Quickstarter Shorty Squad Title Image

 

There’s a new crowdfunding method in town and its name is Quickstarter. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Or maybe the title had you wondering what in the world is that? Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

 

What is a Quickstarter?

A Quickstarter is…*drumroll please*…a very short Kickstarter. That’s all. It’s not a new platform at all. But before you leave with a “psshaw!”, you should know Quickstarters are an actual thing that the Kickstarter team acknowledges and encourages.

Kickstarter had humble beginnings, intended to support small creative projects. But now you can find anything from art zines to large-scale corporate endeavors. Companies and startups are using Kickstarter to fund everything from robots to ramen.

Giant, large-scale Kickstarter projects take on a different look. Most include press releases, endorsements from big names in their respective industries, and several “stretch goal” extensions.

To give you an idea of the scale of these projects, here are some highlights:

While impressive, these projects are a vast departure from what Kickstarter founders Peter Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler intended. While Kickstarter’s mission is focused on creative projects, the most revenue has come from their games, design, and technology categories.

In response, they’ve launched the “Quickstarter,” described on their site as “an invitation to create small projects.” The idea is credited to Oscar Lhermitte, a designer based in London.

 

What’s Considered a Quickstarter?

There are 9 qualifying “rules” for running a Quickstarter. Like the whole concept of a Quickstarter, these rules are informal and not enforced in any way. Following these “rules” is entirely up to the project creator:

  1. Planned in 3 months or less.
  2. Runs for 20 days or less.
  3. Goal is under $1000.
  4. Backer rewards are under $50.
  5. Video (if used) shot in a single day.
  6. No creator-initiated media or PR.
  7. No paid ads.
  8. No stretch goals.
  9. The term “Quickstarter” is in your project name.

The rules are simple. In short, Kickstarter is telling creators to think small, spend less, and do less. Maybe I’m not the target audience for this initiative since anything I would put on Kickstarter would meet most, if not all, of these rules. Or maybe this is a roundabout way of telling individual creators like myself that there’s still a place for my kind of project.

 

Quickstarter Examples

There are a surprising number of Quickstarter projects already. Some of the most popular ones that articles have mentioned are the envelope bag, which is just a really strong bag that’s foldable…

 

…and the lazy postcard, which are postcards with cutouts so you have an excuse to write a really short (or not) message.

As a writer, that’s not really my thing, but 141 people were into it.

 

Personally, I liked Stami Studios‘s Sleeping Luna Pin Quickstarter.

Screenshot of Stami's Sleeping Luna Pin Quickstarter

 

 

So Why Do a Quickstarter?

Are there any special benefits to running a Quickstarter? Is there a good reason for big companies to start trying smaller projects or for small businesses to jump on board and label their projects “Quickstarters”?

I have no idea.

At this point, there doesn’t seem to be any particular benefit to running a Quickstarter over an ordinary Kickstarter. But I’m going to try one and here’s why:

 

It Can’t Hurt

I don’t know if there are any benefits to running a Quickstarter, but since the idea has been so highly promoted by Kickstarter, there can’t be any penalties either.

 

Rule Breaker? Not Me.

The project I’m drafting already meets all 9 Quickstarter rules. It’s a single enamel pin and I don’t plan to add any stretch goals. I suppose I can resist my urge to reach out to news outlets and my PR connections for this one.

 

Curiosity

If running a business on Instagram has taught me anything, it’s that there’s a LOT going on at the backend of any platform. Instagram is notorious for its confusing algorithm, which determines which posts you actually see on your feed.

So could jumping on the Quickstarter bandwagon get my project more traffic? Possibly. But I’m sure Kickstarter would never reveal if and how they prioritize projects on their platform, other than the blatant “Projects We Love” category.

Will running a Quickstarter get my campaign featured on the Quickstarter page? Again, it’s not clear. But currently, the most visible projects displayed are already listed as “Projects We Love.” You have to hit the “Load More” button several times to even see ordinary projects.

 

Still, I do think there are a couple reasons why “Quickstarter” is a nice thought:

 

  1. It communicates to creators that small projects are okay and relieves the pressure to promote your campaign like it’s a second job.
  2. It communicates to potential backers that this is a simple project with a quick turnaround.

 

In the end, I don’t expect much from running a Quickstarter, but I’m curious enough to try it.

 

My Quickstarter Plans

I’ll be holding a Quickstarter for *surprise surprise* an enamel pin! If you follow me on Instagram or this blog, you may know that I’ve been venturing into the world of fan art. I have two Ghibli pins up for sale now, but anyone could make Ghibli pins. Who doesn’t like Ghibli?

But the fandom I’m really obsessed with is Steven Universe. If you haven’t seen this cartoon, I’m sorry. I can’t even explain to you why it’s the best because that would take a 5-part blog series. Although if you’re interested, I could take a month to write about Steven. I’ll just say that in our currently-especially-crummy world, I fully endorse the use of uplifting cartoons as self-care.

But back to Quickstarter.

I’d love for my first Steven Universe pin to be this “Shorty Squad” design!

SU Shorty Squad Pin mockup

I absolutely love Shorty Squad and being vertically challenged, I can relate. Peridot is also my favorite.

I’ve never seen a Shorty Squad pin (but if you’re aware of one out there, please send a link my way!) so I would be thrilled to bring this cute crew to life.

 

Why a Kickstarter for One Pin?

SU Shorty Squad Pin Gold Mockup

I realize this is a single pin, so you might be wondering why I’m running a Kickstarter for it. The main issues are that this is pin has to be big enough to preserve all the details and has a lot of different colors to stay true to the characters.

Naturally, the larger and more detailed a pin is, the most costly it is to produce. A standard price for enamel pins usually includes 4 to 5 colors. This Shorty Squad pin would have 15 COLORS. Here are the specs I have planned so far:

  • hard enamel
  • gold plating
  • 2 inches wide
  • 15 colors
  • 2 pin posts
  • Monicartsy back stamp

There’s quite a bit going on for one pin. That’s why I’m launching a Quickstarter on July 15th. The campaign will last two weeks and end on July 29th.

The circumstances of this project are a bit different than my Seasonal Succulents Kickstarter. I was determined to make the entire set of four succulent pins even if the campaign didn’t cover all the costs. I successfully funded two of the pins and released the remaining pins later. But the Shorty Squad pin will truly be all-or-nothing.

If the pin isn’t fully funded through Kickstarter, I’ll take it as a sign that there isn’t enough interest in the design and leave it on the drawing board. I’ve rushed into some of my previous pin designs without gauging interest, so this time I’m trying to be more mindful of what people want and are actually willing to buy.

