Be Kind To Your Creative Self


“Stop being too critical of your creative efforts. Be your own best friend and fan. Love what you do – no matter how imperfect. The kinder you are to yourself, the more you will create. The more you create, the better you’ll be.”

These words started running around in my mind today as I was doing my sketch of the day (see photo above). I think they came from weeks of developing a daily sketching habit and taking part in Sketchbook Skool.

You see, ever since Day One of Italy last 13th June, I have carried a sketchbook with me and did at least one sketch a day. I never stopped sketching since.

And, over the last 3.5 weeks, I’ve been taking part in this amazing online art class/community called Sketchbook Skool. It is founded by Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene. Currently, they offer two courses – Beginnings and Seeing. I signed up for the Beginnings course when they were already mid-way through the semester, so I had a lot of catching up to do.

At the start, I wasn’t quite sure if I did the right thing. I wasn’t getting excited or inspired enough. But, as I went through the classes and started doing all the assignments set by the instructors, things took a turn for the better. By the time Week 6 came, I was irrevocably hooked.

While all the teachers and topics were great, I was especially inspired by Roz Stendahl, Jane LaFazio, and Tommy Kane. Roz and Tommy, in particular, were very generous in their feedback and knowledge sharing. I think I enjoyed their classes a lot because I felt I had to get out of my comfort zone and challenge some of my usual way of thinking on art and creativity in general.

Roz encouraged making a mess in one’s sketchbooks. She says that if you’re not messing up a page in your sketchbook every few pages, then you’re doing it wrong. You’re not learning and you’re not growing as an artist. This made me feel so much better looking at some of my ‘messy’ pages.

Tommy had a lot of very wise words on creating that I have been mulling over the last week. Out of the several words of wisdom, there were two things that resonated with me the most.

The first one is: Never abandon a drawing/sketch. Even if you’re making mistakes, you have to keep going. You need to figure out how to make it work. Just keep at it. Embrace the mistakes.

Just having this one thing in mind changed the way I sketch/draw in many ways. It allowed me to  tackle subjects that I normally wouldn’t tackle. For example, this massive sketch of one side of my kitchen as part of our assignment:

For the last #SketchbookSkool klass, we're meant to slow down and be mindful of details in our sketches. As a quick sketcher, I'm not sure I'd ever sketch for hours at a time like Tommy Kane. I'd love to, but time isn't easy to come by for a mum and biz o

There were a few times I wanted to give up on this sketch because it felt too overwhelming. And, I made more than just a couple of mistakes. But, I kept going. I kept finding a way to make it work. Learned to be okay with my mistakes. At the end of it, I was pleased that I stuck it out.

Now, I look at this sketch and I remember: I can do way more than I think I’m capable of doing.

That’s how I ended up with this sketch of my bedside table too, shortly after (yes, I know, I’ve become a ‘mad sketching machine’, as my husband likes to say now):

Sketched my bedside table a couple of nights ago, inspired by #SketchbookSkool klass with Tommy Kane. Details are tricky but I'm loving the final outcome. Will see if I can do more of these...

The second thing I learned from Tommy wasn’t part of the lesson. I’m not sure if he even ever said it out loud. But, as I read his responses to fellow students’ questions and shared his thoughts on the video lessons, I picked up something. He encourages people just to give it a go. Draw portraits, even if you can’t get the likeness. That’s not the point of it. Just draw and allow yourself to enjoy it. As you do more, and enjoy more, the better you’ll get at drawing and sketching. The likeness will come as you get better. He also believes that he doesn’t necessarily make a ‘bad drawing’ because he always finds a way to make it work – and accept the things that didn’t go right. And, something almost always doesn’t go right. He works on it anyway – and amazes himself in the process.

That’s when it hit me: Even though he calls himself a ‘mediocre illustrator’ on his Twitter bio (not true, obviously!), he is actually kind to his artist self. He loves what he does, mistakes and all.

Pretty good lessons to remember, right?

P.S. – I updated my Italian Sketchbook 2014 Gallery  with a handful of sketches. I’m done with all the scanning of the pages. Just need to edit and upload now. At this stage, I think I’m almost halfway through! More to come soon. Stay tuned.

About the Author Shai Coggins

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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