Let me rephrase that. I don’t mean giving up ENTIRELY (please don’t do that!). No, I’m talking about that fork-in-the-road intervention we all face at strategic points in our lives. Who am I? What is my purpose?
In all honesty, I have had my own “giving up” come-to-Jesus talks with myself many times in the past. Not so much, “What is my purpose?” as, “Why don’t people like meeeee?!” (Or, maybe I just had a mental breakdown and started talking back to the voices in my head. But hey, I’m an artist. We embrace a little bit of insanity.)
So how does giving up work, exactly?
1. Stop being stuck in the past.
With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here is my origin story of giving up (and finding freedom in doing so):
I began my journey as the kid who doodled all over her books in elementary school, then became the artsy girl in high school drawing anime characters. Finally, I graduated with a Bachelor in Studio Art, the budding artistic professional ready to take on the world. I have worked in graphic design, in preschool as an art teacher, and in all kinds of non-creative jobs scattered in between.
During some of that time, my muse stayed close. We were best friends. I had so many ideas, I thought I may burst if I didn’t get them down on paper.
Long dry spells inevitably followed. Days and weeks went by that saw me plagued with depression and anxiety and a constant struggle to find some sort of self-worth. Nothing I did was good enough. I felt inferior and longed for days past when things weren’t so complicated and hard. Giving up felt easy, but I needed to learn to give up the right things.
We should learn from the past instead of living in it. That way, when those dry spells inevitably return, we can be better prepared to handle them.
2. Give up on unrealistic expectations.
I’ve learned that universal acceptance and appreciation is just an unrealistic goal. Dan Brown
Like many times before, I found my footing again at the end of the dark hold of depression and anxiety. From then on I have spent every-possible-moment-since taking advantage of the inspiration. Painstakingly, I create quality content on my social media platforms. That includes making myself more marketable. I work tirelessly to grow my fan-base and extend my empire. Except that my empire is very, very small (really more of a village).
For a while that bothered me. (Okay… if I’m honest with myself, it still bothers me.) But, do you know what? I am learning that when I raise the bar too high, too fast, that’s when I crash and fall. Those unrealistic expectations can be killer to a perfectionist. And I have always been extremely hard on myself.
Which brings me to giving up on whatever measures of success have been ingrained into our brains from day one. So what if I have few followers? Those that do follow me, they are my people, my kindred spirits—they are YOU. And you are more precious to me than gold. Because you are real people who take an interest in what I do. You find value in the work I create (if not, you wouldn’t bother hanging around).
That means so much more than thousands of lukewarm followers who only stick around until the next trendy thing catches their eyes. And at the end of the day, I need to feel that my art means something to someone much more than I need to feel “popular.” If I can touch even one person’s soul, shed light on one dreary day, make only one person smile, I’ll consider my art a success.
3. Let go of what you can’t control.
You may not control all the events that happen to you. But you can decide not to be reduced by them. Maya Angelou
I have spent years fighting for control. Control over my circumstances. Control over how others perceive me. Things that I can never hope to attain but that I continue to beat myself up over. I cannot force others to like what I do or force others to invest in my work. But I CAN foster relationships and build trust with those who do. Which means creating quality art for quality people, numbers be damned.
Sure, I may not have 100,000 followers. So what if I still have to have a day job on top of my art business? If I focus on the good things, the small wins, I start to realize that I’m pretty lucky—and extremely blessed.
What do you have a hard time giving up on? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’re anything like me (and you probably are not, because I’m completely strange unique), then you like to find tutorials on the web and try them out. Or, you know, buy those Disney “How to Draw” books. Does anyone else remember those? Are those still a thing? I need to see if I still have mine. I’m pretty sure I got twenty.
(No, that wasn’t a reference to Little Mermaid. I swear.)
Ehem. Anyway, the point being, I love tutorials. And so, I’ve scoured the web for days on end (translation: I googled for about ten minutes) and found a list of art tutorials and projects that I love and want to try — and I hope you try them, too!
Tips for drawing backgrounds: I will be the first to admit that I hate drawing backgrounds. I don’t know why, but I do. So, that of course means that I should be practicing drawing backgrounds as much as possible because if it’s not something you love doing, you aren’t going to do it, then it’s going to suck, and then all your art is going to suck, and then you’re going to curl up in a ball and cry. So.
Step-by-Step Digital Painting Tutorial: Not only do I love this artist’s style, but the infographic-style of this tutorial is beautiful to look at and extremely thorough. I already follow several of her steps, so it will be easy for me to try this one out and tweak my current process!
Head over to Clementine Creative for a list of 12 watercolor tutorials that you can check out. (I, for one, want to strengthen my weak skill in watercolor. It’s a medium where you kind of have to let go — which I have a hard time with!!)
