September 5, 2020

Pricing your creative work: the self-doubt-proof way

In a recent edition of The Capsule, I shared a glimpse of an exchange I had with a recent client, and how it doubled the market price of my work in one strike. It so results that pricing your creative work relies more on instinct and intuition over rationale, and today we'll learn why.

Creative work tendentially low-ends because we, the makers, fail to see what the outsiders do. The “business” aspect of things was forgotten along our manufacturing process. For the worse, there's no visible neon sign anywhere that reads “Look! This is how much your work could make the client bank!”. Well, I'm here to plug the first cable into the socket.

Learning where to draw the line between “fair price” and “I could exchange this for a popsicle” is where it gets all fuzzy. Us designers and artists enjoy playing the role of people-pleaser frequently because, as I said, we're enamored with our craft. Thus we take in work here and there, unfiltered, stockpile it into our pipeline, and pray to Chuck Norris our awake time will suffice.

It is time to become more assertive about our pricing strategy, grow confidence over our creative outlet, and bring in the money fellas and felletes.

Simply ask for more money

Yes, you read right. Just ask for more. Can it be that simple? Confirmado.

Chris Do is well known for procuring paradigm shifts in creative minds. His discourse is meticulously crafted to dismantle the self-undermining talk some of us involuntarily put together when we question ourselves: am I skilled enough? Professional enough? Prepared enough? All silly, all woo-woo, questions that handicap our potential.

I've known outstanding creatives charging pennies for the work. I've also known average joes cashing in for the simple fact they asked for more money. It boils down to a matter of attitude. No matter how good you can draw, how A-level your perspective game is, how proficient you are in creating vector burritos; if your earnings aren't in ascent over time, there is a piece of the machinery that needs some greasing.

During this interview with Cuban-American visual artist Magdiel Lopez, both Chris and himself drop a couple of golden nuggets. I advise you to watch it, listen closely, and take notes if necessary. Magdiel recalls one particular “Aha!” moment following a client exchange which radically changed his outlook upon the value of his own work. Go look it up...impact guaranteed!

Enlightenment arrives when you dart that four, five, or six-figure number, swallow hard, and hit send. In that very instant, a chunk of the impassable paywall bias crumbles down right before your eyes like soda crackers. All of a sudden you feel empowered, capable, and most importantly: valued. So don't be afraid to simply ask for more.

Google your client

No, no. Not in a weird way!

Depending on who's soliciting your services, the company may or may not have financial data on the internet. The bigger the business is, the more likely this becomes. For instance, if Coca-Cola reaches out to you to create graphics for their winter campaign you could do one of two things:

  1. Assume that for it being Coca-Cola they are going to count with a big bag of cash for this job, a valid argument.
  2. Dive into Google to do lightning research on their campaign budgets or yearly ad spend. This will give you a hint of how far you can toss the spear without risking losing the client...or stabbing it.

Now, let's say the client is not Coca-Cola but a local eyewear brand. What should you do? You could go even further into the research. How many shops are there? What is the average price point of their product? Are they selling locally only, or region-wise? Can you look for competitors with similar profiles to cast a guess on Ad spend? These are all pointers you can later use to craft your project proposal with some solid arguments to support it. Bring me ze money!

Price based on foreseeable impact is a valid outtake strategy. What I mean with that is: create a hypothetical scenario of how your work will bring positive results to your client. What is the project scope and reach? Will it be showcased worldwide? Art creates emotions, moves masses, and provokes change. Your piece could be the defining factor of a well-executed campaign. Treat it like such.

Be bullish, your work demands it

Ever heard the saying: “One can only charge as much as your client is willing to pay?” No? Good. Me neither.

Cheap work is unappreciated work. Cheap work is destined to be battered, dragged, and thrown around like a ragdoll. In fact, charge your client cheap and be ready for what-ifs, let's do what my cat suggested, and who knows what sparkle of spontaneous capricious charm.

Note to starters: At the early stages of your freelancing career as an artist or creative, you shouldn't be bothering to appear on MTV's Cribs. You should instead have three goals in mind:

  • Build a portfolio
  • Become highly skilled in one (or more) areas
  • Network with other artists, designers, and agencies

Whether that entails doing free work, creating make-believe projects, or going on a 90-day artistic rampage. Your work has to do the talkin', don't fall into the ambition trap too early.

Remember price is an agent of quality. When a potential client winds up asking for a quote and your rates fly below their expectations, you signaled you're insecure about the value of your work. This unravels a plot in which they own the upper hand to toy around with requests, so you may as well buckle-up tight, Chewie.

