Monday, 21 January 2013

A Dwarf A Day: Week Three

Week three!

#14/365: Geriatric dwarf.

#15/365: Insomniac dwarf.

#16/365: Irate dwarf.

#17/365: Ballet dwarf.

#18/365: Disco dwarf. (colour on this one just wasn't working!)

#19/365: Poorly dwarf.

#20/365: Bodypop dwarf.

Monday, 14 January 2013

A Dwarf A Day: Week Two

Week two. I think there's going to be some classics and some duds each week (pooping dwarf is my favourite this week for some reason... he's strangely cute).  I'm already seeing an improvement, at least in speed of completion and ease in which the character's expression comes to mind/pencil. Interesting!

#7/365: Peeping Dwarf.

#8/365: Pooping Dwarf.

#9/365: Baby Dwarf.

#10/365: Thinking Dwarf.

#11/365: Musophobic Dwarf.

#12/365: Bindlestiff Dwarf.

#13/365: Lost Dwarf. (This won't make sense unless you happen to know who Hurley/Hugo Reyes is. Can you tell we were watching 'Lost' yesterday?)

Friday, 11 January 2013

Onwards & Upwards: My Freelance Working From Home Schedule

How do you motivate yourself to get tasks completed when you work from home? 

Motivation is something that I think every freelancer struggles with, as it can be hard to tie yourself down to one activity; a long to-do list often leaves you feeling stressed out, wanting to complete every task on it all at once and feeling inadequate when you can't do so. I've written a bit about this before in my graduate advice post, but am of course terrible at following my own advice, especially regarding approaching one task at a time. Last year I sometimes felt like a rabbit in the headlights, almost paralysed by having so much to do and having to juggle so many roles, rather than embracing the variety in my business, tackling and enjoying each separate task. I love drawing, painting, crafts, writing, social media and even enjoy the organisational/admin responsibilities that come with running your own business, yet I have found myself on numerous occasions not enjoying doing these things as I felt that there was always something else more pressing that I could or should be doing. In the summer I briefly tried timetabling myself quite loosely by dividing my time into blocks with set breaks, and although it was effective in some ways, it went out the window after a few weeks thanks to life getting in the way and didn't get rid of the feeling that every task was constantly a top priority. 

To try to combat this I've made it a goal for this year to work out an effective routine and full timetable to help me work on everything that I need to be doing (but not all at once!) and see if it can work well for me. My hubby (slight cringe using that word, but then husband sounds weirdly formal, as did fiancĂ©.... I obviously have a problem with titles!) uses Google calendar every day for work to organise himself, so I thought I would take a leaf out of his book and schedule a full timetable on that with set days and blocks for different types of activities, as well as scheduling in proper breaks and exercise to give my poor eyes and legs a break from screen work. Just in case you happen to be unfamiliar with Google Calendar, it's a really useful and intuitive way of planning your time, and as it is all linked to your Google account, you can sign in to it using your phone, tablet or computer (or anyone else's for that matter) to access all your calendar details. Having it linked to my computer and phone means that whatever I'm doing, I get a little noisy pop-up reminder from both of them that it's 5 minutes until the next break/activity. You can set reminders whenever you like, or not at all, and when you set up the events you can choose whether they are one-off's, or every weekday, week, month, every alternate day etc. You can also have multiple calendars under one account (e.g. personal, work and important dates calendars) which can be toggled on and off for ease of viewing, and can give permission to someone else to view your calendar (e.g. If you wanted colleagues or a partner to be able to view or use the calendar too). There's also various features that I haven't quite worked out yet, like apparently being able to set up recurring events automatically just by using a [instructional?] title such as 'Meet ___ for tea at 11am every other Thursday' etc. Which is pretty damn fancy/clever.

Phew, that was a big spiel! Unbelievably, I'm not actually being sponsored by Google to write this post (but maybe I should be... hint hint). 

Anyway, I've divided my working time up into four main blocks within the day, namely 9-11, 11.15-13.15, then 14.15-16.15 and 16.30-17.30, with breaks in between each to take a screen break in an effort to avoid a repetition of last year's worrying eye health scare. (I do believe you're actually supposed to take something like a 15 minute break away from the screen every hour, but I could be making that up. I'll trial it every 2 hours for now anyway!) There's even a scheduled lunch-break (away from the desk for once!) to eat and do the things that are relatively necessary useful work-wise but often distracting, like checking email, catching up with my RSS reader and browsing Pinterest etc. On my personal calendar I've also scheduled in exercise etc to try to keep me motivated around working times.

Each block is for a specific different task; for example, Monday morning is set aside for scanning, editing and blogging my week's worth of 'A Dwarf A Day' sketches, followed by planning, writing and queuing up the rest of the week's blog posts. After lunch is self-promotional planning, sending out promo mailers and then updating all my online portfolios with any new work etc. Tuesday and Thursdays are exclusively set out for illustration; catching up with old ideas, new work and book work have separate slots to keep me on task. The other days include slots for product creation/development and a craft slot for trying out some new skills or rediscovering old ones like guitar and knitting. 