Talking about references… Looking at other artist’s work to help your skill along is never a bad thing (we all do it, and these tutorials are a great example). But, when at all possible, use live references (or at least photographs of live references).
Not only will you ensure that your style remains your own, you will also make sure you don’t inadvertently pick up any bad habits from other artists, either. (Sorry. We ALL have them.)
Along the same vein as clothing, shoes are something I am always trying to improve on. Well, feet and shoes. And I was going to look for a specific tutorial when I came across this link to a bazillion (okay maybe not quite that much, but close) tutorials and references on Pinterest. So, why try to invent the wheel?
Another aside on clothing: this book by John Peacock is amazing! I have one of its older siblings, but I may have to upgrade. It’s a great reference on different clothing styles throughout (most) of history.
One final tutorial on drawing figures – this article on Design Your Way has a ton of video tutorials on everything from eyes, to faces, to gesture drawing and poses.
You can also view more art references and tutorials on my Pinterest board, Art Reference – I update fairly frequently.
So, about those tutorials… Seriously. Try them. And let me know how they are in the comments.
I’ll wait. 😉
(P.S. If you have Netflix, they now have the entire Bob Ross series available to stream. That man fostered my obsession with art at a very early age. And, c’mon. Bob Ross. I dare you to watch it and not laugh you @$$ off or end up in a good mood by the end!)
We all have those moments when inspiration disappears into a black hole of drudgery. “I’ve got writer’s block,” we say. Or, “My muse has left me!”
Whatever we may call it, the dry spell that comes every so often in every creative’s life is nothing to laugh about. For many of us, the act of creating is akin to the act of breathing. It is vital to our survival.
The inevitable always happens. When it does, what can we do to keep the creative oxygen flowing? I have compiled a list of tricks that I have found over the years to keep me creating, even when I have no creativity left. (Most of these will be geared more toward visual art, but almost all of them can be interchangeable to different types of creative avenues).
Keep an ideas journal. Recently, I have started jotting down ideas as they come to me into a sort of scratch-pad journal. This is great for a couple of reasons: A) I don’t forget ideas that I have (because, let’s face it, I’m a total scatterbrain); and B) I can reference those ideas during times when I can’t think of a good idea to save my life.
Look at art/writing prompts. Illustration Friday is a wonderful resource for artists and illustrators! Each Friday, they post a word, and thousands of artists create something to illustrate that word. There are also many posts on Pinterest for writing and art prompts. You can do a search, or follow me to see things I’ve pinned already.
Read abook. Research a particular subject matter. Start reading through books of a similar genre. Whatever the type, just read! I often get ideas in the middle of reading a really good story. And, you could take it a step further and expand on the type of entertainment. Movies, TV, plays, concerts — all of these are great avenues to foster creativity.
Immerse yourself in learning something new. Do you prefer writing fiction? Try your hand at poetry. Do you draw people really well? Try drawing animals or machines. Take a class. Learn a new technique or medium. The opportunities are endless!
Change your location. Even if inspiration has not struck, the simple act of stepping outside of familiar settings with a sketchpad in hand can be beneficial. There is never a shortage of things to draw, both inside and outside.
Look at things from a different perspective. I mean this literally and figuratively. Even if you have drawn it a thousand times before…draw it again! Try a different view. Use different colors. Try different times of day. I guarantee you will learn something new every time.
Learn from others. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” (Charles Caleb Colton.) So, go out and imitate! Write fan fiction. Sketch some of your favorite characters. Watch biographies of your mentors. Not everything you create has to be 100% absolutely unique (and there’s a pretty good chance it’s not, anyway. Only five plots and all that jazz). The important thing is to make it yours.
Try philosophy. Sort of. I just mean, ask questions. Hard questions. Make yourself think. Things like, “What would happen if I___?” or “What does it mean to___?” Often just asking questions opens up a whole new world full of possibilities.
Listen to music. There have been so many times that I will be staring at a blank page in horror, with no earthly idea how to manifest something from nothing. Those times, I often turn to music. Whatever mood I am trying to convey, that is the genre I choose. It usually doesn’t take long for things to take shape in my mind once the music starts flowing.
Take a mini break from life. I will be the first to admit that stress stifles creativity. Sometimes, in order to break through a dry spell, we must get away from the things that cause us stress. Whether a stay-cation, vacation, excavation (okay, maybe not that), do something you enjoy and leave work at work.
“We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”
Those are my favorite things to try when I am struggling to find inspiration. I would love to hear your thoughts! What sort of things to you do to tap into your creativity?
I am a professional artist who specializes in pop art, illustration, and graphic design. My work includes both digital and a mix of traditional wet media. (Check out my art gallery to view my work!) I find inspiration from animation (e.g. Disney and Japanese anime), fantasy, fairy tales, and those magical little moments in everyday life.