Monday Series: (On Tuesday Again) A Story About Reduction

Monday Series: (On Tuesday Again) A Story About Reduction

I've been drawing again. This is good. A few minutes ago, I submitted my entry into the SVS Learn May Art Content. I'm reasonably pleased with the result. Reasonably. These days, I'm investigating a few things when it comes to art. I'm interested in exploring:

  • The intersection of illustration and design as it relates to stylization
  • The intersection of illustration and storytelling
  • What separates an "illustration" from a "drawing"
  • What kind of illustration I'd like to be creating

This piece has done a pretty good job addressing most of those things. It's far more graphic than many of my recent pieces. I like that about it. I also feel like I did a decent job conveying a mood or a story—certainly one that is more in line with the kind of subject matter I'd prefer to engage with. There's just something that feels a little dead to me. Something is missing, but it's time to move on. After one final color/value adjustment today, I called it quits. And that is probably the thing I am most proud of. I finished something and I am comfortably walking away from it. I'll lead you through the full process in June's Monthly Digest email.


The theme for the week is reduction. There is too much going on. Too much news, too much hysteria, too much aggression, too much work, too much drama, too much Zoom, too many inputs, etc. We're living in a shitstorm of excess. It makes us tired. It makes me tired.

So I'm going to try to reduce—everything. Here are some initial ideas.


We're living in a pandemic. Now's as good a time as any to work on saying "no" to things I don't feel like doing. Easier said than done but impactful nonetheless. If I can control my knee jerk reaction to get excited about every little thing a friend or family member asks me to do, maybe I'd have some more time and energy on my hands.


For people of my socio-economic status and/or generation, there is a huge temptation to buy or subscribe to a million things that claim to solve all of my self-proclaimed problems with time management, fitness, and health. The truth is that 85% of these things just suck all of my money but don't actually help me with any of the aforementioned problems. And now I have 35 additional emails, app notifications, and subscriptions to manage and pay for. This is silly. I see the appeal. Clearly I do. I work in tech, so, I probably see the appeal and understand its allure as much as anyone can—but it's not making me a better person. It's making me a person that throws lots of dollars in the trash can in the hopes that a piece of software will fix my over-commitment issues. I don't need 4-6 exercise apps and 2 grocery/meal subscriptions, I need some prioritization and the self-generated permission to spend a few hours after work exercising and preparing food for myself because that is what healthy human beings do.


This is a big one. WE HAVE SO MANY INPUTS RIGHT NOW. I've touched on this a bit in previous posts. I want to shift my input:output ratio to about 40:60. It's important for an artist to have inputs. It's also important to get some shit done. 

Since I work full-time, I have a limited number of free hours available to me. I'd like to reduce the portion of that time spent scrolling through Instagram/Facebook, cleaning my Gmail inbox, and reading through news updates. I would much prefer to focus my inputs on things like podcasts, books, and TV shows that I actually enjoy.

There is a second piece to this. It's a two-pronged situation. Even after I kill my Instagram addiction, the remaining podcasts, books, and TV shows will still be too much. This is important to note. There will always be a virtually endless stream of things to dazzle me with their shiny power. (As I write this, I am about 3 feet away from seven, yes seven, illustrated books that are sitting on my coffee table because I was looking at them this weekend for inspiration.) This is ok - but I have to be careful. Because, as previously noted, I have a hard time saying no to something that looks even remotely interesting.

Solution Brainstorming

My answer to this kind of thought process is usually to create some sort of schedule for myself. I get really excited about it and stick to it for a grand total of 36 hours before abandoning it for something more comfortable. So let's adjust that idea slightly. If I start to categorize the inputs that give me the most joy, they typically fall into 3 buckets:

  1. Educational Material about building a business or improving illustration skills
  2. Self-Betterment Material about the human condition, fitness, or nutrition
  3. Material (fiction and non-fiction) about witches, serial killers, or craftspeople/bakers

One helps me build this business, one helps me become a better person, one is pure entertainment. My hypothesis is that it's important to consider what time of day and in what kind of mood I am exposing myself to which bucket. A book is not a book. There is a time and place for everything.

It's becoming increasingly clear to me that I have to devote the last portion of my evening to the entertainment bucket. If I don't, I'm up all night. This is true even if I'm enjoying the input—the things in the first two buckets tend to give me too much energy. Exercise usually happens immediately after work (or in an afternoon break) and I find that I am able to enjoy the betterment material (if it's a podcast or an audiobook) at that time. Self-betterment is also nice in the morning when I'm feeling rested and a little self-reflective. The educational material is best suited for early evening, mid-afternoon (if it's audio or if it's a weekend), or sometimes morning because it stimulates my mind and inspires me to generate output. 

I'm fighting the urge to make a schedule. I won't stick to it. But I think I will probably try to adjust the timing on some of these things to see what feels good. Here are some general rules I'll try to follow:

  1. By 9pm, only entertainment inputs allowed.
  2. If up early enough in the morning, I'll focus on some self-betterment inputs while drawing or journaling.
  3. Early evening, post exercise and dinner, I'll digest a small chunk of educational material and let it launch me into some outputs. Those outputs may extend beyond 9pm if I'm in a flow, but the inputs should shift to entertainment if I'm listening or watching something.

There is a really good quote about time that I have to locate. The gist of it is that it's our greatest and scarcest commodity and we should be careful about how we treat it. If we are given the opportunity to have even a small amount of "free time," we should make it meaningful to ourselves and others.

I guess the point of all of this (giant scheduling tangent aside) is that it pays to reduce where you can (sometimes literally) and I'd like to try to do that. I don't enjoy feeling like my days are JAM PACKED with shit and I'm fortunate in that it's entirely within my control to change that. That might irk a few people. That has to be ok. I can't do all of it and remain sane. None of us can. No one anywhere can.

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