The main aim with this timetable is to pick up on a project/task in each timeslot, working on it weekly if need be until it's finished before moving onto the next one. I hope that in this way I'll be able to really look forward to different days/tasks and be able to approach the task with a fresh set of eyes each time I come to it. Hopefully I'll also be able to complete a lot more artwork, as although it sounds to me like more of a drawn-out way of working, I think the structure will help me to stay on task more than the usual never-ending working day on the computer from 9:00-19:00 which invariably ends up filled with procrastination. If unexpected appointments or commissions come up, then I can just swap out and add different blocks to the timetable in places where I'm ahead of time.

Fingers crossed that the new timetable will work well over the coming weeks - I'll keep you updated with my progress! I hope this might be of some use to you if you're also looking to shake up your working method in 2013.

Before I forget - this is an illustration I finished just in time for Christmas to give to one of my friends. I was intending to do a collection of motivational prints all through 2012 and, ironically, never got around to doing it as I couldn't really find the motivation to complete my initial sketches! Hopefully my new timetable will encourage me to complete the collection this year...! If you'd like to see more detail, have a peek at my portfolio site.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A Dwarf a Day: Week One

As I mentioned in my 2012 overview post last week, this year I have set myself a daily drawing challenge: 'A Dwarf a Day' to keep me drawing daily, having fun, and working on my character design skills. I'm pleased (and admittedly slightly surprised!) to say that I managed to keep up with it every day of the first week of 2013, although I am behind schedule in posting them - whoops! I'm not quite sure why it's called 'A Dwarf a Day' as, 9 days in, there already seems to be a strange mix of dwarves, elves, weird creatures and just some generally worrying behaviour. 

Here's the first set from last week:

#1/365: Bedwetting Dwarf.

#2/365: Hydromaniac Dwarf.

#3/365: Funambulist Dwarf.

#4/365: Night-Watchman Dwarf.

#5/365: Long-suffering Dwarf.

#6/365: Sprouting Dwarf.

Friday, 4 January 2013

New year, new collage - Yearly Overview 2012

Happy new year! I hope you all had a great break over the festive period and enjoyed your new years celebrations. Mine was pretty low key; good times with family and friends!
Taking stock of the year, personally and professionally, is always really useful to me so I can't let 2012 slip past without doing a yearly round-up post (any excuse to make a collage!)

My professional goals for 2012 from last year's post were to keep working on my style and improving my illustrations, and do a lot of new portfolio work. With regards to developing my work I can see a change in it when comparing it with the 2011 collage, but in terms of improvement I can't say much as judging your own work is inevitably impossible! I do feel like it's perhaps a more intensified version of what I was doing before, more textural and painterly, more vivid...

I haven't managed to complete as much new work as I would have liked though, as the wedding ate a big chunk of my time during the year, so I'm setting myself a goal to do a drawing a day project in 2013. More specifically... A Dwarf A Day! I've tried similar projects before and find them hard to stick to as I get a bit stuck for ideas when there's no brief or initial spark and only a blank page staring at me, so I thought a specific starting point or topic would help me out. The dwarf idea struck me on New Years Day, probably through a combination of lazy alliteration and seeing scores of lovely tomte/nisse type creatures in Denmark, and I thought I would run with the idea as it'll be a great way of constantly working on my character design skills throughout the year. Hopefully we'll be able to see a big improvement by the beginning of 2014! I'm looking forward to having it as a regular spot on the blog too, probably on a Friday or Monday to avoid plaguing you every day with dwarf/gnome creatures. Who knows, maybe if it goes well I'll compile them into a little book or something at the end of the year.

In 2013 I'd like to:
- Really improve my portfolio! Tick off all of the 'illustrations to do' that are scribbled on the glass of the picture frames in my studio, and work on a couple of new full illustrations every month.
- Get all my picture book ideas wrapped up and made up into full dummies.
- Watch this super duper speech by Neil Gaiman every month to keep me going and keep "walking towards that mountain". Possibly plaster sections of it all over the room. If you haven't seen it and you're an aspiring artist/illustrator/creative watch it right now!
- Pick up all of the non-illustration (gasp!) creative skills again that I used to enjoy so much, like playing guitar, knitting, and add some new ones, like crochet and possibly screenprinting. 

What are your goals, professional and otherwise, for 2013? I've really enjoyed reading everyone else's new years posts so far, so do leave me a comment, I'd love to hear! Incidentally, if you have any tips or links to beginner's crochet for absolute dummies then please do share; I've been using Youtube videos and an amazing retro Ladybird book from the seventies, but I'm struggling and don't want to be crocheting the same never-ending chain stitch until 2014!