Digital Art Week
In this guide I'd like to introduce you to timed studies, including a guide on how to effectively do timed practise studies, as well as some do's and don'ts.
What is a timed study?
A timed study is exactly what the name suggests: a painting study done during a set time. That time limit can be anything from a few seconds to an hour or two, depending on what it is you want to practise. "Study" can mean: 1) from a reference image and/or 2) preparatory drawing for a "full" piece (to practise a certain element of the future artwork or as a way to experiment before beginning the "real" artwork). Usually reference images are involved, but composition or value studies are often done from the imagination.
A few examples of different types of studies:Gesture study:
Landscape study: Value study:
Other examples include colour studies, composition studies, perspective studies, and so on.
Why should I do timed studies?
- It will increase your speed, your brush stroke economy, your ability to simplify shapes - in short, it will make you much more efficient.
- It's quick! Since you have a time limit you can spend as much or as little time as you want. Take 20 minutes out of your day to do 60 second gesture studies - that's 20 studies in almost no time!
- Practise is always a good thing. Timed practise is even better because the time limit forces you to focus on the important parts of your drawing and you're practising something specific.
- Timed studies are excellent practise for getting quick enough to draw people in everyday life. Are you sitting in a cozy café with your favourite sketchbook trying to capture the people walking by outside? You won't have more than a few seconds in most cases. Practise 10 second studies at home and that won't be a problem before long.
How to do a timed study:
*Don't infringe on other artists' copyrights! If you're not using your own references, get the appropriate permissions and give credit where credit is due.
- Pick the thing you want to study, i.e. gestures, values, composition etc.
- Search for references*. For gesture studies, sites like Sketchdaily , SenshiStock and Quickposes are great because they not only have lots of poses to draw, they also let you set a time limit for how long each pose is shown! My favourite site is Line of Action - they have a class mode that starts with quicker poses and then eases you into longer ones. For other references, e.g. landscape photos, the DA stock gallery is a good start. Textures I'd recommend drawing from life.
- Choose a time limit. The exact time you give yourself depends on what you want to achieve with the study. For gesture drawings I'd suggest anything up to 2 minutes. If you want to focus more on the anatomy, anything up to 15 minutes. For everything else I'd go with no more than 1 hour. Otherwise you run the danger of getting too lost in detailing.
- Set up your workplace. Open your preferred painting software and create a new canvas, open your references, and set your timer.
- Stop drawing when the time is up. This one is important! It's easy to say "just a few more minutes" and then loose all sense of time and you're still at it two hours later.**
- Rinse and repeat steps 5 and 6 until you're out of reference images. Your first studies might look awkward and/or unfinished, but the more you practise the faster you'll get.
**Remember that drawing something in a limited amount of time is what a timed study is about. If you want to make your study into a full-fledged painting you can always do so later.
- Keyboard shortcuts: Familiarise yourself with the keyboard shortcuts of the drawing software you're using. Configure new/change existing shortcuts if they don't work for you (Example: For changing brush size in Photoshop I'm using "a" and "s" instead of the default "[" and "]")
- Limited brushes: Choose the brush(es) you're using wisely. If you're doing a study with a time limit of 30 minutes or less I'd recommend using only one brush for everything.
- Simplify shapes: Simplify shapes as much as possible, especially when you're doing 30 - 60 seconds studies.
- Brush size: Block in big shapes with a big brush first.
- One layer: Draw/paint on only one layer. We don't have the time to switch between lots of layers.
- Work small: Since you don't need to do a lot of detailing you also don't need a big canvas. Work zoomed out and keep an eye on the navigator to see if what you're drawing works in thumbnail size.
- Pre-made frame templates: For landscape studies, creating templates can save you a lot of time and trouble.
- Pick 1 thing: Pick exactly 1 thing you want to study and stick to that.
- Zoom: Don't zoom in. Zooming in is for detailing, and we're not doing detailing during timed studies. At least not the kind that requires zooming in.
- Lots of brushes: We don't have time for all of our 300 custom brushes, either.
- Detailing: Leave everything that's not the thing you chose above in step 1. alone. If you're doing gestures, focus on the movement of the figure, don't spend too much time on getting the proportions 100% right. If you're doing landscapes, focus on the composition, not on drawing every leaf of grass. If you're doing values you only need to define overall shapes, and so on.
Less is More!
As with everything, timed studies take practise. They will look awkward at first. You'll feel slow at first. But the more you do them the better and quicker you'll get. Have fun with your timed studies!