Super Obvious Secrets That I Wish They’d Teach In Art School
on May 17, 2011
in Comics, Illustration and News
. Tags: advice, career, Comics, freelance, Illustration, rules, secrets, students, tips.
I get a lot of emails from illustration students and young cartoonists. Sometimes they ask to interview me for a class assignment, sometimes they’re recent graduates looking for advice on how to transition from art student to professional illustrator/cartoonist. I get emails asking about how I promote my work, how to “break into” illustration or comics, how to find clients, how to gain a following on the internet, etc.
I usually laugh a little as I read all these emails because I myself am still really struggling to make ends meet as a full time illustrator and cartoonist. I’m still figuring out what works and what doesn’t. But things are definitely improving and getting easier, slowly but steadily.
I understand the daunting feeling that comes with the end of college or the decision to leave a day job and take those first steps towards a career as an illustrator or cartoonist, having gone through it myself not that long ago. It’s good to talk to people and learn from those that have been at it already for a few years. I myself have learned a ton from emailing and talking with more experienced illustrators and cartoonists. I still ask colleagues for advice all the time. I’ve also learned a lot of things the hard way, by trying and failing. I don’t have all the answers yet (I never will), but here are a some important things I’ve learned so far. Most of it seems like obvious, common sense stuff. And it is. I hope some of you find this useful!
If you don’t enjoy drawing enough to want to do it every single day then you should probably find another line of work! I don’t know about other freelancers, but I work seven days a week.
Creativity is a muscle. If you want that muscle to stay strong you’ve got to use it every day. If you fall out of the habit of drawing every day it can be really tough to pick it up again. Muscles weaken much faster than they grow. So don’t stop drawing ever! Take a sketchbook with you everywhere. Keep a sketchbook next to your bed. Keep one in your backpack or hand bag. Delete Angry Birds from your phone and spend your time doodling while you’re waiting in line at the bank or riding the subway from 181st Street to Union Square. Drawing is your religion.
Draw something that you don’t think is within your ability to draw. Try drawing a comic without penciling anything first, go straight to ink. Pick up a cheap set of watercolor paints and play with them until your eyes turn into little hearts and you love them and they love you back and everyone is crying happy watercolor tears and embracing. If you don’t think you can draw a motorcycle then draw a motorcycle every day until you’re good at drawing motorcycles. Go to a life drawing session and draw some naked people (it’s fun!).
Again, creativity is a muscle. You won’t end up with gigantic tough guy muscles if you’re afraid to try lifting more than five pounds.
You don’t grow by staying within your comfort zone. You’ll be a stinky stagnant little pool of moldy potential with little insects buzzing around and having desperate sexy times and laying eggs all over the damn place. You need to get your creative juices flowing like a big majestic waterfall! Force yourself to draw something that you know will be difficult. Force yourself to draw something you have no interest in at all and find a way to make it interesting. I used to suck at drawing backgrounds and scenery. I was more interested in drawing people and I avoided backgrounds as much as possible. I decided to spend a year really focusing on drawing awesome backgrounds.
Now I love drawing scenery just as much as people and I’m a more powerful, versatile illustrator than I used to be.
A lot of the opportunities and jobs and exposure that have come my way have been a direct result of talking to people and being a nice guy. There have been a number of occasions where illustrator friends have been really busy and have sent assignments my way that they had to turn down. I’ve befriended cartoonists who have gone on to find incredible success and was then lucky enough to have them link back to my work sending loads of new readers my way. Don’t be dismissive of people who enjoy your work and definitely DO NOT take them for granted. It really stinks when you get to meet an artist you admire at a convention or a book signing and they can’t even make eye contact or smile or look up from their sketchbook to show that they are appreciative of the fact that you enjoy their work and would like to give them your money. When working with a new client do your best to accommodate their needs and to be a pleasant person. They aren’t going to send more work your way if you were a pain to deal with. Say “thanks” a lot. And mean it! Be thankful that someone is paying you to sit at home and draw pictures! If no one is paying you then be thankful that we weren’t born without arms.
Don’t trash talk other people’s work even if it really does suck. I can think of plenty of cartoonists who are way more successful than me who, in my opinion, consistently produce dumb, boring, crappy comics. But talking shit about their comics and comparing their success to my own isn’t going to benefit me in any way. It would only be self destructive. It doesn’t matter how many twitter followers you have. But be nice to the people and spam bots that do follow you.
