How to be productive with no constraints?
This is going to be a long one so thank you in advance if you end up reading all of this.
I am in the incredibly fortunate position of having the savings and family support to devote everything I’ve got to building my freelance career for a little while. I’ve found that my biggest obstacle has been my lack of obstacles. Without any kind of constraint it can be very hard to get work done. I had no trouble getting work done on time in art school.
I feel like I’m not getting nearly as much work done as I could be. Here’s what I’ve tried:
To-do lists and telling myself I only have x amount of time to get something done but because there is no actual consequence to not hitting that deadline it doesn’t put any real pressure on me. I’ve also used timed methods like pomodoro which help a bit but I still feel like I’m not getting much done. Pomodoro has also shown me that I work very few hours each day, usually around 3 hours.
I’ve tried focusing only on tasks I get done rather than time that I work but when I do this I end up accomplishing much less than I would have hoped. I’ll have three things on my to-do list and only check off one, sometimes I won’t even get that one done. I just always feel like I’m not getting enough done.
Any given task will expand to the amount of time you have to do it so when you have all the time in the world, more or less, how do you get things done quickly?
I know it’s common to overestimate how much we can get done in a given amount of time but even considering that I feel very slow. For a frame of reference you can go to my Instagram https://www.instagram.com/griffinmcphersonart/ and look at how much I post. I post nearly everything I draw that isn’t just sketches or practice. So the speed that I am posting is the speed that I’m creating these pieces.
This brings up another issue. It’s often said that the work you see from an artist is just the tip of the iceberg and you aren’t seeing all of the other drawings that they’re doing. For me this is inverted, the work you see is the majority of what I create while the studying and practicing is maybe 20% of what I create. I think the reason for this is because I’m so slow at creating finished pieces that I have to devote that much more time to them. Should I be concerned about this and if so what could I do to help this?
I want to make the most of my time while I’m fortunate enough to have all of this time. Any little tips you have can go a long way! Thanks for reading through to the end!
Asyas_illos last edited by
@Griffin maybe you need some real people hold you accountable. Do some mock assignments. Where in the illustration world do you hope to fit in? Comics? Children's books? I haven’t in a while, but I used to have family members write up short stories for me and give me deadlines as practice, for reason in particular. I have a little problem with commitment when it comes to my art. Large projects scare me. Plus I have adhd. If you don’t have anybody to do that for you, or you feel like because it’s family you still won’t be accountable, Im sure there are plenty people here that could role play art director for you lol, myself included!
@Asyas_illos I’ve tried having other people hold me accountable but unfortunately that hasn’t worked for me because at the end of the day I know there still aren’t any real consequences, nothing is on the line and I can’t trick myself into thinking there is.
Asyas_illos last edited by
@Griffin lol touché
AngelinaKizz last edited by
What about setting yourself a date on the calendar to have a seriously polished portfolio? give yourself 6 months, and 12 pieces? Set a deadline to get a book self published? Honestly, unless it’s school. or a paid job, there really isn’t any consequence to not finishing a job. The consequence is really the wasted time, half invested. You gotta flip the discourse in your mind, that each piece you complete is worthy of completion. I think a lot of artists, myself included, have startitis…. Start new thins before finishing the last and constantly distracted be the newness of another piece. I struggle with this In many of my craft hobbies, but not with drawing. If I’ve lost inspiration in a piece though, Im also ok with letting it go. Maybe it’s finding happy balance.
Maybe the goal is to produce work that will go on Instagram, with targets of how many new followers you aim to gain, how many new views you’d like to achieve… set goals with your social media? Set out a months worth of post prompts and see where it gets you?
I’m assuming that since you’ve tried the pomodoro technique that you have listened to lees class on the business of illustrations.
Are you a part of swbci? They run contests with art prompts much like svs. Maybe more contests would encourage you with deadlines and a bit more pressure.
@AngelinaKizz I was actually just looking at SCBWI and the membership benefits today, I think I’ll join soon. Have no taken Lee’s class you’re talking about but I’ll check it out.
I hadn’t thought about it until you brought it up but when I set goals to post on Instagram regularly that’s often when I’m making the most art so maybe I should give that a go again.
I’ve never set a goal that’s as far out as 6 months and I think maybe that could help because of the whole loss of time consequence you talked about.
Thanks so much, it’s a big help just to hear other’s thoughts on the matter!
carlianne last edited by
@Griffin I'm curious, are you unproductive because you are doing activities other than art? Or are you unproductive because you're spending hours and hours and not completing anything?
Also what's your goal with your art?
@carlianne my over all goal right now is it be a children’s book and YA novel illustrator. Right now my focus is having a totally fleshed out children’s book portfolio.
I’m unproductive because I just spend hours on a piece and hardly accomplish anything.
Holumpa last edited by
@Griffin First for me it is the same, I post nearly everything and I do need a lot of time for one piece. If you look at my IG please look before January because since then I put all my time into projects I will post later.
