Increase your art output by setting realistic goals
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s proving to be a tough one for many people. I’m sure you know that feeling where you planned something but ended up not making it in time. Feels bad, doesn’t it? You feel like cursing yourself for not meeting your own requirements and goals and this only makes you feel worse. But ask yourself now: Why didn’t you make it?
Art is a passion, so most people who practice art are not lazy about it. Usually, there are other things going on that prevent artists from doing what they love most. This could be (another) job, family, friends, a busy period, an injury… You name it, life happens. Especially in the beginning, it’s hard to navigate and plan your time, but it’s always worth it to evaluate the time you spent on your art. More often than not you will figure that you spent more time on it than you thought, but are not as quick as you thought you were.
No matter the case: It’s helpful to record the time you spend on your art versus the free time you actually have (and want to spend on it). You could record your time spent with a timer you leave on your desk. It’s very likely that you spend only half the time on art from what you really thought you were spending on it. Figure out what’s causing that to happen and either remove the distractions (like a phone, an e-mail tab, a browser game, etc.) or, if these distractions are worth your time: Lower your art output expectations a bit.
Having too high expectations of yourself can be very demoralizing. Figure out what’s a realistic time for you to spend on art each day, and you’ll be a happier person!
Do 80% of what you know best and 20% of what you’re weak at
This is a rule many great artists live by. I started to use it recently myself, and really: It works! It’s easy for us artists to get lost in all the possibilities as well as all the things we still need to master. It’s like climbing Mount Everest when you never did that before. Many strand before they reach the top. This counts for artists as well. Many of us get so overwhelmed that they just quit drawing, which is a shame. Instead, draw what you already know, rely on the techniques you have already mastered, and try something new. This can be as simple as the shape of a nose, or lighting angles. Or as hard as color theory, perspective, or composition. Just make sure that that new element is just a small element in your artwork so it doesn’t eat up all your time or demoralize you.
Keep going until you mastered that aspect of art too, and move on to the next! Before you know it you know more things than you can count, while also having a lot less stress about your quality of work. Honor what you know, value it for what it is, and build upon these fundamentals.
Take time for courses
Even less time for what you want or have to draw! Yea, true, but you will quickly win back that time if you pick the right courses to learn from. And you will benefit from this knowledge for the rest of your life! If you apply the previous rule: Stick with what you know, and learn something new every time with a new project (the 80/20 rule) you are good to go!
The best time to start doing courses is when you feel you’re plateauing. This is a really annoying phase in any artist’s art career, but it will always keep haunting you. All this means is that you learned everything you could within your ‘safe’ zone. In other words, what you do is now a bit too easy for you and doesn’t provide much growth anymore. This can even happen with the 80/20 rule. This is the right time to pick up something new and follow a few courses about it.
Are you a creature designer but know nothing about landscape art? Do a few of those. Are you a character designer and know nothing about perspective? Heck, everybody knows that your character displayed in an environment looks a lot better.
Another approach is to simply do one course a month, a week, or a day. This completely depends on your goals and free time. You might want to re-evaluate this as you go. But if you’re like most artists and lack time to do other stuff: It’s most time-effective to start doing a bunch of courses when you’re stuck in your growth. That is, of course, taking into consideration that you already know your fundamentals!
Target the fundamentals you’re weak at
Yep, there they are, fundamentals! Oh, don’t we hate our fundamentals… We all want to draw the most beautiful stuff right away, and sure we try and fail, time and again. Art fundamentals are for many people a necessary evil. However, knowing your fundamentals, just like doing courses, will help you during the rest of your career. The most important ones you might want to start with are:
- Color theory
- Light and shadow
- Managing edges
- Shapes and form
These will get you halfway, There are many more fundamentals, depending on your niche, you might want to expand on them if you need to, or when you’re ready to take on a new challenge. Think of things like:
- Human or animal anatomy
- And whatever may be necessary for your field specifically
In case you want to learn more, but don’t want to spend serious money yet, have a look at this article, filled with Youtube artists that teach specifically these fundamentals from time to time. Checking out these artists is a good way to get yourself started if you don’t know much about your fundamental of choice yet. Moving on with paid courses is your next step.
Allow yourself to find inspiration elsewhere
Inspiration is fed to us everywhere. Our best source of inspiration yet: The internet. Think of Pinterest, Deviantart, Artstation, and the good ‘ol Google images. But the best inspiration tends to come up when we’re not thinking about it. Less is more, you probably know this saying. Inspiration is so readily available these days that it’s hard to make good choices and pick from the crowd. We call this ‘choice stress’ which is very counterproductive. Just go out, have a stroll, go to the shop, read a book, marinate in your bathtub… Just anything but art, and solutions to problems will come running at you when you least expect it. Alternatively. go to a subject-related museum, just to have a nice day doing something else, while also learning, and maybe picking up on something nice.