Another win-win-situation about increasing your rates is you immediately put yourself in the spot of delivering higher quality work. Double the price, double the expectations, double the pressure, double the growth. Can I have that with fries on the side, please?

Sorry but we can't afford it

Lastly, this a scenario you're going to face give or take when the rubber meets the road. At this moment you have to ask yourself a handful of questions:

  • Will this project significantly improve my skills?
  • Could this relationship result in more work further on?
  • Is the client a fit for my values and objectives?
  • Am I in the right financial situation to cut-down prices?
  • Would I amount to a greater impact by investing the time into honing my portfolio and skills instead?

If the answer is yes, take it. If otherwise, know you should only take in commissions you feel good about—unless your finances state the opposite. Halving the price of your creative work doesn't render it less valuable, or you less competent, if you're harnessing a big chunk of professional experience in return. Hold onto that thought.

Put your priorities on a scale and make a cold call. Don't hesitate to say No to a client whose objectives are incompatible with yours, there's plenty of fish in the sea.

Which leads me to my last argument: clients, there are many; your time, on the other hand, is finite. Focus on doing the work you love and let that be the compass that leads you into a successful economic landscape. It works like clockwork. In the meantime get educated, read books, water your creativity, equip yourself with tools to face the journey, and don't forget: never be afraid to ask for more money.

July 16, 2020

How to overcome insecurity and set your art free

I was asked to do a simple yet challenging task: writing a blog entry addressed to artists, be it some useful tool, some advice on how to improve their business or something alike. It all seems too easy, you know, sitting down, writing stuff and sending it out. And it could be if it wasn’t for one tiny detail: my insecurity keeps holding me back from sharing anything I write.

You see, I enjoy writing more than I enjoy doing anything else (except for petting dogs, anytime, anywhere). And I must say myself, I do think that I am good at it. However, insecurity makes me not do it as often as I would love to, or with a purpose that would benefit myself and others (lately, it has just been some journal entries on my mid-twenties crisis). It’s like being in a toxic relationship that you keep bouncing to just because it has become your comfort zone, and I am sure most of you have faced this situation at some point.

If you are reading this, it means that you consider yourself a striving artist, a curious accomplished one or a good friend of mine that supports my work (love u <3). Either way, there are high chances that at any given time, you have found yourself wondering, “Am I good enough?”

I, by no means, am trying to write some pseudo-coaching article, or implying that I am now an enlightened being giving spiritual advice just because I did a sloppy version of the 21-day meditation challenge by Deepak Chopra. What I am looking to accomplish here is to make you (and me) realize that insecurity is:

  1. Based on distorted judgements we have about ourselves and others.
  2. An easy and undeserved victory for your Ego.

With a little help from my friends

I am usually pretty insecure and full of self-doubt when it comes to my creative side. I am sure a lot of people feel the same way because every head is a world (“cada cabeza es un mundo” definitely sounds lame in English, I am sorry for that). However, when us introverted people dare to speak out about what is going through our minds, we find friends, family, partners and colleagues, all agreeing that we are so dumb for ever thinking that we are not good enough in what we do.

In my particular case, I have shared this with my closest, most open-minded friends, and their response is always reassuring and clear: what I believe of myself is a big, fat lie, and that I am good at [almost] everything I do. It’s not that I ask my mom because she will always see me with loving eyes. I always try to speak with people that I admire, that I believe are doing a great job, and that are doing what they love to do.

That feedback has been so important for me that, otherwise, I would not be writing today, specifically about this, on this website. This would probably be still written in my journal, sitting with some poems that I am still too shy to share.

Time and space, your most sacred goods

Whether you are a painter, a musician, a writer, a designer, or whatever it is that you want to specialize on, it is essential that you ditch insecurities and have trust in yourself. But even most importantly, have trust in all the efforts you’ve made to be where you are and to keep moving towards where you want to be.

Think about it: all that time you’vespent learning new stuff that you are so passionate about, developing yourself, creating meaningful things; it all really has a worth of its own, regardless you believe in yourself or not. And by “you” I mean the aforementioned Ego. That annoying voice in your head that fills you up with harsh criticism, that makes you think that the post you just did was quite nerdy, or that the lyrics you wrote aren’t deep enough, or that just because this other person went to art school and you didn’t, your work lacks something, and you let that harmful battle going on in your head hold you back.

