GNSI recommended supplies

Comments (0) Scientific Illustration, Uncategorized

I would like to extend a huge thanks and a ton of love to the awesome members of GNSI. since I spoke to a lot of people about classes, techniques, and equipment, I thought it would be good to put all the info in one place.

If you went to my talk or asked me questions later on, I’ve tried to cover it all here.

**The green text are links to the things you need***

Photoshop Brushes
Kyle’s ULTIMATE MegaPack for Photoshop
Kyle’s ULTIMATE Real Watercolors for Photoshop

Free resources (brushes, paper textures, etc)

GNSI Scientific Illustration Downloadable Gifts

Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencil with Eraser, Carmine Red Lead/Barrel, 12-Count

Prismacolor Col-Erase Erasable Colored Pencils, Blue, 12 Count

Palomino Blackwing Long Point Pencil Sharpener ^This sharpener is worth it.

Palomino Blackwing Pencils – 12 Count

Art satchel (the table-like easel I wore around my shoulder)
Etchr Art Satchel (Previously Nomad Art Satchel)

The main website hosts a large variety of great classes but I took Terryl’s class that focuses on creature and animal anatomy.

Schoolism:Creature Anatomy with Terryl Whitlatch

Anatomy with Scott Eaton
Very in depth human anatomy classes for artists.

The Oatley Academy
Many class available here: running a freelance art business, storytelling via art, digital painting, etc. By far the best online community for artists I’ve found.

Social Media Related
5 Steps for Gaining Followers

The business of art with social media

How to get your First 10k Followers

..and Finally…

Shameless Plug for my Kickstarter Book
Only 2 days left. 🙂 I’m the only illustrator on the book.

Thank you so much for everything. I hope these resources are helpful to you.

Much love,


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Watercolor Parasaurolophus Head Tutorial

Comments (0) Tutorials


Hi Awesome People!
I made the first painting of the Parasaurolophus, and I was decently pleased with it – especially since it was my first dinosaur painting and I was trying to hit a speed goal. However, the anatomy just wasn’t quite good enough for me.

Granted, getting reference for dinosaurs is tricky since it’s all conjecture. However, I decided that I wanted to give it another go for the head.

Here’s the outline from the first painting.


After examining more sources – mostly skeletons and 3d models, I developed this.


I took special care around the nostrils, eyes, mouth, and neck muscle origins.

Then I prepped it for printing and watercolor as described in the Rabbit Tutorial

The following morning, I set up my table for painting. I have a travel set of watercolors, cheap brushes, arches hot press paper, bic pens, and a smudge guard for my hand. I also have black tea and filtered water to drink.
Here’s my first ink pass. I’ll go back in again once the paint is down.
The best part about dinosaurs is making up their colors. Mine is based on the Caiman Lizard.
I start laying down the basic colors in light washes.
Then I start adding in markings and darker colors.
Now I’m adding in the purple/blue shadows.
Using a white pen, more bic pen and colored pencils, I added more shadow and scale detail.
Finally I added a blue background and brightened the crest up a bit. Then I brought it back on photoshop for some touch ups and here’s the final dino!

If you’d like to try this out but need supplies, check out my supply page here: My Supplies

Thanks so much for being my patron! I hope this helps you and that you make awesome dinosaur paintings.
*If you do, show meeee! 🙂


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Techniques – Painting animals with watercolor, bic pens, and hot press

Comments (0) Illustration

First things first, I didn’t create this technique, I simply cobbled it together after watching two movies and speaking with a friend of mine who is a great watercolor artist. I’ll be discussing my sources at the end of this article.

This is a method of painting animals, or anything you like, using Photoshop, a printer, watercolors, bic pens, and hot press paper. I got a commission to paint a rabbit and I wanted to achieve two things. First, I wanted to make a detailed, accurate, high-quality painting for my client. Second, I wanted to make it as fast as possible, so I could do more work in a day.


1) I made a few quick pose sketches.

2) I refined the basic line work in Photoshop. Photoshop is so fast for editing anatomy and proportion. Plus I don’t leave pencil residue on the nice watercolor paper.

3) I took my line work and reduced the opacity down to about 10%. You will need to experiment with this part, since all printers are different. Then I made the layer set to “Screen” and I made that layer brown. This tints the line work slightly brown, making it less obtrusive. You can use any color that suits you.

4) I took the print out and did some testing with the bic pens and my watercolors (supply list is provided at the end of the article). NOTHING BLED! I was supremely impressed. Both the ink from the printer and the bic pens stayed perfectly.

5) I started to do the real inking on a second printout, keeping the first printout for testing. The hot press paper feels a bit like fine sand paper so I used a smudge guard on my hand while inking. I also taped the watercolor paper down to an artist board to prevent buckling and give me a clean edge. At this point, I wasn’t sure how I was going to paint it and it’s best to be safe than sorry.

6) Then it was just a matter of painting the rabbit with watercolors. I started with light washes and built it up over time.



7) The final step was adding some white ink around the ears and eyes.


8) Add here you have it! The final rabbit. Please let me know what you thought of this tutorial in the comments below!


Want to try this technique for yourself? Download my free animal reference image pack here! It has all sorts of things from skulls, to birds, to this itchy caribou.

If you liked this post, can I ask you for a little help?
I just launched my freelance career in Sept 2016, and I’m still getting my feet under me. If you found this post helpful, becoming my patron would be a fantastic way to say, “Thanks”. It’s only $12 a year, and you can cancel any time. Plus, I’ll keep making drawings and tutorials for you! We all win!
Click here to go to my Patreon

This technique was cobbled together after watching a movie from Aaron Blaise and a movie from Jake Parker. Additional advice on the specifics of the Photoshop to printer to watercolor paper process was provided by Abrian Curington.

Aaron’s Movie
Jake’s Movie
Abrian’s Website

I don’t know Aaron or Jake personally, but they have a number of great resources and I would recommend you check those out. I’ve known Abe for about one year now and her site is getting better and better. I would definitely follow her endeavors.

