In this video I give three book recommendations that might seem kind of left field. Nevertheless all three have had a huge impact on me and how I see myself as an artist – and as a human!
Here are direct affiliate links to all three books on Amazon:
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield
We all look for approval, as people as well as artists. We want to be told we are great, that everything will work out for us. The truth is, no one can really give us that validation.
We might get lucky and meet some peers who can give us guidance, tell us where we need to improve or tell us not to worry so much. But we all worry. And I bet you we all ask the same question: Am I good enough? Do I have what it takes to make it as a comics artist?
No one can tell you for certain, if you have what it takes. A portfolio review only tells you if you have the basic talent for drawing. What goes on inside of you is far more important. Are you willing to put in the time and effort to get to the level you want? To confront your own shortcomings and tackle them head on? Are you prepared for the insecure lifestyle of a comic book artist? The solitude? The long hours? The lack of money and lack of respect from your friends and family?
Are you ready for critizism, fair and unfair? Can you muster up the guts to consistently put yourself out there and be judged? How do you handle taking notes and being told what to do? Do you freeze up when you have to perform under less-than-optimal circumstances? How well do you work under the pressure of a deadline? Do you get anything done if there’s NO deadline, or do you end up wasting your days playing World of Warcraft? Can you forgive yourself for producing less-than-perfect art? Do you endlessly beat yourself up if you’re not productive enough, good enough or succesful enough?
What does “making it” even mean for you?
Have you set a specific and measurable goal, and if not, how will you know if you get there? And have you set a time limit for when you want to have “made it”, knowing that it will probably take years longer than you expect?
And guess what – no one has ever “made it” in comics. Because you’re only as good as your last job. Because even the artist you admire the most judge their own success in a totally different way than you do. Because no matter how succesful you are, you still strive for more. There’s always room for improvement.
All this may sound like I’m trying to get you to give up, which is not at all true. The only thing I want you to give up, is asking the wrong questions. Whether you are good enough, time will tell. Time, effort, courage, persistance.
And you know when you are “making it”?
When you are making the most of the skills you have.
Something I’ve been thinking about lately, is how much we as artists (in whatever media or form we work in) are dependent on our own mood and mindset to be prolific or even just get a little something done. Call it tenacity or grit or simply lying self talk that allows for us to continue working on something that the rest of the world deems useless. But what if you’re just not feeling inspired?
I don’t know about you, but I have a to-do list about a mile long. And however many things I check off the list, I never seem to get to the bottom.
That’s why I’ve decided to try out a new approach. A to-do list with just one thing on it: Get started.
You see, procrastination is something that usually kicks in before you even sit down to work on whatever you should be working on. Once I get started, I normally keep going until I have to go pick up my kids or cook dinner. I find that the resistance comes when there are too many choices, too many conflicting tasks.
If you want to get in shape, I sincerely doubt that a complex workout plan is not going to be helpful. You want to make it easy for yourself, get some momentum going. Set a tiny goal like just get on the treadmill every day. Just get on it. And what are you going to do, just stand there? Might as well start moving.
And just as a disclaimer; I don’t know anything about getting in shape. I’m not and never have been in any particularly good shape. That’s not the point. It’s the principle of just getting started and not setting too ambitious goals or have a thousand items on your to-do list. Maybe you just need the one checkbox.
Want more productivity tips? Try giving this podcast episode a listen.
We artists often have a very self-deprecating nature. So let me go against the grain here and try to describe what I find makes me a professional. It’s not that I’m a great artist or a great writer (my self-deprecating nature forbids me to describe myself that way). But at least I’m a pro!
The obvious answer to what makes me a pro is of course that I make a living from my artistic skills and have been for almost 20 years. I’m also very good at keeping my promises (aka. deadlines) which I think is probably the most important thing for a freelancer.
But I just realized that underneath these superficial traits are two very basic principles:
I am aware of my own process enough that I am able to replicate it. That includes knowing how long each step will roughly take so I know what the time frame needs to be for me to deliver and also have an estimate of how much it should cost. This varies with each project depending very much on my own preferences. If it’s something I’m not passionate about, my price goes up. But that’s a whole other discussion.
I am aware of the resistance (as Steven Pressfield calls it) – both internal and external – that may (and probably will) come up along the way. My many years of experiencing the same feelings of self-doubt and boredom, helps me recognize it for what it is: A part of my workflow. It also helps me with strategies to deal with the resistance. Not overcome it, but live with it.
For instance, I will jump to another part of the process if I feel stuck or simply walk away from it for a while, knowing that I will get back in the groove tomorrow or the next day. What I don’t do is start doubting my entire career and self-worth because I have an unproductive day where I feel like I can’t draw to save my life.
There is no set-in-stone answer to how to become a great artist. Everyone is unique in their approach. But for me I believe the above points are crucial. Hopefully it can serve as an inspiration or eye opener for your own artistic process.
If you are looking for more practical advice on delivering the goods as a pro artist, try giving this podcast episode a listen.