5 Ways To Beat “I Don’t Know What To Draw” Syndrome

1. Use your own photography as reference imagery.

What Is It? Most of us keep dozens—if not hundreds—of pictures stored away in our smart phones without ever doing much more with them besides flashing a few to a family member on holidays. Using your own photos for references are an amazing way to preserve your art as your own, and being able to continually enjoy the moments that may or may not end up stuffed away in a scrapbook. The greatest thing about this is that you can pull out the image anytime to start and stop drawing as you please. Plus: no copyright infringement!

How Will It Inspire Me? You usually only preserve images of the things that you love or find aesthetically pleasing, so picking even just one of your own pictures to draw should be especially easy. It’s also a great way to work on bettering your drawing of faces and the human form, as many of us photograph our loved ones on a regular basis.

What’s Next? 1) Choose another photo and draw some more! 2) Start taking more pictures with the intention of drawing the imagery. Who knows, you might even realize a love for photography!

Hint: Use the settings in your phone to disable automatic shut off so that you don’t have to keep taping the screen while you draw from your reference photo. Just make sure to re-enable it when you’re finished.

Draw From Photos.jpg

2. Participate in #DrawThisInYourStyle.

What Is It? Draw this in your style is a trending online movement where artists post their own original content and characters, in hopes that other artists will love it so much that they too will want to recreate the content or character with their own twist. Currently, there are 200,000+ results on Instagram for #DrawThisInYourStyle, so there is plenty of content (and characters) to pick from! These artists are lending their creativity to you, so you’re free to do with it as you please

How Will It Inspire Me? This challenge lets you create without having to make hard decisions. Of course, the real fun is not in copying, but altering, which means that you can change poses or facial expressions, for example, without needing to have “big” ideas. Plus, it lets you connect with new artists, which is a pretty awesome bonus!

What’s Next? Why, create your own something for #DrawThisInYourStyle, of course!

3. Compose Your Own Still Life

What Is It? Still life consists of drawing or painting inanimate objects, most commonly associated with fruit or flowers. But it does not have to be fruit or flowers, of course, which means it could be literally anything laying around your house! Your favorite mug next to a knickknack next to a rock from your yard: draw it! A pillow under a novel under an ink pen: draw it! Still life drawings are more challenging than drawing your own photographed images because your perspective can change, the lighting can change, and you’ll never be able to assemble the objects in the exact same way, so choose this option carefully.

How Will It Inspire Me? Being able to choose the objects that you will find the easiest (or hardest) to draw means that you can make the experience as enjoyable as you please in a way that best fits you.

What’s Next? Change your perspective! Stand over the still life subject, go to the other side of it, or even just rearrange the objects. Fully understanding perspective is one of the hardest things about drawing, and you’re seriously improving your ability by drawing something from multiple angles.

Still Life Art Supplies.jpg

4. Re-Draw Your Own Art

What Is It? This idea is very similar to #DrawThisInYourStyle, but gives you a lot more control over the art that you’re creating. Because you are redrawing your own art, you may feel more comfortable with altering more of the content, as it is your original creation, after all. Not only that, but redrawing your own art makes the content more marketable, if you are in fact creating in order sell.

How Will It Inspire Me? Redrawing your own art tends to make an artist realize how much they’ve actually improved their artistic skills. You’ll not only be creating something, but also proving to yourself the time you’ve invested in your artistic ability hasn’t be for naught. You might also discover a new-found love for the original piece.

What’s Next? Once you’ve realized that your abilities have improved in some areas, you may find that some areas could still use a little work. Try focusing on these less improved areas, whether it be shading, individual facial features, or understanding of perspective. Dont be afraid to redraw something that you’ve already redrawn before!

5. Self Portrait

What Is It? A drawing of yourself! You are the perfect subject because you’ve been looking at the subject your entire life. You also have complete ability of posing your model and know just where to find them when the drawing mood strikes! Several artists are well known for self portraits, and all you require is a drawing utensil and a mirror.

How Will It Inspire Me? Although not every artist wants to draw people, understanding human anatomy and facial structure will lend itself to understanding anatomy of animals as well. That being said, a lot of artists lean toward human beings as their main subject matter, and knowing the simplest form of your face will be useful when drawing any face in general. Not only that, but hey look: you’re a model now!