My best work, the work that I get most excited about and that other people seem to enjoy and respond to the most, is usually stuff that I draw purely for fun. My big mental art breakthroughs usually happen when I’m mindlessly doodling. Sketchbooks are where you get to draw whatever you want and where ideas are born. Set aside a little time every day to doodle and explore. Draw for YOURSELF.
Did you ever sit on the floor and draw as a kid? Most kids do it. Do you remember how fun it was? It was really fun. It didn’t matter what the drawings looked like when you were done. It was just a fun thing to do. I remember drawing monsters and spooky castles with my brothers. It was one of our favorite things to do. We could sit and draw monsters and spooky castles for hours. We were drawing them because monsters and spooky castles interested us and because the act of drawing is super fun. Don’t forget how fun drawing can (and should) be. Do forget about impressing anyone. Just have fun. Don’t pressure yourself into thinking you’ve got to draw something amazing because if you sit down and think “I’ve got to make an amazing drawing” then you’re just going to end up staring at a blank sheet of paper. Just start drawing.
Want to draw a graphic novel? Then do it. Stop talking about it and do it. Don’t wait until you have more free time or more drawing skills. As you get get older you will find yourself with less and less free time. And the only way to improve your skills is to draw a lot. Like, several graphic novels worth of drawings. So set some deadlines for yourself and draw a graphic novel. Deadlines are CRUCIAL. Right now I’m working on a project that at first seemed extremely daunting. I sat down and figured out that if I draw three pictures every day the project will be done in about a month. So every day I know I’ve got to get three drawings done and if I fall behind or miss a day I’ve got to make up for it the next day. Being organized and tracking my progress is helping and actually makes being productive kind of like a fun game. I made a spreadsheet to map out my progress. I get to fill a little section in with color every time I complete a drawing or finish coloring a page. Being able to visualize my progress is awesome and gets me excited about finishing a big project. Also I tell myself that if I don’t have this project done in a month I’ll have a mini freak out and then my face will shrivel up super fast and I’ll disintegrate like that Nazi fellow at the end of The Last Crusade. DEADline! Eh? Get it? *nudge nudge*
Whether you’re digging for treasure in the yard or hunched over a drafting table, it’s important to take breaks every so often! Breaks help keep your mind (and body) fresh.
I like to take short breaks often. Draw for an hour and then walk around the block or have a quick snack or just sit and stare out the window for a few minutes. Reward yourself for working hard!
We all have particular artists that we love and have been influenced by. But one of the worst things you can do is to get stuck on those artists or to try to imitate them. Yes, it’s good to study other people’s art and learn from it but don’t just hone in on one or two artists that you really admire. Study LOTS of people’s work. If you only allow yourself to be influenced by James Kochalka you’ll just end up as a poor man’s version of James Kochalka. No one draws like James Kochalka better than James Kochalka. Why would anyone care about your work when they just go look at a James Kochalka book? James Kochalka is an awesome cartoonist and you can learn a lot by studying his work BUT make sure you learn something from a lot of other artists too. If you’re drawing comics, try ignoring other people’s comics for a while. Find inspiration in novels or nature documentaries or old videos of Etta James on Youtube or poetry or newspaper articles. Your comics will be much better if you do this. You won’t find success if your only sources of inspiration are other comics that are already popular. A thousand other people are already trying to make something just like that one comic you love and chances are most of them aren’t going to find much success either. It’s also important to go outside and experience new things and interact with people. The world will feed you new ideas and new sources of inspiration. If the only thing you are able to write about or joke about is video games then may the good comics lord have mercy on your soul.
If you want people to respect your work, take you seriously, or pay you to draw things then do not trash talk your own work. Why would you expect someone else take your work seriously when even you, the person that created it, are openly talking about how much it sucks? If you want people to get excited about your work (and to hire you to draw things) then you need to show them that YOU are excited about your work.
Here’s a little story about how I learned that you should be excited about your own work: When I was 20 years old I had one of my comics published for the very first time by New Reliable Press in the first volume of You Ain’t No Dancer. Some of the other artists in that book were Jeffrey Brown, Nicholas Gurewitch, Hope Larson, Jim Mahfood, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Lilli Carré… Dave Cooper did the cover. I was in very good company. The book debuted at SPX, which I attended that year for the very first time. I was lucky enough to meet and talk to a lot of the other artists in the book, artists who I really, really admired. I was understandably a little nervous (my first convention! My first published comic! In a real book! With some really, really great cartoonists!). I met Bryan Lee O’Malley and asked if he’d sign my copy of You Ain’t No Dancer. He was happy to do so. As he was doodling in the book I sheepishly mentioned that I too had a comic in the book. He perked up a little. “Oh yeah? Which one is yours?” he asked as he began to flip through the book. Feeling totally intimidated and terrified I looked at my feet and said “Oh… uh… it’s… um… it’s not that great…” When I looked up I immediately knew I’d said the wrong thing. Whatever interest he might have had had in my work had completely disappeared. And so a creator who’s work I admire and who I’m sure would have been a good person to be friendly with probably thinks very little of me and my work if he even remembers me at all.
