The Daily Habit

Earlier this year, I delved back into the habit of sketching and posting daily, mostly focusing on fictional landscapes. I haven’t been developing my personal art for over a year because I thought I’ll have time for it later. Of course, ‘later’ never came. ‘Later’ was merely an ideal in my mind – a vague future where life will quiet down and time magically opens up. But we live in reality where there are so many things demanding our time and it’s pretty easy to pass time without knowing it. So how do you make it happen?

It came down to reviewing what I was actually doing with my time, and making better decisions with how I was using it. One thing I noticed was that during meals, I would habitually watch Youtube and that would stretch my breaks to an hour or more. I mean it seems so innocuous to watch a 10 min video but oh the endless recommendation options! Naturally, I was curious to see  how cutting out videos for a month would affect my day.

Pencil Studies and Thumbnail Sketches

It ended up freeing up to 2-3 hours of time everyday because when you switch tasks I think you have to take into account added time for mentally adjusting to the next task, like warming up to workout. That was more than enough time to sneak in a sketch, a study or a digital painting everyday. I was afraid I needed those breaks where I zoned out and without them I’d burn out. But actually there were more positives than negatives that came out of it.

Digital painting of previous sketch. I’m most excited about the water here. When you look closely it’s just a bunch of scribbles. One of my goals with these landscapes is to practice loosening up and capturing form with thoughtful mark making (as opposed to rendering them to death as I do and then have to start over).

But let’s address the negatives first. The downside is the pressure to keep up with producing quality when you’re pushing for quantity. It’s a really tough gig to do both, one that becomes even harder when I (despite all restraints) compare myself to a sea of awesome artists on social media and then feel bad about my progress. I have to admit the comparison is the part that really throws me off my course and is the thing that leads to burn out for me. It’s easy to hash together motivational verbiage like ‘stop comparing yourself to others’ and way more difficult to develop the effective discipline of keeping your eyes on the road in front of you.  As a habitual habit breaker, something I’m constantly asking myself is what am I willing to do differently this time around to avoid the pitfalls? 

Old habits die hard as I try to rescue a bland sketch. This kind of over rendering is what I’m pulling away from. Well at least the colour palette turned out palatable and quite peachy you might say.

Well that leads me to talk about the positives of drawing and posting daily. Sometimes I only have 30 minutes so it’s a matter of choosing a composition which I can finish in time.  The aim is to bring the landscape to a level that’s presentable and one that might catch the eye of someone rapidly scrolling through Instagram. In other words, the thing I’m doing differently this time around is killing perfectionism day by day. This has made drawing fun again, to the point where it’s just as addictive and habitual as watching videos. That’s pretty important to me because there was a period last year where the thought of opening a sketchbook and drawing during my free time made me weary.  A side benefit of focusing on volume is that eventually a few great pieces will emerge. So posting daily for me is really about showing the process of uncovering those hidden little gems rather than being too precioussss about my work. I mean really precious to the point where I would disappear off the face of the earth and people would have to message me to see if I’m alive.

The Minty Mountain happened when I didn’t think about the outcome at all and was instead fully immersed in the process.

It’s fair to say that the road ahead is going to be rough and maintaining good habits can certainly be a challenge. The first month is usually the easiest because it’s new and exciting and maybe you’ll see rapid growth and external validation that becomes addictive. In my experience, the progress plateaus after that and the changes are less noticeable and further apart. The question becomes can you find the will to continue when self doubt and life’s distractions creep back in? How will you change it up when the novelty wears off ? What happens when you produce a really bad piece? Or conversely how will you follow up after that stellar one? I don’t have the answer to these questions because I’m figuring out what works as I go. One thing is for sure, tomorrow will come and with that a new small window of opportunity to improve artistically.

A vibrant, red tree overlooking a peaceful lake.

 

 

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