In personal news, I’ll be moving across the country to start graduate school soon. So unfortunately, I’ll need to buy boring things like furniture before producing new pins. Although I’m nervous and weirdly worried about failing with this Kickstarter, I’m looking forward to just giving it a shot!

I hope you look forward to seeing this project go live soon! Keep up with updates on my Instagram or Facebook page.

Shorty Squad Title Image for Kickstarter

 

Pin Backing Types Title displayed over image of scattered pin backings

 

It’s time for my first post of June and I’m scrambling to get it done on time. So instead of the lengthy “Starting an Art Business part 4” post I’ve been working on, I’m giving you all a little insider pin knowledge. Today we’re talking about pin backs.

Those of you with no interest in enamel pins can come back next week.

Pin Backs? Who Cares?

There’s a bit of a rivalry going on in the pin community. (Not really.) It’s been going on for centuries. (Maybe a few years at most?) This division is comparable to the likes of age-old conflicts like:

DC or Marvel?

Subs or Dubs?

Dogs or Cats?

Normal people coffee or Decaf?

Toilet paper roll facing up or Down? (The answer is up, you monsters.)

And that conflict is…

 

Metal Pin Backs vs. Rubber Pin Backs

 

If you’re a pro pin collector (or creator), bear with me while I drop some Pin 101 knowledge. Enamel pins typically have one or two posts with some type of back or clasp to secure it to a surface. But the question is, do you go with rubber or metal pin clasps?

Pin Backing Types Metal vs Rubber Pin Backs

Metal backs are probably the most well-known to the general public. They’re also called butterfly clasps/clutches and have those two little tabs you have to squeeze together to take the clasp off. But we all know those two tabs aren’t particularly secure. Sometimes you can rip a metal clasp right off without touching the tabs. Or was that just my childhood experience?

[]

Rubber backs, on the other hand, are a very simple piece of rubber with no intricate workings. All they require is a simple pull or push.

The first enamel pins I bought had rubber backs. Initially, I thought they were just cheaper to produce. But when I started making pins for myself, I found that no manufacturer (that I’ve come across so far) charges a different price for rubber or metal backs.

I ended up snooping, asking around, and Googling to find out, what’s the difference between rubber and metal backs? Is one better than the other?

Meanwhile, being already biased toward rubber and finding insufficient information online, I chose rubber backings for my first pin and pin set. All of my current pins have rubber backs.

 

Which is Better: Metal or Rubber backings?

I do have opinions on this topic now, not just a bias toward my first type of pin backs. But spoiler alert, the difference between metal and rubber backs comes down to personal preference.

The majority of pin makers I’ve purchased from use rubber. But I’ve heard others express a strong preference for metal. A few creators offer both. And while one isn’t definitively better than the other, there are definite pros and cons to discuss.

 

Metal Pin Backs

Other names: butterfly clasp, metal clutch, butterfly clutch, military* pin back, military butterfly clasp

Pin Backing Types Metal Butterly backs

Pros:

  • Metal backs on metal pins look more uniform
  • Butterfly clasp provides a slight lock
  • Better for securing pins on thicker material
  • Can customize metal color

Cons:

  • Doesn’t provide a tight fit or secure lock
  • Butterfly tabs can get caught in hair and clothing
  • Metal colors are limited

Summary:

Metal pin backs have the noticeable benefit of looking more uniform. Some people view them as more aesthetically pleasing. Metal backings can be customized to a limited extent by metal color. I have butterfly clasps in gold, silver, and rose gold. But typically no one will see the clasp except you. On the other hand, you do need to deal with the possibility of your clasp getting caught in hair, clothing, or scratching your skin.

The more important consideration for pin backs is security. Some people complain about how easily their metal pin backs have fallen off, while others report having no problems. Compared with rubber backs, butterfly clasps have a looser fit; they’ll never be completely flush against the pin needle.

However, metal pin backs tend to be better if you’re frequently removing and replacing pins, like me. While the butterfly clasp mechanism can get worn down, the back ultimately holds its shape better than rubber, which will stretch with extended use.

 

Rubber Pin Backs

Other names: PVS rubber pin back (this one’s pretty straightforward)

Pin Backs Rubber Backs

Pros:

  • Tight fit
  • Very secure on thin or textured fabric
  • Smooth surface is skin-friendly
  • Highly customizable
  • Better grip

Cons:

  • Harder to secure on a thick surface
  • Loosens over time and with movement
  • Security varies by quality

Summary:

In general, rubber pin backs provide a tighter fit. The hole in the pin back is made to fit your pin post perfectly. Some rubber pin backs are so tight that I’ve had trouble removing them at first. But the key phrase here is “at first.” Rubber stretches over time, leaving you with a looser fit, the more you remove and replace your pin.

And although rubber backs are pretty secure, they can also loosen if you have your pin on a surface that sees a lot of movement, like a lanyard or tote bag. But if you plan to leave your pin on a surface permanently, your rubber pin back is less likely to stretch. The rubber surface is also durable and won’t get caught on hair or clothing.

Another big draw of rubber pin backs is customizability. You can choose different colors and even special shapes. I’ve seen heart- and star-shaped pin backs and of course, Disney pins have rubber backs in the shape of Mickey Mouse heads.

 

Finally, I’d add that rubber pin backs have the benefit of a tighter fit on fabric. All pins have one or two sharp nubs next to their pin post. When a pin is pushed completely flat against its backing card, you’ll see a little indent next to the hole from this nub. In many rubber pin backs, you can also see a faint indent or two from these “nubs.” (Sorry if “nub” sounds weird–I don’t know what else to call it.)

To get a more secure fit, from your rubber pin back, you can press your pin tightly against a fabric surface so that the nub also catches the fabric. Then press the rubber back as tightly against the back as possible to secure with both the post and the nub. If this makes no sense, hopefully these pictures will help:

A pin on the left with two nubs (mine) and a pin on the right with one nub (from Shop Lizzy)

 

Pin Backing Types nub imprints on rubber backs
Nub indents on two rubber pin backs; multiple on the left because I don’t always stab in the same spot

 

Anyway, the point is that rubber backs can give a really secure fit.

 

What About Locking Pin Backs?

There’s another type of popular pin back on the market. No post on the different types of pin backs would be complete without it. They’re locking pin backs.

In the end, rubber and metal pin backs don’t have a significant difference in security. It’s possible to lose pins with both backing types. So collectors turn to locking pin backs. I’m not focusing on this type of pin back because a.) I’ve never used them and b.) they’re in an entirely different league. But I’ll take a moment to share what I know.

Locking pin backs are also called locking clutches, deluxe pin backs, spring-loaded clutch backs, or military pin keepers.

*I would assume these are the true “military pin backs” but I’ve seen people refer to both regular butterfly clasps and locking pin backs as “military.” So just make sure you’re seeing a picture before you purchase any “military” pin backs.

