A few weeks ago I hosted a drawing meet-up and gave a quick talk where I shared my three biggest lessons as an artist (so far.) I want to share those lessons with you today, plus a few more bonus thoughts that I didn’t get to!
Last week I also launched a FREE guide: Creating Effective Drawings With 1-3 Lines. Get it by subscribing here
#1 Practice Consistently
When I first started drawing sketchnotes in March of 2015, I was terrible– Most people are when they start something new! Even though I wasn’t good at it then, I knew I had the potential to be better later… All that was missing was familiarity and increased skill.
Practice makes better
Every time you practice or iterate, you tend to learn something new. Maybe it’s ground-breaking like discovering a new way to draw people better, or maybe it’s a simple lesson like figuring out how to hold your pen more efficiently. You don’t improve without practice. Even if practice seems monotonous and you don’t feel like you’re getting better, keeping the skill fresh has tremendous value.
Looking back on my sketchnotes, I don’t see much improvement from page to page, but I do see improvement from sketchbook to sketchbook.
#2 Share Your Work
This is a tough one for artists– or humans in general! It’s hard to create something and then have the courage to be vulnerable and share it. As artists, we often think things like “This isn’t that good.” or “I could do better.” We also compare ourselves to others “This is ok… it’s nowhere near as good as Doug’s!” Yes, your art may not be that good, and yes, there is always someone better than you, but these facts should never hold you back from sharing your work.
Benefits of sharing your work:
- Sharing your work communicates what you do.
If you think sharing about what you do once is enough, you’re kidding yourself. We live in a world that’s busy, distracting, and noisy. If you think people are paying attention to everything you post and share, think again. It may feel like you’re beating a dead horse, but you’re not.
“People don’t notice announcements, they notice consistency.”
– Sean McCabe.
No one will know what you do if you do not tell them and show them repeatedly.
“If you want to have an impact, be prepared to say the same thing for a decade.”
– David Heinemeier Hansson
- Sharing your work brings in other work
It’s pretty rare for clients to come to you asking for something they don’t already know you do or see in your portfolio. Instead, someone will come across your work and say “I want this style for my thing. Can you do that?” This year I got a 4-figure client from an Instagram post where someone shared my work. The client saw my work and remembered it 4 months later when they needed something done in that same style.
- Sharing your work inspires
Sharing your work creates a public record of your skills and lessons learned. When you share your work over time, people come to appreciate it because they can see where you’ve come from and where you are now. Sharing your work inspires others to do the same, and we all benefit when we share what we know and have learned.
- Sharing your work helps shatter perfectionism
“Don’t pat yourself on the back for your perfectionism and high standards. Without the discipline to ship, you’re a glorified procrastinator.”
If you’re someone who struggles with perfectionism, the thought of sharing your work can be crippling because you feel like your project is never done or never good enough to be shown. However, one of the best ways to improve is from mistakes and iteration. If you want to reach your full potential, you need to realize the power of letting something be done, learning from it, and moving on. Showing imperfect work feels wrong to the perfectionist, but it will lead to a more rewarding experience later on. No one is asking you to be perfect except yourself.
#3 There’s Only One You
Truth #1: Everyone is uniquely gifted with their own style and approach to art. Truth #2: People are drawn to uniqueness, not sameness. When we see something different, we notice. When we see someone doing their own thing, we applaud them. The same goes for your art– do your thing and figure out what that looks like and means! It will change over time, but the best thing you can be is yourself.
You might not be comfortable with your style or even be proud of it, and that’s ok. Don’t let imperfection or a lack of development stop you. I drew a comic strip in high school for a few years and there was one kid who picked on me, saying my “bug-eyed” characters looked stupid– he even drew my comic strip character in my senior yearbook, bloodied and dead with the caption, “I always hated this guy.” It was hurtful and made me question my style, but I didn’t let it get me down. I continued that style into college and had over 250 comics published in the paper during my college career. The way I drew my “bug-eyed” characters was unique to me, and people began to recognize my style because of it. My style has changed over the years, but it was only able to develop when I stayed true to what I wanted to do, not what I thought others expected.
- Practice Consistently
- Share Your Work
- There’s Only One You
- What can you do this week to practice consistently?
- Start a schedule to share your work and commit to it.
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