Ever have one of those days where you just can't seem to draw?
Hard as you try, nothing comes out looking right on the page. Nothing is working out the way you intended. And you just feel utterly crud about the whole situation.
Don't worry, you're not alone. It happens to the best of us, and no matter how experienced you are, you'll have as many bad days and you do good. Sometimes more. But why do they happen, and what can we do about them?
In this article I'm going to cover some of the key reasons you can't seem to draw today, and how you can go about solving them.
Reason #1 You just don't feel like drawing right now
From the moment we set out to hone our skills as a comic book artist, it's drummed into us to draw every single moment, of every single day so that we can rack up those experience points. It doesn't matter whether you feel like it or not, it's time to study and even if you're fitting in as much study as you possibly can it still doesn't feel like enough.
Getting good is tough. And it's true. You really should be drawing as much as you possibly can in those early stages of development so that you can make some serious mileage. There's a lot to catch up on after all. The equation is simple, the more you practice, the better you get.
You already know this though. You know you should be drawing. But right now, you just don't feel like it. The fire just doesn't seem to be there today. There's no hint of motivation left in you, and ideally, you'd like to be vegging out in bed binge watching the new season of your favorite TV show on Netflix.
I hear ya. I have those days too. But why do we have them? How can we be so motivated one minute and then totally flat the next?
This is actually a deeper topic than you'd expect. We're about to dive down the rabbit hole of motivation and mindset here. The cool part is though, that once you know what the cause for your lack of energy, motivation and all round excitement is, you can control it.
So here it is, your mood is just kinda trash right now. It's not working for you. You're not fired up anymore. This all begins in your body, which effects your mind, and thus your mood. I'm talking about the way you move, and what you're thinking about. These are the two key things that need to be addressed to turn your motivation around so you can get back on track.
When you want to draw, and you know you should be drawing, but you just don't feel like it, here's what I want you to do.
First, notice your physical state. How are you sitting. Are you slouched over, back bent, neck craned forward? Do you feel strong in your body, or weak and lethargic? Is your breathing shallow? Does your facial expression look glum, tired and bored? Are you wearing clothes that make you feel like a pro, or like a bum? Does your hair look like an orphanage for birds, and when was the last time you took a shower and freshened up?
Usually, when I'm feeling a severe lack of motivation I notice most if not all of these things in my body language, physical expression and attire. And it makes me feel like total bollocks. I feel unmotivated, and just down right tired. How would I draw something cool in that state even if I wanted to?
To fix my underwhelming physical state, I jolt myself out of it by standing up and doing a few, energetic power poses. No joke. Even worse, I'll either start singing one of my favorite songs, yelling out self empowering dialogue to pump myself up, and slapping myself in the face a few times if I really need a wake up call. Then I'll do a few push ups and have a cold shower to freshen up. Yes. Ice cold.
Sounds crazy I know. But guess what? This gets my blood pumping immediately. After that, I'm wide awake and ready for action. If you do this, you will notice a significant rise in your energy levels, and I can guarantee you that your mood will completely change. I've done this after nights of very little sleep, and it still made a huge difference in my level of awakedness.
Want to know a secret? Your physical state and mental state are connected to one another. So if you go ahead and whip you physical state into shape you'll find that your train of thought begins to shift in an optimistic direction. However to really get us into the zone so that we're actually eager to draw, let's do a quick mental exercise. Think about why you want to draw. What are you hoping to get out of it? In particular what would you like to have accomplished or learned about by the end of today? Maybe you set out to study up on a particular aspect of your craft, or you need to finish off an art piece you've already started. If you're working on a comic book, there's a good possibility you still need to finish the pencils, inks, or colors for the latest page you're working on.
It could be anything, but choose something and whatever it is figure out what your end outcome is. What's the goal for today? What will it mean if you reach it? Will it be another study in your sketchbook, illustration in your portfolio or page for your comic book?
Really take a moment to think about this.
Then, with that goal in mind, stop thinking about it and just get started. Take action. Your physical body should be awake enough, and your mind now knows what it needs to focus on. There's no stopping you now. If you fall off track again, remember, by controlling your mind and body, you'll control your mood and motivation, and ultimately the outcome of your day.