No. Please, stop. As a friend told me a few days ago, if there is a thought, ANY thought, that is not helping you improve, just say to it “Thank you, next”, and make room for a more useful one. You must get rid of the ego that insists on discouraging you and pulling you down. Ain’t nobody got time for that! You need to clear the space for more handy thoughts and ideas. 

If there is any reason I’m writing this right now, it is that I decided to believe in my capabilities and to respect every single minute I’ve invested developing myself as a writer and as a professional. Also, because I know there are people out there, like me, that lack of self-confidence and are letting their art get covered in dust because they can’t see that their time and effort and talent are worthy.

Do not compare yourself. I repeat, do NOT compare yourself!

One of the easiest and most common ways of self-sabotage is to compare your work with someone else’s. Not only that but also we tend to do this especially when we are at our lowest point, so we end up all let down for not meeting our own expectations of what we think our art or content should look like. This happens usually at the beginning when you are still defining your voice and identity.

Needles to say, to be this unfair and merciless with yourself blocks your perspective and your ability to see beyond the “flawless” Instagram feed you are frantically scrolling through. If all you can see is how perfect someone else’s work is, and how talented and creative they are, and how every idea they come with is a hit, let me tell you, there is A LOT you are missing out.

You see, as far as I know, no one pops out of their mother’s vagina with pen and paper in hand and a perfect sense of proportion and technique. These things require time, effort, tons of practice and zillions of mistakes and regrets. Trial and error are basic in every artist and creator’s evolving process. Yes, that’s right, EVERY one of them. Not just you.

Accept and embrace your process. Enjoy it. Know that you are in the right place and don’t discredit your work just because it doesn’t look exactly like how you envisioned it. You’ll get there. Take your time to evolve and know that something doesn’t have to be perfect to deserve to be shared.

And remember, not because another person is super talented and skilled, it means that you are not. Your background, education, interests and references are unique. There is a whole universe inside your head that makes you create all the things you do. It’s the same for every person, so don’t let yourself be discouraged by other’s good work. Use it as an inspiration. It’s normal to feel intimidated or insecure, but don’t let toxic competitiveness paralyze you.

The moment has come: making your first move

Again, I don’t think of myself as an enlightened being, ready to bless you all with my life journey and experiences. Kind words won’t do the job. But you know what will? Action. Trust me, getting out there and showing what you’ve got takes only one simple thing: doing it.

And seriously, what’s the worst thing that could happen? No one reading you? No one double-tapping the collage you posted 15 minutes ago? Yeah, that would suck. But it would not be very different from what happens when you don’t do it.

When you actually expose yourself out there, you are opening countless doors and windows, and creating networking opportunities that will really help you make your path. Maybe it won’t be your main way to make a living. But maybe it will. It all depends on how much effort you put on it and how much faith you’ve got.

What is the most probable thing to happen at the beginning is that you share it with your closest friends and because they are all so awesome, they will tell you that you are amazing and that what you are doing is great. They might also give you some advice and good criticism. Be humble and take it.

Furthermore, you are also creating a brand new space full of possibilities: developing a creative network with all the weirdos out there with an internet connection and the same interests as you; a place to showcase your talent and let prospective clients see how you flow; a nice bullet point to add to your resume; the entrance door for the career you’ve always dreamt of.

The work is already done. Now, it’s time to share it. Explore all the different tools available on the internet to publish your reel and portfolio. I mean, Instagram is cool and everything, not to mention it’s partly essential for networking, but it doesn’t have to be your main platform. There are tons of others versatile enough to adapt to your work. Take a look at Semplice, for example. It works for everyone, whether you are a designer, writer, painter, architect, and beyond. The work is already done. Now, get the ball rolling and keep evolving.

July 10, 2020

The Jar of Life: Improve your time management skills one rock at a time

How can a jar ever improve my time management skills? You might be asking yourself right away. Well friend, hold your horses and comb your mullets because your mind is about to be blown. One rock, pebble, grain of sand, and drop of beer at a time. Who doesn't love beer?

“I know it is important, but I truly don't have any time for that!” Yes, I know you've bitten your lips more than once after regurgitating this phrase. I have too. It is the one feisty predator that menaces us, Modern Artists, on a daily, weekly, yearly basis. That one bastard: time.

We want to start that e-commerce shop to sell our prints, or rather embark on that Skillshare that will finally teach us how to make wooden gnomes for our grandma's garden. Perhaps we want to finally learn Esperanto because hot damn, we never know when the next global language tectonic shift may occur. Who knows? There are needs and wants of all shapes and colors. But how do we find the time to actually do?

