A Few Things I'm Learning as an Illustrator

About 2 1/2 years ago I had an epiphany: I wanted to get better at the thing I loved as a child — drawing, illustrating and making characters. Here's a few things I've learned along the way. It's all a bit raw and off the cuff, but hey, that's how I am.


It's all about the shapes. If you don't have good lines and shapes, no amount of texture,color or effects is gonna save you. Obsess and stress over your shapes. This means drawing, then re-drawing then drawing again. It's okay to make a drawing with bad shapes. Find the lines you like, use them, and move on.


Don't repeat yourself and clone and flip objects to save time. People can tell that your stuff was made by a computer and in the fastest time possible. Take the time to make your stuff human — it's one of the few differences we have from the machines.

I'm now learning just to sketch more. Our hands emit more human lines than a computer ever will. Go figure. Genius, right?


Do lots of iterations to come up with clever color combos after you build your shapes. Colors/technique are so important. Just like bad shapes can ruin great textures and colors, bad colors, textures and technique can ruin great shapes. Be picky. Wait for the right iteration.

It's Not a Sprint

Folks, this ain't a sprint. This is a marathon. Get settled in and comfy for the long haul. Take time each day to practice. Oh, you don't have 30 minutes a day to practice? What are you doing right now? Yup, reading this damn blog. Stop reading and start doing. I'll be willing to bet a naked mole rat that all the time you waste Pinning, Tweeting, Dribbbling, Facebooking, Videogaming, and watching re-runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation are the actual issue.


Keep it simple stupid. If you're struggling with all sorts of techniques and post-processing, it's often best to just choose the simpler route/colors/styling. Maybe just stick with sketches as an even simpler form. Often I found myself never moving on to another project because I was intimidated by the size of the piece of art I conjured up in my head. Sometimes it's best for your growth to KISS — for pete's sake you ain't making the sistine chapel.

Don't Be Afraid

Don't be afraid to make something you love, but nobody else seems to love. Pouring your passion into something is more important than robotically churning out something the masses will love. At the end of the day, if you hate it but you've somehow stumbled onto something everyone else loves, you've settled into a pattern that simply won't stand the test of time — you'll eventually lose interest. Also, the proof is in the long-haul, not the instant. Keep at your craft and you'll grow and find your own audience.

Stop Comparing

We're surrounded by it more than ever — the simply fantastic work of others. It's great to learn from the greats but there's a fine line between worship and studying. Study their work sure, but never let it let you lose sight of the fact that there's greatness lurking in you too. Also, too much comparing has you trying to mimick them as if they are doing it the only right way and you can't find a different way of expressing a shape, character, etc. One of the most significant things you can't afford to lose in your art is your originality, your eye.

No Such Thing as an Overnight Success

If there's any lie you can believe its that people are just granted this insane skill and you are just behind. They're all overnight successes and you actually have to work to get there. Lies. They all had to work to get there. All of the "overnight successes" you see are missing one key component. The backstory. The history. The failures and iteration. I heard somewhere that Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds had something like 20 flopped apps before the success of Angry Birds — I believe it and so should you. Now go out there and fail!

Save Your Mistakes

Don't erase. Sketch, draw, design and make mistakes. Then do it again. Yeah, your work looks like a steaming pile of dung right now, but I'll bet all of a sudden that funky nose you drew starts growing on you. You'll never make a mistake of a whole drawing, but rather in parts. That means that some of the parts are good parts. With each step forward, look back at your previous drawing and use the good stuff in your bad drawings and make it better. With time, something you like will begin to emerge.

Rarely Share

The important thing here is growth for you, not for you to show off your work and that you are da bess. Stop sharing every moment of your life. Draws a line *snaps a picture*, *posts it to Instagram*, *talks about how amazing it is that I am drawing*, *admires that people care that I am drawing and that I have 10 likes on my post*, *draws another line*, *snaps another picture*...repeat. Seriously, we all know this is getting really ridiculous. Let's pull on the wisdom of the sages and spend some quiet time to ourselves, growing. To heck with sharing.

Cheers my fellow creators. Now go create!

illustration art creation tips