Getting your drawing mojo on after a day's work?


  • SVS OG

    Hi guys and gals!

    So I know that a lot of you have full-time jobs or other responsibilities that need to take priority over art in terms of daily time-allocation, and I was just wondering how and when you all go about getting into the mind-space needed for drawing?

    I try to do some drawing while I'm in work, as my job usually requires a lot of waiting around, but I find I can only do repetitive-style exercises as my concentration still has to be on work (I'm a criminal defence lawyer and so I still need to focus on my cases and listen out for when they are called).

    I really want to get into a daily habit of doing some proper, focused drawing practice when I get home. Usually I aim for an extra hour to two hours. But a lot of the time I find that after the full day's work, buying groceries, cooking dinner, cleaning up, and doing a quick workout, I just can't make myself sit at my desk and draw because I'll have to re-engage my brain (and the type of practice I want to do isn't the most enjoyable - it's very structured and is almost like studying really).

    If I do get upstairs and start to draw I get in the zone alright, but it's making myself get there that's tough.

    Do any of you experience similar things and how do you go about tricking your mind into making itself do it?

    I know will-power is a very big aspect and I'm someone who generally has a lot of that - but sometimes my body just takes over and I feel I simply don't have the mental energy to force myself to do it.

    This is a big issue for me as I am desperate to get into a routine where I do very efficient and effective practice for two hours each day to improve as fast as I can.



  • I think habit plays a huge part in this. I recently did the 36 days of type challenge, and by the end I was barely thinking about it and just sitting down happily drawing away each evening. As soon as I finished and gave myself 'a few nights off', that's when I lost the habit and got lazy, and now i'm trying to pick it back up again.

    Basically, if you can force yourself into it and make it part of your routine, it will get easier over time.

    Also, if you start by doing things that aren't so stressful or daunting, you'll be much more willing to get stuck in and less likely to put it off for when 'you're more in the mood'

    It's a lot easier said than done,but i'm in a similar situation at the mo and this is working for me ๐Ÿ™‚



  • Hi Shannon,
    I completely understand where you're coming from, it really is such a hard thing to do after a long days work and after you've fed yourself, done chores etc, how is your brain expected to then sit at a desk and draw amazing stuff?!
    I had a hard time getting the motivation and will power to do some drawing each night like you, but recently I've gotten into a routine by starting off just doing an hour a night and working where i feel most comfortable, which at the moment is on the sofa with the tv on. I know some people would rather have no distractions and some quiet, but maybe it's the idea of having to go and sit in a separate room that is off putting for you?
    I tend to do all my preliminary work in the evenings during the week and then at the weekend I start my final piece so I don't mind sitting at a desk in a separate room.

    You could maybe try giving yourself nightly tasks, like "tonight i'm going to draw 10 rough character ideas" (or something) and just do that, so it doesn't feel like too much. Then the next night you will develop 5 of them further etc etc. Or just one night when you're quite tired, just list ideas instead. That is always beneficial as it saves the trouble of coming up with ideas later on when you're staring at a blank page ๐Ÿ™‚
    I tend to do this on my breaks in work ready for the evening so i can get straight on with it!

    If you need any help coming up with tasks, I don't know what level of illustration you're at or what you'd like to achieve, but I LOVE writing lists so always happy to brainstorm with you ๐Ÿ™‚


  • SVS OG

    @AndyIllo Actually, starting to build the habit by doing practice I enjoy and then shifting to less enjoyable exercises once I've formed the habit is a great tip! Thanks Andy!!


  • SVS OG

    @hannahmccaffery Thanks Hannah! I'm glad I'm not alone in feeling like this!!

    I think what you and Andy have suggested will really help me. I'm going to start off on Monday by practicing in a more enjoyable way and in the living room while I relax in the evening. That should make it way easier to pick up the habit.

    On evenings when I don't feel like drawing I do actually grab my sketchbook or iPad while I watch TV and absentmindedly doodle so I'll use this same approach but will try make it more mindful so that it's more beneficial.

