Category: More creativity

Posts about growing your productivity, passion, confidence and about taking small steps towards creating more and finishing your projects!

More head space for creators - Backup

More head space for creators 1 – Backup

Hello all! This blogpost finds you a little late and the reason why is also the reason for this blog post.

I got robbed of my bag not too long ago. In it was a lot of important stuff. Expensive things, like my mobile phone, and things that are important to me personally, like my notebook.
The thing I really learned the hard way that Friday is how important it is to back up the things you don`t want to lose. Thieves exist, things break, destructive weather or events can happen.

I was thinking about how I could turn this unfortunate event into something positive for me and others and so I present to you part 1 of a series: “More head space for creators.”
I will talk about backups, mental and physical health, workspaces, equipment and maybe more subjects in the future. Even though this applies to all working people probably, I’ll try to add some specific advice for artists.

With this series I hope to help you try and prevent some of the events that can give us head- and heartaches and that can steal your precious time, your important health and your money. A carefree life does not exist, but I hope these tips will help you somehow.

Today is about backing up your precious work, memories and interactions. I hope to give you some pointers to make this subject as easy and fast for you as possible.

More head space for creators - Backup

Backing up is often time consuming and boring. But losing things is even more frustrating, not to mention heart breaking. To make it easier for you I have made a worksheet that I hope will help you make this process smoother:


Ready to go? Let’s get started:

Step 1 List all the items you want to back up

List everything that is important to you, also think about where this all is stored, how it is stored and if you can still access your work somehow when there’s a theft, fire or accident. You can use page one of the worksheet to list these things.
To help you not forget items I have listed the most common projects and items you might want to back up on page two in the worksheet linked above.

Step 2 List the services you already use

List the (online) services you use and think about if that is enough or too much. Things like Crashplan, backup software, Dropbox, Evernote and your email clients. You can use all these things in the backup process, but the most efficient and fast way for you depends on how you’re already using them and where you already store your items. You can list all of this in step 2 of the worksheet. (on the third page) Also add services you’re missing and would like to use to make your backups more automatic and easy. It’s good to do some research to find programs or plans that are right for you and the amount of data you want to store, or the flexibility you want.

Ready? Then go through your list and see if this is most efficient way for you to back up your stuff as fast and easy as possible. Also list the price. (This might help you see if you’re spending money on plans or subscriptions that you hardly use and could do without)
Cross off the things you don’t want to use. (And cancel those subscriptions)

Step 3 Preparation

From the two lists you now have, choose your preferred backup methods and put everything in it’s right place to start backing up. Automate the backup process as much as possible.

Install the software you need, place loose files in their right folders, make sure you have the right set-up you want in your cloud accounts. In other words, make everything ready so it can easily and automatically backup.

A rule of thumb is to put your digital files in at least two separate places. When a thunderstorm fries your computer by overloading it with power through the sockets in your home and your external hard drive, that holds your precious backups, was hooked up to it, chances are that external hard drive is fried too.
Before the web or cloud services people would recommend burning really precious files on a cd and bring those to someone else’s house, so in the very extreme case that your house burns down, you still have it somewhere. Nowadays you can store your files on a company’s server in the cloud and certain services even let you make backups to your friends’ or relatives’ computers remotely.

Automate your backups as much as possible. There are tons of services that you can use that schedule backups, and you can specify which folders, files and other locations to put into the process. Often times the first run is very long, but afterwards it only changes the files that you cange and then adds the new things, so that will go much smoother.
Some services even store previous versions of your files, so if you save a JPEG over a layered .PSD file no harm is done.

An example:
Photos from your devices can automatically backup to Dropbox, which is a cloud based service so it’s stored remotely, but the Dropbox folder on your internal hard disk automatically backs up to a cloud based backup service and your external hard drive.
Or: you send an email to your Evernote account, and that specific Evernote notebook is saved offline in a folder on your hard drive, which backs up to Crashplan cloud and maybe you’ve told Crashplan backup to the computer at your office.

Step 4 Backup! And create a schedule for any manual backups

Sit back and relax while your backups run.
After a (sometimes very long) time, you’ll have safely stored all the digital files, congratulations!!

If you use a service that updates your backup regularly then all you have to do every now and then, is make the time to backup the things that are not automatically stored or updated. The intervals are up to you, depending on what it is. (Not everything needs a backup every day) Use page 4 of the worksheet to come up with a schedule for these things. An example of this is backing up your website, or the contents of your photo camera.

You might also occasionally want to back up your content from your cloud-based accounts. This seems ironic, but everything can break, shut down or be hacked. You could also stop having internet for a while for various reasons. You can delete your own stuff by accident or lose access to your account.
Things like Dropbox are easy to backup. A lot of services have folders on your hard drive that you can put in an automatic backup.

Step 5 Digitize “analogue” things

So all your digital files are now safely stored in their own places. Well done!
But what of those papers, printed photos, articles, sketches, notes, even paintings that you listed? They can get stolen or destroyed too.
Even though more and more companies and people try to go paperless, you might still have a ton of “analogue” stuff lying around.

