Making Art More Efficiently

Alas, replacing myself with a robot wasn't quite the great idea I thought it would be.

Alas, replacing myself with a robot wasn’t quite the great idea I thought it would be.

Quite a while ago, I read this absolutely fascinating article by Steve Pavlina. The article is all about how “successful” and influential people often make small parts of their lives a lot more efficient by coming up with routines for things (eg: wearing similar clothes most of the time etc…) that they can just follow without thinking about.

Anyway, this made me think about making art on a regular basis – since this is something that I do and it’s part of my daily routine. It also made me wonder whether making art frequently could be improved by coming up with these kinds of routines. And, well, it can – to a certain degree.

Now, this might seem like the opposite of everything that art stands for. After all, art is supposed to be creative. It’s supposed to be unorthodox. It’s supposed to be spontaneous. It’s supposed to be imagination given form rather than just the product of some kind of algorithm that you’ve programmed yourself to follow.

And it should be. However, whilst you probably shouldn’t apply too many routines to the actual creative part of making art, there are plenty of other routines that you can follow which will make everything surrounding the creative parts of your art a lot easier, if you make art regularly.

Confused? Well, I should probably give you a few examples from my own artistic work:

Firstly, quite a lot of the time – my paintings and/or drawings are a standard size. This saves me worrying about how large a picture should be every time I work on one. When I started making art regularly in April 2012, each of my drawings was about a quarter of an A4 page in size. By mid-2012, I’d upgraded that to about one A5 page in size.

These days, most of my paintings are 18×19 cm in size (or 7 3/32 inches x 7 31/64 inches if you use ye olde imperial system). The main advantage of this format is that, because all of my paintings are almost square-shaped, I don’t have to worry about whether I should paint in portrait or landscape every time I make a painting. Therefore, I can focus more time and energy on actually painting.

Secondly, when I make black and white ink drawings, I’ll usually make them on (fairly cheap) watercolour paper, rather than regular paper. The main reason for this is that I can use black watercolour pencils to fill in any large darker areas of the drawing quickly and efficiently. As long as you remember to use pens that contain waterproof ink, then this little trick works really well.

Yes, it’s probably cheating – but with a little bit of basic digital editing after I’ve scanned the drawing, it’s impossible to tell the difference between these painted areas and the areas that have been meticulously filled in using ink.

See what I mean? The sky in this drawing was actually painted rather than drawn.. ("Balcony Selfie" by C. A. Brown)

See what I mean? The sky in this drawing was actually painted rather than drawn..
(“Balcony Selfie” by C. A. Brown)

Finally, if I can’t think of an idea for a drawing or painting on a particular day, then I have routines in place for this too. Usually, what will happen is that I’ll just end up painting a fairly basic and generic landscape painting of some kind or another. Or, sometimes I’ll make fan art or make a new version of one of my older drawings or paintings.

Although this doesn’t lead to me making a great work of art every day, it at least ensures that I actually make a work of art every day.

But, the thing to remember with routines like this is that they should only exist to support your art and they shouldn’t interfere with your art.

To give you an example of what I mean – up until late summer 2012, almost all of my drawings looked remarkably similar for one reason.

In every drawing, I’d just draw both a person standing in pretty much the same position and a random background. Like in these old drawings of mine:

"Attic Lab" By C. A. Brown [10th June 2012]

“Attic Lab” By C. A. Brown
[10th June 2012]

"Forgotten Garden" By C. A. Brown [16th June 2012]

“Forgotten Garden” By C. A. Brown [16th June 2012]

"Static Ghosts" By C. A. Brown [24th June 2012]

“Static Ghosts” By C. A. Brown [24th June 2012]

I’m sure you get the idea….

Anyway, doing this allowed me to create art fairly quickly since I didn’t have to worry about the composition of each drawing. But it also meant that my art both looked extremely boring and became extremely boring to make. Eventually, I finally ended up adding more variety to my art and it became a lot more interesting and fun to make again as a result.

So, remember it’s a good idea to come up with routines for the things that surround your art, in order to make everything more efficient. But don’t apply routines to your actual art itself.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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