“You can’t wait for inspiration you have to go after it with a club” Jack London. 

The words ‘plan’ and ‘artist’ are not natural or comfortable bedfellows. How to be good at artwork?  Can you plan out a road map to get there? 

You may feel strongly that your creativity should be one area of your life that you don’t want to plan or go after with a “club”.  After all, you spend time picking up that sketchbook and being creative in your precious spare time, when all your other priorities are taken care of, the place that you associate with relaxation or fun or private to yourself. Plans are associated with corporate ambitions or to do list with end goals. Does being creative really fit into this bracket? 

In the countless conversations I have with my community we acknowledge two things. 

  1. The drive to be more creative in our lives, especially when most of your life has been, or is, dedicated to other things. 
  1. The frustration at being unable to realise your creativity, whether because you feel you can’t draw or sketch, don’t have the time, or believe you aren’t good enough. 

It is often the case that frustration wins the day and the urge to draw and create recedes, (once more), to the back burner of life’s priorities. This often, and wrongly, feeds the narrative and belief that we are “not good enough.” I often wonder whether there is an assumption that developing our creative voice simply happens. Don’t get me wrong, creativity is magic, its conjuring taking place in underused parts of our brain, but I believe it is also a muscle that needs feeding, training and nurturing on a daily basis. 

Dorothy Parker, the witty American satirist, sums up this paradox. 

“Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye!” 

So how do we actually discipline a wild mind without compromising its creative integrity? How do we discipline ourselves with the information we gather to feed our creative talents? 

Is a plan of action to being more creative really necessary especially if we are not particularly concerned with reaching a particular goal? 

I believe that everyone interested in growing their drawing talents should equip themselves with a practical toolkit.  

1. Make drawing and sketching a habit!  

“Creativity is a habit and the best creativity is the result of good work habits…..” Twyla Tharp

Are you curious about what you have the potential to achieve when you pick up that pencil to draw? I am. Daily. I take greater pleasure in being able to flick back through a chunky sketchbook packed full of drawings, discoveries, mistakes and unpredicted new ideas. 

Put a framework around your creativity in order to support it grow starting with a commitment to show up everyday to discover what you are capable of achieving. 

“I’ve just been so busy I haven’t had time!” 

I hear this all the time. As a precursor to building a habit I think there is a step to take before you implement the practicalities. I want to ask you what you feel when you dedicate time to being creative? Happy, peaceful, curious, a sense of accomplishment, connection to a long lost talent, excitement…..Make your private list. 

These emotions need to be powerful enough to make you want to experience them time and time again. Take a moment to also reflect on what those emotions lead to in other areas of your life too! 

Let’s not be overly dramatic about this though.  What I am trying to convey is the importance of having enough of a motivator to want to explore creating. Without it you’ll struggle, especially if this is not part of your existing daily routine already. 

It is the difference between dabbling and becoming fully engaged.

For me, it was not so much the outcome of producing technically perfect or beautiful drawings on a daily basis, it was the emotional wellbeing it provided every day. It almost didn’t matter how “good” an artist I believed I was.  This is why I adore the sketchbook format as an intensely private medium of connecting to my creative self. (Who’d have thought!) My creativity goes hand in hand with my well being. These emotions were enough of a driver to make me return time and time again to sketching. 

Having quickly assessed all of this and established that the emotions you feel are enough of a driver, now turn to your calendar. 

Set aside time daily. 

Assess how much time you are realistically able to commit per day.  The most common times of day are; 

  • First thing in the morning as part of your mindfulness and wellbeing routine if you have one. If not you might look at starting one! 
  • A “break” in your day such as over coffee or lunch. (Be warned though that it makes it hard to put it down.) 
  • In the evenings. (Provided you are not too exhausted.) 

Then assess whether you have 10 or 20 minutes or longer available to you. Perhaps some days are better than others whereby you can spend an hour working on drawing or finishing things you’d started. 

Ironically, I had to carve out my routine. I found that sometimes it was impossible to have a routine. It just didn’t work for me as a professional mum. Nevertheless, I made a commitment to sketch daily and grabbed my opportunities as and when I found them by drawing life around me. It took me a full day to fill small “boxes” of my day. You can find out more about how I technically co-ordinated my formatting to the time available to my day here.

