“Don’t work too hard.” “You don’t have to work all day, every day.” “You’re still an artist even if you’re not making art.”
I’m not saying any of these are wrong. In many ways, I absolutely agree with them. But there is a destructive undertone to these messages.
The reality is that you don’t have to work hard. You don’t have to practice all the time. You don’t have to produce a lot of art. All of these things are optional.
But being a great artist is also optional.
For those who want to succeed, to stand out in the increasingly flooded world of art online: you will have to surpass your peers. Not all of them. But enough of them to rise up the pyramid a bit and claim some of the attention.
To be remarkable, you will usually have to put in remarkable effort.
Sure, once you have achieved phenomenal skill and success, you can usually chill a bit. And it is usually the incredibly successful who give this advice—but it is rarely the lifestyle they had to get where they are today.
But again: you don’t have to work hard. I understand everyone who doesn’t want to sacrifice work/life balance to become a great artist. I get it. I even encourage it—I think more people would be a lot happier if they never tried to be “professional” at all of this. No matter what you pick: be sure your expectations align with your efforts.
Most artists seem to achieve a certain level of skill and then stop progressing. This has always bothered me because it doesn’t feel like it would be necessary and yet it usually happens.
An artist’s plateau can be at just about any level. Some are pretty high and the artist can have a long and fulfilling career producing similar-ish work for the remainder of their working life. Others aren’t very high and they often feel stuck at a vaguely beginner level. The latter is perhaps a bit more unfortunate than the former, but I don’t think either is inevitable or entirely dependent on the person.
First off: I don’t think this has much to do with talent. I might be wrong but, if talent exists at all, I’d say it mostly has to do with the ability to learn art quickly, early on. There may be other factors that dictate the ceilings of art, but I don’t think those are built or born into us.
Growth is not comfortable. Improvement is uncomfortable. If you’re comfortable, you’re probably not improving. You’re just greasing the groove for your current skill level. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if it’s all you ever do, you’re unlikely to grow.
Complacency gets us all. At some point, it’s likely that you will grow complacent and settle into making art rather than learning art. It will probably happen after years of learning art and you will probably be exhausted by being uncomfortable all of the time. You just want to make art and I absolutely understand that.
Growth gets harder and harder the higher you climb. Take an adult that has never drawn before (childhood drawings don’t count) and give them 48 hours of drawing lessons and their progress will be amazing. They will be infinitely better than they were before. But 48 hours of practice after you’ve been drawing for decades? It’s a drop in the bucket. Both because of the cumulative hours they have amassed but also the increasing and different challenges faced by artists who are further along. Once you have attained technical competence, reaching for technical mastery can feel like a whole other beast. The road beyond mastery? What does that even look like? The higher you go, the harder the climb.
Society rewards stagnation. I’ve talked about it before in my otherarticles but society currently rewards artists who are consistent and recognizable. Growth is not immediately rewarded because growth is not a linear journey. We grow in leaps and missteps. We fail, often. Growth can change us, too, often coming from experimentation that may alienate the people who once loved our work. Further, time spent on learning and studying is time not spent on producing, which is what would probably most please the algorithms.
It’s ok to not be the best artist in the world. All of this is fine and you can ignore all of it. Stagnate to your heart’s content. God knows I have too, many times, and still am at a constant risk of doing so. There’s nothing wrong with producing work at any level if it makes you happy or it’s what you want to do. I am not suggesting that every artist needs to strive to be the greatest artist of all time. There are many reasons for making art and we all have our own goals and one is not better than the other.
But if you don’t want to plateau right now (or ever), here’s what you might do:
Beware comfort. Always be learning.
Experimentation balanced with depth. Go wide, explore everything, but also go deep, digging into specialties. Both have gold to be found.
Listen to other opinions. At some point we presume to know better than our critics (and sometimes we do). But you can also find guidance in being told that what you’re doing could be better. Note: avoid taking praise too seriously.
Accept mixed results from the algorithms. Choose to either not share your experimentation and studies online or to embrace the roller coaster that it will probably inspire.
Identify always as a student, never a master. When we assume the mantle of “artist” then we must make “art.” But when we’re students? There’s no pressure at all. Complete freedom.
Daily/weekly/monthly reminders. Look back over the work you made today, or in the last week, or in the last month. Did you push yourself? Did you try to learn new things? Or did you just settle at your current skill level? Be vicious with yourself.
Around seemingly every industry and hobby, online communities form. These used to be nice. Forums were great. But now, we have social media. Yay.
I want to talk about the community of one of my favorite passions: art. Because there is a disease taking hold of that community.
Artists are not nice to other artists.
Some of us are, but too many of us are not. Too many of us have joined what I’m going to refer to as the Art Bubble. They are not a specific social circle, but rather an informal bunch of artists, mostly on Twitter, who have formed around the digital art world. It’s a very specific bubble and if you haven’t ever seen it, you probably can go blissfully on with your life and never think of the problems surrounding these folks.
For those who spend time in or near the Art Bubble, I want to discuss some of the problems I see growing, propose a few reasons for why we’re here, and offer some thoughts on how we might build a better community for all of us.
The past is not golden
Don’t get me wrong: things have never been great.
Whether you look back to the forum-era or centuries earlier, artists being mean to other artists is nothing new. There was plenty of drama on art forums: accusations of copying, of cheating, of scammy business dealings.
But things were pretty good. Not perfect, but good. Certainly better than they are now.
When a tribe becomes a mob
Communities, at a certain scale, no longer become communities. There’s still a group identity of being an “artist,” but there is no central social group any longer. Everyone feels like they’re on the outskirts, because everyone is on the outskirts. There is no inner circle. There are just a lot of smaller circles.
Sometimes this is ok.
Except, this community has become a mob. A small group of the most vocal and opinionated have come to dominate the narrative. We have allowed, in small actions and inactions, some of the most extreme voices in the art world to dictate online discourse.
Mobs are not usually great.
Mobs are erratic and dangerous and uncontrollable.
Mobs are the magnification of the worst qualities in people. They bring out our most spiteful, cruel aspects and suppress all of our inhibitions and charity.
The rise of the mono-culture
In the last few years, the Art Bubble has turned into an echo chamber.
There is one correct opinion. On everything. There is a unified front to all dramas, real and imagined. Every artist, apparently, magically agrees on all social and political debates. When a new and uncertain issues arises (NFTs, AI art, etc.), the community briefly fractures. But soon they come back together, agree on one morally correct opinion, the strays make their apologies and return to the fold or are forever excised from the community.
The echo chamber has strengthened to unimaginable levels. No longer is there merely a unifying narrative, but now there is dictated speech. Failure to conform will be punished. Mass unfollowing campaigns are the norm.
I usually think of artists as an eclectic bunch, full of diverse backgrounds and interests and opinions. But that is not what you will find inside the Art Bubble. Nor will they tolerate it in their spaces.
