If youtube viewers (in general) have decided that speed painting is awesome, what must the opposite be? Is painting slowly a waste of time? In this post I'll argue that painting slowly not only saves time, but creates much better results.
The Allure of Speed Painting
I've talked about this particular issue in previous videos, so I'll be brief here. In short, speed paint videos create a very unrealistic expectation for art-making. Art takes time. Period. Not only are these youtube videos showcasing a sub-optimal painting method, they're also speeding up the playback to an absurd degree. It's totally understandable that a new digital artist might feel disheartened at the slow pace of their own mark-making after watching such videos. So if you're in this boat - you're not alone. The video below elaborates on this issue, as well as painting 'silhouettes' (and other visual development shorthand). So if you haven't already seen it, I encourage you to watch!
When Paint Had to Dry
Before Photoshop took over, most commercial artists used actual paint for their work. This lead to an interesting phenomenon: planning. Since paint has to dry before it can be layered on top of, an artist with deadlines needed to do all of her problem solving before actually touching brush to illustration board. Sketches, studies, color samples, and other preparatory drawings would help prevent making mistakes with paint. This lead to, in my opinion, fewer abandoned paintings. Now that we're working digitally, it's easy to skip the planning phase and jump right into paint. After all, it's completely malleable - so why not? Any mistake can be endlessly revised and tweaked. Is it possible that all this 'speed' has lead to more wasted time? If you're anything like me, I'm sure you occasionally find yourself pushing colors and shapes around a digital canvas for hours - designing your painting into a corner. If it were real paint, an image like this would be an inch thick (were it to ever dry at all) due to the layers upon layers added in this indecisive loop. Maybe painting the slow way was faster after all.
Learn to Slow Down
Everything about modern life is fast, so it's no surprise that the tempo of painting has accelerated in recent years. It's reasonable to ask 'what about professional deadlines?' - and to this I would say 'start slow'. If you were learning a new song on an instrument, you'd never approach it at full speed the first time around. You might set your metronome to a slow speed, carefully analyze the new notes, and eventually build your confidence. The same exact principle applies to painting. If you're learning a new technique or subject-matter, give your brain a chance to soak it in! Given time (years, not days) your speed will naturally increase. If you are impatient and paint faster than your ability allows, bad technique is sure to follow. Bad results are sure to follow. In all likelyhood, a bad mood is sure to follow. To rest on a cliche, this really is a tortoise and the hare situation -- slow and steady makes a better painting.
Finally, remember to enjoy the act of painting. For something we're all so enamored with, what's the rush? Making marks on a page to slowly create the illusion of 3D form is somewhat like magic. It's a subtle, challenging, activity. To rush this process is to invite failure. Whether you're a total beginner, or are an industry veteran - remember to have fun. It's not a race.