5 Ways to Stop Struggling with Motivation as an Artist

Ask Yourself: Why Are You Not Motivated?

Getting to the source your problem is probably the first thing you need to do before you try any other trick to motivate yourself.

Are you motivated because…

  • You don’t feel good enough?
  • You have too many things to do and don’t have time for your art?
  • You can’t think of any ideas?
  • All three of these at once?

Once you figure out the most likely reason (we’re going to call this an excuse because this is holding you back) you’re not motivated, it helps to write the reason down. Then write a response:

Excuse: I don’t feel good enough because there are so many artists who are better than me…

Response: So What? That doesn’t matter because I’m still a better artist than a lot of people, I can always improve and get better, and I don’t even want to be the perfect artist because that means there wouldn’t be anything more to learn!

Schedule Your Creative Time

Try to figure out a point in your day that’s just dedicated to your creative time. Sticking to a schedule can be tough, but there are ways to make it work.

Try to find out what time of day you’re the most creative: Is it first thing in the morning? Is it late at night? Make sure whatever time this is, turn off your phone, don’t worry about any other obligations. This is just your creative time. It doesn’t even have to be a long 3-hour chunk. 30 minutes a day is plenty of time.

Don’t have 30 minutes?

Yes you do!

Chances are you’re spending at least 142 minutes on social media (and I know for a FACT my average usage is way more than that, not counting when I’m using it for art).

Set a 5 Minute Timer

Some say 10, some say 13, but I say setting a 5 minute timer to start your creative process is plenty. One of the biggest reasons we tend not to be motivated, or otherwise procrastinate, is because the idea of doing anything is daunting for some reason.

Really, what you need to do is get started.

That’s the hardest part.

I found that when I have a project to get done, like my high adventure/fantasy/romance/suspense comic where dragons are an all-female species (INHALE) in which I have to keep to a strict Tuesday/Thursday deadline… this is what works best for me:

I make a five minute timer. Then five minutes goes by, and my brain goes, “Eh, I can keep doing this for five more minutes.” And then, the “one more” factor goes in, and before I know it, I’ve given up on timers completely and two hours went by and I made progress!

Find Inspiration

Give yourself a space where ideas come to you. When you go on a walk, take note of ideas you have.

If you don’t know what to create, wonderful! Now you have some idea!

If you do know what to create, just don’t feel like doing it, then looking at nature, listening to music, and creating a visual medium with colors and moods should hopefully get you to want to create.

Write a Blog Post About Not Having Motivation

I just wrote this last part just to be funny, but it actually worked out pretty well!

When writing a blog post, chances are you have to go find some links to similar blog posts that ALSO talk about motivation.

You also go to these websites to maybe learn something you haven’t before.

And there you go!

Now shoo!

Yes, Make that Webcomic (5 Job Skills You Learn!)

Want to make a webcomic, but with everything else going on, you don’t know if it’s a good idea? Turns out there’s a lot of valuable job skills you end up learning as a side effect of being creative! And no, I don’t just mean job skills you’ll need in the comic book industry. I mean job skills that would be valuable to any employer: multitasking, customer service, editing and copy writing just to name a few.

As much as we would like to make a living exclusively by creating art, we’ll still need a day job until we get to that point. Thankfully, this is possible WHILE doing what you love.

Back in February, I started a comic called Dragonrider’s Dance. Here are some job skills that it helped me improve (that have nothing to do with art):

Sticking to a Deadline

Making my webcomic online with regular readers motivated me to stick to a deadline.

The thing about webcomics is once they’re online and gaining readers, there’s an obligation to keep it consistent. Having a regular deadline for me really helps motivate me to keep working on my comic. My readers know when to tune in. If you’re first starting out, even sticking to once a month should be fine, as long as you stick to it and you’re consistent.

Another side effect from improving my deadline is that you have to let go of being a perfectionist, and embrace that not all your pages are going to be perfect, and when you don’t do as well as you’d like, there is always a next time, and it will be better next time.

Attention to Detail

Attention to Detail can be a bit of a struggle.

