Shop Talk: On Trying to Please the Crowd with Your Art

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One big lesson I learned as an artist in the past year is this:

Create for yourself. The people who like it will find you. Those who don’t will fall away. But, you’ll be left with a loyal core of people who like what you’re doing. 

Don’t curate your art to what gets likes. Curate it to what you like.

Shop Talk: Only pack what you need when working remotely if you want to get shit done.


Only bring exactly what you need, not what you might want.

I like to work away from the studio as much as possible. It gets me out of any creative rut and in New York, there are countless places to plonk yourself down and get stuck into a job without distraction.

The only problem is, to work remotely, you need to pack a bag with not just things you’ll need for the job that needs doing, but things you MIGHT need just in case. You know, like that book you’ve been meaning to read, and that magazine you saw the article in, and your iPad, Oh, and the legal documents you’ve been meaning to read through. Yes, maybe now will be the time you get the time and focus to read those. OH! And make sure you bring a whole range of pens, pencils, brushes and watercolours just in case you need all of them. You never know. OH! And make sure you pack that digital drawing tablet. And the charging cable. And the cables for the laptop to connect to the tablet. Oh, and the different kinds of stylus. Just in case.

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Packing everything for every possible contingency of what your brain might feel like doing is not recommended. In fact, even having a bag/tote/backpack can interfere with completing your task.


The Tyranny of Choice.

By having everything in your backpack, it means you could do an infinite number of different things you’ve been meaning to get to, just in case you feel in the mood. With endless choice comes crippling uncertainty, and inevitably, you, hanging out in Starbucks, scrolling through your Instagram feed, liking photos of pugs holding bottles of wine… I mean… procrastinating.

Simplicity breeds productivity.

If the job really only requires you to bring a sketchbook, a pen and a phone (to scan it in.) then just bring a sketchbook, a pen and a phone. That’s it. Don’t even bring a bag. Carry the things so they’re the only thing you’ll be doing while you’re out. It helps you focus, and it stops you from potentially returning home frustrated that you wasted another day and got nothing done.

Back in 2010, there was a trend in the minimalism community of photographing the contents of your bag from above, all perfectly knolled to show how efficient you were at packing. I’m not going to lie, I had a Pinterest board of them… they were organisation porn. But many of them had way too much stuff — plus, they never showed an aerial photo of the owner of the backpack crippled with anxiety over what item they should take out next to get shit done.

Mmmm… knolling.

Mmmm… knolling.

Try it at home, too.

The same principle applies when you’re not working remotely. If you work from home and do all your work from the one spot, try switching it up.

Maybe if you have laptop work to do, get it done while sitting on the bed with no other distractions around you. If you have drawing work to do, do it at a drawing desk with nothing but drawing equipment around you. If you really want to read that book, find a chair and sit with just the book. No phone, no tablet, no laptop. Just the book. Preferably in a room separate from the one where you usually do your work.

We live in a time where the attention economy saps all our focus. The least we can try and do is limit the amount of willpower we spend making decisions on what we’re going to do where, and when.

Shop Talk: A question about filing, cartoon storage & art inventory

Today’s question comes from Mel Wilson. Mel writes:

How do you label and store all your cartoons? Also how to you keep track of them all? Do you have flat files, or do you scan them and have a digital inventory?

Thanks for the question, Mel. The answer is: It depends!

For digital cartoons, I store them according to date and topic, sometimes caption.
For example, I date each cartoon according to: year/month/date (space)-(space)topic/caption
So a cartoon about space monkeys would be 20190122 - Space Monkeys Hiccup.jpg

I save all the high res jpg files in a folder called “Cartoons” with a folder for each year (2017, 2018 etc.) My entire hard drive is synced to Dropbox.
I also have another folder called xPSD where all the high res 600dpi PSD files are kept, and that, too, is synced to dropbox, but using Dropbox Smart Sync, it is only ever in the cloud to save hard disk space. When I need them, I download them individually.

For hard copy drawings, I have various labelled drawers. For sketches that might be something, I store them in “sketches”, for finished artwork that has been published, (and is for sale on the store) I put it in “Published”. I also have one just for my New Yorker cartoons.

How are they organised? …well. They aren’t. I just pick up the pile and shuffle through until I find the one I’m looking for. It’s not a fool-proof system, but it works for this fool.

If you do have a massive archive of art, or you need to index and create an inventory for your art, I highly recommend ArtworkArchive. Their blog/newsletter alone is a brilliant source of information for artists.

Got a question? Hit me up in the contact page or in the comments section below.

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