Iris Hopp is a professional artist. Iris has tips on creating a drawing habit, how to keep improving & dealing with procrastination.
Why the Crash & Burn strategy doesn't work
We all know about New Year's resolutions: big dreams, big ambitions and then... Nothing happens.
When you set the goal to become good at drawing, it works the same as New Year's resolutions. How much do you draw now? Do you draw one hour a day? A few times a week? Or maybe you don't have any habitat all yet?
If you're tell me that you're going from zero to 8 hours every single day, starting tomorrow, ... Well, I think you are going to fail.
You want to start small.
Often you don't want to start small because your dreams are big. You just want to charge ahead!
But what's most important is to keep drawing. Draw everyday. That has to be your first goal.
it's easy to forget that a small goal is just your FIRST goal of the day.
When your only plan is to draw 8 hours every day, you are going to fail often. You'll get discouraged and frustrated. Negative emotions lead to procrastination. Once procrastination got you, it will eat your dreams.
So your first goal is to draw 10 minutes everyday. Your second goal is to draw an hour. Your third goal can be to draw 8 hours. Whatever.
If you only draw for 10 minutes, but you draw every day, you are ahead of the people who set a big goal and then give up. Giving up is what's going to kill you.
1. Set a low bar - but a high bar for dedication
This is called setting a low bar.
A small goal is easy to achieve. This is your weapon against procrastination. If your goal is intimidating, then you rather go do the dishes. Or maybe it's 4pm and you didn't start yet - there's no way you will still hit 8 hours of drawing today, so you'll just start tomorrow. That's how New Year resolutions fail.
But 10 minutes? You can draw for 10 minutes right now. It's not that scary. This will be your tool to beating procrastination.
At the same time, you are going to set a high goal for your dedication: you will draw everyday. This will build a habit. Some days you'll draw more than 10 minutes. In the future you can increase your daily goal. But the big factor is that you will keep going. When life happens, you cannot always draw for 8 hours. But you can draw for 10 minutes even in very dark times. If it's really bad, drawing for 2 minutes will be your new goal. You can always increase your daily time.
That's a lot easier than "starting again" after a long streak of not drawing at all. That's what kills the high goals - it's hard to start again after giving up.
2. Pick a time and place: the Implementation Intention
The implementation intention. It's a quick way to make a plan. Because failing to plan, is planning to fail.
You choose the place and the time when you will draw for 10 minutes.
I recommend picking a time earlier in the day. This way if anything big happens later in the day, it's not going to mess with your daily drawing.
For example, you sketch at the kitchen table while drinking your morning cup of coffee. Or you can make doodles during your first break at work or at school, staying in the same room. Maybe you set aside 10 minutes right before eating lunch in the cafetaria.
By making a simple plan like this, you know exactly when and where to start drawing.
Got your cup of coffee? Go!
Bell rings? Go!
Sitting down for lunch? Go!
3. Getting things done: Your Next Action Step
Now you have to decide your next action step.
Your next action step answers "What am I going to draw?"
Okay, so you sit down. You can still fail at drawing.
You have to decide HOW you are going to draw and WHAT you are going to draw.
If you don't know your next action step, this will happen:
-You sit down.
-Maybe you take out a sketchbook. Maybe not.
-Then you sit there thinking "I should draw." for 10 minutes without any drawing.
Decide what you will draw before you start your 10 minutes.
It's even better if you decide the day before, or you have a project so you don't have to think about it at all. For example, this month you are going to sketch a face every day. Or this whole week you are going to do 10 minutes of gesture studies. Maybe a dog you saw a while back inspired some cartoon ideas, so you want to get those out.
When you know WHAT you will draw, it's easy to sit down and get to it. You will also know HOW to do it - gesture sketches are easy with pen and paper but if you're going to practice blending brush strokes for your 10 minutes, you will need a tablet.
This way you have no way to lose your 10 minutes just because you don't know what to draw.
4. Your plan B for bad days.
In Step #2 you decided WHEN and WHERE you will draw. In Step #3 you decided WHAT and HOW.
Sometimes daily life throws a wrench into it. So you need a plan B.
When you miss your 10 minutes, what two other times in the day are you able to get 10 minutes in?
For example, I try to doodle a little bit before going to work, but if I miss that session then I draw during my lunch break at work. If that doesn't work out, I draw while eating dinner at home.
If you are having a horrible day and don't feel like drawing, what's something you can still draw?
I like drawing animals. I have a few pictures on my phone of hyenas and lions, so when I have a crappy day I zone out and just draw those. On a day where everything around me is burning, I'd skip my 10 minutes of drawing if I had to sketch a classic car or a castle hall. But animals always work for me. On the worst of the worst days, I can just draw a series of cubes and practice my straight lines. Figure out what you can draw even when your energy levels are below zero. It might be just some doodling of funny figures, meaningless scratches on paper or your favorite character. Whatever it is, what can keep your daily habit alive when you feel like death?
Recommendation: Use a Sketchbook
Sketchbooks are perfect to start your day with. Why? For starters, they don't have a wifi connection!
If you look at tutorials online or you draw in Photoshop, you can get distracted by the internet. A sketchbook is very easy to stay focus on. On top of that, they give you great motivation. Every time you finish a page, you see the sketchbook fill up further. In a few months, you'll be able to say you filled up a whole sketchbook!
Done is better than perfect.
If you still struggle with procrastinating your drawing, maybe you need to change WHAT you draw.
One last tip... if you find yourself procrastinating even when you have to draw for only 10 minutes, maybe you are still putting too much pressure on yourself.
When I force myself to create two finished sketches per hour, I try to avoid working. Yet in the video above you see that it's no issue for me to get a sketch out in 30 minutes. What happens? The pressure of getting two complete sketches out is intimidating. I don't achieve a focused flow state because I worry about the end result. If I just let myself draw for 30 minutes and enjoy it, the drawings turn out a lot better!
So if you procrastinate on 10 minutes of drawing, adjust your goal. It's about drawing for 10 minutes. Find a topic that makes you relax and enjoy the 10 minutes. Maybe gesture drawing? Or your favorite subject to draw?
Our first priority is to create that daily habit. All the rest will build on this foundation. If you cannot draw a simple doodle for 10 minutes every day, it's pointless to set a goal for a complicated design and 8 hours of crafting. Good luck!