By creating a comic with one goal being to improve your art skills, you start to notice areas where you could have improved (details not being colored in, colors not matching exactly, line work that was just a bit sloppy), but then when you get to the next page, you start to pay attention to details. I found that since I started my webcomic, my attention to detail everywhere else in life improved drastically.

SEO

Since there are thousands of webcomics out there, it had me thinking about how I can make mine more favorable to search engines.

SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) is a skill that is worth learning, because no matter where you go, or what industry you end up in, they are going to need someone who knows SEO. SEO is how you get your website to rank more favoribly in search engines so that when people search for the content you provide, you will be one of the first things they see. After all, what’s the point of sharing your comic on the internet if no one reads it?

Social Media Marketing

Let’s face it, you can’t just put your art up online and expect overnight success and a huge readership.

I wanted my comic to reach as many readers as I could, so I learned how to use social media, and just a pinch of psychology to figure out how to not only make my comic reach people, but how to keep them invested. This meant using Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and even Pinterest most effectively. Even during the quarantine period, social media coordinators are still in high demand. When you have a webcomic that you’re trying to promote, it’s a good motivator for really learning about the various social media platforms from a marketing standpoint: what are people looking for? How does the algorithm work? How do you use data to promote your content most effectively?

Self Motivation

Sometimes, I don’t feel like working on my comic to reach the deadline. But I learned some strategies to help me do it anyway. For example, there’s the pomodoro method, where you break your time up, there’s promising to spend 5 minutes on the comic (which is just to help you get started, after that, it’s easy for an hour to go by and make a ton of progress).

10 Featured Artists of 2020

Amaranta Colindres

Amaranta’s animal artworks absolutely glitter with awe and beauty. Her pieces tell a surreal story through the geometric symbols and vibrant colors. The artist’s own passion for nature shine through in her brilliant paintings. #amarantacolindresart

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/curlieturtle/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Amaranta-Colindres-Artist-671053876273298/

Ariana Gill

Ariana Gill is an extraordinary illustration artist with a style that can truly teleport you into a fairy tale. Her beautiful people are fashioned with distinctive noses: often considered the least attractive part of our faces, yet she invites you to view them in a more accepting- almost celebratory light. Along with people, she paints beautiful fish and moths, but you’ll have to visit her sites to enjoy those!

Ariana and her husband are both proud members of geek culture! You can follow her husband’s Twitch stream here (and as we’ve previously established here on Ashmeyerart, video games are the highest form of modern art)

Ariana Gill, Character Design Study

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tetra005/

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@tetra005?source=h5_m

Gaming Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/fyse97

Cesar Santos

If someone told me an old prominent Renaissance artist was cloned back to life and Santos was the result, I wouldn’t doubt it for a second. It’s not just that he makes pretty portraits, but they always have a story about them, an element of choas and fun in the background that complement the beauty that his human subjects radiate.

Below is a portrait he painted of a museum guard at the MET. Like Rembrandt, he takes what we see every day, and captures the complexity and beauty that comes with being human.

Cesar Santos, Museum Guard

Website: https://www.santocesar.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/santocesart/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/wapangacy08

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SantocesArt

Elizabeth Courtney

Elizabeth is a young experimental landscape painter who takes the beauty in nature, pushes it to the limit, then keeps pushing.

Incredibly talented, she has a natural ability to use colors to tell a story- one you’re invited to narrate yourself. Her range of style and mediums spark admiration as she’s able to paint both realistically with meticulous detail, abstract expressionist, and a very happy medium in between- yet even with her range of style, it’s still distinctly her.

Elizabeth Courtney, Bolton Lake Rain

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elizabeththeartist/

Fienda (CrownedCat)

Fienda’s illustrations are truly something out of a fairy tale. Her works are a simplistic, illustrative style seemingly inspired by Studio Ghibli. Her colors are great, but the most dynamic thing about her work is how she experiments with lighting- which is a very difficult feat for artists beginning their journey!

Her Redbubble Store is filled with the most adorable stickers! I just bought a coffee sticker from her and I can’t wait until it gets here!

