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Embracing Creative Distractions to Benefit Your Vector Art

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Are distractions a negative issue when you're freelancing from home or creating a new piece of art? In today's article, I'm looking at justifying and refocusing the tasks that distract me to be of benefit to myself, my craft, and future work.

Whether you're working from home or creating a fabulous illustration, one thing for sure is that there are plenty of distractions out there. If you're like me and tend to browse many freelance blog websites "distractions" are a common topic. There's eliminating distractions, avoiding distractions and even articles on managing distractions... but really, in a creative field, should we assume that all distractions have a negative impact on our workflow?

Distractions Can Be Positive

I must admit, I am prone to distractions... playing with Illustrator and tools I've not used before, scribbling on pieces of paper around my desk, browsing social networking sites, reading blogs... and I must admit, reading celebrity trash sites, it's my guilty pleasure. I'm also a stubborn person and I refuse to admit that my slacking moments during work are negative to my workflow. I'd like to challenge the stance that distractions make you less productive and hinder your work.

It takes a lot of self discipline to remove distractions from your work time, so it's time to look at the distractions you have and make them work for you and not against you. Looking at my own distractions and common behaviors of others, have you considered the following:

  • Playing with Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.: Some of my favorite effects I've learned in the past have been discovered from playing with Illustrator. I might not create anything noteworthy from this distraction, but have you considered that experimenting with creative applications is time well spent? If it wasn't for my distraction time with Illustrator, I wouldn't have found out how to use Live Trace or patterned brushes or even the Blob tool.

  • Doodling: This one is easy to justify; however, let's break it down. Practice makes perfect and if you're doodling little houses, faces, symbols or even practicing your handwriting, from a digital artist perspective it's good to keep on revisiting your organic creative roots.

    Doodling can also lead to inspiration for a future project or help you hammer out elements you were unsure of. Focus your doodling on elements you find hard to master. For me, my reference free work could do with a little help, so I tend to doodle the human body and animals. It all helps!

  • Social Networking: In this day and age, anyone and everyone is on Facebook and often on Twitter. Whenever I feel the need to check out what my old friends are up to or what those "10 new tweets" are it's often because I feel I'm missing something or just needing a quick blast of social interaction.

    Working from home, alone is a lonely line of work and as humans we crave interaction. What I've done is link my Facebook to my Twitter account and began interacting more on my Facebook artists page. From this I've been able to talk to fellow creatives and those who are interested in vector. I've gained inspiration for future work and tutorials from social interaction, which is more focused on the line of work I do.

  • Reading Blogs: Rather than cutting out reading blogs, why not change which blogs you read? Expand your journal horizon and focus on more creative blogs... like Vectortuts+. It might not be the same as catching up with the latest dramas of a friend, but it can help your brain relax for a moment or two and you could even pick up on something new, catch up on trends, or gain a resource which is bankable!

  • Guilty Pleasure Sites and Activities: I'm sorry, there is no easy way to say it... this one is hard to justify your use of time with. You could convince yourself that catching up on David Tennant's antics will have a positive impact to your workflow. You could even try to justify that reading game reviews of Rift will help take something off your mind, but unless you're creating a piece that is linked to these, you'd be a fool to justify them.

Vector Artists on Distractions

I ventured into the Vector Community over on deviantART to see what they thought about distractions and how they could be of benefit.

HumanNature84

Q Do you do anything to prevent yourself from being distracted while working? If so, what?

Nope, I love distractions. Distractions help me get my head out of my artwork.
I currently play Marvel vs Capcom 3 to help me with lighting (the lighting is great in that game!) and character ideas.

Q Do you think allowing creative distractions could help develop and enhance your workflow and output? If so why?

It can if it's not planned. You really need to be off the cuff with that sort of thing.

Q If you think that creative distractions are positive, have you set aside time to invest in your skill with these tasks, if so how?

I love doing shape studies, I post them on DA just for fun. I really hate doing full blown illustrations, most of my characters and studies
I create off the cuff with no planning. So you could say that all of my artwork is a huge collection of doodling. I am currently working on some large scale Illustrations so stay tuned.

Q Do you have any examples of your own work that you've created due to doodling or from the practicing of tools?

My whole gallery is full of them but, here are a select few

Think by HumanNature84

Lobster Girl Manga Render by HumanNature84

Pink by HumanNature84

Ssst

Q Has there been any skills you've feel you've improved upon due to distractions, if so what?

Definitely, if I'm drawing something and then get distracted by a book? By the time I put the book down the concept for my drawing has gotten the time to grow some and generally for the better.

Q Do you think allowing creative distractions could help develop and enhance your workflow and output? If so why?

Practice makes perfect, but patience can help a great deal too. Distractions can be used as a tool. If I feel like I'm rushing a piece, I take a step back from it, let myself get distracted by something else and then return to the piece once the distraction has helped squash that rushing urge.

Q Do you have any examples of your own work that you've created due to doodling or from the practicing with tools?

Echoes by Ssst

Grumps by Ssst

Surreal by Ssst

Bboypion

Q What do you find to be your biggest distraction? Websites? Doodling?