Locking pin backs come in two variations: flathead and ball head pin backs. They look exactly how they sound and function in pretty much the same way. In order to lock your pin into place, these pin backs have a spring, which you release by pulling the top (flat or ball) up while pushing the bottom of the back down at the same time. If this sounds confusing, here’s a quick YouTube video and one with a longer explanation.

Some locking pin backs require you to open the spring whenever you want to put the clutch on or off. Others just need a firm push to put on and a squeeze only when you want to take the pin back off. Apparently there’s a bit of a learning curve; you may need a few tries to get used to releasing these pin backs.

Locking pin backs are more costly and in most cases, you’ll need to purchase them separately from your pins. I definitely plan to try locking pin backs someday…but for now, I’m spending my money on new pins.

(And if you’re thinking I sure had a lot to say about locking pin backs for someone who’s never used them, well, my cheap research skills are top-notch. I once had a sketchy job writing product reviews for items I’ve never even touched. Don’t trust everything you read online folks.)

 

Which Do I Prefer: Rubber or Metal Pin Backs?

Although I’ve only used rubber backs for my pins so far, I’ve recently been tempted by metal. So much so that I’ve ordered butterfly clasps for my next batch of pins (currently in production). I’m not set on metal, but recently I’ve come across a problem with my rubber pin backs.

I move my pins around. A lot. Especially my sample set of succulent pins. I’m constantly sticking them in different places to take pictures. As a result, the backings have gotten noticeably looser.

Meanwhile, I have some pins from a friend that use metal pin backs. To be honest, these butterfly clasps are a little difficult to remove. I have to pinch the butterfly tabs and jimmy it around a bit to remove them. But those pin backs are SECURE. Even with the amount of traveling these pins have done from one surface to another, these pins still stick.

So forget my worries about branding and consistency; I’m testing out metal pin backs. Maybe in a few months time, I’ll have a clear favorite, but for now, I’m still on the fence.

Pin Backing Types Metal vs Rubber on Pins

 

Do you have strong opinions on pin backs? This is a super serious topic! Feel free to fight it out in the comments!

Banner of 7 plant pin designs. From left to right: zebra plant in a red pot, golden sedums in blue and pink teacups, sedum in a glass, sedum in a paper coffee cup, and 2 sedums in blue and purple mugs

Last month I started my first Kickstarter campaign. I shared, promoted, and actually created a content strategy to get the word out. And it was successful!

Last week, I finished shipping out Kickstarter rewards. Unless there’s a problem with any orders, the process is over. That batch of 20-some Kickstarter rewards was technically my second art sale. Thinking about it that way, a Kickstarter may have been a bit premature. But I’m glad I tried it and naturally, I learned a lot.

There were several little moments of excitement and accomplishment throughout the process: getting my first backer, getting more backers, anytime I got a backer actually, and then figuring out and successfully accomplishing the logistics.

Before I address what I learned from running a Kickstarter, I thought I’d go into why I decided to start a Kickstarter project in the first place.

 

Why Start a Kickstarter?

Other than for the money? I decided to venture into the world of crowdfunding because:

  • Pins are expensive
  • Pin makers run successful Kickstarter campaigns all the time
  • Pin sets are far easier to produce at once with some support

Kickstarters are common in the pin creator community. First, seeing all these pin makers on Instagram showed me it was possible. For me, this occurred at two levels: in the abstract, seeing pin makers I follow online, and in person, as one of my dear friends successfully ran two massive (and massively successful) Kickstarter campaigns.

Crowdfunding also felt like the best way to produce a set of pins. But there’s another benefit that I didn’t know about at the time.

Kickstarter projects generate excitement and urgency. I’ve experienced this as a backer, but there’s a sense of pride in being able to bring a project to life with your purchase or donation. Kickstarter creates a community in a way that preorders in a shop cannot. As a backer, or someone on the fence about backing, you can follow along with a project’s progress and if it’s successful, feel like you too had a role in that success. Which, well, if you backed it, you did.

While running a Kickstarter was fun and exciting and new, I definitely feel a sense of relief now that it’s over. My campaign funded two out of four pins in the series. I’m satisfied, but looking back, there are certainly things I would have done differently.

6 succulent pin designs on a purple gradient background. Designs feature succulents in different cups: teacup, glass, paper coffee cup, and mug

Lessons from My First Kickstarter

Remember how I said this Kickstarter was only my second art sale? Yeah. In retrospect, I might have told myself, hey, isn’t it a bit soon to be running a Kickstarter? Maybe it was. But it also turned out fine.

That doesn’t mean I would repeat the process as is. Here’s what I learned:

1. Build Your Audience First!

Here’s how I began my campaign. I created my Kickstarter project and set my campaign period shorter than the default amount (because I’d read/heard that shorter campaigns tended to do better and I was impatient). Then after the project was already underway, I began reading up on how to run a successful campaign. And the one thing all experienced creators were saying was to build up your audience first.

Whoops. I suppose I’d been trying to do a little network-building by creating and building up an art Instagram account. But my following was and still is moderate. If I’d heard this bit of advice first, I would have waited before starting a campaign. Or worked harder to build a large following.

2. Set Higher Funding Goals.

I remember once finding a Kickstarter project to fund a single pin that was listed at $900. $900?! I could produce at least four pins at that price! I set my own project goals at $200 per pin, a very reasonable amount, I thought.

Reasonable, but maybe not for Kickstarter. While I knew about Kickstarter’s fees and thought I’d factored them into account, other costs added up too. In case you’re wondering, Kickstarter charges a 5% fee plus payment processing fees (3% + $0.20 per payment). I didn’t make the mistake of not charging for shipping, but I severely underpriced international shipping costs. This one’s (halfway) on me, international buyers!

There were also multiple components of the packaging that I hadn’t considered. Bubble mailers, individual pin packaging, backing cards, business cards, label sticker paper, and shipping labels all cost something. I haven’t calculated what the actual cost per person came out to yet, but I know it was more than what I charged.

Moral of the story: $900 for a one-pin Kickstarter project isn’t so unreasonable after all.

3. Get Your Packaging Ready Early.

I started out with a rough idea of how I wanted my packaging to look. But I was slow to actually purchase the supplies. This was a mistake because I couldn’t just go out and buy everything in a single afternoon. Everything is cheaper and comes in more colors online. I wasn’t even able to find all the parts I wanted for packaging at local stores. So when my pins arrived a little early, I was still waiting on pieces of my packaging.

While my orders didn’t experience a delay because the pins arrived earlier than expected, it would have been much easier to get everything together early.

4.. There’s a Payment Processing Period.