I have included a few options to help with prices and sizes.

Small Glove (I have very small hands. These fit me)

Medium Glove

Large Glove

I have some more posts that you might like too.
How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method

How to Win at Creative Adult – Mindfulness and Fighting Stress

How to Win at Creative Adult – Exercise

How to Win at Creative Adult – Drawing at Zoos and Aquariums

How to Win at Creative Adult – Dealing with Frustration and Fear

How to Win at Creative Adult – Focus

How to Win at Creative Adult – Finding Inspiration

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How to Win at Creative Adult – Finding Inspiration

Comments (0) How to Win at Creative Adult

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Hard Work
I know you might be saying to yourself, “But one time, I got the best idea ever while driving in the car!”

I’m not saying that inspiration won’t randomly strike, it can, so can lightening. But we want to bottle the lightning and use it when we need it, right? This is where hard work, determination, and routine come into play. The more you create, the more your brain is in a creative state, the more ideas you’ll generate.

Essentially, it works like this. Just start working consistently. That’s it. Work everyday. I recently wrote a book, my first one. I had a basic outline but everyday when I sat down to write, I had literally no idea how I was going to fill out each chapter. I simply starting writing. Maybe I wrote the third paragraph first because I thought of it first or maybe I started with the first paragraph. The key is, I had started the act of writing, once I did that it started to flow. The exact same thing happens with the drawing. Just start drawing and see what happens.

snail-1249053_1920Most of the time, the ideas flowed like this, so don’t get discouraged!

Remember, you never run out of creativity. The more you create, the more creative you become.

I’ve already written a good deal about productivity, schedules, and good drawing habits, but if you’d like me to expand upon any of those, just let me know!

My challenge to you is this: Try drawing five out of seven days for one month. Draw in two sessions – fifteen minutes each, with a break in-between. After the month, look over everything you’ve done and try to think of a new direction to take it. Then come back and tell me about it!

Or tell your friends about it on Twitter by click the button that says “Tweet” below.

If you do take the challenge let me know! – @sarahdahlinger or @seenunseenbook

Life Experiences
It’s equally important to go out and actually have a life. I’m not suggested a road trip to the opposite coast or a one way ticket to Mongolia, but I AM suggesting that you go out and experience life somewhere else. A life without experiences is like trying to breathe in a sealed room. Eventually your air will run out. The same goes for your ideas.

I used to discredit this, the idea of getting out to explore. Then one day, the company I worked for sent me to CA on a red eye flight in the morning and sent me back to MA on a red eye flight that night. I was one trip, lasting almost exactly 24 hours.

…and I had dozens of stories to tell from that trip.

It got me thinking, “If I spent only one day traveling this year, and returned home with dozens of stories, what would it be like if I got out a bit more?”

I used to cite money being an issue, but it really isn’t. Even getting out to the next city or, next state, or next few states would be beneficial.

For larger plans, make sacrifices. I never buy coffee. A small iced coffee from Dunks is $2.00, multiple that by 252 (working days per year) and that’s $504 dollars saved for a trip.

I take it further too, since there’s tons of things I don’t really need. I don’t buy clothes or shoes unless mine are broken. I never buy DVDs; I watch Netflix or Youtube. I don’t buy in-app purchases for games. I never buy cosmetics (buy deodorant – that one is important). I started making most of my meals; it’s way cheaper than eating out. I never buy junk food when I grocery shop – no chips, cookies, or soda. All those things add up.

Check these out!
Tripnary– find cheap flights

Road trip ideas

College Cheap Road Trip Ideas

Cheap travel to Paris, Hong Kong, and NYC

My challenge to you is this: Don’t buy any extra stuff for six months to a year, and take that money to go anywhere else. Don’t go looking for inspiration and stories. Go looking for anything new. Go looking for anything you’ve never seen before.

Then come back and tell me your new stories.

Then go and draw or write about them.

A word of warning…
Sometimes, those new ideas can be excessively disruptive and distracting, so I write them down in the small notebook I keep with me. This allows me to acknowledge the idea, save it for later, and not distract from my current project.

I’m not saying this is easy, since Wisps, are damned shiny, but it’s important to try.

One finished project is worth 1,000 half finished projects.

But enough with the lecture, lets have some actionable items!

1) Read The War of Art – It’s written like a smack in the face, but it’s fantastic at the same time. (Using this link will send me a small commission)

2) Read a lot of other books – Sometimes just read for fun and see if anything resonates with you. Or, read a book with a purpose -ie. “How would I change this to make it mine?”

Reading is hard for me to enjoy, so I prefer Audible. There’s a little ad on the side of this post where you can sign up for a free trial too.

3) Take this course – This class is literally addressing inspiration and routine in the lecture series linked here. It’s also crazy cheap and comes with an active online community.

4) Play nerdy games AND go outside
– for a long while, I only sculpted characters from our Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It was a huge campaign with dozens of cool characters to chose from. Video games can be inspiring too.

*Don’t play games to avoid making your art. I don’t know the right time limit for you, but one day a week seems about right to me. *gasp!*..I know, I know – but you’re an artist, not a professional gamer, right? Unless you are a professional gamer, and then you should probably go back to playing games.

Check out this podcast, where Paulo Coelho, writer of The Alchemist, speaks about life experiences and writing – plus a wealth of other great ideas.

5) Realize that inspiration isn’t always this epic, Godlike, thing – Just make something. Anything. Do you like chickens? Draw chickens. You don’t need to change the world with every chicken drawing you do. However, draw chickens while thinking this, “what could I add to make this totally unique and cool?”….then see steps 2 and 4.

6) Mix stuff up. – This is how I arrived at my current project.
a. Vacation in Panama in 2014
b. Have been a longtime fan of Gaiman, Pratchett, and all mythology and folklore
c. Have always wanted to make a book like the Spiderwick chronicles
d. Have been a longtime fan of history, animals, and science

So I mashed all that together into a Seen and Unseen, a historical fiction set in 1911 – during the digging of the Panama canal. I basically took the real life journey of a scientist in the Smithsonian Biological survey combined it with my own personal experiences and observations, and sprinkled elements of myth and magic on top. Bam! Everything I love in one little package.
If you would like to see some of my studies and sketches, from Seen and Unseen check out my Twitter. I post something daily.

