I haven’t been updating for a long while, I know! Things have been very heads down with work; and a lot of amazing opportunities have come my way in recent times, I’ve had more ‘dream come true’ moments thanks to my work than I can even list (visiting my all time favorite animation studio, Studio Ghibli for one and being in the same room as my hero Hayao Miyazaki). I hope to write about them on here (keep up a consistent blog) as I upload photos and ramp down on the current work I’m doing. I do recognize that I should be more active with updating my side projects though, as well as my portfolio/professional credentials!
I’ve decided to create an instagram dedicated to my side-passions: drawing, illustration, cosplay and generally art. You can find it at @medryxart I hope to update frequently as I get back in the groove of sketching and creating, but more importantly sustaining motivation to update and share content.
Personally, I’ve always had a hard time finishing side projects or art pieces. I tend to get excited about a project, creative concept or piece and dive in headfirst, but in the process I get caught up in the details and lose focus. The drive to make it perfect prevents me from actually finishing it. In the past I’ve definitely let this discouragement hinder me from finishing or sharing work – the feelings that ‘oh this isn’t how I imagined it’ or ‘it’s not good enough’ have resulted in a sketchbook closed to the public, full of halfway there sketches and concepts that got shelved indefinitely. The fear of a poor or lukewarm reception or not ‘getting it right’ was stronger than the desire to share, to show my vision or share my voice. Funnily enough this doesn’t apply to my work with UX, where I’m open and welcoming of critique and excited to share my ideas and concepts with my peers. Finding the motivation to keep myself working on something without a deadline or a paycheck as the end result has been a life-long challenge for me.
This year, I participated in Inktober which really revitalized my drive to actually FINISH pieces and side-projects. While my trip to Japan coincided with the latter half of the month of drawing, I was able to at least finish the majority of the month, using the official Inktober list. With my good friend and coworker Andrew Lunga, we decided to take on this challenge together, holding each other to each day’s drawing and sharing the results. I will be posting my favorite pieces from the month on my portfolio in the coming days.
Inktober was successful for me for a lot of reasons which in retrospect can be used as a guideline for maintaining motivation to get shit done (without the prospect of a paycheck). This is likely nothing new to a lot of people, but for me I rediscovered how fun it is to draw and paint. This is my retrospective on what worked for me and what I hope to continue doing in the future in order to keep getting shit done!
1.Scheduling & sticking to a (self-imposed) schedule
Inktober gave me a deadline to work with: each day a sketch or painting had to be finished. This meant that there was no time to mull over it being perfect or exactly how I imagine. Because I had until midnight (or, more often, the hours after that) each night to finish, I made my goal a bit more palatable. I say ‘a bit’ because I always ended up getting way too detailed with my drawing, and staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish. While, admittedly, I sometimes couldn’t finish on time and would build up a backlog, having the schedule in place kept me honest and kept me working. Because I simply had to finish a drawing each day, it also relieved pressure of it being perfect. Upon finishing a piece I could look at it and acknowledge that while it may have not come out exactly how I imagined, it was a learning process, and more importantly, it was done! If I decided to revisit it, I could adjust what didn’t work, and each day I could look at the finished product and learn from my successes and failures, and apply them to the next day’s piece.
2. Use inspirational tools to keep momentum up
Following the 2017 official Inktober prompt was imperative in keeping inspirational momentum going. Rather than starting from nothing regarding each day’s concept, I had a word. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a word can spawn a thousand (or more) different pictures.
It encouraged play, exploration and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I felt like I could experiment with different styles based on my idea, or use whatever would fit the day’s theme/word. For example, for “teeming” I was inspired by my good friend Tina Nawrocki’s work on the amazing indie game, Cuphead and tried the 1930s rubber hose style to fill my entire page with faces. This is something I probably would have never experimented with otherwise!
If it didn’t work, it would just be ‘oh well, on to tomorrow!’ I found myself inspired to play with other materials as well, such as washi paper in addition to marker, pen, and black + coloured inks! The official prompt list was a simple start that kept the ideas and inspiration snowballing.
3. Find someone to hold yourself accountable to
Something that I’ve discovered to be vital in forcing myself to do something is to telling someone else that I will be doing it. This is how I managed to get into and stick to a routine of working out, and how I’m hoping to continue making things routines and habits. While yes, you may be annoying and your friends may ultimately not care one way or the other if you do it or not, just the art of saying to someone else that you will do something creates a verbal contract that the other person can now hold you accountable to. This requires a follow up – you have to tell them the result of your efforts (success or failure) if they ask or not!
