Quantity Trumps Quality

If you are judging the effort you put into improving your art in terms of “hours spent”, you might want to rethink your strategy: how long you draw doesn’t matter as much as what you draw and how many sessions you do.

Why drawing more times is better than striving for perfection

Do you know the famous quote from Bruce Lee: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”?
It not only sounds cool, but also contains a grain of truth.

Our brain is not very good at doing things the first time. In fact, it kind of sucks. When babies start trying to walk, they fall, and keep falling for several months.
The good news is, they do figure out how to balance, how to speak, and do everything else.
This is because of neuroplasticity, which is the capability of the brain to modify its structure and adapt to external stimuli over time. The trick here though, is that it only happens when the same neurons fire together several times, as opposed to one, long, excruciating attempt.

You see where I am going?

If you are not seeing much improvement in your art, you might just be spending too much time drawing a single thing. If you spend 2 hours drawing a single figure, your figure drawing will take a long, long time to improve.

The solution? Breaking down each skill (or area) into bite-sized chunks. You want to aim for the smallest viable unit, which is the quickest thing you can do to improve a specific skill.

Here are a few examples:

  • Visual Library: Quick sketch (up to 5 minutes)/ Lay-ins (5 to 20 minutes). These should be from reference. This is valid for any subject you “don’t know how to draw” (Figures, animals, trees, you name it).
  • Perspective/Spatial Awareness: Drawing primitives (boxes, cylinders…), relating them to one another as if they are part of the same space. Compounding them in more complex forms also helps.
  • Color: Color compositions, no detail. Ideally, use a drawing you already have, or trace it.
  • Drawing from imagination: Sketching (without reference) up to 10 minutes each.

So, for figures, you would draw a lot of tiny ones for up to 5 minutes each, and the same goes for heads, mechanical design, monsters, or buildings. The principle is very broad and can be adapted to anything, as long as you make sure to repeat the core action several times.

Going through the whole process (blank canvas to finish) is certainly beneficial, and I recommend doing it regularly, but since it’s usually the result of a series of small steps and compounded  skills, honing them one by one (see: the best way to improve your art) aids the total. If you don’t break it down, you are simply not putting in “enough reps” for a specific skill to be honed.

Divide et Impera.

Want more? Here are some ideas to get you started

Character Design Prompts

– Nomad Angel
– Draconic Alchemist
– Millenial Wizard

Creature Design Prompts

– Abyssal Kraken
– Thorn Basilisk
– Ghost of the Void

Environment Design Prompts

– Moonlit Marshes
– Sapphire Caverns
– Crystal Lagoon

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Artist of the week

Jordan Grimmer

Jordan is a 2d environment concept artist. He is a master at conveying mood and atmosphere in his painting. Not only is he a great artist, but also a teacher through his youtube channel!

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