(Effort + Time) x Logic = Improvement As An Artist
As a new artist just starting out, there are a lot of questions. Everything from what supplies to use, where to find inspiration, and most often, how you can best utilize their time. How many hours a day of practice does it take to become a great artist? Also, where should you focus that effort?
Well, that’s a tricky question. Sure, you can spend every waking moment putting forth your best effort, but if there isn’t a logical process behind it, there likely won’t be much progress. Blossoming into a successful artist requires a delicate combination of effort, time, and logic.
We’ll dive into each part of this equation, define the ins and outs of each variable, and outline how this specific combination can allow you to achieve rapid improvement and optimal success as an artist.
It Takes Effort To Improve Your Art
Putting forth your absolute best effort each time makes you a better artist, no doubt. But how do you know where to focus that effort? Good question, it can be tricky. Here are some tips.
Put forth the right kind of effort. As fun as it is, just doodling all day isn’t going to help you become a master artist. Take your chosen art form and break it down into smaller chunks and work on each of those individually and systematically.
For instance, if you’re a painter try working on brush techniques or blending of colors. If you are an illustrator focus on shading or showing depth. Whatever it is that you do, find a way to break it down into bite-sized pieces and master each of them one at a time.
We know it sounds a little counter-intuitive, but try working on smaller projects. Once you have nailed all of the finite components of your work, it can be tempting to take on large scale projects. However, we suggest the go big or go home mentality can be harmful. At least initially.
Working on smaller projects will allow you to really focus your effort on creating your piece just right, without the large scale or pressure of looming deadlines. Perhaps try making an actual small version of your work before diving in. Giving you the opportunity to iron out any difficult spots.
For instance, if you are doing a portrait and struggle with a particular component of anatomy, do a few trial runs. If you struggle with drawing hands, work on just drawing hands for a while.
Be consistent with your art to improve
When you are first starting out as a new artist, you’re going to try all different kinds of things. Dabbling in painting, sketches, maybe even sculptures. Though, as you progress it’s not really sustainable to spread yourself so thin. Like we said, think of directed and focused effort.
As you are working to improve, do your best to nail down your medium and your style. Focus on creating a cohesive body of work. Try to maintain a few consistent elements. Such as theme, subject matter, and style.
Though there is always room for some variation to allow full creative expression, ultimately you want your work to be recognizable. That won’t happen if there’s no throughline across your pieces.
Take a class to improve your art
Maybe you’re a natural and haven’t taken an art class since fifth grade. That’s awesome! Though, don’t discount focusing your effort on a few online art classes. Everyone can benefit and gain skills to improve through directed learning.
Let’s say you get hung up on a certain aspect of your art, like choosing a color palette. Having a process there to guide you can be so much better than fumbling through it yourself and having no feedback.
Also, working with other artists can be inspiring and help build your network. It can sometimes be challenging to break into the art world and make connections. Classes are a built-in community of like-minded artists who are looking to improve, just like you.
It Takes Time To Improve as an Artist
Ten thousand hours, right? Well, sort of. It is true that dedicating that much time to anything will help you get better, but not all of us have that kind of time on our hands to hone our craft. Unfortunately for us, there is no magic number that is going to guarantee greatness.
If that is the case, then how can you best spend the time you do have to ensure that it’s spent wisely? Here are a few helpful tips to help guide you.
Take some time to sit down and plan your week and your work out. Hopping around aimlessly from task to task or project to project is not a good use of your time. When doing this you can also prioritize your work and designate appropriate blocks of time for those projects.
Something as simple as one of those oversized desk calendars is totally sufficient. They are cheap, you can spill paint all over or doodle on it all you like. Anything that gives you a way to manage your time and get a visual of the work you have planned.
Also, remember that especially when you are starting out and working to improve, things are going to take a little longer than you might like. So be reasonable with the time frames you set for yourself. As long as you don’t have any hard set deadlines for a client, cut yourself a little slack. Then adjust your expectations accordingly.
