on the regular in no time.