Well, they’re actually my resolutions, but you might find them valuable too.
Don’t Put Your Sketchbook on a Pedestal
“You know what your problem is? You’re putting the pussy on a pedestal.”
— The 40-Year-Old Virgin
It’ll keep you from getting laid and it’ll keep your sketchbook empty, so let’s talk about how you should approach it instead. And I’m only talking about the sketchbook here, you’re on your own with dating and sex advice.
Impressing everybody isn’t the goal of your sketchbook. YouTubers sharing perfect sketchbooks would have you believe otherwise, but you gotta disregard those dudes. They’re in it for the likes. Your goal is to simply improve.
Besides, you’ll only see what people want you to see on social media. They probably have another place they do their dirty work. I’ve heard tell of people that keep multiple sketchbooks: one for practice, one for study, and one for showing off.
Your sketchbook is only for you, a place where you can be your authentic self. You can use it to draw, paint, sketch, journal, prototype, take notes, or narrow down ideas. There’s no limit. It’s your place of freedom where you’re completely free to explore.
The work in your sketchbook is not meant to be portfolio ready. If you think it should be you’re limiting the ways you can express yourself in it and you’ll end up using it less often. Them’s the breaks.
Ultimately, when you’ve filled up your whole sketchbook, you’re gonna be so proud that it won’t matter how shit it is. It’ll feel twice as good as finishing a whole chapstick without losing it.
Make Time For Your Art
“Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”
— Laura Vanderkam
Put the coffee on, people. It might be an early morning or a late night. Either way, you’ve gotta set up a 1–2 hour window that’s completely your own, where you can focus on your art. With no interruptions.
How many days a week you set aside depends entirely upon your art goals:
- If you’re starting an art business you should probably schedule as many days a week as you can to practice your skills that pay the bills.
- If it’s a hobby you could aim for once a week of pure creative bliss.
- And if you just want to get better at drawing dicks on things you might need all 7 days of the week. Yep, that sounds about right.
Do What You Can When You Can
“If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.”
— Tom Peters
You artists are experts at coming up with 1000’s of excuses for why you can’t make art. I should know, I’m one of you! Why do you think I’m writing right now instead of drawing?
As I write this article at 4:30 am, my 3-year-old son is sitting on my lap half asleep. I imagine it will be much later in the day by the time the final piece is finished. That won’t stop me from getting some bits of work done throughout the day, and nothing should be able to stop you.
If you really feel like you don’t have enough time, you might need to audit how you’re spending it every day to see if there’s something you can cut back on, like screen time.
Set yourself up for success:
Bring a sketchbook with you everywhere you go, but do yourself a favor and don’t be ridiculous about it. Make it a manageable size, like 8.5" x 5", and only bring one pen or pencil along, not your whole kit. Make it a fun pencil like a Prismacolor Col-erase.
When you carry a sketchbook you can sketch whenever you have a minute, which will make you feel infinitely better if something comes up later that derails your scheduled art time.
Become a Student Again
“You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.”
— Julia Child
There’s a little known secret in the art world that the fastest way to improve your skill is to take art classes. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. You’re getting instruction on exactly what matters from an artist who’s been there before you.
As a beginner, you often don’t know what you don’t know, but an artist more advanced than you knows exactly what you don’t know. You won’t have to endlessly fumble around in the dark if you have a guide.
And since you’ll never reach perfection as an artist, you’ll want to return to the fundamentals over and over again. A new class may contain a new perspective you’ve never considered. There’s always more than one way to make art.
On top of that, becoming a student again and learning something new can be humbling. It will also give you things to talk about on social media. You can share how you aren’t perfect, how you’re getting better, what classes you’re taking, and overall just feature your flaws. It’s relatable.
Make Your Mental Health a Priority
“Art is to console those who are broken by life.”
— Vincent Van Gogh
The biggest productivity hack you can take advantage of as an artist is maintaining your mental health. Yes, you have to take care of your mental health before it becomes a problem. Trust me, when you’re depressed you won’t be making shit.
Sure, there’s the longstanding myth of the tortured artist creating masterpieces, but there’s no evidence that backs it up yet. There’s only speculation such as creativity using some of the same parts of the brain as mental illness and the potential for treatment to hurt creativity. A qualified medical professional can help you work around that though.
The truth is, artists create great art in spite of mental illness, not because of it. You can also be as creative by process as you can by imagination. Another interesting note is that available research says happy people are more productive. Besides, even if I had to sacrifice X% of creativity for happiness, I’d still do it.
When you’re feeling too blue you’re not gonna make art. So let’s make our mental health a priority in the new year. For some of us, that means finding access to therapy or medication. Whether that’s geographic access or access to insurance, do what you have to do to take care of yourself. You’re worth it.
Shamelessly Promote Your Art
“Yes! It’s about me! Okay, because it’s never about me and I’m finally making it about me.”
— Fiona Gallagher, Shameless
Look, you’re going to have to learn to promote yourself if you want people to care. You’re gonna need to know what value you’re providing. It’s up to you to figure out what that value is.
Sometimes artists think marketing is a dirty word but it’s not. These days promotion is part of the art. It’s a complicated subject and nobody has all the answers, but trial and error is the best teacher.
It’s also important to make this distinction: shamelessly promoting your art doesn’t mean endlessly promoting your art. Nothing is worse than the guy who constantly spams links to his online store like he’s giving out free pizza. You’re not giving out free pizza dude, you’re asking people to pay for your art. Don’t be surprised when nobody bites.
Make sure to give value more often than you ask for something. For more on that, you can read Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.” In our case, it’s more like “Art, Art, Art, support my Art.”
Embrace promoting your art without shame when the time is right.
Commit to It All
“It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.”
— Zig Ziglar
Okay, I know commitment can be scary, but I made it easy for you. Just repeat after me:
I, (your name), promise to never put my sketchbook on a pedestal. I will make time for my art, and do what I can when I can. This year I will become a student again and I will make my mental health a priority. When the time is right I will promote my art without shame.