Concessions Of A Serious Artist

Speedpainting done in around 1 hour
Let me explain that the title is meant to be ironic, but true at the same time.

It takes many big hits to prove that you are serious, but one big mistake to make people think of you as a fool.

It is really not that hard to avoid the latter...

Actually the title had to be:"Concessions of a former photomanipulator who switched to digital painting and is now happier than ever before."...too long, I know, hence the other one.

Before I start this in-depth contemplation, I´d like to put that quote on here, which I find perfectly fitting:

The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you're an artist.
David Hockney

Think about that one for a minute!

I don´t encourage anyone to fake anything, especially when it comes to digital art, but if you are serious about being an artist you HAVE TO find a way to make things work for you.

Effectively this means that if you can´t do painting really good, find a way to make your photographs look painterly with textures or something else. The key is to know what you want and to go for it, no matter if you ever know how to achieve it. Persistence will lead the way, actively listening to feedback will adjust your path.

Commissions are a different subject, as long as you do work for yourself in your spare time. But in the moment people ask you to repeat your success it will become definitely harder to achieve your goals if your process is too complicated. Experimental techniques can lead to quite unique results and awesome effects, but in the commercial world they have little to no value, if you don´t find a demand and a technique to sell your secrets.

I found this out the hard way.

The fear of failure

When making my first contact with the computer I was infinitely in love with the works of Dave McKean and wanted to become an illustrator and develop a technique as good as his works. So with a lot investigation and research I found that he used mixed media exactly as I do but also much photo manipulations.

It took a long time to find a way to take pictures or find useful stock images to get similar results, looking back to that time I remember that I also wanted to get better with the tablet and with digital painting in general.

Now I know this process was just out of pure fear of failure, working on an existing piece just meant that I can not fail too much.

Additionally focusing on the manipulation aspect and very little time kept it harder to make good progress in that new area but with that shift I learned to fake the direction I wanted to go with manipulation.

But it took even longer to realize that with speed-painting techniques and concept art approaches my workflow would become faster and better, but most important I´ve got more freedom now.

The liberating truth

As an artist we embrace to be free but as soon as we find ourselves tied to a specific technique, our abilities are limited! Adding artistic value to about any given technique is the ability of just a few. Most commonly because many artist think their success comes through their skillful technique and not their ability, what a shame.

The path could have been so much easier if I knew that all a long time ago, but in the end I believe the knowledge that I have gathered in photo manipulation, traditional painting, photography and sculpting, shaped a better understanding of how things work today.

While preparing example works (like the one on top) for a concept-art workshop that is scheduled for August, I find that speed-painting is a technique that is quite beneficial to any artist. Not that faster means better, and not better by any technical means. But when your self-assigned time becomes more valuable, especially when you are working freelance, it feels better to paint 3-4 paintings a day that have a sketchy unfinished look ( people tend to really like this too) instead of working months on one single "perfectly rendered" piece.

Overcoming obstacles 

I don´t want to sell speed paintings as a solution to everything, just like to explain my observation as illustrator and artist on how this fascinating technique helped me to get better results and to be more productive.

As a result, I think that overcoming obstacles is the most challenging task every artist has to face, not in terms of just a technique, but to accept every responsibility that comes with being an artist.

Drawing or painting from chaos to concrete shapes is a huge step and in the beginning it is frustrating, but you have to keep trying. "Draw or die" should be written on your walls during this the end you´ll notice, it is such a bliss it is not only a time saver, it is liberating the approach to art again.

If you are used to the technique it feels really like painting from memory and imagination, it comes from within!

Below is a video from Feng Zhu regarding these fundamental techniques and how to achieve great results out of a mess. I think that it takes a lot of time and dedication to train the imagination, but I know that speed painting and persistence is the way that leads to such results:

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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. I love this article - more people use these techniques in the professional field than people realize.

    Esp photos dropped straight into concept art - clouds, rocks, textures and grasses. Too long to paint.

    1. Thanks for the comment, glad you like!
      More and more I find the idea of custom brushes to replace these photographs liberating too, and sometimes it takes just a little change to the settings.



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