The other day I realized something: I’m drawing more now than I ever have in my entire life. More than in middle school when I was obsessed with copying Pokemon and Sailor Moon. More than in college when I had less worries and responsibilities. Even more than when my biggest freelance client was in the UK and I was done with work each day by noon.
That realization got me thinking: What changed to allow me to draw more? Where did this more extreme motivation to draw come from? Why does it feel easier and more enjoyable to draw now?
I’ve come up with three changes that led me to making more art:
- Large chunks of alone time
- A dedicated drawing space
- Experimenting with new materials and tools
Large Chunks of Alone Time
In 1994 Cheryl Strayed hiked 1100 miles alone on the Pacific Crest Trail. Spending so many days alone out in wilderness led to change her perspective of aloneness:
“Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. Alone wasn’t a room anymore, but the whole wide world, and now I was alone in that world, occupying it in a way I never had before.”
You want to go be alone now, don’t you? We need alone time not to burrow into ourselves, but to move past our Self. And I think moving past our Self—our thoughts, our worries, our needs, our wants—that’s when exploration is possible, fresh ideas come to you, and art is made.
Giving yourself large chunks of alone time will give you the opportunity to dive deep like this. It’s fun to draw and make stuff with other people, but you also need that alone time to really incubate your thoughts and ideas and be open to new, experimental thoughts and ideas. My art making really ramped up when I was able to have long periods of time at home when no one else was at home. It gave me the chance to focus and get sucked in, without interruptions or distractions.
But don’t give yourself too much alone time. For one, you’ll probably get lonely and stir crazy. But also, it’s good to know you have a limited amount of alone time. This constraint will make you use the time you have, instead of relying on having it whenever you want.
If it’s hard for you to get alone time in your home, advocate for yourself! Try telling the people around you that you’re going to focus on something for a while and would appreciate them giving you some time to work. Since I’ve been focusing on using my alone time for creative time—and wearing big, puffy headphones to emulate it when I can’t have alone time—the amount of drawing I’ve done has shot up.
A Dedicated Drawing Space
Since I began working on my own, I’ve had two desks: my Work Desk, for working, and my Drawing Desk, for drawing. The only things allowed on my drawing desk are: pencils, pens, markers, paper, sketchbooks, iPad Pro (for drawing only), and books.
Since having this dedicated Drawing Desk, I’ve been drawing more than ever. Some sort of mental shift happens in my brain when I move from my Work Desk to my Drawing Desk. My brain is like, “Ok, I know exactly where we are right now, and I know exactly what we’re supposed to do right now—let’s draw!”
Another perk is that I don’t have to clean up my desk when I’m done drawing now, or set it up when I want to draw. Before, I had to clear off space for my sketchbook at my desk, and afterwards I had to put away my sketchbook or I wouldn’t have room to do anything else at my desk. But now, I can leave everything out and pick up right where I left off when I’m ready. Seeing the drawings and sketchbook and sprawled out markers on the drawing desk also reminds me I should draw and lures me back in.
If you can, I highly recommend having a dedicated drawing space, away from where you do your other work. I’ve been drawing for umpteen years, and have just now done it, but it really does make a difference. And it doesn’t have to be an entire desk—claim your corner of the house or mark that old coffee table as your artistic territory!
Experimenting with New Tools and Materials
The final change that led to me make more art was experimenting with new tools and materials. For a while, I was drawing only in pencil, as I had fallen in love with it, and thought it was my artistic thing, part of my artistic style. But since then I’ve realized that style goes much deeper than a tool. Your style can and will be applied to whatever tool is in your hand—the tool doesn’t dictate the style.
But the tool can hint at new directions your style can go. Which is exciting and glorious. Every few months for the past year, I’ve gotten obsessed with a new tool. And every time I became obsessed with the new tool, I had a new motivation to draw and a whole new sense of fun!
My tool exploration so far has gone from Pencil → Wacom Tablet → iPad Pro → Copic Markers → Tombow Brush Pens → Posca Pens → ?
And this isn’t to say I stopped using those other tools. Each tool gets added to my toolbox, as I learn what each can do and when each is most appropriate. With each tool, my style and confidence grows as I learn more about the innate patterns and quirks of my style that carry over from tool to tool.
Because in the end, all of those tools are just that—tools. They aren’t what’s making the art. You are. And I am. So it doesn’t matter what tool you use, you can still come through. I’ve found that using new tools allows me to loosen up in my work and experiment and explore new ways to draw, while also recognizing those commonalities that carry over.
I highly recommend not getting married to one tool or art medium. If you love watercolor or Photoshop, that’s great! You don’t have to give it up! But once in a while, try sketching with a big, fat crayon or making a mess with charcoal, just to see what happens.
These three changes might not be life-changing for every artist, but they worked wonders for me, and I’ve been drawing more than ever.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” ~Pablo Picasso
Thanks for reading!
I love hearing about your experiences too! Are there any things you do that encourage you to make more art? Comment below to let me know! :)