The 10,000 hour rule is
not going to apply if
you are practicing
I love painting portraits more than anything else, mainly because of their ability to tell you more about a person. One of the things I like to include is photo-references, and I have a tendency to use these a lot. Popular opinion — or the loudest one anyway — holds that using photographs in a painting is cheating. Moreover, copying is another things that this community frowns upon, but you actually learn a great deal from copying. To tell you the truth, it may well be the fastest way to improve as an artist. My recommendation is to study old master paintings. You will need to be very observant in order to learn how they did it, but you can apply everything you learn here in the future. On a side note, the 10,000 hour rule is not going to apply if you are practicing wrong.
I myself do a lot of scheduling, and even come up with various rules I follow and goals I do my best to achieve. I feel that there is no universal formula for practicing. Everyone needs to put in the time and effort to figure things out on their own. The worst thing you can do is spend time worrying about your personal style — which comes to you naturally — and waiting around to see if you’ll ever get as good as the people you currently look up to. It’s just a matter of time. Why don’t you focus on the present instead of worrying about the future? This allows you to pursue some of the more impressive achievements you would want. Try paying attention to the littlest of things and set small, realistic goals to help you achieve these things. I think that this comes down to your fight against demotivation, and having a set of smaller goals which build up overtime is a good way to motivate yourself. After all, you’re constantly getting closer and closer to whatever it is that you want. Drawing a different gesture every morning is a good example — but it’s all up to you.
There are a great many techniques for portrait painting, and each and every one is different. Maybe you’re spending your time searching for the “best technique” on the Internet. I hate it to break it to you, but there’s no such thing. Instead, you should be focusing on mastering one technique above all. Perhaps you want to draw the line-art and then move on to painting in flat colours. Alternatively, you can make a good start by slamming down one or two big brushstrokes and adding detail later on — this is actually the technique I use right now. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. What is clear is that every artist needs to find a set of techniques and processes that make life easier for them.
The techniques I choose to use are only there because they work for me, so keep that in mind. Firstly, I like to photo-manipulate my reference to get a better idea for the composition. Honestly, there is a massive difference between a photo-manipulated image and the final piece. Sometimes I skip out on the image editing, or maybe I’ll go on ahead without any reference at all. After that, I paint everything blurred and use light values by making larger strokes with a soft brush. Next, I put a lot of effort into detailing before adding the darker values in. I guess it’s comparable to a daguerreotype when its being developed.
Why do I bother with editing my photo-reference? It’s simple. I wouldn’t be able to tell whether it’d make for a good painting when I start painting it from scratch. And once more, you might be asking yourself “Why would he want to paint it again?” right about now. Most people agree that continuing to paint on top of your photo-manipulated reference is the most efficient way to do this, but I disagree. The fact of the matter is that you can’t really achieve that painterly look if you don’t take the time to work in smaller brushstrokes and all of the other happy accidents that tend to happen when you paint. In overview, the understanding this gives you is the payoff because you can make subtle changes without having to be afraid of ruining the entire artwork.
Oftentimes, you’ll find young artists who think that other, more experienced artists, are far better than them. Fortunately, they are ill-informed. The moment you take a good look at one of Caravaggio’s masterpieces, you’ll come to understand that you can reach that level yourself. Of course, there’s technique, inhuman amounts of practice and maybe even something we don’t know about yet. However, the most important thing is that you now know you can attain it. The vast majority of people come up to me and tell me they don’t think they are capable of producing portrait paintings that are as good as my own — but that’s not the right way to think.
My aim is to create visually stunning images, whilst also making each painting better than the last. Maybe you should try thinking like that too.
Article by Irakli Nadar;
Editing: Vox Groovy staff writer;
Upper left: Portrait of Devon Jade;
All images © Original artist or respective copyright holders.