Fienda, Original Character Study

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the__crowned__cat/

Redbubble: https://www.redbubble.com/people/CrownedCat/shop?asc=u

Emily Quintero

Beautiful portraits with well place abstraction thrown in. Quintero’s pieces all have an ethereal air to them that is really just fascinating. Her sketchbooks are all works of art themselves filled with beautiful poems, watercolors, and people. In a way, she takes the best of humanity, as well as the darker elements and turns them into something truly beautiful.

Website: http://www.emilyquintero.com/illustrations

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/quintero.draws/

George Spencer

What can I say about George Spencer except that he’s an absolute madman? In a word, he paints food, but not only are his paintings of food absolutely beautiful: beautiful lighting, color, but he captures what I think is the most important thing about food aesthetic: texture. He captures texture so well that you can almost smell and taste the fruits, pastries, and wines he creates on his canvases. Really, that’s all I have to say. Go check out his Instagram!

George Spencer, Reclining Avacado

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/georgespenceroilpaintings/

Jessica Lynn Clark

Jessica Lynn Clark is an artist with a natural gift for painting animals and wildlife. There is a strong sense of spirituality and love for nature in all of her artworks. Most impressive of all is how she can paint the most wholesome smiles on her animals, though you might not notice it right away unless you really take the time to look at her work with the love and attention it deserves.

Jessica Lynn Clark, Animal Medicine Wheel

Website: https://www.jessicalynnclark.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jessicalynnclarkart/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaLynnClartArt/

Laura Wilson

Laura Wilson,

Laura is a prolific watercolor artist, taking a lot of inspiration from Alphonse Mucha. Her botanical paintings are filled with energy and movement and character. Her paintings are so rich, the kind where longer you look at them, the more detail emerges unceasingly and you begin to see colors and textures that you might have missed on first viewing.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurawatercolor/

Marshal Mario

Marshal’s makes the most inspirational portraits- usually capturing feminine beauty with immense character. His art has elements of a classic comic book style and Catholic iconography- it’s as though his subjects embody humanity the way God sees us- shining like the sun. Not featured here, but still interesting: he’s also experimented in sculpture with the human body and surrealism- creating almost like something you’d see out of Silent Hill, I urge you to check out this beautiful body of work.

Portrait Study, Marshal Mario

Instgram: https://www.instagram.com/marshal.arts/

How to Paint Something You Suck At

This isn’t going to be a painting tutorial, this is just something I’ve been trying to figure out.

I’ve written on this topic before. This can be attributed to any artist in any medium, but for argument’s sake, I’m going to be talking about painters. Both traditional and digital.

Many artists are good at painting specific subjects. Someone who specializes in painting horses may not paint motorcycles very well. In my case, I’m good at painting people, but I have little talent and interest in painting buildings and environments.

But lately, that’s been changing. Not the talent so much, but the interest in painting environments. In my comic, Dragonrider’s Dance, I want my characters to live in a gorgeous fantasy world filled with scenic little towns, beautiful landscapes, and a truly magical environment.

It was because of this motivation that I’ve been on YouTube tutorials learning how to create environments. I’ve been learning how to photobash, paint landscapes (with both traditional methods and digital), and creating brushes to create beautiful environments.

For next week’s comic, here are a few environment panels I’ve made. This is one of my supporting characters giving the protagonist a tour of the town.

Now, the environments are NOT the quality I want them to be, but that’s just the beauty of it, I’m learning, making mistakes, moving on.

The great thing about working on a comic, is that people will focus on each panel for a couple seconds and move on, they won’t notice the mistakes unless they’re trained to do so. I gave myself a deadline for the comics as well, so I can’t get stuck on one panel when I’ve got more to make.

Usually I hate painting buildings and environments, but thanks to my motivation and desire for my characters to explore a beautiful world, I’m excited by how quickly I’m learning! If you’re generally not good at painting something, but now find yourself in a situation where you’re motivated to paint that thing, your brain is going to learn to do everything it can to make it the best you can.

So, here’s five things I learned since I decided I’m going to learn to paint environments.

