The Ugly Truth About Making Art for A Living

Before I dive into the actual post, I want to thank everyone who entered my giveaway!  The winner was @jes.turco on Instagram!  She is a fantastic artist herself, so go check her out!

I consider the readers of this blog to be like close friends, so I have to be honest with you.  Sorry if things get a little “too real.”

I have been in a pretty nasty rut creatively… since around April.  It’s the main reason I took such a long hiatus from writing, and it’s also why I’m having such a hard time sticking to a schedule.  It even factored into why I didn’t participate in Inktober, which you can read about in my last post

Basically, I’ve had too much to do, and the idea of doing it all was overwhelming.  So to combat that, I did next to nothing.  Very little commissions, very little design work, and very little writing.  I tried venturing into other tasks like interior design and refurbishing, and I’ve been having a blast with it, but my artistic tasks began looming, festering even.  Remember being a child and doing absolutely everything in your power to put off homework, but the fact that you had to do it still haunted you?  That’s how I felt, but about the things I love the most. I have had a painting I’ve been needing to get done for SEVEN months that is not finished yet, because it was so daunting and I had so many other life situations happening around me I couldn’t possibly work on it.

As I’m sure you’re aware, painting and design is my passion.  Having these things turn into a chore sent me into a bit of a depression, and I’ve been feeling sorry for myself instead of actively working towards my goals. Honestly, there’s no other way to put it other than it sucked.  It sucked for months on end.

The past few days, I had to slap myself back into reality.  Why am I sitting around and watching my life pass by me without doing what I love?  Why am I letting things get so out of control instead of sitting down and working when I know it’ll make me feel worlds better?

That painting that I’ve needed to do for seven months?  I finally got the outline done.  The hard part is over.  All that’s left to do is paint it, and it’ll be ready in time for Christmas.  

Oh, did I mention this painting is 24” x 48”?  It takes up my entire table.  You can see why I was so intimidated.

This whole debacle of not wanting to paint has been a result of not taking the time to make any art for myself that I enjoy, so what I’ve learned from this is it’s important to take a break, but make sure you’re actually healing during that break.  Do what you love, then come back to your work stronger.  I’m literally going to spend tonight drawing something I enjoy for myself and then working on commissions.

Speaking of Christmas

I’m officially opening up Christmas commissions!  Get your order in by December 1st for it to be ready in time for the holiday!  I know, this isn’t a lot of notice, but I’m just now getting back on my feet.  As of today, I have four slots left for Christmas commissions.  To order a custom painting, email and we’ll work it out together!

In other news…

I have a big secret to share with you.  I’m only announcing it here on the blog until I’m ready to publish it all, but it’s something I’ve been working on for the past week or so that I’m really excited about.

I’m going to be splitting my brand into two.  Up until now I have kept my design work and my traditional art together on the same formats as a means to show myself as a whole person, rather than showing the two aspects of my art. However, I’ve always felt they’re relatively segregated, and although they’re both forms of art technically… they’re completely different.  I have different target audiences, different styles, and different goals.

I’m not even entirely sure how I’ll be going about this yet.  But I’ve been toying around with logo ideas for my design work.  Here is my unofficial first attempt:

And since I focus so much on critique in this blog, I’d love your opinion!  Looking at this right now, I’m already seeing things I’m going to change, but it’s good to have other eyes on your work.  Send your critique to  Just please, don’t be too brutal!  I’ve been more sensitive than usual lately, you know.

More about Design

Not having done Inktober made me feel pretty garbage, so I’ve been doing the Daily Logo Challenge instead.  When I’m done rebranding, I’ll publish them all, but until then I’ll show you the first one.  The prompt was Rocket Ship:

You can find the prompts at, take the challenge for yourself!  I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Rebranding should hopefully all be finalized by New Years!  New business cards, new social media, and one streamlined image for each business.  It feels like I’m constantly changing my image and my business, but that’s human nature, right?  We are always evolving, attempting to better ourselves.  I hope you do something to better yourself too.  Wish me luck!

My Plight about Inktober, and Why I Love it Anyway

Note: Please read until the end of the blog post to find out how you can enter in my very first giveaway!

Spooooooooky season is upon us 🎃

Every year I get extremely excited for this month.  When that list comes out around September, I start sketching out ideas for what I’m going to do and jotting concepts down in my phone notes when they come to me in the middle of the night.  I prep to the absolute best of my ability and always tell myself, “this will be the year that I’ll get it together and actually finish Inktober.”

And then October first comes, and reality kicks in.

I don’t really know what it is or why it happens to me.  It’s like I have this mental block.  Something always comes up, or I get into a thought loop.  Whatever the reason, I never start on time.

I have a complicated relationship with Inktober.  Prompts like the ones given for Inktober are my favorite: they’re actually thought provoking.  They’re simple one-word prompts that can be twisted any way you like.  Some are inherently spooky, which I love, but some are more standard and require a bit more thought to give them the creepy-crawly October feel.  That is, if you’re even going for a spooky feeling.  Maybe you’re not.  It doesn’t matter, because Inktober can really be anything you want it to be.

Because of that, I always overcomplicate it in my brain.  I have a tendency to do things as extreme as I possibly can.  That means well-thought out images for every one of them, displaying excellent craftsmanship that take hours each.  That simply is not feasible for anyone.   The anticipation becomes less exciting and more daunting, like a chore.  I tell myself I have to do these all to the best of my ability, because I don’t allow myself mediocrity.  So I put it off, and nothing gets done.

