This has to be my number one new year’s resolution for 2013. I don’t draw nearly enough. Anyone serious about pursuing a career in illustration needs to draw . . . a lot. While a professional writer is making the effort to write every day, an illustrator should be drawing. It is in the persistent practice of our art that our skills grow.

A video is now circulating through the children’s book illustrator network on Facebook. In it, Mike Kerr, the husband of the phenomenal picture book illustrator Renata Liwska, shows viewers through her piles of accumulated sketchbooks, all the while lecturing us on the importance of prolific drawing.

A Quiet Look – How to become a children’s book illustrator in one (not so easy) step from mike kerr on Vimeo.

But then, maybe you’re like me. Maybe, after a long day at the day job, you feel less than enthused at the prospect of putting something on those blank pages in your sketchbook. Maybe sometimes you need a bit of a nudge (or a kick in the pants). The following are two inspiration helpers I picked up through the (now essentially defunct) #kidlitart Twitter chat:

The Sketchbook Project (SBP) 

This one costs a bit of money, but I found the experience worthwhile enough to participate twice. You sign up on their website, choose a theme, and pay a nominal fee. Then the SBP folks send you a small sketchbook. You fill the book with your original theme-based artwork and return it to the SBP by the deadline. The SBP folks shelve the book in their library in Brooklyn, NY, where curious art-junkies can browse the stacks. Some of the projects are taken on tours to art galleries around the country. My books have been to California (but without me).

I paid a bit extra to have my books scanned and filed in the SBP digital library. You can view the one I drew for 2012, “Treehouses of my Imagination.”

One caveat – you won’t get much promotional mileage out of participating. This is more of a hobbyist’s pursuit. Don’t expect art directors to use the Brooklyn Art Library as their go-to source of children’s book illustrators. I found the SBP useful mainly as a way to give my daily sketching just enough structure to keep me at it.

Illustration Friday (IF)

Illustrator Penelope Dullaghan’s IF website offers an illustration prompt, usually a one word theme, every Friday. Participants interpret and illustrate the theme in the style of their choosing, post their illustration to their own website or blog, and link to it on the IF website before the following Friday. You can see some of my efforts from Fridays past on my personal sketch-blog.

There is a helpful community of support wrapped around IF. Illustrators often visit each other’s blogs and offer comments and constructive feedback. Participation in IF is free, but there is a donate link for those who’d like to help support the cost of maintaining the website.

How about you? Where do you look for the inspiration to keep yourself disciplined?