Everyone has off days or stretches of time where they just aren’t happy with any of the work they’re producing. It happens! And it’s okay! But just because you’re going through a bit of a rut that doesn’t mean you should stop drawing. You aren’t going to beat the rut by not drawing anything. Just accept that not every drawing or comic you produce is going to be awesome and keep working. Spend some time with your sketchbook. If you’ve lost excitement for a project then ask yourself why it’s not exciting anymore. What can you do to make it exciting again? Change something!
I’ve tried many different methods of self promotion. I’ve sent out postcards in the mail, I’ve tried shmoozing at conventions, I’ve sent cold emails and have considered cold calling art directors (I’m still considering it). The most effective thing I’ve done has actually been the simplest: Draw awesome stuff and put it on the internet. Do this for a while and good things will happen.
Wow! This is a long blog post. I’ve got to go catch up on all the drawing I should have been doing instead of writing this! I hope someone out there finds this helpful.
« ORIGINAL ART SALE!
115 Responses to “Super Obvious Secrets That I Wish They’d Teach In Art School”
Feed for this Entry Trackback Address
1. 1 Josiah
May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm
Thanks for this! I’m going to art school next year, so I’m pretty terrified about everything, but this is all really great advice! I need to get more art done, and more practice in. Thanks!
2. 2 Pete
May 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm
This was brilliant sir, it really helps get me and I’m sure others motivated, and I’m not even an artist.
3. 3 Werner Fismer
May 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm
Thank you for this!
I’m quite lost with my creative endevours at the moment, and what you’ve shared here (and how you’ve shared it) really means a lot to me. (Especially the bits about having fun and dealing with ruts.)
4. 4 CheyAnne
May 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm
This is a great article and one I really needed to read right now. Wonderful how that works, yes? Anyway, I just joined Tumblr and learning my way around, I found your inspiring post. Love your illustrations as well. Especially the great big beautiful blue room.
Great background, those people must love that room. Thanks for the reminder to DRAW every single day. I really, really want to get serious with my art, but once again, I’m making excuses and not following thru. Thanks again
peace n abundance,
5. 5 Max Hancock
May 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm
Great post! I think everyone knows these things but it’s always good to have a reminder. The couple of years before I went to art college, I would draw for hours per day. Now that I’m in college, I barely draw. Once a week maybe. Although it’s slightly because I’m learning 3D instead, I still could have drawn a lot more. I have had some success but it feels like I’m still coasting on the progression I made prior to college, haha. I’ve always known I need to draw daily if I’m going to get better again. Time to shut up and do it.
6. 6 protowilson
May 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm
Great advice! I must make sure my students see this. I will also print out it to look at when I feel glum about my work/drawing habits.
7. 7 Dominic Bugatto
May 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm
Wonderful post , so bang on about a lot of things .
8. 8 Brhillman
May 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm
Genuinely enjoyed this :) Daily doodling is definitely vitamins for artists.
9. 9 Grace Oris
May 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm
Great advice, and it’s not just for art school too. The principles can be applied in other disciplines as well. Thanks for the reminder!
10. 10 Anne Lessing
May 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm
I’m not an illustrator (I’m a writer), but I found this post inspiring and helpful. Everything you say here can be applied to writing as well, and this post is so well-written and funny that I couldn’t help but read it. Excellent work, and thank you for writing this!
11. 11 Samantha
May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm
Great blog post, definitely worth the long read. They definitely feel like common sense, but it feels good to be reminded how important it is to simply enjoy the act of drawing.
I find it helps to keep a personal “secret” sketchbook that no one sees for when I need to draw ‘for me’. Separate from all the work-share-post ones. This way I can just have fun, and not think about if it’s looks cool in the end. If it does sweet, onto the internet it goes, if not, it’s my happy little secret :)
12. 12 Chris Kennett
May 17, 2011 at 7:43 pm
Thanks Phil, that is one of the greatest blog posts I’ve read in a long time. I agree with you 100% If I may add another heading “Patience”, I’m 35 and have just had my first children’s book printed. A lot of kids ask me similar questions (to the ones they ask of you) and they all have one thing in common, they want it NOW! Success NOW! I couldn’t have created my book at 20, even 30! A little humility and Patience and things will happen when the time is right.