See, I recognize that Inktober can (and probably should) be just a 15-minute exercise to do daily.  It can be really fun, in fact that’s the whole point.  Fun.  I also strongly suggest to any artist, especially those still learning their craft, to draw for 15 minutes every day, and Inktober is just a means of receiving prompts for that time.

Still, I freeze up every October, and I stall in every aspect of my art.  Paintings, commissions, sketches, design.  It all comes to a halt.

I can’t be alone in feeling this way, can I?  Where I get so trapped inside my own head that Inktober becomes just another chore on the to-do list?  After a long day of work, I simply don’t want to do it.  I want to go to bed or watch Yu Yu Hakusho… and then go to bed.

I don’t want to go the entire month without starting a single thing, though.  I did that last year, and I felt like garbage.  I decided to turn this around, one small step at a time.  I started small, just the first prompt: “Ring.”  I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

And I thought, eh it’s okay.  I wouldn’t put it out for the world to see, (exactly what I’m doing now.) 

So I made it over again, but this time digitally.

This was when I realized I was

A) being counter productive

B) not even using ink

C) probably better off the first time because it took me a lot less time and looked to be about the same quality.

Panic ensued, as it does.  Small issues feel life-altering when you realize you’re not as great at your craft as you thought you were.  So I rushed into day two: “Mindless.”

Does she look like Lana Del Ray to you? She was not the model but I can’t stop thinking that.

Rushed is the magic word here.  These lines are SLOPPY.  I fixed it up digitally to look more how I wanted it to originally, but again, this might be considered cheating, and at the end of the day I’m still disappointed.

Does it really matter if Inktober’s only real rule is to have fun?  Am I having fun yet? *eye twitch*

This one is okay at best.  I might redo it someday when I have a clearer mind.  Pun intended.

I made a reference photo for day 3, but I actually loved it too much to ruin it, so I’m saving this for a larger piece:

(I personally hate censorship, but I’m not about to get reported, considering it’s a photograph.)

Obviously at this point nothing matters, so I skipped “Freeze” and went right to “Build.”

Believe it or not, I’m happy with this one!  And it only took me about 30 minutes!  

He reminds me of two other things I’ve made before, a different tortoise I’d created about a year ago for a friend, and the Namazu logo I created for a class:

Maybe things will be atrocious again tomorrow when I attempt to draw what I have planned for “freeze” and “husky,” but this was a huge confidence boost.  The wise ancient tortoise has cultivated civilization itself on his back, and he is a funky mister.

I guess I’m starting to understand my relationship with Inktober?  I’m tired of feeling like it’s another responsibility, so I’m breaking my chain to it, and I’m only going to do the ones I feel like, when I feel like it.  Maybe I’ll hold onto these prompts and do them in the middle of January when I want to create a painting for myself after the Christmas rush.  You can’t control me.

Anyway, I still LOVE seeing other people’s Inktober work.  I asked the void of Facebook if I could see some of their Inktober art, and here’s what I was blessed to see:

This is a Badger girl named Bug, created by Lotti Sidwell.  I LOVE this, because I’m pretty sure Lotti was actually using one of the multiple Inktober sheets that isn’t the traditional one!  So many people put out their own lists, and it’s so exciting to see how people love to take this month as an excuse to make art and show it to the world.

This is a very handsome frog, created by Hail O’Donnell.  This drawing isn’t even inked, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Inktober has NO RULES.  (I just hold myself to ridiculously high standards and then I panic when I can’t even fulfill the baseline standard because I got too overwhelmed.)

Finally, this drawing is done by Joey Thorpe.

So if you didn’t already know, I live with Joey.  Joey has been kicking butt this month, and I’m outrageously proud of him.  He has consistently been churning out awesome inktober work, and hasn’t dropped the ball at all.  I’m actually a little jealous, but in the healthy way that motivates me to do better.

Last post, I asked you to draw or paint something you care about.  Create something that means a lot to you.  Now my absolute ANGEL of a friend Josie White took this opportunity to recreate…

Me.  I cried.  I’m so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life.

This time, I would love to see more of your Inktober work. If you have any art that you would like to share, please send in your art to and it might just get featured in the blog.

Normally, this would be the point where I stop writing and go about my day, but we’re not done just yet!  I have something really exciting to announce.

I am currently halfway through my first giveaway!  

You get to choose your prize!  As the winner, you have the choice between:

  • A one-hour 1 on 1 lesson in drawing or watercolor painting
  • 50% off a pet portrait painting
  • a signed FREE art print

Here’s what you need to do in order to win:

  • Follow @biancamartinart on either Facebook or Instagram.  You can technically enter twice if you have both accounts!
  • Scroll down and like the original post that has these images in it.  
  • Tag a friend in the comments of the original post

Share the giveaway on Facebook for an extra entry!  Good luck, the giveaway will be closing on October 26th at noon, and the winner will be announced on Halloween. 🎃

Welcome Back!

What an absolutely beautifully, wonderful summer it has been.  I have experienced so much personal growth and success these past few months, and I feel incredibly blessed.  I am surrounded by such wonderful people and so much support.


In May, I drove all the way down to Poughkeepsie to partake in First Friday.  The drive there was pretty ridiculous, having had a bit of a family incident the day before, but I was determined to participate, nonetheless.  I met up with Corene Concepcion-Rivera, owner of BGWArtC, LLC.  BGWArtC, LLC is a creative arts firm specializing in performance art services, curation, and project management based in Poughkeepsie, so when Corene asked me to take part in First Friday as a live painter, I was stoked!  