If you would like to support the project, see full illustrations, read the copy early, and win prizes, check out my Patreon. You can even request tutorials on there too!

You can do this sort of thing too. Take a few things that you like a combine them into something cool.

I’m also not saying that this is easy and quick. It took months of thought and note scribbling to arrive to at this idea, but it was worth it and it’s fun!

What are two to four things you love that you can mash together to make something cool?

7) Mix it up: the quick version – Maybe you want to make a littler project, that’s totally cool and smart. Lots of little projects let you learn more then one big project. I like drawing monsters based on real animals, or just drawing animals. You could illustrate a book you love or draw the characters from a book you love. Try to pick the most obscure source material you can find. It’ll help you stand out.

8) Thumbnails are still, and always, your friend. – Maybe you’re designing something: characters, cars, armor, planes, whatever. Draw a ton of little thumbnail ideas first. They can look truly awful as long as you understand what they mean. Thumbs are your shorthand guide to yourself.

9) Let other people come up with the ideas – Contests and one-a-day idea groups are a great resource. Maybe take one of those ideas and run with it?
Sketch Dailies Website
Sketch Dailies -Twitter
Sketch Dailies – Facebook
Daily Drawing Challenge – Facebook
Inspiration Group – Facebook

10) Try to avoid cliche. – This one is hard and really only applies to people who are trying to get hired. Essentially, everyone has seen in:
-gender swapped
-as a real life person
-animals as humans
-humans as animals…etc

So if you really, really need to draw Ariel as a dude or Scar as a human or Belle as the Beast, do it….once. Get it out of your system and move on. If I get an idea, I always do a google search for a few mins to see how many other people have the same idea. If a lot of people are doing the same thing, I don’t do it. Also, don’t be sucked in by the allure of fan art. Yes, Simba or Calvin and Hobbes in space will get you hundreds or thousands of likes, but, in general, those people won’t hire you. Again, if you want to unwind on the weekends, go for it, but don’t base your portfolio on that stuff.

11) Learn to listen to yourself. – I saved this for last since it’s the most scary. Go away from technology and people. Find a place where you can think. I don’t live in a big city, so if you do, you’ll have to find a quiet place for yourself which I can’t describe to you. Just be alone with yourself and your thoughts without the comfort of distraction.

Like I’ve said, this might suck a bit, since there isn’t a phone, game, or computer between you and your mind. This is good. Now you can start to think about the important stuff.

If you’re like me, your thoughts will probably be a mix of kind of cool to excessively mean. Sometimes, my brain can be a real asshole. It usually tells me that I’m in some way not good enough or should be working harder. However, it wasn’t until I allowed myself to think away from the noise and convenient distractions of my life that I was able to figure out the theme and basic plot of my book while going on walks everyday. It wasn’t easy and it took a long time! I stopped counting at 60 miles. It was 100% worth it.

What was something that inspired you recently? Let me know in the comments section below!

If you liked this post, you might like these others.
How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method

How to Win at Creative Adult – Mindfulness and Fighting Stress

How to Win at Creative Adult – Exercise

How to Win at Creative Adult – Drawing at Zoos and Aquariums

How to Win at Creative Adult – Dealing with Frustration and Fear

How to Win at Creative Adult – Focus

Here’s the info for Seen and Unseen again. Stop by and we can chat about animals, monsters, adventures, or any of those blog posts listed above. I’d love to see you there!

I post daily studies and sketches here Twitter.

If you like to ask for private tutoring, win prizes, or simply see my best studies, check out my Patreon.


Thanks so much for everything!

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How to Win at Creative Adult: Scheduling Part1 – Time Leeches

Comments (0) How to Win at Creative Adult

A few people have commented that I am able to get a lot done and stick to a self-imposed schedule. I decided that it might be helpful to write down the habits that help me be as productive as I can be. This will be the first in a series of posts to teach you how I make and stick to a schedule.

First, I’d like to talk about time leeches.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that there are only 24 hours a day and time is the only resource that you can’t make more of. Therefore, it’s your most precious commodity. I guard my minutes like a vicious dog, and I’m very clear with myself. I have these priorities which are equal in my eyes: 1) Make a lot of art, 2) Stay healthy while I do it. 3) Maintain good relationships with the people I love while I do the other two things. If it doesn’t help with those three priorities, it doesn’t get done or it waits.

I’ll go over a few scenarios which I avoid like the plague but I see people fall prey to constantly. They are essentially instances in our daily life that suck our hours away like leeches. If you let the leeches suck your minutes away, you’ll have a tough time sticking to a personal schedule.

Scenario 1 – “I need a new towel” aka a useful item
Time wasting mindset: “The department store is only 10 mins down the road. I’ll run out and get one this afternoon.”

Time saving mindset:
3 mins to get ready, get outside, and get into your car
10 mins of driving to the store
10 mins to find and purchase the towel
10 mins of driving home
1 min to get back inside and put the towel in the closet
Total = 34 mins for a towel

Conclusion = Getting a towel wastes more than 30 mins. What could you do with 30 more minutes in your day?
– 30 – “one minutes gestures” which are then broken into 3 jpgs of 10 gestures and posted as 3 social media updates (using the last 4 mins to generate the jpgs)
– 6 chores that take 5 mins each: dishes, laundry part one, laundry part two, vacuum living room, wipe down countertops (last 4 mins used to do things like put away vacuum)
– 4 “eight minute challenges” from Jake Parker which are then 4 social media updates
– cook a meal and then break that meal into dinners and lunches
– walk for 24 mins, stretch for 10 mins
– 2 rounds of the 7 minute workout, 10 mins stretch, 10 mins meditation
– a 30 min writing session with a 4 min break at the end

…and I’m sure you have more ideas than I do.