Thanks for sharing :)
13. 13 Michelle Kondrich
May 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm
Really great post, Phil. Thanks!
14. 14 VERWHO?
May 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm
This is just too damn true and too damn beautiful, so I’m gonna pass it around a bit.
15. 15 Rabbit Town Animator
May 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm
Wow! This is a great read. I am a 2D animator/illustrator and what you wrote was informative and really enjoyable to read. I have a weakness in backgrounds…best get on to making some I think ;)
16. 16 Kwatkins_artist
May 17, 2011 at 8:52 pm
A great kick in the butt…and inspiring too! Thanks! Wishing u amazing success!
Live. Laugh. Be At Peace!
17. 17 Tomas
May 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm
I didn’t read the article but the kid slide cartoon is one of the most original jokes I’ve seen in the long time.
18. 18 Zack
May 17, 2011 at 9:09 pm
Great piece! I’ve been plugging away at my own webcomic for the last year and this was just the breath of fresh air I needed to keep the spirit alive.
19. 19 Ridge Rooms
May 17, 2011 at 9:11 pm
I want to give every paragraph here a big sloppy kiss. I’d say I’ve struggled at some point in time with every single issue above. Thank you for this post! I’m especially gripped lately by the part about losing excitement for something you’re working on. I have a piece I keep putting aside because although I know it’ll kick-ass in the end, the process isn’t really grabbing me. I thought maybe my instincts (about its eventual kick-assness) were off, but I’m following your advice to try and rethink how to make myself excited about it again.
Thanks, Phil, for being so candid about all of this! I think I may need to print this post out and paper the wall above my drawing table with it for a while until I get some kinks in my process worked out. I’ve worked with many famous artists & cartoonists over the years, and most were aloof about their work … it always makes me believe if I’m struggling with some of the above issues sometimes, then I’m not a pro artist. Now I know that’s not true.
p.s. and you’re absolutely right about if-you-put-it-on-the-Internet-they-will-come
20. 20 Courtney
May 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm
Fantastic post with great tips and awesome drawings! Thank You!
21. 21 Tom Sexton
May 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm
Good stuff. It all comes down to love of the craft.
22. 22 Chris Otto
May 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm
Excellent advice! After reading through the tips, it’s all things that seem so simple, but we often forget them. Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be having fun with this! Seems obvious, but it’s hard to keep it in mind all the time.
I’ve only just started drawing comics, and it quickly became something I look forward to doing every day.
23. 23 Renee K
May 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm
This is a damn good post, Phil. This is good for college grads and seasoned professionals alike. Never get lazy!
24. 24 Stephen
May 17, 2011 at 11:11 pm
Thanks, Phil. I’ve had a super crappy, self-loathing kind of week, and this was some fresh air. Henceforth, I will try to have a lot more fun. :-)
25. 25 hotcreosote
May 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm
I do not draw at all. This is excellent advice for anyone in the art world (broadly defined.) Thank you, sir!
26. 26 wings
May 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm
thanks for this. especially the part about art ruts.
27. 27 James Burks
May 18, 2011 at 12:14 am
Great Advice. Thanks for taking the time to share.
28. 28 Amanda
May 18, 2011 at 12:57 am
Thanks. :) This came to me at just the right time, and is much appreciated. Best of luck to you!
29. 29 Dan Wolfe
May 18, 2011 at 1:02 am
Great post. As everyone else has said, really good advice applies to all sorts of things not just illustration (obviously substituting drawing for whatever it is you want to do!)
I do love the mental image of the deadline meltdown! :D
30. 30 susie g
May 18, 2011 at 1:10 am
phil, this is so awesome & totally inspiring! you rule.
31. 31 Matt
May 18, 2011 at 1:18 am
This was awesome. Thank you! There was a lot of really great advice and good positive things for me to think about. Seriously, thanks a ton!
32. 32 Tali
May 18, 2011 at 2:04 am
That is just brilliant!
By the way - it is REALLY hard to find old videos of Etta James on Youtube.. I’ve tried before!! Where are they all hiding?!
33. 33 Marinn
May 18, 2011 at 2:07 am
I fall for this post. Soo-damn-true!
Thanks for the reminder.
PS: you are a great writer too :)
34. 34 Phil
May 18, 2011 at 2:10 am
Tali: This one is my favorite!