Work when you feel the most creative to improve your art
Are you a morning person who pops out of bed and finds inspiration in the sunrise? Well, then you’re going to be best suited to do your most creative work at that time. Or if you are a total night owl, work with that. Who cares if you are in your studio at one in the morning? Do what works for you.
Designating not only the appropriate amount of time for your work but the best time for your work is so important. Once you figure out your most motivated time, schedule everything else around that. Don’t check emails, post on social media, any of that. Working on your art when you are in the best headspace for it will help you improve much faster.
Though, we do acknowledge the fact that sometimes inspiration hits you like a freight train while you’re in the shower or on the subway. Those are quite thrilling moments, and you can work with those as well. Really any time you feel immensely creative, take that time and work on your art.
Take calculated breaks
Just like with any job, it’s important to take breaks. Though we know you love making art, it can also be trying and require a little reset. Believe it or not, pushing through and working for hours on end can actually be less productive. You’re sort of slogging along at a point and that’s certainly not going to help you improve.
Designate a set block of time for work and schedule breaks. Treat it like a nine to five job, where you would want to get away from the desk. Same principle. Take a breather, step outside, make a cup of tea. Anything to rest your eyes and give you a moment to step back for a little reflection on your work.
There’s an interesting time management strategy, the Pomodoro Technique, that basically has you select a designated project, set a timer, and work on only that for a solid twenty-five minutes. Then you take a five-minute break. And repeat. It sounds a little clunky, but when you’re having a hard time finding a rhythm, this can help a ton.
Of course, if you’re in the groove, go with it and work for another twenty-five minutes and take a ten-minute break. You don’t want to interrupt a good flow, but you also don’t want to be staring at a piece so long you go cross-eyed.
Call it quits and relax
We are just full of counterintuitive points, aren’t we? We’re not saying to give up on a project early or in the middle of a great session. What we are saying is that when it’s quitting time, actually set the pen, brush, whatever down, and go home.
You will actually get more work done and therefore improve when you are refreshed and well-rested. Taking the time for self-care is just as important for an artist as it is for any other vocation.
As you’re getting ready to be done for the day, spend a few minutes cleaning up and getting ready for the next day. That way you can unwind knowing that you can start fresh in the morning. This will allow you to enjoy your downtime, freeing your mind of stress and letting you get some rest so you can start rejuvenated tomorrow.
Logic Will Help You Improve Your Art – Have a Game Plan
With all that being said, no amount of time and effort is going to get you where you need to go if you don’t apply logic. You can put in 100% of your time and 110% of your effort, but without a solid game plan it will still come out to a big fat zero in improvement.
Focus on your practice, sure. Also, practice with a purpose, but make sure that it is a logical purpose. Logic is pointing all that time and effort in the right direction. Unfortunately, so often artists neglect this vital component.
Too often we assume other people have already thought it through for us and we blindly follow others’ logic. Not realizing that their logic might be flawed in some way, or not the right direction for us as individual and unique artists.
How often do you hear art students saying things like “Well, my online art teacher said to do this or that?” Too often, for sure. Of course, those teachers have all of the best intentions, but just because the direction they decided to take led them to be a successful painter, doesn’t mean that you as a character artist should follow the same path.
Work on not just taking any old project that comes your way. Rather, choose more pointed projects that align with what you want to achieve as an artist. Be mindful and thoughtful.
The Math Adds up to Improving Yourself as an Artist!
Combine all three and that equals improvement and success! Each individual variable is valuable, yes. However, all the time in the world with applied logic, but no good faith effort isn’t going to get you to where you want to be.
The same is true in reverse, all the effort you can muster plus a pointed direction also won’t lead to improvement. You haven’t worked on your craft long enough.
The moral of the story is that you have to have all three crucial elements of the equation to truly improve and ultimately flourish as an artist.