I listed this step as the last one, because this process can take months and I wanted you to start backing up your things that were ready to go as soon as possible.
If you’ve got a lot of drawings, notes etc. then you might feel super discouraged just thinking about taking photos or scans of all of it. That’s why I recommend to work in steps. Maybe grab five items every day and digitize them (starting with your most important things and work from there to the less important). There are even scanners that you can feed more than one paper at a time and it will automatically pull the papers through, these are not cheap though, so decide carefully. They`re often used by people who want to live paperless.

This will take a long time, but like I talked about in other blog posts, a lot of small steps make for a big one. Over time, more and more things will be included in your backup, where you have less chance to lose it and where you can easily access them too.

It might be good to make it a habit of regularly going through your recent notes and sketches and make photos or scans of the things you really want to keep.
A snapshot of your notes of the day and put into Evernote is easily done. It’s something I now try to do every day. I don’t want to lose any thumbnails again.

Put these photos and scans in the locations where your automatic backup will back it up for you.

If you digitized notes and papers then you could even throw things away and do some house cleaning that way. I’ll probably throw a lot of of notes away. To the artists though I want to plead to never, EVER, throw away drawings or paintings that you once liked. Unless you’re in DIRE need for space, just keep it in a folder, box (preferably one that will protect it from ageing too much) so you can see your progress and artistic growth over the years. I know some stuff will seem really bad and ugly in five years, but your 10, 20, or 30 year older self will regret not being able to see it.

So, that concludes part 1 of the new series. I hope the worksheet is helpful, if anything is unclear please let me know. Or if you have things to add, good software you use, please let us know in the comments!
Also please spread the link to this post and share the worksheet with anyone you know who might find use in this. I just want to keep you all from losing your hard work and for you to not have to worry about this, so you’ll have more energy and head space for the awesome things you’re doing!

Here’s to more creating!

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Keeping the focus on your project

My brain goes all over the place.
I get tons of ideas during a week, for paintings, stories, practising, organizing, subjects to talk about, characters, projects…I’m sure a lot of you can relate.

I’m good at starting stuff and sometimes it’s hard to not act on something that feels like “It’d be so much fun!” but what would totally derail the projects you’re already working on. Especially if these projects get into a phase where the going gets tough and you need to start putting in the work and the hours. New ideas can then feel fresh and exciting to work on, while progress on your current project suffers.

Even within the boundaries of one project alone you can get distracted by tasks that feel new and exciting. Drawing the finale or designing the look of a world you’re only visiting in the middle of the story, while you are working on the set up. You can’t wait to get to the juicy stuff while you know that, if you want to progress, you should work on something else first.
And whenever you’re stuck, or something is hard and the panic strikes, the urge to start something else can get overwhelming.

Over the last few weeks I encountered a few articles about this subject. I highly encourage you to read these two:

Nic Gregory discovered that if you feel stuck, sometimes all you need to do is keep the momentum. He writes about his experience with life drawing here.

And Ryan Mc Swain shares how he finished his first draft for a story while he felt the need to go back and rework because a new idea popped up. Read here how he did it.

Your passion needs your time, your project needs the work, you want to finish something. I’m also talking to myself when I say: stay at it.
Put the distractions in a place where you won’t forget about them. After you’ve finished your project go back to that place. And if you feel stuck, uninspired or overwhelmed, again, stay at it. Don’t lose the momentum. Eventually good things can come out of it and you’ll break through. Trust the process.
I’m still learning to go through the difficult feelings or the hard work, instead of running away and start something new and exciting. It’s a difficult journey sometimes, but a good one.

Do you have any tips to add? What do you do with new ideas? Share in the comments!

Last but not least I added last weeks’ creative prompts to the masterlist. Need a warmup? Some inspiration? Go and see if there’s something you’d like to try!

The Myth of Immediately

We hear about success stories all day. They come to us through links on the internet, we see them on tv and we read about them in the paper. We love to hear these stories of great success happening, especially when it does to normal people. A single mother who becomes a best selling author, a guy who had a rough life who turns out to be a great singer, an art student who is discovered by a big studio at a con… But there’s a danger here.


We tend to only look at these success stories and forget the hours and hours these people put into their craft, the countless rejections, the hardships they had to endure. The years in which this single mother was trying to write a book in between diaper changes and trips to the grocery store for example. A book doesn’t happen in a few weeks. You don’t get good at singing overnight. An art student who is this good this fast has spend countless hours honing their craft while my college years consisted of having fun with my friends and trying out new things.

Success hardly ever comes overnight. And it hardly every comes without a cost. We forget this. We look at a person’s success and think they had it easy, they somehow understood faster and better than us. And we think we’re doing something wrong. We want perfect, right now, immediately. After all, perfect and inspiring art is what we see on Tumblr all day. Surely these people never mess up, all we see of them is great art! We forget we`re not seeing the whole picture and so we don’t allow ourselves to mess up.

We measure the worth of our art on how many followers we have, how many comments we get. On how much work we get from clients. We don’t look at the journey. We think of ourselves as artists who are stagnant. “They are so much better than me” “why is this artists having this success while they’re so much younger?” We forget skills are growing things, not something we have or do not have. And everyone has their own journey in this respect. Not everyone’s time is “now.”

