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.

Show Love Not Hate by Katie Erickson

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!

For the next few months, starting February 1, I will be focusing on drawing children, kids and kid related things. I am using the hashtag #100kids. It’s short and easy to remember. ;) I’d love to get some work in the educational market and hopefully these will help publishers see that I am quick and capable! Hopefully!

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. 


By the way, why do 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.

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

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. 

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


Goal Setting as an Artist

The end of the year is always a great time to look back. Not to see things you didn't do, but to focus on the things you did.

And 2016 was a huge year for me! I accomplished what I set out to do, and that in itself, is a big deal to me! (Lisa talks about goals here.) In the last post, I talked about a few major mindest changes that have allowed me to move forward with some long time dreams.

So let's talk about those BIG DREAMS I mentioned in the previous post and about the prepwork that had to be done before I could even begin!

I mentioned that in order for me to move forward at all, I had to halt EVERYTHING. Yes, I do mean I simply stopped blogging and promoting and relisting and even painting. Then, I took time off. Ok, I made this sound very smooth and pretty, but really it was all a mess. And it was surprisingly hard to decide to do it. But once I plucked up my courage and stopped, I felt so relieved and content and hopeful. I didn't necessarily stop it all on the same day either, but once I said NO to one thing, it made it easier to say NO and NO NO NO.... kinda snowballing until my extracurricular plate was clear.

But I found the snowball continued. I decluttered my email and my computer files. My closet and then all my house closets. Then even went through the toys and the basement. I have a very large and still growing donation pile. I decluttered for mental space and physical space. And made room for the future in the process.

decluttering equals freedom by katie erickson

I let my daydreams meander. Then, I sat down with a giant piece of paper and wrote out everything that I wanted and dreamed and didn't want. I followed the mind map style, where you put you in the middle and then branch out all these ideas from there. I used a crayon to start with, just so I knew this was just for fun. No seriousness about it. If you are trying this, remember to focus on your OWN goals and not to be responsive to other's successes. (link to compare others post)

As I started really thinking about what I wanted to do. My big dream of joining the kids publishing world really stood out. I had lots of branches from and to this point.

My painting business journey had taught me that I should really start with a good, solid foundation before investing time and energy into something. Otherwise, your path is really really messy. That being said, sometimes a messy path is what you need or where you are at. In either case, start where you are and make plans for the future from THAT point in YOUR life.

Start Where you Are Goal Setting

At some point, I had stumbled across the idea of SMART goals. (Briefly, that means Specific Measurable Actionable Result-based Time-restricted goals.) A solid foundation would need SMART goals. So I worked on them.

I didn't say I want to lose weight and have a portfolio and read my Bible. Those are all nice starting thoughts, but I needed to define my parameters. I wanted to lose 7 pounds. I wanted to have 12 pieces of artwork I was PROUD of on my website. I wanted to read the entire Bible. I wanted to cook 4 home cooked dinners a week. All within 1 year.

The next step was to break these down even smaller into tasks. I have read different ideas of how to pursue the task list. I personally tried breaking them down into 30 minute increments, because I knew I could expect at least that amount of time to do anything. But that list was sooo long and so overwhelming and so monotonous that I would freeze up. 

What worked for me was to separate each goal into projects. The projects could be broken up and organized however the mood struck while I was doing the actual project. (I love to organize, but I also like to change things up a lot!) Plus, some tasks make sense as daily tasks like losing weight. I would workout every week day at lunch or every other day. But when I was trying to approach making a portfolio, I had to take a different route. I had to focus on the bigger question - what work did I want to do exactly? (Kids or families or animals, realistic or stylized, dark or funny or sweet...) Then when I was creating say a family Christmas scene, I would figure out during that project how I wanted to work through it. 

I sometimes listed out things I wanted to draw. Sometimes I just drew. Sometimes I found inspiration from a blog post or pinterest or instagram. Sometimes I used the content of my ecourses to guide me. (Yes, I did take 2 more ecourses after pausing everything, because I just love them). The big common denominator here was that I drew. 

So eventually, I figured out that the way to accomplish my portfolio goal was just to draw and draw and draw. I now have a portfolio of work!

never ending to do list katieerickson

The thing is, every single one of my goals is not something that is finished when it's done. I have to keeping exercising to maintain the weight loss. I have to keep drawing to keep a site I like, and by drawing, I keep improving and so therefore my work (hopefully) keeps getting better. But all of my goals have still been broken down into something manageable.

I know that you can do the same with your goals, too. Feel free to email me with your goals if you get stuck and want help. Or let me know on social media what your goals are!

Next, I'm going to share my loose method of tracking my goals each month. Remember, I'm a mom, so I need a nice flexible system. And I've found one that anyone can use!


How I Became an Artist + Change your Mindset, Change your Business

Have you ever stood on the brink of a new adventure? Counting down the days to this really exciting new thing? You've done the research. Check. Made the plans. Check. Triple checked the lists. Check Check Check. You might still have a few tiddly things to do, but that's ok. You can totally do this!