Uncuriosity is celebrated
The mono-culture has made questions offensive. It’s one thing to have an opinion. It’s quite another to hate someone forever because they question that opinion.
That’s no longer an opinion. That’s a sacred belief.
When questions are banned, curiosity dies. I believe that curiosity is a central tenet of art. Because we are here to be curious. To find thoughts and ideas and opinions fascinating. Maybe I’m naive, but I think artists are at their best when they are always questioning the world.
Against the Anti-anti-establishment
I’ve often thought of the art world as the place where misfits go to fit in. And it usually is. Artists usually welcome the freaks, the weirdos, those living on the fringe of acceptable standards.
Artists used to have a hint of anti-establishment sentiment running through them, but that seems to be vanishing. We used to be the hipsters, the rebels. The ones sticking our fingers up at The Man. But, increasingly, it seems like artists are dictating how corporations should behave—and the corporations are listening.
The Art Bubble no longer exists as the counterbalance to the primary narrative. No, now they are seeking to be the primary narrative. And woe to those who cross them.
The Art Bubble has claimed the moral high ground. Not because they have proven, in any way, to be the best or most just. But merely because they have said they are the most moral, they are.
They have elevated disloyalty to the narrative beyond mere disagreement—now it is outright immoral to question things. You’re not just wrong, you’re bad.
The hypocrisy of participating in mass social shaming of those who are not as caring and empathetic as you are is never addressed. To question that hypocrisy is to ostracize yourself.
Fear & scarcity for all
It’s not easy being an artist and it’s particularly hard right now. It’s a time when we should be especially supportive of one another, and sometimes we are. But the Art Bubble is massive as is, and it’s easy enough to exclude those who don’t seem to belong.
When artists feel like the pie is shrinking, they will cling more viciously to the scraps they’ve claimed.
While claiming to support artists, to nurture community, and to help others, many artists are instead just trying to climb the pyramid of success. And that might be even easier if you can tear down someone who has climbed higher than you. It is easy to find reasons why they don’t deserve their success, when it’s in your own best interest to bring them low.
It’s the tall poppy problem. The nail that sticks out. Standing out from the group is dangerous. Becoming too successful, too popular, too outspoken in the wrong direction is a risk. The higher you climb, the more people who may seek to bring you back down.
Without forgiveness, secrets thrive
If you are caught having a contradictory opinion, you will be shunned. If you are sufficiently apologetic and self-hating for long enough, you might be allowed back. But if you, you know, stick to what you believe? Unforgivable.
If you do anything or have ever done anything that meets the ever-lowering and arbitrary bar of immorality, you will be shunned. Unlike prison, you will never be released. Your sentence is eternity.
In this environment, vulnerability dies.
True expression, curiosity, and being human are all essential to making great art. We are, all of us, admittedly or not, very messy people. We have all screwed up, held dumb opinions, hurt people.
But now, you can’t admit that.
Doing something dumb, even decades ago, is enough to ruin a career. Why would you bother chancing that?
So the higher people rise, the more cautious they tend to be. They recede within, clinging desperately to their daily tightrope walk. In being more cautious, their art loses the rawness, the reality, the truth it may have once had. The most popular artists are increasingly encouraged to create the most inoffensive work.
Silence is not progress
Silencing voices does not change minds. It might seem like it is, because those voices are no longer visible. But often, you are simply stuffing down the opposition. And with enough pressure, things blow up.
Progress comes, if it comes at all, by the painfully slow changing of minds. Enough minds change, very slowly, and things appear to suddenly shift. Public opinion changes, but it hasn’t happened overnight.
Instead of calling someone out who has a different opinion from you: consider sharing your opinion with them, including some evidence to support your side, and trying to respect that they probably have a reason to believe the way they do. Remember that it is exceedingly unlikely that you have everything in the world figured out perfectly.
When you begin these discussions, practice empathy. Real empathy. Lazy empathy is just saying “well they believe X because they’re clearly a terrible person who hates the world.” Real empathy is saying “I think I understand why they feel that way and that X is how they think we should solve this.” Then, further step into their shoes. How would you like someone to speak with you? When was the last time you changed your mind and how did someone help you to make that leap?
Questioning an opinion and having ours questioned is how we develop better ideas. Untested theories may be great. Or they might be trash. We can’t truly know if we’re right if we’re busy silencing the opposition.
Small actions create large waves
Those participating in the problems with the Art Bubble are rarely doing anything that bad on their own. These are not terrorists we’re talking about, these are just a bunch of artists on Twitter.
But small actions, even subconsciously taken, can have enormous effects.
Ten thousand people who choose to click retweet on one artist’s posts will cause them to soar into the stratosphere. Those same ten thousand simultaneously refusing to engage with another artist can often suffocate their career.
Unfollowing, not liking, not sharing, scrolling past something are all normal behaviors, not damaging in the slightest. But when those actions are multiplied by the scale of the internet, they can begin to devastate real lives.
Good intentions on the road to hell
I hope and believe that the Art Bubble had good intentions in nearly everything that has happened so far.
In their fumbling attempts to nurture an accepting, encouraging, healthy world of artists, they have stumbled too far. They have become everything they were trying to fight against.
In fighting exclusion, they have become exclusive.
None of this is (hopefully) the work of an evil mastermind. It’s the accidental hole we’ve collectively stumbled into. Artists are neither the first nor the last community that has gone down a similar path.
All of us, I hope, are trying to achieve a more perfect community. One that enables more people to make more and greater art and even be happier and more fulfilled while doing so. The difference lies in how we create that community and what qualities we’re even aiming for.
The Art Bubble is stifling art
Making art is hard.
If everything is going well, we have the ideal conditions, and we want to make art, it’s still really fucking hard to make art. Much less great art.
But everything is not ideal right now, particularly online.
In removing curiosity, alternate narratives, and forgiveness from the Art Bubble, we have sucked all of the air out of the room. Art is… tame. It is radical only within accepted bounds.
Art should be free to go where it wants to go. To be funny or offensive (often both). To be opinionated. And not always in ways we agree with.
The perfect art community: digging ourselves out of the hole
Ok, things aren’t great. But identifying a problem is about 10% of the way to a solution. So I’d like to propose a few things that we can do about all of this.
I’m not going to pretend like all of this can change tomorrow. Nor am I certain that any of this will actually fix the trajectory we’re on. But I think doing these things has a good chance of giving us all a better chance at making a better online art world.
Stop participating in the downfall
You’re not “supposed” to follow that person. You’re not “supposed” to like their art. You’re not “supposed” to share their work.
Do it anyway.
You may be one of the thousand cuts that destroys a career. So stop. Stop letting the masses dictate what you do and don’t do. Don’t let them choose the media you consume, the people you support, the things you believe.