What’s Next? Your face can make some really great (and bizarre) expressions, so why not try out a few? You don’t have to draw the whole face to draw stretched lips around a smile or scrunched up nose. Focus on doing a few different expressions and you’ll soon have an entire page for future references.

Self Portrait as a Painter

Self Portrait of a Painter, oil on canvas, 65.1 cm x 50 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

5 Helpful Hints For Recording Art Videos

Because I know there are a few of you who prefer short & sweet, there is a concise list of need-to-know information regarding recording overhead videos located at the bottom of this post.

Starting the project of creating art videos was not easy for me! I understood it in theory (record, edit, post) but the actual how-to of filming threw me through a loop! Having seen multiple art videos (YouTube and classes, alike) I knew what I wanted to do, just not how to achieve the look. I tried to search the web to find out what my favorite artists online used to record their videos, but it was a fruitless quest. Not one result was available to me about which cameras worked best or where to position the recording device—and there were absolutely no tips or tricks on the process of achieving such a feat. So I now present you with the post I wish I could have found.

Video Software

My Video Editing Software, Pinnacle Studio 18, In Use

I knew step one would be to purchase simple video editing software, and I found a cheap one in town. It’s not the best thing by any means, but it works…for now. As for everything else, I just used items on hand. I had a nice camera—not camcorder—and a huge tripod to start out with, which I was using beneath a pretty terrible overhead light. After blogging for about a month and a half now, I have realized that having a less than ideal camera has begun to deter my creative spirit. Every video I made required multiple cuts due to quickly dying camera batteries, and having to adjust zoom per each cut was awful! It was simply not giving me the clean results that my inner perfectionist desired. Fortunately, I had the means to fix all of this!


My Original Recording Device, Nikon Coolpix L820, And It Is NOT a Camcorder!

Yesterday, I ran about town to purchase a camcorder and tripod, which would not consume a third of my desk. I am also now the happy owner of a desk light with natural light light bulbs. (The natural light light bulbs are a must have!) The camcorder can be used while plugged in, meaning no constant battery switching; the tripod is small enough that I no longer have to worry about inconsistent zoom range per cut. I’m thrilled to have a setup that makes my videos the (semi-)professional creations I’ve been so desperately craving! I now have a compact tripod that was aprox. $15, and a Cannon camcorder that cost me $250.

Camera and Tripod

My New Recording Materials: Sunpak 42″ Tripod & Canon HFR700 Camcorder

If you are trying to record an overhead video, the Canon Vixia HF R700 camcorder is perfect. It can stay plugged in forever, records up to 12 hours without stopping, and has a screen that will turn to face you, which means you can see the image you’re recording. It also has a function which allows the user to make the image mirrored, which isn’t a necessity, but stops you from trying to adjust your camera in the wrong direction when you image is off centered. If that doesn’t make sense, I’m sorry, but please know it’s got a neat feature that does a convenient thing for this specific use. I 100% endorse this camera if you are tying to do much overhead desk recording!

So here is a concise list of what I wish I’d known prior to attempting this project…

5 Helpful Hints For Recording Art Videos:
1. A camera with a battery life of an hour or more is a must have; a camera that can stay plugged in forever is a life saver!
2. If the camera has a screen to face you, it’s worth an extra $50. If it’s anymore than that, use a mirror opposite the camera to check your camera screen frequently(Especially if the camera’s battery isn’t very good!)
3. You do not need a tripod that is taller than 40″. Ever.
4. Shadows will ruin all videos, and even the cheapest adjustable desk lamp is worth your money for this purpose.
5. Having natural light or white light light bulbs will make your videos 100x better looking.
6. The three most important features in a video editing software are 1) ability to adjust video speed, 2) ability to add and alter additional audio tracks, and 3) ability to rotate your video.

Now that I have a setup that I don’t hate, you’ll be seeing quite a bit more of me!! Until then, happy arting!

Working on Multiple Spreads

This past week, I just can’t seem to keep my hands off of my acrylic paints! Because these paints are usually my go to for creating backgrounds, I’ve been starting multiple spreads without getting very far on them. This has made me question the pros and cons for having multiple spreads started, and I’ve decided to share my logic with you.


