As I’m starting to take on larger paid illustration projects, I’ve been noticing a weird feeling that sometimes makes it hard to start working on them. I love drawing, and it’s not that I don’t want to do the work, so I think I can ascribe this feeling to fear.
“What if I can’t do it? What if I make something and it sucks? What if I screw up my crucial first professional opportunities? What if I’m really just a skill-less poseur?!”
And then I find something else to occupy my mind for a while, and then I notice that one, two, three hours have gone by and I haven’t started my assignment. Arrgh!!
If I’m going to be a real pro, I’ve got to learn to just do the work. Building professional working habits and increasing my drawing stamina now will help me a lot, immediately and later on.
One thing I’ve been trying lately is starting my illustration work sessions with some warm-up sketches. I just let myself draw whatever I feel like for a while with no expectation of quality and no pressure of having it be judged by someone else. It helps me loosen up and remember “oh yeah, I can make marks with this tablet thing that coalesce into things that look like drawings”. I mostly end up drawing girls, girls’ heads, and cute animals. Unsurprising!
Here are some of my recent warm up sketches:
Another side benefit to doing free form sketching like this is that often I end up liking a few of the sketches, and they might become the basis for finished pieces later. For example, in the second group of sketches, I really like the girl in the top right corner, and the fox thing in the bottom middle. And I kind of want to continue drawing squirrels in yoga poses now. (Maybe I could make a series and post them on a tumblog, hahaha.)
Other ways to kick fear in the face and get to work:
- Show your work to someone who you know will love it, such as anyone who can’t draw. Or your mom!
- Remember that there’s no such thing as mistakes or failure in drawing! Everything lives somewhere in the middle of a massive gradient with ‘noob’ on one side and ‘god-like’ on the other side. Every mark you make is an iterative process of refinement.
- Remember that even pros feel this way, but they still end up doing the work. In a comic creator panel at FanExpo last weekend, Len Wein (a comics/animation writer/editor with a pretty impressive range of titles under his name) said that every time he starts a new project, he worries that it’s all been a fluke up until now and he actually has no talent, and a few of the co-panelists nodded in recognition. That’s… kind of depressing (the fact that even pros don’t seem to overcome this), but at least you know that what you’re feeling is normal.
Now get to work!!