Stop saying things that you don’t believe. If you don’t want to share a political opinion about the issue of the day, then don’t. You’re an artist, after all. You’re free to post art, talk about art, and ignore the rest. Or not. But whatever you do, be sure that you’re not allowing others to enforce rules upon you.
Do you have doubts about a popular opinion? Do you, actually, not agree at all? Do you have questions?
Be brave: share those opinions, share those questions.
You will probably be burned. But bravery is the only way to fight against the tide. Slowly, eventually, with luck and fortune and enough of us, we can begin to balance the scales.
The current environment is dictated by a small and vocal minority—the new environment can be sculpted by a similarly small and vocal minority: you. And other brave souls like you.
Make great art
Cowardly art is not great art. Restrained art is not great art.
Make great art, because the world needs more great art.
Not everything needs to be great. Fun art is still fun. But if you care about the world of art, try your best to move us all forward. Tell your truth with raw vulnerability. Create the things that you fear might offend people. Create work that paints a true image of your life, not a flattering one.
The world needs more great art, not more tame art.
Talk with other artists
Silence is easy. Silence is safe.
Begin having conversations with other artists about this. You may not be ready to burn down your career, but you may be able to talk, directly, with one of your peers. You can share your thoughts, your doubts, your questions. And, hopefully, you will be met with similar vulnerability. Or maybe they’ll share your conversation and ruin your career, who knows.
Underground support builds slowly. In private conversations and between trusted peers. In the end, a groundswell can disrupt the status quo.
Stop destroying lives
I cannot imagine a world where mass public shaming is a good idea. Especially when their primary tool is not only utterly devastating to a life, but practically permanent.
I understand the impulse: seeking justice in an unjust world. But the result is not justice, it’s uncaring retribution at best. At worst it’s misplaced annihilation.
I absolutely understand and support the urge to enforce accountability on others. People should be accountable for their actions. But we cannot find accountability in mass shaming. It is not the correct tool to make our world a better place. It is not creating the changes we want to see. Mass shaming to improve society is a bit like performing brain surgery with a meat cleaver.
Refuse to participate. Whether you believe someone is “guilty” or not, deplorable or not, simply refuse to be one of the voices tearing them down.
Get off the fucking internet
There is a real possibility that the entire social media experiment is a failure.
We might’ve all screwed up. There’s a chance none of us should be on social media. Perhaps society would be better, more sane, more connected, if social media vanished tomorrow. There have been pros and cons and I can’t say for sure, but it’s possible.
Whether that’s the case or not, you should still get off of the internet more. For the sake of your sanity, well being, and art, connect with the real world. Start a sketch group locally. Hang out with artists. Go to some local gallery openings. Attend events.
If all we see is the internet, it’s easy to assume that the world is burning. But step outside, take a look around, spend time with some real people, and see if you might be able to restore a little hope in humanity.
I used to struggle with wrist pain. My right wrist was inflexible, weak, and prone to overuse pain.
But now it’s a lot better. There are a number of things I do for good wrist-health. I don’t know which of these helps the most and which are completely useless, but here you go:
I never sleep with a clenched fist. I think I saw a thing online for drummers when I was very young that suggested sleeping with straight-ish fingers. So I’ve done that. To this day I will make a point of always keeping my fingers fairly straight. I just googled this and couldn’t find much about it, but I did see that a lot of people sell hand braces to sleep in to prevent you from clenching into a fist. So maybe it’s a thing.
I stretch. Pretty much anytime I feel like fidgeting, I’ll stretch my forearms. Sometimes people will ask me what’s wrong with my wrist. Nothing. Totally fine. I just do these stretches throughout the day, without thinking about it. I found an image of basically the stretches I do and attached it below.
Strengthen it. Weak things are easily injured. Strong things are fairly durable. One of the things that cured some persistent wrist pain a few years back was not resting it or heat or compression or anything. It was actually doing more with it. Building the muscles in the forearm to better support it.
Being careful with how I lift. A lot of people lift (benching, for instance) with their wrists totally extended. I can’t do that at all, it hurts. So I’m sure to keep my wrists aligned with my arm. Think of how you’d punch someone. Keep that alignment strong and you’ll probably be safer.
Stop deathgripping things. Too many people grip their pen/stylus/brush like their life depends on it. Chill. Relax a bit. If you just can’t seem to do that, try some of the weird alternate grips that are out there. Variety is good.
Lots of breaks. ADD is great for encouraging this.
Compression sleeve. I don’t know if it’s a complete placebo, but I like wearing it sometimes. I use it when I paint sometimes and it serves a similar purpose to those weird two-finger gloves that you see artists wear. That is, keeping my wrist from sticking to the screen.
Cold therapy. This one is rare but if it really does feel painful I’ll dunk my hand/wrist in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes.
Fish oil. Every day. Supposed to help with joints. Probably one of the better researched supplements you can take.
If your computer setup is causing discomfort, fix it. Get a good chair, an ergonomic keyboard, a better mouse. If you’re going to spend significant time at a computer, don’t actively hurt yourself.
Artists are struggling. Artists are usually struggling, but they are struggling more and in different ways than before.
I’ve been hearing these refrains:
“I’m not growing my following any more.” “It’s harder to sell my art/courses/products.” “I get fewer likes/comments than I used to.” “I don’t know why I make art any more.”
Are these the workings of the Algorithm Gods? Has AI already destroyed the online art world? Do we, collectively, just suck? Are we each just failing in our own special ways?
As with all things, it’s a complicated trend and I don’t think anyone can answer it completely. But I’d like to propose a few reasons and even a few solutions.
How to build a pyramid
Artists usually like looking at art. Many people who follow artists are themselves artists. One by one, we build the hierarchies of the art world. Those at the top reap the greatest rewards and are further bolstered by the most attention, an upward spiral for a lucky few.
It has been possible for newcomers to climb that pyramid. A new, exceptional artist can enter the scene, other artists share their work, and the algorithms bless them with attention and praise. A star is born.
But I think this is getting harder as the top solidifies. The same artists occupy the most attention and success on all of the social media platforms. Sure, sometimes artists fade into obscurity or disrepute (hi), but that seems rare. The rich get richer and those at the top of the social hierarchy continue to dominate.
I worry, though, for those succeeding on social media platforms. I have seen the rise and fall of many platforms and I see how rickety the foundations appear for many of those artists. Moving an audience off of Twitter, for instance, is incredibly difficult. If the algorithm changes or the platform crumbles, will your career endure?
There’s too much art
There’s never too much art, but there is absolutely too much art online for most of us to properly consume.
99.999% of drawings or paintings will not be looked at for longer than a second. Artists pour dozens of hours into creating work that is glimpsed, once, for mere seconds. If it garners a double-tap, that’s an achievement. Most work is scrolled past, unremarked.
