Urban sketching: a worthy challenge

Art, Creativity, productivity

 

“Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.”

-William Shakespeare

Old Bill is right, of course. We learn through challenging ourselves. You have to exist at the brink of your ability, stretching and straining with every fibre of your being – but without falling over the edge. That’s the fine balance you have to strive for to get better at anything. To stay safe, deep within the confines of your comfort zone, is death.

I’ve always loved drawing people. Faces, particularly. I must have drawn literally thousands over the years. It’s almost automatic now. Of course, I can always get better. But the increase in my skill is going to be marginal, now, particularly compared to trying something new.

In starting to share my work and engage with other creators, I’ve realised just how much talent is out there. I need to up my game. I’m not content with doing the same thing over and over again ad infinitum.

So, I’m doing something that truly challenges me: drawing places. They’re tricky – I’m clumsy, mucking up the perspective and shading. People and cars are moving around. It’s all going too quickly and I can’t get it right. They just feel wrong, disjointed somehow. But I’m learning so much, and it feels really, really good to be a beginner again.

Are you cruising along in any facet of your life at the moment? Is there anywhere you could mix things up, deliberately make things a little trickier for yourself? Your future self won’t regret it – they’d thank you for it, if they could.


Follow me on Instagram if you’d like to see a new drawing every day:

The flu, creative destruction and the importance of rest

Art, Creativity, economics, productivity

Today’s drawing:

I’ve been feeling awful for two days now. This cold that’s been doing the rounds finally caught me. I hate the feeling of sickness hampering productivity. Every part of me wants to just power through it and refuse to accept the illness, but that’s counterproductive. I have to force myself to allow my body the chance to heal. I slept for 11 hours last night…

But things are looking up. Here’s one of Joseph Alois Schumpeter, an economist who coined the term ‘creative destruction’ – a phenomena which explains a lot of the rapid technological transformation we see in the world around us today. He’s been on my mind, as I had an essay due in on the effectiveness of barriers to entry – the Schumpeterian entrepreneur has been mucking around in my subconscious a lot. So I guess that’s why this drawing appeared.

Had some more success this week. A drawing of my favourite coffee shop, Home Coffee, was noticed by them… I think they’re going to display it in store! It’s just a reminder that consistently doing good work and sharing it does pay dividends.

Here’s to the weekend everyone.

 

 

Always be closing

Creativity, Fitness, Motivation, productivity

Juggling commitments is hard. I’ve got coursework due, projects to work on, gym sessions to hit and goals to achieve. So do we all.

Sometimes we get worn down. It’s impossible to go full throttle all the time. But let’s remember one thing: always be closing. Don’t lose sight of what you’re working towards.

If you need to, take a breather, reload – and get back to work.

What Casey Neistat can teach you about persistence

Art, Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, Motivation, productivity, writing

If you haven’t heard of Casey Neistat, he’s a pretty big deal on YouTube. He has around 9 million subscribers and is widely renowned for having revolutionised something that’s now become ubiquitous: ‘vlogging’.

He’s a pioneer. This fantastic video essay by the Nerdwriter (one of the best channels out there) explains exactly why Casey’s had such an incredible response:

In a nutshell, it’s the combination of a lifetime of practice and skill with a willingness to be agile, adapting to new platforms and ways of sharing. He’s bringing the eye of an award winning filmmaker to what had been mainly an amateur game – and shifted the expectation of quality of content on YouTube to new heights.

So here’s the lesson: Casey forced himself to produce a vlog every single day, no matter how busy he was, even if he had nothing exciting planned. Applying such rigid constraints to his creative process, rather than being stifling, actually allowed him to flourish. That’s where the majority of his growth has come from, and I think put him into the zone where he was able to create such inspiring, interesting work and connect with such a huge audience.

I’m learning from him and applying that persistence, the commitment to daily output to my own work. So far I’m loving it. The fact I’ve promised myself (and you guys now) that I’ll be sharing something every single day removes the need for it to be perfect. It just needs to be done.

“The best is the enemy of the good.”

-Voltaire

A trap we can fall into too far too easily is holding back on getting stuff done. We tinker, and play around, waiting for the thing to be ‘perfect’ before we put it out there. Let me tell you what you already know: that time will never come.

So, instead of perfect, strive for good enough. Instead of waiting, put it out there. Then, move onto the next thing. It’s precisely that attitude that’s allowed Henry Rollins to be so incredibly productive over so many years.

Without further ado, here’s today’s drawing:

I’m having a lot of fun doing work inspired by film noir, sometimes known as ‘the golden age of cinema’. I’m producing highly stylised drawings, with lots of stark black and white, crosshatching and brightly coloured contrasting backgrounds. I have my mum gifting me a set of brush pens to thank for the injection of colour (thanks mum!). The result is what I’d describe as Dick Tracy crossed with Frank Miller (never thought I’d see those two together in a sentence).

What are you working on at the moment? Stop reading this, and get back to work!


Links

Casey’s channel

Some of my favourite videos of his:

The first one I ever saw… (still watch it if I need a bit of a boost):

And here’s the Nerdwriter.

 

Today’s drawing, and a very short thought:

Art, Creativity, Miscellaneous thoughts, productivity

So far, I’ve been successful in doing a drawing every day of 2018 (all seven days of it… pretty impressive, right?).

Here’s today’s:

Certainly wasn’t easy to motivate myself to draw after a day spent in the university library doing econometrics… But I got it done.

