Show Up And Get To Work


 When I was still in art school, a teacher once said that as an illustrator, you should always be making enough work so that every six months you’ll have enough new pieces to create a brand new portfolio. I never forgot that advice and believe it to still hold true today. Creating new work on a consistent basis is key, not only good for promotional and marketing reasons, but for your own personal development as an artist as well. The rate and consistency at which you put out new and exciting work will eventually bring in jobs, create customers, and ultimately grow your career from a hobby into a profession. This may sound like an obvious task for an artist, but for most of us, it can be a daunting one. Even as a professional, I will sometimes fall into the “inspiration trap”, waiting for just the right idea to hit me and just the right time to execute it. In my experience, this trap is one that can often lead to artist’s block and lack of consistent production. If you want to make your art your career, perhaps the first helpful thing to realize might be that art is a job. It can be the most rewarding job of your life, but it’s a job nonetheless.

Chuck Close probably put it best when he said : “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us show up and get to work”. I try and live by that quote as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love when the muse comes to visit unexpectedly and I wind up staying awake for hours past my bed time with the world of ideas pouring out of my pencil, but alas, that doesn’t happen all too often, at least not for me. And trust me, I also get into my slumps at times where I feel like I’m desperately trying to grab on to some external source of inspiration to get me going. We’re artists, but we’re still human and as humans we often look for the easy way out. In this case, the easy way out is hoping and waiting for the ideas to come to us rather than actively pursuing them. I struggle with this regularly, I think most of us do. What I always come back to though is the simple practice of just putting my head down and getting to work, whether I feel like it or not. It may take several attempts, there may be some resistance, but eventually something worth while always comes out of that process.

While I believe in rolling up your sleeves and getting to work, I also believe in working smartly and intently. Over the years I have tried many tactics in the art of staying productive and I’d love to share some of them with you. If you’re currently stuck, maybe these suggestions will get the wheels turning a bit and help you get unstuck. If you’re not stuck, perhaps you can just bookmark this for the next time you get stuck🙂 None of these are groundbreaking ideas and I’m sure most of you do some of these already, but sometimes a little reminder of what we already know can be helpful.

Set goals and make plans.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

If your goal is to have a certain amount of pieces completed in one month’s time, break that goal down into small steps. What will you have to accomplish weekly and daily in order to achieve that goal? If you’re making three panel newspaper comic strips, you’re output and approach is probably going to be different than someone creating oil paintings, but both will need a plan of attack in order to be productive and stay consistent. Personally I’ve found that making handwritten lists and taping them to my wall has really helped me break my bigger goals down into weekly plans of action. When I get off track and a bit distracted, it’s helpful for me to stop for a minute and take a look at the list on my wall. It always helps me refocus on my goals and get back into a productive state of mind.

Assign yourself work.

For an illustrator just starting out or a student still in school, a common question might be ‘How do I put out consistent work when I’m not getting hired consistently?’ My best answer to that would be that your output of new and interesting work shouldn’t be contingent on how much work you get hired to make. Whether you’re just starting out, a busy professional, or a student still in school, making self initiated work is a part of the gig. If you are looking to get more jobs, assigning yourself the kind of work you would like to eventually get hired to create is not a bad idea. You can illustrate articles from magazines that weren’t illustrated. You can draw portraits of the kinds of people you would love to get hired to draw. You can illustrate your own covers to classic books or your favorite novels. The list goes on. Be your own art director and hire yourself to do something cool!

Re-create old work.

Most of the time when I see older work of mine, I cringe at the sight of it. I think that’s a common trait among artists. However, sometimes those older ideas might have some value to them. Sometimes when I dig into very old work, I find there to be a certain sense of imagination that I may have lost touch with or simply grew out of, or maybe I was playing with certain themes that I just forgot about. Looking at it with fresh eyes, I may be able to take that idea and turn it into something really interesting with the skills I have acquired since that idea was originally conceived. Whether you just redraw it or use the old piece as a jumping off point for an improved idea, looking through older work can be a super valuable exercise. If you find yourself super embarrassed or critical of your older work, use that to your advantage, sometimes it can be a great way to identify your weak areas and work on ways to strengthen them.

Create a series.

