Recording and Storing Your Ideas on the Fly, or I Guess a Napkin Will Work

It’s not easy to be an eccentric artist when you’re kind of a regular person. There’s laundry to be done and groceries to be bought, and kids to placate and a husband who has Strong Ideas About What We Should Do (which, much to my irritation, all involve bettering ourselves through things like exercise or practicing French, and not falling into Reddit holes). Inspiration can kick in at odd, inconvenient, totally mundane moments, and there isn’t often much time to do anything about it when it does. Sometimes the inspiration is just gone, forever, like warm breath on the winter wind.

My favorite totally inopportune times for inspiration to strike:

  • The middle of the night
  • Standing in line at the grocery store
  • Shuttling the kids to and from various activities
  • Trying really hard to give your attention to someone who is going on and on about something that doesn’t interest you in the slightest

Sometimes I have my act together and can take a moment to jot something down in one of my lightweight doodle pads in my bag. For me, this is ideal–I always strive to have something to write with and something to write on, on my person, always. These are super cheap and lightweight for instance:

No sketchpad, or missing your writing utensil? Maybe you can use your phone. I do have some nicer drawing apps (let’s save those for another post) but you can doodle in the native Notes app on the iPhone in a pinch, just as an example.

Yes, I doodled the word “boop”. I WAS INSPIRED, ALRIGHT?

Some more unorthodox sketching or note-taking ideas:

  • Pen but no paper? Make a note on your hand. Possible more socially acceptable for teens? YMMV. Expect judge-y looks  I guess.
  • Depending on how dirty your vehicle is, you may be able to do some crude finger drawings in the grime. Bonus on this one because if you spend as much time in the car running errands as I do, it’ll be a pretty convenient surface. Record the doodle with your phone for posterity because it might not last until you get home!
  • The blood of your enemies. (This one is a joke, I promise)
  • Leftover spaghetti noodles. Use the sauce for shading!

I also take pictures, beaucoup beaucoup de pictures, of random things that inspire me. Going to the botanical gardens with the kids? Make sure you’ve got enough storage on your phone, because some of those plant textures are out of this world. See an awesome architectural detail you love? Snap it! I like to think this is why I make my husband drive when we’re all together.

Finally, if you’re like me, you waste gobs and gobs of time falling down rabbit holes on the internet instead of doing more productive things. So make it somewhat useful, eh? Screenshot or save any images you like to an “inspiration” file on your hard drive. I LOVE visiting my inspiration file and remembering things that sang to me ages ago. Turns out my tastes haven’t changed to much over the years.

What is your system for transferring your ideas from brain to real world?


Playlist today: Tom Paul. Because checking my notes on my phone reminded me that I wanted to check that dude out some more.

Sketch of the Day: some things I’m playing around with for an alphabet series. (Note to self, figure out a good place to snag pictures of your sketches because ugh. Maybe a blog post for another day.)

Sketch ya later

Artist Kick Start – The First Baby Steps to Launching a Career as an Artist

So here we are, venturing out into a new world as a self-employed artist. In order to do this right, there’s some business we need to take care of, since this is not just a creative adventure, but eventually, hopefully revenue-producing as well.

Now you all should know that I did try this once before, right out of college, with zero business or marketing skills and a lot of really ridiculous notions of how it might all work. I did mostly commissioned portraits in oil.  I think I did several pets and maybe a few people. And it was fun! But it definitely wasn’t lucrative. Eventually I got a real job, which lead to more real jobs, and lots of great experiences.  Now, over a decade later, I find myself in a position to be able to try making the art thing work again, and although my skills are decidedly rusty in this arena, I do have some business and marketing skills.

So  where do we begin? I’ll break down my process as I’m getting started. Without further ado, here are the baby steps I’ve taken to get this thing off the ground.

  1. Research, research, research.  What type of art am I going to market with? Is there a need or want for my product? Who is my target market? Who is my competition? What is my value proposition (speed, quality, price, service, availability, flexibility, customization, etc)? Do I have a legitimate way to monetize your product?
  2. Write up a business plan. Whew, this one kicked my butt. I mean, this is good enough, right?
    – Step 1: Make art
    – Step 2: ?????
    – Step 3: PROFIT
    I kid. There are a ton of resources on how to develop your business plan. I’ll leave this one here: The U.S. Small Business Administration’s guide to writing up your business plan.
  3. Come up with a business name. 
    In my case, I’m using my legal name. I did consider something more catchy and fun, but ultimately I do want to be known as me, so I kept it simple. Otherwise I have a bit of a secondary brand over on Etsy with my Unprimed Canvas shop. Some considerations may be: Is the business name you want available? In my state (Minnesota), you can check via the state’s Business Record Search.
  4. Decide what type of business you want to form.
    There are several types of businesses you can register as: Sole Proprietor, Limited Liability Company, Corporation, Doing Business As (DBA), etc. For my purposes, I’m keeping it simple and starting with a Sole Proprietorship. Later I can change that if it seems like the right idea. (You can find more info on the differences at legal help sites like NOLO or LegalZoom.)
  5. Register a federal tax ID number/employer identification number (EIN).
    This is pretty easy! Go  to the IRS Tax ID (EIN) Application website. You’ll see a few options, and it provides basic info on what you can do with a Tax ID number. It’ll walk you through the steps, and you can either have your information mailed to you or print it off immediately.

6. Use your new EIN to open a business bank account and/or credit card. This is to help you start tracking your business expenses.  And for that matter, you might want to look into expense tracker apps, or at the very least enter and date all your expenses in an Excel spreadsheet and save relevant receipts.  Things like your art supplies, Creative Cloud subscription, website fees, and anything else you spend on your business are things that can be claimed as business expenses on your taxes. (I’m guessing i’ll do a full post about this sometime in the future).

and so on and so forth. There are plenty of other considerations, but this list seemed like a good place to get a solid start.

Et voila, the doodle of the day.