Day 11: On Impatience

Let’s start with some fun stuff. A Shaun Tan video:

A cool video about using and making maquettes by James Gurney (his blog is a treasure trove of practical information by the way):

And now, onto the more difficult things. I wrote the other day about how it’s hard not to draw ALL THE THINGS into every picture, because I want people to hire me and I want to prove I can do all the things, in every picture. A second thing that is hard, much along the same lines, is that I want to have finished work to post online ALL THE TIME. This is backed by the evidence of other illustrators getting jobs by the social media posts they make. It’s backed by the evidence of publishers saying ‘it’s good to remind us that you exist, so we think of you when a project that might suit you comes along’. But it’s not great for my artistic improvement, nor for my mental health.

I’m getting better at not being anxious just because I haven’t posted in a week, but I have two problems. One, I rarely draw unless it’s for deliberate study or for a thing that I hope will turn into something that I can post on the internet, and preferably put in my portfolio. Two, once I decide I’m going to develop a sketch into a finished piece, I get impatient. And if I don’t finish it I feel incredibly disappointed in myself. Even if I just decided the sketch wasn’t that interesting.


The latter is the root of most of the problems. I often drop deliberate study out of my routine because I’m impatient to have more finished work. And, in doing so, I stop drawing anything that’s not directly related to getting illustrations finished. This is not great, and doesn’t help me create good work.

The desire to finish it and move on was useful in my earlier art days. You need to make a lot of drawings in order to get better. It’s still useful now, but perhaps with a little moderation. In my development now, the practice of making a lot of drawings may need to find a place within the life-cycle of individual pieces. Both Tan and Gurney (following a long tradition of many artists who create imaginative work) create mutiple sketches, roughs, colour roughs, studies of anatomy/light/… before embarking on the final painting. And that’s all after they’ve spent ongoing time drawing bones in museums, or environments from life, and tons of imaginative drawings in sketchbooks.

At the very least, most pieces of imaginative art benefit from having time for the ideas to percolate, and from not rushing the rendering just to get it done quickly.

It’s difficult, though, because honestly, I still just want someone to hire me. And it’s hard to stop the belief that maybe this piece will be the one! The one that means they think my art is just what they want! But putting that level of pressure on every sketch is counter-productive.

Caveat: there’s a time and a place for everything, this is not a hard and fast rule, yada yada. There’s a reason I love impressionist paintings. And I know there are as many ways to create art as there are artists. Not everyone makes tons of roughs before moving on to final work, especially as computers allow you to layer it all up and continually fix mistakes. But I think it’d be worth at least trying this out.

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The overall lesson from this: sometimes art time needs to be about exploration, or about development. About leaving space for good ideas to progress. And sometimes, it doesn’t need to go up on the internet at all. This may be a little off-topic for the overall theme of the month, but it feels important to me. It can also be kind of encouraging to remember that Tan and Gurney’s brilliant paintings don’t just spring forth in an afternoon, or even a week. How am I going to implement this? I’m not sure yet. But I think it can tie in with creating more emotional sketches and story expansions, as exercises to expand my creativity. So wish me luck!

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