A harsh acceptance: you already have time

Aha! I said it. I repeat this to myself constantly every time my brain shuts down into busyfication mode. You already have time, that is a fact. Therefore you don't need time, so let's start by dusting off that shelf and acknowledging la veritè. Swoop, swoop.

“But Marco, I swear, I don't have any! I must take my hedgehog for a walk in the morning, prepare me some good Aunt Jemima pancakes afterward, catch up on the daily news to make sure I don't stay behind on Kim Jong-Un's latest world domination attempt...oh and the cacti! Must water those too.”

I get it, I get it. You're busy. I'm busy too. We're all busy. Busy is a modern society ailment depriving us of living life at its fullest. Busy is the lie we keep telling ourselves to prevent us from taking action or doing what is truly necessary. It robs us from being pragmatic and it, counter-intuitively, our time.

The good news is: you don't need more time. What you need is to prioritize. Prioritize your work, your leisure time, and your non-negotiables. Prioritization leads to effective time management skills. Prioritization is the nemesis of busyfication, the cure to what you thought to be an incurable disease.

How to manage time like a jar—or a pro

Ok, now that we understood that time is already there waiting for us to come knock, knock, knocking o it's door [ay, ay ay!]. It is time to dissect into the nitty-gritty of how to manage el tiempo effectively, orderly, and rationally, with the help of The Jar of Life.

“A jar is going to solve all my life problems, for real?” Nope. Definitely not. But it is going to help you take a step back and reassess your daily activities. What are you focusing the most amounts of energy onto? And is it truly worth it? Or perhaps it would do a greater good if poured somewhere else? Those are the kind of questions that The Jar of Life is going to help you answer.

Improving your time management skills will cause a compounding effect of good Karma as you realize you can do more in less time, and be happier along the way. You'll feel fulfilled, accomplished, moving forward instead of zig-zagging and beat-jumping. The jar will help you understand the critical things that make you content. That which give your life true, juicy, meaning.

Use The Jar Of Life to better manage your time

How does it work

To start, we need some basic ingredients [don't worry, it's a mental exercise, no need to get Art-Attack with it]: 2 glass jars, a handful of rocks, handful of pebbles, handful of sand, and one good German beer. The objective is to fill the jar to the brim without it overflowing, overstacking, overnothing. Clean cut at the top.

Option 1:

You start by pouring the sand in, followed by the pebbles, wait for them to settle at the bottom and immediately realize the jar is almost full. You try to drop the rocks in, pushing them against one another to make them fit. No luck. You try to reposition them, take some out, squeeze others in but nothing. Nada. The jar is full to the top, and there's the beer sitting around...what with the beer? I think I'll drink it.

Option 2:

This time you start with the big rocks first, they click-clack their way to the bottom of the jar and settle there. Now it's time for the pebbles, they fall into place finding space in between the gaps left by the rocks. Then you pour the sand in which easily slides through the cracks, the jar isn't even full yet. Lastly, the beer! Which instead of chugging it you pour it gently and let it drip to top the jar. No mess, no overflowing or stacking, the jar is full! Great success.

So..what is the message here folks?

In life, like in this jar, we tend to wrongly prioritize our key-happiness activities (the rocks). We spend too much time on the banal (the sand, pebbles, and beer—I love beer) whilst we navigate through our material realm in auto-pilot mode. Do the chores, walk the dog, drink the coffee on the terrace, be busy, busy, very busy, watch the Star Wars marathon for the 5th time, sleep, repeat. It's a toxic loop of livelihood-systematization numbing us.

The Jar of Life teaches us one valuable lesson: we can make time for all that matters to us by simply removing the clutter, the extra. Identify what your rocks are and start by fixing them into your calendar. When that time of the day comes, drop everything, and dedicate your entire humanity to it. Limit distractions or annoyances. Turn off your phone, put the angry hedgehog away. This is your sacred happy time, treat it like such!

After you take care of the rocks, then make space for some of the pebbles, sand and beer. But watch out! Don't over do it, or else you'll rapidly recoil back to the old habits.