My thought is “Do I really NEED the towel TODAY? Can it wait until I can pair the towel errand with another errand? Could I buy it online?”

Scenario 2 – “I’m at the grocery store, but do I need toothpaste?” aka an important, non perishable, item that you might have at home

Time wasting mindset: “I’m at the grocery store, but do I need toothpaste? I think I have enough at home to last me the week. Na, I’ll just go out and get some if I run out during the week.”

Time saving mindset:
“Buy the toothpaste! It’s $2.50 and can be stored under the sink for days. The grocery store is 10 mins away too and we don’t want another towel situation on our hands.”

This policy can be applied to anything non-perishable: toilet paper, canned goods, dry foods, condiments, toiletries, etc.

If there’s any doubt, buy it, and store it. These items are cheap and who cares if you store it for a few days longer than anticipated. You just saved another 34 mins in your week. We are now up to 68 mins saved in one week that would have been stolen by the trivial chores of getting a towel and some toothpaste on separate days.


Scenario 3 – “I need to go to the post office, the pharmacy, and the library.”
aka things you must do to run your creative business, live, or improve as an artist.

Time wasting mindset: “I’ll just bop around town and grab what I need. All these stores are close.”

Time saving mindset: “While commuting home, I pass the pharmacy first, so I’ll stop there. Then, along the same route is the library. I’ll go there next. The post office is last on the line but out of the way. Hmmm. I’ll need to go to the post office before work, during lunch, or on another day.”

Figure out your daily routes. I have a commute so it’s fairly simple. To get many of these necessary but unfulfilling chores done, I can leave my home and take one of three routes to work, while hitting an errand on the way.

I NEVER make one trip to achieve one thing. I think of it like a video game, I want the combos.

It is imperative to avoid “have to” situations as much as possible. In the scenario above, I didn’t “have to” go to the post office that day. I didn’t leave it to the last minute, so I have wiggle room. I know this is tough, so don’t beat yourself up over it if it can’t be helped. But it’s important to try.

I’ll do out the minutes.
My home to the library, pharmacy, and back – 25 mins (if there are no lines)
Tack on a trip to the post office – another 25 mins, due to lots of traffic lights and lines
Total – 50 mins

I’m commuting home anyway, stop at the pharmacy (5-10 mins), stop at the library to get ordered book (2-5 mins). Forego the post office. Pair the post office with tomorrow’s morning commute or while getting lunch. (5-10 mins).

Total – 12 to 25 mins

A savings of 38 to 25 mins.

So here again, we’ve saved roughly another half hour. With our 68 mins saved from the treacherous towel and toothpaste, that’s 106 on the high end to 93 on the low end of minutes saved so far this week.


Scenario 4 – “I really need to clean this pit of a house.” aka don’t live in squalor
Time wasting mindset: “I’ll do my chores to the absolute perfect standard that my mom taught me when I was ten.”

Time saving mindset: “I’m not ten anymore and I have books to write and things to draw. Sorry mom, never look in my sock drawer. It’ll make you sad.”

I learned this the hard way. Like many, I was taught how to do chores by my parents. My parents are perfectionists when it come to housework. I was taught how to fold the towels perfectly, make a perfect bed, how to organize my sock drawer, how to put the silverware away in neat little lines, etc…

Fast forward, I was in college and I needed to clean my room. It was a nightmare. I was in the middle of finals but I couldn’t take the state of my room any longer. Plus I didn’t have any clean clothes. I did my laundry and started to put it away.

Glancing at the clock periodically so I wouldn’t miss class, I discovered that finding the matching pairs for all my socks took me 30 mins. I was shocked. Thirty whole mins for stupid socks? Who cares about the sock drawer? Who cares about the perfectly folded towels? No one will ever, ever, be on their deathbed saying, “Yeah, I never wrote my novel, but my cutlery? I nailed that cutlery organization chore. They were in little rows, my whole life. Worth it.”

So now my socks are all white, get put in a pile and are unceremoniously dumped into the drawer. My towels are rolled up in a highly messy way and placed on a rack, and the silverware makes it into the drawer. After that, I guarantee nothing.

I apply this is all chores. I half-ass my trivial chores so I can whole-ass my art.

I’ll do out the numbers

Perfect socks – 30 mins
Perfect towels – 15 mins
Perfect silverware – 5 mins
Total = 50 mins

Half-ass socks – 1 min (probably less but let’s keep the math easy)
Half-ass towels – 2 mins
Half-ass silverware – 1 min (probably less but let’s keep the math easy)
Total – 4 mins

This is a savings of 46 mins!
Or total for savings of time this week is now 152 mins on the high end to 139 mins on the low end.
clean No one will care if you folded perfect towels everyday. Free yourself from that BS.

Scenario 5 – “I want my pet cat to have a new mouse toy.” aka completely non important items
Time wasting mindset: “The pet store is down the street or on the way. I’ll go grab one.”

Time saving mindset: “My cat can play with a ball of tin foil and I’ll pick up a new mouse toy when I’m running an errand at the place next to the pet store.”


“I’ll buy a toy from Amazon prime.”

This is basically the same as the towel but even more trivial. You probably need a towel eventually. Maybe you’re down to one towel and have to suck it up with three dish towels for a day or so, but the cat really doesn’t NEED a new toy. If you want to order it online, that’s cool. Spend the money, not the time. You can make more money.

Like the towel scenario this saves you about 30 mins.

The final total for one week is now 182 on the high end to 169 minutes on the low. Let’s make it simple now and take a number in the middle -> 176 mins / 60 = 2.93 hours

The Time Wasting Mindset would cheat someone out of 9152 minutes or 152.5 hours yearly with stupid errands.

What could you do with 152.5 hours?

Red Panda You could make a Patreon to get the subscription cost to Amazon Prime and draw some red pandas!

But I need a towel, and toothpaste, and all those other things!
I know and this is how I minimize the damage.

1)Get Amazon Prime and use it for everything except perishable items.
After reading this far, I think it’s pretty obvious that you can afford it. Use some of those 152.5 hours to generate some additional revenue.
a) Products arrive in 2 days. Most things can wait 2 days.
b) If it’s not on Amazon, do you really NEED it? I’ve decided to not buy something after having that heart to heart with myself.

