Make your habits work for you. That’s my lesson for the day. Someone once told me that good habits are as easy to develop as bad habits so you may as well develop some good ones. They’ll help you rather than hurt you. I try to make my art habits good habits. What got me thinking about this was this very blog. I write it once a week but I have no set time to do it. For the last month or so it’s been on Tuesdays but now I’ll be busy all day on Tuesdays until the summer. I wasn’t sure when I’d get this done until this very moment on a Thursday night. I decided to just do it.

Writing my comic strip “Four Talking Boxes” used to be as haphazard a thing as this blog the first few years I was writing it. I had no set schedule to write my five strips a week. I’d sneak them in when I could. Sometimes I’d get one a day done and sometimes I’d have to write a bunch of them in row to make my deadline. Not being a fan of deadlines I decided to schedule some writing and get ahead of things. Now I write one of them a day early in the morning. I get up, shower, go to my studio, open up my laptop, and start writing a strip. I actually write it as I’m getting dressed and ready for the day. It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes (half an hour on a bad day) to write one and then I eat breakfast.

I wrote them that way, seven days a week, for two years until I was so far ahead with the writing (since I only need five a week) that I cut it back to six mornings a week. Why not five? I don’t know. I think I just like the idea of having a lot of them written just in case. But I don’t even think about it anymore. I just do it every morning. It’s a habit.

Getting the strip done by adding the art to them takes a lot of habit too. I’ve been doing it for over ten years now and it’s made me no money so why do I do it? That’s the question I ask myself almost every time as I assemble my strip these days. The answer is generally: habit. I do them because my other choice is to sit in the chair and do nothing. I may as well spend the half an hour to forty five minutes putting the strips together. After all I’ve been doing them for ten years. Why stop now?

I’ve moved the day I put my strip together over the years. When I started out I always did them on Thursday mornings. I did them like that for ages before I decided, one football season, to do them during Jets’ games. Being a Giants fan I wasn’t really interested in the Jets’ games so it was good to work during them. Then for a while I started doing them on Monday mornings because I wanted something solid and reliable to count on to start off my week. Now I’m back to Sundays but early Sunday morning. It’s the first thing I do in the morning long before the football games.

Another art habit I have going on is my inkbooks. I’ve filled twenty of them over twenty years. I’ve written about these before. My inkbooks are my 5.5×8.5 sketchbooks that I draw in. Six to nine little ink drawings a page and I fill up about eight pages a month. I’m on book twenty one and I plan to keep going with them because why stop? These inkbook are where I pull most of my images from. They’re step one of my process. All through the 1990s I barely ever filled a sketchbook. Every piece I made had to be pulled out of the ether. That’s a tough process. I’m glad I started a new habit to make things easier on myself.

I’ve been noticing lately that doing my “Dreams of Things” covers has really become a habit too. First off I can keep them around in various stages of completeness and pick up one and work on whatever stage fits my fancy. Secondly they are a good outlet for making weird drawings and I like making weird drawings. If I’m standing around wondering what I could possibly do they’ll come to mind. I know how to make one. I’ve made over eighty of them so it’s a long running series now. I can count on making one. It’s a habit.

When something is not a habit it takes a conscious effort to get it done. Take my large ink drawings for example. I’ve make a lot of them over the last couple of years but they’re not a habit. First of all I have to have large paper to make them and I don’t always. I have to order the paper off the web so that means I usually have to wait until I need a few more things to make the shipping worth it. Even though the paper is fairly cheap at twenty dollars for ten sheets it’s not as cheap (or easy to store) as smaller paper and pads.

It also takes three days to make a big ink drawing. Most of my art habits are for things that take an hour or under. That’s easy. A piece that takes twenty hours is a big chunk of my life. So I go through phases of wanting to make things that take that long. I’ve made three big ink drawings in the last month but before that I don’t think I’d made one in about eight months. I go through phases with big things like that.

I just bought a new bag for commuting and I’m hoping to fill it with things that will help facilitate my art habits. It’s still a work in progress though. I have a small aluminum case for my art cards that I carry when I need to draw cartoon art cards during my commute. Now that case goes in a small bag with a pencil and pen. But that bag is too small for my inkbook. So I ordered a slightly bigger small bag for my inkbook. My ultimate goal is to have a bunch of art supplies organized and kept in my commute bag. Right now I’m always moving stuff in and out of it so I’m always thinking about what’s in there. I want to be able to grab it without thinking and go. I think it would be cool to take some art habits on the road.