What are your rocks? I'll share mine with you:

  • Exercise—above all. It's the one habit that keeps the balance even and my life aligned. I live by one rule: life may be crumbling into pieces, flaming asteroids showers diving form the sky, Tiger King running for president, whatever it is—Don't. Stop. Exercising. Ever. Period.
  • Family and friends—my pride and joy. I live to laugh and laugh to live. Sharing with my loved ones is what keeps my creative and wellness tanks at full.
  • Help—anybody in need. I learned this from my parents and other relatives who are passionate givers. Lending a hand just for the sake of making somebody else's day a tiny lil' bit better is inexplicably rewarding.
  • Create—anything. Whether that be a drawing, a song, a mural, a digital collage, or a comedic sketch. Spraying the world with my creativity and means of self-expression brings me infinite bliss and gratification.
  • Hobbies—music mainly. I thrive for the rhythms, the melodies, the arrangements. Playing music is one of my go-to forms of meditation. I wouldn't swap it for a million dollars.

Lesson being, you could strip me away from everything else I've got, yet give me a jumping rope, a cousin, a blank Photoshop document, and a guitar—and you can rest damn assured I'll be batshit happy.

So once again, what are your rocks? Let me know in the comments!

June 24, 2020

Net Art: Take your pieces to the universal URL based exhibition, The Internet.

Introducing Net Art, art that acts on the network, or is acted on by it. Pieces made for the internet, meant to be experienced at home, behind your device. For example, when you have to stay at home, there’s always Net Art. Not only in these quarantine times but actually Net Art has a history that spans more than 30 years.

You might be asking yourself, or me—the writer—how does it look like? Show me now for god's sake! Well, give me just a minute, or scroll down to see what has been created and by who. On the other hand, if you choose to stay here and read a little bit of context, I'll be delighted to tell you some interesting facts, before the fun visual part.

Meanwhile, for the patient ones, here's a small preview of Net Art.

Viktor Timofeev Remote collaborative drawing.

This might not look like a digital collage, I'll give you that.

Why should I learn anout Net Art?

The intention of this post is to open your mind to the possibilities that the internet offers in these modern times. What I'm about to show you here, will inspire you. Most importantly, you are going to get some ideas on how to use the internet to take your work beyond.

Everyone is using Instagram, Pinterest, or Behance to showcase their digital work, and that's perfectly fine. To clarify, Modern Artists should use every channel there is. Firstly, to grow their audience. Secondly, to brand their work. Thirdly, of course, to make a sustainable income to keep creating and pay for rent. However, there are other things you could take into account in the game.

What if you could take your art further. For instance, creating domains for each piece, and creating a unique experience for your whole practice. What if you could create, for example, your own personal gallery, a behind the scenes studio, or your own wall like Rafaël Rozendaal´s website. Which features all his websites, a collection of 114 websites. Yes, I counted them. One by one.

Website with collection of Rafäel Rozendaal's Net Art pieces. collection of Rafäel Rozendaal's Net Art pieces

This idea of making independent art on separate websites has started to look amazing and creatively valuable to me. This is different from making portfolios, in other words, this is a performative experience. On a portfolio, you show the work you have made in other mediums. These pieces are actual websites that perform aesthetic concepts, not only with abstraction but also with typography.

I'm not a developer, can I create Net Art?

Yes of course my dear non-code trained digital artist.

I think you could create a Net Art website with any popular builder like WordPress, or Elementor. The perk is that those builders are only template-based. Get your head around it and find some way of building weird things. However, I have not tried it myself, though.

There is, however, my favorite website builder. Yes, you guessed it, smart buddy, Webflow. With Webflow you have HTML elements, CSS styling controls, and a Javascript interactions designer. You could create circles that change background color with the mouse hovering, things that appear or disappear with scrolls, and more.

I don't know anyone who is using Webflow to create art pieces, but it works perfectly for it.

Remember, if you are familiarized with any design tool like Photoshop or illustrator, you can learn Webflow faster.

On the other hand, if you are a developer or have any knowledge of HTML at least, you can do amazing things. Just with HTML you can create interesting pieces, buy yourself a funny named domain and publish your piece of art.

I have also thought about the possibility of putting together the teachings of the Digital Collage Starter Guide with Webflow's capabilities. For example, you could create your collages, and then animate them in Webflow.

Image shows one website as an example of Net Art pieces. Each of those lines takes you to a different crazy piece of Net Art

The one thing that motivates me to write about these ideas, however, is the incredible number of ways that we have at hand to make art nowadays. I want to push creators to take advantage of these tools through inspiration. We live in a time in which access to web development and digital art technologies is immense, and I wake up every day feeling incredibly blessed to be alive right now.

So, this Net Art thing... when did it start?