I guess the biggest negative kind of distraction for me is having someone watching while I work, like somebody walking around me and making positive or negative comments, or a place that makes it possible for someone else... other than that, web pages, mail, chat or even phone doesn’t look like a big distraction for me.

Q Has there been any skills you feel you've improved upon due to distractions, if so what?

As for what you call positive distraction, stuff like sketching, doodling, trying new tools and things, I agree that they improve you and your ability to express yourself and develop you and I also believe that looking at other creative work, spending time with something involving creativity and emotion and even having a chat with a beloved friend or admired artist is also a very positive effect and these things also deserve our time.

Q Do you think allowing creative distractions could help develop and enhance your workflow and output? If so why?

Of course it will change but I am not sure if the effect will be positive or negative, maybe it is about luck or having control over it, but I think it is OK to take a break from the labor part of your work and do it on just mentally and I agree that what you call positive distraction is good at those times, but if you get away too far maybe when you come back you might find yourself without the motivation to continue and like me, you might find it easier to start something new, rather than continue the one you have left. Maybe its better in the beginning.

Q Do you have any examples of your own work that you've created due to doodling or from the practicing with tools?

Yes, most of my work evolved from my sketches and from the times I tried some new tools or things. This is necessary for me to preserve the enthusiasm to work and also I found almost everything about my technique while trying things like those. To be specific, my work called "old tree" came out from my experiments with the "scribble" effect and "warp" tool. I was just trying those things without thinking about the result.

Kurrba Frog by Bboypion

JUmp by Bboypion

Octopus Dream 04 Close Up by Bboypion

P-Dr

Q What do you find to be your biggest distraction? Websites? Doodling?

Websites, doodles are certainly one of my distractions; however, they influenced me positively helping even in the creative process.

Q Has there been any skills you feel you've improved upon due to distractions, if so what?

My creativity certainly improved thanks to see through the pages with some works of other artists and as I said, music is something that helped me a lot in creative processes.

Q If you think that creative distractions are positive, have you set aside time to invest in your skill with these tasks, if so how?

I make several sketches, I go out to distract myself and I hear music from various artists. Sometimes the inspiration can come from a simple walk through my city, or a drawing I do. These things simple help me a lot.

Q Do you have any examples of your own work that you've created due to doodling or from the practicing with tools?

Hard to See by P-Dr

Grafitando by P-Dr

MrsPnt by P-Dr

Roberlan

Q What do you find to be your biggest distraction? Websites? Doodling?

Websites, no doubt those are the most distracting. Doodling is part of my process so maybe I can say is also an exercise. I doodle all the time and this helps me get more ideas and to improve the piece I'm working at the moment. So usually I'm working on something in illustrator, and I always have a sheet of paper or a notepad on the desk so I also doodle at same time and sometimes this completely changes the direction of what I'm working on. So websites are bad distractions and doodles are a good, creative distractions.

Q Do you do anything to prevent yourself from being distracted while working? If so, what?

As I said websites are the most distracting things so if I want to work focused on something I close other programs running, disconnect from the internet and leave open only Illustrator and the music player.

Q Do you think allowing creative distractions could help develop and enhance your workflow and output? If so why?

Yes. I think distractions helped me improve my workflow, the fact that I stop sometimes to doodle or just to write down an idea or word that comes to my mind and when I get back to Illustrator I can see points that I can modify or remove, colors that can be changed, maybe a different color palette. So allowing those simple distractions is like the "fresh eyes effect," but in real time and is very useful. At least for me. When I stay for some time without working on any vector, for like 6, 7 months, then when I start again I feel an overall improvement with the quality of my work... more precise lines and curves, more attention with the details.

Q Do you have any examples of your own work that you've created due to doodling or from the practicing with tools?

Sometimes an idea starts with a doodle, testing a brush or plugin or just boredom. Almost all my type treatments and fonts were "vector doodles" that worked so I turned them into real fonts like "Calzone," which you can see in almost all my recent artworks. A few other examples are "Downtown Squaretown," which I started to practice the native 3D tools. "Color Vector Doodle" to see how to create a doodles entirely in Illustrator from scratch, because usually I do everything on paper and then scan and Live Trace. "Flower Power Disco," which I tried to mix my usual vector crisp lines with hand-drawn, imperfect doodles. Another one that is interesting to mention is the portrait of adult model Priya Rai in which I started creating the hair the way I do now, which I think is nice. I avoid using gradients and blends as fake gradients as well, blurs and things like that, so this way hair looks more real in a vector context.

SuperpopFunkyo by Roberlan

Square Software Nightmare by Roberlan

Downtown Squaretown by Roberlan

Conclusion

Inevitably there are distractions out there, which you couldn't easily argue they would help enhance your productivity, improve your workflow or get you more money in the bank. Real life seems to happen more when you work and create from home, such as family, loved ones, pets and friends. However consider modifying some of your "optional" distractions to be of benefit to your art and see if you reap any rewards from it. After all, if you're going to have a distraction or two that you don't see ceasing, it is worth trying to change it to be of more use.

What distractions do you have? Do you think you could justify them? Tell us your point of view on this and whether you agree with me on modifying your distraction behavior or do you think I'm trying to justify my bad working habits?

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