35. 35 jackie
May 18, 2011 at 2:30 am
Brilliant piece. I get asked the same question so many times and have been thinking about putting something similar on my website so that I can stop repeating myself.
And there are lessons in here that I have forgotten after 30 years of working as an illustrator, so thanks.
Will link to this piece when I have written mine.
36. 36 John
May 18, 2011 at 2:40 am
a great read to start my morning and keep me motivated! thank you very much for writing this and posting it on the internet ^^
37. 37 Lee
May 18, 2011 at 2:44 am
Wow, fantastic bits of advice here, thanks alot!
38. 38 matt
May 18, 2011 at 2:53 am
Thank you so much for playing hooky from your three daily drawings to write this post! It’s very much appreciated. Still working the day job and trying on freelance illustration in any free time I have it’s easy to get bogged down. To read so much good advice in one spot is tremendously invigorating. I feel I could draw tall buildings in a single bound ;-) Thanks again illustration guru!
39. 39 Penny
May 18, 2011 at 2:55 am
Fantastic inspirational reading for anyone, not just budding illustrators. Completely hit the spot on several fronts, thanks!
40. 40 Björn
May 18, 2011 at 3:28 am
Great post, really inspiring (to a degree that I felt compelled to comment on your post which I hardly ever can be arsed to do)! Obvious but none the less important things to keep in mind (and be reminded of every once in a while) when working in the creative field. If I may I would also like to post yet another advice here: I have found it very useful at times (especially when you’re pitching your work to clients who for one reason or another may not be that experienced in buying illustration work, design work or the likes of it) to try and put your finger on and explain how your work will translate into value for your client. For example; If you want to illustrate for a magazine or newspaper you would explain how editorial illustration can be a great alternative to photography at certain times - for instance when publishing an opinion piece or something similarly notional where a photograph just won’t provide the desired impact (or just is’nt an option at all). It is important to keep in mind that many “buyers” of your work are people that feel more at home with figures, diagrams, etc. and hence can have a hard time in understanding the value of something as abstract as art. And I’m not saying this is something that goes for every comissioner because I have, and I’m pretty sure you have too, had the pleasure of working with people who understand the value of artistic freedom as well as the importance of a decent paycheck, but none the less - I think this is something that helps a lot when communicating with clients. Again thanks for a great post, I really like your work as well. Peace.
41. 41 Jacques Nyemb
May 18, 2011 at 4:25 am
Thanks so much for posting this! It’s really helpful stuff!
42. 42 Aisha Thani
May 18, 2011 at 4:27 am
I should do that spend a whole year drawing backgrounds thing…
all awesome advice I think everyone should follow ^^
43. 43 Andy Fanton
May 18, 2011 at 5:38 am
I’ve read a lot of words in my time, but none more wise than these. Excellent, excellent article!
44. 44 Joel Christian Gill
May 18, 2011 at 5:46 am
I teach at an art school and this sounds a lot like a speaker we have come down from CCS Center for Cartoon Studies in White river Junction Vermont Alec Longstreth you can see is version of this here: http://www.alec-longstreth.com/comics/comics_love/
45. 45 Joel Christian Gill
May 18, 2011 at 5:48 am
I teach at an art school (NH Institute of Art) and this sounds a lot like a speaker we have come down from CCS Center for Cartoon Studies in White river Junction Vermont Alec Longstreth you can see is version of this here: http://www.alec-longstreth.com/comics/comics_love/
46. 46 Darryl Ayo, who is VERY good, thank you
May 18, 2011 at 6:38 am
Phil, I love you man. You are the best doodly dude! I’m so glad this post of yours has reached so many people!
And dang this post hit home like whoa. Time to stop moping and start mopping (as is mopping the pages with ink). You’re a great dude, an inspiring figure and a mean ink-slinger. Can’t wait to see your BOOK, man!
47. 47 Tykayn
May 18, 2011 at 8:01 am
yay good advices :)
i would advice to draw outside and with some friends who love to draw too, to travel to see new things and keep drawings that are not good, to see how you evolved and to point what you have to improove instead of acting like you never did anything wrong.
the important is to stand up!
and enjoy :)
48. 48 adam
May 18, 2011 at 8:36 am
wow, awesome stuff! thanks for sharing.
49. 49 eozberk
May 18, 2011 at 8:38 am
I skimmed the other replies and didn’t notice any mention to the amazing drawing of the kids on the slide. Made me laugh pretty hard.
Your point about the internet is right on. I found this post through tumblr.
