Speedpainting, Sketching, and Artistic Fitness

So, one of the things I've always been impressed by with digital painters is so-called  'speed painting' that you see often on any portfolio website.  Proudly, artists put down the amount of time it took them to create a painting as though the most important part of the work was that it was done in under an hour, or a half hour. This is due to the fact that concept art, as a career requires an artist to be quick (thus cheap) and evocative for the purposes of production.  Speedily creating a painting shows mastery of the medium, as well as an intuitive understanding of whatever is the subject of the work of art.

Enamored with the concept, and employed by the industry, I've always tried in some manner to be a better speed painter, or at the very least to work faster. However, I don't think I've been going about this the right way.

I've read it before many times, by many of the artists that I've idolized over the years, that 'speed painting' is just sketching and, I've never quite internalized this like I should have.  I'd always want to just go from 0-60 in a second and create Mullins-level quality right off the bat. In fact, a primary reason I got into digital painting was to be able to create full-color work quickly, so that when I wake having just experienced a vivid, full-color dream, I could paint them instead of writing them down in a journal. Unfortunately, this hasn't come to pass yet.

So I always tried to paint as quickly as possible, striving to find that elusive and cohesive feel that these greats of illustration managed.  Here's such an example from a few years back:

Unstructured, barely legible, interesting I suppose but really nothing to write home about. I certainly am not interested in putting it on any portfolio. I'm always frustrated at this point with the quality of the work, that I can't just 'get there' without putting in hours and hours and hours of work beyond this point. Then, it always seemed like these better artists were just able to print gold every time they put stylus to tablet in an obnoxiously short period of time.

The closest thing I've been able to get as far as creating a nice 'speedpainting'  is with spaceships and sketching out hard-surface stuff.  Everything else that I've done quickly that I like has either been from a photograph or from life. Somehow that was never 'real' speedpainting to me though, because what speedpainting meant was coming up with something entirely new, entirely from your imagination alone.

Lately I've been thinking more and more about my work, my inspirations and my process while updating my portfolio, and working to market myself.  I look back on past coworkers and fellow students from my college days, and I'm consistently impressed by the quality of work they've outputted and the levels they've managed to make it to.

Then, casting the critical eye back onto myself I've come to the realization that I came to nearly 5 years ago once again: that I've stagnated as an artist. This isn't to say that I've regressed; in some areas I believe that I've made massive improvement, particularly when it comes to spaceships, buildings, architectural stuff, but things have certainly slumped elsewhere.

Looking at my colleagues' work, I have to ask myself, 'what's the difference between them and me?' I know that they work, probably daily outside of their job on their skills. They're making personal work, they're watching videos, teaching others, and solving the puzzle of how to be better at their skill.

Like any skill, art is a muscle that needs exercise. Quite simply, I need to exercise regularly, and I have not been.  I recall, many years back, looking at myself one day in the mirror and thinking "Wow. I'm fat. It's time to do something about it." After that point I developed a habit of exercise, which has stuck with me for the nearly 10 years since that moment.  I suppose I've come to the realization that I'm once again fat. Maybe not physically, but definitely artistically.

So, what should I do?

Anyone can look in a mirror and dislike what they see; the real question is what to do after that
moment!  In the case of my journey to physical fitness, it meant failing again and again until one day it clicked; I couldn't not go to the gym or do exercise weekly, and I realized that there were entire aisles of food in the grocery store that were simply off limits. 

To get to this point I had to realize that I wasn't as disciplined as I needed to be in order to just start working out 5 days a week for 2 hours each time. I couldn't go 0-60 in no time; in every attempt in the past, I just got frustrated and stopped shortly after starting.  How many New Year's resolutions fail because of a similar reason? Some companies build their entire business around taking advantage of  this common issue.

What worked was that I promised myself that I'd go to the gym twice a week, for at least 15 minutes. Even if that meant sitting on the weight bench watching whatever TV channel was playing for the entire 15 minutes I was there. For me, this snowballed from a habit into a lifestyle.

So the thought now is to apply the same methodology to Art.  I need to get to the point where I can't not do art daily and that some forms of distraction are simply off limits. Trim the crummy 'foods' (surfing the web, youtube for entertainment, etc, etc...) from my diet, and then make a promise to myself that at least once a day I'll sit down and draw for 15 minutes. It doesn't have to be anything specific, it doesn't have to be finished, or even something I post or am proud of; the important thing is to make a habit of it.

In the last week or so, I've begun to enact this theory, and so far I feel as though I'm headed in the right direction. Below are 4 thumbnails that I've done, experimenting with new techniques, brushes, and processes.


I've got a long way to go!





Bryce Homick is a freelance concept artist with over 10 years of experience in the videogame industry. For business inquiries please click here.