If ten thousand people are making a new painting every month, that’s still a tremendous amount of art to consume. I like art, but that’s pushing it.
When we’re presented with the fire-hose of artistic content, we value it less, we scroll faster, we care less. With so many options, it’s all that much more likely that we will consume the art that everyone else is looking at—better to let the crowd tell us what’s good so we don’t have to sort through the thousands of artists ourselves.
Algorithms are a bitch
Algorithms love engagement and drama. Pretty paintings are not usually very controversial.
So artists engage in more drama and less art. They see their following grow. But then they post their work and watch engagement drop. So back to drama.
Pretty soon, these artists have cultivated an audience obsessed with drama and only vaguely interested in art. Do not succumb to the siren call of audience capture.
Further, algorithms love to arbitrarily change. A rising star can suddenly run into a brick wall—where they found success before, now they only find underwhelming responses. Left without the gold stars of validation, they are likely to make less work, further solidifying their decline.
We’re encouraged to make boring art
The most successful art is not necessarily the best art. The most successful art is simply the art that is most successful. The art that wins the game of social media attention.
Art that does well is usually work that is easily consumed. Easily grasped, enjoyed, and moved on from. Social media is not a museum for contemplation.
Further, we are apparently encouraged to both produce consistent work and homogeneous work. Followers want to see the same general sort of work—experimentation usually flops. And they want to see a lot of work. Frequent posts. Daily is best.
What’s an artist to do? Churn out same-y work that can be executed in a few hours.
There are definitely exceptions
There are artists who are doing great and making slow work. I think most of them, though, grew their following before the current influx of artists. There are exceptions, but I don’t think that disproves all of this stuff I’m writing about. But as with all things, exceptions will exist and there’s always a chance that I’m glimpsing just an insular bubble that’s struggling right now.
Video is more popular now
Unfortunately, we all decided to make paintings and not videos. Aside from process videos, there are only so many video options a painter has. Shit.
Thankfully not everyone prefers video. And thankfully we do not need everyone if we hope to make art. We just need enough people who appreciate what we do and want to see us continue. Technically we don’t even need that, but it’s nice to have.
We are in an art recession
Recessions are a loss of hope and I think artists lack hope right now.
Faced with all of the problems above, I think a lot of artists are withdrawing from the art world. They see the insurmountable obstacles and give up. Some aspiring artists, tragically, are giving up before they’ve even begun. Only the most foolhardy/brave carry on.
AI hasn’t helped. I have a lot of thoughts about AI—I think it could end up being a good thing for artists—but I think we can all agree that it has sparked a lot of fear in the art world.
Artists are afraid of being replaced. Of their work being fed into an uncaring and unremitting machine which will spew forth endless imitations of their art. Artists are afraid of losing their livelihood and their meaning. They’re even afraid that all of the years they have invested in learning to make art will be for nothing.
I’m not sure if all of these fears will come to pass, nor does anyone else. But the fears are very real, which is all that matter for what I’m talking about here.
Because artists are afraid, we are creating our own art recession.
Artists are afraid, so they’re making less work. Artists are afraid, so they’re not trying as hard. Artists are afraid, so they’re not learning as much, nor are they spending as much money to learn—fearing that in a few years that will be wasted money and time.
Thus we create our own self-fulfilling spiral into recession. We see our engagement declining and assume our fears our valid, that doom is here. We see our income falling and confirm that AI is surely destroying our lives.
I don’t think the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—but we should all be very afraid of fear. Fear is not a conducive environment for art making. Fear, without hope & bravery to face it, is perhaps the worst precondition for art.
An actual recession is probably exacerbating everything
We, in the western world in particular, are probably in a recession right now. Inflation is hitting hard.
Many times, the art world rides out a recession just fine. People want escapism and they want to learn a fun skill when times are hard.
But this time seems different. Perhaps it is a perfect storm of fear that has effected art. Maybe AI really is destroying everything. But whatever it is, I think that the financial world’s recession is effecting the art world’s recession. When we’re all struggling to buy groceries, buying art and art education seems a bit hard to justify.
What to do about all of this
Lay down and die.
Ok, maybe that’s not the best option, as much as we might enjoy that.
None of us, individually, can solve this problem. But we can do the best things possible for ourselves, which coincidentally are the things that will lead us, collectively, out of the hole we’re occupying.
1. Enjoy the decline.
I will not fault any artists who capitalize on the current demands of social media. If you want to make easily-consumable art and videos and TikTok dances and drama to please the algorithm, get famous, and make a lot of money, go for it. The demands of life are real and I will never judge someone for trying to do what they can to make it in this world.
2. Create the best work you can.
If you want to make the highest impact work in the shortest amount of time: photobash & use AI to make some crossover fan-art with cute animals.
But I would encourage you to go the opposite way. Create great work. Refine your skills, grow to be an incredible artist, and paint meaningful work.
Blow us all away. Elevate art to the next level. It may take time, but I still think that excellent work is the best way to stand out in the art world. It is not all it takes to succeed commercially, but it’s damn important.
Further, I think that excellent, original, meaningful work is the greatest hedge that you can create against the AI uprising. If there’s anything that will keep you secure, it’s probably great work.
3. Invest for the long term.
If things are shit right now, you’re not growing your following, engagement is down, and your income sucks: invest in the long term. Invest your time in the projects that will take you years to complete. Don’t fight over the scraps right now, if you can avoid it.
Instead, aim to have something to astonish the internet in a few years when things are doing well again and people have money to spend.
Hopelessness will ruin you.
If you lose hope, you cannot recover.
Even when things get better in general, you will lag behind the wave. You will be the last to ride the rising tide and the least rewarded.
Those who are hopeful when all is hopeless are the ones who often end up on top.
It’s easy to say that you should hope and much harder to actually do it, particularly when all of the evidence around you is telling you to give up. I am well aware. I often wonder when the best time to give up is. But none of us can really know.
I will say this: humans have been making art for tens of thousands of years. It is exceedingly unlikely that we live in the generation where that tradition ends. It is perfectly possible, but I’m willing to bet that it’s not going to happen. Are you?
5. Build a strong foundation.
It’s easy to assume that a given social media platform is permanent. Surely nothing could topple these institutions.
But they can fall. They can vanish. And if your career vanishes in conjunction, then you have a shaky foundation.
Strengthen your foundation.
An email mailing list is the most durable form of following on the internet. Easiest to transfer and to keep, hardest to destroy (though with more email clients filtering out mailing lists, even that’s not guaranteed to last forever).
Create your own website and keep your content there. Host it yourself, if you can. It’s not that hard. At least own your own domain name. You are gambling with your future if you do not have a permanent home for your art that you own. An ArtStation portfolio doesn’t count.
6. Diversify your skills.
Sometimes the best way to stand out is to diversify.
