I’m a self taught artist. Before I became an artist I was a mom of three and a quilt fabric hoarder. One day I came across an article about a quilt fabric designer. What?! It had never even occurred to me that there was a job out there that entailed creating designs that could be placed on fabric (and gift wrap and stationery and apparel!)
Right then and there I decided to become an artist and surface designer. I wanted to see my designs on fabric and stationery. I had never drawn anything other than doodles on the side of my notebooks in school. I did not know how to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, the most popular design software for digital artists.
I had no idea where to start, but I remembered something my law school roommate had told me. Her English professor had said, “a writer writes.” I figured if I created art every day, then an artist I would be.
So on October 9, 2012, I filled a page in my sketchbook. It was not very pretty, but I didn’t judge the work or get discouraged. The next day I showed up to my sketchbook again and filled a page. My streak of a page a day in my sketchbook is still going strong 4 years later. I haven’t missed a single day.
I’ve gained SO much from sticking to this daily sketchbook habit. Some benefits are obvious. Others have been nice surprises. I thought I’d share the top 8 reasons to keep a daily art practice. These can apply to almost any creative habit, not just drawing in a sketchbook.
1. Bye-bye perfectionism paralysis. Showing up every single day allows for messy or ugly days. You can start a new page without too much pressure to make it great – because you will be back again tomorrow. I know a blank page staring at you can be daunting. We tend to let our perfectionism stop us from creating. Maybe you don’t want to ruin the nice expensive sketchbook. Or you don’t want to spend time on something that you might think is ugly when you are finished. I get it. The daily drawing habit is the best way I know to combat this. Think about it this way. If you only draw 30 times a year, each drawing is fairly precious and important. But if you draw 365 times a year, each particular drawing is exponentially less important and just a tinier part of a larger project. I also like to think of the ugly days like getting rid of the sticky stuff on the end of a tube of toothpaste. Once you get the yucky stuff out of the way, the soft fluffy toothpaste comes out. Get those ugly drawings out of the way so the beautiful artwork can come through.
2. Improve your weaknesses. Daily drawing allows you to explore new themes and subject matter. I have a really hard time drawing animals, so I try to practice them in my sketchbook where it’s okay if they’re ugly. Your sketchbook is a safe place to practice and turn your weaknesses into your strengths.
3. Improvement is inevitable. You automatically get better at something if you do it every single day. It is impossible not to. Show up to your sketchbook every single day and make marks on the page. Somewhere down the road those marks will turn into more and more amazing things.
4. Confidence, baby! Showing up every day builds creative confidence. You will see your work getting better over time. Flipping back to the beginning of your sketch habit and comparing it to your work now will astound you. Artists draw and sketch. You are showing up daily to your sketchbook. Therefore, you are an artist. You will believe this more and more with each day you’ve filled a page.
5. Bulk up your willpower muscle. The more you practice something, the stronger your willpower muscle gets. You will no longer say, “I have a hard time keeping a positive habit. I don’t have any willpower.” Day by day, tiny steps at a time, you will get further and further from that “truth”. Every day you show up to the page you are showing yourself that you CAN keep positivity habits. You DO have willpower.
6. Document your life. A sketchbook keeps a record of your life. I can look back at pages in my sketchbook and remember where I was when I drew itI can remember the smells, what music was in my ears, and what thoughts were in my head. I can see the dark times and how I worked them out on paper. I can see how I celebrated tiny victories with markers and ink.
7. Meditation. A daily habit is a form of meditation. It’s the act of showing up every day that calms you and keeps you in the here, now. Putting pen to paper quiets your mind and takes you to another place. You can lose yourself in the work even if just for a brief moment. Or maybe that moment is where you find yourself. It is your time to be here, on the page. Just you, some paper and some paint. You will gain an inner peace and calm from those quiet times shared between you and the page. Anything you do daily can bring this sense of meditation.
8. Huge body of work. I have almost 1500 drawings. As I said earlier, some of these are terrible. Pages I don’t even want to look at or acknowledge. But hidden in those pages are little pieces of magic. Some pages are super rough ideas. Other pages are basically finished and ready to produce. I’ve used so many of these pages in designs I’ve created, in work for clients, in personal projects, in paintings, in blog posts and other fun places. When my flow of ideas is stymied, I have a nice little flip through the pages of my sketchbooks and I always, always come away with something to work with. It’s like a cycle. The more ideas I have in my arsenal, the more it helps me create new ideas.
All in all, I’ve found that the benefits of keeping a daily sketchbook habit carry over into almost every other part of my life, and for that I’m grateful.