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Quality over Quantity
Quality over Quantity
This is probably the most valuable tip I can give to any beginning artist. I'm sure someone has told you once that to get good, you have to do a ton of work. Thousands upon thousands of hours of practicing the fundamentals, of doing gestures and sketches and studies, of filling whole sketchbooks. To practice for many hours every day without end.

Well, yes and no. If you frequent any art site that has a sketchbook section, look around and you will always find beginning artists that have dozens of pages that demonstrate amazing dedication, hundreds of sketches and studies. You'll probably feel a tinge of jealousy at that. But you will also notice that, despite the amazing amount of work, there doesn't seem to be that much improvement between the first and the last page. This, while another artist with only a 6-page sketchbook and far less work may show dramatic improvement.

Why is that? Is it because one is simply far more talented than the other? Personally I don't believe in talent. You can have an affinity for something, which means you will enjoy doing it more than others but that in itself does not make you better. Is it because one is a faster learner? Perhaps, I do believe some people are quicker to understand some things than others, but not quite that dramatically. So what makes one person who does a lot of work slower to improve than one who does relatively little?

Quite simply, quality over quantity. Intent studying over mindless labour.

You can fill a sketchbook with gestures every day if that is your goal, and what you will have achieved is a sketchbook filled with gestures. If you're lucky, you'll have picked up one or two things along the way. Your goal should not be to do a ton of work. Your goal should be to learn something. Preferably something quite specific, so that you can focus on that alone.

So, to put it simply:

Quantity artist
Goal: Fill a sketchbook with gestures
Time: 8-16 hours
Achieved: A sketchbook filled with gestures
Learned: ?

Quality artist
Goal: To better understand human proportions
Time: 3-5 hours
Achieved: Two/three pages of Loomis studies
Learned: Basic guidelines for the ideal proportions for men and women

In a nutshell: Yes, to become a good artist you must do a lot of studies. It's true that most professionals will have at least a few thousand hours worth of studying behind them. But you won't get to their level by rushing towards the few thousand hour mark regardless of what you're doing. Study smart. Take your time to learn, tackle each subject carefully. Quality over quantity, folks.
Replies:
RE: Quality over Quantity
YES this is ABSOLUTELY one of the most important subject regarding drawing/painting!
This explains why some people are able to learn in 2 years and actually LEARN, become professional and continually ask to themselves 'why is this angle/distance/curve of this stroke not correct?'.

Over people who randomly scribbles/paint hours a day. That will learn you to train muscle memory, but not knowledge regarding light/composition/perspective etc etc etc.
RE: Quality over Quantity
That is very true, sir. Also my problem is that I study random stuff without really setting a certain goal before doing them. In the end I don't even know if I learned something or not. I should start organizing more.
RE: Quality over Quantity
The absolute basics to learn are: Color, Form, Perspective, Composition, Proportion, Shading. Starting with this will give you a good position to learn everything you want, from characters to environments.
RE: Quality over Quantity
That would be ma'm to you, sir ;).

Part of the learning process is understanding what you don't know. I always find that the best way to know what you need to work on is by learning "on the job", in other words, try making an illustration and take note of what you're struggling with. If you need to guess at something, well then you've found yourself another thing you need to learn.

I would also like to suggest Andrew Loomis' "Succesful Drawing". You can find online PDF's of the book and it's a great start to your journey, or a great reminder if you've already started.
RE: Quality over Quantity
This is so true!! Thank you so much for sharing Ma'm! ;) I think if you understand this concept as an artist you'll come a long way. It's something I myself need to keep an eye on. Sometimes it's just fun to draw for yourself and don't have any commitments or goals.

Although I really enjoy studying too! I think there's just a difference between the two. Also experimenting mostly occurs when you're just drawing for fun, which can be good and inspiring as well. You'll maybe learn something out of it too. Studying and experimenting, I think both are very useful. For example, if you'll study most of the time and experimenting sometimes besides studying helps you to rethink what you've learned in the studies and maybe get inspired to do something different. :) Maybe you can even combine the two together.
RE: Quality over Quantity
Haha sorry for the confusion there! And yes the on the job method is very helpful. In a way this is similar to the pro illustrators that use refs when not sure about something, except in our case we need more time to learn it where as they would simply use it to bring slightly more realistic feeling to their piece.
RE: Quality over Quantity
Bella: What you're saying is a valid point too.
RE: Quality over Quantity
Quality over quantity is what I have been said to pay attention when shoving my rough speedpaints to others. Heck, even Feng keeps saying this in his videos.. So now I try to render my paintings in very high detail level, does it make my work better? Considering I am not getting more feedback (dA for instance) - NO. It is depressing having spent hours or days on one painting and nobody liking it. Sadly it's all about the idea, not the details.. BUT with that said, I can see improvements in my workflow.. As weird as it may seem, my workflow has become slower (for now), but I am more satesfied with the result in the end. It's a struggle making every painting almost perfect, but you put in so much work, you want everything not only to look detailed, but also correct (anatomy, perspective) and that's where you push yourself to learn and to observe..
RE: Quality over Quantity
Artfx9: If I'm getting it right from your comment I think you have partly wrong attitude towards this. I'm talking about the part where you get discouraged, because you've spent so much time but nobody likes it. First of all you shouldn't be doing your work for others, so they can like it, these likes don't mean much. You should do it for yourself, to learn and improve and you should ask specifically for feedback. I've seen sketchbooks where people even discourage others from commenting, if it's just going to be "oh I like it" or "wow amazing". Second DA is definitely not the place, in my opinion, to get feedback. For me it's only another platform to expose my stuff, nothing more. I believe you should look for feedback only in serious places where people actually have goals. So yeah, while you're learning never get discouraged and never do your art to satisfy someone else. Hope this helps a bit. Onward!
RE: Quality over Quantity
Assumzaek Well, I am not getting payed for it, so I am doing it just for myself.. and enjoying it, but some feedback helps to see if I am doing any good, but yeah, I agree. Anyways, the feedback part was not the important part in my previous post..

RE: Quality over Quantity
Yes of course feedback is essential, but feedback is not the likes. That's why I wrote the previous comment.
RE: Quality over Quantity
Thanks for this amazing article. I agree with your points completely. I never fill more than two pages of a sketchbook in a day and I as well take my time to study. I'm glad someone brought this up!
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