I am not one of those people that have been drawing since being able to hold a pencil in their hands, or threw tantrums demanding one. It wasn’t until high school that I became more interested into drawing. Being in a misunderstood and angered state of teenage mind, I used extensive amounts of black ink to put down on paper the mysterious things that lurked my mind. But this is where my interest in illustration began, the comforting place drawing took me and helped me to unravel my thoughts. It was only in my last years of college that I became comfortable with this, and realized there was nothing else I’d rather do than illustration.
But we all know that pursuit of any creative path is not always walked in the easiest steps. As much positives there are in being creative, in bringing something into existence with your own imagination and skills, there can be just as much negatives during our journey obtaining them. If you ask me, the importance of dealing with these negative sides is as much as important as developing creative skills themselves.
Practise Positive Mental Attitude
“It’s not what is available or unavailable that determines your level of success and happiness; it’s what you convince yourself is true.“
Throughout the years working as an illustrator, I have found different little things that helped me to keep my mind wandering in the negative direction, and realised that the way I react when it does, is what determines my enjoyment of the overall process. Learning how to change my thoughts and attitude towards more positive undertone, is one of the most important things that helped me to improve my illustrations. The two most dreaded words in creative world – artist block, are probably the best example of how our approach to these setbacks can determine the outcome. “What if I can’t draw anything good anymore and all I’ve done has just been an unexpected stroke of luck?” - if you’re an illustrator, at some point of your life you must had asked yourself this question. But instead of dwelling in self-doubt, how healthier would it be to abandon this thought pattern? While acknowledging that in this very moment we’re not able to accomplish something, we should be positively reflecting on everything we’ve achieved so far. Perhaps the inspiration fairy just took a small break from us, because honestly, who would want to be near us when we’re so negative and distressed? But at the end of the day, it always finds its way back to us, because after every art block, there is probably even better illustration we will create afterwards.
Take Time to Care for Yourself
I often see other illustrator’s tweets on pulling an all-nighter or not leaving the house for days, while almost glorifying the excessive amount of work upon them. And although I fully realise we all come from different economies and have to put aside different amount of green to keep the roof under our heads and food in our tummies, I also believe that our own health should be of the upmost priority. We have all been in situations where we weren’t able to take the desirable amount of the day for ourselves, but the all-nighters and the unhealthy lifestyle that is somewhat promoted, should not be normalized in the freelance or self-employed community. The damaging effect this has on our, not only physical, but more importantly mental health, is something we shouldn’t dismiss. To someone working a 9-5, taking the weekends or at least Sundays off, might sound completely normal, but I also believe that for most self-employed people there is an inevitable feeling of quilt in distancing themselves from work during 24 hours. We really shouldn’t feel any regret in taking that one day off, a day when we won’t be illustrators, writers or designers. We might just be consumers of someone else’s creative expression - readers of someone’s book, listeners of someone’s music, or just wanderers in the mother nature’s work. For me personally, enjoying other things that might also be of creative character - such as writing, gives me something I can explore more carelessly.
Acknowledge That Progress Takes Time
“And maybe it’s like that with every important aspect of your life. Whatever it is you are pursuing...whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon.”
Most of us have these negative voices in our heads, whispering from time to time whether we are good enough. And sometimes, they seem to be a healthy practice to be adopted, encouraging us to reflect on our work and do better. But the problem appears when, rather than just visitors, they become our constant companions and annihilate any desire we have to create. This constant obsession over not being good enough or not making the progress we think we should be making, overshadows the importance of simply enjoying the process itself. It’s the illusion of the lack of progress that might give us the impression of being motionless, while actually, our progress is the result of million little things we’ve done until this very moment. This is where the true joy of the progress lays, witnessing a culmination of years of practice coming to life, but at the same time, accepting that it is something ever-changing.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
“Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.“
Perhaps the most common thing we all fall victims to, is comparing ourselves to others. In a way, compulsively observing other people’s work can help us see the mistakes we are making in our own, transforming our jealousy into something more positive. What we have to remember is, the people whose work we admire were once just as insecure as we are - the truth is, they probably still are. The idea that this feeling of constant self-doubt and insecurity will never leave us might seem frightening, but somehow, we need to turn it into positive experience. Instead of focusing on being better than others, there is only one person that we should strive to be better than - us. Focusing on how we can improve ourselves, both in our creative and personal endeavours, looking for ways to do and be better, is what will in the end bring us peace and fulfilment, while reflecting that in our work as well.