Meanwhile, I’m no artist but I’ve toted around several sketchbooks since highschool. Great advice Phil!
50. 50 brad
May 18, 2011 at 9:00 am
thanks for the great read! good insight and i have always enjoyed your work!
51. 51 ShadowXEyenoom
May 18, 2011 at 9:33 am
Thank you really much for posting this :) This are going to help me alot ^_^
52. 52 lesley
May 18, 2011 at 10:08 am
love it. simple and goes the same for designers.
53. 53 riflow
May 18, 2011 at 10:16 am
I love you.
I’m going to bookmark this and use it as a pick me up for when I feel depressed, inferior, unmotivated….you get the idea.
54. 54 pam wishbow
May 18, 2011 at 10:34 am
you totally just got me out of my rut :)
55. 55 tyler
May 18, 2011 at 10:37 am
thanks for saying what we all think but never take the time to write down. reblogged/reposted in every way I could.
56. 56 Joy Mallari
May 18, 2011 at 10:38 am
Thank you for taking a break from drawing and writing this! These are super obvious secrets but only made more powerful by the fact that someone else is experiencing and articulating them as well.
We go to art school because our entire lives we’ve enjoyed making art: drawing during school lectures, on road trips, even at the kitchen table. It’s always a refreshing reminder to post grads that we chose this line of work because it’s fun. FUN!
57. 57 Dustin Cantos
May 18, 2011 at 10:40 am
You know, this is the second time I am reading this. Why?
During the first reading, I stopped halfway…I stopped because I had the incredible urge to draw again right then and there. So now it is the next day for me, and I just finished reading.
Thanks so much for the super obvious tricks that I wish I did learn in college. I wish I did learn them then, but I am glad I know now.
So now I ask, since I’ve read your article, maybe you can look at my artwork as a fair trade? =)
58. 58 John Platt
May 18, 2011 at 10:46 am
I love that!
59. 59 Jason A. Quest
May 18, 2011 at 11:15 am
Great advice. One thing I would add is to surround yourself with people who will encourage you and challenge you. Not sycophants who’ll tell you your shit smells like roses, and not toxic slime who’ll make you hate yourself, but fellow creators who’ll be honest with you. I’m a lone wolf by nature, so that’s been hard for me, but I found an online community (click my name) that helps with that and I’m starting to make some real progress in getting art made and even getting readers.
60. 60 Jason A. Quest
May 18, 2011 at 11:22 am
Or since the link in my name didn’t work: http://SequentialWorkshop.com
61. 61 Paige Keiser
May 18, 2011 at 11:36 am
This article hit the nail on the head - beautifully written and illustrated, thank you! Hope you don’t mind my linking it from my blog.
62. 62 Julie D'Arcy
May 18, 2011 at 12:20 pm
Thank you for taking the time to put this all down. You are completely right.
63. 63 Tracey
May 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm
I stumbled across your post when Google Reader suggested it, wow, do they know me!
Awesome advice, I especially like the bit about being nice. That is so true and starting to seem like a rarer thing on the internet now a days.
Taking breaks, another thing that seems obvious but really essential I think to the creative process. Sometimes ya just gotta walk away from what you’re working on and stare out the window or get a coffee or something. Maybe it helps slow the hands down, so they can do their best and not rush through, or let your head get around the whole idea so you don’t lose sight, I dunno. But I agree, taking breaks, yaaaay!
64. 64 E.D. Lindquist
May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm
Not an artist, but it’s good advice for any creative pursuit. Plus, the pictures make it more fun to read. Thanks for sharing. :)
65. 65 Rio Aubry Taylor
May 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm
Hey, great advice! I especially like the part about not putting down your own work. I once heard a well respected cartoonist go on and on about how much his art sucked. Though I didn’t know much of his work before the lecture, what I saw of his I thought was very good, and there were definitely students there who loved his comics. I felt like putting his art down was a bit insulting to anyone who actually thought his work was good. Kind of like saying they don’t have good taste or something. I often feel that cartoonists are too self-deprecating, to the point of almost being a detriment to the medium. Anyway, thanks!
66. 66 Rene van Belzen
May 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm
Great post. However, it seems only half the work. There is not only art, but story as well. Do you have any good tips on becoming better at storytelling?
67. 67 leonardo
May 18, 2011 at 1:27 pm
thanks a lot for this dude, the stuf that you talked about in this post worth as much as artbook.
68. 68 Tom Dell'Aringa
May 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm
Amazing article, Phil. These things can’t be said enough, and it really shows in your work. Bravo!