Well, after the internet was invented of course, but the exact date according to the Net Art Anthology by Rhizome, is 1982. Net Art Anthology is a collection of Net Art pieces from the 1980s to the present, aimed to "Retell the history of Net Art". It is the go-to digital preservation space presented by Rhizome, and organization championing digital art, in affiliation with the New Museum in New York City.

First documented piece of net art in 1982. The purspose is to add context to the paragraph.
The World in 24 Hours, first documented piece of Net Art.

Net art artists are recognized by highly influential artistic organizations like the Moma and Artsy. That is to say, it is a legit practice with value in the world of art. However, that's not the only argument in favor of it. As we established in the Modern Artist Manifesto's Principles, you should "Work always with passion in one hand and patience in the other". Therefore, introducing new ways of expressing yourself is a value in itself, not only for your economic plans but more importantly, for the creator within you.

But it is important and motivating, however, to know that integrating these web skills within your creative process could render your hard work and everyday creation sessions, valuable for your potential audience, and make you become a great artist. It is the work you make, the constant work, that makes your career grate and transcendent.

There's not much to know about the history of Net Art beyond the work that net artists have produced. Of course, there are interesting facts to get you interested, but art is not necessarily experienced through its history. Above all, the actual works and the expression they exude visually and emotionally are the main sources of artistic experiences.

Works are not only web-based, that could also come as videos on Youtube as the one we show at the start of the post, or this one:

Alright, I want to see some Net Art stuff now!

Well, you came to this point, and I promised you visual stimulation (artistic only).

Many artists have embarked on the Net Art world. However, they are not restricted to that medium. You could find many of them have created pieces in many other formats, and that's is even more exciting. Right? Are you going to create beyond your present art form?

No pressure, but The Modern Artist requires and welcomes some pressure. Well, some of them. No problem.

Alright, examples, now! (notice the URLs)

Rafaël Rozendaal

One of the most interesting and beautiful pieces of Rafael Rozendaal. Colorful Net Art circles website

Rafäel's websites are colorful and colorless, they move in interesting ways. In general, this websites have only one section, no scroll, and some mouse triggered animations. Take a look at them on your desktop.


Jodi's HTML experiment, to show one of his work in the list.

Jodi is a Belgian collaborative art duo formed by Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans. Clever Huh? Joan and Dirk, Jodi, get it?

They have many HTML experiments, you just need to learn HTML in a month with Codecademy or FreeCodeCamp, and start making experiments like Jodi's.

Pro Tip: Use your browser's inspector to see Jodi's HTML document and any other website. To open it just right-click on any website and look down for the inspector option, click it and it will show you this.

Screenshot of the Code Inspector to instruct readers on how to use this tool.
This is WordPress's post page inspector screen.



Software artist Lia, considered one of the pioneers of software and net art, has been producing works since 199. Her code-based work sells digitally, you get the website link when you buy her pieces.

Krassimir Terziev

Raphaël Bastide

In conclusion

There are many more works to show. I'm struck by the simplicity and the focused functionality of this web-based creations.

Net Art is a field in which very prominent works are still inaccessible because there is little information about it. One of the downsides of this world is the devaluation of art, because the medium, the Internet, is open for everyone. Should these works go behind the paywall? That is something we could discuss in the comments.

One thing is sure, Net Art unites artists from many different art forms and disciplines. The pieces show how internet technologies can be used for self expression, critical reflection and communication between artists and audiences around the WWW.

June 17, 2020

5 ways to win the battle against creative burnout

The life of The Modern Artist is emotionally demanding. At moments, we spend more time daydreaming about apocalyptical futures and meteor showers rather than focusing on the relevant. We inevitably wind up at the doors of creative burnout depleted, harried, and mind fogged, unreliable of ourselves to carry on forward.

Mundane tasks take on a monstrous form and all of the sudden, without notice, you’re sitting there in front of a twinkling bar praying to the Muse, the Universe, Keanu Reeves, or freaking Voldemort to shower you with a pint of inspiration enough to get the ball rolling. Frustration strikes fast when the call isn’t answered.

It would be make believe to say there’s a cure-it-all solution to ease such paralyzing condition. Or at least that’s what all us creatives can aspire for in a bright future where Big Pharma diverts it’s intentions into the Limitless Pill. In the meantime, we must be practical to impede it from sticking our feet in the icky mud.

Here are a series of practical hacks you can try for yourself to smash through creative burnout in an elegant Hulkish fashion.

1. Unplug from work, immediately


Did you already? Ok great. Moving on.

