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    Somewhere along the line with all this drawing business I have grown aware of achieving a flow state while I work. It’s not there all the time – wonderful as that would be. At this point in the game for me, a finished piece will take me anywhere between 2 and 10 hours – quite the gap, I know. Inevitably I start with the base sketch, something that can usually be roughed out in an hour or two, and then there is this planning state where I stare at what I’ve done so far and map out what steps I will take to move through the process with it.

    To really break the process into it’s baby steps, here is my usual process of creation:
    1. Decide on my subject. This could be an image I’ve stumbled across on Pinterest, or a scene around town that keeps calling to me.
    2. Set up and sketch. In a book or with loose sheets, have your kit ready. Having a dedicated space in my house saves tons of time – but I am no stranger to sitting on a curb or in a coffee shop to get it done.
    3. Visual mapping. 9 times out of 10, painting for me starts with the sky and ends with the ground. In the middle it’s dictated by lightest to darkest washes and what requires the most attention to detail. Mapping and painting take the longest – but I’m always surprised by the final stage as well.
    4. Inking over the original. Once paint is done, it’s into ink to brighten it up. Once upon a time this was step 2 for me with any drawing. Now I debate constantly the possibility of not using any ink at all. I might get there one day, but I don’t know for sure. This can take me as long as an hour and is full of starts and stops, propping my drawing up to look at from different angles, etc. I’ve even been known to take a photo of it as if I were about to post it to Instagram before editing further. If it doesn’t feel quite done – it likely isn’t!

    The overarching theme here is this – most of these steps are done in small 20 minute pockets of time, because frequently that is all I have. But inevitably there comes a point in each piece where it grabs onto me and I remain in flow state until it is finished. This was difficult once. I also used to create at the kitchen table, which led to a lot more walking away from my work and mindless snacking while avoiding feeling stuck. I forget entirely about this stuff now – but in my early days of sketching it happened a lot.

    I think especially when we are new to sketching and painting, it is easy to get distracted and disrupted before we can find our focus. If you are just getting started in your own work, there are a few things I might suggest for you.

    1. Purchase a sketchbook, but tell yourself the intent is to make it messy. This will ease your fear of creating an imperfect piece of work. Mine are all imperfect in some way! The point is to create as much work as you can. Your style is hidden inside of you just waiting to come out.
    2. Set up a small sketching kit that you can easily carry. I think having access to #allofthematerial can lead to feeling paralyzed with indecision. One pencil and one eraser will get you started. Need a ruler? Take it!
    3. If you’re working on site, take a reference photo with your phone before you leave.
    4. Sometimes you need to leave your work on the table and step away from it. Even just to get out of your chair and look down at it. Things can get overworked – especially paper with too much water on it.

    Flow state is probably different for all of us, but I want to share my experience with it. I know it can be hard to create while tired, at which point I have a rule for myself – which is to give it 20 minutes. If I’m not engaged at the end of that time, I can walk away and call it a session.

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