What I've learned in 7 years

These are absolutely as much for me as they are for you. This month, I've been an Illustrator for 7 years. Here's what I've learned: 

• It takes about 4-5 years for most concepts to sink in. This is where the 10,000 hour rule comes into play. It's all possible, you just have to pay your dues by putting your coins in the practice fountain. A cumulative effect starts to happen. You'll reach plateaus, platypuses and valleys.  It's an upward staircase while you fill the gaps you don't understand. It's like boiling water. Eventually, you will have hot water. 

 Shut up. Succeed. 

• Do the best possible job you can. It's even better if the story/budget/art director is lame. There's no pressure. Every job has the potential to be your best piece yet.

Just FINISH it and ship it. Shipping something 72% awesome is more vital than waiting to ship it until it's 100% awesome and never gets shipped. Just ship it. 

• Push away from your piece so you can see it anew. Flip it, turn it upside down, put it into a PDF, slide it into a browser, look at in a mirror, send it to your friends for draw overs, put it in a kitchen drawer, anything to get distance. 

• Your fingerprint is so flawed and perfectly wonderful. Push it forward, embrace the foibles and the flaws. Show what you love and your world view. Style bleeds out from what you love. Do what YOU love. Don't copy, that's boring.

• There are humans who have accomplished amazing feats. You are also a human. You have the ability to accomplish amazing feats. Believing you can is about 90% of it. I promise.

• Make sure you want to be in your studio. Make it the most amazing enjoyable place you can possibly afford, sleep on the floor, eat cheap, but make your studio a place where everything can flow. Buy pencils that feel good, that you can't wait to hold. Buy RAM for your computer and make it lighting fast. Align everything so you'll love to show up. Showing up is most of the puzzle. 

• It's really just all information. Looking at figures that I drew a year ago, I was missing vital parts. It's blatantly obvious what I didn't understand. Sometimes, you may understand most of it, but you're missing one vital part. And that vital part collects the whole thing for you. Like having a safe filled with gold and pastries and fully paid mortgages, and all you need is the key. These keys *do* exist. How you get them is up to you. You get them by getting a Mentor, going to the IMC, having a support group of people tell you when your work can be better, copying masters or people that you love, life drawing at every free moment, until it starts making sense. Most people give up. Don't give up. 

FLOW: The combination of the most amount of challenge coupled with the greatest amount of skill. Flow is a magic thing when time stops, and you're plugging into a creativity greater than your own. 

• Aim for FLOW, learn how to achieve it, harness it, and turn it up on command. I've been able to plug into FLOW with the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and get to work. No email, Facebook, or goofing off allowed. It's just 25 minutes, you can do it. Even if it takes 24 minutes to get started, you'll be amazed at how far you'll get in the time allotted. You achieve a small victory, you'll want to keep going. Then a 5 minute break, and 25 more minutes of working. Soon, you'll plug into the FLOW.

• It's hard until it's just not hard anymore. 

• You have to pretend to be successful before you become successful. Confidence in spirit will lead to confident lines, confident colors, confident sales. It's all cumulative. Every mark you make accumulates into your 10,000 hours. Cheat, see how you can makes more marks on purpose. The more pencil nubs you make, the more sketchbook pages you fill, the stronger your work becomes. It's thrilling to look through past work and see how much you've learned, It's almost a game. Put dates on your sketchbooks to track your progress. You learn to draw by drawing.

• Our world is changing. Bank tellers will disappear, factory workers will disappear, but imaginators, people who draw stuff to show the makers, will always be needed. Because there is no way to automate something so magical. 

• You learn to draw by drawing.

• There is no shortcut, snake oil, or passwords to greatness. You just have to put in your time, fill up your sketchbooks, draw from life, say yes to scary assignments. Eventually, it starts making sense. These victories are ridiculously thrilling.  

• Make your values sing. Always turn your work to greyscale. Does it pop? Is it a grey soup? Are your shapes interesting, or confusing and boring? Learning the idea of a NOTAN is so important. Is it still interesting at postage stamp size? Or does everything disappear into a grey soup? Don't make pieces that look like grey soup. 

• Small victories will lead to huge victories. Don't try to write a novel, you'll never get past the 2nd chapter. Practice your scales. Succeed small for a while, everything is cumulative.

• I worked at a muggle job for a while and my boss said, "Weather you think you can or you think you can't, you're right!" I know he stole it from some inspirational kitten poster…. but it's so goddamn true. 

 Shut up. Succeed. 

• Do not consume more than you create. I've been collecting pretty images since 2nd grade. But I rarely would do anything with them. Eventually, I realized, I'm not allowed to collect more than I create. I had a Pinterest 20 years ago. Instead of adding to my Pinterest, I want to BE a Pinterest. 

• Sometimes, you have to hold your pencil like a monkey, just let go... let go of your grip, and believe that all your training will manifest in your hand through your pencil. Just let go and believe. This only works if you've paid your dues. Your goal is to get out of your own way. Use a timer, your non-primary hand, a stick, anything to bypass your self-depricating brain. 

• You can do it in 2 days, you just don't know it. Likewise, you can do it in 45 minutes, you just don't know it. 

• Don't be paralyzed in pursuit of perfection. Just keep going. Know that it's absolutely all cumulative and acheivable. Small victories lead to huge victories. I promise. 

 Shut up. Succeed.