Orange & Blue WIP Spread, and Green & Purple WIP Spread

1. The ability to travel with just journal and pen, always having something to draw on.
2. Having established pages for my “off” days when creating feels difficult.
3. Being able to just doodle for when I’m on a roll with my pen.
4. Having extra pages for art classes and challenges that are image oriented and not background oriented.

1. Being forced to work with color palettes that no longer resonate with me.
2. Having fewer pages to start fresh on.
3. Feeling like I might ruin something I’ve already created that I don’t remember how to recreate.
4. Being without the same paint or not remembering which ones I’ve used if I want to add to the background.


Blue & Yellow WIP Spread, and Green/Pink/Yellow Pastel WIP Spread

I’m not in fear of running out of pages to work on, though I’ll admit that this is my favorite journal. Luckily, it’s a 200 page book that I’m altering, so the number of pages left to work on is still not easily counted. That being said, I have already run into the problem of not remembering which paint I’ve used (namely the blue and yellow bone spread above), which did cause me some irritation. However, it’s been fun playing with my paint, so at least I’ve accomplished the task of enjoyably creating art…and that’s what is most important to me!

Let me know if you can think of any pros or cons for having too many spreads started. Also, feel free to comment a link to any or your work in progress art journal pages, I’d love to see what’s out there!!


5 Tips for Getting Creative

A lot of people have ways to prepare themselves for stressful situations: breathing techniques, counting to ten,  the usual. But what about preparing yourself for the things you actually enjoy? Do you pop a bag of popcorn before turning on a movie, or light a candle before slipping into a bath? I prepare myself for creating art, and I’d like to share some tips that work for me when I want to get into the creative spirit….

1. Keeping inspiring items nearby.

There are photos and prints of art that I love stuck to the wall behind my desk; they are out of my way, but within sight. When asking myself, “What do I do next?” it is easy to look up and say, “I love that! What does it make me think of? Why do I like it? How can I mimic that emotional response with my own current piece?” My items aren’t there to copy, just to inspire. Try printing out photos of your favorite art, architecture, and imagery to keep close by for the moments of feeling stuck.


2. Indulging (just a little bit).

I don’t drink pop regularly, nor tea, but I still get my good caffeine fix everyday with a cup of hot brew! I don’t just use coffee as a pick-me-up for those early mornings. For me, coffee is more of a want than a need; it’s a small indulgence that I can enjoy throughout the day. Being creative is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, not a chore. I suggest you indulge, just a little, while trying to find your muse. A small piece of chocolate or you favorite beverage is a good way to start.


3. Create an atmosphere.

As a music lover, my desk is occupied with speakers, CDs, and has an easy access to my record player. I also have the ability to turn on a television show or a movie if I so choose. However, I make sure to pick noises that are conducive to a creative atmosphere rather than a distraction. The idea here is to create a white noise machine that muffles the busy world around you; my creative space should be a haven. I don’t suggest watching the new season of a favorite show or playing work out music. Try to find some calming music or a show you’ve seen a million times to make a space that feels, and sounds, comfortable.

4. Preparing the work station and pulling out supplies.

Before I had a desk to keep all of my supplies in, I had an enormous bag with which I could keep 90% of my paints, markers, pens, etc. easily together. I’m lucky enough to have a a new dedicated art space, but this means I’m not exactly sure just yet where to find everything. Laying out the supplies I might want to use is helpful for when I’m working. Just like having the bag close to hand, having my art supplies in front of me makes it so that I’m not pausing to find the right color of paint or the perfect pen size. If I don’t have to stop working, the creative juice flows far more freely! Try keeping your favorite supplies close at hand during your creative moments.


5. Create just to create.


Easy Come Easy Go AJP

I strongly recommend making time for your creative endeavors everyday, even if it’s just for a few minutes. If this means investing in a small sketchbook that fits in your pocket, so be it! Just because you “don’t know what to make,” or, “don’t feel inspired,” it doesn’t mean you should stop creating! I reason that if creating becomes a habit, then the days that I am truly inspired, art will be a priority instead of an after thought! You can always sketch the world around you, even if it’s just the paint brush on your desk or the shoes on your feet. If you’re more of a crafty person, use your creative time to crochet granny squares, fold paper cranes, sew a simple pillow case, or play with clay.

I hope this helps you design the perfect atmosphere for creating. If you have an tips that work for you, feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what they are! I’d love to hear them. Who knows, you might inspire me!