I've been meaning to write about this for a while now, but recently a video popped on up Ctrl+Paint
about the same topic and it encouraged me to finally talk about it. It's a practice that's been misconstrued and misunderstood for a while now, so I wanted to help people get a proper understanding on the subject.
Speed painting has been something of a fad for 4 or 5 years now, even back when I was first starting digital work. Like many artists out there, I thought, "Sweet, I can do really cool work, really fast!" And like many artists out there, in the back of my head I was probably thinking, "This is easier than learning the normal way!"
Well, here's the main problem in regards to speed painting. Any of those really cool, realistic and well done speed paintings you see are done by professionals who have been painting for years and years. These are people who learned their fundamentals the long, hard way. Things like perspective, color, lighting, anatomy, etc. Using a perspective grid transformation trick isn't much good unless you understand how perspective actually works.
These pros have a solid grasp of those fundamental concepts, and from years of practice have the ability to paint quickly while adhering to them. In essence, speed comes with skill and knowledge, not the other way around. Speeding through paintings will not increase your skill, nor your knowledge because you'll never fully understand why any of it works the way it does.
Perpetuating the misconceptions are "speed painting" videos you YouTube, where a really awesome painting is shown being made, and the thing is sped up to last 5 minutes, the duration of a song they put to it. What they often don't mention (or do sometimes, if you look in the description), is that the painting took 25 hours, not 45 minutes.
Obviously that's not a speed painting at all. Many of my fully finished works take between 15-25 hours, I'm just not speeding them up for YouTube and putting the wrong label on it. It's a painting shown quickly, not one done
Another thing that many people don't understand is that speed painting is most often a means to an end. In other words, in a production pipeline on a movie or game, concepts very often need to be done super fast, where someone doesn't have 15 hours to spend on a concept. This forces them to use their artistic knowledge to get the gist of an idea down in as little time and as few strokes as possible.
Many people think that doing a speed painting means working as fast as your arm will let you, and putting down really quick, rough strokes, but that's not it at all. In order to do a good job, an artist has to make a lot of smart choices and make deliberate strokes to convey what they need to. It can often be a trial and error process, even for pros, but they know how to utilize that experimentation properly. Hell, I don't even bother with speed paintings anymore because I don't feel I'm up to that level of understanding yet.
There are a lot of fantastic artists out there that can do great speed paintings, but if you take a closer look, you'll see that the best and most successful speed paintings are done by artists who can also draw and paint the 'normal' way as well. These are people who didn't set out to do speed paintings, they are people who gained the ability to do them through hard work and practice.
There's nothing wrong with speed painting, I think it's a fantastic means to get an idea onto the canvas. Concerning oneself primarily with light and shapes as opposed to small details can be very important and artistically rewarding. It's just that it's easy to get the wrong idea about what it is, why it's done, and when it's a good idea to do it.
I don't want to deter anyone from trying speed painting if they're curious, but if you're going to pursue that, make sure you spend some time really learning those fundamentals. Take some time on your paintings, have a little patience, and you'll see the quality of your work increase pretty substantially over time.
I wish you all the best of luck with your work, and if you have any questions about the subject, feel free to ask me and I'll do my best to answer. Take care!