“Expanding Your Portfolio” Is Not a Good Enough Reason

If you’re taking art classes and are required to draw and paint things you don’t like otherwise you’ll fail the class, or are getting paid to draw that thing, chances are you’re not going to make a whole lot of artwork depicting subjects outside your comfort zone.

I firmly believe that human beings are bad at doing anything unless there is a deeply personal, border-line selfish motivator for doing so (it’s why we’ll get to work at a job we hate every day).

In my case, having a comic where I want the setting to be beautiful to tell my story motivated me, but other motivators might be you have a friend who loves cars, and you hate drawing cars, but a painting of a car would be a great gift for them. Maybe you hate painting landscapes, but want to create a, art series about places you’ve been that deeply mean something to you.

Simply “just wanting to expand your portfolio” or “improving your skills” or “wanting to get out of your comfort zone” may not be enough. If it is for you, wonderful! What’s your secret? I must know!

Tell a Story

Something I found helps me create things I’m not interested in is having a story behind the subject. This is true when you’re in the animation or illustration industry. Every image has a story behind it- so why not make it a good one?

This is a good way of connecting your subject to something deeply personal to you. You may not be interested in drawing motorcycles, but maybe you love creating and designing characters. Why not make a painting of a motorcycle that is an important part of one your characters’ stories?

Maybe you don’t like drawing animals, but you love fantasy books and stories. This would be a great opportunity to create a fantasy painting depicting the animal. It doesn’t even have to match your reference perfectly. You can turn a horse into a unicorn, or a lion into a griffon.

Quantity over Quality- at least at first

In my research in how to improve my digital art skills, something I’ve been hearing over and over again from people who’ve worked for Disney, Dreamworks, etc, is not to get hung up on one art piece. It’s far better to make a practice piece, take note of your mistakes, and move on.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to paint a digital landscape, spend hours on it, and no matter what I did, it wouldn’t look right, when I was better off starting over or making a new piece.

When you’re learning how to create something you’ve never had interest in before, trying to make your first few pieces look perfect is only going to make things worse. It’s going to look bad (because you’re just bad at making those things at this point), and you want it to look good, but it’ll depress you how bad it looks, further contributing to that feedback loop that you hate painting those things.

Daily Digital Challenge: Day 7

Hey, everybody.

Didn’t post yesterday because it was my husband’s birthday. That being said, I still made him this for his birthday gift:

Okay, so let’s go over how this morning went:

60 Minutes Learning

Here are a couple objectives I want to reach with this challenge:

  1. Character Design
  2. Consistency with character design
  3. Bad habit to break: making my heads too big

Before we delve further, let’s welcome the artist of the day, Jin Kim! A veteran artist and animator at Disney most well known for creating multiple expressions of one character design. Following Ethan Becker’s advice, I studied Kim’s work, and made multiple breakdowns of one of his characters, not tracing his work, but following and simplifying the shapes and lines of his work- figure out what he did to make his characters effective and apply it to my own art.

I did these breakdowns of his concept sketches of Mother Gothel from Rapunzel.

I then tried to use that knowledge, and draw a character from Dragonrider’s Dance, Lady Minerva of Argentfall. The stepmother of one of the main characters (She’s not evil, she’s just grumpy in part because she was told of essentially an end-of-the-world prophecy, but was cursed to not be able to warn anyone… and she’s not drawn super great).

I wasn’t exactly pleased with it. I realized that I fell back in my habit of making the heads too big (now, her hair is contributing to that a bit, but it still didn’t look right to me).

So I took it a step further and studied how Kim proportioned his character’s heads to the rest of their body. I traced a circle over a couple heads, copy/pasted the same circle, and placed it on their torso.

In general, I found that size of their heads was the same size as their rib cage. There are exceptions, but in general, that’s what I found.

Knowing this, I re-drew Lady Minerva with this guideline in mind.

Already, there is a huge improvement! And look how much happier she is.

60 Minutes Realism

On Day 5, I actually spent an hour working on this, then another this morning. I think what I’m going to do is spend 5 hours total on one portrait, then move on to a new one.

30 Day Digital Challenge Day 5

Good morning, and happy belated Easter!