    Once I've done two weeks of that I'll gradually start changing how I practice to increase how beneficial (and decrease how enjoyable!) it is!! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    I'm just starting out at the moment so I'm trying to focus on the basics. Learning to draw the human figure is this year's goal. I'm starting out with the head and am really focusing on that at the moment. I'll move on to the neck, chest, abdomen, arms, legs, etc. next. If you have any tips on how best to go about that please feel free to share!

    My current method is to start the week with a tutorial marathon in relation to a specific feature (nose, eyes, lips...limbs will be next I guess) where I draw along to different Youtube videos. And then I spend the rest of the week drawing what I've learned out from different angles, applying it to reference pics, etc. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • SVS Team SVS OG

    @ShannonBiondi I think you have a good game plan there. I work full time as a graphic designer/web designer so by the time evening comes around I am usually pretty tapped of all creative juice. There are some nights where I just say "Not tonight art time." Usually when I am done working on a piece is where I will take a few days to recharge. On the nights I do seat down, its usually once everyone goes to bed and I am alone. Put on some music and just get into the zone. All the hours leading up till that time is usually spent thinking about what I am going to draw or paint or work on with a current project.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that it is ok to take a break if you are not feeling it.



  • @ShannonBiondi It definitely helps when it's enjoyable!

    Hannah's advice was super good, i'm definitely in the same camp where a lot of my after-work drawing is sketching on the sofa, but this makes it feel a lot more relaxed and easier to get into

    Also agree with Chip big time, sometimes you just need to say 'not tonight' and be okay with that, otherwise you're just unnecessarily stressing yourself out, and as a result you'll have a negative outlook on the work going forward (maybe? I know that happens with me)

    I'm basically repeating what they just said but typing it out hoping to drill all these tips into my own head ๐Ÿ™‚


  • SVS OG

    @Chip-Valecek Thanks Chip. Yeah I have to be careful not to beat myself up about it too much I guess. But I also don't want to make excuses for myself. It's all about striking the right balance I guess.

    I get what you mean about thinking about what you'll create though. I'm always thinking about drawing, almost every minute of the day! Haha! I'm taking a full month off this summer to focus on drawing and I cannot wait! Benefits of being self employed!! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ


  • SVS OG

    @AndyIllo Yeah absolutely - it's important not to turn it into stress or start viewing it as a chore. There's no doubt that there will be days where I just can't. some days I get home at 8pm and don't even have the energy to cook or workout so I know on those days nothing will happen. But all of your tips have been super helpful in helping make a plan for those days when I should give myself a kick up the backside and do it!!! Now it'll be easier to get it going! Thanks!!



  • @ShannonBiondi That's a really good idea and great to hear that you have a goal for this year so you know what to focus on when you feel like drawing ๐Ÿ™‚
    I'm not too sure what would help with drawing the human figure, are there any life drawing classes near you? They really helped me when I was learning to draw people, or maybe asking people at home to pose for you sometimes (not nude like in life drawing obviously haha)!
    I think it just comes down to practice, which is what you say you're going to do this year, so I bet by the end of the year you'll be a pro at drawing the human figure ๐Ÿ™‚


  • SVS OG

    @hannahmccaffery Fingers crossed!! There is a life drawing class near me but you have to send a portfolio in to be considered for it and I haven't had the courage to submit one yet. I think I'll work from videos over the summer and then will send in a portfolio in September. I should hopefully have something a bit better to show by then!! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ I bought a Udemy class and it's a great gesture drawing class that's helping me a lot!


  • Moderator

    @ShannonBiondi I did a challenge a couple of months ago that may help๐Ÿค”.
    It was a sketchbook challenge. To draw AT LEAST 5 minutes each day in a sketchbook. This is something I struggle with. I would think, โ€œI have time for 5 minutes. It doesnโ€™t have to be pretty or special just practiceโ€. Most of the days during the challenge I would end up staying with it for WAY more than 5 minutes. I ended up one night working for hours. I just needed that little jump start of โ€œitโ€™s just 5 minutesโ€ to get me going. And if i only did 5 minutes, at least i did something.