Poughkeepsie is nothing like I expected it to be; coming from the northern part of Upstate New York, I consider anything below Albany to be downstate, but seeing the trees, mountains, and people there, I had come to realize it really does feel a bit like home.  (I actually prefer it to Albany a lot, but don’t tell Albany that.)

The event itself was wonderful.  First off, the amount of people walking their dogs was enough to make anyone squeal.  I love dogs, and making art while I get to look at dogs is really the best combination there is.  Painting beneath the tent was so fun!  We had a group painting for the community to paint an Alebrije, and I also worked on my own solo art.

This was such a wonderful experience, and it gave me the knowledge I needed in order to know what to do the next time I decide to be a vendor for an event.  Thank you again to Corene and BGWArtC, LLC for the invitation!

Check out BGWArtC, LLC at

(PS, I still haven’t finished that painting.  It’s on the to-do list.)


Towards the middle of the month, I also took a visit to Great Barrington with my boyfriend to visit our friend Ashley, AKA Miss Expanding Universe.  

Ashley is the type of person you come across once in a lifetime.  She is so masterfully creative, and unabashedly herself.  Her work is witty and thought-provoking, and yet you can see how authentic it is.  She isn’t trying to impress anyone; she isn’t trying to be anything at all.  She just is.  I absolutely adore her.

The first time we met her, she painted Joey with his tongue sticking out because she thought it represented him well.  It did.

This visit though, she introduced us to Uncle Fingers, and the four of us partook in a writing exercise where we free-wrote whatever was on our mind for fifteen minutes.  Don’t let the fear of what you write being bad stop you, just write.  It was actually a great exercise!  Joey doesn’t consider himself a writer as much as I do, but we both agree it was a wonderful way to get the creative juices flowing.  I strongly recommend this for every artist; you never know what kind of thoughts it might inspire.  This same experiment would work well for drawing, too.  Just sit and draw for fifteen minutes without fearing judgement.  Something cool might happen!

Please, take the time to check out Ashley’s work.  She is such an interesting creator and I love her.  You can see her website here:

You can also see her doing Jane Fonda’s 1982 Original Workout here:


In the last days of May, Joey and I finished up packing our things and moved from Albany further upstate back to my hometown.  City life simply is not for us, and we’ve both found more success with our art being surrounded by nature and a small community.  Moving and settling in took up most of the month, but we spent our free time drawing together.  He has recently kickstarted his own business with art, so I strongly suggest you check out his website at

(If you want to see something really cool, hit refresh on his website and the background image will change.  I’m pretty proud of it.)

His work really speaks for itself, but here’s what he has to say about it:

“In my work I use symbolism from various facets of human culture to glorify and revere the parts of the human body that allow for the phenomenon of life and consciousness.”

This is one of my favorite paintings of his, entitled “Self Dialogue.”  

If you want to get your own Joey Thorpe original, now is actually the perfect time!  You can get your own original sketch starting at $60.


We started to settle in around this time, and this is when I began preparing for the county fair!  Fair season is one of my favorite times of the year; I love seeing all the animals and watching the community come together to celebrate good harvest and artisan works.  Working two jobs at this point, plus commissions PLUS leisure paintings, I really put my nose to the grind stone this month.  I had to be prepared, there was no way I was missing out on entering my work into the fair!

Here are three of the paintings I created in July, all of which I will discuss in further detail in the near future!

In the meantime, I was also working at my local college setting up the design and photography labs for the upcoming Spring semester, which is currently in session.  This place was a disaster, but it all came together in the end.  

(Pic credits all to April Strong, who was smarter than me because she actually documented this entire endeavor.  She has her own blog too, which is a wonderful asset to those struggling with mental health.  Check her out at )

This is less significant information, but I also painted one of the walls in my kitchen with chalkboard paint, which has proven to be AWESOME!  It’s so cute, we can quickly write notes or doodles, and I just love the way it looks.


By the time August came around, I still had a few more pieces of art I wanted to make for the fair.  “Sir Stool the Toad” is one of my favorite paintings to date, and I’m so glad I made him. 

I took this month to basically completely revamp my portfolio; going back into things I’ve already created and tweaking them slightly so they’re more refined.  Take a look!  I’m especially proud of what I did to this piece:

You might notice that my whole site has a bit of a facelift.  There’s an actual home page now!

I dyed my hair purple, and as you can see the dye lasted just as long on my fingers as it did in my hair.  

I also stained my carpet.  Oops.


The fair occurred at the end of August, and I had a blast.  I brought some close friends, and we all held baby chicks and played with goats.

The most exciting part though, was checking out all the art entered in the fair.  I am super thrilled to announce that I not only won Best in Show in the painting section, but the drawing section as well!  I had won both Fine Art sections!


September has passed by so quickly!  I got a really short haircut! Elle Salon opened up at the beginning of the month, and I love supporting new businesses, so I chopped off all my hair again, and I couldn’t be more happy with the results! My hair is normally very curly, so she did a great job. I’ll post a before and after.

I don’t know how to pose any other way, apparently, but go ahead and check Elle Salon out at or


My favorite piece of art this month was a set of coasters for a client based off my original painting of the chicken on a wood panel. I had SO much fun making all of these feel individual, yet a clear set!

I also shot a set of senior pictures for my sister-in-law, Kailey.  She is so beautiful, look at her!  