Learn some new skills and become more than just an artist. Even tacking on a few adjacent skills (graphic design, video editing, writing) can help you rise above the heap.
7. Do more traditional work.
It will be a long time before Midjourney creates oil paintings. It could happen and I’m sure eventually it will. But it will be a long time. And even then, there will be collectors who greatly value traditional work made by human hands.
Now is the time to get out the pencils and paints and create originals.
8. Connect locally.
When the internet is going mad, you can often find sanity in the real world.
Find artists and friends locally. Meet up and sketch. Go to life drawing. Check out some local galleries.
Remind yourself what art is all about. You are probably far too wrapped up in your own head, unable to see everything wonderful around you.
Most of the art we look at is on a screen. And not even a screen any more, but now a phone screen. I have met and been confused by some of the younger generation: they don’t own a computer. No desktop, no laptop. Just a phone. Maybe a tablet. This confuses me for many reasons, but that’s not exactly the point I’m trying to get to.
We all look at art on phones and usually on social media. This means that the artists most frequently rewarded on social media are the ones creating art best suited for phone screens. All art, I think, has an optimal scale. Museums are excellent because, well, you’re viewing all of the art at the appropriate scale. Large paintings fill the room and have an astoundingly real presence about them.
But pictures on phones are all tiny. They can be packed with detail, epic beyond imagining, refined and perfected, but they still be the same size as the other guy’s twenty minute sketch.
What wins is not necessarily the best. It is, instead, the most easily consumed. Phones, and social media in cahoots, encourage fast-food art. Not the fine-dining of wandering a museum, but the greasy necessity of drive-through thumb scrolling and tapping.
When the greatest rewards of attention and money go to the artists with the greatest following, who are the people able to most easily capture this fleeting attention, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for art. Their art continues to boil down to the most easily produced, easily consumed sort of images.
I find this really sad. I know it’s not a universal problem–there are hordes of artists making astonishingly fine art out there. Nor am I picking on the people who capitalize on this movement–if you want/need to make money, riding the cultural wave is often the simplest way to do that. I just find it sad.
I want artists, who have invested years and decades in developing skill, to make the best work that they can. Not the work that garners the most likes or follows, but the work that connects with people, that speaks to them, that gives them a brief glimpse of beauty in this fraught world.
I always wanted to write a book and I was always scared to do it. I felt that if I was going to make a book with my art, it had to be The Book; it had to be an epic tome, a defining landmark in my life. A coffee table book that would test the strength of coffee tables everywhere. A book that would contain such profound wisdom and mind-blowing art, that thought-leaders and influencers and other made-up titles would beg to have a copy. A book that would, obviously, launch me into international stardom and big movie deals.
Since I was so wrapped up in preconceptions and expectations, I obviously never made a book. It was too much damn pressure.
Then one day I realized that my first book could be just that: my first book. Not my only book or my last book, but just my first book. The first of most things don’t have to be perfect (paintings, jobs, relationships), they just have to be a damn good effort.
I had a decent idea for a first, short book and got to work.
1. First, paint figures better
My first book is about how I learned to paint figures better. There are a lot of great books on drawing and painting figures really well and they’re written by artists who are phenomenally good at drawing and painting figures. I’m not. I was decent, I suppose. Now I’m pretty good.
That’s the journey I wanted to share—the journey from bad to pretty good. I think there are too many books by masters and not enough books by people who are figuring things out. It’s refreshing to read things from people in the thick of it all. I’m sure I’ll write books as I continue into mastery, sometime in my old age. But I’m glad that I’ll make both.
2. Try to write an article and get too wordy
I wanted to reflect on the journey of improving my figure painting and the things that helped me break through barriers and actually get better. Not just spinning my wheels but finally making noticeable leaps in my skills. Many of the common practices to improve one’s figure painting just didn’t work well for me. I did them all and for a long time—but I just felt stuck.
I intended to write a little article, put it on my website, and move on with my life.
But the more things I put down, the more extensive the list of tips got. It ended up being too long to reasonably make an article. Or, well, I suppose I could have done an article. But I realized that it could also turn into a book.
I had a lot of art and process work and a lot of things to say, which is about all you need to make a book.
3. Edit, rewrite, and edit some more
I gave it to my wife to read. While she sat down to read it, I went into an MRI machine. They diagnosed me with two severe disc hernias in my neck. So I was rushed into the hospital, had a few vertebrae fused together with titanium and some other people’s bones, and sent home in a neck brace. I took a few days off from the book.
But my wife had read the rough draft and really liked it—which was all the motivation I needed to carry on. So if your significant other comes to you with a rough draft and you have the opportunity, go ahead and encourage them. That might be the deciding point between that book becoming real or another document left to rot on their desktop.
I edited, rewrote, edited some more. I’m not sure how many passes I made through it because I stopped counting. It’s hardly a literary masterpiece, but it made me empathize with the folks who do make literary masterpieces. That’s gotta be a lot of work.
4. Try to design it
I’m eternally grateful that when I was a teenager taking classes at the local community college, I was fascinated by design. I took graphic design classes and they’ve paid off 1000x over the intervening years. I had learned the gist of laying out a book when I was younger and had a feel for how that process goes.
I used Affinity Publisher, which was a blast to use. It started to strain as the book neared completion and the file size and the ridiculous amount of high resolution images linked in it grew and grew. But it hung in there and I’d use it again in a heartbeat. I’m a big fan of the stuff that Affinity makes and the ability to seamlessly edit photos and vectors with Photo/Designer without leaving Publisher was slick.
A big problem with self-published books (and one that’s particularly nasty for self-published art books) is the amateur design. It ain’t easy laying out a book and a lot of people do it wrong. So please, if you’re going to do it yourself, read up on it. Do it right. There are great resources out there and, when in doubt, just follow the guidelines and proportions and margins that other people suggest.
Or just hire a good graphic designer.
A large part of the joy of self-publishing for me, though, is complete control over everything. I can do whatever I want! So can you.
5. Find a printer
Printing 1000 books ain’t cheap. I knew I wanted a hardcover and I knew I wanted nice paper and printing. An art book that feels flimsy or cheap just makes me sad.
I wanted to try and print it domestically here in the states, but that just wasn’t reasonable. The cheapest price I could find was about $24/book. When you tack on all of the added merchant fees and shipping and whatever else is out there, I wouldn’t be left with much profit. I didn’t do this to get rich, but I do need to make at least a little bit.
I also looked at print-on-demand. POD is a fantastic option for a lot of people and I hope to make some books like that sometime. But for art books, of this quality and size, the prices are pretty bad.
I found Qin Printing and their price was very good. They quoted me about $8/book. And that included shipping and everything all the way to my door (sometimes when you order from overseas it’s up to you to take care of the freight carrier to get it to your house/business). I was skeptical. I was worried the quality would be, well, shitty.