  • Pro

    @ShannonBiondi Hi Shannon ๐Ÿ™‚ This is a tough problem indeed, I mean after a full day of work, buying groceries, cooking, clenaing, working out, who could have the energy to get some MORE work done? Like @hannahmccaffery said a lot of it has to do with habit, but also I think you may need to restructure some of your day to allow for more time after work. For instance, if you buy groceries and cook every night that is a LOT of time gone. Instead, you can try to batch it. Buy groceries for a few days or even for the whole week, then prepare some meals in advance that you can stock in your fridge or freezer. If you get home and all you have to do is grab your dinner from the fridge, re-heat it in the microwave and eat it (no errands, no cooking, no clean up), that's a huge saving of both time and energy that you can then dedicate to drawing.

    You may have to experiment and find something that works for you. For instance, I cook 3 recipes in big portions (6-8 portions per meal) during the weekend and stock them for the whole week. But that only works because I like eating my favorite meals over and over and I don't mind eating only 3 recipes all week. Some people really want to eat something different ever single night. If that's the case for you, maybe you can alternate drawing and cooking days: 1 day you cook 2 meals (one for that day, one for the next day) and the other day, you eat your pre-made meal and draw. Those are just a few examples of things you can do. I do think that with your current schedule you're in a bit of an impossible scenario. There are just so many hours in a day and so much energy we have. If you really want to fit in drawing into your schedule, you likely have to make some changes to your habits to accommodate that.



  • Hello, I usually try to grab a couple of hours to myself in the evening once the child is in bed. I put my headphones on, turn up the music and scribble away on clip studio.
    I find 80's/ 70's music is a real boost to creativity! ๐Ÿ˜
    I highly recommend Joan Jett or even Ozzy Osbourne? ๐Ÿ˜‰


  • SVS OG

    The honest truth is that I usually can't draw/do art in the evenings. My job just drains me and I'm often tired/angry/depressed/resentful/whatever in the evenings - not a good mindset for art. So instead, I get up an hour early in the mornings (usually). It's much easier to work in the morning when I'm fresh, and it really can help with my mood for the day because I know I took an hour to do something important to ME before doing all the stuff other people want done.



  • There are some great suggestions here. This is something Iโ€™ve struggled with a lot. Music helps a bunch but I also find that a focus on removing options and obstacles can make it possible to get that extra bit of art in the day.

    Removing obstacles is all about making it as easy as possible to draw, no materials to find, no stairs to climb, no decisions to make. For me, this meant getting a lap desk and pencil case to put next to the comfy corner of the couch. I wind up in this spot when Iโ€™m tired naturally. Now whenever I wind up here I have the unappealing option of sitting vacantly staring at the wall or I can reach down and grab those art supplies.

    Removing options, has meant making digital devices and distraction more difficult to get to than art supplies. My studio has no wi-fi. I moved the charging station for all my gadgets away from my comfy spots. And, many years ago I got rid if my TV.

    Itโ€™s funny how just making things a tiny bit more convenient has resulted in a lot more artwork getting done. I hope some part of this helps.

    I read once that the mind is like an elephant and will power is like a rider. The mind is much more powerful than the rider but isnโ€™t good at strategy. If the rider tries to over direct, the elephant will grow tired of following the rules and charge off completely disregarding the rider, so a smart rider chooses battles wisely and creates situations the give the elephant direction without having to exert force. Itโ€™s a tricky thing guiding a mind.

    Iโ€™m so glad you posted this topic. Getting everyoneโ€™s thoughts has helped me a lot.


  • Moderator

    Also, please please don't forget that there are other things you can/need do to help you become a better artist that don't have anything to do with investing time in the sketchbook.

