Sunday Mailbag: Tired of Drawing?

September 11th, 2016 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: I was wondering if you ever get tired of drawing. If so, what do you do to stay motivated, other than getting a paycheck šŸ™‚

A: I love my job. I get to draw funny pictures for a living.. what’s not to love?

That said, it is a job, and sometimes you get tired of doing any job. After hours and hours and hours of working on the same project sometimes the last thing I want to do it sit back down at the drawing board and get back to work. Reading books is nice. So is watching a movie. I also like to work out occasionally. No matter how much I enjoy drawing, I do sometimes find it hard to get motivated to work.

What do I do to motivate myself? Nothing. I just suck it up and get back to it. Waiting around for your muse to inspire you is overrated, and frankly is not something a freelancer can afford to let dictate his or her productivity. Deadlines wait for no muse. Using the excuse “I’m not feeling creative right now” with your art director results in long silences on the other end of the phone, and ultimately in no follow up work with that art director and hence a struggle to earn a living. There is an old saying “The Deadline is the Ultimate Inspiration”, and it’s very true. As much as I complain about them, I NEED deadlines to get myself in gear to complete a job. The amount of urgency in an approaching deadline is directly proportional to my “motivation” to keep my nose to the grindstone.

“But what you do is creative,” you say? “How can you force yourself to be creative? Doesn’t your work suffer if you aren’t inspired? Don’t you have to fight “artist’s block” like a writer would?”

Sure. Sometimes nothing seems to be coming out of the end of the pencil or pen like you want it to. However I’ve always found that the pressure of a mounting deadline can really open up the creative valves and get your work humming again. Waiting around for artistic motivation is exactly the opposite of what you should do. Creativity is like a boulder rolling down a hill… you can wait around for that boulder to spontaneously start rolling, or you can roll up your sleeves and start pushing until you get it going yourself. Waiting around to “be inspired” creates feeling of guilt and self-loathing at your unproductive time-wasting, which mentally puts you into further non-creative state. Forcing yourself to get to work, even if it’s just incremental forward movement, generates feelings of accomplishment and puts you into a positive state of mind that fosters creativity rather than suppressing it. This makes your work better, makes you more productive, and bashes down any “artist” blocks. That sounds like bunch of pyschobabble but it is 100% true.Ā  It’s all mental.

Thanks to Jay for the question! If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and Iā€™ll try and answer it here!


  1. Do you use live models or wooden dolls to create you figures or do you work from photographs. I am a great admirer of your work.

  2. Gerry Mooney says:

    Good one Tom. For what it’s worth, I’ve found that if what I’m drawing is not coming out right, can’t get just the right body language, facial expression or background, it’s 99% of the time because I’m hunting for the wrong solution. that’s when I throw out what I’ve done no matter how hard I’ve worked on it, and start fresh.


Sketch o'the Week- Natalia Dyer! @strangerthingstv #strangerthings #nataliadyer @mad.magazine

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