For some weird masochistic fixation, we artists and creatives love to pound our heads against the wall hoping for the next breakthrough idea to crack open from our bruised skull. That my friends is not the way to tango. Ideas belong to an elevated sphere of consciousness which cannot be accessed through brute force. This higher level of awareness is forever present, forever accessible, and forever trainable like a muscle, it strengthens with every rep.

Waiting for new the next iPhone-idea to drift ashore the islands of our mind is utter fantasy. Sometimes we have cast the net and let the fish come to us rather than savagely ramping up behind them. Therefore we must demand ourselves to unplug, put the pencil down, and man-up to the barren desert of no-ideas-whatsoever land.

Let the lack of inspiration act in your favor.

2. Embrace boredom

Time to dust-off that electric-blue fidget spinner your grandma gifted you for Christmas.  And if that’s not your case, then just Google “Fidget Spinner“ and play with theirs. Discover a digital marvel.

Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, defines boredom as “a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied“. In other words, when your brain isn’t consuming bits and pieces of dopamine from our compulsive feeder, it will naturally revert into itself for resolve. The “aha!“ moment arrives when active-inactivity forces your mind into bridging new neural connections, the recipe for birthing ideas.

Although I’m a big advocate of both, yoga and meditation are in fact counter-productive for this purpose only, as both demand a certain level of awareness. On the other hand, activities such as swimming laps or closing your eyes, shy from any external stimuli like music, are just what’s needed to let your mind wander freely, like Willy.

Pro tip: Resist the urge to scroll next time you’re in a “boring“ situation. Let it kick in, get into your mind, resolve your problems by using human’s most powerful tool. Don't take it for granted.

3. Hug a tree

Figuratively and literally. White cubicles and Nespresso machines have subdued us into a worryingly deficient state. Depressed in interactions, deficient in range of movement, not to say deficient on overall physical activity. We have piggy-backed ourselves into a health crisis sponsored by the Rat Race.

Studies show how spending time outdoors can have a huge positive impact on our mind and body. Connecting with nature means coming back to our roots, to our very life fabric. Creative burnout is frightened to the core from nature escapes.

Going back to nature is fundamentally asking the universe for a refill—free of charge.

Twenty minutes of the day outside is what your body needs to replenish, restore, and reboot. Read that again, twenty minutes. That is 20 in digits, XX in roman numerals and zwanzig in German. No need to run an ultra marathon on handstand for the Guinness World Record. A simple walk in the park will do it. 

Run, Forrest, Run!

4. Spill out your to-dos

Suggested by Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule, this nifty trick helps empty your brain and free up some storage space for new ideas to come. Throughout the years, I’ve noticed that creative burnout is a byproduct of mind overload alike. Deadlines, aspirations, taxes, relationships, personal favors, meetings, exercising, caring for your goldfish, and God knows what else. 

Our life is constantly picked by the restless industrial drill of anxiety, and more often than not, we feel like we’re balancing ten blowtorches on a monocycle. Once again, this is the moment in which the practical must kick in.

Mel’s method is to simply grab a piece of paper, whip a pen out, and write down every single task on your to-do list. Every single one. Bring your goldfish fish to the vet? Take the trash out? Fold clothes? Call your mother-in-law? Pick up the chewing gum wrapper you just remembered fell in between your couch’s pillows? Again, every single one.

Once done, grab a highlighter and begin marking those which need to be done non negotiably. The life or death or jail ones. The your mother-in-law may become upset otherwise ones. Now that you’ve got them down go actually do them because they won’t do themselves, right? 

Congratulations! You just lifted off a huge weight off your shoulders and hopefully trimmed enough undergrowth to allow your Muse back in.

5. Pivot like Jordan

In creativity like in basketball, acing the right sequence of moves can lead to a great outcome. When facing creative burnout,  you must think of it as an opponent that has carefully watched, studied, and planned out what your next move is going to be.

Therefore, pulling off a never-seen-before zag may be the right formula to throw it off balance.

Surprise your opponent by shifting your focus onto another task with different creative demands. Want to pick up writing or journaling? Take a moment to ink a couple of sentences on paper. What about that clay sculpture you had in mind? This is your time to put your hands onto it. Aim for a manual task. One that doesn’t require much thinking rather doing.

With time and experience, your opponent will become more and more predictable. You’ll be able to identify the moment it begins lurking around the corner, and when that happens, you know it is the time to pivot.

Don’t let creative burnout win your ground. It happens to every single artist and creative looking for resolve. What separates the beginner from The Modern Artist solely is the ability of dancing with it with style and grace. Acknowledging it, embracing it, dismantling it.

