Hello, my friends! I wanted to write a post to properly commemorate hitting a rather cool milestone of 2,000 consecutive days of writing and sketching stuff! It actually happened right on Christmas Day, which made my inner child giggle with glee! Yep, that’s 5 years and 5 months of creating art daily! Also, for those who only read the first bit of my posts, I wanted to let you know that I’m still sketching and writing each day, but I’ve taken a break from posting daily while I focus on creating a new book series concept. I’ll be back soon with new posts as we start the New Year, even if it’s not always posting on a daily basis. This has been, and continues to be, an incredible art journey! And, most importantly, lots of new friends made as well! I never set out to do a 2,000 day project, as that would be quite daunting. But, I’ve proven that if you just start doing something you truly love and keep right on DOing it, it’s rather likely to become a bit of a habit. Your support along the way helped keep me on my path and for that I’ll be forever grateful. Every path is made more incredible when it’s a path you take with friends! And, if you are interested in reading on, I wanted to share more of my story and a few of the things that I’ve learned along the way.
Just Start DOing!
When I first started my blog, it was simply because I’d just discovered the joy of drawing and coloring with watercolor. My husband Philippe brought home a set of watercolors to play with over a holiday weekend in July of 2015. I painted a tree and was so proud of myself, that I even signed it! I was immediately hooked and wanted to DO more and more! I wanted to practice every day and so I started a blog to share my progress along the way and also practice my other love, which is writing. I had no plan whatsoever. No grand idea or concept. Okay, in my heart, I wanted to write and illustrate my own books, but I lacked all of the skills to do so. Instead of making that my primary goal, I focused on simply studying and learning instead. I figured I’d know when I was finally ready to try something that daring. I just knew that I wanted to create a bit of accountability on my part by letting others know that I was starting this journey.
Within the first ten days, still perfectly overwhelmed with enthusiasm, I penned a little manifesto comprised of all DO’s. This was actually in response to the various “DO’s and DON’Ts” that I had seen in painting videos that I was finding online at the time. The ones that were telling me all of the ways I could screw things up. And that both scared me and confused me, since I wasn’t aware that there were rules when it came to art. I always thought one of the joys of being an artist was that you got the gift and opportunity to innovate and invent your own rules! So, I was bound and determined to forge my own path ahead, even if it wasn’t the considered the “right” path or was the same thing that everyone else was doing.
The Early Days
I realized almost immediately that I didn’t want to talk about art supplies in depth or create drawing and painting demonstrations. I was terrified of being on video at the time, and since that time have only appeared in 3 workshop videos and 1 Instagram Live show. Also, once I shared a few posts about the supplies I was using, I got too excited about using the art supplies and wasn’t really paying attention to how I was using them. So, I wasn’t much help there. Indeed, I wasn’t fussing over my technique or style, I was just intent on making things every single day. Well, for the first couple of weeks, and then I simply had to include my friends and family!
Philippe was painting with me in those early days and our friend Aesha as well. All three of us were thrilled to learn more and make things. We called ourselves the “Doodlewash Crew” simply because Aesha had always wanted to be part of a crew. What they were creating was so beautiful and I really wanted to share it as well. So, I started sharing their paintings as “Guest Doodlewashes” on my site in short little posts. This lead to sharing art from other artist friends I made online, which then led to a total of 25 artists (and a blogging award from a friend!) by the end of the second month. Soon after, more artists shared their work and their stories here on Doodlewash and there have now been over 600 artists featured on every continent (yes, even an artist sketching and painting in Antarctica).
And, the beautiful thing about building a community meant that we still ended up with awesome art supply reviews and art tutorials here on Doodlewash. In that first year, Jessica Seacrest approached me because she wanted to try writing reviews, but didn’t want to start her own blog. Then later, Bekki Page and Sandra Strait joined in to write reviews as well. Like everything on Doodlewash, things just happened organically, and we did it together, which makes it all even more amazing!
What Should I Sketch Next?
One of the things I realized early on was that the hardest thing in the world can sometimes be figuring out what to sketch and paint next. By the second month, I started creating monthly themes for myself. I also joined a drawing challenge on Twitter called Drawing August to keep myself motivated. I chose a Tour Of France theme and though I posted the drawings on Twitter, I then colored them with watercolor to post here on Doodlewash. I followed that up with a tour of my hometown of Kansas City and then a peek into some of my favorite little things.
Then, when themes weren’t quite enough, I tried my first month of sketching prompts using those obscure national and international celebration days. That’s when I first discovered the power of painting and drawing prompts and this would soon become my preferred approach. As ever, I started inviting others to join me and the monthly art challenges were born. And, sketching those celebration days made me realize that there wasn’t an official day to celebrate watercolor. Since a day simply wouldn’t be enough, in that anniversary of my first year of sketching stuff, I founded World Watercolor Month in July so we all now have an official annual month to celebrate this most amazing medium! Also, since I wanted it to be a gift to the art community and do a little good in the world at the same time, I creating it as a non-profit that helps get art supplies to underprivileged kids via The Dreaming Zebra Foundation. Thousands of dollars have been raised over the five years of World Watercolor Month so far, and it makes my heart happy to know that we’re helping our future artists grow and thrive.
