Hours spent drawing....

Home Forums Shop talk Hours spent drawing....

This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Sanne 2 weeks ago.

  • Subscribe Favorite
  • #31815

    I hit my 300 hours spent drawing on this site today. I also checked my old account on quickposes.com, where I have 13 days, 20 hours, which should be 332 hours total if my math doesn't fail me. I went through the drawabox tutorial for the first 5 lessons, including all the challenges, and worked through a Figure drawing course by proko. That should be at least 200 more hours on total. The I spent quite some time "urban sketching", but it is a bit hard to divvy up, how much of that time was spent wandering around, and how much I actually had my pen hit paper, but I'll take 100 hours for that.

    So, probably I spent 1000+ hours drawing in the last 5 or so years. There is this urban myth, that it will take 10.000 hours to achieve mastery. At my current pace, that would take until the year 2060, and I'll probably run into natural decay of my mortal shell by then, as I would be close to 90 years old.

    If I could increase my time spent drawing to an average of 3 hours a day, I could get there in mere 10 years. If I matched 6 hours a day, it would be less than 5 years. But at the moment I barely manage to do 3 hours a day under ideal conditions, on my days off, when I am in productive mood, and nothing distracts me, on so many other days I barely manage to get to the end of a 30 minutes class.

    Then I look at my account on World of Tanks, a game that I quit, because of the toxic community, and I had 15.000 games on it. With an average of maybe 10 minutes per game, that's already 2500 hours of my life wasted there, and I am not even good at that game. And WoT isn't the only game, that is tempting me, and let's not talk about all the hours just staring at you-tube videos with glazed eyes.

    What makes it so hard to spend time on improving myself, instead of consuming entertainment?

    Get more practice photos

    Support us to remove this


    Hey Aunt,

    i feel you. Been struggling with the same issue for a long time.

    I used to be an avid gamer as well (still play from time to time but my graphics card is shit, which acts like a welcome inhibitor). Used to have an insane gamer score on xbox and was always good at just grinding – xp, gear or another made-up value – make number go up.

    I also have been drawing all my life but only started to take it seriously during the last 5 years. Did the draw-a-box as well. Figure/gesture drawing. I am almost through the proko anatomy course which I never thought possible – knowing what an extensor carpi ulnaris is and starting to be sort of OK at hand drawing... fucking amazing. Still very far from any kind of mastery, though.

    That said, I always felt, deep within, that the act of drawing/painting/practicing tapped into a similar mindset as grinding or for that matter even 'just playing' a video-game, which I didn't even enjoy some of the time but did anyways and quite effectively for that matter. After years of practive I am starting to be able to use that energy for drawing as well. Don't get me wrong, that's like one in ten times but I am starting to get better at it.

    There were two factors that made it possible for me:

    Psychological weight: I (as I guess many other unfortunate souls in our society) have always used 'performance' as a sorry substitute for naturally inherent self-worth. I had to be good at everything and even if I won by a mile I would barely feel OK for a short time. Never there, never OK, never satisfied. Numbers lend themselves very well to satisify this addiction, hence the whole video game thing, but also 'how long did you draw', 'how long is everybody else drawing' and even worse: how 'good' are you at drawing. Drawing 'realistically' (which strangely is the measure most people – especially laymen – use to determine the quality of a picture) is a very difficult thing to learn as it just takes a long time, but you know that. For me the hardest thing was to deal with the ever occuring failure as it implied not just a shit drawing but a shit me. Every picture I made – no matter how small - had to be perfect, presentable, impressing to other people. Working under this pressure of course was unsustainable for any longer stretch of time. I sometimes had to quit after literally seconds.

    How did I overcome this? Drawing for the trash can. Get the cheapest paper you can find. I used A3 copy paper. Ideally use an unerasable pen or just don't erase any lines. Then do your studies and literally throw away all you draw, no matter how nice it came out. Focus on the process (as in state of mind, state of emotions) as the practice goal, not the drawings. If you have to adjust an obvious mistake, repeat the pose (or whatever you draw) from scratch. Do not adjust anything you already did. This practice lowered the 'value' of the indivudual sketch from self-worth-defining ordeal, to a random skribble and lowered the voice that would scream in my head to a level, that I could stand for longer than 5 minutes – and I went from there.

