Sketchbooks Should Be Full Of Fails

“…sketchbooks should have a lot of fails in them.”

Michael Jantze left that comment on my Instagram, and I’ve been chewing on it for awhile. 

I like looking at other artists’ sketchbooks online, and I tend to get intimidated by them. To me, sketchbooks are utilitarian. Sometimes I put some finished art in there, but - for the most part - it’s a testing ground. It’s a place to practice and try new things. A lot of my sketchbook pages are only half-drawn; usually because I lose interest or want to start over. So when I see beautiful sketchbook art, I start to doubt myself and my ability.

But Michael is right: sketchbooks should be full of failure. Sketchbooks should be home to half-hearted ideas and poorly drawn images. Why?

Half-hearted ideas can eventually become awesome, blow-your-mind ideas.

Poorly drawn images can eventually become well-constructed pieces of art.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Especially in your sketchbooks.

Here are a bunch of my own sketchbook fails:

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Working Through Discouragement

As surely as biscuits go with sausage gravy, so too does discouragement come with creativity. 

I’ve actually found that the amount of discouragement an artist feels is directly proportional to his/her ability. The more discouragement he/she feels, the higher the ability. The less discouragement he/she feels, well… you get it. Don’t believe me? Just watch one of the audition episodes of American Idol. The contestants who think they’re amazing are the ones that suck the most, whereas the contestants who actually have talent are sobbing in a corner because they think they’re awful. It’s a fascinating paradigm.

So, what do you do when you’re inevitably stricken with discouragement? How do you plow through so you can get back to work? Here are three tips that work pretty well for me. Maybe you’ll find them useful, too:

Quit comparing yourself to other artists’ talent! I do this all the time. I admire A LOT of artists, and I can waste a lot of time looking through online portfolios and tumblr pages. But there comes a point when my admiration starts to fade into discouragement. Instead of being fascinated by a cartoonist’s linework, I all-of-sudden feel like I’ll never be able to ink as well as her. Before too long I’m reevaluating all of my artistic progress and eventually decide that I’m not good enough to keep trying.

Silly, isn’t it? Believe me, I feel dumb just typing it out. But I bet you’ve felt that way hundreds of times, too. You wanna know the best way to defeat that feeling? Stop looking at other people’s art! Eyes back on your own paper! You’ve got work to do!

Quit comparing yourself to other artists’ successes! Not only do I admire others’ artwork, but I oftentimes admire their success. Which isn’t a bad thing, but, left unchecked, can become very unhealthy.

Jon Acuff says we need to stop comparing our beginning with someone else’s middle. In other words, we can’t expect to have the same results as someone who’s waste-deep in their career while we’re still getting our toes in the water. It takes time. It takes work. For most of us, it seems to take a lot more time and work than it takes for others.

Keep at it. You’re not alone.

Force yourself to work! The best way to plow through discouragement is the simplest and the hardest. When we’re discouraged, we don’t want to work. We feel like we’re not worthy of the work. But that’s how discouragement wins, and you don’t want discouragement to win.

Trust me, you’ll be AMAZED at how fast your discouragement will fade once you put your pencil back to the paper. You quickly forget about what it was that made you feel unworthy. You get back into a groove. You find your voice again. It’s exhilirating.

Know this, my fellow creatives: Discouragement will come, but she can be beaten. Her bark is much worse than her bite.

What methods do you use to overcome discouragement?

“My name is Tracker Ace and I pilot an X-32 Falcon Cargo Shuttle! I run goods and medical supplies from the headquarters of the Independent Rebellion to the Outer Rim planets that have been neglected by the evil Intergalactic Planetary Alliance.

If you wanna be a shuttle pilot and smuggle goods past the IPA, then you gotta be fast and you gotta be good.

As it turns out, I’m the fastest and the BEST!”


I recently created a graphic for a greeting card that I’m going to use at work. Here’s a look at the concept from sketch to final product. I’m going to use the card for a lot of purposes, so I decided to have fun with the artwork and not worry about conveying a certain message. 

The cards were printed by moo.com and the finished product is AWESOME. Couldn’t be happier with them!

“The X-32 Falcon Cargo Shuttle is essentially a stripped down Falcon Personnel Transport that we, *ahem*… ‘acquired’ from the IPA. All weapons and most of the defensive systems have been removed to make her lighter and more nimble.

What she lacks in firepower she more than makes up for in speed and agility.”

Even More Character Designin'

This is Griff, the warrior character featured in my children’s book. I went rounds with this guy, and I never really pushed myself to finalize his look before drawing him in the dummy book. I got the look of the character going in a direction I was happy with and then I just jumped into dummy book production. Thus, dummy-book-Griff looks a little different than design-phase-Griff.

Here’s a bunch of design-phase-Griffs:

My new ebook, The Incomparable Insert Image, is NOW AVAILABLE from ChurchMag Press!

Everyone who orders a book this week will be entered for a chance to win 1 of 3 original headshots drawn by ME! Use the headshot for your blog or social media avatar! Use it as your eHarmony profile pic! Print it out and hang it on your refrigerator! Whatevs!

Click here to find out more about the contest and to purchase a copy for your e-reading pleasure!