I created a couple of price sheets for some of the services I offer which will be posted in the near future, and I’ve set up an online calendar to schedule appointments.  Now it’s easier to commission me, or set up an appointment for a photoshoot or critique session.  To book an appointment, go to this site:

It has been such a crazy, wonderful summer!  I took this time to really grow and create without worrying about too many commissions.  I’m happy to be back, though this time I will be writing twice a month rather than weekly.  Critique week will also be four times a year, so if you are interested in getting your work critiqued more immediately, you can make an appointment!

Thank you all for coming back and reading!  I have missed you all so much.  Let’s start off on the right foot with a prompt!  Draw or paint something you care about.  Create something that means a lot to you.  If you have any art that you would like to share, please send in your art to and it might just get featured in the blog.

See you in two weeks!

About the Absence

Sorry for the inactivity, everyone! Things have been really hectic over here.

This isn’t an actual “blog post,” per se, so much as an update.

I’m currently in the process of moving, and have recently had a few things pop up. There have also been planned events, but they take time out of my day nonetheless, positive and negative alike. For example, my boyfriend Joey graduated with his Bachelors in Fine Art this morning.

Leaving the blog to focus on life for a few weeks has been absolutely looming over me, and I wanted to be as transparent with you all as possible.

I have a lot of fun updates to share in the near future, like my awesome adventure in Poughkeepsie at First Friday! Thank you again to Corene of BGW ArtC, LLC for hosting my trip.

I will be taking the summer off to focus on creating and building my life back up, and I can’t wait to write all about what happens in the meantime. Until then, keep making art! I can’t wait to see what you make.

Aspiring Artists Don’t Exist, Artists Do.

Hey everyone!  How was your week?  For me, it’s felt like an absolute blur.  It’s been so full of excitement that I haven’t been able to keep track.  I have some really exciting news! 

I will be creating a live painting next Friday (May 3rd) in Poughkeepsie for the First Friday event. Beyond that, I’m planning a semi-mural that the people of Poughkeepsie get to fill in!  This month’s event is Cinco de Mayo, including yummy food and live music.  If you’re in the downstate area, it would mean the world to me if I could meet you there! Come talk to me!  For more information, you can go to this link: http://firstfridaypk.comor check out their Facebook page:

This is a huge opportunity for me, and I can’t thank the people involved enough for reaching out to me. (Shoutout to Corene!)

Of course, this takes place on a Friday night, so next week’s Friday post will still be a critique week. If you are interested in having your artwork critiqued for next week, please send it over to as soon as possible!  

I want to have a heart-to-heart this week.  Between rebranding, this huge opportunity in Poughkeepsie, finals, work, and trying to keep up with the house chores, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed.  And by a bit, I mean about three hours prior to writing this, I had a full-on meltdown in the form of realizing that Bulbasaur, my favorite lil Pokemon, is not real.  I mean I was ugly crying for a solid twenty minutes and my boyfriend Joey had to squirt Hershey’s chocolate syrup in my mouth to calm me down.  It was really a disgusting display.

Look at this sleeping face and tell me you don’t want to protect it.

It’s just one of those weeks.

But something that I have to keep in mind is that the reason I’m under such immense stress is because I’m moving forward in my life.  I’m headed in the right direction.  I have an awesome job that I’m in love with, and I haven’t lost my art, either.  Finals are stressful because it’s the time of the semester where you have to prove everything you’ve learned over the past 14 weeks, and I can definitely say I’ve learned a lot.

That being said, if you had told me I would be in this position five years ago, I would’ve laughed at you. I didn’t think I’d be going anywhere with art.  At that point, I was still convinced I would be going to school for engineering, despite not even having a full grasp of what engineering is.  I still don’t.  I’m from a family of engineers and I’m confused as to what they do for a living, but I digress.

I had considered myself an “aspiring artist,” rather than anartist.  I wasn’t taking myself fully seriously.  I didn’t want to put the full label on it, because I thought you had to be a certain level of skill or popularity with your art in order to be an actual artist.

I realize that a lot of people feel this way.  They think, if they’re not famous, they’re only an aspiring artist.  If it’s a hobby, they’re only an aspiring artist.

I’m here to tell you there’s no such thing.  If you consider yourself an aspiring artist, stop.  You’re an artist.  It doesn’t matter what skill level you’re at, or how many followers you have.  Do you make art?  Cool.  You’re an artist.

 You deserve to give yourself the respect of the title.  When you treat yourself seriously, others will treat you and your art seriously as well.

With that being said, you don’t need to be taken seriously to be an artist.  The only requirement is literallythat you make art.

It’s not an elitist club. If it is, the only other requirement is that you accidentally drink paint water instead of actual water.  (If you haven’t done it yet, you will.)

The moment that I treated myself as an artist, my entire focus shifted.  I was making art day in and day out; I was sketching more, planning larger pieces, and I even made an Instagram for my work.  Those baby steps lead me to where I am today: a published artist, about to have a blast creating a mural and doing a live painting in Poughkeepsie.

Don’t downplay the baby steps, and don’t downplay yourself.

So to reiterate…

Requirements for being an artist:

  1. Spending a lot of time on your art
  2. Making lots of art throughout your life
  3. Making high quality art, or having any talent or skill at all for that matter
  4. Making money off of your art
  5. Having lots of followers for your art
  6. Making art
  7. Drinking the paint water

Guardian: Watercolor | Process

Surprise Monday night post!

