Coffee and Art: 6 Drawing Tips for when Time is Limited

For today’s Coffee and Art session, I decided to make a list! It’s important to draw every day, but it’s easy to feel like you never have time to draw. So, whether you slept in a little too late (again) and don’t have a lot of time to draw before you leave, on your 15 minute break, or you only have 10 minutes to draw before you pass out after a long day, here are 6 things I found help me when time is limited:

1. Draw Small

When you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, drawing on a small piece of paper can be super helpful. It’s a lot easier to draw things quickly when you don’t have a whole lot of space you need to cover.

Something that helps me is cutting paper into smaller pieces, or drawing thumbnail squares on a larger piece of paper to force myself to draw in a smaller space.

2. Or… resume (or start) an art piece that’s not meant to be finished in one sitting!

The truth is, I had this idea for a blog post yesterday when I was drawing my Annunciation sketch. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I drew this with the idea that I would work on it again today.

Personally, I think the best art I make is the one that I make over several days. I paint or draw a little bit one day, leave it alone, get a good night’s sleep, then come back refreshed and ready to go. Larger pieces especially don’t take 5 hours. They take several sessions of 30 minute time periods. Either way, you get a painting that you spent five hours as the end result. The difference is you spread out your time over many days.

3. Focus on the Shadows First

Shadows are the most important part of objects. You can see objects better by the shadows they make. Try this excercise: draw a picture where you would draw normally, maybe drawing the outer contour lines and the details first, step away, then quickly block in the shadows.

See what a huge difference it makes!

Bonus tip: squint at your reference first

4. Focus on the Negative Space

When you’re drawing, it’s easy to get caught up in the object you’re drawing. Instead, trying focusing on the space AROUND the object for a bit. This is especially helpful when you’re drawing from a painting and you’re drawing the space between multiple objects.

This makes the drawing more interesting. 

5. Music Choice could help.

Something that helps me when I need to concentrate and do something relatively quickly is having a good music selection. I like metal. The reason being it fills me with an aggressive sense of determination that makes me want to do a good job. It helps me channel my passion into my drawings.

Try listening to video game soundtracks while you’re making art. Video game music is designed for the progress/reward feeling we get when playing video games.

6. Don’t Let “Perfect” be the Enemy of “Good”

When you don’t have a lot of time, it can be easy to get anxious. How can you make something “perfect” in such a short time?

Problem is, you can’t. Even if you had all the time in the world, since you’re an artist and therefore, naturally hyper critical of yourself, it will never EVER be perfect.

Remember: you need to draw every day. You don’t need to draw a masterpiece, you just need to draw. If you so desire, think two things:

  1. You can draw this again tomorrow
  2. You can KEEP drawings this tomorrow

You have a lot of time left in your life. If your picture isn’t perfect every day, so what? You’re still drawing every day, and getting closer to be an artist who “draws every day”. Not all your drawings are going to be hits.

Be kind to yourself, do the best job you can in the time you have in the time you’re given, and pick it up again tomorrow.

Jordan Peterson said his psychology paper syllabus, that essentially turning in a bad paper will get you 50%, no paper get’s you 0%.

I’d rather have 50% than 0% when it comes to art.


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