    Yes, ultimately, it's about developing artistic skill, but illustration is about so much more than just technical proficiency. That's the hardest part to grow and nurture, but there's a mountain of information about the field to know, and sometimes a great deal of self-development to work on as well.

    I'm realizing that if I really want to make a go at making this something real and not something akin to a hobby, there's a lot of self-educating I have to do as well. There are literally dozens of books that I have on my reading list, ranging from selling things on-line, to history of illustration and simply staying abreast of the children's illustration world. It's surprising how just reading the KidLit411 weekly email can spiral into an entire evening of web-delving and reading. I have a literal stack of children's books I want to read. Art books... <sigh> There is so much more I feel like I need to do over and above just the illustrating part.

    So if you're not feeling the creative juice, take the time to fill up your Creativity Bank. Do that Julia Cameron Artist Date thing, and have confidence that just because you're not putting paint to paper you are still investing in your future. Watch that art film and digitally save some screenshots of really cool lighting or a great environment. Go for that walk and take pictures of that gorgeous landscaping, the park equipment, or that path you admire. Watch some YouTube interviews or tutorials.

    I guess what I'm saying is that even when you feel fatigued, there are passive things you can still indulge in without feeling like you're not using your time wisely or you're wasting precious moments by not being able to be "on" 24/7. If you purposefully schedule in a couple "research nights" instead of "sketchbook appointments" you might feel less frustrated. And you'd still be moving toward what you want. My 2ยข.


  • SVS OG

    Hi Shannon, I'm actually in the exact sameplace you are. Working full-time as a statistical researcher, and trying to learn the basics of drawing the human figure for illustration. What really helps me to my drawing in the evenings at the moment is the live class we're doing on heads and hands. The fact that I need to turn in my homework is a huge motivator to pick up my iPad and start drawing.
    I totally get the fact that while we're learning, the exercises can get tedious, and the results are usually not very motivating.

    So, since we're both at a similar stage in our development, struggling with the same thing, how would you like to have a studypartner? We could help eachother out when we struggle, keep ourselves accountable during self study. I also purchased a few Udemy classes, but can never keep myself motivated to finish them, or really spend time doing the sometimes tedious exercises. For me it would be a huge help to work at them with someone else, to force me to do the work, and to cheer on when things get rough. We can set weekly goals for example, share our progress.... What do you think?


  • SVS OG

    @burvantill That's a good idea, Lisa. I can imagine that you would draw way longer than 5 minutes once you pick up your sketchpad and pencil. I find the same thing happens when I don't feel like working out - I tell myself to just do 5 minutes of squats and pushups. By the time I've put on my workout gear and runners, I end up doing my full 40mins. It's a great mind trick!

    The thing with me is that I probably do already sketch around 1-2hrs during work. The issue is that I don't feel I make a lot of progress in that time as my practice is very mindless - more like doodles or reptitive redraws of features, etc.

    At the moment I'm struggling to get in some good quality practice, where I'm really mindful of what I'm doing and improving to the max. I think all the tips you all have given me are really going to help though. Maybe taking that "just 5 min" appproach in the evening will allow me to buckle down on my down time!


  • SVS OG

    @NessIllustration I totally agree. Somthing needs to change!!

    One thing I'm determined not to shift is my 40min workout. I got into the daily habit 2yrs ago and it's precious me-time that I think is super important in my work-life balance.

    Something can definitely be done re groceries and cooking though. The thing is that on weekends, I already prep all my lunches for the week. So I'm going to have to workout when to prepare dinners! I could also start ordering my groceries delivered too but we have one of those useless mini freezers - so freezing isn't really an option sadly. Only room for a bag of peas and two portions of chicken in the damn thing. That really limits how far ahead I can buy groceries and prepare food.

    I'll work something out! Thanks for highlighting this aspect of it for me ๐Ÿ™‚ It's a very concrete thing that would instantly free up time.


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