I’ve been thinking about why this recent bout of writing and drawing has been going well (and feeling good) so far. I think this quote is extremely important:

“You can’t win a game you haven’t defined.”

-David Allen

Vague goals are impossible to achieve. Most new year’s resolutions are like this: “get in better shape”, or “be more creative.”

If you set clearly defined parameters, you’ll know if you’re on track or not. You can adjust as and when you need. So “be more creative” has become:

  1. One new drawing a day.
  2. Write 1000 words a day.

And that’s it! It’s binary. If I notice a pattern of routinely meeting these or not, it’ll tell me something about whether they’re the right goals, whether I need to change a habit or routine.

That’s infinitely better than flailing around in a cloud of uncertainty.

Define your game.

Nobody’s listening. Here’s three reasons why that’s a good thing:

Creativity, Motivation, writing

I started ‘The Ink’ to share what I’m working on, find other creators, writers and interesting people, and ultimately to satisfyingly scratch the creative itch I’d been ignoring for years.

I’m ‘showing my work’, as Austin Kleon put it.

So, in that spirit, here’s the drawing I did this morning. I’ve been waking up earlier recently and just getting it done, before I have the opportunity to distract myself.

I couldn’t stop tinkering around with my ink brushes, adding specks of colour. But I like the way it came out. I can see a larger version of this as a poster. Hopefully that’s where some of my work will be one day.

The practice of creating, putting it out there, improving with every single mark of the pencil, and type of the keyboard is so satisfying. But there is a dark feeling, lurking just beneath the surface here. The social triggers built into all of the platforms that enable us to share our work can leave us lusting after virality, beating ourselves up over the number of likes we receive. Our psychology has been manipulated and (perhaps permanently) altered.

With all of that social conditioning, blogging can sometimes feel like howling into the abyss when you don’t get an immediate dopamine hit of a like. But it takes time to be discovered, and you need to fill that time with creating good work.

It’s so easy to get filled with enthusiasm and energy initially, then realise how hard it is to keep going, quit, and endlessly justify it to yourself and others.

I’m determined to persevere this time.

Image result for austin kleon creativity graphFrom Austin Kleon’s Tumblr, found here:

Here’s three positives you can extract from the difficulty of gaining attention in an increasingly crowded world:

1. Relative anonymity gives you the opportunity to get better

I haven’t had a consistent practice of drawing or writing for years. I’ve sporadically started work an idea or done a half hearted sketch, but never sat down and put in the work every single day. Why would I be any good with that kind of work ethic? Still, I daydreamed and imagined being a creator one day…

Now, every day is an opportunity to get down to business, to practice, read widely, watch interesting things, think about them, draw my icons, and improve.

Bill Burr, one of my inspirations (not just in comedy, but in life), didn’t start stand up until he was in his late 20s. He’s spoken at length about how badly he bombed on stage at the start, how many opportunities he messed up. Now he’s grateful for all that time. He needed those formative years, all of those experiences, to forge him into one of (if not the) funniest and most successful comedians in the world today. All those years toiling away meant that when opportunities finally arose, he was absolutely ready to take advantage of them.

I like finding stuff that I suck at and trying to get better. So I’m taking classes, getting myself comfortable in an acting scene. You’ve got to work out those ticks.

Bill Burr

A great podcast to get to know Bill, where he tells some interesting stories about his early years, is with Tim Ferriss. You can find it here.

Bill also hosts his own podcast, which he’s kept up for many years now. It’s absolutely hilarious, and he uses it to work out new material for his sets – definitely give it a listen.

Bill’s podcast is actually a fantastic example of the benefits of consistent, focussed practice coming to fruition over many, many years. It was his outlet, before his TV series took off, before his Netflix specials – and yet he still records one several times a week to this day. What does that tell you?

2. Increased likelihood of experiencing ‘flow’ state

You may have come across this concept – it’s been quite trendy over the last few years.

To put it simply, think of an occasion you completely lost track of time. You were probably doing something you really, really enjoy. Maybe you were on a date, engaged in this fantastic conversation with someone you love. Or perhaps you were playing football, passing, dribbling and fully engaged in the game. For me, I get into it pretty much every time I draw, and sometimes when writing.

It’s that state of full absorption in the task at hand, absolute focus, in an activity which is enjoyable but challenging. You lose track of time, space, and your only goal is to keep doing what you’re doing in that moment.

Here’s an incredible Ted Talk on the topic, with one of the primary researchers into flow states, Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi (I promise I wrote that name out in one go, no typos):

People chase after this feeling with narcotics, expensive cars and lots of other external validation.

It’s eminently possible that you can achieve this pure joy, completely grounded in the present moment, without any of that stuff.

Here’s how:

Simply pick an activity you can improve at! Try out as many as you need to before settling. You’ve got time

Then, spend time doing it consistently, working towards improving. I guarantee you’ll find this feeling there.

3. Finding meaning in work

Every single article I write, each drawing I do – it’s all contributing towards this huge project. The project of life. I’m building my life’s work, brick by brick. It’s incredibly satisfying.

Satisfaction (which is, of course, entirely different from pleasure) is derived from progression towards a long term goal. How satisfied you feel depends on how much progress you’ve made, and the relative importance of the goal.

I can’t think of many better ways to spend my time than creating, editing, curating, and working.

Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it.

 Joseph Campbell