Five Ways To Make Quick Last-Minute Artwork

2014 Artwork Last minute art article sketch

So, you’re uninspired and you’ve got a deadline looming? It doesn’t matter if you’re an art student, if you post art online to a regular schedule or if you just need to demonstrate your art skills quickly, knowing how to come up with a piece of artwork in a hurry is a skill that is worth learning.

Before I go any further, I should point out that this article is aimed at very slightly experienced artists and not absolute beginners. Not only that, there’s a good chance that any art that you produce this quickly probably won’t be your best work.

Still, if you absolutely have to make some art and you’ve only got 20-30 minutes to do it, then making something is better than making nothing.

In addition to this, I would also recommend that you work in one of the five art mediums that I mention in this article.

If you don’t have time to read it – the five mediums are ink, coloured pencils, digital, watercolour pencils and/or pastels, since these are all formats that require little to no drying time. There’s no point rushing through a work of art only to have to wait hours for it to dry.

Anyway, I’ll stop wasting your time and get on with the list.

1) Landscapes: Let’s face it, people are one of the most difficult things for most artists to draw and/or paint. You have to add expressions, think of clothing designs, work out what hairstyle they’re going to have, get the proportions vaguely right etc.. All of this stuff takes time – time that you might not have.

So, you can speed things up by not including any people in your picture and just sticking to landscapes.

Generally speaking, natural landscapes – especially ones that mostly consist of mountains and seas (rather than trees or buildings)- are some of the easiest types of landscapes to draw and/or paint if you’re in a hurry. After all, all you need to do is to draw a few quick lines and add some colour and… hey presto! A mountain valley:

"Valley" By C. A. Brown

“Valley” By C. A. Brown

2) Go With What You Know (And Love): Although artists should experiment with different things and try new stuff from time to time, this isn’t something that you should do if you have a deadline looming.

If possible, you should make the type of art that you know and love – not only will this take some of the stress out of drawing or painting something quickly, but it is probably also the type of art that you’ve had the most practice with. In other words, there’s at least some chance that your rushed artwork will look at least vaguely good.

Likewise, if you’ve been working on a webcomic in your spare time, then just draw the characters from it with a few modifications. After all, you’ve probably already drawn them numerous times before – so, it should be almost second-nature to you.

3) Old Stuff: If you’ve been making art for a while, then you’ve probably got quite a few old paintings or drawings that you haven’t really shown anyone.

If you can’t pass one of these off as something that you’ve just made (eg: if the quality of your art has improved significantly since you made your old picture), then just draw or paint a new version of it from scratch.

Not only will this save you having to come up with a new idea for a picture in less than an hour, you can also simplify your copy of your original picture too in order to save time (eg: you can change the background, remove the background altogether, use solid colours instead of detailed patterns etc…).

4) Darkness And/ Or Snow: This trick relies on at least a very basic understanding of lighting in art but, if in doubt, make your picture as gloomy as you can.

If you are working digitally, or if you have access to a scanner, then you can add even more gloom to your pictures by adjusting the brightness/contrast levels (eg: lower the brightness and increase the contrast) in virtually any graphics editing program.

Likewise, you can use other digital effects (like inverting the colours) to make something ultra-quickly, like this:

"Lost Planet" By C. A. Brown [I made this in less than 15 minutes, by inverting the colours digitally]

“Lost Planet” By C. A. Brown [I made this in less than 15 minutes, by inverting the colours digitally]

Anyway, not only will having a lot of darkness areas in your picture mean that you’ll only have to add detail to the few brighter areas of your picture (eg: you can use silhouettes and outlines for the rest), it can also be a good way of tricking your audience into thinking that your picture is more detailed than it actually is.

After all, when your audience are presented with only a few parts of a scene, their imaginations tend to “fill in the gaps” and imagine the rest of it.

For example, take a look at this slightly rushed (and heavily darkened digitally) coastal landscape painting I posted on here a few weeks ago. Not how only the left-hand side of the painting actually has any real detail in it:

"Mountain Bridge" By C. A. Brown

“Mountain Bridge” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, you can also take the opposite approach and paint or draw a scene that is almost entirely covered in snow. This way, you only have to paint or draw a few key details (as well as the sky) and you can leave most of the page blank.

But, unless you’ve already had some practice, I wouldn’t recommend this, since even vaguely realistic-looking snow is harder to draw than you might think if you haven’t had any practice.

5) Abstractions, Collages and Surrealism: If you’re seriously short of time, then just make something random. Start doodling, start painting random shapes, sketch out silhouettes against a solid-colour background etc… and, if anyone asks, it’s abstract and/or surreal art.

Seriously, just make something totally random, like this

"Luminous Bridge" By C. A. Brown

“Luminous Bridge” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, if you’ve got magazines, a glue stick and scissors handy – then just make a random collage. It might also be a good idea scribble a few random shapes on it and/or scrawl a few pretentious-sounding words onto it (eg: “angst”, “penumbra”, “existence”, “late capitalism” etc…) to make it look more “artistic” too.

Hell, even defacing a picture in a magazine or newspaper in an imaginative way can work if you’ve only got a few minutes – I mean, just look at Duchamp’s “L.H.O.O.Q” for a famous example of this.

Yes, this probably isn’t a good idea if you want to seriously impress anyone who knows anything about art. But, if you need something that looks “modern”, “experimental” or “edgy” in a hurry and you can come up with a suitably pretentious-sounding explanation of it’s “meaning”, then you might just get away with it…..


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