No. 20: Sometimes Your Own Work is the Best Inspiration
Thoughts on learning from yourself, engaging in my own prompts with subscribers, and some other news.
There are times in my career and my daily drawing and art-making practice when I feel a little less inspired and all I want to do is draw some abstract patterns and lines or some pretty flowers. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just a sign to me that I’m in a flat, neutral place. When this happens, I will flip through my own sketchbooks to collect some inspiration. Lately I have been sending paid subscribers drawing prompts, and as I ponder the ideas (I have many!), I look through my own archive of drawings (which fill over forty-seven books at this point) to collect examples.
As I flip through my past sketchbooks, I am often surprised by a page I had forgotten about. I’m sometimes impressed by myself, and I still cringe at the same drawings I have always disliked. I’ll feel I don’t know myself and also see how predictable I am. I’ll feel sad when I see some memories, and I’ll laugh at others. Sometimes I cannot remember creating a small drawing no matter how hard I try. And others I remember so clearly, even recalling the way the pen moved or how a specific line was made. I see in my lines the full range of my mindsets, from confidence to insecurity. My sketchbooks bring up a lot of feelings.
You can learn so much from your past work—from a piece you created last night to a piece from five years ago. We see our work so differently after taking a break from it. I have noticed that walking away from and then revisiting a piece is an essential part of my practice. I can look at a piece so long and so hard that I am no longer seeing it clearly. I know that if I am fussing too much, I should close my sketchbook and come back to it later. Fresh eyes, a new perspective—it makes such a difference.
As a weekly or monthly exercise, I recommend looking through old work. Notice what you think is successful and what isn’t. Think about what you would do differently today. What elements do you want to revisit? The work we do is never a straight line, and sometimes we have to return to a place we were in the past in order to move forward.
This makes me think of a quote from award-winning record producer Rick Rubin, from his book The Creative Act: “All art is a work in progress. It’s helpful to see the piece we’re working on as an experiment. One in which we can’t predict the outcome. Whatever the result, we will receive useful information that will benefit the next experiment. If you start from the position that there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, and creativity is just free play with no rules, it’s easier to submerge yourself joyfully in the process of making things. We’re not playing to win, we’re playing to play. And ultimately, playing is fun. Perfectionism gets in the way of fun. A more skillful goal might be to find comfort in the process. To make and put out successive works with ease.”
Speaking of learning from myself, I will be hosting a Draw Your World Prompt Challenge with paid subscribers from September 8 through October 6. We will be drawing and painting from the eleven prompts that I have shared to date. The idea is to have fun and inspire one another as we work on at least eight of the eleven prompts. We will be accountable to each other and have the opportunity to share our thoughts and work in two separate Zoom meetups. All details will be sent to paid subscribers next week, so be on the lookout for news and signup links. To join us, consider upgrading your subscription
Skillshare Update and Live Class
You may have seen me share the news on social media that I have become a “Top Teacher” on Skillshare. I am so pleased to be a part of a select group of instructors and the honor is motivating me to create more classes.
First up is a live class on October 12th that you can register for now: Live with Samantha Dion Baker: Painting Clouds with Watercolor and Gouache. If you are a Skillshare member, use the code: SKLive2023SDB for 50% off.
To celebrate all of the Skillshare excitement, I am hosting a giveaway for Substack subscribers! To win a FULL YEAR of Skillshare and a package of art supplies, all you have to do is be here right now, reading this, and if you add a message to this post sharing why you would love to win, you’ll have double the chance. I will select one winner at random next week and will send an private email to the winner.
Painting Pumpkins and Gourds with Derwent Inktense Paints and Pencils
Tuesday, October 17th, 4-5pm EST
My next class with Derwent is ready to book! To celebrate the fall season, in this one-hour free class we will first sketch a few pumpkins and gourds in light pencil, just to plan our composition and to build the shape and form. Then we will build layers of color using Inktense pencils and paints. Some details and shading will be added with fine line permanent pens, and some highlights may be added using opaque white paint. We will talk about color, light and shading, as we complete our paintings. Book your free spot here!
Ambassador and Affiliate Codes
If you’ve been following my work for a while, you know I am a loyal fan of Blackwing pencils. I have one or two (or even three) in my bag at all times. I am really honored that they have just added me as an official ambassador for the brand. If you’d like to try out the pencils for yourself, and also help support my work, please shop using my unique link, blackwing602.com/sdionbaker. When you purchase using my link, there’s no additional cost to you and I earn a small commission. I appreciate your support!
All Canvas lights and accessories are 10% off with my discount code: SDB10. I love my desk light so much for filming and photographing my work and my process. They have introduced a mini light, and new products are launching, so be sure to check out their website!