2) ONE day a week, go run errands. Get the perishables at the grocery store, IF the grocery store is near other stores, pick up towels and cat toys. Remember to get extra toothpaste because you won’t be back this week. Otherwise use Amazon.

3)Hell Yeah! or No.
a) This is so important to help prioritize what gets done and what doesn’t

But those minutes are all broken up! How will I use them?
That’s the topic for my next blog post! – Seeing the full picture.

How do you think about these time saving tips? Have any more? Have any tweaks?

*I live in Massachusetts, USA so I realize this is a very American lifestyle. If you’re not from the USA, I’d love to hear what time saving tips you have.

Dart Frogs You could draw one frog a day too!

If you liked this post, you might like these others.
How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method

How to Win at Creative Adult – Mindfulness and Fighting Stress

How to Win at Creative Adult – Exercise

How to Win at Creative Adult – Drawing at Zoos and Aquariums

How to Win at Creative Adult – Dealing with Frustration and Fear

How to Win at Creative Adult – Focus

How to Win at Creative Adult – Finding Inspiration

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How to Win at Creative Adult – Automating Your Social Media Posts

Comments (2) How to Win at Creative Adult

I was in college right around the time Facebook was created and I avoided it like the plague until the day I got laid off. Then I realized that although I had been making art every single night and weekend since I’d graduated, no one knew me or knew my art. I had absolutely no network.

In those dark days, I became acutely aware of how important social media can be for the creative individual. So I made a few accounts and expected the jobs to roll in. They didn’t.

They didn’t because I had not been posting regularly the whole time. Why would anyone hire this mystery woman? I tired to post regularly, but I encountered an unseen problem, the social media time suck.

Before I was on social media, I’d sit down at my desk at 6 pm and work until 10pm or 12am, with no distraction. No I found myself pondering, Should I post this? Or this? Do I need to wait until tomorrow at lunch? Will I remember to do that? It’s kind of stressful to have to remember to do at this social media stuff when I just want to create.

I’m obsessed with productivity and using each minute in the day well, so this annoyed me to the utmost.

Then I heard about the fantastic world of “Social Media Automation”, and I knew this was my answer.

Automation saves time – the most precious thing you possess
• Your updates happen regardless of your crazy life. So if you or your children get sick, you still make a post everyday at the same time. If you get hit by a car or if the meeting runs long, the post still goes off. This consistency will help you build a following.
• No “social media work” during the week. During the week, you need to be creating, not poking around on social media. With automation you can load up all the posts for a week or month, and forget about it. Come back at your convenience to hangout and answer questions.
• You don’t have to be on social media everyday. I like this part the best. If you need a mental break or you need to go into a hole and seriously focus on the project, you can, and when you emerge, the posts are waiting for you. Plus addressing things a day or so later might revitalize the post.

Setup Part One
First things first, create a backlog of work
• 60 to 90 images is a good number to shoot for.
• Don’t freak out, one drawing can be a few posts. You’ll be surprised with how much content you can generate when you sit down and start saving things out.

Here’s a button I made for Patreon aka 5 days of posts


• People like seeing the process and the linework always gets more attention than I thought it would
• I would grind this out. Take an entire night or a full day and generate the biggest backlog you can. This isn’t something that you want killing your creative time. This is something you need to do quickly and efficiently so you can get back to making cool stuff. Think “good enough” a lot. I’m assuming you’ll need to dip into some older stuff to get this backlog going. That’s okay, just post the older stuff first. Then people get to see you evolve into a better artist as time goes on.
Protip – name your files in the order you would like them to post. They will load into various libraries correctly and you don’t have to hunt anything down.
• Go someplace once a week to draw. I go to the zoo once a week. It’s been a huge help for keeping my backlog stocked up.
• Finally, find a way to repeat your content. I post a #SundayRecap on my Twitter each week. Since I’m moving away from Buffer as my main program and using Busy more, I plan on posting a “Most popular this week” image on Sunday. This means that I only need six images a week over seven. It’s small but it adds up fast.

A word of warning, don’t fall prey to the “But that’s not perfect!” trap. You don’t need to be perfect. You need to post content.

A quick story about choosing to not be perfect in favor of making art now. I had generated my backlog of 90 images a few months ago. It was before I knew about Busy (buffergram). Therefore, all my images were sized to post well on Twitter, not Instagram. I had a problem, should I go back and painstakingly find all the original files for my backlog and resize them for Instagram? Hell no. I wrote a few action scripts in photoshop and in one hour, I had tiny borders about my stuff so they would automatically post. (Busy has a 612×612 min. dimension script in place) These images are not the “perfect posts” that everyone wants but they let people know about me and I’m still getting new followers daily, despite the tiny grey border on some of my images. Of course, my new content will be scaled perfectly, but I couldn’t justify spending probably two days fixing the older content. Instead, I took those two days and made new content. Remember: If no one knows you exist, how can you build a following? Start before its “perfect”. Start before you’re “ready”.

Second, create a library of hashtags.
This is huge time saver. Instagram supports 30 hashtags and I’ve found that my posts with 30 tags get a lot more interest than the ones without. Use Hashtagify to find useful tags. Then I make a document that has a list of hashtags that are image specific followed by a list if project specific tags

Third, create a library of captions
Open up your backlog folder in thumbnail view and start typing some captions for each image; a few sentences is fine. I like batching captions since you can cut/paste from other captions to generate new ones quickly. I’m not advocating using the same caption for each image, but being able to pull half a sentence from here and paste it there for an image caption you plan on posting 30 days after the original, is just more efficient than writing a 100% fresh caption each time.

Remember, it doesn’t need to be 100% perfect. You’ll develop that over time.

Here’s an example of what I’d do for the gator below.

Caption: I had a great time drawing gators at the #StoneZoo today. It’s their first day in the zoo and I will definitely be drawing and painting them all summer.

