You have enough to start

You know that old joke? A traveler lost in the Scottish countryside stops a local farmer and asks him which way to Aberdeen, and the farmer replies “Och, if I were going to Aberdeen, I wouldna start from here”. 

We feel that way a lot in life. I don’t think it’s only artists – anyone who has far-reaching goals has at some point thought to themselves, ‘if I wanted to get to that level of achievement, I wouldn’t start from here.’ The gap between your current position and your ultimate goal seems so big, you feel there have got to be some more intermediate steps between your messy reality and you actually starting to work towards your ideal.

But there aren’t.

Every time you tell yourself ‘I’ll start working on this seriously as soon as I……’, you are procrastinating. You don’t need a studio. You don’t need better pens. You don’t need better quality paper. You don’t need more time. You don’t need to take another course. You don’t need to browse the web for more inspiration.

You need to do at least one thing every day that moves you closer to where you want to be. Draw something, sketch something, color something, post something online, reach out to a new potential client. You don’t have to do all of these. Don’t finish a piece if there’s not enough time. Just start it. A started piece will beckon to be finished.

I follow a lot of artists across social media and I love to see pretty photos from their beautiful, airy, paint-flecked studios. I love that vision of an artist as someone whose world is made of gorgeous art supplies and streaming sunlight. But the fact that most artists who share their workspace are the ones who do have photogenic workspaces means that you start to imagine that this is the ‘right’ way to be an artist. That you need to invest in all these things before you can really start. Know who doesn’t share their workspace pics? Those of us who work on cluttered desks surrounded by empty tea mugs and errant Lego bricks. Those who draw their linework on the backs of misprinted office documents. Those who sketch with pencils they picked up in random hotel rooms.

Lidija Paradinovic Nagulov - photo

Shown here: NOT my studio.

I confess. My drawing conditions are deeply uninspiring. I do draw on the backs of misprinted documents. I have nothing to contribute to ‘what’s your favorite micron pen’ debates. If you walked past my work desk while I wasn’t there drawing, you’d never guess anything arty ever happens there at all. This is partly circumstance and partly character, and it will certainly change as my art career moves further. But the key is this – I can still make kickass art. I can still make things I’m proud of. I can still make things that sell, and that make clients happy.

Don’t ever tell yourself you are not a ‘real’ artist because you don’t look like one from the outside. Start from where you are. Be relentless about it. And squeeze some little step forward into every single day. Not just an art-related thing – any action that moves you a fraction of an inch closer to where you want to be in five years. And inch by inch, you’ll get there.

It doesn’t matter how slow you are, as long as you don’t stop.

Do you ever struggle with that feeling that you need to spend more time ‘preparing’ for reaching your goals before you start to go after them? How do you combat it? Let me know in the comments!!

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25 thoughts on “You have enough to start

  1. Draw something right now!! Right now, come on, it’s a challenge. On any scrap of paper. A flower. Anything. Snap a pic and show us 🙂 And presto you’ve started! 😉 Seriously, the preparations can take your whole life if you let them. Believe me.

    • I think the main issue is that things are never ‘finished’. Starting new designs is fine, they’re just never quite finished. So it’s preparing them before reaching out to potential clients that is never ending. You’re so right it can take forever if you let it. Time for action, soon 🙂

      • Oh I have a cure for that too. First – they’re never finished, for any of us. James Victore was just saying in his Creative Live class yesterday how he keeps looking at his stuff from years back that’s been published and sold and he keeps wanting to get in there and somehow change it up ‘just a little more’. It’s universal I’m afraid 🙂 Second – the reaching out thing is scary, no question. So what I do is just tell myself I’m gonna send out at least one email a week asking someone for something. It doesn’t matter what – whatever sounds like a good idea. I wrote to these guys asking if they’re looking for freelance designers – Not kidding. I wrote to a company that makes high-end unique prosthetic limbs if they’d want to use my patterns on them, for free. Neither wrote back, but that’s not the issue. After a while of this practice, I can write to anyone and ask for anything 🙂 Worst they can say is nothing, right?

  2. Excellent post! You know what? I used to think I was going to be a writer – for years and years, really (and there’s still a little voice at the back of my head whispering that one day, one day, given the right circumstances, I still will). I have about five half (well, about a fifth) written novels and a tonne of ideas scrawled here and there. But I never got comfortable with regular writing. I always had an excuse – I needed some very very specific paper, because when I was teenager I wrote prolifically on that paper, so obviously if I had the paper, I’d be able to write; I needed a little corner to write in; I needed a little notebook computer to type in cafes and the park…

    But I didn’t need any of that. I needed to want it and to feel it every day and to do it anyway, if I didn’t feel it for a day or two. That’s what I get with drawing and painting and making patterns. I *have* to do it every day. I feel wrong if I don’t. I will always be learning – whether through courses, through reading, through observation and study – but I will also be putting myself out there and not holding back.

    Love this post. Really. 🙂

    • That’s it EXACTLY, Tasha! We all have these novels and poems and paintings inside us that would come out ‘if only if only.’ Then when you find the right thing, you realize you really don’t care that it’s a botched spreadsheet on the other side of that paper. And on days when it feels hard, you remind yourself that inspiration is for amateurs 🙂 You show up and do your thing anyway – and keep ticking along, because you remember why you started, and where you’re going 😉

  3. My studio space totally looks like I make stuff there! haha…in fact I’ve always had a creative space area growing up – my pops has always made me the coolest little shelves and desks, and this year for christmas he surprised me and hand built me a piece to go on top of my work desk and he stained it to match- it’s looking so sweet now and that makes it so special to me. I often work at night so I haven’t posted pics of it in full but you’ll often see me working there in my posts.