They sent me some samples of other books they printed and I felt a bit more confident. The quality was exactly what I was looking for and I had hope that they would do a good job.
6. Run a pretty good Kickstarter
Putting together an appealing Kickstarter campaign is a lot of work. I could write a whole article on what I learned from that. Thankfully, I had some smart people advising me on the best things to do.
I’m not sure if I really needed to run a campaign at all, but I thought it would help promote the book and drive a lot of early sales. And it certainly seemed to do that.
I have a lot of issues with Kickstarter (it feels like they just gave up on trying to make it actually useful for the people running campaigns on there), but it went well and we were about 150% funded! Success! The book was really happening.
7. Holy shit ebooks are confusing
I thought that designing an ebook would be easy. There aren’t too many options that you can tweak on them, so surely it’s pretty easy, right? Right?
Not at all. It’s like web design in the early 2000’s. Every browser behaves slightly differently and you have to use weird workarounds to get things to look right. It’s dumb.
I made my ebook with Scrivener and that worked well enough, but it took at least a hundred trial exports before I got a result I was happy with.
When I complained about this, I was recommended Vellum, which seems great. I might be tempted to try it out next time. But I also might be stubborn and want to be a control freak over every aspect of the design. We’ll see. I suspect it’ll be the latter.
PDF ebooks, on the other hand, are incredibly easy. It just took a little tweaking to the design I made for the print book and I had a perfectly good PDF version.
8. Last minute fuck-ups are the best
You know how I said that I designed it in Publisher? That was a great choice until it suddenly wasn’t.
I sent over the completed PDF and the printer told me that the file wasn’t going to work and I needed to redesign the whole book in InDesign, because that’s the only thing that their printers would accept.
I was not happy, for many reasons. Not with anyone in particular, just not happy in general.
We tried a lot of different things to get it to work and they finally figured out a way to re-export the files on their end into something that would print. I was worried that the process had screwed up the color profiles on the images, so we did another round of proofs at this point. It all looked good and we sent the book to print. I was even more nervous that I was going to have a thousand poorly printed books.
There was a long wait between finishing the book and receiving them. It takes a while to print books and the pacific ocean has a lot of water to traverse.
So while we waited, I printed a few goodies to include in the books. I designed some simple bookmarks and stickers to tuck in there. I used UPrinting, but there are a lot of online print shops these days and they all seem about the same. I also printed some small art prints (with El-Co Color Labs) that could be easily shipped just tucked in between the pages. I was warned by many people to make shipping as simple and easy as possible. That was good advice.
10. Get a bunch of books! And ship them out.
On a chilly and drizzly Friday, a man in a big truck backed into my driveway and unloaded three pallets of books. The pallets themselves were practically disintegrating, but the boxes of books all seemed intact and dry.
I immediately went to slicing open the layers of plastic, cardboard, and paper around my books.
They looked fantastic! Massive sigh of relief and so happy to have them in hand at last.
Now I had to ship them out. In some ways, it was a blessing to not sell too many books. Fulfillment of thousands of books seems like a logistical nightmare. But I had about 200 books sold and so I set about getting them out.
I found a rhythm of signing and packing each book and churned through them all in just a couple days. I used Pirate Ship to purchase shipping and print labels and that worked extremely well. It’s a great site and I’ve even convinced my own mother to start using it.
I was out of the house when USPS came by to pick them up. My wife, Rachel, was here and let the mail guy know that we had all of these books to be picked up. The mail guy had no idea what was happening and wasn’t very pleased about picking up all of these packages, though I tend to think that mail is generally an important part of a mail guy’s job. So anyway, he sort of stood around as my 100lb wife proceeded to load some 500lbs of books into the back of his truck.
Slowly and surely, the books were flung out across the US and began arriving at people’s doors. Miraculously, there weren’t any lost or returned packages. Everything went well.
Now we’re here and I’ve made a book. It’s both strangely satisfying and entirely mundane. I don’t feel noticeably different, I just have a corner of my garage stacked with boxes of books. I’m selling them, but it’s going to take a while to sell them all. I’m glad I did this experiment and it’s given me the confidence to make more books.
9 Tips for Self-publishing Your First Book
1. Make your (first) book.
If there’s one important thing I want you to take away from all of this rambling, it’s this: if you have a desire to make a book, then make a book already! It doesn’t have to be perfect and it likely won’t be perfect. But get it out there. Write it, edit it, make it happen. Ship it already. It’s not easy or quick, but procrastinating is not helping you.
You can cut down a lot of these steps considerably by focusing on a book that’s mostly text and one that’s print-on-demand. You can really make things easier by just creating an ebook first.
If you love books and you want to see your name on a book, then you can do it. The tools are amazingly easy and abundant. You “just” have to put the time into it. It’s definitely not easy and I sunk a ton of hours into this. I am not getting rich off of this book—honestly I’d be impressed if I’m making minimum wage off of all the hours I’ve put into it. But it’s an achievable milestone and it’s doable for anyone with a computer and some basic technology skills.
Not sure what to make? Here are a few ideas:
Publish a collection of your sketches. There’s a lot of pressure around making an Art Book, because, again, we all think it has to be The Book. But a sketchbook doesn’t have to be that, a sketchbook shouldn’t be that. Free yourself up from the pressure. Just put together your best or more interesting sketches and get that first book out there.
Start with essays. Write a lot of essays and see if a theme emerges. Find connections between them. Publish a collection of essays. It will be more interesting than most books out there, many of which would be better suited to a single blog post.
Make an art book around a particular theme. If you’ve made a lot of some type of art (pet portraits, oil paintings, beach paintings, whatever), compile them into a little book. Then it’s not just a book for people who like art—it’s a book for people who like that particular thing. Appeal to a small niche and you might find some really loyal fans. If you’re struggling to fill your book, have some friends contribute to the book too.
2. Make a custom box
I needed something to ship the books in, obviously. On a whim, I asked the printers if they could do that too. They quoted me just an extra 50 cents or so per book, which seemed great to me. I could even design a fully printed box. This turned out to be unexpectedly good choice. I think I’ve gotten as many compliments on the box as I have on the book.
3. You can do it all yourself
You don’t have to do it all yourself, but you can.
You can write, edit, design, and publish a book all on your own. Depending on your skills, though, that might be a bad idea. But as someone who enjoys learning new skills and figuring out how to do everything myself, this is a project that you can take on without any outside help.
4. Selling books is very hard
Making a book and selling a book are two very different skills. One can inform and help the other, but they still require somewhat different mindsets to excel at.
I’m neither experienced nor good enough at this to impart any wisdom, only to say that it’s hard and if you hope to make this a profitable pursuit, it likely won’t be easy. If I learn how to do this well, I’ll write a post about how to do it. But for now, I’m still learning.