While I’ve spent over five years following the prompts, my limited time has meant that I couldn’t do the prompts and also create artwork that’s specific to my new book ideas. I should mention, for those of you who don’t know, this is all still a side hobby for me. I have a full-time job as a Creative Director so I have to grab time on the side to keep everything moving forward. But, I was thrilled that along the way I was able to create and illustrate books by simply reimagining the content that I made each day on this very site! This new book idea that I have, however, is a picture book and will require all new illustrations, which is something I’ve not tried yet. A bit scary, to be sure, but I’m excited to give it a go!
So, heading into 2021, I’ll simply be jumping in and trying prompts whenever I can. For the past 8 months, you might have noticed that the prompts are now being supplied by members of our own Doodlewash community. It’s my sincere hope that, as a group, we can keep these monthly challenges going and give others the opportunity to experience the joy, and immense help that prompts provide. And, of course, it’s just super fun to make things together!
Certainly, our entire world today revolves around some sort of online social connections. And for an introvert like me, social media proved to be one of the most comfortable and fun ways to connect with others. I’m super friendly, but I’m still a bit of a shy guy. When I first started this site, my primary connection was with other bloggers on WordPress.com. Indeed, it was this group of fabulous and inspiring people that made this site happen in the first place. Without their connection and support in that first year, I don’t think there would still be a Doodlewash site today, so a huge heap of gratitude and many virtual hugs to you all!
Next came the other social networks that most people know. I had to navigate them and figure out which ones I would use and how I would use them. At the time, Instagram was by far my favorite as these were the old days of chronological posts. It’s funny to talk about the old days of social media, but since I was using it from the very beginning, I watched it shift and change along the way. The beauty of those chronological posts was that I was always seeing the work of my fellow artists in realtime, just like I was making and posting my own work. It created a much stronger connection and sense of community. It felt like we were just there together and not constantly battling a robot algorithm, which seems more like living in a science fiction story. Today on Instagram, at least at the time I’m writing this, if you go to the hashtag for the month and choose “Recent” you can still view what everyone is making in the order they posted it, so that’s still rather cool indeed!
Soon, organic reach started dwindling and the effort involved in posting no longer came with the same level of reward. Though I managed to acquire a following, I was no longer sure who was even following me at times. What once created a wonderful connection, was starting to make me feel sort of lonely again. So, that’s why I created a space for artists to connect right here on Doodlewash. It’s a homemade effort that I made myself so it doesn’t have quite the bells and whistles, but it hopefully provides another option to find and discover fellow artists. It’s called Doodlewash Club because my inner child thinks that a clubhouse for artists is just about the coolest thing in the world!
In truth, I think I was supposed to change how I used social media. I just kept right on posting and then I would always try to sincerely respond to every single comment that anyone made. This is fine when you only get a handful of comments, but soon I was getting lots more. Yet, I figured if somebody was willing to take a moment to say something nice about my work, then I should also take a moment to reply. And truly, that’s the very connection that made me love social media in the first place. Without it, I don’t really see the point. So, instead of changing how I approach my posts, I’m just going to post a bit less when I need more time to work on my other creative projects.
There’s another thing I learned as an artist using social media. People follow you for a specific reason. They expect a certain level of consistency in the type of work that you share. Change is not necessarily celebrated. At least, initially. For example, I sketched stuff from nature, to food, to animals, all with a lot of realism, or faux realism as I liked to call it. But, I was simply practicing and learning how to sketch a lot of things. Something I truly recommend, by the way!
My goal has always been to be an illustrator, and my heroes were all of the illustrators of children’s books from my youth. So, if you’ve been following along, you’ve seen a lot of little critters pop up over the last few months that are more playful and sometimes even wearing clothes. This shift wasn’t welcomed by some of my audience, and I lost some folks along the way, but I also gained many new folks in the process!
All this to say that as an artist, we should always be growing and changing just like all of the artists who came before us. Even if something that we are doing grows popular, if our hearts are craving something new and different, we should always follow our hearts no matter what. I’ve learned that when it comes to art, I’m not sharing a technique or an approach, I’m sharing my ideas, hopes, and dreams. As those morph and change, it changes the type of work that I produce. And that’s an awesome thing! Never be afraid to share your heart. In the end, even if it produces something very different from what your audience expects from you, they’ll grow to love it simply because you do! Make what you love most and there will always be people out there who will love it just as much!
While I realize that changing my own approach to posting is a rather big change, I’m excited for all of the new things I’ll be able to DO next. I was known as that guy who showed up every single day and shared what he made. And I did that for 2,000 days! I love that it’s part of my legacy and I hope it’s inspired you along the way as well. Not simply my pictures, but also the words that I’ve shared. For the record, I’ve written over one million words on this blog, which is the equivalent of about 16 and half novels! So, if you’ve missed some of my stories, I hope you’ll go back to the beginning and check them out! Even if I’m just talking about what happened that day, it’s truly evergreen content meant to inspire you on any day of your own life and creative path.
As I move forward into the great unknown of pursuing my lifelong dream, I hope that as I return and share bits of this new journey, it will be equally inspiring. May you always listen to your inner child and chase even the craziest of your dreams as well. Trust me when I say, it’s always worth it! And for those of you who’ve followed along with me each day, I can’t thank you enough. You inspired me more than you’ll ever know. Though I tend to write a lot of words, sometimes there just aren’t words to express the level of gratitude I feel. I love you very much! And, I DO hope you’ll join me on this new adventure. Wherever this road leads, I’ve learned that anything is possible when you have lots of child-like imagination, heaps of hope, and good friends.Recommended6 recommendationsPublished in