Before I begin, Days 1-4 are not here because I didn’t really have a clear goal or system in mind yet. I’m borrowing from my 3 Hour Workday Challenge, only geared at digital art.

Why Digital Art?

Why should you make digital art? What about the feel of the pencil in your hand, the beautiful shapes and lines taking form in a classical graphite feel? The smell of oil paint? The knowledge that (if done right) your art will last several lifetimes to be enjoyed not only by this generation, but generations after?

All good questions, Ashley! 1) It’s always important to learn a new medium. One of the great things about learning a number of different mediums is that you can carry over the things you learn from one medium into another (for example, a lot of what I learned about making color in paintings work, I actually took from colored pencil classes). 2) For me, it’s not so much digital art as a medium, but it’s actually because I’m getting back into comics again. Creating comics using traditional mediums is (don’t hate me) needlessly time consuming today when digital art programs have made it so you can create comics in 1/2 the time.

Why Comics?

I used to create comics all the time in high school. When I was younger, I wanted to be a comic creator, but I was ultimately discouraged and scared off because it’s a competitive field. Everybody wants to create comics, everybody has their own story to tell.

I regret letting myself get discouraged. Especially considering how difficult it is to get any job (department store jobs are competitive if the economy’s bad). I strongly believe my art suffered as a result.

To Help Me Figure Things Out through my Story

Is Story Therapy a thing? It should be!

There’s this amazing video by Hello Future Me talking about how Tolkien partly used his writing to figure out Nietche’s “Ubermensch” and what that entailed: which he believed ulimately resulted in a Sauron character.

The reason why I got inspired to do comics again is that now that I’m not in a place where I’m going to school and working full time, there were these stories that came into my head that I’m trying to figure out.

For example, what happens when an egotistical man who used to be a beloved hero in his days of youth refuses to hang up his sword? Rather than taking the role of mentor, as what his age would have him do, he insists on always being the hero? Impeding on those he’s supposed to help mentor rather than accepting his new role (kind of like a Gaston version of the wicked stepmother who wants to hold on to her youth and beauty and will resort to killing the heroine).

Comics Improve Artwork

When I was younger, I found that when I drew comics, my art improved quickly. I had to draw things I otherwise didn’t have any interest in drawing because they were needed in the story somehow.

There’s so many things creating comics can teach you: consistancy, expressions, capturing unique features in a person that you wouldn’t get just from copying a photo (because you have to draw that face over and over in numerous expressions).


Alright! Now that I’ve sufficiently established the “Why”, let’s go over how the challenge is going so far!

Not great! This is essentially my first time in years drawing with a tablet again. And it feels like drawing with a rock… that is three times the size of my hand and is completely round on all sides.

Okay, I know I’m not allowed to say “My Art Sucks” anymore, but I think I can make an exception here. This DEFINITELY sucks compared to the stuff I’ve been making. (See? Don’t compare yourself to others! Just who you were yesterday!)

But that’s okay! We’re only on Day 5- and people spend years learning this sort of thing.

But, borrowing from the Three Hour Workday Challenge,

30 Minutes of Learning

30 minutes on a Comission

I don’t have any commissions for digital art yet, but a while back I did this project for my mom’s future online coding course:

My mom has a corgi mutt who likes to sleep under her desk while she’s working, so that puppy was my own creative touch. I can’t remember who brought it up first, but she liked the idea of me making a stand-alone mascot artwork of the dog (who we’re calling Cody the Corgi).

So, I made a few quick sketches of Cody in different poses to send to Mom for her to pick:

1 Hour on Comic

I ended up spending closer to three hours on the comic, but one hour minimum. Here’s a panel:

1 Hour on Realistic Artwork

I actually forgot to work on this today. My bad.

Art as a Spiritual Practice

Lent started a couple weeks ago.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s 40 days where Catholics (and I know for sure Lutheran, but I don’t know so much about other sects of Christianity), commemorate the 40 days Jesus was in the desert. We usually give up something (typically something diet related) or we add a good spiritual habit. There’s much more to it than that, but that’s the jist.