That is how I feel right now. I realized I need to share this or I'll burst. 2017 will mark the start of something very big and new for me, because I have been working hard on prepare for this ALL of 2016. Do you see what I said there? 2017 is exciting for me, because of THE PREP WORK that took an entire year (and actually more as you'll see below)! To put another way, it takes a sizeable amount of prepwork to realize BIG DREAMS.

And not just any work will do. I have had goals and plans before, but this year was different. I made some big MINDSET changes.  I had been holding onto things that I finally let go of at the beginning of the year. Largely a blog, an etsy shop. a few extra pounds, even guilt. I took my business a whole new direction. It feels so amazing. But that dogged focus did mean saying "no" to some things too. Even good things.

But now I'm rushing things, let me backtrack a bit. See, I think that the prepwork actually started years ago actually.

When I first become a stay at home mom, I was beyond thrilled to end my chapter as an architect and begin the care of my infant. We were blessed to be able to make this transition smoothly, but I had random pockets of time while baby slept to do something. Not housekeeping, please no. So I wondered, where do I find joy if not in having the shiniest floors around?

This was a bit ago, before all the "do what you love" hype. Or at least, I hadn't noticed that yet. Ironically that is what I was tyring to figure out - what I loved doing. (To be clear, see this post. I also believe that you can and should love what you do.) I really latched onto painting. I had only painted a few times, but I remembered enjoying myself. So I started with that. Then, I opened an Etsy shop (that really didn't go anywhere far or fast). I took lots of ecourses. I really worked struggled to be the worlds version of successful and to mimic what I saw all these mommy bloggers doing.


Eventually, very eventually, it occurred to me that that was silly. My version of success is going to have to look differently. My life is my life. Comparing apples to oranges, beginnings to middles to endings, is all a big waste of time. Waste of head space. Waste of heart space. DON'T COMPARE.

don't play the comparison game by katie erickson

Things went a little less bumpy at this piont. I contined to paint. But my painting styles kept changing. And then, painting got more complicated with additional little hands and multiple schedules to maintain. I kept seeing bloggers with kids totally rocking it. It made me feel so stinking behind. Again, I'm not comparing apples to apples.

Everyone's life is so SO different. Sure yes, there are similarites but yes differences too. Some moms have babysitters or use daycare. Some kids play by themselves! and some kids. just. don't. (Yes, insert arguments for mom training here, but that's not for everyone either).

So many variables. And yes, you can and should have balance, but that doesn't mean that everything is equal or consistent or regimented. Kids get sick. Emergencies occur. Meals need to be made or gotten or ordered. Everyone's everything is a little different.

So my point is. I am on my path. You are on yours.

MINDSET CHANGE 2: YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, but it doesn't mean you SHOULD.

I felt guilt. There I said it. I had put all my money into a website, etsy listings, paint supplies, ecourses. I had to break even! I was going to finish what I started, darn it. So I dug my heels in. I didn't want to be a quitter. (Ok yes, I do love taking ecourses to take them and painting to paint, but still it costs!) Again, I was researching "mentors" and "peers" and man, they were SUCCESSFUL. I've just got to put in the time, I thought.

But really - Why invest time into something you don't fully enjoy, when what you are trying to do is find something you enjoy spending your time on. Yes, ok, go ahead and re-read that. :) Are you thinking, duh, here? Yes, again I was doing the comparison game and yes, again it was doing me no favors.  Just because I could drive myself batty doing absolutely everything that this other person is doing, it doesn't mean it's right for me.

I had even realized that selling my paintings didn't make me feel better. I usually got really sad parting with my original paintings.

So I ripped off the bandaid. I did what everyone said NOT TO DO. I just stopped. Everything. I stopped blogging. I stopped painting. I stopped working on my Etsy Shop. I stopped taking ecourses. And it felt so. dang. good.

by Katie Erickson Reading is a Pleasure OK


So I finally figured out how to say NO. After taking a couple weeks OFF. I thought hard and long about what I wanted to say YES to.  I kept circling back around to kids books. I had considered this as an option forever, but kept saying "ya, ok. Later. After..." But now that I released the guilt, this hit me square in the face.

When I said YES to that, so many amazing things happened too. One of these things, was that my husband walked up to me one day and said (totally out of the blue) "I have been looking into getting you the Ipad Pro. You invest so much time and energy on our family and kids, I think we can invest a little money into your dreams." Understand, that I had never said ANYTHING about this or hinted at it even.  

You can and should NO, because it opens you up to huge things to say YES to. I could not have managed any of these goals this year without learning to say NO.

I said NO to facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter, and YES to Instagram, because I love it.  I said NO to my etsy shop (for now). I said Yes to some pricey new equipment. I said NO to reading every book in the library, sigh. I said No to self-coding my website even though I like messing with it all, hurray for outsourcing. I said NO to going it alone, and YES to online friends and crit groups! And now I'm on the edge of YES to moving forward with my adulthood dream of publishing for kids.

I wouldn't have accomplished this without major mindset shifts. I will always be improving as an artist and a businesswoman, but I can do it. I will do it. And so can you. So do it!

NEXT WEEK, I'll post about the nitty grittys of how I made this work.