Finding inspiration elsewhere will give your brain a lucky break from the overkill of information on the internet, and more often than not, also the kind of inspiration the internet is not saturated with yet. Popular search results have always something in common. Always hone this information and use it to your advantage, but do so with a twist. When you think outside of the box, something a creative should always do in my opinion: You might very well come up with something new and better!
Have some me-time
Underrated by far by many artists. Art is me-time, right? Well, if you purely draw for yourself: Yes. If you draw for likes, or for your company, or you are drawing for someone else, it’s no longer me-time.
To be highly productive you need ‘me time’ as well. This can mean many things. Maybe you’re a motor enthusiast: Play around with your motor, or have a nice long trip! Do you love gardening? Go out there! Grab your good old steed if you have one, and spend time with your friends. Artists, like any other person, need to recharge. This is even more important because most of the time, artists work from home, alone. It’s easy for them to fall into a depression or become stressed. Thus me-time is even more important to them than to most other people, especially as creativity comes readily from balanced minds, and not so much from those that are not.
Immerse in an art community
It’s liberating for any artist to have like-minded people around them. Even when they’re introverts. Yea, of course, they will take up some time, but they give so much back as well! They will be there when you’re down, they celebrate with you, they will give you feedback and help you out, and all on a frequency only artists resonate with,
For many artists, it’s hard to fit into society. Many artists are introverts or think in such a different way that it’s hard for other people to follow them, and vice versa. It’s extremely helpful to be around like-minded people, or better yet: Artists. They will also help you find the shortcuts to a better version of your artistic selves. This can be in art, as well as in lifestyle.
Most well-known artists and communities have Facebook groups and/or Discord channels accompanying them. Just seek out your favorite artist, check out the community, and join! Or Join the Life to Legend community to get yourself started! We’d be happy to see you on either Facebook or Discord!
Specialize in a niche
The art world is vast. There are so many things you could be doing, and then some more. Especially when you’re only starting out, it might be hard for you to know where to start. But no matter if you’re new or are already a veteran: It will absolutely pay off to specialize in a niche. Not just to be a specialist, but also to compartmentalize your workload. Master one thing, then move on to the next. If you want to be a specialist: Gather all information you can about the subject. If you want to be a generalist: Fine too! Just start with one thing, master it, and then master the next.
Make time for art every day
You probably heard this one before: Make time for your art. Most people don’t really have a lot of spare time, so time has to be made. And I recommend taking time for are every single day. If that only means 10 minutes: Draw for 10 minutes. You learn to become a true artist through repetition, and through challenging yourself time and again.
I really live by this rule. Drawing at least 5 out of 7 days a week is not uncommon for me, and when I do I spend at least 2 hours on my art. I know this is a privilege, I don’t have kids, and I don’t live together with my partner, I only have a demanding kitty, my sports regime, and my regular job to tend to on a daily basis. It is however what got me as far as I did. Below is a visualization of my progress from 2017 to early 2021, when I first started drawing digitally (with little practice and certainly no courses beforehand). And if you don’t spend time writing articles or tending to a community as I do, you can easily get as far as I did in the same timeframe.
Just make sure you prioritize what’s most important to you, and if your day really is too full: Give it a little bit less time, or ask yourself if you really need to be doing all the things you are doing in your day or week.
Always have a note- or sketchbook near
Whoo! No-brainer right? But are you doing it? I know I’m stubborn. I’m also a bit messy sometimes. I have a notebook, but I hate having it with me, or well, I hate damaged paper, so I never really wrote something down. Or I did in my notebook on my phone, but that wasn’t really helpful either. I always have a lot of jobs to do, so for me, it’s best to have everything in the same place. And I’m pretty sure that you as an artist have the same issues. If not: Lucky you!
Anyhow: If you’re good with paper and space, have a notebook with you. Otherwise, install an app like Evernote. Evernote is a notebook in which you can draw as well, take pictures and add them to your notes, have attachments, audio fragments… And you can keep it all together in one file, inside one of the many categories you set up. Have Evernote synchronized between your phone and computer and you always have access to everything at any time in one place. What more do you want?
Take note that Evernote is free to use, but if you want to use it more then you will need to upgrade. I however didn’t see the need for it yet. Connecting it to your computer and phone is enough for me. The 60 MB free upload as well. and so are many of the other features. So it’s absolutely worth trying for any artist!