69. 69 Leslie
May 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm
Thank you! I needed to hear…ALL OF THIS. :D
70. 70 John
May 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm
Brilliant! I’m 55 years old and it re-inspired me. Regarding Rene’s question about getting better at storytelling: read short stories. The shorter the better. I recommend Lydia Davis (she is AMAZING), Raymond Carver, Hemingway of course, and Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories. Read anything by any of these people and then start designing characters. Then comp up some storyboards. Learn a lot and have big fun.
71. 71 Buzatron
May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm
This is some fantastic advice! Great stuff for aspiring artists and creative people in general!
72. 72 blossom
May 18, 2011 at 2:12 pm
Thanks for tsking the time to write these words of wisdom. I think that they apply to creative people in other fields as well.
73. 73 Ben Rankel
May 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm
I really needed this.
Thank you so much.
74. 74 Joe Mills
May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm
Really great post…as someone not right out of college who is trying to drum up some freelance illustration work, it was a much needed kick in the pants.
75. 75 wwwjam
May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm
Best advice I’ve read in a long LONG time.
76. 76 Leroy
May 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm
Thanks for sharing your experience Phil.
Love your work.
77. 77 Yaku
May 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm
Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve always felt torn about drawing… the thing is I don’t like doing it every day because I find my own skills lacking and even though there has been a lot of improvement in the last ten years (have the crappy high school drawings for comparison), I still find my work lacking. I’ll follow your tips and try to do it every day, although I still feel my work is crap.
78. 78 Greg Pfister
May 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm
I’m not an illustrator / artist and have no plans or desire to be one, but I do write (two technical books, major name publisher). I’ve been, basically, screwing around not getting anywhere on a third, and this really hit the mark with me. Got to go just do it, work it hard, and damn the interruptions and distractions.
79. 79 Andro
May 18, 2011 at 10:21 pm
The best thing I’ve read in a while. Kudos for this :) Time to draw!
80. 80 J. Edward Edens
May 18, 2011 at 11:55 pm
Thank you for this.
81. 81 Dave Flodine
May 19, 2011 at 12:00 am
Wow, this is a great blog post that more artist’s need to read. I don’t think i found one thing i disagree with. Thanks for sharing and good luck to you :)
82. 82 Jess
May 19, 2011 at 1:03 am
I think the most helpful thing for me that you’ve said is not to trash talk yourself. I’m sort of in the habit of doing it, since I don’t want to appear pretentious or anything, but I never really stopped to consider that there may be a difference between being pretentious and having pride in your work.
It’s also sort of comforting to hear that other artists go through periods where stuff they draw just turns out like crap. I feel like I almost go through a monthly cycle of this. Like art PMS.
83. 83 Kenny Grady
May 19, 2011 at 1:22 am
This was really helpful and inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge.
84. 84 Adam
May 19, 2011 at 1:35 am
This has helped and inspired me no end. I feel like I often need a little kick in the right direction when I get side-tracked, although that kick is being needed less and less and I get older! This is what I intend to be my last kick I need.
Hope to see you at a convention some day! Keep up the great artwork, by the way. You are on TOP form!
85. 85 Kevin John Ventura
May 19, 2011 at 1:49 am
Inspiring. Reminds me to be more creative and to grow.
86. 86 dimaks
May 19, 2011 at 2:09 am
I used to draw a lot when i was in high school, then in college. upon stepping out of the academe, I kinda stopped and concentrated on my office work which is more on research works and dang! you are right, it is hard to pick up the drive again.
but thanks for this inspiring article. very well written.
87. 87 dren
May 19, 2011 at 3:18 am
I was enlightened by this post. Thank you!
88. 88 Mattias Adolfsson
May 19, 2011 at 3:50 am
I just got a mail from a struggling artist and have spent the last half hour trying to answer it, now i found that you already had answered it for me.
great post I couldn’t agree more!
89. 89 jim
May 19, 2011 at 4:48 am
Yes sir! Thanks for this. Any professional artist of any stripe would do well to read this. I’m a musician and replacing “draw” with “play” throughout pretty much works, and the other advice translates directly.
i.e. Play something that you don’t think is within your ability to play. Force yourself to play something that you know will be difficult. Force yourself to play something you have no interest in at all and find a way to make it interesting.
I do these things. But I’ve never played a motorcycle. Must try that.
90. 90 cyrus
May 19, 2011 at 5:06 am
Brilliant post. and I think I stumbled across it at just the right time.
