I’ve been one of those people who watch hundreds of tutorials every month and feel like they’ve made a lot of progress. Fact is : I didn’t. I wasted time and I missed out on a lot of value.
Sure, I got a lot of theoretical knowledge and comprehension of different aspects of my craft, but I only got half of the value from each tutorial. And not the better half.
When watching tutorials, you get the feeling that the knowledge newly acquired will eventually rush back as soon as you need it. That often doesn’t happen. When facing the blank canvas, our brain doesn’t go to this library of never experienced ideas. It goes straight to what it’s already used to do. This is the way it is working most of the time and that doesn’t serve your artistic growth. That doesn’t contribute to the birth of your personal style.
In order to get the full value of a tutorial, here is what I consistently do now :
1. Watch the tutorial once.
2. Try to reproduce exactly what has been done or simply apply the technique as closely as presented. The point here is to actually do it in order to be sure that you actually get the right tools to be able to use them for other purposes. Some tutorials require specific Photoshop brushes or textures, even sometimes specific software or actual pens or types of paper. Be sure these tools are at your disposal, ready for use.
3. The next step is to just sleep on it. You can’t acquire complex techniques or methods in one day, even if you spend 12 hours working on them. Our brain works a lot at night : it sorts out all the information gathered during the day and decides what is worth keeping. Use that function. By sleeping on it, you’ll forget about the useless details and only keep in mind the important parts of the process.
4. The next day, try to apply the technique by memory. Force yourself to complete a piece without checking the tutorial or the artists’ style. What will happen is you will need to fill in the memory gaps with your own knowledge and techniques. And this will usually create something fresh, something new, that is not just some copying. You will make emerge something that suits your personal style better.
Now you just have to explore the new path you just created.
It is actually much more work than just watching a video and spending a few minutes playing with pencils. It’s worth the investment. When you really get the essence of what makes a tutorial valuable and get to mastering it, you don’t need to watch the dozens of other videos on the Internet that will explain the same process. With time, you’ll watch less and less tutorials and limit yourself to those which really bring real value to your artistic growth.
This method is only the one I built gathering other artists’ processes on the Internet, but if you’ve got your own, I’d be delighted to hear about it. I just shared my method with you, feel free to do the same !