    The other factor is a lot less spectacular but a strong one nonetheless: Keep your dopamine in check. Gaming, porn but even worse social media and youtube (my worst vice) are made to bombard your brain with dopamine. Your mind becomes a five year old only child, juiced up on sugar and narcissism. Of course you won't be able to concentrate on a pristine and mindful task as crafting a picture for hours on end or studying anatomy and the like. Detox. Be bored. Go for a walk without your mobile phone and without music. Just sit there. Anywhere. Just be. Make time and space for 'nothingness'. This really feels like shit initially but worked wonders for me.

    All of this said: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Be kind to yourself, man. You should be very proud of what you have achieved. You have already proven you can do it, for sticking with it for this long. Just keep going. Be patient and enjoy the ride.


    Yeah, thanks for the reply. I know the drawing for the trash can idea. I got the special perk, that my hoarder syndrome kicks in in regards to my drawings, so I can report that I can add all the stacks of Din A4 paper in my room to about a total of 1 meter in height, plus another stack of about 30 cms of Din A3. Functionally it is the same though, as I am pretty certain, that all those papers will stay untouched until the day either I or someone else decides it's time to move them to the next recycling station.

    I mean, for me trying to be honest with myself will always have to include being ready to be critical with my actions. And if I purposefully look critical at my drawing habit, I can see a lot of at least ridiculous aspects. Purposefully devoting hours per day to staring at a screen and scribbling on paper isn't exactly a fulfilling way to satisfy social needs. It might be well a classical symptom of an avoidant personally type. Dreaming about ever "mastering" the craft and being recognized for it is pretty clearly a grandiose narcissist phantasy.

    But then, all critic is incomplete without considering the alternatives, and well... I realized about a decade ago, that I am definitely an addictive personality. Joined Narcotics Anonymous, quit the drugs,... except coffeine and nicotine and industrially processed sugar and electronic media,... well, I at least quit alcohol and the illegal stuff. But then I realized, that when I am sober, I just don't enjoy being around other people. It's not a problem of social skills, I work as ambulant nurse, and have to manage a whole lot of drama on my shifts, and from the feedback of my patients and co-workers, I am fairly competent at it. Just, given the choice, I prefer not to.

    According to NA dogma, addiction is ultimately caused by the God sized hole in ourselves, that wants to be filled. The same idea from a more philosophical point of view, with a distinctive atheist and existencialist bent, our behavioral instincts are bound to function according to a purpose. Just that there is no objective "purpose" to be found in the material world, and we are both free and damned to make up our own. (shoutout to Sartre, R.I.P.)

    So, art, drawing.... why not? The dream of achieving mastery may be grandiose, and the chance to ever succeeding in my lifetime may be small, but it's probably still a better chance than in buying a lottery ticket every month, and defintely cheaper.

    Let's go beyond asking the question why gaming is more seductive than practicing drawing skills as a rhetorical device, and try to set maximizing time spent drawing as axiomatic goal, that shall no longer be questioned.

    Is the frustration of failing our artistic goal for a drawing the problematic part? Frustration is definitely a constant companion while honing our skills, maybe an inevitability, that can never be overcome. But then, ruining a good drawing with a few mismeasured lines is defintely a lot less embarrassing than piloting the highest tier heavy tank in a World of Tanks match, and getting booed by the whole team for being sniped in the first minute without even connecting a single shot myself, and that amount of shame did not stop me to continue tanking.

    I know, that I am also capable of working a total of 24 hours of shift in 48 hours time, and between proccessing Hamburg's heavy car traffic, and switching on the fly to soothe all the minor and major ailments my patients struggle with, that certainly also generates a whole lot of frustration.

