Personal Projects are the best way to invest time for artists.
A few days before writing this, I was watching a YouTube video that gave me the idea for this post.
You see, the video pointed out the importance of personal projects and showed how these worked on the artist’s life; always bringing work and new adventures.
Here’s the video by Jason Brubaker:
The thing is, I myself have been thinking lately about the importance of always having personal projects going on.
So actually, this video came out like a sign of “c’mon, write about it!”
I first heard this advice from Jake Parker (the creator of Inktober) some years ago.
At the time, I had been an artist for about 3-4 years then but that never occurred to me. So it was like something clicked in my brain when I listened to Jake on the video!
I’ve always had ideas and projects in my mind – some that might never come about – but I never really thought of how important they could really be.
By the way – I highly recommend you check out his YouTube channel if you’re looking for art advice, his advice always resonates with me!
If you’re an artist it’s because you’re passionate about it, right?
This means you probably have dreams like publishing a book with your illustrations, writing and illustrating a children’s book, create your own video game, do your own tarot card deck, do some sort of animated video, create your own comic…
And the list can go on depending on your interest as an artist…
I bet you’ve thought about something you want to do, but either you’re waiting for the right opportunity, you think you need more skill or something of the sort…
Well, I’m telling you: Stop waiting and make it happen!
I’m going to be blunt here: It’s never the right moment or the right opportunity, if you keep waiting it will never happen.
You have to be proactive, fight for what you want. And if you don’t, maybe you don’t want it bad enough.
Stop those negative thoughts like: I don’t have the time, or I don’t have the resources, I don’t know how…
The video I told you about at the beginning it’s the perfect example of: “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I did it, I worked hard and I made it happen.“
When on Inktober 2018 I decided to make a book with my illustrations I had no idea about how to do it. I just did it, learned along the way!
Why it’s good to always have a personal project
If you finish a project, your own project, and then you show it to people, they will know you’re capable of finishing something. And that means a lot if you want to get hired.
Opportunities will open way easier than if you sit and wait.
Do you want to be a comic book artist? Write your own comic so you can send it around.
That way, if they hire you they know you’re able to do a comic – because you already did!
This also proves to people that your persistent, driven, organized and many more things that most people can not prove.
I just landed a Children’s book illustration job with no previous experience. Guess how? I sent in this personal project I did for Inktober 2020 (yes, I always seem to find projects to do for October, cause I love Halloween-esque stuff) as a test of my work:
If I hadn’t decided to make these series of illustrations, sort of like a children’s book style, I wouldn’t have been so lucky!
The difference between you and other artists
It’s important that you take into account that there are thousands of artists out there that say that they want ‘to achieve that or work on that’ but never work on it.
It will be hard work; it would probably take a long time – especially if you have a side job/obligation – it would be frustrating and satisfying, but, it’s something yours.
If you’re really passionate about it, you will enjoy it tremendously, and you will feel extremely proud of yourself when you’re done.
Starting your project will be hard, but finishing it will be a lot harder.
It’s okay to take some time, you will learn how to organise yourself and probably many more things along the way, so you will grow a lot as an artist in the process.
Or, do a smaller version of it. Maybe you don’t need to do a full comic book, just a chapter with 3-4 pages or a shorter version. This might serve as a way to promote it, and then it will motivate you to keep working on it later.
I applied this for my first colouring book. I collected some of the pieces I did for Mermay 2020 plus a couple of previous drawings to make this downloadable book. It’s only 7 pages, so it didn’t take as long to make or put together.
I already had a circus colouring book in the works, but it’s a bigger project (I want at least 20 pages/illustrations) with a more complicated subject matter (research-wise) that I chip on it from time to time only.
This is important: Finish it.
Don’t keep starting over and over again because you can do that better now – or you know a trick and now you can do it faster.
It’s much better to have 1 or 2 projects finished – even though they might not be huge or perfect – than to have a constant never-ending project that will end up draining your creative juices.
Here’s a bit more on the “the minimum viable project/product” by Jake Parker, explaining a bit further what I said about my mini-colouring book:
Jake has a ton of really valuable videos, like this one, that give you different approaches to get your personal projects done, so make sure you check that out!
Apply the knowledge you acquired for your next project
Your next project will always be better.
And you should try to always have some sort of personal project going on.
Also, projects most times are products – or can be turned into ones – and products are what makes you money as an artist. Or they might land you on a job opportunity doing what you wanted, as I just said up there. At the very least, they would be engrossing your portfolio & list of achievements.
What’s better than earning money for doing what you love?
Currently for example I have a couple of projects going on. One is self-publishing my own colouring book with my art, the circus one I just mentioned.
Do I know much about colouring books? No, not really. And about self-publishing? Not at all.
Well, let me rephrase that, I didn’t until I started doing it and investigating. I had no idea about how to use InDesign to do a book mockup, so I got down to it and I learned about it.
I decided to do a self-published book with my Inktober pieces of 2018. To test it out.
What’s that Inktober thing I keep talking about? It’s a 31 days challenge during October, in case you might be wondering here’s a blog post about Inktober here.
This would serve me as practice for my colouring book, I learned about how the Amazon publishing service goes and learned how to do the covers, and the mock-up on InDesign.
I took the challenge as an excuse because I’ve been successfully accomplishing it for the last 4 years before this. And I wanted to make a small book with the drawings at one point, so why delay it? It was a win-win situation.
I did it! So you can too
You can click on the image link or here to check it out!
And gosh, was it satisfying to be able to get my first book out all by myself!
After it, I also did the MerMay (post about the mermay challenge here) book as a colouring book test as well. Now I just need to get back to my Circus colouring book, follow my advice and finally finish it!
But I did have that moment that I just talked about: what if I take the illustrations I’ve done already and do them again?
I can work much better now with digital and my lines & concepts are much better now and all that stuff… But I said no.
I will keep up with the work, use the illustrations I had done before and keep working on the rest. Cause I want to have this book ready and then move along to my next project.
And you, what does your current project look like? Or has this inspired you to take on one?