I gave up coffee and alcohol, and for my “extra thing” I’m trying to make a gilded painting of a saint. The current one I’m working on is St./Queen Margaret of Scotland.

Why Margaret of Scotland?

I think it’s because I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good leader.

When St. Margaret (who was an exiled princess from Hungary) married the king of Scotland, she was upset that her dinner guests would just up and leave right when they’re done eating rather than wait for the after-dinner blessing.

“This is fine,” She probably thought, “That’s just how they do things here… nope. Nope! This is not fine. It’s terribly rude of them to do that, I’m going to have to do something about this…”

The next evening, she told everyone, “You’re free to get up and leave when you’re done eating, but anyone who stays for the after-dinner blessing will get a glass of my best wine.” Or something along those lines.

So, to me, I think she embodies an important element of what a good leader should be: someone who doesn’t whine or demand or throw tantrums when she doesn’t get her way, but with gentleness and kindness, leads her people by meeting them where they’re at.

The blue halo is actually painter’s tape. I’m going to gild that area with 23 kt. gold.

Art and Spirituality

Prayer and meditation is something I use to help manage my anxiety, but, unlike people taking medications, I will fall into this vicious cycle where I feel “cured” then stop doing it for a while.

I found myself falling into that trap this week. I would say a prayer, then work on this painting for 15 minutes in the morning before going to work (which, like I imagine for everyone, is the current greatest cause of my anxiety), and just start the day with this feeling that no matter what malevolent forces I face today, there’s someone greater and more terrifying, but kind, watching my back.

For the past year, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between art and spirituality. Just about every artist I’ve ever met is ruled by a strong, spiritual belief in some form or another, and while I do art every day, I find I’m usually happier and much more fulfilled if I’m making a painting that pertains to my faith.

I gave an art museum tour to a bunch of scout children a couple weeks ago, and one of the moms asked me a very good question: Is the reason why the middle ages has so much religious art preserved is because people made more of it, or if perhaps secular art was made, but the religious art is what ended up being preserved? I have my suspicions, but I honestly don’t know, and I don’t think anyone does.

But yes, for the past couple weeks, I’ve been slowly working on this small painting, but then my “weekend” would come and then I wouldn’t do it, because I don’t have that anxiety that comes with anticipating the workday.

It’s kind of sad though. It’s like only calling a friend when you’re feeling down, but never caring enough to call them when things are going well.

Finding Joy in Art

Maybe the reason why I feel motivated to write a happy article is because of how happy I feel right now. As of this morning, I posted page 4 of Dragon Rider’s Dance on time! I realize I didn’t mention this in my last journal entry, but I’m going to be posting every Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Actually… let me go put that ON the website…

Okay! Done!

One of the reasons why the comic is bringing me so much joy is because a couple months back, I decided to improve my digital art skills. I’ve been a traditional art painter for so long and the last time I’ve done any digital art was ten years ago (so my current skills are that of a highschooler! Haha!), but I kept getting frusterated just making “A digital painting”, but with this comic, I’m learning how to use the program tools to make my art quickly (something highly valued if you’re going into making comics or concept art), to make artwork of my characters, and I’ve written pages and pages of history, lore, and backstory working out philosophical questions that I have: for example: What happens when you were once a hero, but as you age, rather than accepting your new place as a mentor fostering the next generation, you desperately try to hold on to that glory at any cost? Whereas before, I didn’t have a means of working them out.

WIP of Matthias- my main POV character. This will be a digital art piece! So excited!

I would LOVE to get rich off this comic! Sell comics, make t-shirts, merch, present at cons, see cosplayers of my characters at said Cons, all that good stuff, but if that never happens, that’s okay. I’m happy. This is already helping me improve my skills, I’m having fun, and it’s helping me think through stuff in an entertaining narrative fashion.

My characters are also my beloved children (who I put through difficult situations because it builds character).

This is the kind of power art should have. Art should help you wonder, help you harness your creative power. Art should be a thing of beauty that you want to add to the world. Art should help you think, enrich your mind, perhaps change it. Art is patient, art is kind, art is never jealous, yadayadayada.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful Tuesday!