How to Get Un-Stuck and face that Scary Blank White Paper

Do you ever get stuck staring at a big white canvas? Or maybe it’s that pile of laundry staring at you and you just can’t find the motivation to get moving on it?

3 Favorite Artistic Podcasts

My favorite go-to and also NEVER FAILS to get my butt in gear is listening to something. For some people that’s music. Music works for me only in little bursts. I feel like the only person on earth that actually enjoys silence, so what works for me is listening to people talk - podcasts or youtube vids or audio books from my library! I will even put on a movie and just not watch it.

It helps me Every. Single. Time.

I thought I’d share some of my recent favorites.



I don’t want to overwhelm so those are just a few, but typically, especially youtube can be a rabbit hole. Once you get started, you click on a recommended video and then another and another and soon you’ve found something you never EVER would’ve looked up on your own that’s just amazing.

Actually that’s how I found Art for your Ear. I have NO IDEA why I had not heard or listened to this podcast given how popular it is and how long it’s been running, but I’ve only recently started listening to this one. She has a current summer series going on, that I cannot wait to jump in and join.

Please email me with any podcast you think I HAVE to listen to! (artspreadsjoy at gmail). Until next time!

Personal Challenges + Social Media Accountability

If you are on any social media, you have probably come across a personal challenge or two. Instagram is probably the favorite for creatives. And there are many artist specific personal challenge. The #100dayproject, #inktober, #adventchallenge, and so so many others.

They are popular for two reasons, in my opinion - Personal Artistic Growth + Brand Awareness.


As you work through the challenge, you see ideas come to fruition and that feels good. You see likes and that feels good, too! Those feel-goods keep you accountable and prod you to keep going. When you work consistently as a creative, you see exponential growth. If you compare you work on day 1 to the last day, you will typically see, CLEAR DEFINITE OBSERVABLE PROGRESS! That is a total win! Granted, you get out what you put in. (So don’t go halfway if you want results.)

But it isn’t all feel goods. It is work. Hard work.

At the beginning, you are all hyped on the newness and work with fervor. But a little ways in, you start to lose steam. You run out of ideas! You fear your brain is cooked and your career over before it started!

When you push through that tough spot though, you get new, better ideas. Hurray! That is not to say that you will love all your work. Hardly. Speaking for artists, I don’t know a single one that loves every piece they’ve made.

If nothing else, keep this in mind - Progress not Perfection! Finished, not perfect!

A few other tips to think about BEFORE you start your challenge are:

  1. Make sure to choose a topic you will enjoy, that you really geek out about!  
  2. Have a realistic time limit!
  3. Keep it focused. Boundaries are good!   
Katie Erickson Illustrated Recipes

During the month of January, I focused mainly on cooking healthy and illustrating healthy cooking. I even was able to get a couple recipes up on To Draw and Cook. (A website dedicated to illustrated recipes. Click here to see them!)

I also wanted to practice my hand-lettering, too! Bonus!

I'm working on my next personal challenge. It's not quite tagged yet, but I'm thinking on it!

What are your goals? Is there a personal challenge you can join to keep you accountable? If you'd like to follow along and keep me accountable, check out my Instagram!

a glimpse: My Children's Book Dummy Process

Picture Book process

While you will probably find basic similarities, the quirks of an artist's process are always great fun to see. (Below shows how I created picture book art for Edward Lear's poem, the "Owl and the Pussycat", for fun during a course.)


The very first step of any illustration project brief is to figure out what you are illustrating. In this case, a text, which was then broken into images or spreads.

Katie Erickson

Step two:

My next step is to create lots and lots of lists. I list anything that I will need to draw or figure out, from environment to character and on and on. I also need to start thinking about mood here. This really directs how the rest of the drawings go!


Using the lists I created, I next work on finding the characters. And then, I work on emotions and posing, too!

Katie Erickson Art Character Poses
Katie Erickson Character Emotions

Step four:

I work on refining my thumbnails and page spread ideas to incorporate my character designs. And then refine and refine. I am also trying to pop in little items here and there from my lists.


I am putting cover design here, but honestly, I need to be thinking about this in Step Two as well. I find that the cover really helps me get in the right mindset for progress of the work. In the end, doing the cover work earlier can save me valuable time.


I follow up the cover and spread design with an actual spread colored sample.

Art by Katie Erickson

STEP seven:

Take a step back. Send off to peers/clients for review.

STEP eight:

Work on comments. And now... move on to another project. Rinse and repeat, as some say!