    • I saw some of the pictures of that new shelf thingie you got, it’s an amazing home for your gorgeous critters 🙂 It’s great to have an actual ‘nest’ to be creative in. I’m hoping someday I’ll have one too. But for now I just have to make that comfortable space inside my head when I draw.

  4. Wow ! Awesome tips ! Another boost to strengthen the levels of confidence , self awareness , inspiring !! 🙂

    Reminded me of the great words of a great Indian philosopher , Swami Vivekanand , ‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is achieved .’

    Also reminded me of those countless doodles I used to make on the empty spaces of my rough note books . Many used to say why are you waisting your designs , I liked the suggestion and started keeping my sketchbook handy . Whenever I wanted to sketch I did it at the right place . And bit by bit designs were being collected ( two A2 files took birth) , aimlessly . But I was learning . When I had I completed ten to fifteen pages , I discovered that the mind has started creating . Every time the results were better than before , it was an encouragement in itself .

    As you mentioned earlier , we artists are never satisfied with our work , I agree ! I feel perfection is infinite , no one can reach , there is always scope for improvement . Following it is my passion and prayer , and a bit improvement in my level is my accomplishment . So pursuing perfection keeps me going .

    Thanks for this awesome share , stay Blessed ! 🙂

  5. Oh, how I wish I had a studio like some artists have, full of light, a window to an inspirational view, a big desk and all and sometimes I think how things would be different if I had it, but I learned to put these wishes aside thinking they will eventually come around, I just need to focus on my art. The truth is I have a work desk, but I find myself going to “camp” on the living room at the dinning table and believe it or not I feel more inspired there and procrastinate less than if I were at my working desk.

    Regarding the sketching I try to have them all organized in a sketchbook but the reality is that there are more sketches in some random photocopy gone wrong papers that on the actual sketchbook (trying to change that… slowly xD )

    I also relate to the last part about spending a lot of time preparing for reaching the goals, but that might be because I want it to good enough so I can feel happy with it and don’t feel the urge to come back to it right after I finish it. I spend a lot of time with this “prepare set go” steps, but I’m trying to remember that “Done is better than perfect” but put all your heart into it and give it all that you got. As you said, “inch by inch, you’ll get there” 🙂

    (Love the big plants on your background with the little lights on it. I have to ask, are those water balloons on the table? :p )

    • What often happens to me is that the best line or sketch happens on the scrappy random piece of paper. I talked to a friend once who said in art school the teachers would always compliment his initial sketches and wonder why the final pieces didn’t have that same fluidity. And the fact is that the nice clean pretty paper sometimes makes you nervous somehow. When you’re scribbling in the margin of your business meeting agenda you set your expectations pretty low – you know it’s not gonna end up a masterpiece so your hand is relaxed and you can get some really great motifs going that way.

      Hahah they are not water balloons, they are IKEA lights 🙂 We nicked them from the photographer’s kid’s room to give us ambient lighting.

      • True, I noticed that whenever I try to clean up the sketches into a blank proper paper. They loose some of their initial flow and sometimes I end up liking the sketches way more than the clean up lineart.

        Ohh cool idea, colorful lights! Still, They look really awesome and give pops of color to the picture as a prop.

  6. Yeah, my best sketches are often on lined paper, the paper I use to make lists or doodle on when I’m listening to a podcast… and my workroom looks just like a tornado hit it, even after I’ve just “tidied” it….

  7. Just get started is great advice. Having an audience or someone to give it to, share it with can help. I’m not a visual artist, but I enjoy the photos that people post of their works in progress. I find blogging is a good way to stick at a craft of any kind – be it writing or something visual.

    • Good points Kirsty. So many times we hear that bit of advice – stop thinking about everything and just DO something. Anything!! Once you start doing you’re ready to do more – and then you wonder why you ever thought it would be a problem to get through it.

  8. I feel like you’ve been following me around and taking notes of my creative patterns! 🙂 It’s amazing how procrastination can rear it’s head in so many ways. If I can’t wrap my brain around my current project on a particular day, I at least post some of my artwork and designs at some of my sites on items for sale like Zazzle. That sort of gives the thinking/procrastinating part of my brain a break for a while and I definitely feel I have accomplished something creative for the day. I love how you dare to reach out to at least one new avenue each month! That is fantastic advice. How awesome prosthetic limbs and such would look with some of your amazing art on them. Sort of like they had been tattooed/inked on. Ack! It’s their loss if they don’t respond back to you begging to use your artwork. 🙂

    • hahaha I know what you mean, the more we get into this the more we realize we’re literally all the same person, at some basic level. Same hurdles, same insecurities. It feels good to share the burden 🙂

      I was inspired by this place – , they do some truly outstanding things. Check out the Swarovski crystal one, the snake one and of course the gorgeous blue floral. Think what a difference that would make, if your prosthetic was that gorgeous.

      It’s really not about the individual successes or failures – it’s more about the realization it’s all one long, random process and that any individual failure really means nothing in the long run. Better than that – each one is a tiny lesson – one more thing you know you should do differently next time 🙂

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