    I think the difference between that and drawing, is the little sibling of the big allmighty purpose, the small and actual task at hand. Whether in gaming or in working shifts, there is always a clear task for the next minute, and the next and the next. I might fail at the task, I might even misunderstand the task, but I never have the urgency to come up with a new task on the spot, as I always feel certain what the task is.

    In art, there is always a million possible tasks to chose from. Do I simplify the pose, mannequinize, box in the perspective, measure precisely or exaggerate in big lines, is it time to define more landmarks to get the big proportions correct or is it better to just eyeball the proprtions directly and fill in the details later? Sometimes, all too rarely, I get in the flow, and the task at hand becomes so clear, as if the reference just dictated it.

    I think at least for me the next step in maximizing my time spent drawing is understanding the process of setting tasks while drawing better.

    Well, next actual task for me, my late shift is about to start in an hour and a half, and I definitely have to get in a power nap before that.

    While I don't enjoy spending time with people, I do enjoy trying to formulate elaborate thoughts in writing, and I also enjoy reading other people's thoughts on a subject, so, maybe this thread will grow even longer, either from more ideas from myself, or from other people chiming in with their thoughts.


    Hey Aunt,

    hope you got through your late shift alright.

    you're bringing up a lot of different subjects, albeit really deep ones, so I'm focussing on the drawing related ones to stick to the forum topic.

    I agree with the addiction as a cover-up thing, though. Also, giving too much space and time to the mind to figure out a why, a what and then judging all the time is the biggest cock blocker of humankind, tainting literally everything. I found adressing it at this basic level (mind = self-absorbed radio of doom) the only way to get it under control. Don't negotiate with (grandiose) terrorists.

    I find time-spend-drawing a really nonsensical measure for quality of practice. Similar to time-spent-cooking-a-meal it says next to nothing about how good it is. There is a minimum viable timeframe (literally like 5 minutes) but 10 minutes of focussed anatomy study go further than 5 hours of mindless scribble or even worse, repeating mistakes over and over.

    Your idea of lack-of-clear-goals is quite interesting. It made me think: the tasks you propose all focus on direct technical aspects of a piece (proportions, perspective etc) and not on a purpose beyond that (like conveying a mood, message or anything else that you would want to be invoked in the viewer). The other half of the dichotomy of great art (as opposed to skill) is the expression, the artist's voice. One might even argue it is much more important than craftsmanship. Maybe focus on having fun and going nuts instead of just counting the time grinding poses. Get out of the comfort zone.


    Yes, the shift went great, as in "I don't remember a lot". It was weekend, though, so had I had two shifts a day the next day, too, and was quite sleep deprived and left in a bit of a manic mood, when I first read your reply. A state of being which is actually quite helpful to get the shifts done, and process long lists of clearly predefined tasks, but isn't a good mindset for a serious conversation, as the grandiose terrorist in my head will be all in control and constantly running off on tangents, that will be quite confusing to everybody. As I would love to keep the conversation going instead of scaring you and any potential reader away, I decided to postpone my answer until I could catch up on a bit of sleep and mellow down a bit.

    My theory so far, given that spending a lot of time drawing be unquestionably a good thing.

    I observe that I have a hard time drawing for more than a very limited time per day, while I don't seem to have the same problem spending time on other tasks. Also, obviously people exist, that are able to focus for hours every day on drawing without suffering from my issues, namely including pretty much everybody, who can actually be called a professional artist to some extent.

    So a prime curiosity for me is, what is the critical difference between those tasks? Why do I feel too tired and confused to continue drawing, let alone upkeep an amount of focus that is necessary for quality in one case, while I can pretty much partmentalize and ignore exhaustion in a structured work environment, or even anticipate at least a promise of relaxation and relief when it comes to computer games? If demand avoidance plays a role (which it likely does), why does it trigger in one case, when I try to execute self chosen, creative, highly autonomous tasks, but not in the other case, when I just unquestioningly process taks, that are almost completely externally determined, either by my job description or a game designer?

