It’s been a while since I’ve made art that wasn’t work. A few years ago, I lived with my parents and younger brother in our family home in Pampanga and didn’t have a full time job, so I had a surplus of time to draw, paint, write, and study whatever I felt like learning next. I worked part time teaching English back then, sometimes in the evening, online, other times during the day at a review center. I went back to Manila in 2016 to work full time and since then have not made much progress in my art.
It’s not that I don’t find art interesting anymore. I’ve been drawing pretty much my whole life, so it’s not some fleeting fascination. The reason for my lack of productivity has more to do with the exhaustion from the daily commute to work and sometimes, work itself.
Recently, however, I decided to try making art more often than a couple of times a month. My boyfriend generously bought me books and one of them was Make Art Every Day by Katie Vernon, which isn’t technically a book, but I thought I’d try using it to get me started with a regular creative practice. I also picked up Draw Every Day Draw Every Way by Jennifer Orkin-Lewis (both she and Katie Vernon are artists I follow on Instagram and whom I admire) shortly after so I wouldn’t have to think of what to draw. I’m on my third week now, and while I haven’t been making art every day, I’ve at least been able to do it on most days of the week. Better than nothing, right?
What I like about Make Art Every Day and Draw Every Day Draw Every Way (besides the quirky illustrations I really love) is how varied the prompts are. In MAED, you get different ideas on what to do each week in case you encounter a block. I also appreciate how it insists that creativity isn’t always about just making, but also about connecting with other creatives, experimenting on new mediums, and cultivating calm, among other things. DEDDEW, on the other hand, changes things up every month by suggesting new materials to use and subjects to draw. This month, for instance, the theme is A Month of Nature using colorful markers and a black pen. Next month it’s food with colored pencils.
Not long after I (re)started, I also got Mary Kate McDevitt’s new book Illustration Workshop, which Ella recommended. She did warn me, however, that it includes quite a lot of practice pages, much like one of McDevitt’s hand-lettering books. Illustration Workshop contains twelve projects, which I think are varied enough to give wannabe illustrator such as myself a taste of what it’s like to work with clients from different markets like stationery, publishing, and decor.
I’ve also started exploring new mediums such as markers, colored pencils, and watercolor pencils.
Last week I thought I’d bring out my stash of acrylic gouache and paint something I’ve never painted before.
What I’m doing at present is far from my usual output, but is actually the sort of illustration that I’ve always liked—childlike, quirky, and quite charming. It’s quite challenging though, because I’m so used to drawing from references and including tiny details. Some of my friends said I shouldn’t go against what seems to happen naturally as it might just be my personal style at work, but I think it’s a product of habit more than anything. I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s become automatic.
Since I’ve started to make art more regularly again, I’ve booked three projects, all of which require illustrations. And while I’m still struggling to balance freelancing with the demands of daily life, I’m happy I have pockets of time in my days to make art and grateful that the universe seems to be watching and working its magic.