An old friend of mine asked me how I got myself to draw something every day. I gave her my usual spiel about good habits and just sitting down to do it; she said, "No, Jon. I mean, like, how? What do you use? How do you set up your work area? Stuff like that."
So here goes – the actual "process" I'm using today. I shudder to actually call it a process, though, since it's still pretty haphazard.
First, I've been trying to draw a little bit more in advance so that I have a few posts in the hopper in case I'm swamped or just not feeling like doodling anything. I am hoping that also gives me a little more time to copy-edit.
Right now, I draw using a ReMarkable 2, which is also what I use for all of my note-taking. It's light enough that I can carry it everywhere, the screen works well in the sunlight – a lot of the drawings are made at the park or while my kiddo is at some after-school activity and I'd otherwise just be standing around – and it feels like paper. The downside is that there's no real color options on it, which means that my total inability to draw a straight line is glaringly obvious.Subscribe to get these in your inbox daily
The main reason that I use that tool, though, is the eraser. You flip the pen over and you can erase anything you do. I, like the Oatmeal, used to think erasers were what you use when you make a mistake: they are not. They are just a way to adjust what you've put down on the page. Erasing something isn't good or bad – the zero in today's doodle was made by drawing a black circle and then erasing the middle.
I tend to draw from models rather than my brain: I'll Google an image and then freehand draw it while staring at it, making tweaks along the way. If I'm doing something in color, then I'll copy the image I find from Google, trace an outline using my Wacom pad and Krita (an open-source alternative to Photoshop and other Adobe products that I like more because it's easier to do freehand work), and then hide the image from Google and do the rest on my own.
In terms of time of day, I like working best when I'm left alone. I've always been that way, and I generally find that I can work for 3+ hours at a stretch on my own before I start to run out of gas. This means that I'll work at 5am before anyone is awake, at the park where all the kids ignore me, or in between meetings. This post was actually written and drawn entirely between a couple of morning meetings. I rarely get a full three hours, but that's ok: once I have a concept, it takes me about 30-45 minutes to draw it out, and another 20-30 to write a draft post.
Actually coming up with a new concept every day is what my friend thought was the hard part. While it's true that it's almost always scary to stare at a blank page, that doesn't happen all that often. I'll just pick up my pad and doodle something random from life, like this:
This means that I've got dozens of half-started doodles, and so if I don't have something that really struck me in the last day that I want to write or draw about, I've got a lot of other stuff to go through. I still don't know what I'm going to do with Ted from Accounting, though, beyond this.
I get sent ideas, too (from readers like you – if you subscribe, you can actually just reply to the email I send daily and it'll get to me – and on the socials). Or someone will send me a text that I think is funny, and I'll riff on that. I don't want someone looking over my shoulder while I work, but happy to talk about stuff with like-minded creative folks.
Then, finally, there's coffee. Lots of coffee.