When you extend that to a larger public platform (in my case, Instagram), you are now accountable to more people. While this may be stressful for some (and not entirely necessary to go that far), it is helpful in adding that extra push to keep going. Someone may be looking forward to seeing what you’re working on, and that’s pretty damn cool; in my case I didn’t want to disappoint those people. Since Andrew and I were both participating in Inktober, it was the perfect opportunity to start that ‘contract.’ Once I started posting my progress to instagram story, more people started to pay attention and provide support, which leads to my next point…
4. Harness the community: inspiration, solidarity, support.
One of the things that has held me back from posting my work in the past (aside from thinking that my content isn’t worth sharing) is the apprehension that people either wouldn’t care or worse, would receive it poorly. I think it’s human nature to want to be recognized for what we do by others (our friends, our peers, those we admire), and find value in ourselves when others find value in us and what we do. Although I really wanted the recognition, the worry that I’d get a negative or non-existent reaction was stronger than the possibility that my personal work would be received positively.
Unfortunately, I dismissed the fact that I have some amazing friends, and a truly wonderful support group; their opinion means a great deal more than the strangers’ who don’t know me. Support leads to courage. If the world/the internet doesn’t care about what you’re doing, that shouldn’t prevent you from sharing with the people who do care. It’s adjusting who you are really making content for, because at the end of the day no one is going to see it unless you do share. While sure, I could just say ‘I’m making this for myself,’ that wouldn’t be the full truth, and it robs me of the positive emotions that come from people enjoying what you do. The support I got from my friend group gave me the confidence and courage to take my work to a larger platform.
Inktober itself forms a fantastic sense of community, both with the people who are also doing it and those who are watching. Generally everyone is incredibly supportive; everyone is excited to be contributing to something big. Regardless of skill, everyone is in the same boat in that they are tackling a personal challenge to create content. Seeing everyone else pushing themselves and trying hard to deliver on the day’s task is incredibly motivational. In a sense it’s even a bit reassuring to see when people are struggling to keep up, as you know you’re not alone in the challenge. Having the support from peers in the same boat, urging you on is strengthening (a la Shounen Jump’s “friendship, effort, victory” motto)!
Seeing how other people may be approaching the day’s theme, or their own theme is also motivating; seeing how others interpret the same task not only makes you appreciate the creative process and others’ work, but also your own work. Looking at my result beside Andrew’s, I could not only admire him for what he could do (that I couldn’t), but it also made me realize what makes my style or my interpretation special and unique. My almost pedantic/obsessive attention to detail shines through – although it’s incredibly time consuming, the effort is worth appreciation. By sharing with others (both those doing inktober and my own friend group), I not only got the courage to keep going, but also gained a new appreciation for what I can do, and was finally able to identify my personal art style.
5. Keep a clear space to work
A cluttered home breeds a cluttered life… or something like that? I’ve struggled with a lack of space for the past few years: the weight of ‘stuff’ weighs down on you. It’s overwhelming, and it overwhelms to the point where it almost feels like you can’t really do anything. Where can you move the stuff on your desk when there’s no space? If I first have to clear off space on my desk in order to start working, is it worth the effort? While the answer is always yes, clearing that space is the first hurdle you have to get over to actually start working. It’s the hurdle I always didn’t want to bother with. But it also is the ‘step one’ in the many steps to creation.
Keeping it clear is something that takes more of a long-reaching life change, and maintaining discipline to let go of things you don’t need or that have served their purpose. I could talk about this in depth, but I’m sure Marie Kondo explains it way better than I ever could (and I’m still in the process of reading her book). In recent weeks since my return from Japan/France, I’ve been trying to purge my life of the many ‘things’ that aren’t relevant anymore in preparation of moving. It’s been remarkably cathartic, and remains an ongoing effort (thank you Bunz). Through my effort though, I finally have a consistently clear desk, meaning the ‘step one’ to start drawing is cut down substantially from what is was before.
Once you start hacking away at the excuses to not start working, you really have nothing left to do but say ‘well, shit, guess I better do it.’ That’s what I’m continuing to do this year. I don’t want to call it a resolution (because let’s be real, those never really hold) but I am taking action to make my voice and my vision more present in the many facets of my life. So, in short, hello social media! Guess I’ll be seeing much more of you.
To herald the start of a (hopefully) long-term motivation, here is sketch of my beloved Plain Doll from the game Bloodborne.