I was drawing the other day and really had a breakthrough with how I work. So, I thought I would share some of my thoughts in hopes that it may help some of you as well!
What I've discovered about myself is that when I feel under pressure to create, my work suffers tremendously. I know that some artists can sit down and give themselves 2 hours of time to sketch, say a fairy sitting on a mushroom, and come up with something amazing. I think that's definitely a fantastic skill to have (and definitely important for deadlines and working in a professional, creative environment), but it's a skill I just don't possess consistently! Sure, I can turn out great work sometimes in that manner, but I've found that when I sit down at the table with my sketch pad, pencil and eraser with no distractions and give myself x amount of time to do something, I create my worst work.
I'm not exactly sure why. I'm guessing it has something to do with the different parts of the brain. Perhaps I'm using too much of my left side of the brain and thinking way too much. Instead I think I need to relax, let go of my focus and use my right side of the brain.
So this is what I do when I draw. I usually draw right at my computer desk. My husband encouraged me to buy two monitors and it's one of the best purchases we've ever made. I set up Netflix or Hulu on one of my monitors. I try to pick a show that I'm interested in, but not too interested in so that it doesn't distract me completely and I get nothing done. I gravitate towards silly reality shows like Hells Kitchen, cartoons (I love My Little Pony!), documentaries (Monster Quest, Ancient Aliens, etc...) or television series that I've already watched like Once Upon a Time or The Vampire Dairies. If I put on a television series that I'm really interested in and haven't seen before, I get way too distracted and don't get enough drawing done. I try to focus on shows that can entertain me by mainly listening to them.
Then in my other monitor, I put up all my reference photos that I'm using for the sketch I'm creating. I never find one photo that I like and end up copying the photo exactly. Instead, I find things that inspire me. Perhaps I like the composition of one photo, the pose of another, the background elements of a third, the colors of a fourth, the textures of a fifth, etc... Then I also draw on my own internal inspirations to create my final sketch.
I try not to set a certain amount of time for myself, but instead allow myself to feel relaxed and free of pressure while I sketch. I usually draw for a little bit, then look up at the show I'm watching. I often find when I do that, I look back down at my drawing and notice things that I wouldn't have if I had been drawing constantly. Your eyes start to play tricks on you if you look at your drawing continuously and things that are "wrong" start to look "right." I work this way as I'm watching, mostly focusing my brain on the television show and not on the drawing. This may sound weird, but I think that art is such an organic process that it doesn't take a lot of brain thought. I think your brain and hand know what to do without having to think about it that much.
So my advice is, if you find yourself struggling to draw, perhaps you're not giving yourself enough time and creating a sense of pressure or a super focused atmosphere. For me, those things don't work and they may not for you either. So put on a television show, movie, music or something else to take your mind off your sketch, relax and give yourself more time. You may find that you create your best work that way as well!