Reason #2 You Lack Determination
Motivation is a great thing. It's that extra drum of fuel we're able to pour onto the fire and boost our productivity ten fold. Time seems to pass by without us noticing as we're totally immersed in the task at hand. We're excited, inspired and we're filled with the fuzzy feelings that push every budding creator to keep on creating!
And it's great when we've got motivation.
But as you know, your level of motivation is relatively sporadic. Some days you've got it, and most days you don't. I personally feel genuinely motivated about one day out of the week. Maybe two if I'm having a good week. In a word, motivation is undependable. It helps us out when it's there, but we have no control over when it'll turn up.
So if you only draw when you're feeling motivated to draw, your productivity is probably only a fraction of what it could be.
Why can't we feel motivated all the time though? Drawing is supposed to be fun right? Wrong! The idea of drawing is fun. But the act of drawing is often very difficult. If there's any fun involved at all it's in the constant challenges you're faced with every time you sit down to work on a new illustration. There's also the satisfaction at the end of course, but that doesn't last long either.
If you're not motivated by the war of art, and the endless creative battles you'll need to fight through (and most people aren't), then motivation simply isn't enough.
You need discipline.
What a brutal word. But every soldier in the war of art needs discipline to fight their way through each battle. They're not motivated to do it, it's not something they feel like doing or even want to do. Their greater cause is more important however. And to be a good soldier, you've got to have discipline. Because your greatest successes in anything you set out to do will come at a price, oftentimes testing you to the limit with the greatest challenges you'll ever have to face.
Most people who depend on motivation don't get to live out their dreams. Motivation is fleeting and without discipline there is simply no way to stick with what you've set out to do consistently enough for it to fully manifest.
As a comic book artist it'll take you years of practice to get to a pro level. It'll take you even longer to get to a level you're truly satisfied with. Motivation simply isn't enough. There needs to be an overarching vision you're striving to realize long term. A point to all your hard work and commitment that'll direct you toward your true north.
And having iron clad discipline will get you there. So here's how to develop it.
The best way to develop discipline is to have a main goal in mind for everything you set out to do. An end game that you're working towards. So make sure you've got at least a solid idea of exactly what that is straight up. Then we need to figure out the steps to get there. What's it going to take? List these down on a piece of paper. Maybe your goal is to become a pro comic book penciler. Okay great, by when? Let's say a year or two from now you'd like to be at least well on your way to meeting that goal, and maybe in two to three years you can see yourself demonstrating a level of skill which is high enough to hand in your portfolio to Image, Marvel or Dc and have a decent chance of getting a call back. Pretty ambitious, but doable. What steps do you need to take to see that through? Well for this example you'll want to draw for at least five to six straight hours everyday. And I mean, everyday, including weekends. Maybe you've got a day job, so you'll either have to wake up before work, or go home after work to get those hours in.
Each week you'll focus on a new topic, study it extensively and fill up your sketch books with observational studies, methods of construction, and revisions on what you've learned. You'll hone in on the specific areas you feel could do with some improvement and require further learning. You'll submerge yourself in this subject until you've mastered it, at least to an intermediate level. Maybe on the weekends you set some time aside to jump online and watch some drawing courses on Skillshare or Udemy. This is just one example, and your particular goals might be different. But whatever steps you choose to take in order to reach them, the idea is that you execute them regularly and consistently enough that they become a habit. Which put differently, is the process of developing discipline.
What I'm asking you to do here will be extremely difficult at first. In fact in order to form a new habit it takes about 30 days of constant daily repetition for it to become more uncomfortable to stop than to keep going. But if you figure out what the steps are to realizing your ultimate vision, and you can commit to putting them into action for just 30 days, you will begin to habitually execute them with minimal effort.
That's the brilliant thing about discipline.
Unlike motivation you don't have to wait for it because it's always there. It's part of you. It's who you are. Once you practice it, and develop it you won't even have to think about it. The feeling of 'not wanting to draw' will be steamrolled over completely by your new found determination and you'll start drawing regardless.