I just about finished rebranding this week!  I’m really excited about this, because I created a piece that’s entirely new to go on my business cards that I would like to talk about:

So, Happy Late Easter to those who celebrated! I’m breaking the Friday schedule to show you all a new painting, and how I used the holiday’s decor to help me.

Guardian, 12×18 watercolor painting, © 2019

The prep work for this piece took about two hours and the actual painting from sketch to painting to outlining to digital tweaks took four hours, rounding to a total of six hours.

Planning for this piece began with an idea.  I knew I wanted to paint something ethereal involving a glowing deer.  Then I made a sketch.  At that point, it was around 3 am at night and all I had on me was my phone, so I made a sketch with my finger in the notes section.  See, no excuses to not sketch!

It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to get the basic idea across so you don’t forget what you want to paint for later.

After that, it was a matter of finding reference photos.  The forest was easy, as there’s lots of wonderful free references of forests on  

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

I took all my elements and pieced them together in Photoshop, but once I did so I realized there was something horribly off. 

I really wasn’t a fan of the bunny I had grabbed; the way his ears bent down made him look gloomy.  It felt as if he was looking at the deer with a heavy heart, expecting impending doom.

However, no matter what I did, I could NOT find an image of a rabbit from behind that worked for me.  I wanted a bunny on alert, but all the pictures of bunnies on their hind legs were from the front.  There were hardly any pictures of bunnies from behind as it was.

That’s when I realized: Easter was only a few days away, and I was within walking distance to a mall with multiple department stores FILLED with ugly decorations of Peter Cotton Tail.  At my first store, I found this weird candle holder, turned it around, and got the perfect reference!

I flipped it vertically so his sight was in line with the deer, and viola, I had all the elements I needed to make this happen.

If you like this painting, you can buy a print of it here: 

Finding Inspiration: Unclogging Your Art Blockage

Hey everyone!  How was the last two weeks?  Sorry for the unexpected break, I had something pop up that put all of my art and work in general on hold for a while.  Sometimes life just gets in the way, and sometimes it’s important to take a step back.  And then when you’re ready to come back, you can do so much stronger.  A reemergence, if you will.

I feel rejuvenated in my artwork, currently.  I took a small break, got all my ducks in a row, and now I feel stronger as an individual as well as an artist.  I’m also going to re-start up my Instagram, as it’s been completely stagnant.  I haven’t posted in months, and before then I hadn’t posted in even more months.  It just stopped clicking for me, I suppose.  But now I’m ready to come back to it, and keep you posted in multiple areas. Exciting things are coming soon, I promise.

Two weeks ago, we had discussed the importance of references, and I had given the prompt: Take two or more images, one that you took on your own and one that you found on any of the websites listed above, and create a unique image.   

I received a gorgeous drawing by Josie White, who has been a supporter of the blog since the beginning. (Thanks again, Josie! You keep me doing what I do!)

She mashed together this reference (left) and created this graphite drawing (right.)

Josie, this looks incredible!  You really paid attention to the composition of the piece, balancing the figure in front with the tree in the background.  Nice use of perspective, too!

I myself made something for this prompt!  It felt SO GOOD to let myself escape into a piece of art that I cared about.  This is a 12×12 (or around that, I didn’t actually measure, whoops!) pastel painting entitled “Echinacea.”

It still needs a few touch ups before I fully abandon it, but I’m really happy with where I am with it. I hope you feel satisfied with your work, too.

But we can’t always be happy with our work, can we? I suppose that’s up for you to decide on your own. Maybe it’s something we master with time.

However, no matter how long you’ve been creating art, we still run into hurdles.

The Hurdle

Picture this scenario: You get all your supplies set up, you have your paper or canvas primed and ready to go, and you’re super excited to make something great.  You FINALLY penciled in the time to do this, and you’ve gained the courage to let whatever happens to happen.  Then it hits you:  you don’t know what you actually want to draw.

You start scrolling through Facebook instead.

This is one of the most frustrating things to happen to an artist, and I’ll be honest, it happens to just about all of us.  It’s not just drawing or painting either, this often happens to writers as well. Heck, it can even happen when you’re cooking. Just about everyone can find this relatable in their own way.

The dreaded artist block.

Fear not, though. There’s actually a bunch of different ways to combat this!  Let’s go through them step by step.

1) Draw What’s Around You

It might not be the most exciting tip, but it can build your artistic skills.  Drawing from life is the best way to learn about form, perspective, and space.  Pick an interesting object and go wild.  From there, if you wish to expand into something greater, awesome!  Take that drawing you just did of your stuffed animal Bulbasaur and create a world around him.  Maybe it’ll inspire you to draw a series of Pokémon, who knows?

2. Search Through Sites Like and Draw What Interests You.

You don’t have to reinvent the image, just draw what you see.  If you start to get ideas from there, great!  You can use them in future drawings.

For a comprehensive list of where to find awesome royalty free reference photos, check out my last post.

3. Look at Pinterest or Behance for Inspiration

These sites are chock full of art for you to explore.  While I definitely advise against copying another person’s art, you can get the basic ideas and use them for yourself.  Maybe you like their colors, or brushstrokes.  Maybe you’re into an artists’ use of symbols, or maybe you like their composition.

4. Look at Your Favorite Artists’ Work for Inspiration

You might not have a favorite artist yet, but if you do, it might be useful for you to look at their work. What exactly do you like about it? Do you like their subject matter, their style, their use of color or shape?  My favorite artists are Marjorie Miller, Arthur Rackham, Gustave Dore, Caitlin Hackett, and Agnes Cecile.

