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How long do you spend actively painting on each artwork?

Clock Photo by Bru-nO on Pixabay

Art instructors encourage you to paint as many pieces of artwork as possible, claiming it will greatly improve your skills. This is true, to a degree. It depends on whether you are actively practicing new skills or just repeating the same mistakes. This post explains how I drastically improved my art by not following the trend of “paint as much as possible”.

When I first started painting, I found myself spending only a couple hours with each piece of artwork. I was constantly finding myself frustrated as I didn’t feel like I was improving. All my artworks looked amateur… especially when compared to the instructor’s finished pieces. I wanted to paint just as fast as the tutorial videos. I wanted to paint many artworks so I would get better. I was spending 1-4 hours per artwork.

Timing Yourself

Keep in mind that different styles take different amount of time to paint. A realism art piece may take more time as the artist has to exert more energy on getting small details in place, where an abstract piece may gloss over these details entirely.

It’s not uncommon to hear an artist saying they spent 100+ hours on a piece. They are referring to the number of hours ACTIVELY painting. The word “actively” is very important here. They aren’t talking about a total number of hours or days the canvas was on the easel, nor the set up time (many beginners include this). Some artists will include planning time; actively sketching layouts, testing color schemes, and so forth.

Slowing Down

It was only when I forced myself to slow down did I see a drastic improvement in my skill. I stopped racing to make artwork after artwork, and focused on what was in front of me only.

I looked up basic art principles like vignette effects (fading and darkening edges of artwork to draw the eye inwards) and the rule of thirds (placing your object of interest off-center to create more dynamic and interesting composition). Every time I read one of these principles, I would apply it to that artwork I was working on. One new principle, one new artwork. If I wasn’t happy with how that artwork turned out, I would repeat that principle until I was.

How To Improve Yourself

Start timing how long you spend painting. Put a timer on your phone and set it aside so it doesn’t distract you. When you finish painting or drawing, stop your timer and record your time.

Ask yourself, do you need to finish it in this one session? Would it likely look better if you took your time to paint that line more neatly? Can you plan out your painting before starting a bit more?

And finally, did this post help you? I’d love to know if this helped you change the way that you paint.

2 thoughts on “How long do you spend actively painting on each artwork?

  1. Hello Kat. That’s a really helpful advice to not rush to get the painting done. I’ve rushed for quite a while, especially in my digital paintings. I usually take about 8-9 hours for one piece but I get tired of the painting at the end. Recently I just waited a few days before finishing the painting and detected a lot of ‘mistakes’. It’s so hard to keep track of every detail in the painting so sometimes it really helps to take your time especially at the end of the painting process 🙂

    1. I’m so glad this helped! I know exactly what you mean about the ‘mistakes’. Take a note of what you didn’t like, but also a few things what you did well. Then in the next artwork focus on those specifics. Overtime they will become a habit.
      If you find yourself getting tired, what I do is hide the artwork for a few days and then come back with fresh eyes. I will often work on a different piece in between. That break can really help.

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