Bonus tip! After your Kickstarter project is successfully funded, there’s a 14-day payment processing period. Fortunately, I learned about this through a friend before my campaign ended. Because my project was relatively small, I ordered from my manufacturer before receiving my Kickstarter funds so it wouldn’t be as long of a wait.

 

Kickstarter has its place, but I don’t plan to run another campaign anytime soon. But creating a Ghibli pin set does look like fun…

 

Productivity Hacks To-Do Lists title image with background image of hand writing in a notebook

Productivity Hacks: Make Lists that Don’t Suck

I’m a pro at making lists that suck. You know when the number of things you have to do is so overwhelming that you just have to write them down? Or those daily lists you make with all the things you want to get done, but inside, you know is completely unrealistic?

Yeah, those were my kind of lists.

The thing is to-do lists are great for productivity. But that’s if and only if they’re done well. Just scribbling down everything you need to do in list format and hoping you’ll be able to cross out most of them by the end of the day won’t cut it.

So how do you make lists that don’t suck? I’m glad you asked.

 

Use Separate Lists

You might have wildly varying items on your list, from work tasks like uploading a new blog post to personal goals like working out or studying Korean.

But we approach these goals differently, as we should. The work tasks on my list almost always get done on time, because they’re work. Someone’s counting on me to do them. The personal tasks not so much.

In school, we’re able to get away with putting everything on a to-do list – or those free school planners – because they were all work tasks. You might have listed homework and projects in your planner, but many of these were finished in the same day too (or they weren’t supposed to be, but you were a master of procrastination).

Personal goals are all on you. You might need to create systems to keep yourself accountable, like taking a class or finding a language partner. So keep work and personal tasks in separate lists, and be prepared to do a lot more work defining your personal lists.

 

Break Down Anything Too Vague or Large

Another reason we have difficulty accomplishing personal goals is that most of them are too vague. Or worse, they’re listed as a vague task with no ultimate goal in mind.

“Study Korean” has been on many, many lists of mine. But this list item sucks because:

  • It leaves too many possibilities.
  • It doesn’t actually tell me what to do.
  • It doesn’t refer to a goal.

“Study” is an incredibly vague task. What is studying anyway? Is it using a textbook? Memorizing vocab? Watching Korean dramas and hoping you absorb the language?

Unless there are more details you’ve laid out behind the scenes in your brain, you’ll have a hard time motivating yourself to tackle this amorphous command to study.

On the other hand, if you use a textbook or website and plan to get through one module a week, your goals are suddenly much clearer. You can take your weekly goal and break it down into daily tasks. You can keep a list of long-term goals, but your daily to-do lists should only have small tasks.

 

Pro-Tip: Capture everything.

Originally I had a few more tips for this post, but then I started reading David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. It sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, this book IS GOOD. And much of Allen’s system is focused on lists.

One of the first principles is to capture everything. Allen’s reasoning goes like this:

Most of the time, we waste mental energy trying to remember what we need to do. Instead of relying on our memory, we should everything out of our heads and onto paper. Or an app. Or your organizing system of choice. He includes personal and professional tasks alike, from planning a family trip to setting up client calls. The more comprehensive and reliable your capturing system is, the more your brain can rely on it and stop worrying.

I’m not even halfway through the book, but this seemed like a pretty good gem.

 

Other Productivity Hack posts:

#1. Productivity Hacks: Do Your Laundry

#2. Productivity Hacks: Eat Treats. All the Treats.

 

Productivity Hacks: Eat Treats. All the Treats.

The holiday season is upon us! I don’t know what it’s like at your house, but at my house, this means a sudden increase in treats. Home baked goods, store-bought pastries, delicious gifts from family friends, and of course, that giant tub of somehow-holiday-related popcorn.

productivity hack treats popcorn bucket viewed from above with three types of popcorn separated by a three-way cardboard divider

My family went all healthy on me in the two years I was out of the country, so having all these treats around is a real (but pleasant) shock. Fortunately, if you’re loaded with treats too, you can use this to your advantage. Turn those treats into productivity! And if you’re lacking treats, you now have an excuse to go out and buy some.

Can Treats Really Increase Productivity?

Why would you even question the power of treats? Treats have a long history of boosting productivity. What else would we mean when we talk about using the carrot and the stick?

In short, this tip is a combination of two common productivity tips: eat breakfast and take breaks.

Breakfast

We know we’re supposed to eat a good breakfast. It gives you energy, keeps your stomach from growling too loudly, and has nutrition or something. But not everyone has time for a hearty breakfast. And if you’re like me, you can’t stomach much food in morning anyway.

Breaks

Taking breaks is good too. Science has proven that we need breaks to maintain focus and productivity. But in a culture where hard work is so highly valued, it’s easy to feel guilty about taking breaks. So we don’t. The problem is, we need breaks to keep our brains from going to mush.

We can agree that eating breakfast and taking breaks are healthy. We can also see why people skip breakfast or let their work drag on until they aren’t even working efficiently.

So what if you combined breakfast and breaks?

As an unsuccessful user of the  Pomodoro method, I think breaks are nice, but not particularly motivational. What if I take a break and it ends up stretching on for hours? (This is purely hypothetical, of course.) Getting to eat a pastry though? That – and my rumbling stomach – will get me to work faster to get to a stopping point. Then after I’ve had my break + pastry time, my mind is refreshed and my body has more energy.

Food and downtime – and not just during lunch – is a necessary part of any good work day. And if you don’t believe me, here’s a story.

A Story about How Food Helps You Work

After teaching in South Korea for one year, I moved to a new city and new school. At my old school, in my old teacher’s office, we always had snacks. You could count some form of communal food always being available.

Maybe one of the four teachers I shared an office with would go on a trip and bring back a specialty bread from another region. It might be someone’s birthday, so we’d have a cake. A parent might have brought a gift of fruit or pastries to a parent-teacher conference. Someone bought rice cake for the entire school because of a wedding, or a promotion, or someone’s child turning a year old. There were many excuses to eat rice cake.

But guess what? When I moved to my new school, I found out the office food situation was even better. That’s because nearly every teacher in this larger, 8-person office was a middle-aged woman. So they did just bring any old snacks.

Instead, we had fresh fruit almost every day. We still had snacks and rice cake for special occasions, just as I did at my former school, but the variety of foods available in our office was simply lovely. Having good food around also encouraged people to bring more good food.

At one point, I had a tub of oatmeal for the times when I wanted a mild breakfast. Another teacher had a stash of cup ramen. We both shared at some point because although oatmeal is pretty boring compared to ramen, most of my Korean coworkers had never tried it before. So I suppose I contributed to the healthy, novelty-food image of our office.

With all this food around, I never powered through my work on an empty stomach. All I had to do was walk across the room and help myself.

productivity hack treats image of wood table that has a tray of fruit including three peaches, two green apples, and a banana. Behind the tray is a place of sliced pastry bread. In the front to the left is a coffee mug with an owl design.