5. Meditate

This one might sound goofy, but if you’re a person who meditates like myself, you might understand why this works so well.  When I meditate, I give up all of my thoughts and let my mind do its thing on its own. Sometimes wonderful things occur; I might see a beautiful landscape, or I might see a creature, just begging to be created.  I might see a human figure in an interesting pose.  Who knows what’ll happen!

6. Just Start Creating Shapes on the Page

Let your hand do the work for you and let your mind go limp. You’d be surprised what you might be able to see, and make something out of that.  Alternatively, you can look at a thick texture like popcorn ceiling or wood grain and try to make out objects in those shapes.  (If you’re in a real bind, squeeze your eyes super tight until you start seeing shapes. Just don’t damage yourself.) Draw that!

7. Read a Book or a Poem

Fall in love with a character.  Pay attention to their quirks. Draw them, or make your own character for within the book. If character development isn’t in the forefront, what types of imagery does the writing inspire?  What do you see in your mind when you’re reading?

8. Watch a Show or a Movie

Similar to reading, get engrossed in it and get excited.  Media can impact us in more ways than one.  If you like the visuals, you might want to create something based off that, or maybe you’ll want to make something entirely your own but based off the colors they used.

9. Look at Prompts Online or in a Book

This might seem like a no-brainer, but a list of prompts can be exactly what you need.  Prompts can be as simple as “draw a paper clip” or they can be as abstract as “draw your mood.”  With either one, you can really go all out.  Let your creativity take over and make something unique!

Here’s a prompts website for you to try out:

10. Figure Studies

If you have a friend who is willing to stand and model for you, this can be a really fun exercise. Have them take a unique pose, and draw it.  Time your drawings.  Start off quick: get the gesture of their figure in 15 seconds.  Work your way up.  If your first drawing is 15 seconds, make your next one 30 seconds.  A minute.  5 minutes.  10 minutes. 30 minutes.

If you don’t have someone to model for you, you can check out this website , filled with unique poses.  You might even want to use one of these images as a reference for a larger piece.

So What Will You Try?

Not every method is going to work for every person.  Based upon reading this, you might already know what will work best for you.  You might have to try them all.  That’s okay!  I can tell you what works for me and what doesn’t: I do best when I search Pinterest, search through old fairy tale illustrations, or search through reference photo sites.  I actually keep a huge folder filled with references that I can paint at any point if I run out of ideas.  I also like to meditate and see what interesting figures happen in my brain. Making shapes out of the paper is by far the hardest method for me to create art.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is to NOT stop drawing.  When you get out of the habit, it’s harder to get into the swing of the process.  When you’re working on one drawing, you might get the idea to make something even better for your next work of art!  This is one of the best feelings in the world.

This is also why you should keep a sketchbook with you at all times.  Have you ever had a great idea and then lost it fifteen minutes later and you were mad for the rest of the day?  Having a sketchbook and being able to jot notes and ideas down can alleviate that.  Jot down every thought about art you have.  “What if I did (blank)?”  Refer back to your sketchbook, and you’ll never run out of ideas.

For this weeks prompt, I’d like to challenge you to go to and start drawing from those images. When you come across an image that you really like the pose of, turn it into something more.  I can’t wait to see what you make!

References: Their Importance, How to Use Them, & Where to Find Them

Welcome everyone!  If you’re a returning reader, you might notice I did a bit of an overhaul on the site.  It looks much more in line with my overall aesthetic, I feel.  I’m very slowly rebranding myself, but life is telling me there’s no rush.  I am constantly in a hurry to get everything done, between work, school, and everything in between.  If I have to rush through everything else, I might as well take my time with something close to me when I get the chance.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?

So how was your week? Other than tidying up this page, I worked on my first from-scratch web design.  I also painted a bathroom, and I caught up on all of Rick and Morty.  I gotta be honest, I discounted that show upon first sight because of the fan base, but it’s actually pretty hilarious. If you’re like me and you haven’t watched it because of its stereotypes, go watch it.  It’s ridiculous.  Plus, it’s important to get a break every once in a while, consume media and have a laugh.  It’s something I need to do more of, honestly.  I’m constantly churning out media, and yet I so rarely actually ingest it for myself.  It gets exhausting.  Even something as goofy as Rick and Morty can be beneficial; I mean those COLORS they use are so fun to look at.  What do you think is the most important thing in your own art?

This week, I wanted to keep things a little shorter than previously, but still talk about something that is extremely important in understanding your art: references.  References are used either directly or indirectly to influence how your art is going to look.  You can pull from multiple references at a time, or only one.

References are important because, unless you’re a superhuman, you cannot rememberhow something looks with 100% accuracy.  So if I wanted to draw a realistic dog, doing so without a reference would be extremely difficult.  I don’t inherently know the curvatures of a dog’s face, or their hair pattern.  To prove this, I’m going to draw my dog, who I see every day, without a reference for you:

So without a reference, I remembered that my dog has goofy looking ears, a smiley mouth, and a long tongue. But, as you can see, I didn’t know how to put it together.  I didn’t even attempt  in-depth shading or hair.

