On Inspiration vs Dedication
There’s a question that crops up often in artist circles: “How do you stay inspired to draw?” This is a doubly important question for cartoonists, animators, any of the “marathon” arts. There’s always another page, another issue, another book. It’s not enough to have your head in the game long enough to finish one drawing. You have to finish half a dozen drawings to make just one page. Gotta make 22 pages to make an issue. Half a dozen issues to make a book. At least three books to make a series. It’s hundreds of drawings, thousands of hours, years of your life. How do you stay inspired through all that? I will tell you a secret:
And I’d wager pennies to purple donuts that no artist is always inspired to draw. But I’ll tell you the secret to how we keep coming back to the drawing table for hours and hours every day:
We’ve taken it upon ourselves to sit our asses down and move that pencil regardless of how we feel about it. Because that’s what we do. That’s who we are.
People don’t feel inspired to go to the gym every day. Even the gym rats. There are days that I am sure even the most dedicated gym bro want nothing more than to stay at home on the couch and stuff their face with carbs. But they go to the gym because that’s what they do. Between this hour and that they pump iron. It transcends being something they do and becomes a part of who they are. For them to do otherwise they wouldn’t be themselves. It doesn’t matter how they feel about it. That’s who they are. They are the ones who lift.
We are the ones who draw.
“Ok,” you say, “sounds dope. How do I become one of The Ones Who Draw?” I will tell you that secret too:
Pick up your pencil, or brush, or pen, or stylus, or whatever.
Doodle. Sketch. Paint. Scrap things and create a rubbish folder full of gigs of half finished doodles. Research. Watch others draw. Learn how they draw. Try drawing like them. Draw what you like. Draw what you hate. Draw everything. Draw nothing. Become obsessed with just learning how to make a line. Paint some fruit. Draw random folds in fabric. Draw strangers on the train. In the park. Noodle around in the margins of your notes. Draw naked ladies. Sketch naked dudes. Don’t be afraid to draw the penis. Become strangely desensitized to nudity, but keep your appreciation of the human form. Get bored of painting fruit.
There will be days, weeks, months where you will hate drawing. You will groan and writhe at the very thought of sitting in that chair and picking up that pen and staring at that blank page. So set aside time to draw. Give yourself specific hours. Maybe it’s just one. Maybe just 30 min. Doesn’t matter. Carve out a niche in your day that is for drawing and nothing else.
You will feel like you’ve made all and none of the progress. You’ll look back and see how far you’ve come. You’ll look back and wonder if you’ve made any improvement in the last six years at all. Of course you have.
You will love everything you draw. You will love nothing you draw. You will then love everything you draw until you haven’t looked at it for 4 consecutive days. Then you will hate it. You will repeate this cycle a surprising amount.
But whatever you do, don’t. Ever. Stop.
One day it will be second nature. One day you’ll find yourself with something that needs drawing. Either you’ve a brainstorm that needs out or a friend or colleague or client will need your help with their own brainstorms. And you’ll sit down and draw it. Like it was easy. Like it was habit. Like it was second nature. Like you are one who draws.
“Damn, sensei,” you mutter, “that sounds like a lot of hard work.” And I will tell you this final secret:
Yes, it is.