Tags specific to the drawing
#seenunseenbook #reptile #reptileart #reptiles #herpetology #lizard #reptilesofinstagram #crocodilian #alligator

Tags that apply to my book, me, and my art
#art #sciart #illustration #animal #wildlifeart #sketch #animalart #sketchbook #drawing #nature #artwork #zoo #scienceart #womeninart #ebook #illustratedbook #wildlife #OatleyAcademy #StoryTellersSummit

With their forces combined! (paste into the main section of Busy – not the first comment which limits you to 5 tags)

#seenunseenbook #reptile #reptileart #reptiles #herpetology #lizard #reptilesofinstagram #crocodilian #alligator #art #sciart #illustration #animal #wildlifeart #sketch #animalart #sketchbook #drawing #nature #artwork #zoo #scienceart #womeninart #ebook #illustratedbook #wildlife #OatleyAcademy #StoryTellersSummit


Setup Part Two
On to the “How to” portion of the post.
You’ll need to spend some money. The minimum will be $5 a month and the max will be $15 a month. It’s cheap money and very worth it.

Free – scroll down to the very bottom. I have a short, quick setup for a free version. I don’t recommend the free version.

Basic (You’ll be able to post to automatically post to Instagram, and with the addition of IFTTT, you’d have access to auto posting for Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin)
Buy Buffergram aka Busy. It’s $5.00 a month for one post a day.

Advanced (You’ll be able to post to automatically post to Instagram, and with the addition of IFTTT, you’d have access to auto posting for Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. With a addition of Buffer, you’ll be able to automatically post to G+, and Pinterest as well. )
Add on Buffer
Individual (aka Free) is a great way to start (No pinterest).
I have “Awesome” pricing – $10 a month since I use buffer to run my gecko site as well.

Steps to Implement
From what I’ve heard, the goal is 1-3 posts a day. This setup will get you the critical one post a day. The rest you can do manually (if you want to post to Instagram) or via Buffer.

1) Sign up for Busy (buffergram). Connect it to your artist Instagram account. (I recommend you have artist accounts for all the social media platforms I’ll mention. It makes linking easier. For example on facebook I have “Sarah Dahlinger” for personal stuff and “Sarah Dahlinger Art” for my business.)
2) Upload your backlog of images to Busy – 10-20 images at a time. It freaks out with more.

Upload your images here Min dimensions 612x612 Max dimensions 1936x1936

Upload your images here
Min dimensions 612×612
Max dimensions 1936×1936

The are uploaded into the photos tab.

The are uploaded into the photos tab.

The photos end up in the drafts tab after you click the use for post button - see previous screenshot.

The photos end up in the drafts tab after you click the use for post button.

3)Add in your caption and 30 hashtags

Cut and paste your caption and hashtags. But sure to click save! Then write your 1st comment if you want.  But sure to click save again!

Cut and paste your caption and hashtags. But sure to click save! Then write your 1st comment if you want. But sure to click save again!

4) Schedule one post to go off everyday. I like to work in weekly chunks and load up seven new posts every Sunday morning. Recently, I had a morning that I was waiting around for a meeting to finish, so I loaded up my entire backlog. I don’t need to worry about social media for 2.5 months now. It won’t be perfect at all but I’m finally finishing my book and starting to focus on actually launching that, so my social media feeds will post a “thing”, while I put the finishing touch ups on a number of projects. Then my feeds will be super fancy after that.

You can see your posts in a calendar view and slide them around but you can’t slide them into the next week.

You can see your posts in a calendar view and slide them around but you can’t slide them into the next week.

All your ready to go posts end up in the scheduled tab.

All your ready to go posts end up in the scheduled tab.

5) Use IFTTT to link it all up to other social media platforms, after Busy is loaded and ready to go,
I have recipes for
Instagram to Buffer to G+
Instagram to Linkedin
Instagram to Twitter
Instagram to Tumblr
Instagram to Facebook Page
Instagram to Pinterest
Basically, search for one of the terms listed above, select the recipe you want, and click all the default buttons. There are hundreds of options, so search for the two things you want to link together and you’ll find what you need. Here’s what I have.



Only tricky thing with IFTTT is getting the channels right. Under the channels tab, you can search for the app you want to change, here I’ve searched for Twitter. In this screen you can change the channels to link to your “art account” and not your “personal account” if IFTTT messes that up a bit.

Link Shortening
Both Busy and Buffer use link shortening, turn it off so people can see where they are going based on the URL


“I don’t even have $5 a month to spend!”
The free version is Buffer Individual. You’ll be able to have one Twitter, one Facebook, one G+, and one Linkedin account. You’ll only be able to load up 10 posts a week, but that’ll get you to the one post a day minimum, so you’re good to go!

Here’s a new buffer post and what the queue looks like.



The downside is I have not found a way to automatically post to Instagram without Busy. (There’s a program called Latergram that’s free. I didn’t care for it, but it’s free for one post a day to Instagram if you babysit it a bit.)

These IFTTT recipes might help too
Twitter to tumblr connection with photo posts from favorites. #Twitter#tumblr
If new tweet then add to Buffer – To Post To G+

Things I might change

I’m relatively new to Instagram. If I start getting better traction there, I might drop my Buffer subscription down to the free version and up my Busy subscription. I haven’t done it yet though.


If you are interested in seeing all this is action, here’s where you can find me in the social media verse.

The following social media platforms will all have the same content. If you follow one, you’ve followed them all. I’m posting in a lot of places because people favor different apps.

Twitter @SDahlingerArt



Instagram @sarahdahlingerart


Google Plus – G+

Due to it very nature, Patreon will have unique, exclusive content since it’s a paid service.

I’m just starting out with streaming and movies, but here’s where you can find me


Finally, here’s my website: Sarah Dahlinger Art

What do you think? Could this method help you? Was anything confusing? Let me know in the comments below!

