One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to draw. I absolutely love it, but occasionally I have a problem deciding what I want to draw. I want to just poor my heart out into a good doodle session, but can’t seem to pick up the pencil. (usually when I do it just results in a massively long tapping sound from the pencil smacking up and down on the table. I want to provide valuable content to people who see my illustrations or doodles, but often worry about how to make that connection with people. Have you ever felt like this? Do you find yourself completely drained of any and all inspiration to create, even though you are more than motivated to begin?

In my experience, sometimes just getting started is the highest hurdle I have to jump. When this happens to me, I typically look around and absorb my surroundings. I try and push past the lack of inspiration by drawing on the immediate information that presents itself right in front of my eyes.

Now this could be anything, really. For me, most of the times I find myself in these funky moods is at work. I am the manager of a coffee shop for my day job, and usually between the customers gossiping, or the random objects they track into the shop, there are a ton of inspirational opportunities waiting for me to make eye contact. It doesn’t always have to be anything physical, though. In fact, for me it’s usually something that a customer says in passing conversation that sparks an idea in my head.

For example: This past week, there was a huge wind storm that blew thru Charlotte. I’m talking about massive amounts of debris and leaves littering the streets, fallen tree limb, and more importantly, for this case, power outages.

Now, I live in a small suburb of Charlotte. I’m not technically in downtown (or Uptown, as we call it here) Charlotte, but I am within 15 minutes driving range from the city. People who live in my area are common with how our little bubble works. There are multiple schools, grocery stores, shopping venues, fast food joints, etc. that make it possible for you to never have to leave the bubble. However, when big storms like the one last week pass through and cause power outages, it makes people lose their collective minds. While at work, I’m usually stuck with the phone glued to my ear answering the same two questions: “Do you have power?” and “Do you have wifi?”

This is important to many people in South Charlotte, due to the large number of citizens that work from home. They need their internet, and electricity to recharge their phones, computers, and tablets so that they may get more work done. And hey, as a child of the 90’s I totally get it. We NEED our power, okay?

And just like that, I had found my inspiration for a practice illustration. Power. Everyone can relate to power! So, with that, I started my sketch.

My initial sketches are usually in between the size of a quarter, to a coaster. I try not to stress on getting the idea perfect once it pops into my head, and rather focus on getting it out of my head and onto paper. It is a lot easier to build on an idea once you can visualize it.

I think as artists, we like to believe that we are visual learners and thinkers, but in my case, that doesn’t always mean 1+1=2. It’s one thing to “see” a design in my head, but a completely different thing translating that design to paper. I attribute this to my very busy mind, constantly churning and turning out new ways to improve on the idea, before I’ve fully gotten it out of my head. It’s kind of like your freshmen year in design school, when you couldn’t wait to get on the computer and get designing. Only to later realize, you have no idea where your going, and usually have to go back to the drawing board (literally) to map out your next move.

Once I have a rough sketch on paper, I then move to the computer and begin the vector process.

This illustration is very linear and geometric. It has lots of turns, but are all on a 90° angle, so I decided to use the pen tool. You can get precise lines and make the process move along faster due to each point mirroring the last. But, I knew that I was later going to want to make the line into a power cord that needed to have some thickness to it. You can always adjust the point size of the pen tool, but it gets tricky later on when you want to slice it up with your knife tool.

So, I decided to help myself out by adding in some guidelines and blocks on each corner. I then went from beginning to end and made a long continuous line that ended up connecting in the end. Once I had that all squared away, I was free to play around with slicing it up at each intersection to define shadows.

After a few hours of perfecting those lines and getting the colors just how I wanted them, my illustration was complete.

The beauty of sketching around and creating illustrations in my spare time is that I can perfect my craft, and have fun at the same time. This is just a simple illustration of a mac power cable, but the time and effort I put into it helped me walk away with knowledge, tips and tricks that I didn’t have before. Never underestimate the power of how turning a simple doodle into a full blown illustration can have on you.

As for the pesky problem of how to get started with your creative endeavors, I can only offer you this one piece of solid advice: Stop overthinking, and start sketching. If you screw up, erase, backspace, or delete. Start over! Who’s actually judging you during these times? No one. You’ll be fine. Just pick up your pen and start creating. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!