91. 91 Alex
May 19, 2011 at 6:32 am
Hi Phil, I found your blog post by way of drawn.ca and I have to take a moment to thank you for writing it.
I’m in the process of leaving a day job to take some first steps towards a career in animation on the other side of the country. I’ve been losing focus amidst the day-to-day preparations of the move, but reading these points have reminded me why I’m making the change in the first place. :)
92. 92 Peter
May 19, 2011 at 7:48 am
I’m a programmer and this is actualy great advice for programming too. Sure, some of the advice takes a bit of creative thinking to apply to my field, but its good anyway.
93. 93 Richard Thompson
May 19, 2011 at 9:01 am
Thank you, Phil, it’s good to hear this stuff. Even if I might’ve known it already, I forget some of it too often.
94. 94 radiant
May 19, 2011 at 10:03 am
Hey Phil, thanks for writing this awesome post. It’s a good reminder for things we’ve forgotten.
95. 95 Falynn K
May 19, 2011 at 10:27 am
Phil! I saw this posted on FB by people who dont know you! Your internet famous! as if you werent already that is :)
(PS good stuff here)
96. 96 Luisa Felix
May 19, 2011 at 12:17 pm
This is the best posting/blog you ever done. Valuable information and illustrations.—- But you did not mention that some people have the disease Rheumatoid-Arthritis in their hands and there are some days they can’t even grip the pen or pencil. And to down tons of pain pills can ruin their liver or kidneys. Some people drawing production is sometimes limited to their health problems. — But it is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as one continues to draw WHEN THEY CAN DO IT. Please make mention of this. Cartoonists are NOT MACHINES. —- Luisa Felix
97. 97 CreativeMind
May 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm
Thanks.. really useful advices :)
98. 98 Kate
May 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm
Excellent article, really good ideas, and your illustrations make it even better :)
99. 99 andrewwales
May 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm
Awesome advice! Thanks for this.
100. 100 Mateusz
May 19, 2011 at 3:58 pm
Thank you for this post! I know my answer will not cover how grateful I am for putting this together, but it sure did motivate me. It helps to visualize the goal better. It just makes sense. I am personally so angry that us artist must learn the hard business, while usually art eats us all leaving not much energy for business itself. Sometimes it kills the fun, but thinking of it as another challenge forces us to stay on ground and to grow as a man. Thank you a lot for your thoughts!
101. 101 Bianca
May 19, 2011 at 4:19 pm
I learned lots today! Thanks~
102. 102 maura
May 19, 2011 at 4:38 pm
hey Phil - great article! i have passed this onto my students to read. lots of great points in here, all of which are so important. thanks - hope you’re doing well :)
103. 103 Christina
May 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The things I need to hear most tend to come at times when I least expect it. Thanks so much.
104. 104 Juan
May 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm
sweet post.. very well appreciated since i just graduated… it is very obvious stuff.. but it does kick my butt a little bit and makes me want to try harder.. i just opened my sketchbook now… see…
105. 105 t
May 19, 2011 at 10:06 pm
poo slide . . . brilliant.
106. 106 Lindsay
May 19, 2011 at 11:10 pm
Just another silly artist here saying thank you. Thank you!
107. 107 Cynthia
May 20, 2011 at 9:15 am
Love the blue room! Reminds me of my favorite animated Disney movie, 101 Dalmatians. Great article as well :)
108. 108 fajas colombianas
May 20, 2011 at 10:48 am
Draw and draw, dont let others influence you. Draw to your hearts desire.
109. 109 Raziel Azzan
May 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm
Wow i just wanna say thank you so much for putting all of this it opened my mind on art if i ever become a better artist its becaus of you again thank you so much
110. 110 Wally Littman
May 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm
I love the work. Thanks for sharing.
111. 111 RojaMitchell
May 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm
Thanks for this :]
112. 112 HaleyJ.
May 20, 2011 at 8:26 pm
Wow! This really inspires me a lot.
Thank you so much for spending your time to share this!!
113. 113 Tati
May 20, 2011 at 10:40 pm
THANK YOU so much for posting those amazing tips. They came at the right time! I was feeling bad about my art and professional career.
Thanks, thanks, thanks!
Hugs and greetings from Brazil,
114. 114 JessC
May 20, 2011 at 11:17 pm
the last one is what I think the most powerful :D
thanks for this sir! stumbleupon sent me.
115. 115 Ben Thompson
May 21, 2011 at 10:42 am
Nice….however, (not to be picky) but regarding the last, sum-the-blog-up thought, didn’t people came here for your words, not the illustrations/cartoons