Isaiah writes: I find myself able to make pretty impressive (in my view) drawings and paintings at a small scale done fairly quickly. I’ve got a good grasp of composition, contrast, blablabla. What I have trouble with is transitioning from a solid base drawing (at large scale), to a fully finished/realistic piece.
I can draw a very accurate under drawing and understand the shapes involved, do a ‘speed paint’ version of coloring/painting on top, but always have trouble getting from that point to a high-level finished product.
The real question:
Any tips on going from a basic quick painting/drawing to a highly refined finished drawing?


jesseThis is a great question and one with a really simple answer. Patience and time. Uggg…to simple!! Well let me explain. About 10 years ago I was doing a lot of graphite drawings that looked like this Italian Greyhound to the left. This was an 8×10 but I always gave myself about an hour to finish something this size. Usually less. I seemed to have this idea in my head that an hour is what this should take and that was how long I was going to spend.

One day I was looking around at other artist’s websites. I came across a lady who did portraits in pastels. They looked like photographs. NEVER had I done a graphite piece that looked like a photo. I was inspired and confused about why hers looked SO much better than mine did. After a bit of contemplating I realized there was no reason mine couldn’t look that way, but I needed to spend more time on them!  I could draw, that wasn’t the problem, but I wasn’t moving beyond the rushing stage of my work.







cinnamon1While this next piece I’m showing you was from 2 years later, I can assure you that my graphite work was not improving. I just stayed at the level my work was in 2006. It wasn’t that I lacked the skill it was that I lacked the patience. I was rushing my work. So I decided to spend 8 hours on my next piece and you can see the difference here.

Being able to really see side by side what a difference more time would make in my work, I started working slower on all of my drawings. This meant I had to raise my prices of course, but it was worth it! On a funny side note, this specific drawing was commissioned by someone for $65. SIXTY FIVE DOLLARS for an original drawing…yeah that is insane. No one can make a living off of that. Anyway, she never paid for it. Months would go by and she would have another reason she couldn’t pay. I learned a very important lesson. TAKE DEPOSITS FOR EVERYTHING! Don’t go by your gut feeling that someone is going to pay you before you start a piece. Don’t be so excited to get a commission that you make poor business choices that hurt you in the end. I’m glad I got to keep this one though because it ended up in a local animal hospital where it made me more money off of commissions than I would have made selling it for $65.

The point is, look at those two, you would never even guess they were drawn by the same artist. The only change was to decide to spend a LOT longer working on each piece of art.

One thing that I do to get myself to spend longer sitting still and working on one piece is to listen to audio books. For me it helps to get lost in another world while I work so I don’t get bored and start calling things finished too soon.