Just move the pencil!

In my previous blog post, 4 Things I wish I knew before becoming a professional artist I spoke about the outlandish “Curing Process” foisted upon me at the ripe old age of 17 . For those who haven’t read it, in a nutshell, an old man taught me the art of achieving success by selective procrastination. Probably something old men rightly do to conserve energy!

A part of the story I left out was, that while waiting to reap the ill-gotten gains of the Curing Process, I constantly rearranged the ‘Penske’ files to convince myself I was busy, arranging things in our own uncrackable Dewey Decimal filing system of ‘F‘ for file and ‘M’ for Manila folder. 

Procrastination isn’t my forte, but every so often I feel the urge. Do you ever find yourself procrastinating at work?


Let’s face it, there are things we might love doing but sometimes can’t be bothered to do. We tell ourselves:

  • “I have no ideas” (AKA typical artist’s block)
  • “I’m not in the mood”
  • “It’s Friday”
  • “I have ideas but don’t feel motivated”
  • “I have sooo many ideas that I can’t decide what to draw”
  • “I feel like I’m going to create rubbish so why bother trying to attempt anything”
  • “This part of the artwork is boring/hard/frustrating”
  • “I’m over this artwork and I haven’t even finished”
  • “The cat needs to be let in…and out…and back in again…”

I’ve experienced all of these. The last 3 in abundance. But I’ve taught myself a small but powerful phrase to keep me drawing:


Yep. I tell myself to just put the pencil on the paper and move it. Weirdly, it works. 

Not in the mood?

You’ve probably heard overly enthusiastic gym bunnies shout cheesy stuff like, “If you don’t feel like exercising, don’t think, just put your shoes on and run!” 

Creating art can feel the same. We can’t always wait for the mood to take us or wait to be inspired. Sometimes the mood and inspiration come FROM the process of drawing. JUST MOVE THE PENCIL for 5 minutes and see where it takes you. If it takes you straight back to bed, so be it, at least you did something!

(Above: ’Rinse repeat’)


Are you telling yourself things like, why bother, it won’t be any good?

I liken the process of drawing to cooking pancakes. If you’ve ever cooked pancakes, you’ll know the first one that hits the pan is a complete dud. 

They’re the ones where Mr Slager peers over your shoulder and says, “Are you sure you’ve done this before? It doesn’t look quite right.” 

(Source: saipancakes.com)

It’s a well-known pancake phenomenon that has to do with sciencey stuff like heat, fat, molecules and time in the pan. But once you’ve made your dud pancake, it’s delicious, perfectly formed pancakes from that point on.

Drawing is the same. Not everything has to be monumentally amazing first time around. Create something with the expectation it will be your trial run. No one has to see it. Give your hands times to get in the rhythm, move the pencil, warm the pan as it were. 

Just remind yourself, if it ends up looking like you need a hazmat suit to clean it up, that’s ok, it’s your pancake dud, JUST MOVE THE PENCIL

(Above: ’I want to speak to the manager’)

Too hard/too boring?

Often I will start my drawings by concentrating my efforts on the most interesting parts of the subject. I then feel frustrated when I need to churn out the more boring bits. 

As I struggle through the perceived “boring bits”, I tell myself JUST MOVE THE PENCIL, at least complete a set portion, maybe a few inches of drawing before giving up for the day. I find when I work through the sticking point, the piece is completed in record time. 

I remind myself, it’s just a process, it’s just shapes, JUST MOVE THE PENCIL and finish. 

(Above: ’This seat’s taken’)

Idea blocks?

A lack of ideas is common and overwhelmingly frustrating. 

Looking through my old ideas and reference photos sometimes sparks new ideas. If that doesn’t work, I will go out and take new photos, read art books, take time to learn new skills or work with new materials. A trip to the shop to peruse art supplies is usually enough motivation for me to do something!

Observing other artists or different art forms can also spark ideas. Fashion illustrator Zoe Hong on YouTube has taught me a thing or two even though I have no desire to design garments. 

If none of that works, I will focus on some other aspect of my art business, e.g. my website or social media. Just make sure to MOVE THE PENCIL. 

(Above: ’Still remains’)


Well, distractions are just rewards you can give yourself after you have MOVED THE PENCIL

(Above: ’Mr Arnott’)

When all else fails, I sharpen my pencils, sort my pencils, or file my pencils with clever filing schemes such as ‘B’ for blunt, ‘S’ for shiny. JUST MOVE THE PENCIL!


What do you do when you don’t feel like drawing?

  • Just move the pencil!

If none of this works, YOU NEED A BREAK MY FRIEND!

x Candy

Looking for inspiration? These blog posts might give you some new ideas:

Park & Shop

Artwork feature: the remains of Ephesus, and the missing swimsuit

Skipping from the hips, a lesson in being a cow!

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