But I think it can be a valuable approach to work on things you really enjoy and apply any practice, any aspects you want to improve on in these pieces. If simple drawing practices drain you do it the way you can enjoy it! So don't worry about that.
For the productivity it would be interesting to know why you don't get as much done as you want. Do you get distracted? Do you delete a lot?
@Holumpa this brings up something I’ve been thinking about. I love working digitally but despite the fact that it’s faster than traditional I think the ability to undo and alter infinitely slows me down sometimes. I may start doing my drawings traditionally and then color digitally.
carlianne last edited by
@Griffin okay perfect, so I recommend SCBWI or signing up for a mentorship with someone as it's kind of like a school environment where you have an assignment and need to get it done.
What I have done is pay for a portfolio critique for a SCBWI conference - so I had to get pieces done in time for that otherwise I had wasted my money. That gives me a deadline, and an outside person to hold me accountable.
I would also use the monthly contests as portfolio piece prompts which gave me a smaller deadline as well. I had to do those in time to hit my further out goal of the portfolio review.
I know some artists use a literal timer, like one hour to do a painting study, and when the time it up you're done no matter what it looks like, and you do that once a day and overtime you get quicker.
But it might just be that you need more structure in your process on how to get a finished piece done. I really like Lee's youtube video on how to get a good illustration every time and following through on those steps. For me personally, when I was talking a lot time early on it was because I hadn't set up a good foundation, like a solid sketch before trying to paint it and so was spending a ton of time going in circles trying to fix the illustration way too late in the process. Not sure exactly what you're running into but that was helpful for me
KatrinaF last edited by
I'm in a similar boat in that I'm taking time off from my old job to work on a freelance career. However, I HAVE to make this work, meaning I have to make $$ other wise I have to go back to corporate world. That is terrifying enough to have me working 70 hours a week filled with anxiety, no sleep and a rather neglected family despite the fact that we moved during the pandemic, quit my job and now have my kids in a school they say they hate. The pressure is on and I'm in this all alone.
I decided to go the webcomic route and it's not bringing in the viewers I wanted which I was hoping would lead to Patreon subscribers. So I'm back at children's book illustration and reworking my portfolio. I listened to the 3 part perspective where Will talked about a friend reworking his whole portfolio in 2 weeks and he worked traditionally. I know I can bust out new work and I'm determined to be successful whether that's in Comics, Children's books or illustration work. Yes, I work digitally but it's not 'easier' It's just more tools.
I strongly suggest you make yourself a 'project' Jake talks a lot about working on a project. If you want to be a CB illustrator then pick a copy right free story and make it happen. Do the story-boarding, Make the character sheet turn arounds, create the environments and do 2-3 illustrations. You'll learn a lot from this process.
For me I took on Jake's challenge to 'draw 100 somethings' several years ago. I ended up drawing 200 scribble creatures. I've been using them as a basis for my portfolio work. Either people will hate them or love them. It's definitely not 'safe' work. LOL.
Oh and if you are a slow worker then challenge yourself to do gesture drawing or fast ink wash drawings. Get some cheep paper and do as many composition/value studies as you can in 15 min. So fun!
I hope this was helpful! Best of luck. Looks like this forum is a great place for help and encouragement.
Some quick value/composition studies I did last week.
Some of my doodle creatures.
@carlianne great idea with using the portfolio critiques as a deadline! Definitely going to try that, thanks!
@Griffin It's important to use your time smartly especially if you're having trouble with time and being productive. Do you have a clear, specific plan to create all the pieces you need in your portfolio to hit all the skills you need to show? Or are you just cranking out random pieces, and afterwards deciding if you want to include them in your portfolio or not?
@NessIllustration hmm, that’s a good question. I’ve been focusing on the monthly contests as a way to get portfolio pieces because because the prompts are great and it gives me a deadline each month. When I do them I consider how I can include the sorts of things a portfolio should have as well as being a strong piece for the contest.
@Griffin That's not a bad plan, but do make sure they work together! Of course each piece will be showing storytelling but you want to cover a good variety of characters, locations and topics to show your range. Children of different races and ages, a few adults and seniors, outside and inside locations, different emotions, closeups and more faraway shots, different seasons and settings, etc.
That's why I think while prompts can help, nothing quite replaces sitting down, making a list of everything you need to cover, and coming up with a 12-piece portfolio plan to hit all those bases. That's the method I teach in my course.
Then considering you give yourself a deadline of 1 piece per week, you'd be done with your portfolio in 3 months (less if you already have pieces you can use). While that's more rigid, structure works better for some people (like me, and maybe you too!) It's hard to motivate yourself and work hard when the goal is abstract and you're not sure how much you still have to do or how long it'll take. Having a strict plan in place feels very hopeful and can be motivating because you see the light at the end of the tunnel
@NessIllustration thanks! I’m going to try this method out. I think I might share a bunch of my work on here to figure out what stuff could go in my portfolio.