5. If all you care about is profit, ebooks are probably smarter
They’re easier to design, the margins are inherently wonderful, and the turnaround time is nearly immediate. If printing a book sounds a bit too scary for you, start here.
It’s extremely easy to sell your book on both your own platforms (using things like Gumroad or Payhip) as well as on all of the major sites out there. I put mine on all of them, but nearly all of the sales so far have either been directly or through Kindle, which makes a lot of logical sense.
6. International shipping is annoying and ungodly expensive
I was warned away from offering international shipping on my Kickstarter. It’s a lot of hassle and it’s expensive. That choice annoyed a lot of people. They buy books all the time in Europe, so what’s so hard about buying a book from me? It’s easy, right?
Well, shipping is awful. It costs more to ship my book than the cost of my book itself. Quite literally $50 to ship it to most places in the world. I can ship my book domestically for about $5.
7. You will absolutely find mistakes in your book and they will make you die inside
I made the mistake of looking at my printed books. And I remember, distinctly, the first moment that I found a glaring error in the books. 1000 copies of this book with a stupid, in-your-face mistake. 100% my mistake. Damn.
It happens, and I guess there’s no way around it. I read books by the big publishers all the time that somehow still have typos and mistakes in them. I guess it’s part of the game.
Bowker to buy your own ISBNs – Don’t lock yourself into Amazon’s ISBNs. Buy some for yourself, instead. Don’t forget to buy one for each version of the book that you’ll be releasing (ebook, hardcover, etc.).
Book Design Made Simple – I love this site. Saved my bacon many times and answered the questions I had about how to properly design a book.
Book mock-up files – These are the ones I used for my Kickstarter campaign and I think they looked great. There are a lot of them out in the world, so just find one that roughly matches the proportions of your book and your particular aesthetic. If you’re running a campaign, it’s probably worth it to have a mock-up of what people will be getting.
3D Book – I used this for the nifty little interactive mock-up on the website. I have no idea why they have a subscription pricing model.
Qin Printing – The folks who printed my book. They did an excellent job. They even individually shrink-wrapped the books and pre-assembled and pre-packed all of the books. Excellent quality, I’ll be using them again.
9. Once you’ve made a book, make more books.
Nothing has made me as excited to make books as making my first book.
Now I know it’s possible and I know what needs to happen. I know the parts that are hard and the parts that are easy. I know where to invest time and money.
After finishing my first book, I have at least 20 ideas for other books that I would love to make. I can’t make them all, so I’m just chipping away at a few of them that I find most interesting right now.
I’m sure some people need to hear this, so I’ll say it now: finish your first book. Then make more books. Finishing can be a hard thing. Actually calling it done and pushing the publish button. In doing that, though, you are giving yourself permission to pursue the next project. Too many of us are serial dabblers, forever trapped in the realm of partially finished projects.
I was the exact same way, so it’s hardly a criticism.
Making a small, first book was what worked for me. It might work for you too.
I don’t think we should seek out personal disasters, but maybe we shouldn’t be so scared of survivable personal disasters.
Painfully obvious disclaimer: disasters suck. Personal & career tragedies, scandals, illnesses, injuries, famine, etc. They’re painful, people get hurt, sometimes people die, and we should all work to reduce human suffering. I’m not advocating for more pain in the world. I’m not suggesting you go out looking for these things. Furthermore, there is an obvious level of privilege in talking of silver linings. I’m not going to tell anyone the dumb advice of “it’s not that bad, haven’t you thought of how X is going to be better now?” Let’s look for our own silver linings, not try to dictate how others feel about their own trials.
Bad things are going to happen to all of us. Many times it will be the things that we least expect, other times that haunting fear that follows you through life will really come true. We can plan, prepare, and try to prevent it, but sometimes it’s going to happen anyway. It’s a rare life that ends unscarred.
I’ve been going through one of my worst nightmares for the last few years but it’s been unexpectedly therapeutic at the same time. Whether you think I deserved all of this or not isn’t really the issue here. Tough things are tough. A well-deserved prison sentence is still a hell of a thing to go through, even if a false imprisonment is probably objectively worse.
As I’ve gone through this mess, I’ve read about and seen others go through their own personal disasters and seen similar responses. They go through the fire and they come out in a better place.
I’m not suggesting anyone go out looking for disasters. But I am saying that perhaps we should all be a little less afraid of personal disasters.
The greater our success, the greater our sunk cost, or the greater our investment of time/money/identity, the tighter we hold on. As our grip tightens, our fear grows. The more that we need something to be ok, the more we dread that one day that thing might not be ok any more. The more we need, the more that can go wrong.
Fearing disaster does not prevent disaster
We can (and should) do our best to prevent disasters. Unnecessary risks are stupid. You should drive carefully. You should take care of your health. You shouldn’t play in the road. You probably shouldn’t take up base-jumping.
But there are an almost infinite variety of ways that things can go wrong. And the one that gets us will very likely not be the one we expect.
Amor fati, as the stoics say. Love the cards that fate deals us. We should prepare ourselves for the unexpected and disastrous—that’s just being a good steward of the precious life you’ve been given. But what good is fear doing for us? Obviously we should be aware of the dangers of driving, but being afraid every time we drive? That will cloud our abilities to drive well and prevent accidents, thus making our fears more likely to come to pass.
We steer where we’re looking, so stop looking at all of the ditches.
Survivable disasters are not as bad as you imagine
Imagine the worst thing that could happen to you this afternoon.
Easy, right? Amazingly bad stuff. Really shitty afternoon.
Now imagine the best thing that could happen to you.
Probably harder to imagine, probably not as amazing as the shitty afternoon is shitty.
We’re all great at imagining the things that can go wrong and most of us practice that skill every day. We assume the ways that people don’t like us. Or the way a project will go wrong. Or how we’ll mess up basic things with our work. Or the countless other ways that things will spontaneously sour.
But when bad things happen, they’re often not nearly as bad as your imagination has made them out to be. Even horrible things can feel somehow manageable in the moment.
Suffering is bad, but it’s inevitable. Suffering of suffering—the act of fearing and reflecting on suffering—is bad but avoidable. The Buddhists have this figured out and we could all learn a lot from them.
There can be power, though, in imagining the worst. Tim Ferriss does a thing called fear-setting. In imagining the worst, we can actually see that we will be ok. This is different from simply ruminating on our devastation. This is taking our pessimistic tendencies of self-visioning and using them as fuel.
Our courage grows to the level of our challenge
I don’t know if I could handle going to war. I might physically and mentally break, collapsing under the weight of fear and anxiety. I’ve never been through that and I have no idea how I would handle it. I feel for the folks who have gone through those things.
But if I went through a cancellation next year, say, I know I could get through it. I’ve been through it before and I know approximately what I can expect from it. I know it will be hard but I know I’ll make it through the worst of it.