Plan to Treat Yourself

Food keeps us happy and, you know, helps us survive. But you shouldn’t be aiming to just survive each work day. Take care of yourself and listen when your body’s hungry or mentally drained.

So to increase your productivity, take breaks. Here’s what I recommend:

Take a mid-morning break to chow down on a treat. Or mid-afternoon. Whatever works with your schedule and stomach. I tend to get ravenous between 10 to 11 am, no matter how much breakfast I’ve had. That’s why I recommend a food treat, instead of a more abstract one, like social media time or mindless Internet browsing.

If my house is devoid of holiday treats or I’m rushing to meet a deadline, I’ll treat myself in a smaller way – better quality coffee, a latte, whipped cream on a beverage – something I can consume while working.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel that you “deserve” a break or you haven’t been productive enough yet. Recharge, regroup, and come back to the table when you’re ready and able to put in the hard work.

Productivity Hacks: Do Your Laundry

Lately, I’ve had productivity methods on my mind. Well, let’s face it, they’re always somewhere on the brain, whether I’ve had a slow day and I’m figuring out how to avoid another one, or I was wonderfully productive and hoping for a repeat performance the next day.

Only recently have I figured out that an ordinary household task can boost my productivity: laundry.

Well, this is useless, you might be thinking. I work at an office and I can’t do laundry there. Not true! I have something for you too, even if your employer hasn’t invested in washing machines. So bear with me while I tell you a story.

A Laundry Story

productivity hacks laundry clothesline

My laundry days used to be super unproductive. I’d have to keep interrupting my work to move dirty clothes around, and then I’d have to fold them. Ugh. So I’d try to delegate laundry to the weekends.

But one day – a weekday – I’d forgotten to do laundry over the weekend. I also had a significant amount of writing to do that day. So I set a tight schedule. I packed my clothes into the washer and set a timer on my phone. As soon as that timer rang, I’d rush down to the laundry room and get those clothes in the drier.

Since I had a lot on my plate, naturally, I’d do work while my clothes were washing. This gave me two 30- to 40-minute chunks of intensely productive time. And thus, the laundry Pomodoro method was born.

The Pomodoro Technique

productivity hack laundry tomato pomodoro technique credit Devanath

If you already know what the Pomodoro technique is, you probably have me pegged. This post is about combining Pomodoro with household chores. You got me. But it’s been effective for me ever since I started laundry Pomodoro.

The Pomodoro Technique, if you don’t know, is a way to structure your time and stay productive. It was invented by Francesco Cirillo, who used a Pomodoro or tomato-shaped timer, hence its namesake. The method is this: set a timer for 25 minutes and work during that time. Then give yourself a 5-minute break. Rinse and repeat for as long as needed. But since we human beings are only able to focus for so long, take a longer, 15-minute break after you’ve completed three or four pomodoros.

You can vary the time of your breaks and number of pomodoros, but the basic premise is:

  1. Work
  2. Short break
  3. Work
  4. Short break
  5. Work
  6. Long break

This method has been so well-received that there’s a Cirillo company with Pomodoro courses, Pomodoro certifications you can earn, and a Pomodoro book.

So Why Laundry?

So if this method is so effective, why did I bother adding laundry to the equation? Is this my attempt at a unique spin? Some cheap gimmick I picked up in the process of writing for marketing agencies?

Fortunately no. I bring in laundry because the Pomodoro technique doesn’t work for me.

I mean, I’m sure if I used it consistently, it would be helpful. But it’s getting there that’s the problem. I just can’t motivate myself to use pomodoros. It’s annoying to always set a timer. I always go over or under the times I set. Sometimes I’d rather just charge ahead for a couple hours without stopping for a break.

That’s where laundry comes in. Laundry is set in stone.

What I mean is, there’s no going under the time limit for laundry. If I do, I’m just wasting time while the washing machine continues to run. And if I go over the set time, my clothes will stay soggy in the washer or get wrinkled in the dryer.

The result is an enforced Pomodoro that I have no choice but to obey. But since laundry is only once a week, I don’t feel constrained or annoyed by the time limits. Instead, it’s fun to see how much I can accomplish in two Pomodoros of laundry.

Interested in Digital Painting? Here’s How to Get Started

Those of you who know me might be thinking, “Oh Monica does digital art?” But you’d be right to feel surprise or doubt. Because I don’t. Not since I was on Neopets and other virtual pet sites anyway, when I would put myself through the agony of trying to draw smooth lines with a mouse.

But I’m changing all that starting this week! Because I’ve had a tablet sitting around since August that I still haven’t learned to use. This birthday gift would have been the gift of my younger self’s dreams, so recently I’ve been trying to live that dream.

I started out confidently – a tablet will instantly make digital art so much easier, right? – but immediately fell short of my expectations. My drawings looked worse than some of my old computer mouse drawings. Take a look.

The age of Neopets (bonus points to anyone who can identify the other pet site):

Digital Painting yellow stuffed dragon painting on canvas while a stuffed cat watches

Digital Painting white mythical creature with a long tongue, long tail and four red eyes perched on a gray rock

I got pretty good at working around the limitations I had with my mouse. I also found some way to smooth out my shaky lines with some software (see white creature painting above), but now have no idea how I did that. In comparison, here’s my attempt from a few days ago:

Digital Painting roughly drawn smiling black cartoon cat with words "Graah! Why is this so hard?" scribbled on the left side

Amusing, but not so good. The only digital art I’ve done recently is the phone paintings I started making in Korea while waiting at bus stops or having reflective moments at the beach. This involved smooshing my finger around on my phone screen.

Digital painting phone painting of the beach with ships in the distance

Clearly, tablets and actual Photoshop have a bit more of a learning curve. That’s why, as a nearly complete beginner to digital painting, I’m writing a post on how to learn digital painting. Expert illustrators and artists who actually create digital art on a regular basis could easily give you a more comprehensive list of resources. But I’m in that same awkward beginner stage you might be, struggling to remember Photoshop shortcuts and figure out why I can’t draw like I do on paper.

Here’s a list of the resources I’m currently using – and really liking so far! Most of these are geared toward learning to use digital software, not art skills, since that’s what I need. But you can check out my post on figure drawing resources or beginner art tutorials (skip to #6 for drawing) if you need the foundation in art techniques too.

 

Digital Painting Tutorials

This is a list of four specific resources, as well as a few general recommendations, for a beginner learning digital painting. Most are basic tutorials, but a few scale up in difficulty so more advanced artists might find a few gems here too.