May 21, 2020

The Modern Artist

For decades, artists were labeled as the broke, dreamful, somewhat narcissistic objects of the society. Those who played too much and worked too little. Those who fancied recreation over creation, procrastination over completion. Now the time has come to redeem the artistry society. Make way for The Modern Artist.

Enter the era of smart working

Technology has blessed humanity in many ways. From surgical robots to electric cars, to practical contraptions that grind spaghetti out of zucchini. Is this real life, Zuck?

Artists, as usual, may have taken a little bit more than the average joe to adapt and adopt. Some of us are the slower worms, and that is all fine. Long live the worm.

Don’t get me wrong though—vintage is cool. Wearing leather satchels and gold framed rounded glasses are a wardrobe essential, sold. But whether you’re attempting to live the life of a midcentury bobblehead sculptor: embrace the tech, you definitely must. Said Yoda never.

You see, the tendencies are clear. Social media is gaining traction by the nanosecond. New, better, faster, stronger technologies are opening the doors to new economic landscapes. The birth of a new kind of worker, the “digital nomad”, shifted the corporate scene for good by enabling us to work from our living room’s couch—or kitchen floor whilst scratching the cat with one hand hitting “Send reply” with the other. What a bliss.

You artist, have no excuse anymore

Big questions will arise. Insecurities start drilling into one’s mind like Woody Woodpecker on performance drugs.

Is it possible to make money as an artist in 2020? You may ask yourself. Can I start yesterday? Paradoxical, but yes. Will it take a good while to get the systems up, platforms in place, and the wind blowing in the right direction? Take my word. Is it going to be worth it? I’ll let you answer that yourself.

Us artists have no excuses left in our repertoire. The opportunities are attainable like never before. Platforms to promote, showcase, share, or sell your work are right there at hand's reach. There hasn't been a better time to be us.

Business and art, like bread and butter

Well first off let me clarify, by Modern Artist [MA, for short] I’m not referring to any of the historical figures. Those who actually preceded the movement back in the late 19th and mid 20th century. Icons like Van Gogh, Monet, Degas—and all the rest that slipped through the cracks of my lousy Wikipedia research.

I’m talking about a reloaded, revolutionized, reformatted version of the artist archetype. One that understands the healthy codependency between art and business. One that weeds out the self-pity, nurtures their mental soil, and plants a garden of possibilities

To master the art of being a MA, redundant as it sounds, one must first understand a set of principles.

I created this set of principles, or affirmations, based upon personality traits, some of which I identified on myself—others amongst the successful people I follow. The entrepreneurs, the Hall of Famers, the hard workers, and everyday heroes. They don't necessarily respond to millions in their accounts, yet they strive to make the world a better place.

No to dogmas, yes to dogs

I by no means am claiming that you should live by these, enforce them, start a cult, or crucify a wild panda as an offering. Please no. Dogmas are wrong. Nonetheless, I do believe in the transformative power within a robust mindset. That is our goal here.

Artists need it. Arguably more than other professionals. Think of Jeff Bezos, think of Michael Jordan, think of Elon Musk. They’re all highly performance artists in their own medium. Wonder what do they have in common when their crafts are drastically different? Their mindset functions like clockwork.

  • Maybe you—like me—are fine not being responsible for setting up the first Martian exhibition.
  • Maybe you—like me—are just fine knowing that what you do every day is exactly what you want to be doing. And that makes you content.
  • Maybe you—just like I did—are looking to make your art profitable. So you can once and for all cut loose from that exhausting 9 to 5 that’s draining your creative Jamba Juices.

Well then, these are some of the keys to those doors.

Please take into consideration I’m not a trained psychologist. Nor a medium, nor Nostradamus, nor a certified motivational coach, nor seeking to come across as any of the above. I’m an ordinary artist looking to help out through my personal experiences. With a dash of humor along the way!

The 10 Principles of the Modern Artist:

  1. Don't victimize yourself
  2. Care for your mind, body, and soul
  3. Work always with passion in one hand, and patience in the other
  4. Don't copy, plagiarize, or appropriate other's work
  5. Create every day—something—anything
  6. Avoid judgment or disdain
  7. Your creative time is holy, treat it like such
  8. Cheer for other artists' successes [and your own too!]
  9. Break free from your comfort zone
  10. Listen to your gut feeling, it never fails

Meditate on these daily, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a Modern Artist.