Tools I Use

Here is the thing about artist tools. I often hear/read the questions, "What tools do you use? What is that brand? What pen did you use for that line." I myself used to question these things. 

I've learned though, that tools are pretty meaningless. I mean beautiful art can be created with crayola crayons. And terrible art can be created with the most expensive art supply.

The tool itself really, honestly, truly doesn't matter. Practice does! What you INTEND to do with it is what matters. Did you accomplish it? No, well then keep trying! Yes, well congratulations!

It doesn't/shouldn't maybe even can't look like someone else's art. It should be YOURS.

And it will only be yours when you play with a variety of tools to see what you like and use best. AND/OR work really long at using the one tool you currently own and really MASTER IT. (I'm all about using what you have, by the way. Excess doesn't help anyone, even excess of art supplies. It usually results in overwhelm of options.)

Mastery Mastery Mastery. That's what it comes down to.

Off, my soap box now. Go have fun with the supplies you own! Even if it's your child's watercolors!

by Katie Erickson Favorite Art Tools

Above are some of my favorite art tools! (Certainly not all, though). What are yours?

How to learn anything (when you are busy, are a mom, have a career, etc..)

So you gave in and made a New Years Resolution. You want to learn to draw. Or Cook. Or "be fit". Well, I am going to tell you how you can accomplish this!

I really truly believe that if you have a passion to learn something and work diligently, you can learn to do anything. But as I said, you have to WANT to learn it. Not just think you should learn it. Big difference in my brain. 

So you want to know that not-secret process?

Set aside 20-30 minutes a day. EVERY. DAY.  

Steal Time to do your Art bykatieerickson

I know you don't have time. I do. I don't either. I make time, discover time, even steal time. What I currently do now is get up an hour earlier than the earliest I expect my kids to wake up at. This ensures I have a little bit of quiet before anyone else. And it works. 

When you get up and work on your passion before your day has even started, your passion project CAN NOT be displaced. It's already been worked on, no matter what the day holds.

So what do you do in those 20 minutes?  

Well, during that first 20 minutes, figure out specifically what it is you want to do. Is it learning to draw realistically? Painting abstractly? Baking Bread from scratch? Prepping freezer meals? Getting more phsyically fit?

During the second day, break that one topic down into bite sized bits. Write those things down! 

Some ideas, each get a different day (or week).

If you want to learn to draw:

  • Monday: eyes
  • Tuesday: noses
  • Wednesday: hats
  • Thursday: body shapes... etc.

If you want to learn to cook:

  • Monday: research minimal equipment
  • Tuesday: buy/borrow/barter that equipment
  • Wednesday: find "easy" starter recipes
  • Thursday: chop ingredients
  • Friday: bake it!... etc...

If you want to learn to work out your body:

  • Monday: Pick out an instructor/gym/video
  • Tuesday: set out clothes/equipment,
  • Wednesday:cardio
  • Thursday: arms
  • Friday: legs
  • Saturday: abs... etc...

Now, print out a free printable calendar for this month. You can find them by googling or checking out pinterest, if you want it prettier. Or even, hey make your own! 

Anyways, write out your tasks on each separate day. Then every day, do them! 

A few pointers, before we move on, now that you've thought through the plan. Stop thinking. Seriously, just do. And yes, your first tries at anything will be wonky and messy and not what is in your head. EVERYONE STARTS AT THE BEGINNING. Don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle. 

don't compare katieerickson

Great! You've done your day! The best part? Now, put a big X on it or fill it with a solid color! As you work hard, and continue you will create a beautiful chain. Don't break it! 

As an extra bonus, write something on the last day of the month. A prize. It doesn't need to break the bank. It doesn't even have to cost money, but give yourself something to look forward to. 

At the end of the month, feel great and proud of what you learned and accomplished! Now, go create next months chart! 

And yes, Smarty Pants. This is the same as what I described in Goal Setting as an Artist. Only, I explain it differently. ;)



Stop Comparing in 2017

Hurray! We've made it to 2017! High Five! 

Did you make a New Year's Resolution? I don't really dig those, I prefer setting real goals instead. Whether you did or didn't doesn't really matter though, as long as your resolution or goal is reflection of YOU. 

What do I mean by this? Well, did you decide to start working out this year, because you really want to be healthier and not huff n' puff up the stairs every. single. time? Yeah, you! That is being responsive to your nature. 

What is easy to do, however, is to see Ms. Sally who draws like mad or Mr. Jim over yonder who is crazy fit. And you think, they must have it ALL together. I want to be like them. I want to be them. I am going to get fit. That is being responsive to someone else. And it won't get you anything but heartache and probably injury, too. 

