What can you do in 15 minutes? Eat a bowl of cereal? Walk the dog? Go through your mail? Can’t do much though right? It’s interesting that we tend to look at time a bit differently than other things. Take money for example or a pile of dirt. Hold on, dirt? What?… bear with me here. To buy a house or a car most of us have to save a little each month or get a loan and pay it back a little each month. Likewise, moving a pile of dirt is done one shovel full at a time unless we own a bulldozer or have some sort of super power.
Granted, we look for large-ish uninterrupted blocks of time for many things by necessity: movies, road trips, concerts, shopping, etc. But is it always necessary with art? Why don’t we try more often to learn some of our artistic skills in smaller bites. I confess. I over look the potential of this concept all the time. It can be powerful.
“Anyone can be a genius, if they pick just one specific subject and study it diligently just 15 minutes each day.”
I know, you’re saying, “wait a minute Steve, drawings or paintings can take hours or even weeks.” They certainly can, but thats not what we’re talking about here. Forget about completing a finished work of art. The art world is chock full of artists trying to run without learning to walk. Focus instead on mastering a skill, or sub skill or sub, sub skill. You get my point. I think you’d agree there are many art skills worth mastering. Can any of them be studied, practiced and mastered in roughly 15 minutes a day? Absolutely!
Consider two key ideas from Einstein’s statement, “daily” and “specific”. Determine what you’d like to master then what steps or specific skills are needed to do that. The more specific the better. Then do it a little bit each day. If not daily then often.
Still not sure what I mean? Here are some examples. From these come up with some of your own. The point is, take a general goal and break it down to its specifics until you have skills you can practice in a short amount of time.
– Don’t practice drawing and painting the human figure, practice just the head or just the overall shape of the skull or planes of the head or sketching the nose, eye or ear. Practice 1 minute then 5 minute gestural figure drawings or even just diagraming correct figure proportions in stick form. Don’t have a good handle on how to determine proportions? Take 15 minutes to research a method or two for seeing and measuring them.
– Don’t practice painting landscapes, paint or draw a tree, or a tree branch or a foliage canopy. Draw a rock or a patch of grass. Paint a simple sky. Do a landscape thumbnail or three.
– Practice watercolor water control. Work on painting any value from darkest to lightest and getting the correct water and paint ratio on demand. Practice blends until you can do them in your sleep.
Other ideas could include things like:
- Shading simple shapes
- Rotating a box in 3d perspective
- Researching a term or technique you’re not familiar with like core shadows or painting in dry brush.
- Creating various values with ink or line hatching
- Improving your large gradient washes
- Studying scale in landscape
- Analyzing a composition
- Rendering cloth folds
- Finding a color’s complement.
- Tracing a subject to study its proportions
- Prepping for your next 15 minute session
Drill down into your skillset until you get to the foundational weaknesses you need to work on most. Don’t forget, its 15 minutes (or so) we’re talking about. But don’t step over those minutes looking for hours. I’ll warn you though, there is often a time-warp side effect. The more you learn and discover the more you want to. Don’t be surprised if on occasion 15 minutes turns into an hour…or two.