Reason #3 You aren't Inspired
Sometimes you just don't feel like drawing comics because you're uninspired. You've got no fresh ideas, you haven't read, watched or played anything as of recently which has sparked your creativity and your imagination just seems like a ghost town with nothing to offer but a few tumble weeds blowing around the place.
Yikes. Sounds like you're in some serious creative jeopardy there friend. I've been there and I feel for you. It's a sucky place to be.
Here's what I do to summon the muse and reengage with that elusive inspiration that fuels our creativity.
I let it go and chill for a bit. I'll forget about drawing for a while, and kick back with a good movie, video game, comic book, art book or novel that I enjoy. I let myself sink into it as well, soaking up as much creative stimuli as I can, until I do feel inspired again.
Usually it doesn't take long either. I can't even make it through an entire movie without wanting to sketch something down in my drawing pad. And I'm certainly ready to go after reading one of my favorite comic books.
As creators, we're compelled to replicate the things we find inspiring. There's an insatiable, unrelenting need to do something with the fuzzy feelings we feel after experiencing something that connects with us in a powerful way, and that outlet is usually through drawing. That's our choice of expression. We want others to experience what we're feeling through our work, because that excitement is just too damn euphoric not to share!
Something else you can do to generate new ideas that you're excited enough about to draw, is to simply jump online and look up some wicked-cool art from your favorite artists, genre's and themes. Websites such as Pinterest are perfect for finding inspirational imagery and references, but good old Google Images will do just fine as well.
Spend as long as it takes to find the inspiration you're looking for, saving anything you find interesting, entertaining and especially awesome into your inspirational reference library. I've set up my reference library on my computer into folders covering a variety of categories so that if I come back later I know exactly where to go to get my creative juices flowing again.
The most important thing to remember is to not stress out about your lack of ideas. We all get creatively depleted sometimes, and the best way to deal with that is to take a break and do something you enjoy. When we're feeling good and happy, that's when inspiration strikes. Not when we're tired, anxious and stressed. There's no way you're going to want to get creative when your mind is freaking out about how uninspired you feel right now!
Remember, what you do, often effects your physical and mental state. If you want to be consistently productive with your artistic output, you've got to know how to replenish your supply of creativity, motivation and inspiration manually to override states of fatigue and procrastination.
Reason #4 You aren't good enough
The times when I feel most discouraged about drawing occur after I begin doubting my level of skill or ability. I might start comparing myself to other artists who I believe are better than me. Maybe I'm judging my work based on unrealistic expectations that would be in no way achievable for me to meet. It could also be that some of the feedback I've received on my art was negative. Maybe not all negative, but it only takes one or two critics to begin doubting yourself.
There's a million things that could trigger the feeling of artistic inadequacy we all feel from time to time. Sometimes they can be so severe that we just want to give up. Self doubt and defeat are horrible, but we all experience them at some point, more than most realize.
In fact, I'd estimate that 99% of artists feel like they're not meeting the level of quality within their work that they know they're capable of. After all we're our biggest critics, and it's almost impossible to be fully satisfied with what we do, all of the time.
Those who are, aren't making any progress, nor are they driven to exceed beyond the point at which they've reached within their level of skill. You don't want to be that guy. That's called complacency, and once you arrive at that point there's only one way your art it going to go. Backwards.
The fact you think that you aren't good enough is a good thing. Because it pushes you to better yourself as an artist. But that's no excuse to stop drawing, for that is the very thing you must do to make progress.
The truth is you don't need to be at a certain level of skill or qualification to draw. You're allowed to just draw. Here's a few tips to help you hit the drawing board without worrying about how good you are.
Never compare your art to anyone else's, only compare it to your previous work. Measure your level of skill against your own personal progress. Because we all suck at drawing no matter what level we're at, or so we think. None of us are satisfied. Which means that pro you're judging yourself against is just as determined to step up the quality of their work as you are.
