Trouble Getting Started? Tips to Get your Artwork Moving

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My name is Derrick Rathgeber, and I am a Colored Pencil Artist. I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. As a child I found myself finding anything and everything to draw and doodle on. From receipts to brown grocery bags, nothing was off limits. I would lose myself into my imagination by creating characters, cool creatures, and even whole worlds for them to live in. As I grew older I wanted to learn how to make my characters look more realistic, and make the world they live in come alive. I couldn’t afford lessons, and I didn’t have a mentor so I watched and studied cartoons, and animated movies. When kids were watching them for entertainment, I was trying to figure out how they worked. I was enamored with artwork coming to life. I wanted to do that. In the year 2000 I got an opportunity to attend Collins College. There I had my chance to learn how to do real life animation. It was one of the greatest and most difficult times of my life. On one hand I got to learn from a legend that worked on several Don Bluth films, and on the other hand the world of traditional animation has been lost to computer animation. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in 2005, and decided to move back towards family with my newly wedded wife, and our daughter. With new experiences as a father and husband, I started to draw more pictures of things that reminded me of them like fairies, flowers, and animals. These are drawings that I don’t think I would have drawn had not for being inspired by them. Over time I found that I really found that I had a talent for capturing the colors of the world. I am now 31 years old with four great children and art has become a large part of our lives. My wife writes great poetry and each of my kids has a knack for coloring and drawing fantastic pictures. My oldest daughter has this uncanny ability to craft objects like her mom. We enjoy creating things as a family. I now have the opportunity of sharing my work with you, and teach you everything I know one post at a time. I will bring you step by step lessons that will show you how to use each color pencil in your arsenal to add color and imagination to your life no matter your level as an artist. I have also started a comic strip series which is also available on my blog along with the free art lessons. Come for the Art, and stay for the great stories. “Let us make this world full of art and creativity together.” Derrick Rathgeber'

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By Derrick Rathgeber

One of the most difficult things I have trouble with as an artist is just getting started. To me it’s something that drags me down like quicksand. The struggle of pulling myself together is a fight I deal with daily, and the more I fight to get started I find myself procrastinating more. In my case I feel as if I start one project I am neglecting myself of another. As of now I have split my talents into several different locations, that I am completely scatterbrained at times. It’s as if I am stuck in a dark tunnel with ten paths to choose, and rather than take the chance of taking the wrong path I stay in the same spot. Unfortunately choosing the safe spot moves me nowhere and nothing gets done, and every project suffers.


If you are new to my blog, or website my name is Derrick Rathgeber, and I am a husband, father of four great kids, a colored pencil artist, comic strip writer/artist, blog writer, free online art teacher, web designer, graphic designer, and soon I will try my hand at writing a book. All that is true I have done all those things, and you can find them on my website and right here on this very blog page. What the funny part is that I have put my hat in so many pots that I have overwhelmed myself to the point where I don’t know what I want to do. Each of these things are my hobbies, and I really do enjoy them all equally. I love making people laugh with my comic strips, I love designing characters for my story, and I love drawing detailed pictures with my colored pencils. So how do I choose? When I finish one project, how do I choose what to do next? When I start one I put all my energy into it, energy that I could have put into another one.


This was a problem for me for a very long time. I tried different things, and ultimately what worked best was just being down right organized. First of all my greatest enemy is procrastination. That to this day is the hardest enemy to kick in the rear, but you know what I am learning. I’ll start tomorrow, I never do anything for myself, I am tired, I don’t have what I need and so on. Some great tips to help with this little demon are as follows.


  1.  Ask yourself: Is what I am doing now beneficial? What would be more rewarding? How will I feel if I continue to put this off?
  2. Put off Procrastination: It may sound funny but think about it. Turn off any devices that may lure you away from your projects ie. Tv, internet, PHONE! All these things will be there later.
  3. Reward yourself: I always tell myself if I draw today for x amount of time then I get to have x amount of time to do something I like GUILT FREE.
  4.  Break it down: Sometimes we are overwhelmed by a large project. So overwhelmed that we don’t start it. So break it down. Say I am going to sketch it today, color this section tomorrow ect. This also helps you take your time and enjoy your new project.
  5. Share your Success: Let people know how important it is to you. Sometimes we feel guilty for taking time from our friends and family. Sometimes they don’t understand what it means for you to be productive. Let them know, and ask for support. Say don’t call around 2-4pm I will be working, or can you watch the kids for a bit. And once you are finished working thank them by giving them your full attention.

When it comes to deciding on what to work on next that is another hang up us artists deal with. Do we start on that commission piece? Do we draw that picture your mom has been asking for? Do I dare ignore everyone and draw that image bouncing around in my head? Again it answers the question how do I spend my time and energy? In my case I pulled myself so thin at one point that I just fell apart and did nothing. I had to get focused, and combat this problem because I wasn’t getting anything done. So what I did was I got organized. This was very important for me because I was all over the place. I didn’t even know what projects I had half of the time, or what I finished. So these are some of the things I did, that you can do yourself, to get organized.


  1. Make a list: Write down a list of projects you have. This can be commissions, drawings you would like to do, blogs, website, ect.
  2. Prioritize them: Number these projects from 1-10+ based on which projects you would like to get done, or maybe ones you were putting off that you would like to finish.
  3. Make a Time Table: Next to each item write down how much time you need for each project. If it’s unknown it’s not a big problem. Ones that you can finish fast are good ones to knock off in-between larger projects.
  4. Make a calendar: This is actually fun. Make yourself a weekly calendar giving yourself that day to work on a specific project, and be sure to add a FREE DAY on this calendar to give you the opportunity to work on projects that are behind, to work on whatever you want,  or just take a day off to rest.
  5. Don’t make it Law: If you have to make adjustments it’s okay. Life changes and so can your schedule. So don’t feel guilt about changing the calendar, or missing a day or two. It’s mainly a tool to help you decide on what to work on that day. If your heart is in another project follow it and finish that project, you should never force it.

Once you have everything in perspective you will find your days going much smoother and a lot of guilt that goes along with starting something new will start to pass. You want to get into a good routine of developing yourself as an artist, but also find yourself being productive. Above all try not to make it work. A reason some of us find it hard to start up something new is fear, and worry. We worry that it won’t come out right, or fear that it has become work instead of enjoying it. When you feel that pressure, and fear building up just sketch. Don’t feel obligated to share it, just grab your sketchbook and just draw. This helps relieve that pressure we all feel to be at our very best all of the time. As artists we are our worst judges, and that can do nothing but hold us back.


So today if you are holding back a great new design that can wait, push through the muddiness and get through. Today it’s harder than ever with the many distractions that we face, but we have to close that world off and dive into our imaginations and pull it out. It’s not an easy fight sometimes, but this world of technology needs more creativity. Just remember every time you start a new project you are making the world that much better and more imaginative. That itself is a great reward, and incentive to start today.


Thank you for reading,

Derrick Rathgeber

Feel Free to find me on my website at
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