Sometimes the idea you’re trying to create might be better suited as a series of pieces rather than a standalone image. As artists, we all have themes that seem to inspire us and keep us regularly revisiting them  in our work. (Think Degas and his ballerinas, or Georgia O’keeffe and her flowers) These pieces tend to work really well when collected together, or sometimes they even read well as a group if they have some sort of narrative running through. You can collect the series into a small book or zine either to be used as a promotional item or to be sold. You can even have a show at a gallery where you can display the work on the walls, who knows.

Make a super awesome gift for someone.

Pick someone (or several people) really special to you and decide to draw them an awesome piece of art. Make it so awesome that they’re going to want to get it framed and hang it on their wall. That little bit of pressure in wanting to really impress someone can be just the right kind of fire to get you inspired and create something really nice. You will not only have made someone really really happy, but you also will have created a brand new piece (or pieces) for your portfolio. Sweet deal!

I hope some of these tips helped motivate you in some way. There’s obviously TONS of other ways to stay productive, but these are just some of the ones that came to my mind and that I have tried myself. Whatever keeps you motivated and helps you stay prolific, go for it. Just the sheer act of making things consistently will spark bigger and better ideas. Don’t worry if in the beginning some of your work isn’t all that, your muscles will get stronger and the work will improve with every new piece. Before you know it, six months will pass and you’ll have enough quality work to make that brand new portfolio!
If one or more of these tips happen to help you, please let me know, I’d love to see some of the work that comes out of it! Also, if there’s any other personal tips or tricks you may have for staying prolific, tweet them to me, I’d love to know for my own sake and it’d be great to share with others! Thanks so much for taking a look at this post and enjoy making that new art!

SuicideGirls Screenprint!


I recently had the pleasure of illustrating a poster for Suicide Girls’ Ballroom Blitz tour.  This bad ass poster is an 8 color screenprint that measures at 18X24!

I’m really happy with the way it all came together and I’d love to give you a quick look into my process of creating this piece:


As always, it’s starts with some brainstorming in the sketchbook. The show is sort of like a unique twist on a  burlesque show, but in total Suicide Girls fashion. There’s fire, tattoos and all kinds of craziness and I wanted to try my best to evoke that in the design.

Through those scribbles, I was able to narrow it down to a few  ideas:





We ultimately decided to go with this one:


So I got started on it and after the pencils were all done (I forgot to document that stage, sorry), it was time to ink it all up. Here’s a look at the black and white version:


They sent me some reference of some of the performers in the show and I did my best to represent several of them in the final piece. As you can see, I just had a little place holder for where the text would go, as the final text details hadn’t all been worked out by then.


And ta da! This was the final colored file that I sent to the screen printer who did a wonderf ul job printing this up!


If you’re interested in owning one of these posters, please check out my online shop for more info:

Other than at the shows themselves, that’s the only other place these posters are available, so they’re certainly limited!

Thanks so much for reading and hope you enjoyed the little walk through of my process on this.

My Sketchbook Is Uglier Than Yours

sketchbooksWhen I was in art school, I was obsessed with people’s sketchbooks.

More specifically, the sketchbooks of artists whose work I was a fan of. There were a number of these artists who would regularly post pages from their sketchbooks on their blogs and websites and I would gawk and drool over every line, brush stroke, and coffee stain wash. This allowed me glimpses and insights into the minds of artists that I admired. It gave me a look at their thinking, their experiments, their work ethic, it was all super inspiring.  As a young art student, I too wanted to be able to spew out pages and pages of inspired, free form work that I could keep neatly bound within a beautiful hardcover book and take with me everywhere I went. So I headed to the art store and bought the most precious book of blank pages I could find. It was hand bound, hardcover and had cotton rag pages that felt like a cross between paper and canvas. I paid the expensive price for it, put it in my bag and took it home. I was so psyched to finally have a place where I could let loose and make the kind of free form, uninhibited work that I was such a fan of.

Now all I had to do was draw in it.

