Ways to progress when you don't feel like it
Some weeks I just don’t feel like working, even if it is “fun work” like drawing or writing. Last week was one of those weeks. Having both a full time job and an art practice often feels like deciding each day which one of the two is going to be the priority; sometimes I fail at both.
I’ve teetered on burnout enough to know that there will be many times that I need to give myself rest and do non-work things, and I have gotten so much better at allowing myself this need (you can read last year’s pep talk to myself about this below).
Still, I am serious about my goal to build an illustration career. I have long recognized that the longer I take a break from my practice, the more difficult it is to start and get into the groove again. Therefore it’s crucial to identify ways to keep moving that feel as easy and natural as possible, so we can be primed to do more challenging tasks when we regain energy.
One of my go to practices for when I have minimal energy for art is to draw freely in my sketchbook with an ink brush pen. I love that even the worst of my drawings using this expressive medium still feels interesting and natural. Of course the material could differ for you—maybe it’s pastel, Posca pens, or a tried and true pencil. Choose whatever lets you turn your critical voice off.
Another exercise is to copy an artwork to learn. This should be done in the privacy of your own sketchbook and never to be claimed as yours, unless you’ve appropriately stolen like an artist! I’ve been regularly borrowing children’s books from the library lately and copying certain compositions, color palettes, and figures for practice and inspiration. While none of these directly lead to finished work, they are influencing my style over time.
Finally, do research! We love to look down on research, believing it wastes time and isn’t real work. It’s true, but it’s also a very necessary part of the process. Whether it’s researching your industry and places to query/submit work or diving into the specifics of a project, going on a little Google bender can be energizing and spark new ideas, motivating you to tackle harder things.
But after we feel recharged, what will we go back to if we haven’t determined other important things in our lives besides work? These are great suggestions, but can we really approach our newly defined priorities in a healthy way? I know now that I’m content with my work as is and that I was genuinely tired and questioning, what’s the point of doing this? If I have figured out the ways in which I like to spend my time, can I just do these things with no expectations? Can I let myself change by intuition rather than a regimented, productivity-oriented schedule, following wherever my energy flows?
I got hooked on the TV show Euphoria and related videos of its cast members. Hunter Schafer who plays Jules is an amazing artist!
This mosaic sushi is a picnic dream.