In reality, this is what my dog looks like:

You can go ahead and laugh, but I gotta be honest, I did a lot better than I thought I would. Still, there are some glaring issues. Now, if I’m using that image of my dog as a reference, I don’t have to worry as much about making the subject look like what it’s supposed to, because I can see it in front of me and can compare them.  Using this image, this is what I can create:

I’m not gonna lie and tell you this is the best pet portrait I’ve ever done, (it was actually a rush job for a class critique over a year ago) but as you can see it’s much closer to the original reference.  Similarly, I could have drawn from life and looked at my dog as I drew him, but that has its own set of challenges.

**PS: The reference photo I used of my dog was actually taken by the lovely Ericka Wadleigh of Luna Light Portraits!  You can find her on Instagram @lunalightportraits.

Multiple References

So, what happens when you want to draw/paint something a little more out there, like something you can’t see in real life?  What if you want to draw something otherworldly, like floating islands or anthropomorphic animals?

This is where you can use multiple references at once and piece them together.  You can do this a few ways: in your mind, which is the most traditional way, by printing out images individually and cutting them out and pasting them together, or you can use Photoshop or a similar software.

No matter what method of piecing together references you use, it’s always best to start with a few preliminary sketches.  Get your ideas on the paper and map things out before going in with details.

If you wanted to draw a lion in space, you could easily piece those two together.  I mean, I made this in like two minutes and it gives me exactly what I need:

If you wanted to draw something like a griffin, you’d have to piece things together a little more carefully.  A griffin is comprised of a lion and an eagle, and you’d have to look at the form of wings, the form of a beak, the tail of a lion, etc. just to create a creature with accuracy.  You don’t have to pull the exact shapes from the references: just allow them to grant you the knowledge about how the creature should be built, and put it in it’s own positioning.  Take from references what you need!  It’s extremely unlikely that this artist found wings in this exact position, or the body of a lion sitting like this:

The artist of this image also used a reference for the sky, the buildings, and the stone behind the creature.

(Art by Jesper Ejsing for Magic the Gathering, listed under public domain:

Do I Have The Rights To Use This Reference?

When looking for references, there are some legal issues that you have to be careful of.  If you intend on selling the artwork, you need to make sure you can use the reference legally.  The absolute best way to use references is to take your own, but that’s not always possible. For references that you need to find but can’t take by yourself, there’s a couple websites for you:

https://pmp-art.comis a hidden treasure: PMP stands for Paint My Photo! Users upload photographs that people can paint.  Make sure to read the terms and conditions to this site, as they do change frequently.

http://freebigpictures.comis exactly what it says it is: free big pictures.  These pictures are mainly nature related, but what they lack in variety they make up for in quality.

More well known are https://pixabay.comand  These sites are incredibly similar, but have varying content.  Each site is filled with royalty free stock photos.

Finally there’s my absolute favorite:  Unsplash has super high quality images, and a wide variety of them.  You can find just about anything you’re looking for with these images.


I’d like to end this week’s post with a prompt.  Take two or more images, one that you took on your own and one that you found on any of the websites listed above, and create a unique image.   Once you’re done, you can send it to bmartin.artdesign@gmail.comand it might get featured in the blog. Thanks for reading!

Critique Week: The First of Many

This week, for the first time in far too long, I went out with some friends.  We walked around town and sat and chatted at a coffee shop for a few hours.  It was simple, but the exact recharge that I needed.  I’m so grateful for my friends for helping me get out more.

A wild thing happened while we were out though.  You see, I had never been to this café before. I live about 30 miles away from it. We had sat down, and lo and behold, guess what I see on the wall.

That’s a print of my art!! I drew this in high school!!  How crazy is that!  I must’ve signed off on it years ago when it was displayed at a show, but I totally don’t remember it.  Funny how life turns out sometimes.

My art style has since developed quite a bit since then, though I’ll be honest and say that it hasn’t shown in my paintings, as my art has been geared towards commercial work for so long.  In high school, I had clear talent and skill, but my work felt stiff.  This charcoal piece shows a great knowledge of my medium, but it doesn’t show originality.  When I’m not painting pet portraits, I like painting things that are a bit more whimsical, even though my portfolio right now does not exactly display that.

What helps an artist develop their work, other than practice and determination?  The helpful guiding eye of surrounding artists.  Critique [when referring to art] is the review and discussion of artwork with the intention of helping the artist understand their work. As the critique-r, one must ask themselves: What is working?  What is successful?  What are areas that need improvement?  

Critique is NOT criticism.  Critique is meant to be helpful and constructive, whereas criticism is generally not helpful.  Criticism only points out problems, but critique looks for answers to these problems.

Now, that’s not to say that critique is meant to flatter the artist.  Critique is meant to provide honest feedback in a healthy and positive manner.

Critiquing your own artwork can be difficult, as artists often overlook their own mistakes.  After staring at the same drawing for so long (sometimes hours or even days) the flaws seem to fade away.  That’s why it’s helpful to have other artists you can trust to help you develop your work.  For you, the reader, I am here to help.

I had a large amount of artists this week bring their art to me for critique, and to you I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I was only able to write about the first three artists who sent work to me, but I will be saving all of it for future posts.  Critique Week will be the last Friday of each month. I am so excited to show off everyone’s work. 


This first drawing comes from Josie White.  She wrote: “I drew a favorite character of mine from a webtoon called Hooky. I’m not good at art but I think everyone can do it and enjoy it. So I drew this lady and I continue to draw because I hope that someday I can get better.”

First off, I’d like to say that what you said is beautifully put.  Art is for everyone, no matter what skill level.  You don’t have to be brilliantly gifted in order to be an artist.

