The night before writing this article, I was extremely tired. I’d been awake for almost 24 hours and, at about 1am, I realised that I needed to make a daily painting.
But, unlike my usual “tired paintings” (that often look like something that I made 6-12 months ago), this digitally-edited painting only looked like something that I’d made 2-3 months ago. Here’s a reduced-size preview of it:
So, how can you make better paintings when you are extremely tired? Here are a few tips:
1) Focus on the scenery: If you look at the preview painting that I showed you, you’ll see that it mostly consists of… well… scenery. Sure, there are a couple of people in it but, they’re standing in the distance and/or are drawn in a slightly undetailed way. The main focus of the painting is on the giant city that they are standing in.
Now, compare it to this preview of a quick “minimalist” painting that I made on the day when my all-nighter began, when I was considerably more awake:
As you can see, the painting that I made when I was awake features a lot more character detail. The person sitting on the chair is shown in detailed close-up, rather than hidden slightly in the distance. But, why didn’t I do this in the “tired” painting and why shouldn’t you?
Simply put, people are more difficult to draw well than angular buildings, natural landscapes etc… are. A lot more complex thought has to go into character designs – including everything from their pose to their clothes, hairstyles, expressions etc… And, if you’re tired, than you need to conserve that mental energy.
So, you can make much more impressive-looking paintings when you’re extremely tired if you mostly focus on painting the scenery. Sure, you can do things like adding a few undetailed people to the background but, for the most part, you’ll make much better “tired” paintings if you focus more on buildings and scenery than on painting people.
2) Have an inspiration right in front of you: First of all, if you’re making a painting when you’re extremely tired, then you should make it in a genre that you really love and, more importantly, a genre of art which you’ve already practiced a lot.
For me, this genre is the cyberpunk genre. This is a genre that almost always inspires me in some way, and it’s a genre that has had a huge influence on my art. Your own “inspirational genre” may be different though.
But, when you’ve found the genre that inspires you a lot – find a DVD, internet video, piece of music etc… from that genre and put it on in the background when you are painting.
No, you shouldn’t directly copy any of it (although taking inspiration is perfectly fine), but having something from your favourite genre directly in front of you can help to get you in the mood for making art. It’s a way to increase what limited motivation you’ll have when you’re extremely tired.
For example, when painting the picture at the beginning of the article, I re-watched two and a half episodes of “Ghost In The Shell: SAC 2nd Gig“. This made me remember the highly-inspired cyberpunk art that I made when I watched this TV series for the first time (which helped me to feel motivated). Likewise, the futuristic cityscapes shown in the TV show helped to put me in more of a “cyberpunk” kind of mood.
Yes, the actual painting itself was more heavily inspired by other things in the cyberpunk genre (“Blade Runner” and “Technobabylon” spring to mind for starters…). But, I was able to work up the enthusiasm to make it by watching something else from the same genre. So, yes, having an inspiration directly in front of you can be a useful thing when you’re extremely tired.
3) Use every trick in the book: Finally, if you want to make good-looking art when you’re tired, then you’ll have to be sneaky. You need to use every piece of art-based trickery in your repertoire to give the illusion that your painting is more detailed than it actually is. If you’ve practiced enough, this sort of thing should be second-nature to you.
There are too many tricks to list here but, to give you an example, here’s a reduced-size version of my “tired” painting that highlights all of the detail in the painting:
If you compared the number of green pixels to the number of black pixels in this picture, it would probably only be something like 30-40% green and 50-70% black. In other words, through careful use of composition and lighting, I was able to make a better painting when I was extremely tired by only adding detail to less than half of the painting.
Likewise, here’s a close-up detail of one of the background details in the painting, from a version of the painting that doesn’t include any rain. For the sake of clarity, I’ve also digitally removed all of the colours from this close-up:
Although distant objects in paintings are meant to look less detailed, this looks extremely undetailed (and more like a rough doodle than anything else). Yet, thanks to both the vivid colour scheme that I used and the rain that I digitally added to the background after scanning the painting, it looks a bit more detailed in the final painting:
So, yes, if you’re making a painting when you’re extremely tired, then be sure to use every sneaky artistic trick that you know.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