Be flexible too. As you become more confident and your drawing skills improve you will find your approach may not be as regimented as when you started because your practise has become ingrained as part of your daily routine. 

Practise making Mistakes!

What I love about the creative process is that there are no shortcuts, no instant cute fixes. Yes, you can watch countless videos that improve technique in 5 minutes as opposed to an hour, but no amount of our instantaneous culture will rub off on the process you need to go through in order to develop your creativity. 

It takes time and an acknowledgment that mistakes are inevitable. 

I believe this notion of practise is also about our approach to how we view mistakes. Another constant piece of feedback I receive relates to a fear of progression because of our want to be perfect on the page. Perfectionism stops us in our tracks and keeps us watching on the sidelines convincing ourselves we don’t have the skill to draw. 

When things also don’t emerge as we would like them to we are quick to admit defeat and label ourselves “not very good.”  Start somewhere. Put the approach and the work in to improve but more importantly discover your creative style. 

The challenge should be to fill a book of mistakes! 

Keep it manageable and simple. 

Start small.

Start with basic drawing techniques. Use a small sketchbook as you gather momentum!

Just practise line making or simply doodling. Very often people will start with unrealistic expectations around what they can achieve. It is important to generate momentum from small beginnings.

We love being creative because of the optimism we associate to it. Feeling we have achieved something is an incredibly powerful motivator that may get us started.  Very quickly, however, we set unrealistic expectations on what we want to achieve and are not sure how we will get there.  Our artistic beginnings become forlorn creative projects languishing in a box or on a shelf somewhere. 

So reduce the pressure of expectation by being realistic and more simple with yourself.

2. Learn to Deal with Discouragement.

Remember the reason you have started sketching in the first place. 

The exercise that I advocated at the start of this article with regards to being clear on what creative practise brings to you comes to the fore during moments of discouragement.

I often wonder why we become discouraged with drawing or sketching as opposed to being excited with the joy it brings? Part of it is linked to unrealistic expectations, frustration at not mastering a technique, or having a “bad” sketch day (yes…there is such a thing). We become discouraged because we get disappointed with our efforts. 

Disappointment in our own selves, or in what we produce leads to discouragement which in turn leads to us voicing “I’m not very good at this.”  Some of us have spent a lifetime voicing this belief on an unfounded basis. 

The next time you find yourself in this position:

  • Stop and ask yourself what you are expecting. Take the pressure to achieve from off your shoulders. Enjoy it for what it is. 
  • Dial down the expectations and appreciate the place you are at in your creative journey whether you’re at the beginning or a seasoned pro. The important thing is to remain consistent. A plan can support you keep going when you get discouraged.  Keep going even if uninspired to do so!
  • Turn the page. Put down what is disappointing you to the process of practise. It actually might not be as bad as you think it is. And in a few weeks time you may agree. 

3. Commit to a journey dedicated to discovering your unique creative style. 

Have you ever stopped to think that you have your own creative style, even as a beginner? You might not know it yet. We waste far too much time comparing ourselves to others instead of getting on with our own creative focus. 

By implementing a bit of a plan to your creative approach you are taking steps to uncovering what your style will one day look like. 

Taking the points made in this article, daily practise, making mistakes, embedding consistency, dealing with disappointment, scheduling time….. all of these things can be woven into the backdrop of your own personal plan of activity. The more you do the more you discover the style unique to you.

  1. Set yourself a challenge. Over the next 7 or 30 days, aim to just draw. Pay attention to the world outside your window, give some time to detail and get it down on a page. 
  2. Jump on as many classes as you can and be exposed to new techniques and lessons. Check out my event calendar! 
  3. Explore what inspires you. Collect an inspiration mood board (even in the pages of your sketchbook!) Which artists are you drawn to? Ever considered why this is?  What is it about their work that you enjoy? Find out about them. What colours do you like, objects, buildings or periods of history even. Take the time away from the sketchbook to explore the things that attract you. Find the things you feel an affiliation for and explore why you have a connection to it. 

So there you have it.

An introduction to how you might start approaching how you plan your creative journey. Build a habit based on committing to embracing the process of creating, work to discover your creative style, and learn to deal with disappointment but most of all keep going!

Drop me your thoughts on your top three ways in which you plan being good at artwork.

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