    What is the actually exhausting part of drawing, and can I change something about it, so it stops being exhausting? Does both working shifts and killing pixel tanks provide extra incentives to overcome that exhaustion, that I am missing out on in designing my creative tasks?

    I love your suggestions to look for greater purpose, self expression and fun, as they are very naturally appearing and intuitive. I just don't think they can really work, as they all rely in a hidden way on outside circumstances.

    Let's start with fun, inspiration, joy. Great to have them, but what do you do, if you don't "feel" them? Take a break, hope for them to reappear on their own term, divert to some other task to provide you with the "fun" you need to execute your art? Pharmacological enhancement, family therapy or spiritual exercises to get back in touch with your "real self"? All of them have one thing in common, they pretty much focus on NOT drawing.

    What about finding the fun in work itself, from getting into the flow?

    Yes, but experience shows, that work flow does not start with having fun, it starts with working, whether you feel like it or not, trusting the process, and then experiencing how the process succeeds. You don't go from fun to success, the direction has to be from process, then success, to fun, or everything bogs down and you just end up in stagnation and frustration, and in a consumer mindset, that will at some point put you in the situation to pay for all the outside input that you need to consume. Needing carrots to keep going always has the drawback, that carrots aren't free.

    Self expression is a term often associated with art. There is that behavioristic explanation, that we were born as completely helpless infants, and the first vital skill we have to hone is to garner other people's attention to our needs. In extrapolation artists are mere crybabys, that can't stop investing immense effort into getting seen? I see that as a flawed diagnosis. That is what narcissism is about, not art. And while being an artist and a narcissist certainly aren't mutually exclusive, they just aren't exactly the same either.

    The difference between a mere narcissist and a functional artist is, that while the narcissist sees themselves as the sole important center of the universe, the artist is keenly aware of the competition. All of them. 8 billion living people, who want to express themselves, about as many or a few more deceased persons (I am not so sure how the exponential math works out on that) and a hard to estimate amount of people yet to be born before the heat death of the universe. That's a lot of crybabies, and that makes infant cries ultimately mindnumbingly annoying and boring, unless you have already an emotional bond to the specific child in question.

    I think skill in art is far more important, and I will introduce an example from a youtube video. Just a person, stacking empty plastic cups to a pyramid. But they do it incredibly quickly. Objectively an incredibly useless skill, and it doesn't really express a lot of personality, as all speed stackers share pretty much the same range of motion, at least as far as an outside viewer could discern. But if you see a speed stacker for the very first time, you still can't look away. Because it seems so highly implausible, that a human being could do it at that speed. The feeling for the unsuspecting observer is pure awe. The very emotion, that Augustinus starts his proof of divinity with, the perception of an existence beyond your own finite scale. It looks inhuman, supernatural at first glance.

    And I do postulate, that everybody that has even a fleeting interest in art has had that exact feeling of awe when looking at someone else's masterpiece. Michelangelo's David? No effing way a human being could turn a slab of rock into THAT!

    Art at its core isn't about trivial Freudian goals of impregnating the old lady that once gave birth to you, or killing the old chap, that broke his back paying your bills. Art is about killing God and impregnating the universe, and that is not a quantitative shift but a whole different quality. Art is not about expressing boring old "self", but about transcending it. It is also a scam, because no artist ever truely became more than human, but boy o boy, are master artists adept at pretending.

    Now, I admit, this is an extreme take. Do you want to kill God, just because you crotchet a particularly nice blanket for your loved one? And my answer is still. kind of yes, the difference is only in the scale of peers you take into account. If your interest is limited to impressing a tiny group of people, that already know you, then breaking their current expectance of you is fully sufficient to produce that feeling of awe. "I would have never thought they could do that, I certainly can't" But the temptation of art keeps scaling. People adjust their expectations, and you have to up the game to keep impressing them, and even if you have a particularly complacent group, that has already accepted, that you regularly display some superhuman abilities, then you yourself will get bored with your audience and look for a more demanding one. In extrapolation it will always become grandiose, as there is never a boundary that will tell an artist, that they succeeded and can rest now.

