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Submitted on
November 20, 2011


17,671 (4 today)
68 (who?)

The Pitfalls of Speed Painting

Journal Entry: Sun Nov 20, 2011, 3:48 PM
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!"

Crashed Pod by leventepSpeeeed paint by AndreeWallinScifi city speed 2 by AndreeWallin

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 quickly.

Speedpaint duo no.3 by AndreeWallinquick landscapes by leventepSpeedpainting 01-2007 by Pierrick

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.

SP New-Old-World by ANTIFAN-REALTron legacy End of Line speed by vyle-artSP Off World Refueling by ANTIFAN-REAL

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!

Add a Comment:
mysieblondie Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2013
I found everything you said here helpful. :) But my idea of a "speed painting" was copying a photograph or using life reference, simply for practice. 

In your opinion, do you get more out of doing ten 1 hour studies (speed paints) or one 10 hour study?
LostFallenHero Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2013  Student General Artist
Strange how I've only just found this journal now.
I've only just recently started doing speed painting to see if I can improve a bit in digital painting, but I find it to be incredibly difficult (although that's because I prefer to add in as much detail as I possibly can and not skip out on certain things). I've got the basic gist of perspective and anatomy, but I'm still pretty bad.
I'm more of a traditional artist myself, so digital painting (even with my graphics tablet) is pretty hard for me, but I am learning as I go along.

My question for you is that, because you are a professional at what you do, have you ever done a visual diary using traditional means or digital means to improve? Despite my current knowledge on some of the fundamentals of the art world, I'm still learning a new thing every day that I either take a note of or just add to my sketchbook.

Also, how do you stay motivated when you do your work as I can't seem to stay focused enough when I paint/draw? 
Superbum Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2012  Student General Artist
I think you brought up an important topic of how with digital technology it feels like people are cutting corners; basically building their house on a swamp for a foundation. I brought up this point back in school but unfortunately I was apart of a curriculum that hated people who had traditional potential and loved the ones who had figured out he computer so easily.
Zephyri Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
First ever journal I've favourited. I can't even begin to agree with this enough. There's this misconception that being able to paint fast and without reference is the best way to get noticed, or go pro. But unless you understand what it is you're trying to put into shorthand, effectively, it's always going to be apparent that you don't really know your subject. Only way to really know a subject is to spend time studying it, and getting to know all it's little foibles.

I should write stuff like this more. Consider me inspired!
Rahll Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
:salute: Glad you liked it!
Snazz84 Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I was just discussing this same thing with a friend the other day, really great to hear a professional say the same thing. I'm mostly a 3D modeller, so I look at "speedpaints" and enjoy them for what they are, but there must be a lot of aspiring concept artists out there who think these works of art are being created in less than an hour apiece and wonder why their own work never gets anywhere close. Could be quite demoralising.
TheWiseWeirdProphet Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
never fav'd a journal before, but this one was worth it :) (awesome works aswell btw :) ):+fav:
ZombieSandwich Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2011  Professional Filmographer
Hello Rahll,

I really like your journal, you explained this very well!
Since I got some videos on Youtube, too, I noticed that recordings of your work (which you then speed up) sadly only get clicked when you add "speed painting" to it.
Which is wrong, and it bugs me, too. So I decided to always add to it in the description how/ why it is not a real speedpainting and just something that was "speeded up" with video software.

The misconception has already spread so far that I am really glad people with wellseen profiles like you are taking the time to explain it, so thank you. :)
FisHPastE89 Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2011  Professional Interface Designer
thanks for the explaination, it really helps to put it into perspective
CakeBandit Featured By Owner Nov 27, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
And here I find this JUST after they add the favorite button for journals!
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