Three More Tips For Making Better Paintings When You’re Extremely Tired


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:

 The full-size painting will be posted here on the 20th September.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 20th September.

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:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 19th September.

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:

 All areas featuring artistic detail have been highlighted green.

All areas featuring artistic detail have been highlighted green.

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:

This is a close-up of a greyscale background detail from a version of the painting that doesn't include any rain. As you can see, most of the buildings are just simple shapes and/or random scribbles.

This is a close-up of a greyscale background detail from a version of the painting that doesn’t include any rain. As you can see, most of the buildings are just simple shapes and/or random scribbles.

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:

This is the same area in the final painting. The lighting, colours and digitally-added rain make it look slightly more detailed.

This is the same area in the final painting. The lighting, colours and digitally-added rain make it look slightly more detailed.

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 🙂


Three Tips For Making Art When You Are Tired


I’m not sure if I’ve written about this subject before, but I thought that I’d take a look at how you can make art when you are feeling tired. This is mostly because I ended up pulling an all-nighter a couple of nights before writing this article and, like with previous all-nighters, still somehow managed to keep up my art practice the following day.

So, here are some tips for making art when you are really tired.

1) Fascinations: The last thing you need is to feel uninspired when you are also feeling tired. So, ask yourself what fascinates you right now and then use it as the basis for your drawing or painting. If nothing fascinates you at the moment, then think about things that have fascinated you in the past. Fascination is the key to staying inspired and motivated when you are tired.

For example, during the all-nighter I mentioned earlier, I’d become briefly fascinated by 1930s fashions after re-watching part of an old “Poirot” DVD. So, when it came to making a painting the next morning, my first idea was “it’ll be set in the 1930s”. After all, since this was what interested me at the time, it was an obvious source of inspiration.

Although the final painting ended up going in a much more random direction, if you look at the people on the right-hand side of this reduced-size preview, you can probably see that they look at least slightly old-fashioned:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th August.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th August.

2) Practice: One of the best ways to make vaguely ok art when you are very tired is to keep a regular practice schedule.

If you practice regularly, then sticking to your practice schedule can end up becoming an almost automatic thing over time. The feeling of “I’ve got to practice” can be a very good way to get motivated to make art when you are tired.

Likewise, if you practice regularly, then this will also improve the art that you make when you are tired. Yes, tired art usually isn’t as good as “normal” art and can sometimes be the equivalent of making art with 6-12 fewer months of practice than you already have. However, the more practice you have and the more that you’ve learnt, the less noticeable this effect will be.

3) Randomness and/or minimalism: This varies from artist to artist, but two ways to actually finish a painting that you start making when you’re tired is to either make the painting as minimalist as possible and/or as random as possible.

The advantage of minimalism is that you only have to focus on adding detail to a small amount of the painting – whilst leaving the rest of the picture shrouded in darkness. As such, there’s less to do and you’ll still end up with a dramatic-looking painting if you can get the lighting right. This approach can also come in handy when you are feeling uninspired too.

The advantage of randomness is that you can just focus on drawing or painting things, without having to worry too much about things like visual storytelling, historical accuracy or consistency.

For example, although the preview painting that I showed you earlier was originally going to be a painting set in the 1930s, I knew that trying to research art deco architecture and create original examples of it would be too much to do when I was extremely tired.

So, I just started adding random pillars, trees and buildings to the background instead (which were probably more inspired by a 1990s TV show called “Twin Peaks” that I’d watched on DVD a few days earlier). Yes, it made the painting look kind of strange, but it also meant that I was able to finish it.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Ways To Be Creative When You’re Really Tired

Don't worry, tonight's art post won't be affected - mainly because I made it before I wrote this article.

Don’t worry, tonight’s art post won’t be affected – mainly because I made it before I wrote this article.

Although this is an article about ways to stay creative when you’re really tired, I’m going to have to talk about writing stuff for this blog for a paragraph or two. I know that this is about the sixth time that I’ve broken the “don’t blog about blogging” rule on here, but there’s kind of a reason for it. Sort of.

Anyway, I was originally going to write an article about realism in fiction for today, but since I was fairly tired at the time – I abandoned it after a few paragraphs. In addition to not feeling like I had the mental energy to think of a clear way to express my thoughts in words, I also found myself easily distracted by a website (TV Tropes“, no less) that I’d planned to link to in the opening paragraph.

Whilst I might or might not have another go at writing that article in the near future, it gave me a few insights into how tiredness can affect creative work. So, I thought that I’d offer a few quick tips about how to stay creative when you’re extremely tired. And, for the sake of authenticity, I’m almost falling asleep whilst writing this. So, apologies in advance about the fact that this article includes a lot of….

1) Rambling: I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who tends to be kind of verbose. One of the billion reasons why I don’t use Twitter is because it would take me forever to edit whatever I want to say down to a mere 140 characters.

When it comes to writing, my “default” state is just to throw out lots of long words, old-fashioned words and/or complex sentences rather than carefully choosing just enough of them to get my point across succinctly.

This isn’t the case for everyone and many people’s “default” writing state is to use as few words as possible. But it doesn’t matter whether your “default” writing style is to write a 1000-word essay or a 140-character sentence, the important thing is that you know what your default state is, because that’s what you should use (and will probably use unconsciously anyway) when you’re tired.

So, in my case, this means writing three ridiculously formal paragraphs when one clearly-written paragraph would suffice. But, in your case, it might just mean using a minimalist writing style and/or drawing style.

2) Go with what you know: When you’re tired, you probably don’t have the energy and/or attention span to do lots of research and/or complex thought about unfamiliar topics. So, make it easy on yourself and just go with what you know. Not only that, go with the kinds of things that you know so well that you can literally draw, write about or talk about them in your sleep.

Why should you do this? Well, if you’re tired, then you’re almost asleep anyway – so this should be pretty self-explanatory.

3) Don’t edit: If you’re writing something when you’re tired, then the most important thing is to actually finish what you’re writing before you go to sleep. So, don’t bother with editing when you’re writing – unless you have a looming deadline of any kind, then you can always go back and edit your work later when you’re more awake.

The same is true, to a lesser extent, with art too. If you’re tired, then just focus on getting the basic “skeleton” of your picture down on the page and then adding everything else later when you’re more awake.

Usually, this will just be a basic pencil sketch or possibly even just the foreground of a drawing and/or painting, but it might also include things like inking (but not colouring) your art and/or leaving out all of the fine detail in your picture too.

4) Know when to take a break: Sometimes, some creative things are literally impossible to do when you’re tired. If you’re working on something that requires a lot of complex thought and/or fine detail, then trying to stick with it when you’re tired will just make you even more frustrated and exhausted.

If you start to realise that you’ve reached this point, then carrying on usually isn’t a good idea. In fact, the best idea is to just follow John C. Parkin’s wise advice and say “F**k it”.

Once you’ve done this, you can either do one of two things – you can just fall asleep or you can find a way to turn what you are working on into something more manageable. This might mean breaking it down in to smaller and more manageable segments or, like with this article, it might mean doing something entirely different instead.

Whatever you do, the important thing is to make sure that you aren’t just wearing yourself out even further by sticking with your original idea.


Sorry for the rambling article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