I've spent a lot of time on Ctrl+Paint explaining different study aids, reference materials, habits, and mindsets. As important as all of those concepts may be, sometimes the most important step is to simply start. Start anywhere. In the video below, you can see a warm-up sketch I made of a dragon - first it plays a 30 second time-lapse, which is immediately followed by the 22 minute real-time recording. The goal of this drawing was not to make a portfolio piece, or to have anything wonderful at the end of 20 minutes. The goal was to get warmed up. Let's face it: drawing carries a lot of psychological baggage and sometimes it can be challenging to begin a work session. So making a stream of consciousness painting like the one shown in this video is a great way to break through the slump.
Learning by doing
Sometimes the best way to target your problem spots is to make a quick drawing and be very critical afterwards. In this case I can look at the result and see that there are perspective issues with the horns and a general asymmetry in the face. When you're in the moment, it's easy to miss these things - but that's fine! Now that I'm warmed up, and aware of these issues, I'm ready to approach an actual painting. When I work on something with higher stakes, I'll be on the lookout for these anatomical issues. A good way to avoid these problems is to flip the canvas (horizontally) every so often - this gives you a fresh look at your subject. For the sake of the recording, I did not flip the image at all and you can see the problems it caused. Another problem was that I progressed from line to value too quickly. If I had spent more of the time refining my line drawing, I would have had a stronger form on which to add light and shadow. Once again, this is a lesson better learned while warming up than in an actual painting.
I love watching other artists painting live. Dave Rapoza's livestream, found here, is fantastic. Seeing another artist painting is a great way to witness problem-solving. Even though Dave and I paint in different ways, being able to 'watch over his shoulder' while he does a morning warm-up is invaluable. Also, he picks great music. Do you have any other favorite livestream artists? Tell us about them in the comments!
Get In There and Make a Mess
I like the way 'start anywhere' sounds, because it is comforting. I know that every mark I make on the page can be changed and refined - the important part is start filling up that canvas. You can always change it if it's not coming out the way you want. It might sound obvious, but getting started is much harder than finishing a painting. You've got my permission: get in there and make a mess. Have fun!