You are at the gym and see Mr. Jim lifting 200 lbs. You look down and see your 5 lb hand weight and think, obviously this isn't going to get me to look like him. I'm going to try that 50 lb weight over there. Yup. You hurt yourself. Your pride is wounded. Your back aches. You are out of working out commission for a few days/weeks. And the longer you can't work out, the more likely it is that you won't go back and keep trying. 

The same is true for anything really. You can't expect to draw picture perfect portraits on the first try. Or probably first year. It takes time and practice. A LOT of practice. 

If you continue to look at Ms. Sally and pine for her talent, you are going no where fast. Instead, think. Yes, one day, I will do THAT, too. But for now, I'm going to start where she started. At the beginning. I am going to START WHERE I AM.

A funny thing happens when you focus on your own path and stop paying attention to all the things others are doing or getting. Or at least not paying much attention to them. You will have more TIME. Even if it's just mental time. As in, you are not internally focused on all the negatives and what you don't have and can't do. 

release negative thoughts art spreads joy katie erickson

Use that time to think about what you do have. What you can do. What your next step is to move you forward with your resolution or goal. 

And now, since you are not spending 3 hours on pinterest or facebook, stalking someone or checking out everyone else's great new thing, you have time to follow through with your own ideas. And I don't think it takes gobs of time every day either to get better and better. (post link)

So, lose the envy. It's taking up valuable head/heart space you could be using for something else. Volunteer for a charity, spend more time with your kids, draw, bake, praying, blog...

If you are really really stuck, it's ok to spend a little time reviewing Ms. Sally's about page so you can see how she got to where she is today. Look at her influences and then learn from those people. Check out Ms. Sally's portfolio and scrutinize it. Try to pinpoint exactly where the envy is coming from. Maybe it's not that she draws super realistically. But maybe it's that she draws lots of cats. You can so draw a cat!

20 min challenge learn anything learn to draw cats

Once, you are thinking about what YOU CAN DO. Do it. And forget about Ms. Sally. Continue drawing cats, though. That's what you really wanted to do anyways. ;)

My Christmas Parade

December art challenges are one of my favorite ways to end the year, and I was trying to figure out why. I have done art challenges before - #the100dayproject #365drawings #inktober etc... But none of them specifically inspired me. I've even done other Christmas specific art challenges #doodleadaydec.

I realized that I really don't love following someone else's prompts unless I really made it my own. And then I felt bad for not following their idea and using their hashtag, so I stopped doing that. And just did my own thing. 

My own thing this December was that I wanted to draw a parade of animals and kids. I was chatting with a friend who gave me the idea of the parade heading toward a tree. Which led me to think about the presents they would bring and the manner of their arrival. It was fun coming up with different characters every day traveling to the same destination.

You can check out my Instagram feed if you want to see them. Some were more successful than others. And some I just downright dislike. I will be removing those soon, so hurry if you care. ;) Anyways, here is the completed Christmas Parade. I hope you enjoy it! 

by Katie Erickson Christmas Parade illo_advent

Bullet Journaling

So, I'm sure that you've heard of bullet journaling by now, but basically it is a flexible year/day planner. You can watch this video here to see how the original creator uses this idea. The beauty of this method is definitely it's flexibility.

I don't actually think that my binder full of thoughts could be considered a bullet journal. I don't use an index or a key. And because I rearrange the pages all the time, it's really just a binder of the thoughts that fly in and out of my brain at any given time.

Katie Erickson Thoughts GIF

When researching bullet journals though (is pinterest research?), I came across these monthly/weekly/yearly trackers. I do a similar thing with my regular calendars. (Trying to keep the chain going as I've mentioned before).

And I love this idea. 

Because my goals are really things that are ongoing, it's handy to have a fun way of organizing them without have to rewrite the task a zillionty times. 


Exactly like how you have to keep working out to stay fit...But you do. I actually really enjoy working out once I am doing it, but you know, sometimes starting something is the hardest thing ever. Even if its a daily habit. But the thing I like best about a bullet journal is keeping tabs on a visual chain! Being able to mark it off in a visual manner keeps me inspired!

Here is a great LIfehacker article about chaining if you've never heard of it, but basically you list all of the things you do daily or weekly or monthly. And then you color them or mark them as they are finished. And you end up with a really visual way (a long chain) of showing yourself what you've completed! Go you. 

Anyways, click on the image below to see what it looks like and/or to download my jpegs for personal use!

Don't forget to add your reward for completing your chain!