 

Ctrl+Paint

Ctrl+Paint is my favorite with absolutely no competition at this point. The website is an extensive video library of tutorials starting from the very beginning and going to- well I haven’t gotten anywhere near that yet. The creator, Matt Kohr, has crafted a clear curriculum that thoroughly takes you through all the essentials you need for digital painting.

The site itself looks appealing with a very clean layout and intuitive navigation. A nice-looking site just makes you want to stay a while, doesn’t it? There are no ads on Ctrl+Paint because Matt makes his revenue from selling videos of more advanced techniques or in-depth tutorials. Since I haven’t been using the Ctrl+Paint that long, I can’t say how long it’ll take to get through the free videos…but there are a LOT. And on top of that, Matt still posts new videos. As of this post, the last free video was posted on August 21, but before that there’s at least one new video each month.

Even though I gathered a handful of beginner resources for this post, Ctrl+Paint is the one I anticipate using the most. The videos are brief, which is perfect for my plan to spend 30 minutes a day on digital painting (I’m attempting Nanowrimo and applying for grad school, okay? But carving out 30 minutes each day sounds doable). By the end of each video, you have an “assignment” to practice, whether that’s a file he’s given you to mess around with or a tool to become comfortable using. The nice things about these assignments that they don’t feel like work so far. You just play until you get the hang of it.

 

Lummage’s Comic Book Coloring 101

If you’re looking to master digital coloring, Lummage’s series might be for you. I liked the first video, and I think I’ll continue with this course after I’ve seen what Ctrl+Paint has to offer on coloring. As a side, “coloring” reminds me of elementary school and coloring books, so if that bothers you too, think of it as just the color part of digital painting.

Like Ctrl+Paint, Lummage’s video series is for beginners. While this series is titled “Comic Book Coloring,”  the techniques taught apply to any type of digital painting. And if you’re a beginner like me, any foundational tutorials are useful anyway.

Lummage videos are a bit longer, depending on the complexity of the topic covered. They range from 8 to 25 minutes, so you’ll need to carve out more time for later lessons. The end of each video has assignments too, beginning with the very basic, practical skills needed to become comfortable working digitally. I excel at pushing my way through all the requirements of a course, but after watching the first video in this series, I have to say, these assignments sound like a lot of work. Of course learning a new skill, even an artistic one like digital painting, is work, but Lummage provides no fluff to disguise it. He provides everything you need, but it’s up to you to put in the practice. I’m  appreciative of his approach, while simultaneously groaning on the inside at how much work this course looks.

 

CG Cookie Concept

CG Cookie Concept is another general resource for digital artists. They have a much greater range of videos than either Ctrl+Paint or Lummage. You can also find videos not only on digital techniques but art skills.

What I like about Cookie Concept is how there’s nothing too basic for them to cover. Their video explaining how to scan an image so you can use it in Photoshop begins with a clip of someone placing the paper into a scanner and pushing a button to scan it.

While I didn’t need any help with that part, I can see this being useful in later videos. They don’t assume you know where a tool is. Instead they open up the menu that has that tool so you can see it. These moments are pretty brief – CG Cookie is never going to bore you with extensive explanations. It’s not like having that one person in class. The one who’s constantly asking questions. And forcing the rest of the class to listen to the same explanation over and over again. Instead, they just take a brief second to show you everything you need to know. I’m pretty sure that as I get further into their lessons and there’s more and more to remember, I’ll appreciate the brief reminders that keep me from pausing a video and Googling a tool I can’t remember how to find.

 

Tyler Edlin’s Brush Sauce Theatre

The last specific resource I’ll spotlight at this point is Tyler Edlin’s YouTube channel, and specifically the Brush Sauce Theater playlist. Tyler Edlin is a concept artist and freelance illustrator. His tutorials are pretty different from the rest of the resources on my list and definitely far more advanced.

The Brush Sauce Theatre videos cover a variety of topics that mix digital skills and art techniques. Some videos discuss how to approach value or choose your painting composition; others address specifics like creating texture in a digital painting. I wouldn’t go to Tyler’s videos for the basics, but I include his work as something to aspire to and to keep me in the mindset of producing art.

As I’m learning a new skill, I like to look ahead and see what’s possible with the medium. There are countless digital artists I could follow for this, but Tyler Edlin provides a bit of high-level art instruction. His videos keep me thinking about art technique and not just basic skills. For example, drawing the correct proportions on the human figure or using different brush tools are basic skills. In contrast, composing a balanced painting is a high level, or “high order” concern. If we compared this to writing an essay, it would be the difference between using proper grammar and having a clear thesis.

Tyler does a good job of integrating art and digital skills, so when I’m watching his videos, I’m not only thinking about the digital aspect of his work but the art techniques he applies to get there. I suppose it also reminds me that I’m not starting completely from scratch with digital painting – everything I’ve learned about art still applies. I anticipate picking and choosing from his tutorials after I’ve established more of a foundation with other resources.

 

General Resources for Digital Painting

That’s the end of the specific artists I’m following to learn digital painting, but there are a few general resources worth mentioning.

YouTube

Everyone recommends YouTube. It’s just easier to learn a visual craft from a visual source. Even though I’m all about blog posts, it’s so helpful to watch an artist construct an image and explanation what they’re doing at the same time.

Pinterest

Surprisingly Pinterest also has a wealth of information on digital art. Search for the digital art tutorial of your choice, and Pinterest will probably lead you to it. The benefit of using Pinterest over a general Google search is that you’ll end up with tons of infographics that clearly layout techniques step by step. All of the other resources on this list have been video-based, but if you’d prefer to learn from images, Pinterest is perfect.

Tumblr is similar, but I’d go to Pinterest first since it’s easier to scan through your options and choose the tutorial you like best.

 

Tools: Photoshop Substitutes

Finally, I’ll include a brief note on tools. I bought Photoshop CS5 as a college student and it’s worked fine for me ever since. But if you’re not willing to make the investment, there are still ways to try digital painting. Gimp and Krita are free, open-source Photoshop alternatives. Most tutorials online use Photoshop, so just expect a learning curve with the controls. Or seek out some Gimp- or Krita-specific tutorials. After all, you can learn anything on the Internet.

 

This is just a snippet of the many, many tutorials and resources online. YouTube alone has thousands of illustrators who share their methods. Do you have a favorite YouTuber or platform to learn digital painting? Let me know! (Because as a beginner, seriously, I want to know.)

So What’s It Like at a Maker Faire? (with Illustrations)

Last week I made plans to visit the Mini Maker Faire held over the weekend by Barnes & Noble. Their website listed this event as the 3rd annual Mini Maker Faire, but the Maker Movement has been around since 2013.

So, what’s it like at a Maker Faire? After last weekend, I can confidently say, I still have no idea. The event was severely underwhelming and not representative of anything I’d call a maker faire.

