Dealing with mental exhaustion while working.

  • Hey guys! I’m new here, and this is my first post! I’ve been learning a lot, and have had a lot more time recently to work on art, as I am a teacher and it’s summertime! My practice time has gone up from about 5-10 hours a week to about 20-25 in the past few months, and even though I want to write comics and do art full time one day, I find myself getting mentally exhausted after only a few hours of drawing a day, even with the occasional break. I’m guessing this is natural, but what has y’all’s experience been with exhaustion? Does the endurance ever get significantly better, as I’m assuming it will? Any advice? Thanks guys! Glad to be here!

  • @jmoglesby Welcome! The only place I've heard anything in-depth about this is the book Deep Work. The ability to focus for long periods of time is a skill that we build up over time, and while we can lengthen it, even at its best I think the author talks about a maximum of about 4 hours, usually in 90 minute chunks. So you're right about there already, but no reason not to test your limits. Maybe timing short breaks more frequently will help ease the exhaustion. Each person is different, of course.

    For me, as my time spent on drawings has increased, my tolerance for all the things around illustrating has kind of tanked. 😞 I can't stand zoom meetings anymore, which is a shame, since the svs learn and svs student zoom meetings have been so fun to attend live. Social media doesn't hold my attention anymore, especially IG. Homeschool and my husband's work all in the same room turned drawing time into a bit of a fight for uninterrupted time, so I've started getting up at 6 and will move that to 5 or earlier. I think it's my best shot at getting more hours in.

    Anyway, happy summer!

  • @jmoglesby I'm curious, when you spend a few hours in a given day doing art/illustration, do you tend to jump between different tasks or focus on one? I try to mix things up and I think this helps to keep my energy up. For example, I might warm up with some basic exercises and gesture drawing, then move on to watching lectures/doing exercises for an SVS class, then work on finishing a specific illustration. But depending on the particular day sometimes I tire out much more quickly than others.

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    @jmoglesby Hey I would be exhausted after a few hours of trying to teach haha.. As a teacher you are used to it, trained in it, have loads of experience and know how to deal with issues when they arise. So while it's still obviously tiring, it doesn't exhaust you like it would me. As you get more comfortable with drawing, it shouldn't stay as mentally taxing forever as it feels now. After years of drawing professionally, I even think many parts of the process are even relaxing and zen 🙂 It will get easier for you as you improve. Also, I try to keep the most taxing parts for me (planning, thumbnailing, sketching) to only 2 hours (max 3) a day, the rest being filled with tasks I find more relaxing, so I don't wear myself out (and straight to burnout and art block...) If your practice consists mostly of sketching and that's a taxing part for you (the heavy decision-making part of the process) then it's perfectly normal that you get tired fast.

  • @Braxton this is a really good point.

    The way I would personally rate the amount of energy of each stage of a drawing, from highest amount of energy needed to lowest:

    1. Thumbnails, definitely 90 minutes maximum here. Mentally zooming around is difficult and sometimes when i'm doing a better job of it, it's an hour maximum or until I go crazy.
    2. The very end of a final painting, when I'm struggling to remember everything I need to do. I usually have an inadequate list of final edits to check off
    3. Rough sketches with values, because I'm imagining the forms of each, and searching for references.
    4. Color study - these are less stress because they're not as exact. It also may be that I'm terrible at them and not doing them right
    5. First 80% of the final painting is so fun
    6. Clean sketch - super relaxing to me, probably because no color is involved
    7. research and development - this part is really fun and I usually need to cut it short and get on with things.

    So I move back and forth between these 7 for different drawings, I currently have four different drawings. Surprisingly, this works so much better than just focusing on one drawing until it's completed.

  • @carolinebautista Thanks! Perhaps I do need another planned break or two at the right time and just be patient with the endurance. And I love that book! It’s what convinced me I need more deep time to work on it.

  • @Braxton Yeah, I normally do, but I’ll try to spend two hours on the same project, and that might be too much at a time. Thanks!

  • @NessIllustration That’s definitely good news then haha. I know I’ve got to build the endurance, but it just helps to hear from people further down the line that it gets better. Thanks!

  • @jmoglesby i think exhaustion can come from many many things. Along with breaks and scheduling time for this some things to consider might he the environment you are in, is it a manageable environment? Do you have kids? Is it always dirty? Because i find the environment im in does affect my level of exhaustion when doing things i enjoy.

    But also learning new technical skills is exhausting! It gets easier.

    I try to balance learning technical skills with theory and conceptualization, things that dont require physical labor but rather thinking about the story, or the feeling, or the idea, or the colors that would be best suited for the art, or the dialogue in the comic. This makes the art when im actually making it a lot more impactful and i have to spend less time fussing when im making it.

  • @ArtofAleksey Great idea! I do need to do more of that as well. And also, no kids yet, just a wife, a dog, and three kittens haha. The latter may be the main stressor haha. But that is helpful, and something I haven’t really considered here recently.

  • @jmoglesby yeah. But maybe we’re all also wrong and 20-25 hours a week is the capacity you have to create art? And figuring out how to create art more efficiently is the way to go for you?