Just. Do. Something.
Shortly after the start date of her Creative Residency, Becky (formerly Murphy) Simpson embarked on a 100-day project called “100 Days of Getting Started.” Seventy nine days in, she’s been creating new illustrations, as a way to nudge her creativity into new areas of inspiration. The project allows her to explore the limits of her visual style and feeds into her overall goal for the residency which is to run her own design business. Becky is now in the last two weeks of her project. I sat down with her to ask her what she’s learned and where she thinks the project will take her next:
Adobe: What state was your career in when you decided to do the 100 Days project? We know you had just begun the Creative Residency but can you tell us more about the way you understood your work or your creativity at that time?
Becky: The 100 Days project served as a sort of structure for the start of my creative residency. I’ve always known that I want to sell my art in some capacity, but first I needed to make the art in order to sell it. Before the residency, I was doing freelance design, working on my book, and running a small Etsy shop. I had to capitalize on my time. So much of the art I made in my free time was created in order to be monetized. 100 Days of Getting Started keeps me creating everyday, but I have the opportunity to simply play and see what comes up. And a lot has.
Adobe: Tell us more about your schedule and work environment while creating these illustrations. Do you begin your day with an illustration or wait until after lunch? Do you play music while you’re drawing? Do you work in your studio or go out to a cafe/co-working space? How long do you dedicate to each illustration?
Becky: I have a studio at home, where I usually work (aside from coffee shops when I need to get out). I often work in batches—I do a lot of illustrating at once. I’ve found that I do the bulk of my drawings when I’m at the airport or on vacation, basically the times I don’t need be working. Then when I’m in work mode, I do a lot of the editing. Lately I’ve found that I like drawing the most at the end of the day before bed—though I’ve learned that it’s smarter to knock it out earlier to ensure it gets done.
Illustrating is more fun when it’s not an obligation. The best stuff comes when there’s no pressure. I used to listen to a lot of music and podcasts, but I’ve been in the zone lately and haven’t been listening to as much of anything. If the music is on, lately it’s been Cat Power or the usual, Balmorhea.
Adobe: What have you learned about your work now that two-thirds of your 100 Days of Getting Started is over?
Becky: I’ve learned a lot. For one thing, it’s okay to just stop drawing. As in, sometimes simple is better. I have a tendency to overcompensate. Sometimes I like the original sketch better than the zillions of edits. It can be more authentic.
I’m also learning about how to share my work in a sustainable way, how to be a better client for myself and how to create new habits that set me up for success. I thought that once I had all day every day to work on my own projects I’d have the time to do all of those “perfect life things” (yoga, walk the dog, breakfast at the table with husband, clean studio, etc.). The reality is—wait for it—I have to make time for those things. We’re all busy. The solution isn’t necessarily working faster or harder, it’s prioritizing.
Adobe: At any point, did you want to quit the project and take up something else? If so, what kept you going forward? If not, what about the project kept you interested in completing it?
Becky: I definitely underestimated how long 100 illustrations would take. It’s no “doodle here and a doodle there.” I thought, “This is so reasonable… I’m going to make MORE than 100! I’m going to under promise and over deliver!” But here’s the thing: Projects always take longer than we think… change that, longer than I think. Catalog this under: Learning Lessons.
I haven’t wanted to quit. I just want to get them done in time. I’ve loved the process. It’s fun for me—remember, this is my dream job. Two things have been helpful in the process: 1) Publicly sharing the process (the idea is that the Internet is going to hold you accountable) and 2) Posting my process on my home page. I’ve seen my progress and it’s given me momentum. I’m excited to add more every week.
Adobe: Since the project title has the words “getting started” in it, I’m imagining that even for someone as motivated as you that it’s not always easy to get started. How was the pace of making work each day and sharing it that same day for you? Did you feel like you getting started all over again each day or was there a progression amongst your illustrations that connected them all together?
Becky: Starting is hard. I was talking to one of my mentors, Erik Natzke, and he said he doesn’t understand this whole “being afraid of the blank canvas” thing. He loves it and embraces it. I haven’t always been the same way but this is shifting my perspective.
It’s helping me learn that there’s a new chance and a new day for every good or bad piece. These are things you know, but you have to experience it to believe. It can be intimidating starting something new. What if it’s bad? What if, now that I have the time to do what I’ve always wanted, I find out that I’m terrible? That’s a scary thing to reconcile. The good news is that the more we create, the better our work becomes. It’s hard to start working out when you’re out of shape. It really is the worst. But you know in your heart of hearts that it’s good for you. Same with making something new every day. Nobody is above it. It’s either difficult or easy, but no matter what it’s good for you.
Adobe: What do you anticipate will come out of these last two weeks of the project? Are you planning any finale like illustrations to end it with a bang? Or are you not planning ahead and just letting the illustrations come to you each day?
Becky: Ha! I just want to finish them. I have many more drawings complete than I’ve posted and I plan to stake out and do a lot more editing during these last few weeks. I’m going to start posting some of my favorites on my Instagram, my blog and in my newsletter.
I’m also going to start mocking some up and actually MAKE products out of the designs. I created these with the intention that some will move forward, some will not and some will inspire entirely new work. I think the only way that I was able to finish any of these illustrations was knowing that the end is not really the end. I can’t wait to see what new life they take on.
Adobe: Thanks for your time Becky! We’re looking forward to following along during your last two weeks on the project.