Now there’s two ways to critique: you can either start with what’s successful, or you can start with what isn’t working as well.  Typically, I like to bring up the positive aspects first, as it doesn’t immediately fill someone’s thoughts with negativity.  If you’re greeted with the flaws first, it’s hard to focus on what you did right.

So Josie, I’d like to start by saying this is a beautiful drawing.  I love your choice in coloring: you kept it monochrome except for the eyes, making them the focal point, and you’ve got a range of gray in the drawing as well.  A range of gray can be very hard with a primarily marker drawing, but you’ve managed to create some color in the cheeks, a smooth crown, and mid-range of tone in the hair without any strange smudging.  Great job!

A couple things stick out to me: You’ve figured out this awesome technique for creating highlights and lowlights in the hair, in which you layer the lines in more heavily in dark areas and draw very few lines in light areas.  I’d like to see you slow this process down just a tiny bit to get these strands looking slick: your lines get a bit messy towards the ends from rushing. If you are not doing so already, you may find more success starting your preliminary sketch out in pencil and then going over that with the marker.  This way, you can figure out the form of the drawing easily and then erase any excess information. The next time you draw hair, take a pencil and track the way the hair falls on a head naturally.  It doesn’t fall exactly straight, and I can see this in the outside lines of the hair.  However, the inside lines are almost all straight.  Curving these strands could create more definition.

I personally am not familiar with Hooky, but I did a quick google search to get an idea of the art style. I can’t lie, it’s pretty adorable:

The reason I looked this up was because I wanted to look at where the ears lie on the head.  In your drawing, the ears are in line with the eyes. Again, starting out with a preliminary pencil drawing could help remedy this.  This way you can get the basic shapes down where they need to fall before going in with the rest of the drawing.  I recommend drawing the entire head shape and adding the hair afterwards.

The last thing I’d like to focus on is the eyes.  Eyes are something most artists struggle with, especially when they’re still learning. The biggest tip I have for you is to slow down, and draw the eyes step by step, constantly comparing the two together. Don’t try to perfect one eye and then start the other, you want them to be finished at around the same time.

So to conclude this critique, I’d like to review: slow down, start with a preliminary sketch.  You’re doing great so far, Josie.  This is a beautiful drawing and I can’t wait to see what you make next.


This next piece is a digital painting by Annika Downey.  You can view her portfolio at interact with her via Twitter @chimichannika.

Annika, I am a HUGE fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and looking at this piece fills my heart with warm nostalgia.  Your figures look great; the proportions of the body are accurate, and they sit in the scene nicely.  You nailed the color palette: it’s warm and inviting.  I can tell that a lot of time and love went into this piece of work and building up your skill.

Going back to my post two weeks ago about color, I have one small tip that could blow your mind and really take your color work to the next level.  Right now it appears that you’re making shadows by adding black.  This sometimes creates a muddy tone.  For the sake of having a focal area, take a look at Aang’s sleeves.  If you took the orange from this and used the color opposite it on the color wheel to make your shadows, you could have a really interesting color dynamic.


The other thing that I’d really like to see in terms of technique is more texture.  Varying up some of the line widths and creating harsher edges in the fabric and hair could make a world of difference.  Using interesting color combinations to create fabric folds and hair highlights would make this piece POP!  

The last thing that I would like to suggest is to look at a reference of real life people in this position, if you are not already doing so.  You’ve chosen a super dynamic position for your subjects, and it can be hard to capture motion.  Studying the curves of the human form could be a great asset to you: you’ve already got an incredible sense of proportion.  The trick is making the figures lifelike in their form.  How would Katara’s arm fall naturally?

Great job overall, I’m extremely impressed with this piece, and I cannot wait to see more from you!


This next piece is another digital painting, this time done by Alexsa of LexicalNuisance.  You can find her on twitter and instagram @lexicalnuisance. She also runs her own blog, which can be found here:

So Alexsa, I LOVE Animal Crossing, and you’ve captured the cuteness it entails beautifully.  This is truly the most adorable thing I’ve seen all week. Your outlines on Isabelle are super clean, and the pattern on her dress is believable: it forms to the dress, stretching out so the squares are larger towards the middle as if they are coming towards us. You have so many interesting textures in one piece, and I’m particularly interested in your floor: the perception you’ve created is super cool.

Everyone is probably going to get sick of hearing it, but I’d like to point out the same thing that I did in Annika’s work.  You’re shading with black in the curtain.  You could really play with some fun color in this piece.  Swapping that black out for something wild like purple could play off the green of her dress nicely.

Speaking of the curtain, stylistically it does not match the rest of the work.  I would like to see Isabelle blend into her surrounding a bit more, trying to make the styles match.  Isabelle is very graphic in her rendering: her figure isn’t shaded, she has black outlines.  The microphone matches her beautifully.  The floor beneath Isabelle carries out the linework, save for a small shadow underneath Isabelle.  Even the pawprint wallpaper in the background has some cohesion to it, as it feels as though it’s blurred into the background but the visible brushstrokes in the curtain don’t make it feel realistic in the rest of the space.    Blending this a tiny bit more and adding a stroke to the outside of it (it doesn’t have to be black!) could tie the entire piece together.

Overall, you did a wonderful job. Her smiling face makes me wanna smile, too.

Thank you to all of the artists you sent in their work!  This is the first of many critiques on this blog, so I can’t wait to see what else will be sent in!  If you have any art that you would like to send in for critique (anonymously or not)  I would love to see it!  Send it over to and it might just get featured in the blog.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!