Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stroke Economics (AoE part 2)

It's too often I witness young artists struggling to create quality work while scribbling like madman. If you do this, my solemn advice to you today is to knock it off.

I understand the feeling of expectation to work like this. I'm sure you see professionals whipping up a quick drawing all over the internet. But that's not a good way to learn. Imagine a student driver trying to learn how to navigate a city at 100mph. You're simply going to make mistakes, miss things, and form bad habits (and if you're driving you're probably going to jail for man slaughter).

Though each artist has their own preferred styles and tricks to get just the right look, there are actions buried in everyone's workflow that can be shortened, optimized, or illuminated all together.

Once you realize seconds add up to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, it can be easy to realize how much time you're wasting because of a few bad habits that only waste a second here or there. But at the end of the day it's hard to imagine you spent a half hour fixing something stupid, 15 minutes selecting through menus, and one hour going back and forth on color. Your day starts to quickly dwindle and you wonder why you have no time. 
Want to get faster at art? First step, Slow Down Goddamnit!
When sketching, it's good to let the ideas flow out of you. This can look sloppy and be quick'n dirty, but don't carry that sloppiness over to the rendering. Use that process to generate ideas, then use your attention to execute. Just think about all that time you waste cleaning up your sloppy render. If you're good, you can make the sketch and the render the same thing which saves tons of time, but let me imphasize If you're good.

Getting your form nailed down is important for many reasons. Focusing on technique is a great way to eliminate bad habits formed by sloppy execution. This will save time in the long run. Study drawing technique, not just forms and ideas. If you notice you can't draw a straight line, or a clean ellipse, then practice those separately until you've mastered them. Learning how to make skillful strokes wont just save you time but make the rest of your work look better also. 
Use the right tool for the job. Don't do the whole surgery with just a bone saw.
Every technique you pick up along the way should cross your mind as "what is this good for?" Can I get quick shapes, infuse details, or nail my perspective? These are all tools in your tool belt that should be used at the right moment. Often I like to think about how much energy I should devote to mastering each skill to save time and make for better looking work. Here's a few easy examples:

Lines - On top of a solid sketch this should be clean, do not treat it like the sketch with multiple strokes. Each edge should contain one solid line and shadows or fills should consist of solid parallel strokes so I don't make a mess.

Fill - Painting a square is much faster than drawing a square as it can be done in one stroke, where drawing a square takes many smaller strokes. When possible I try to sketch my under layer with the solid strokes creating a silhouette very quickly. 

Color - What's better B&W with a color blend mode? or Straight to color? Depends, sometimes you need color options later which would best suit the blend modes. Where if you know what colors you're getting into, just start with the right color. There's nothing faster than that.
Build your visual library, not just by reading, but by doing
Think of study as a long term investment. Studying from life answers a lot of questions for you, such as how a door works, or what does a smiling face look like. But the thing it gives you most is access to the right questions. Because it turns out the more you know about something, the more you realize you don't know.

This generates lots of questions that lead you down the right paths, and without that study you would still be blissfully unaware of how ignorant you are (until you tried to draw stuff). I've said this over and over, but it's still true: artists are students of the world. Don't stop learning, it's part of what you do now.
Why the hell am I doing this anyway?
Most of my advice here is not intended to get you working lighting fast. It's aimed at helping you build a solid ground work so you can eventually work fast. But still it's amazing how much time you can save just by working with skill and not even breaking a sweat.

Saving time does not mean you should crank out more work either. It should mean that you can spend more time focusing on creating a quality idea rather than stumbling around your bad habits. Start good and polish your quality work, rather than starting bad and spending so much time fixing things.

In simple terms, master skills before you expect to have them. You're not going to scribble your way to perfection. You just wind up with more scribbles. Artists who work quickly with skill didn't get there on accident. Your time will come, you just have to put in the elbow grease.

I hope that all made sense, because next week I'm going to talk about Workflow Economics.

Thanks for reading!

This is the under-layer to a thing I'm working on.

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