• February 7, 2021
  • Dirk Hooper
  • 0
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Artwork and photo of and by Dirk Hooper

Athletes, musicians, and dancers warm-up before the big show. Artists can benefit from warming up just like everyone else.

The routine act of spending a short period of time warming up before doing a serious activity can pay off in numerous ways.

Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.
– Leonardo da Vinci

Yesterday I spent an hour penciling and inking a piece featuring the character Baby Yoda for the purposes of warming up. It’d been a week since I had produced a completed piece and I had another big project in front of me and wanted to knock off the rust.

As I began the Baby Yoda piece I noticed that I started about three or four times before I got the linework that I was looking for and it took me about 30 minutes into the hour warm-up before I felt very confident about my linework and about what I was doing.

I got lost in the moment, which was the entire point.

For an artist, or writer, or anyone who practices creative activities, doing an inconsequential piece prior to doing a major work can put you in the right state of mind, can bring confidence to your work, make you more creative, and maybe most importantly, can be a hell of a lot of fun.

When you’re doing any creative endeavor regularly, and posting it and publishing it, you can lose something that is very fundamental to the creative process… which is simply to have fun.

Warming up allows you to have that fun so that when it counts you’re ready to reach for the stars.

Here are some things to consider when you’re doing warm-up exercises.


The purpose of the warm-up is not to be a completed piece, it’s just meant to knock off the rust. If your warm-ups are taking hours out of productive time then it completely goes against the purpose.

Your warm-up exercises should be a small fraction of your production time. If it ends up taking the bulk of your production time than you’re doing it wrong.

Do something quick and then move on to the important stuff.

Practice versus warm-up

Yes, you can absolutely choose something that is going to be challenging during your warm-up and I do that all the time, but warm-ups are not supposed to be frustrating.

Practice time has a different focus than warm-ups. I’ve spent whole days practicing on something that I knew I would have to be proficient with because of an upcoming project.

Doing anatomy studies before doing sequential art is a perfect example of that. But what I was doing during that period was not warming up. I was trying to teach myself how to render anatomy quickly, efficiently, and accurately. Typically, practice is not a lot of fun and it can take days or weeks of hard work to get you there.

Conversely, warming up should be quick, fun, and completely inconsequential to anything else that you’re going to do, otherwise, it works against the purpose, which is to put you in the right state of mind and to get you ready for something much more important.

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Art by Dirk Hooper

You don’t have to share it

I recently did a piece of Tom Holland as Spider-Man as a warm-up. I consciously chose to heighten the contrast on that piece to challenge myself during the warm-up. But I also at the same time made a deal with myself that if it didn’t work out then I didn’t have to share it.

That promise allowed me to do the warm-up and challenge myself without having to worry about the consequences. As it turns out I liked the result so I’ve shared it on many occasions.

But to be a good warm-up piece you have to allow yourself to make mistakes because the goal is to bring confidence and to get your mind right.

Warm-ups are for you

Don’t ever forget that art is often a singular solitary activity and that ultimately you have to do the work for yourself.

Warming up is your time. There must be some reason why you started creating art in the first place. Sometimes when you do it for big projects, for clients, or as your job, you can lose track of the original reason you started creating art.

Warm-up art is your small sliver of time where you can return to creating art solely for the purpose of enjoyment. The restrictions, the pressure, and the results are all removed from the process.

What that leaves for you is the pure joy of creating something, just like when you were a kid with some construction paper and a box of crayons. And that can be very powerful for tapping into your well of creativity.

Dirk Hooper

Dirk Hooper is an award-winning fetish photographer, award-winning professional writer, fine artist, journalist for the kink community and expert on personal branding.

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