We only grow stronger when we face adversity. We can simulate challenges, but training can collapse under sufficiently overwhelming trials. We may have prepared for the stones that life would cast our way—but maybe we weren’t ready for a rogue meteor.
When the worst happens, when the meteor strikes, when we’re faced with our worst nightmare, and then we get through it, that’s when we learn an incredible lesson about ourselves. We got through that. And if we can get through that, what else can we handle?
I have spent many years in fear. The years before my career were consumed by a fear of failure, of never making it, of being a perpetual amateur. Then the years of my career were full of the fears of losing it all or of not living up to my potential. And now, after my professional career, I fear that I will never regain a modicum of the respect and recognition I once had—that the remainder of life will be a pale shadow of my brief period of commercial success.
I can’t say I’ve fully eradicated fear. But I can see that it is there. In seeing it, I can name it for what it is. So named, I can choose to face it. Fears will always be present, we only get to choose the meaning we assign to the fear and our response to the fear.
Unexpected goods can come from unanticipated bads
In the same way that we rarely anticipate our own personal black swans, we often fail to anticipate the positive black swans that will result.
Seeing my professional career in ruin messed me up. I had staked not just my financial success in that, but every bit of my identity. I didn’t just make art for a living, I was an artist. When I could no longer be a professional artist, I could no longer be me. But the silver lining was that it forced me to reinvent myself. To discover a new, more antifragile, kinder, more empathetic, more wholesome self-identity. I was no longer staking my identity on the rickety supports of external validation and rewards.
Along these same lines, it’s possible to rebuild a better version than the one that was destroyed. When we go through a horrible break-up and get out of a bad situation, we are better equipped to recognize and avoid toxic influences in our life. When we have suffered through a terrible job for too many years, we begin to see the warning signs of a bad work environment.
Clean slates are rare
Break-ups are hard. But, often, we see clearly after a break-up. After we have emerged from the tough feelings of a break-up, we see the situation and life more clearly. We have a new lease on life. We can do anything, go anywhere, be with anyone. We have gone from a clear path and one option to a murky path and nearly infinite options.
Making large changes in life is hard. It’s easier to stay friends with a deadbeat than to cut their negativity out of your life. It’s easier to stay with a given career or employer than to get out of there and pursue the course that lights you up. Even when things are good—golden handcuffs can hold us just as surely.
None of us want to lose everything. We worked for decades to get everything we have right now. But the hard truth is that our lives might be a bit better if we selectively pruned the dead branches holding us down.
Personal disasters can break us or they can make us. Sometimes a bit of both.
I don’t want you to feel guilty if you are undergoing a personal disaster and you feel hopeless. We’ve been there. You’re not alone and nobody is saying it’s easy. I’m not suggesting that you magically put a smile on your face tomorrow and act like everything is ok. Nor am I suggesting you lay down on the metaphorical tracks while the freight train of disaster is heading your way.
I just hope that on those dark nights, when it feels like you’re stuck and this mess will be the end of you, that you find a small glimmer of hope. Enough to get through another day, to try to do one right thing, to take the first or ten thousandth step out of the hole you’ve found yourself in.
Kratom is probably one of my favorite discoveries I’ve made in the last few years and it’s a damn shame how few people know about it. I love optimizing my health, nutrition, and supplements—but I rarely talk much about that. I’m an artist and most people want to hear me talk about making art. But kratom has been an amazing help for my art & work.
I’ve always struggled with energy, focus, motivation, and mood.
I’m usually pretty slow and low-energy. I have an awful time with focus (yay for ADD). As much as I love art and everything else I do, I struggle like crazy to actually motivate myself to do anything.
That’s where kratom comes in.
What is kratom?
Kratom is a natural plant powder that tastes vile but provides a wonderful energy and mood boost. I think of it like coffee, but no jitters and a nice bump of good vibes. Also if you’re like me and caffeine doesn’t do much for you, then give kratom a shot. I think you’ll be impressed.
How do you take kratom?
There are a lot of ways to take kratom and most of them are kinda unpleasant. I think it’s a testament to how much I like kratom that I still take it even though it tastes disgusting.
It’s a bit like a gritty, super-bitter matcha or green tea. It’s pretty gross. But people do mix it like a tea. Pour some hot water into the powder and add some honey to take the edge off. If you’re going to make a tea, though, don’t use boiling water! Let it cool off from boiling or use a kettle that lets you specify a temperature under 200℉ (that’s about 93℃). If the water is too hot apparently it can denature the kratom (or something science-y like that) and reduce the effectiveness.
But if you don’t want to have sorta-gross tea, there’s still hope! The best way for kratom-newbies to start taking it is in pill form. It’s not the most cost-effective way to take it long-term. But it’s a quick and easy way to dip your toes in the water. Pro tip, though: be sure you drink plenty of water after taking the pill. Burping up kratom powder is a wildly unpleasant experience.
They also have actually tasty options now. There are pre-mixed little energy shots. There are even gummies!
Nowadays, for the sake of time and cost efficiency, I just mix the powder in cold water and chug it. I don’t necessarily recommend that as the best method. It’s probably one of the worst ways to take it but it still does the trick for me. You should probably use a shaker cup (like people use for protein shakes) to get out all the clumps. Clumps are gross.
If you’re going to take the powder form, whether in a tea or a disgusting powdery shot, be sure and buy a milligram scale. Pretty much any of them will do. I own this one from amazon and it’s nothing special, but it works for me.
Where do I buy kratom?
The only people I’ve heard who have had bad experiences with kratom are those who have bought it from less-than-reputable sources. Other stuff gets mixed in with the kratom and they have a bad day.
I don’t like having bad days, so I always buy kratom that I trust. You can usually find it at vape stores and the like, but I’m lazy and I buy everything online. I found Happy Hippo Herbals and they’re the only place I’ve bought kratom for the last few years. They make great & safe products, they have really good prices, they have an incredible selection of different strains, and they ship extremely quickly.
If you use this link or my discount code, NOAH15, you get 15% off. It’s an affiliate link so I’ll make a few bucks if you order some kratom through them, so obviously I’m biased. But I’ve been recommending kratom to my friends for years and have been referring people to this same site regardless. This isn’t just spam. I really think they’re awesome.
Don’t be an idiot
I’m not a doctor and I’m not giving you medical advice. I can barely take care of my own body, much less anyone else’s.
Kratom isn’t super well researched and you can find a lot of “kratom will save us all” and “kratom is literally the devil” stuff online. I have no idea where exactly it’ll end up, but probably somewhere in the middle (as with most things).
So be sensible about it, read some more stuff, and try tiny amounts of it, especially when you’re starting out. If you take too much you can get pretty nauseous, which is never fun. Also take days/weeks/months completely off. It’s pretty easy to build a tolerance and I hate being dependent on anything. So don’t be an idiot, be smart, go slow.