A couple of months ago, I was watching an art video on Youtube by Mary Doodles, when she mentioned something that reminded me of an important part of my own creative work.
In about the last third of the video, she talked about the power of deadlines and about how setting a deadline can be extremely useful because it both stops you from becoming a perfectionist and it means that you will actually finish your paintings, drawings etc…
Although the Mary Doodles video discusses this subject in far more detail (and it’s certainly worth watching), I thought that I’d talk about how I’ve used deadlines in my own work, in case it’s useful and/or interesting to you.
My very first experience with making art to a deadline for an extended period of time was back in summer 2010 when I made an absolutely terrible (both in terms of plotting and art) daily webcomic for a couple of months.
Luckily, I’d made a fairly large “buffer” of comic pages before I started posting it online, but – for a couple of months at least – I posted a comic strip online almost every day.
This was something I’d wanted to do for a while (and I finally got the motivation to do it when I read a webcomic called Unicorn Jelly) and I chose a daily schedule because almost all of my favourite webcomics posted updates daily.
Fast forward to about two years later and I’ve pretty much lost interest in making art. It’s spring 2012 and I’ve made as much art over the past year as I’d probably make in a couple of weeks this year. Anyway, I was feeling kind of bored one day in April, so I made a small drawing which was about a quarter of an A4 page in size:
Suddenly, I remembered how much fun it was to make art. So, for some reason that I can’t quite remember, I decided to make one of these small drawings every day and post it on DeviantART. At first, it was fiendishly difficult and I felt like I was out of my depth. In fact, I felt like I’d probably last a couple of weeks before I gave up in frustration. But, I kept at it just out of sheer momentum and habit.
Within a month or two, I was producing several of these small drawings every day – and actually posting them online on the same day that I made them. I’d keep doing this until sometime either last year or the year before, when I finally started making a buffer of drawings in advance (at the time of writing this article, my buffer now contains about three months worth of art – and I still add to it daily).
By summer 2012, I finally took the leap to making A5-size drawings and it was an absolute revelation to me. Since I could easily churn out an A4 page filled with small drawings in a single day, making one or two larger drawings every day didn’t seem like so much of a leap – and this meant that I could do more stuff in my art, because I had more space to work with.
After that, I never really looked back, and most of my daily drawings or paintings have been at least half an A4 page in size. And, although I set myself the minumum requirement of producing one drawing per day, I’d often make more than one and post more than one online every day.
I’m not sure exactly when I went back to just posting one piece of art online every day, but it was probably due to working on both these articles and the other daily features I used to have on this blog (eg: my old “how to draw” guides etc…). Eventually, I felt so overloaded that I went back to making one painting per day and this kind of seems to work best for me.
Anyway, I’d have never got as good at making art as I am now if I wasn’t for using a regular, daily deadline. If I hadn’t incorporated making art into my daily routine, then I’d have never got the sheer repetitive practice that I needed in order to improve.
Yes, my art tends to improve fairly slowly – but it does improve – as you can see by these two paintings that I made about a year apart from each other:
The other thing that sticking to a deadline teaches you is perseverance and persistence. Part of sticking to a deadline means that you still have to make art on days when you are feeling “uninspired”.
Even though this means that you might make a rather crappy painting or something slightly unimaginative, it means that you will still actually have to make some art. And, well, this is a quality that is worth practicing and cultivating.
Plus, as Mary Doodles mentioned in her Youtube video, it also means that you will actually finish the art that you make – rather than spending ages tinkering and trying to make one of your pictures look “perfect”.
So, yes, it’s certainly worth setting yourself a deadline.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