We forget.
So here’s a reminder for this year: you don’t have to know everything right now. You don’t have to have a big following for your art to be valid. You don’t have to worry if you’re “not having success yet.”
Sometimes it just needs a few more years of hard work, a few more rejections, a few more weeks of crappy drawings, a few more months of uploading your work into the big empty void that is the internet.
It’s hard, I don’t deny that. We’d rather have the easy overnight success. But keep at it, take time to learn and make your best work possible with the skills you now have. Who knows when someone will notice, but at least you did your best. And please, have fun in the process.

Here’s a very good and encouraging video that I watched lately, by Adam Westbrook and it deals with this very problem. I highly encourage you to watch it!

I hope this blogpost encouraged you. If so, let me know here or on Facebook or Twitter.
See you next week for a new blogpost, and have a great and creative 2015!

Question: how will you be slowly growing your skillset this year? Share in the comments!

CTNx feedback – working on expressions 1

The main feedback I got at CTNx was that my character designs looked stiff and I didn’t tell enough of a story with them, even in the basic designs it`s better to let the characters do something or react to something so we know what kind of character it is.
I also stayed fairly on the realistic side, with not much room for more exaggerated expressions.

Even though I consider my style to be at least somewhat cartoony, I`m not very experienced in exaggeration, pushing features and expression (both face and body). So my goal for the next months is to improve that.

Here`s some basic expressions for my character Ivory, who immediately presents a challenge since the character is very guarded and not very expressive unless she is agitated.
I have not yet tried and push everything more. I`m focusing now on just drawing the unique way each character expresses the basic emotions. I also try to draw the full body expression, and not just the face. Some advice from Nilah Magruder, who creates the comic M.K.F., who I had the pleasure of meeting at CTNx.

2014-12-16-expressions_IvoryWhat are you working on right now?

See you next time!

Comic artist from Europe visits CTNx; 3 reasons to go even if you don’t work in animation

Hello all! I’m back from my trip to the US. I went to the CTNx animation expo in Los Angeles. It was quite the adventure. I’m so happy I have met a lot of my fellow Oatley Academy students and some of the teachers in person. We had a great time hanging out before the expo and after each day on the floor ended.
To all the people who are on the fence about wanting to go to CTNx next year but wondering if it’s worth the trip, I have written this blogpost. (Early bird registration for November 2015 starts soon)
CTNx has some amazing talent giving lectures and workshops.
CTNx has some amazing talent giving lectures and workshops. Featured here is a workshop on character design by Jeff Wamester (, Brett Bean (, Stephen Silver ( and Tony Siruno ( Hosted by Chris Oatley. (

First of all, you might wonder why I went to CTNx, other than to meet up people I know from the internet. I make comics, I don’t work in animation and don’t aspire to. (even though I always start doubting that when I do anything animation related since I’m such a big fan of the medium and the collaborative process of making movies) On top of that I’m also from Europe, with no plans to move to the US.

So why did I go?

Reason 1: Atmosphere

What I have heard about the expo for the last few years is that the atmosphere is so great. Everyone’s really open and approachable and you quickly meet new people.
This was absolutely true. There were tables of seasoned pros and artists who just started out. Companies and individual artists or groups of collaborating people. All were equally open to start a conversation. You could buy whole trunks of beautiful artwork and books and exhibitors were also willing to look at your own work and give you feedback. I had some great conversations with people I follow online and with people I never saw the work of before. There were sessions of drawing together or demo’s and I met up with a lot of people just waiting in the lines for workshops. It was great.
Live drawing session in the beautiful Californian weather.
Live drawing session in the beautiful Californian weather.

Reason: 2 Feedback

My portfolio was very focused on comics and there were a few people who have experience with comics there who gave me some great feedback, but still a lot of other artists there that work in animation or illustration had something to add. (See also reason 3)
Approaching people and asking for their time felt awkward at first, but despite my initial shyness I managed to show my art to a lot of artists I look up to. Every single artist had something useful to offer that I can work on. The feedback I got was really consistent too, overall. Which was good because I now know what stands out and needs the most work and I didn’t hear any conflicting things.CTNx is a great way to get your art looked at by a lot of really good people in a short amount of time. The feedback you bring home can help you improve your current portfolio a lot and also give you enough ideas for what to focus on while studying in the coming months.

New teacher of the Oatley Academy Jennifer Ely:
One of the new teachers of the Oatley Academy, Jennifer Ely:

Reason 3: Art techniques cross over into each other

The expo was very animation oriented (with exceptions). But a lot of workshops and lectures were very broad and had subjects like “composition” “colour” “social media” “character design” etc. A lot of these things apply to all forms of visual arts.
The amazing James Gurney:
The amazing James Gurney:

Bonus reason:

My childhood animation heroes were there:
Saw my all time favourite artist there: Glen Keane
Saw my all time favourite artist there: Glen Keane (
The awesome and inspirational Andreas Deja (and a tired me)
The awesome and inspirational Andreas Deja (and a tired, but inspired, me) (

Did you attend CTNx, or would you like to? What do you do to meet other artists and get feedback? Share in the comments!