Preventing Stress and Burnout


  • Moderator

    Hi Everyone, I’m wondering if anyone has advice on avoiding stress and burnout when illustrating. I keep finding myself bouncing between excitement and stress/anxiety when working. I’m very passionate about illustration and each time I take on a new composition I’m very excited and motivated and find it difficult to stop working on it. When it starts to go badly (which everything does for me in this stage) it seems like I obsess more and become very stressed out and overwork myself to the point of exhaustion.

    It seems so ridiculous to work this way, but I continue to struggle to find balance. I am definitely a perfectionist and I know that is part of the problem, but illustration seems to be one of the only things that makes me this obsessive. Can anyone relate?



  • @inkandspatter I used to constantly do that. Now it's more sometimes. When I am actively working on something I try and release irrelevant thoughts. Be doing and not thinking. It's a meditation technique and you observe a thought eg "This is shit why bother?!?" and release it. At first I had to release all thought and only do the action but now I can think "This is a problem in the piece and I can do this to resolve it" without disruption. If a thought interrupts I dismiss it. If I cease being able to concentrate enough to not be disrupted I take a five minute break and return.
    Good luck.



  • Ok yeah I feel the same thing all the time but I think it’s different for everyone. So I have some questions for you about this if you’re willing to answer I think just thinking about it will help you figure it out.

    What is your process when thinking of a piece?
    How long do you spend on composition before you take a break?
    Do you have a way to manage your time when working on art pieces generally?
    Do you take a day of the week off where you spend zero time on making art?

    I think this is a good place to start


  • Moderator

    @aleksey Really good questions, my answers to them definitely reveal some problems. I have been trying to force myself to take more frequent breaks, as well as having days off with no art. It’s been difficult. On the one hand I’m happy to finally be pursuing something that I’m so passionate about, on the other, it’s worthless without life balance.

    My process is a big problem, in that I don’t have one. I keep getting lost and overwhelmed. I’ve got myself into another situation with the “Big” prompt this month.

    I did two thumbnail compositions, worked through rough value/colour stages and they both fell apart. I was going to quit all together and then took a day off and decided to work more loosely and give it one more go with a new composition. It worked, everything started to flow, and I began to experiment. Now I’m knee deep in a large composition that I feel is above my skill level, with multiple unsolved areas. I sketched and painted the main areas and figured if it worked out, I could add the surrounding items that seemed small at the time. Now I’m soooo many hours in, and 70% finished, but feeling so overwhelmed and stumped. It’s so big, I don’t know what I was thinking! And the surrounding items are all people with animated expressions and positions. I hope I can finish. I need a strategy.


  • Moderator

    @thiskatecreates Thank you, I’m going to try that. I do find it very difficult to control my mind while drawing, and it seems to waste a lot of time.


  • SVS OG

    In another thread (started by @Sarah-LuAnn), we are reading a book called "Growing Gills" and the author was just talking about how stressful art is because even the best artists feel that their abilities fall short of the vision they want to create. She quotes Ira Glass from NPR and I thought what he said was really helpful:

    "All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is a gap. For the first couple years you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. You know what I mean? You can tell that it’s still sort of crappy. A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people, at that point, they quit. if you are just starting out or you are entering this phase, you gotta know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re gonna finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up, and close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. Look, it took me longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met. It takes a while. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through that."


  • SVS OG

    https://vimeo.com/24715531

    I seriously go back and watch that video whenever I am getting frustrated with not being good enough. It’s such a great observation. You just have to work through it.


  • Moderator

    @sarah-luann @demotlj Thanks very much for that. I am starting this process late in life for exactly that reason. I quit or made more ‘practical’ choices every time I had the experience of not being good enough or worrying that it was a useless endeavour because I couldn’t see progress. Thankfully I don’t have the quit in me anymore, just the stress and anxiety. I will definitely give the video a listen.



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