If you liked this post, you might like these others.
How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method

How to Win at Creative Adult – Mindfulness and Fighting Stress

How to Win at Creative Adult – Exercise

How to Win at Creative Adult – Drawing at Zoos and Aquariums

How to Win at Creative Adult – Dealing with Frustration and Fear

How to Win at Creative Adult – Focus

How to Win at Creative Adult – Finding Inspiration

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Battle stations!

Comments (4) How to Win at Creative Adult

I was asked where I worked, so here’s the low down on my battle stations. 🙂

Main Desk Area
I do have a nice cintiq. It was an amazing birthday, Christmas, anniversary present. I would have never bought it for myself but now that I have one, I can say, “Yes, it’s worth every bit. I love it to death.”


I have a second monitor because I hate working without one. It feels like working in the Stone Age. I’d recommend a second monitor even it’s a cheap, crappy one.

My desk is a table from Ikea. It’s two metal legs and black particle board on top. It’s wonderfully big, and fits the space perfectly. However, the edges of the table were super sharp so I put baby bumpers on the edges.

I keep a lot of sharpies, pens, knives, tape, and the like behind the monitors. I got the tiny storage boxes from Amazon and the rest I had left over from other desk setups.
20160604_131703096_iOS (1)

I keep art-grade supplies in this chest: conte, watercolors, pens, ink, pencils, erasers, small sketchbooks, colored pencils. It holds a lot and it’s fancy.

Muscle guy lives behind me. Drinks also are placed behind me and away from electronics.
20160528_145335552_iOSThe rose is from Tom 🙂

Sketch Nest
I go here when I get sick of working on a computer. Most of my thumbnails are created right here.

The green lap table is an awesome investment. I used to draw with the sketchbook right on my lap, and it was okay, but this is like deluxe sketching. I can’t go back.

I also journal and write on my laptop here.

The little cow* is a therapy stuffed animal and can be used as a heat or cold pack. He smells like lavender, and I use him to mend gym injuries or to put myself to sleep. His name is “Warm Cow”, and he’s next to “Flower Bear” and “Giant Bear”.

I very good at naming things. The best.

It’s super comfy and relaxed. On Fridays, I usually drink a glass of red wine or a Manhattan while drawing here too. The colder it gets, the more blankets I add to it, so it can be quite “nest – like”, hence the name.

* After years of loyalty, I have replaced warm cow with warm dino. The cow was looking a little worse for wear after the dog chewed his foot and I kept reheating him despite it.

Nomad Art Satchel

I have said it a million times by now, and I’ll say it again, “I love my Nomad”

This is my basic setup
nomad art satchel ready for a trip to the zoo and containing pens, markers, ear buds, recycled paper sketchbook, conte pencils, and sharpies Image created by Sarah Dahlinger

However, I experiment all the time with it. Recently, I’ve added a homemade watercolor set in an Altoid’s tin and a collapsible doggie dish for my watercolor water.

I also clip a water bottle to my belt.
water bottle clipped to a belt

It’s so easy to use, and it can go anywhere!

drawing niagara falls at sunrise with a nomad art satchelNiagara Falls – Ontario, Canada

sarah dahlinger wearing a nomad art satchel and smiling next to the electric eel tank at the new england aquariumNew England Aquarium – Boston, MA

Shenandoah valley sketch on a nomad art satchelShenandoah National Park – Luray, Virgina

Let’s see your battle stations! Post your link in the comments below.

Here are a few of things I mentioned above. These are affiliate links, so if you use them, I’ll get a small commission, which is a super awesome way to to say, “thanks for the posts!”.

Have a great day!

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Guest Post: Switching Tasks by Kate Jones

Comments (1) How to Win at Creative Adult

Some of you might have read this post How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method, which was the first post in the How to Win at Creative Adult Series.

Today, I’d like you show you this lovely post from Kate Jones, owner of The Vagabond Tabby. Kate makes all natural, crap-free soaps as well as jewelry. Kate has her own spin on the two-list method, which I love.

Check it out!


kyphi 2

But why would I want to switch up jobs? I keep hearing that multitasking is bad.

Yep. And multitasking isn’t what I’m talking about here, either. I could quote you the statistics about how much time and productivity you lose while trying to multitask, but I’d have to go and look them up, and I’m trying to stick to my writing without getting distracted. (See what I did, there? )

I’m not talking about the ‘a few seconds here, a few seconds there’ kind of switching when you’re multitasking. I’m talking half an hour here, a few hours there. But doing different things.

All right, you’ve got me. So when will I be using this lovely new tool?

Say you’ve been working on your taxes for a while, and your brain is melting from all the numbers. Your shoulders hurt, too, so after you’ve put in a half an hour — or once you’ve gotten to a good place to stop for a while — you could get up and pack up a couple of orders, make a batch of soap, or do some photocopying. You’re giving both your shoulders and your brain a break, and still getting something done.

Or you’ve been banging away on an article that’s due tomorrow. You’re not really in the mood for it, but it’s got to be done, and you’re getting it done. Once you’ve got a first draft, you could switch to something you really enjoy as a reward, before digging back into the second draft.

You’ve been entering the month’s receipts into whatever you use to keep track of your finances. It’s brain-meltingly boring, but like the article above, it’s got to be done. Too long at one shot and all the numbers start looking the same, though, and you’re tired of being stuck in your office all alone. Might be time to change to something else to shake loose some brain cells for a bit — go check in with your partner about that ebook you’re collaborating on.

Seeing some similarities in these examples? There’s a reason. One way or another, what you’ve been doing is starting to be a problem, and a problem that can be solved by doing something else for a while.

blackberry 02

What kind of something else, though?

Generally, you’re going to be moving from one class of task to another. There are a couple of ways this can get broken down:

* Physical vs. mental tasks.
* Solo vs. team tasks.
* Number vs. word tasks.
* Tasks you like vs. tasks you hate.

snuggled up

There are many more possible divisions, but these will do for a start. And yes, there’s a lot of overlap between types of tasks here. One task can fall into a lot of categories, and those categories can even change partway through.

Writing an article is a mental task, not a physical one; and (usually) a word task, not a number one. But it could be either solo or team, depending on the situation, and it can go from something you hate doing to something you’re really into and back several times while you’re working on it.