The only difference is that the two of you are walking the journey of the comic book artist on two different timelines. They've probably been drawing for years, maybe even decades to get to where they're at. You'll get there too, don't worry. It's just that it'll also take you years, and maybe decades to get to that level, starting off from where you're at now. None of us are blessed with the gift to create amazing comic book art straight out of the womb. Every master must pay their dues, and make that mileage.
If you just keep drawing, studying and learning, you'll get there as well. But you must keep drawing. So don't stop! If you think you're not good enough yet, you need to do the opposite! Draw even more!
By comparing your new work to your old work, you will see a steady amount of progress. That'll be what makes you feel good about the level of skill at which you're at. And it'll push you forward and motivate you to keep on going. There's no end to the height of ability you're capable of reaching. It's just a matter of time, determination and patience.
Next, try not to judge the work you do too harshly. Sure, you've got to take note of the flaws within it to address, and move on from them. But don't let that blind you from everything you did right! You've got to take the good with the bad, so that you know what's already working for you, and what still needs to be worked on. Nothing you create will be purely bad, nor will it be purely good. So don't get down on yourself if it's not perfect. It never will be, and it doesn't have to be.
My final tip here is to fully understand that your skills are in constant development. So don't draw because you expect to be good. Draw because it's fun to draw. Along the way you'll refine and perfect your skill set anyway.
You won't improve by thinking about it. Real progress can only be made through taking action. So don't hold back. Your drawings won't be perfect, but the fact you've drawn them is all that matters in the end. Everything you create is just another stepping stone closer the heights at which you'll ultimately reach as a comic book artist.
Reason #5 Drawing Comics Isn't Your Thing
This probably isn't your reason for not wanting to draw, but for some it might be.
Most of us haven't figured out exactly what we want to do with our lives. It's tough to know what we should commit to, pursue, and for how long. Who knows what the future holds right? I certainly don't.
So we experiment and try out a bunch of different things. Some of it sticks and we keep going with it. Some things don't and we move on. Time is limited after all, so if we're not really all in, and we aren't convinced that this is it, the wise thing to do is to move on.
However it's not always obvious. If you believe you want to become a comic book artist, then essentially that's your identity. The longer you pursue it, the more ingrained it becomes. So even if you've lost the love for your craft, you're compelled to keep going with it because it's become who you are.
Some people get to the point where they absolutely hate the path they've chosen in life and still don't change it up simply because they can't imagine themselves doing anything different. And even if they do, it just seems like an impossible to reach dream that they don't believe could ever become a reality.
But how do you know when to continue pursuing something and when to call it quits?
I love being a comic book artist. Sometimes though it's really, really tough. There are days, where the last thing I want to do is draw, but I do it anyway. What's worse is that the quality of my work suffers big time when I'm just not feeling it. Which is even more frustrating and really makes me start thinking about all the other fun stuff I could be doing.
But I know that anything worth doing is going to be hard. In fact, it's your greatest passions in life that'll test you the most. For some people it becomes too much to bear, and they give up too soon to realize that their dreams could have become a reality of they just kept going.
So you have to have a firm idea of where you're headed. If you are battling against an endless avalanche of challenges, self doubt, and judgement; is it all worth it? Will the pay off be enough for you to keep on plowing ahead no matter what you come up against?
If it's not, then maybe that's an indication you should be doing something else. If you don't feel like drawing today, and decide not to draw regardless, it might be that you're destined for something else.
What you decide to pursue in life reaches beyond the right now, and into the legacy you hope to someday leave. It's got to fill your cup, and give meaning to whatever suffering you'll experience as you endeavor to manifest that final outcome.
If it doesn't then you've got to ask yourself 'Do I really want to draw comics. Am I even that interested in making them anymore?'
Hopefully after reading this article you're absolutely busting to get back to the drawing board, or ready to at least do something to remedy the reason you're not.
If you know of a fellow comic artist who's feeling creatively depleted and would really benefit from reading this, pass it along to them. They'll be thankful to you, and I'll appreciate it too. The more comic artists this post can help the better. I know what it's like to struggle through artist block, and it can be crippling if you're not able to find a way out.
Thanks for reading, until next time, get back to the drawing board.