Considering illustration is not my “real” job, I have had to find ways to be creatively productive while trying to educate a group of 60 5th graders. As strange as it may seem, being a teacher requires a lot of time and energy. Yet…I’ve been relatively successful completing artwork and holding a job down. So, I have five tips for the rest of the world:
1. Use down time to think about ideas
This might seem like a non-tip, but it is important to keep in mind. If you spend any time away from your job or commuting or at an uninteresting social event, think about new artworks or work out problems with current artworks. Since I do not have the luxury of doing my illustrations day in and day out, I use that time away to figure out what might not be working with a particular piece. It can actually be a good thing since it is impossible for me to let an illustration consume me. I don’t have the time. So, I use that time to let design issues or new ideas just sit and marinate before moving forward. Since I do not want to start something that ends up going nowhere, I can use that time to really decide, “Is this going to work?” This is an underrated part of the process.
2. Keep current artwork out at all times
I work on Adobe Illustrator so I always keep my current work open. It is a constant friendly reminder to keep working. It can be a pain if Windows decides to update my computer and reboot the whole thing, but that can be fixed. If I know it is there, I can’t ignore it. And since I like doing the work, I do not feel like I am bugging myself. And that leads me to my next point…
3. Work in small increments
Since it is open all the time, I can use small bits of time to put in work. Now, if I am really trying to figure out how to draw something or make an important choice in style, a small bit of time is not useful. I usually have lots of repetitive parts in my work, so I can use those half hour and hour time intervals to do some more monotonous work. I have found these to be particularly beneficial at the end of a piece because the design choices are already fleshed out in my head and I just want to finish the darn thing.
4. Work late at night
I wish did this more often. That time from about 10 to 1 can be very productive. If you are not afraid to stay up late, it can be a great time to tackle big issues or complete a larger section of your illustration. Plus, no one bothers you at that time and the only thing stopping you from doing work is…well…sleep. It is the most difficult to accomplish, though, because it can impact your next day. Plus, I get so tired some nights that I just can’t even think about it. Sometimes I need to put on a cup of coffee and just sit down and start working. If I do that, midnight just rolls around before I know it. That is the best case scenario.
5. Keep life structured
The myth of the kooky, unorganized artist is just that…a myth. The rest of my life is highly organized. I am always creating lists. I am very systematic about how I organize my life, and I am unwavering in my quest to be responsible. I pay my bills on time. I do the grocery shopping. Basically, I make sure I do everything that I am supposed to do…then I do my work. As far as I can tell, this is not something that can be sorted out overnight. I am constantly revising how I organize and what I organize. No matter my choice, though, it allows me to be creative since the creative side of my brain is not overrun by the side that can’t get its act together. I’m telling you…I’m not sure if I’d be able to create if I do not take care of all the things that just get in the way.
Hope that helps!