    Self expression without skill isn't art. It's just boring and inflationary. Some audiences got confused by 20th century avantgardists, who apparently suceeded with "naive unskilled" expression, but they never truely abandoned the measure stick "skill", they just discovered a whole new set of skills to explore, and to flabbergast people with.

    Phew, I must point out, that these are my thoughts, when I am not in a manic episode, so once more the reason why I took a bit time to mellow out, before I answered. I am still afraid it might scare people away from reading through my rants.

    Now, to the third part of your answer, overarching purpose versus specific technical exercises, and for my explanation why I currently prefer focusing on one over the other I have to mount down from that mountain of grandiosity and return to the very practical lowlands of having that pen in your hand, that reference and paper in front of you, and suddenly feeling far too tired or distracted to proceed.

    I still don't completely understand, why and how that exactly happens. I haven't got a working theory yet, just observations from experience.

    I know, I can work all day, because I do not keep reflecting about the general purpose of my work. Paying the bills is axiomatic. Following the bounds of my job description as I am contractually obligated. All the tasks that derive from those axioms follow automatically, to quote Kraftwerk: "We are the robots". Exhaustion, tiredness, distraction may occur, but ignoring them is just one more skill I acquired during my professional training.

    I can certainly waste incredible amounts of times in video games, and again, the question of purpose is almost completely excluded. Achieving that digital badge, completing that arbitrary collection, earning bragging rights before a group of people, that I will never see in person, and going from the way they interact on the internet probably would neither like nor respect as persons? How is that important? But as long as I can keep ignoring the question of purpose, I can tirelessly perform the mentally quite demanding tasks that are required to get high scores or special titles.

    So, yes, you are absolutely right, that the answer I am looking for must be somewhere in the dichotomy between task and purpose. Just, purpose doesn't seem to be the solution, apparently it is the main problem.

    As long as I succeed in ignoring all doubts about purpose, I can turn into a highly productive automaton, find my salvation by immersing in the process, be autonomus from outside demands, transcend the banality of my biography and neurological setup, leave the grandiose terrorist inside my head happily in charge of operation.

    Until doubts about purpose emerge, and leave me staring blankly at the equally blank page in front of me. I don't like that. How can I overcome it once and forever?


    I've not had the capacity to read through everything, but a few things in your last post stood out to me.

    You're able to complete tasks that have external motivators with immediate consequences if left undone attached to them even when bone deep exhausted. You're unable to complete tasks that require internal motivators without immediate consequences if left undone.

    This is in most cases an issue with the reward system in the brain. Drawing has no immediate reward when you're practicing to improve your skills. Completing a task that has external motivators because your job requires it from you so you can pay your bills is an immediate necessity, so much so that you can push through extreme exhaustion to get things done. If you don't do it then you'll have to deal with repercussions in the very short term.

    But art? Art has no repercussions. You have no punishment or negative outcome if you don't practice. Nothing happens. And that's where, when you're already dealing with what sounds like limited capacity, the lack of being motivated to draw comes in.

    This is something that is extremely prevalent in neurodivergence. We see it in autism and ADHD, but also with anxiety and depression, and other neurological divergences. There's an inability to self-motivate because the task we're looking to self-motivate for has no short term consequence attached that is enforced externally. This is why we can game for hours (games typically provide a continuous stream of rewards for our brains) but we can't get ourselves to spend even 20 minutes on a drawing.

    So maybe your solution lies in creating external motivators and consequences that you don't get to ignore if you don't practice your art? If this is something you are willing to pursue seriously, it's worth looking into what's possible for your circumstances. Ask friends and/or relatives for help if need be, have someone be an accountability buddy of sorts, make the consequences short-term and tangible.

    If I'm entirely off the mark or forgot a detail about you that contradicts what I'm saying, I apologize. I'm also not trying to put any kind of label on you, I'm just using examples. It just stood out to me that you keep talking about external and internal motivation at the core a few times and wanted to give my thoughts on it. :)

Login or create an account to participate on the forums.