Have you ever seen art that is super detailed, gorgeously rendered, but for some reason, something about it just looks…off?
Well, that’s probably because somewhere underneath all that glamorous detailing, something IS off.
Usually that “something” is the proportions, but it could also be perspective, composition, lighting, or even the base color usage in an image.
I get it. The initial construction phases of a drawing are boring and tedious, and it’s easy to just say, “eh, it’s good enough,” and rush to the detail stage.
And I mean, rendering, adding fancy highlights and color variations can definitely work to distract the viewer from your mistakes. The viewer may “ooh” and “ahh” at the gorgeous effect they see in front of them…but ultimately, they won’t be completely convinced. Because something is off.
Let me give an example. Let’s say you’re trying to draw a frog sitting on top of a woman’s head.
You draw the woman, then you draw the frog. But one of the frog’s legs is drawn too long, so you’ve curled the foot around so that it’s clinging to the side of the woman’s head. The frog now has three legs on top of the woman’s head, as intended, and one that’s just…weirdly wrapping itself around.
In fact, if there was a real frog in the position you’ve drawn it, it’d be slipping off her head.
It’s a small mistake.
It shouldn’t matter, right? You don’t really want to go search up a photo of a frog on a woman’s head to make things accurate, and this is “probably” good enough.
So you just keep on painting.
You add colors, then shadows, lighting, details, and fun color adjustments. The finished piece is gorgeous. It’s eye-catching, it’s whimsical, it’s…perfect.
But then you look at it.
And that foot just keeps catching your eye.
It’s just a small, tiny, little, insignificant foot. It’s barely a few brushstrokes on the canvas. But now that you’re looking, you realize that it’s not just the foot— it’s the leg that it’s attached to, it’s the positioning of the frog’s shoulder, it’s—
You realize, that this will not do.
And now, instead of just erasing a few sketch lines, you have to redo an entire section of a painting.
And as we all know, it’s much harder to go back once the mistake has been made. Just like telling a lie, you can try to cover it up, but once the lie has been told, it’s been told. And you never know when it’s going to rear its ugly head again.
….Moral of the story?
Rushing into the details is a bad habit.
It will hold your artwork back.
You’ll end up relying on little tricks to make your artwork look better (add some little sparkles here, just change the colors there), instead of tackling the issue at its core.
Instead, take your time. Especially at the beginning.
After you’ve finished the rough sketch, take a step back. Scrutinize that sketch as if that was your finished painting.
Is that left eye too high up? Does your character look like they might fall over? Does the sleeve of that dress fold in the right places? Does your background overshadow your character? Is that mountain in the background way too small? Does your perspective look good?
Once you’ve identified and fixed any fundamental mistakes to the best of your ability, then, you can move on, knowing that this is the best base you could possibly start off with.
You know what those photo-editors say? Garbage in, garbage out.
No matter what magic filters you apply to that photo, if it was originally garbage, you just get glorified garbage in the end.
Sure, they might be talking about low-resolution photos and photoshop, but the same applies to art.
The crazy thing is: you have the power to turn your own “garbage” into a masterpiece. Just don’t rush it.
I still find myself rushing my pieces all the time. I’m somebody who hates the notion of wasting my time. I want to be running at maximum efficiency, 24/7.
I still have to physically stop, and remind myself that sacrificing time for quality just isn’t worth it.
We’re all just trying to be better artists out here :)
Hope this helped! Please reach out via comments, email, or Instagram if you have any other questions or comments. Looking forward to chatting with you all!
- elissa :)