That was harder than I thought it was going to be. It was like there was some sort of force field between my pen and the page, preventing me from making a decent mark. From the start, I spent more time thinking about what I should draw in it than actually drawing in it. I mean, the pages were so soft and pretty and the whole thing was so expensive, one ‘wrong’ drawing could mess the whole book up! So, I stuck to what I knew; I drew a lot of figures because that was one of my strengths and I filled up a lot of pages with overly detailed line work that looked really cool as far as page design goes, but didn’t really have much structure or substance underneath. I kept a separate sketchbook just for model drawing because those quick gestural poses didn’t really fit the ‘theme’ I had going on in my sketchbook. I wouldn’t include any thumbnail drawings of comic and illustration ideas because that would clutter it up and make it look ugly.

After several unsatisfying sketchbooks, I started to realize I was treating them more like portfolios than actual sketchbooks.

This was a turning point for me. It’s not like I didn’t have sketchbooks in the past. I had tons of sketchbooks all throughout my childhood and teen years. They were the kinds you’d find at pharmacies or the cheap generic ones at the art store. They were ugly and clunky most of the time, but I had some real creative breakthroughs in those sketchbooks when I was a kid. I would draw on the front and backs of pages, I would use pencil, ink, colored pencils, whatever I had around that would help facilitate my idea. Although I treasured them, they were far from precious.

I still keep sketchbooks, but my outlook on them has changed. I don’t view them as being something that needs to be super put together and filled with incredible work on every page. There are artists who can do that and I admire every single one of them. I’m still obsessed with looking at beautiful sketchbooks, but I accept now that that’s not my chosen discipline. My sketchbooks are for thinking and stretching. If I can make a fitness metaphor, sketchbooking is like working out at the gym, it’s not always the prettiest sight, but it’s necessary if you want to make progress. I purposely don’t spend much money on sketchbooks anymore, usually under 10 bucks. It just needs to have some pages bound together, the quality doesn’t matter to me at all. In fact, the cheaper the better. If I’m trying out a new brush, I will open my sketchbook and go wild. If I want to copy a panel from a comic that I think is really well drawn, I’ll do it there. If I need to thumbnail an idea I’m trying to work out, that’s where I’ll do it. If I’m sitting in a park or on a train and feel inspired, I’ll draw what’s around me with whatever tools I have available. The pages are messy, they’re ‘ugly’, some of it might look like scribble to somebody else. In the midst of all of that, there might be a few pages of decent work and that’s the stuff I share😉

If you happen to be struggling with ‘sketchbook anxiety’, hopefully this helps a bit. Like just about everything in life, it’s just a mind state change.

Also, if you’re on the hunt for some cheap sketchbooks that do the trick, these are my jam: 

Oh, and take a look below at some (bad quality, sorry) photos from some of my sketchbooks over the last few years.

Thanks so much for reading and talk to you soon!


sketchbooks2 sketchbooks3 sketchbooks4

Pineapple Pattern Print!

pineapplepatternHere’s a new print just in time for the warmer weather! I wanted to create something that evoked the feeling of summer, as well as experiment with creating a pattern; something that I’m interested in doing more of. Take a look at some of the process behind this piece below:

sketch6It always starts with a sketch. Above is the final sketch that I settled on. I tend to create all my sketches digitally, I find that it frees me up in terms of moving things around and arranging things while saving a ton of paper in the meantime😉 I’ve found that when I put in the extra time to really work out a pose or a compositional element during the sketch stage, it really helps me when it comes time to start penciling. I’d rather work out all the kinks in this stage so that I can enjoy the rest of the process that much more.

IMG_20150610_173529After I print out the sketch, I lightbox it onto some bristol board and get to the penciling and inking stage, the fun part.


Since I knew this one was going to be more of a ‘designy’ kind of piece in terms of moving things around until they were right, I drew the elements separately so that I could be free to play with them when they headed back into the computer for coloring and arranging. 


I had a lot of fun drawing this pineapple. Such an interesting, organic shape with so much intricacy. I kept it as simple and graphic as I could, while having fun with the organic shapes. 
detailAnd that’s it! After everything was colored and arranged to my liking, it was time to create the print. These are Giclee prints that are printed on 100lb French Paper at 11X17. My goal is that it brightens up whatever room it’s in, hopefully bringing it a little bit of summer year round! If you’re interested in purchasing this particular print, it is now available in my online shop, check out the link here:


Thanks so much for reading and I’ll talk to you soon!