Packing things up to ship can be a number and word task, both physical and mental (especially if you’re figuring out shipping costs), and solo or team, depending on the specifics. But it’s a good change from a mental-numbers-solo task like doing your taxes, or a physical-team task like rearranging everyone’s desks.

Long story short, if you’ve got a task that’s becoming a problem, identify where the problem is, and then find a task to work on for a while that avoids what’s causing the problem.


So this is the key?

Only not always. Sometimes switching isn’t the way to go. If you’re in the flow, if what you’re doing is just coming out like it’s the only thing in the world and it’s just beautiful, don’t change to doing something else just because you feel like you’re ‘supposed’ to!

If you remember something else you need to do, don’t switch over to that; you’ll lose your flow. Just write it down somewhere so you’ll remember, and keep on with what you were doing. Once you’ve written down the task you’d forgotten, you can forget about it again — after all, there it is in plain words to remind you later.

Be careful that you’re not changing tasks too often. You’ll lose a little time (and brain) every time you switch, so the less often, the better off you are.

And if someone interrupts you with a question, or, worse yet, with a ‘do right now’ task…that’s more sticky, depending on who they are and how much trouble you’ll get into if you blow them off. But it might be a good idea to get folks into the habit of (if nothing else) waiting a minute or two until you get to a good stopping place. It’s rare that whatever they’ve brought to you to deal with will go sour for waiting five minutes.


What do you think of Kate’s technique? Could this workflow improve your productivity? Post in the comment section below!

***Would you like to write a guest post? I’m currently looking for guess post dealing with any of these topics (creative adults post list). Please contact me at for more info***

And be sure to check out Kate’s site!

logo for the Vagabond Tabby stuff for your skin crap free guaranteed

If you liked this post, you might like these others.

How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method

How to Win at Creative Adult – Mindfulness and Fighting Stress

How to Win at Creative Adult – Exercise

How to Win at Creative Adult – Drawing at Zoos and Aquariums

How to Win at Creative Adult – Dealing with Frustration and Fear

How to Win at Creative Adult – Focus

How to Win at Creative Adult – Finding Inspiration

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How to Win at Creative Adult – I, Experiment

Comments (6) How to Win at Creative Adult

To all of those intense, Type A, hyper-critical, and high-drive people out there, I think you might love this. If you suffer from a lack of self-esteem, self-loathing, or imposter syndrome, you might like this as well.

I want to tell you about a relatively new thing that I’ve been trying which has been helping me improve my productivity, fitness, and creativity.

I stopped viewing myself as “the person.” and started viewing myself as “the experiment.” Then good things really started to happen.

Here’s why I needed to become an experiment.

About two years ago, I had recovered from an arm injury that took me out of the game for the two previous years. I went from someone who worked out everyday and drew or sculpted every night to someone who could hold a pencil for no longer than ten minutes, never mind hitting the gym.

Once I’d mostly recovered, after two years of doing PT exercises, I found myself at a crossroads. I was out of touch with a art community, and I hadn’t had any significant practice for two years. I couldn’t jump back into my old schedule because my injury could still flare up. This applied to my gym life too. I felt lost.

I realized that I would have to find a new routine that worked for me, my high-drive personality, and my angry elbows.

So I started to “experiment”.

I’m not sure how I arrived at the experiment concept. One day, I simply said. “I’m going to try this new art routine for two weeks and see how it goes. I’ll be like a scientist doing an experiment.”

It went awful. (see item #4 below)

Normally, “Sarah, the person” would have beaten herself up over it, and felt like a lazy failure. However, “Sarah, the experiment” said “hmmm…how can I tweak this to make it work better?”

The evolution of my art routine has been thus:

I did parts 1-3 as “Sarah, the person”
and regularly would beat myself up over bad drawing days, elbow fatigue, etc.

1) Draw on Thurs night only for a few hours with many breaks
– highly painful and crappy art but I was able to keep this up. I had essentially decided that after two years, I was done waiting.
-stretching and PT exercise performed diligently.

2) Draw 3 nights only for a few hours with a few less breaks
– went well enough, often sore by Fri
– added meditation to help my muscles relax.

3) Draw each night after work only for a few hours with breaks
– often only painful a few days a month
– stuck to the pervious routine and increased strength training
– artwork started to improve.

I did parts 4-7 as “Sarah, the experiment” and thoroughly enjoyed the process of tweaking my routine to find the best one for me.

4) Draw 3 morning a week from 6am to 8am then go to work
– elbows were pretty much fine
– seeking to maximize productivity
– performed terribly and I was a total zombie
– can’t focus for 1st hour of session
– crap artwork

5) Draw each morning from 6am to 8am then go to work
– figured a more solid routine would make me less like a zombie
– didn’t work
– artwork still crappy

6) Go into work at 7am, leave by 3pm
– draw all afternoon and into the evening, stopping for workouts and whatnot
– DING! This one is great!
– started to see great results.

7) Started getting up a 5am once a week to draw at the zoo
– noticed a marked increase in productivity in art and a regular workout schedule IF I took a short nap.

8) Got permission to transition all my work days into the eariler zoo day schedule
– will test until Oct.

I fully expect that I’ll need to alter the new earlier schedule, but that’s okay, it’s just an experiment.

I think this is a great way to try new things stress free. What do you think? Are there any experiments you’ve been meaning to conduct? Let me know in the comments below!

If you liked this post, you might like these others.

How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method

How to Win at Creative Adult – Mindfulness and Fighting Stress

How to Win at Creative Adult – Exercise

How to Win at Creative Adult – Drawing at Zoos and Aquariums

How to Win at Creative Adult – Dealing with Frustration and Fear

How to Win at Creative Adult – Focus

How to Win at Creative Adult – Finding Inspiration

If you’d like to see the fruit of my labors…
I post daily studies and sketches here Twitter.

If you like to ask for private tutoring, win prizes, or simply see my best studies, check out my Patreon.


Thanks so much for everything!

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