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“Once I feel the flow of ink on paper, or a bright colour on the page, I feel joy and excitement and soon enough, I forget the things around me, and the time.”

Koosje Koene, Illustrator & Author

What does a normal or ideal working day look like for you, what kind of rhythm do you have?
On a normal day, I get up in the morning, make coffee and drink it with my husband. I might make a drawing, which is like a morning meditation. Three times a week, I do a workout in the morning. Either at home, in the gym, or I go for a run. Then, I go to my home office and work on making content for Youtube or Patreon. I film and edit; usually I create blocks on my calendar for this: I have filming days and editing days. Writing days too.
I always make sure to move away from the desk to go for a walk. I’ll take my sketchbook and might combine my walk with drawing. Whatever my day looks like, I always make time to draw.
In the evenings I don’t work. I cook, eat, read, draw or find some other form of entertainment.


How many hours per day do you work on average (writing, painting, practising)?
My work as a solopreneur, teaching people to draw and to sustain a creative habit, is a full time job. I do at least one drawing every day. One drawing can take one hour or 15 minutes, or anything in between.
I see my writing and video-producing also as part of my art. That takes about 3-5 hours a day.


How many hours do you add on average for ‘background work’ and everything else (research, office stuff, acquisition, website, social media)? How do you find the balance between all the tasks you have to keep track of as a free artist?
About 40% at least is non-creation work. Sometimes even more. I am a solopreneur and know how important this work is, in order to keep creating in an effective manner.


Are there weekends for you? What does free time mean?
Weekends are off. Unless I teach. But usually, I work Mondays to Fridays. Saturday and Sunday I am away from my desk. I take and make time to draw.
I do post on social media, which I consider work too.
I also take time to play in my art studio – I don’t consider abstract painting work, as it’s for me only, and not in a professional manner.


What is the biggest threat to your artistic work, what do you get distracted by?
Sometimes I spend a lot of time doing all sorts of “chores” (customer management that kind of stuff) in the time I planned to work on making content. I think it’s a form of productive procrastination.


Do you have strategies to protect yourself from distractions?
Throughout many years of being an solopreneur (I was a freelance photographer for 10 years before I started on this drawing-and-teaching path), I learned to block time in my agenda, set deadlines for myself and commit to them. I don’t want stress in my life if I can help it, so I pretty much stick to my plans.


What is your working environment like, what is essential for you? For example, do you need absolute silence – and if so, where and how do you find it?
I prefer a dedicated space where my computer is and where I can film. I rented different spaces throughout the years. But for years I worked from a tiny home office as well. You don’t need a fancy art studio to make art.
When I need to concentrate to work on ideas, like creating lesson materials or writing an article, I often put on instrumental, calm music.
When recording video and audio for YouTube and Patreon, a quiet environment comes in pretty handy. I like well-produced videos but I’m not a perfectionist about it. We used to live in an apartment which was next to a school, and many of my videos have yelling kids in the background. Oh well.


When and where does the most important part of your work happen, where do you find the greatest inspiration? At work at your desk or by chance – reading, relaxing, travelling, interacting with other people?
People often think that I am drawing all day. That’s far from the truth. I do draw every day but sometimes that’s just 15 minutes of the day. I spend a lot of time at my desk, at the computer. Luckily, I also teach on location, and I travel for that. Travelling gives me so much new impulses and experiences, and especially meeting the people in the groups that I teach. The conversations I have with them, the stories they tell and the questions they ask give me a lot of inspiration for my classes but also for my sketchbook practice.
But: everything is interesting when you draw it. You don’t need to travel or even leave the house to find inspiration. I can be completely happy and relaxed spending time drawing one of my house plants, for example.


How often or easily do you get into a creative ‘flow’, and what helps you most to reach this state?
“Don’t go looking for inspiration, inspiration needs to find you at work”, is a quote I read somewhere. It must be from a famous artist, I can’t remember. I think it’s so true. Just get started. Once I feel the flow of ink on paper, or a bright colour on the page, I feel joy and excitement and soon enough, I forget the things around me and the time, and I’m in that “flow” state.


What do you do when nothing works out – when ideas or success fail to materialise, or when you don’t succeed in what you set out to do?
Well if NOTHING works out, I guess I’m just having an off day and maybe I should then just go focus on something different. But usually, even when something is really hard, or a project seems very big and difficult, during the process there will always be small successes and milestones. It’s never black and white. And yes, sometimes you try a thing and it doesn’t work out quite the way you hoped, but then at least there’s something you learned along the way.
I know, it’s annoyingly optimistic, but I just have a large sense of trust that if you follow your intuition (and your smarts), you can accomplish a lot – as long as your goals are attainable.


What helps you when your self-confidence is down (e.g. because of bad reviews, financial downturn, bad mood, personal worries)?
See above.


Do you reward yourself when you have achieved something, reached a certain goal?
I definitely need to get better at celebrating successes. Often when one project is finished, I am already at the beginning or middle of the next, because ideas build onto each other. Taking a breather, a little break, and looking back at the accomplishment(s) is what I want to do more often.


Do you rely on the advice of others or on advice literature? Are there any books that have helped you to find courage on your artistic path?
I have some really smart people around me and I love talking with them about ideas. A year ago, I started a Masterminds group with two solopreneurs/creatives like me, who work in different fields. Each month, we see each other, talk about challenges and ideas, and we keep each other accountable. In between meetings, we have a WhatsApp chat where we sometimes ask each other for advice.


How much does the recognition of your art by others mean to you? What is the best form of recognition?
I love getting likes and comments on Instagram, but my art is so related to my teaching… that the best form of recognition is when people tell me they learned something from me (from my videos, Patreon, in a workshop, or from my book for example).


What are you afraid of?
What if I get sick? Or blind? And I can’t do my visual work anymore? Those are thoughts that sometimes come up, but not very often. Why worry about something that might not even ever happen?