There are only so many ways to say you’re disappointed, so I thought I’d tell you the story with illustrations.

 

I went to the Barnes & Noble Mini Maker Faire on Saturday with my sister. We wondered where they’d hold the event, but when we arrived, there were several people going into the store at once. It seemed we were in the right place.

Maker Faire BN entrance with lots of people going in

Upon entering the store, a large cardboard cutout loomed in front of the Nook and ebooks desk. The Maker robot had signs attached to it that listed the Mini Maker Faire hours and a disclaimer that we might be filmed.

Maker Faire sign large paper cutout of a red robot

Ready for flashy displays of creativity (and hopefully a chance to participate too), we walked further into the store and saw….nothing. There was nothing different about the store layout.

Maker Faire back of author's head looking out over ordinary bookshelves at Barnes and Noble

Confused, we decided to take a loop around the store. There was one table in the center of the store, right in front of the kids’ section. Inside the kids’ section there was another table with what looked like coloring pages.

Maker Faire BN 2 tables a blue one in front staffed by a man and one in the back staffed by a person wearing red cardigan

Later, after completing a full loop (we were browsing at the same time), we also noticed a table by the entrance staffed by the Pikes Peak Library District. They had some sort of puzzle at their station. To be fair, we didn’t stop at any the tables. And later we saw one kid messing around with a tablet-controlled robot. But compared to what we’d imagined a Maker Faire to be, this experience was just sad.

Maker Faire robot black with blue circles on its head rolling on a wooden floor

Sad, lonely robot.

I’ll have to try and attend a real Maker Faire someday.

Maker Faire disappointed pose

11 Things to Do When You Need to Sustain Creativity for a Long Time

This year I’m participating in both Inktober and NaNoWriMo. Those in the know will understand the horror I’m inflicting upon myself. But if that sounded like gibberish to you, it boils down to two back-to-back months of intense creativity.

Inktober is a daily art challenge for the month of October. By the end, you’ll have produced 31 ink drawings. This year is my first time trying Inktober, so I’m being lenient with myself. I aim to have at least 20 drawings by the time Halloween rolls around.

Then November is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month and is exactly what it sounds like. The goal is to produce 50,000 words. I’ve accomplished this goal and “won” NaNoWriMo the past two years, but have yet to produce a completed novel.

Sustain Creativity

I love short, intense creative challenges like this, but two consecutive months can no longer be considered a “short” challenge. Typically you’d have time to prepare yourself, do a little planning, and charge forward. NaNoWriMo is 8 days away and I still have no novel plans.

So I decided to step back, gather some resources, and figure out how I’m going to make it through the end of November. And while you may not be setting yourself up to jump through ridiculous creative hoops, maybe you’re struggling with this question too:

How Do You Sustain Creativity for an Extended Period of Time?

I’ve compiled a list of 11 tips staying consistently creative, whether you’re doing an Inktober- Nanowrimo marathon, need constant creativity for your job, or just want to get your creative juices flowing again.

1. Take Breaks.

When I get busy, it’s easy for me to completely fill up my day. I’ll keep working and multi-tasking on something because “I’m busy,” and I need to be working. All too often I fall under the false impression that being busy means being productive. And it’s plenty easy to stay busy.

I’m taking breaks, I tell myself, as I eat lunch and read books at the same time, or stare at my phone when I get up to refill my coffee. But these days take their toll on me. I know because after one of these needlessly busy days, I’ll finally lay down to sleep and my mind will be buzzing.

While I may have taken breaks from my freelance writing or studying (that darned GRE), I never gave myself a mental break. All the mental processing I didn’t get to do during the day hits me full force right as my head hits the pillow, and then I can’t fall asleep either.

Hopefully, you don’t do this to yourself. Because going non-stop all day is the best way to kill your creativity.

2. “Get Up and Move!

Get some exercise. Work out. Take a walk. Try kickboxing (I’ve been wanting to). This may not sound like practical advice for someone facing a time crunch, but it’ll do wonders for your life. As someone who finally got back into a workout routine a few months ago, I’m still surprised at the benefits.

I’m a morning gym person – not one of those 5 am people, just a modest 8 or 9 am – and here’s what happens after a workout:

  • I’m super-energized.
  • I’m also super-hungry, which leads to eating, which results in more energy.
  • I’m super-chatty – notice how every just seems “super”?
  • I’m better prepared to sit at a desk for extended periods of time.
  • I’ve already crossed one thing off my list and feel super-productive – already!

And, you know, there’s research that suggests being active boosts your creativity too. Apparently, the results are a bit more nuanced, and consistently active people (like athletes) benefit from exercise more than non-active who suddenly try exercising to boost their creativity. So the moral of the story is, start exercising now.

3. Defend Your Creative Time with Your Life.

Seriously. To accomplish anything you need time, particularly focused, distraction-free time. Treat creativity with respect and give it the time it deserves. Don’t give in to friends asking you to hang out during your writing time – just convince them to do NaNoWriMo with you!

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield stresses the importance of approaching art as a professional. A pro, he asserts, shows up every day, no matter what, all day. “By performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, [you] set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that [will] produce inspiration.” Sounds good to me.

4. Get Rid of or Get Away from Distractions

I work from home. But most days, home is pretty distracting. Even when I try to close my door, my dogs feel the incessant need to go in and out of my room nonstop. Cinnamon feels particularly entitled to entry. It’s really just better to leave the door open. So when I really need to focus, I get out of the house.

If it’s artwork I’m trying to do, packing up all my supplies to go to a cafe would be annoying. Having people stare at me also messes me up. So for Inktober, I’ve gravitated toward morning or night hours. Early in the morning – before I work out or on days when I skip the gym – the house is quiet and anyone who’s awake is still groggy. At night my dogs are in bed or passed out elsewhere, and everyone else is winding down.

But living creatures aren’t my only distractions. My phone is a notorious offender. So sometimes I throw it across the room (onto my bed) to rid myself of its temptations. The satisfaction of literally throwing away your distractions is also worth it.

5. Notice the Details.

Don’t be distracted, but do notice the details. Easy, right? Well, this tip is for inspiration time, not work time. Eventually, your well of creativity will start to run dry. Rather than trying to produce something out of thin air. Go for a walk and pay attention to your surroundings (that way you’re doing tip #2 at the same time).

Notice what’s around you. Is there artwork? A ridiculous conversation going on behind you? Strange smells? Try to engage all five senses, but use “taste” at your own discretion.

6. Take Notes.

Or sketches, memos, audio files, or whatever medium works best for you. While you’re noticing all these details, you’ll want to be ready if inspiration strikes. And just tucking the idea away in your mind in the hopes that you’ll remember it later is only effective 50% of the time, if that. Take it safe. Dig up the built-in notes app on your phone. Keep a little notebook at your bedside. Just don’t let the ideas get away.

