The Truth About Art Motivation

Avoid the big mistake that led to all my other mistakes

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Below is a partial transcript of this video:

Now I don’t need motivation to draw more – I just want to draw all the time, try to stop me. But there was a time where no strategy or great plan would’ve got me to practice regularly. I wasn’t motivated. I was frustrated, and I felt defeated. So where did that change come from? That’s what we need to talk about.

So the first thing is I have the art bug, and you probably have the art bug too ’cause you’re reading this. You see things, there’s visual beauty all around us or visual interest all around us in our minds too and our imaginations, and we wanna capture it, we wanna express it. We wanna be closer to it.

And there’s no getting away from the art bug if you have it, in my opinion. If you find yourself trying to learn to draw and are being frustrated and quitting, and then going back to it, you know, you probably think, oh, I can’t make it stick. I keep starting to learn and then stopping. Well, put it this way, you can’t quit. You can’t stop. You keep trying to stop, and then you keep going back to it. There’s no getting away from the art bug.

So you might as well quit on quitting, but then mother nature hits us with this thing. And it’s the same with getting healthy and fit like, oh, you wanna do this thing that feels good and is really good for you? Okay, you wanna do exercise? I’m gonna make it crazy. Like if you start running, you just wanna stop immediately. You’re gonna sweat. It’s gonna feel terrible. I’m gonna put up all these barriers.

Oh, you want to eat healthy? Okay, well, good food tastes like Brussels sprouts, and bad food tastes like ice cream cake.

And it’s the same with drawing. Oh, you wanna capture these wonderful visual ideas you have and share them with the world and the people that you love? Okay, I’m gonna make it super hard. Your brain is gonna scramble all the visual information, so that it’s impossible to translate that onto the paper. You’re gonna need all these different complicated skillsets, and you’re gonna need to juggle them all at once.

So when you try and learn one, you can’t, because all the other ones are falling down at the same time. So you try and learn gesture, but the proportions. It’s like a boulder up a hill, and you get tired. If you take a break, it just rolls back to the bottom again.

But there’s another side to it, and it’s good news. Once you get the boulder to the top of the hill, it’s not such a struggle anymore. It starts to roll. It starts to gain momentum.

It happens with exercise too. As you get fitter, running starts to feel good. As you start eating healthier more and more, healthy food starts to taste better.

And with drawing your confidence grows. The flat pack furniture isn’t just falling over all the time. I don’t know if that’s a good analogy, but like, you know when you’re building flat pack furniture, and you try and put the first two pieces together, and you’re like, okay, and then you go to the next one, and the first two pieces fall over. It kind of feels like that when you’re trying to learn all those different skills, but eventually you get to a point where it just stands up by itself. And then it’s easy to add on more bits and build it up. And I don’t know if that makes any sense, but you get to a point where it’s easier to build more skills. You watch tutorials. And instead of sitting down and trying to do it, and you know, your arm just can’t make the same marks that the person in the tutorial is making, you start to be able to do it. You start to be able to absorb all that information more effectively. Then your confidence grows, and you do a drawing that you like, that you’re proud of. And you’re like, wow, I didn’t know I would be able to do that, that’s cool. If I can do that, I can do that again. And then you start, you know, maybe the next drawing doesn’t go well, but you did it once. No one can take that away from you, and then you do it again, and then the confidence grows, and there’s an upward spiral.


A nice thing about drawing, also, is that it’s innately fun. So once you get past this stage where you’re trying to be good at it, but struggling with all the different skills, you can go back to the truth about drawing, which is that it’s super fun. But for those of you that are pushing that boulder up the hill, feeling a bit frustrated, feeling confused, not liking the results when you put pencil to paper, I think you need three things to get that boulder up that hill.

You need three things. And the first thing is belief. And this is the cheesiest part, and it sounds kind of cheesy. You need belief in the power of practice, and then you need to believe that you’re gonna be able to do consistent practice to get that boulder up that hill. I think that those are quite easy things to be, it’s not just sort of a vague thing, believe in yourself or whatever. You believe in the power of practice, which I think is an easy thing to believe. And then you believe in the fact that you can do consistent practice and get that boulder up that hill. You can keep building skills.

The second thing is your identity. Who you are in your own head. If you can start to see yourself as an artist on the journey, on an art journey, and love that journey that you’re on that makes a huge difference. Because that means that you love every practice session that you do because it’s part of that journey. Even if it doesn’t go well ’cause that’s part of the adventure. And so it’s way easier to sit down, and do your practice every day, when you love the journey that you’re on. It’s really hard when you’re just thinking about some far away goal or destination and how you wanna be there, but you’re here now, and you wish you were over there. If you enjoying the journey and you know, it’s cheesy, but the destination is the journey, right? Like actually, there isn’t really a destination. It keeps moving. I’ve never met an artist yet who just said, yeah, I’m there, I’m just doing exactly what I wanna do and I’m not trying to learn anything new. I’m not striving for more. I’m not trying to express more or capture more. I’ve just done it.

Everyone’s on the journey you’re on. Maybe they’re further ahead in their journey, but they’re still on the journey too, and so are you, so love that fact and enjoy it.

And then the last thing is the plan. Firstly, when it’s a struggle and you’re not sure if you’re gonna consistently do the practice, plan for the tiny moment.

Every day there’s time where you have to sleep. There’s time when you have to work maybe, or look after your kids, or whatever it is. And there’s always time where you can draw. And then every day, there’s this tiny moment, like these two seconds where the decision is made, this time is gonna be spent drawing, or this time I’m gonna spend doing something else. That’s the moment that’s gonna determine if you really improve at drawing and become the artist that you wanna be, or you don’t do much practice, and you’re just filled with regret.

That tiny two second moment, every single day. So instead of some big goal, like I’m gonna do this this year, which is kinda grand and feels good in the moment. What you need to plan for is the tiny moment every day. And if you can set up everything around you, your environment, the people around you, to encourage you to make that decision to draw in that tiny moment, then you’re gonna do it. And you’re gonna do it day in and day out.

Avoid the big mistake that led to all my other mistakes

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