Magic Spells for Artists

My twins just read the Harry Potter series - seven books and one play.

My whole rabble of wildebeests is now running through the house with pointy sticks, saying, "Wingardium Leviosa!" and "Expelliarmus."

Aside from the bad parenting of letting children run with pointy objects,

I myself would not mind a wand for a few things in life.

1. The dishes. (A den full of four hungry wildebeests and their keepers can be very full of dishes)

2. The laundry. (Again with the den analogy.)

3. The writing and the art.

Wouldn't it be fun to flick a pointy stick and magic oneself into a brilliant writer and/or illustrator?

So, really, where is that magic spell?

Wouldn't it make everything easier?

So, I once had the opportunity to hear picture book illustrator Renata Liwska and her husband Mike Kerr speak at a SCBWI conference in Seattle.

Wide eyed and wonderstruck,

I wanted to know the tricks and magic spells

that would turn me into a picture book illustrator exactly like Renata Liwska.

Ever do that?

Well, maybe not. But I did.

So, we all of us watched thirstily as Renata and Mike unpacked for the talk.

They pulled out a motherlode of black sketchbooks and laid them in a mountain in front of us.

Each sketchbook was filled with perfect illustrations.

Perfect! Pristine in skill and finish!

How was there not even one scratched out, loopy mess up in the entire collection? How?

Renata is soft-spoken, humble, and has such a kind smile.

Her husband Mike pointed to the pile of books and told us Renata's magic spell:


Sketch every, every day.

That's it?


Just work?

Where's the magic in that?

Two years later, it's beginning to sink in.

It isn't an instant change, but each drop in the bucket is a spell of sorts.

Each drop is a growing of your eyes and ears and hands,

every sketch is an observation, a study of the world,

each page is a honing of your vision -

and therein you find the transformation!

So, my friends, let me share some magic spells for improving your craft in a nutshell:

1. Show up. Every day.

(Writers also call this "butt-in-chair.")

2. Sketch. Sketch. Sketch.

(Or insert your passion here. Bake cakes. Practice soccer. Juggle fruit.)

3. Write. Write. Write.

(Especially important for aspiring authors.)

4. Read. Read. Read.

(Observe and learn from the world relating to your craft. If you want to be a picture book illustrator, by golly, read picture books like a sieve!)

5. Repeat.

6. Every, every day.

Once more:

And the thing is?

The more I do it, the more I love this daily rite.

It's like magic.

Learn more about Faith Pray in our artist gallery or at her blog, Sacred Dirt.

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