7. Find Your “Inspiration System.”

I’m stealing the idea of an “Inspiration System” from Asian Efficiency because it really resonates with me. The gist of it is this: you know what inspires you, so intentionally put yourself into inspiring situations.

What works for you? It might be getting away to explore a new city or going on a long hike. Or you might find inspiration in something as simple as music from a particular artist. I tend to go through intense phases where I listen almost exclusively to one artist, over and over again, and then lose interest and move on. My latest was, surprisingly, Demi Lovato. Don’t ask me why.

8. Quantity Over Quality (Or Create, Create, Create!)

As a perfectionist, I know the feeling of getting stuck trying to produce that one amazing thing. But especially in creative challenges like Inktober and NaNoWriMo, the point is to produce. To get into a daily creative practice. No one’s submitting their NaNoWriMo draft to an editor as is – at least, I hope not. Creativity requires practice, editing, and repetition.

Most famous artists were surprisingly prolific. Van Gogh created an estimated 900 works of art in his lifetime. Monet boasts 2,500, and Picasso is at a shocking 50,000. Can you name all 50,000 Picasso works? Have you ever taken art history class where the professor gave you a full list of every work Picasso ever made? Of course not. Because some of them flopped, and that’s okay.

9. Develop a Routine.

Did you catch that mention of a “daily creative practice” earlier? That’s important. It takes one to two months to develop a habit, depending on the complexity of the task. But following the same routine helps. Just like working out first thing in the morning helps you remain consistent, choosing a consistent time or place for your creativity will help you keep going.

10. Seek Out New Experiences

Here’s another tip that seems to contradict the previous one. Stick to a routine to get work done, but try new things for inspiration. Listen to new music, try a new food, or read a book that you normally wouldn’t. Even with an “inspiration system,” new experiences give you a new perspective, surprise your senses, or force you to remember what it’s like to be a beginner again.

You know how some authors seem to churn out novel-after-novel using the same formula? I wonder if they truly enjoy producing these novels or if they simply don’t make any effort to try new things anymore and this is the result.

11. Find Your Community.

No matter what kind of creative work you do, there’s a community out there for it. Anything from tree shaping to element collecting (as in elements from the periodic table). If you’re stuck, just Google it. One of the parts of NaNoWriMo that I love best is the enormous global community. You can find local Wrimos (the slang for people attempting NaNoWriMo), communicate in moderated chat rooms and forums, and even attend write-ins in your area. While we weren’t the largest group, I loved going to write-ins when I lived in Busan, South Korea.

Is this list helpful to you? Do you have any other strategies to sustain creativity? Let me know in the comments!

 

Best of the Week

Every week of October I’m highlighting one of my Inktober drawings. This week I did a lot of Sumi-e or Japanese Ink Painting. My favorite of the bunch was the bamboo. You can see more on my art Instagram @monicartsy.

 

Inktober Day 18: Sumi-e bamboo . . . #inktober #inktober2017 #sumie #sumieinkpainting #japaneseinkpainting #bamboo

A post shared by Monica Heilman (@monicartsy) on

Everything You Need to Know about Inktober

This year I’ve decided to finally try Inktober! I’m the kind of person who’s highly motivated by challenge-type events, so it’s surprising that I haven’t tried it yet.

October is considered arts month, at least in the Pikes Peak region, but nationally too? This was news to me last year, but hey, why not?

Inktober – a play on Ink and October – was started by a guy named Jake Parker. He began doing Inktober in 2009 to practice his inking skills and the art challenge took off. Today Inktober is massive – just do a Google or hashtag search.

Inktober 2017

You can find the official Inktober website here. There are no fancy rules, just do one ink drawing for each day in October. It doesn’t even have to be ink if you’re looking to practice other skills. A group animators has started “Animtober.”

If you’re stuck, you can follow a list of prompts. There’s a list of official prompts from Parker:

Inktober 2017 Official Prompts

And several prompt lists that people have created on their own. Since it’s October, there are a lot of Halloween-themed lists.

Inktober 2017 ochibrochi witch prompts
Inktober 2017 Witch Prompts from ochibrochi

Art Prompt Generators

The internet is also full of art prompt generators, so having no ideas is no excuse.

Art Prompts

  • Choose a category and refresh until you get a prompt you like
  • Categories: character, creature, environment, object, situation, & challenge
  • Example: The pet your parents wouldn’t let you keep

Random Art Prompt Generator

  • Very simple with only two choices
  • Choose the number of prompts you want (1, 5, or 10)
  • Choose between “simple” and “elaborate”
  • Simple Example: achromatic
  • Elaborate Example: Your picture is set in the ruined parts of a city and involves two of these three elements: a corset, a deep sense of history, or cool weapons.

Concept Start Inktober Random Generator

  • Looks complicated at first
  • Choose from Character (Inktober Ch.), Creature (Inktober Cr.), or Random (Inktober Rm.)
  • Click “Generate Brief” and your prompt will appear next to the icons above
  • You can only generate 6 per day
  • Example of Inktober rm:
    • Keyword: Book
    • Theme: Evil
    • Ink Type: Ballpoint Pen
    • Process Focus: Stippling
    • Time Frame: 1 day

 

Inktober Tips

  1. Relax.

    Maybe I’m biased since I’m saving my intense creative focus for Nanowrimo, but don’t stress if you miss a day or two. Or ten. The creator of Inktober even suggests making a smaller commitment if a drawing a day is too much. You could complete a drawing every other day, or even once a week if that’s more manageable for you.

  2. Look to others for inspiration.

    The cool thing about taking part in a worldwide challenge is the community. You might feel like you’re holed up in your room,  madly scribbling away, but in reality, you’re part of a giant community all scribbling away together. Search for other Inktober artists on social media using #inktober, #inktober2017, or other hashtags that are too hip for me to know about.

  3. Try Different Kinds of Ink

    I’m a fan of trying new media when you’re stuck. And just because it’s Inktober doesn’t mean you’re stuck to one type of medium. There are tons of different types of ink, from a simple ballpoint pen to a Sumi-e ink painting with a brush. So if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, don’t forget there are still ways to switch it up and stay true to the INKtober namesake.

  4. Have fun with it!

    Maybe you have your month all planned out. Or you’ve decided to follow a theme (like me). But if you find yourself wanting to do something else instead, go for it! The point of Inktober is to encourage creativity. That might mean simply creating more art – even arbitrary deadlines help us be more productive – or practicing specific skills. Sure, follow your plan, but be open to change and giving yourself the freedom to do what you want!

 

Good luck to everyone out there doing Inktober. You can follow along with my Inktober drawings on my Instagram account, monicartsy.