Develop good habits and they’ll work for you. Those are some of the words I live by. It’s how I’m able to get stuff done. Habit can work for you or habit can work against you. It’s a powerful thing so you may as well get habit on your side.

Even during the best of times it’s hard to be self motivated and make art. Being creative isn’t easy. It’s hard to make most anything. Especially during these Covid-19 times. I keep hearing people say to give yourself a break and don’t worry about being productive right now but for me making art is what brings me joy. It centers me. Not doing anything makes me unhappy. If I’m just sitting around watching TV or some such I get bored fairly quickly. I grow restless and want to get things done. But still it’s hard to get things done. That’s where good habits can help.

Since the beginning of June or so I’ve mostly been working on small stuff. I’ve made 6×9 inch ink drawings, inkbook pages, and tentacle monsters. They’re the things that I’ve liked doing and don’t take maximum effort to get done. I seem to be able to get those done as long as I get them prepped.

For the 6×9 inch ink drawings I look through one of my inkbooks, find eight thumbnail drawings I want to work on, put those drawings into a digital template, and print the drawings out in blue line on drawing paper. I end up with eight rough drawings ready to be inked.

Recently I’ve added an extra step after this. I take some of my removable tape and mask out the edges of the paper. The tape is three quarters of an inch wide so I have to cut of the extra with an X-Acto knife after I put it in place. It takes about twenty minutes to do all eight drawings but I’ve found this step really helps me.

I usually have a border around theses drawings. Just a black line about a quarter inch away from the edge of the paper. I want to keep outside the border clean and white. Without the edges masked off I have to slow down my brush or pen as I get close to the border. With the tape there I can keep moving my brush until the edge of the paper. It frees my hand up to move easier. Pulling the tape off at the end and seeing the clean outside edge is oddly satisfying too.

With the tentacle monsters I sometimes have to prep them and sometimes don’t. It depends on the background. If I’m using colored blocks I save that until the end but if I’m using a watercolor background I do that first. I lay out four pieces of 5×7 inch watercolor paper, draw a border on them, and then go in and blend three or four colors of watercolor together across the whole piece of paper. That makes a nice soft and colorful background.

I have also worked on some of my “Dreams of Things” comic book covers. I’ve colored a few of them with markers (which is the final step) and inked a few of them too. But the one thing I couldn’t get done was to pencil some new ones.

I prepare to draw new “Dreams of Things” covers much like I prepare the ink drawings. I look through my sketchbook (inkbook) for images that I like, put them in a 6×9 inch template, and print them out in blue line. After that it’s a matter of drawing them. But I haven’t been able to draw them. I had four or five prepared but every time I tried to draw one of them I couldn’t muster up the interest. I usually switched over to something else to work on. It was a little frustrating. That was until I ran out of “Dreams of Things” to ink.

As I mentioned before developing good habits is helpful. Even though I hadn’t been able to draw a cover as soon I was out of them some part of my brain kicked in. I couldn’t just leave myself with no “Dreams of Things” to ink so I dug into my pile of blue line drawings and picked one of them. It took a little while but a few hours later I had one finished.

After I finish drawing one of these covers there are some more steps to do to get it ready to ink. I have to scan it in, blue line it, put it in a template, and then print it out on 11×17 inch Bristol board. That takes about 15 minutes and isn’t hard but it still takes effort. After finishing a drawing I often think to myself that I’ll be better off putting that part off until I have more energy. Then I overcome those thoughts and get it done.

Over the next two days I got two more covers pencilled. After not being able to get one done for a month I got three in three days finished. I even scanned all three in and printed them out right away. That was all because of habit. I was in the habit of always having a few penciled pages ready to ink and when I had none I had to get some done. It doesn’t even matter if I don’t get to inking any of them for a while but it’s my habit to give myself the choice.

I don’t even think I’m done pencilling covers for now. I want some more blue line sketches printed out and ready to be pencilled so I think I’ll have to prep some more. I’ve got a couple of them prepped already but I don’t think I like them. I want more choices.

I’m not telling you it’s been easy being productive during these Covid-19 quarantine days. I haven’t been able to get any of my big ink drawings or big paintings done in months but I’ve been doing okay with the smaller stuff.