What to draw?

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Whatever creative practice you’re into, you’ve probably faced the question—what do I fill my time with?

If it’s writing you ask yourself, what do I write about? If it’s a craft, what do I make? If it’s art, what do I draw, paint, or sculpt?

I have faced this question daily since starting my sketch journal in December of 2018. Here are some ways I’ve solved the problem of what to draw.

Sketch some detail of your day:

I was inspired to start a daily art habit by Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day. In it, she tells of how she began doing a daily sketch of ordinary items from her day. When she posted these on Instagram, they gained an eager following which encouraged her to continue this practice. Since starting it several years ago she has filled many sketchbooks, published books, taught classes, and more.

My first sketchbook entries were in that vein—items from my day. My book became a visual journal—interesting to look back on.

My first sketch journal entry – December 10, 2018.

However, after doing this for a while, I felt drained of ideas. My life just wasn’t that interesting or varied. Around that time I discovered lists of prompts.

Use lists of art prompts:

I first printed out the monthly list of things to draw from Doodlewash.com in May of 2019 and have responded to those art challenges for many months.  

There are pros to doing this:

  1. You never need to look for inspiration. In a way, though, when the item feels uninspiring, finding an angle to make it your own is another challenge.
  2. When you post your drawings to social media using hashtags, your work becomes part of a collection and you get to see how others have responded to the prompt. You can follow them, comment on their work, and inevitably a community develops.
  3. You are challenged to draw things you would never choose to draw without the nudge of a prompt, and so you grow as an artist.

Other lists of prompts I have followed are Spring Your Florals (an Instagram flower prompt every second-day), Opus Daily Practice (ever February), and Inktober (an October drawing challenge).  

Sometimes, though, you just get the hankering to work on subjects of your own choice. When that happens, you can make up your own list.

Set up your own list of prompts:

When I tire of following someone else’s list, I make up my own. I usually do it by themes. One month I sketched and painted only birds. Another month I gave each week a different theme (favourite things, fridge and pantry items, buildings, and plants). The possibilities are endless here: shoes, jewelry, dishes, desk items, wild flowers, insects etc. etc.

There comes a time, however, when you may feel you should spend those art hours with more intention. You may feel the need to learn a new skill or work on your weaknesses.

Work on areas that need improvement.

As I’ve continued my art practice, I’ve become increasingly aware of areas where I need to improve. Painting landscapes, for example, has shown me how I need to get better at painting rocks, trees, and water. Hours of art time can be absorbed by studying and practicing elements that need work. You can also grow in specific areas by watching videos and painting along with art instructors on YouTube and other platforms.

Work on your art business

At the moment I’m in still another space, where I’m trying to keep my little art shop replenished. Thus my daily art time has frequently gone in that direction, painting another set of cards, sketching a value study for a painting doing trial sketches and paintings in my sketchbook before getting out the pricey paper. Then, of course, the paintings themselves take hours of work.

Wherever you’re at in your creative practice, look hard and long at the challenge of how to spend your time. Then, if you’re not happy with your current source of inspiration, give it some thought, try something different, and so keep yourself and your creative endeavors fresh, nourished, and growing.

And some days I just feel the ned to get back to my roots and sketch my day. This from a walk we took on Sunday, May 16, 2021.