Artist Traits

Episode 08: Your Creative Bank Account

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What is The Creative Bank Account? We have mentioned it a lot in past episodes and it’s about time we talked about the source of all good ideas: what it is, how does it work and what are the best strategies for filling your personal creative bank account.

A creative bank account is something that everyone harbors in their own minds. It is creative capital and you spend this creative capital every time you make something. Creative capital fuels all creative work: poems, drawings, artwork, writing, etc.

We are unable to create in a vacuum or closed system. We need inspiration and stimulus from outside sources to fuel our creativity. That’s where the need for a creative bank account comes in.

Steve Jobs said that creativity is about connecting the dots.

Begin by drawing two dots. Connect the dots.
Then draw another dot. Connect them again.
Draw ten dots. Connect them in any way.
What is the outcome? This illustrates how as ideas come together it helps to create something new. The more dots you have, the more creative options and combinations you can create!

Innovation and ideas occur at an exponential rate.
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

What are the best ways  to fill a creative bank account?

Expose yourself and put yourself in the position to be around inspiration and creativity. Lee has just joined a collective studio that has bakers, architects, artists, and graphic designers under the same roof. It allows him to be around more creative energy than he would be at home or in an isolated studio space.

Become productive and creative anywhere [15:16]
It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you are “collecting your dots” and filling your bank account. The internet allows you to fill your creative bank account anywhere.

Indirect and direct experience, why you need both [16:19]
There are two sources of inspiration for your creative bank account:

  • Indirect Experience - Experiencing something through the filter of someone else i.e. film, music, movies, libraries and Pinterest. You are seeing and experiencing someone else's perspective. This allows you to be up to date and aware of what’s going on in the world around you.
  • Direct Experience - Personal experience i.e. travel & exploring.

Why you should visit the a real library [18:11]
Go to the library.
It physically gets you out of your space.
Libraries allow you to be exposed to material that you would not normally read or see.  

Going out into the real world [19:21]
Interact with the world around you. Venture to new parts of the city and new places you’ve never been. Undoubtedly, there will be something for your creative bank account.

Lee was having a really tough time feeling creative after several months of getting his house ready to put on the market, then he had this cool experience with with his son by randomly deciding to check out a comic book shop called Cosmic Money. He hasn’t really ever liked comics, but after going into the shop they found an amazing graphic novel that re-sparked his creativity.

Cosmic Monkey

The Lost Path

Get out into the world and experience life!

The benefits and opportunities of living in a boring place [23:46]
It really doesn't matter where you live. There are experiences in rural areas and experiences in cities that fill creative bank accounts. However, being able to interact with other people more can give you a lot more opportunities to fill your creative bank account. It’s all about being proactive.

Tips for increasing direct and indirect experiences [24:47]

Jake’s artist friend, Jake Wyatt, says to always be reading three books at one time:

  • Culturally required (classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath, etc.)
  • Culturally relevant (current books you hear about on NPR, top selling books, etc.)
  • Personally relevant to you (what are you interested in? Fantasy, history, etc.)

By reading three different books at the same time you will see different dots and find connections that you might not have seen if you were to read them one at a time.

Jake Wyatt

Artist dates [27:39]
Regularly set a date and set time aside to take yourself out on an artist date! Get out of your own space and normal habits to go to an art gallery, a museum, a bookstore, or out into nature. Go by yourself so you don’t have to filter your experience through someone else.

Direct experience to pursue [29:44]
To have direct experiences travel, explore, do community service, go to museums, etc. Community service allows you to change your outlook and puts you in contact with people or situations that are outside of your normal routine.

Visit Family [30:36]
Visiting family pushes you to be in contact with people that have different opinions and perspectives than you. You don’t know what will inspire you! Who knows, maybe your crazy Uncle Joe will inspire a new character.

Get out of your comfort zone [32:31]
Change the way you do things, like travel from place to place or where you create. Take a different route home. Surrender control by getting rides with family on vacation instead of renting a car. Change your mode of transportation.

Will says that changing your daily routine is a boost for your creative bank account. You don’t always see all the benefits of these experience all at once, but, if you are deliberate, over time you will notice the effects.

Three steps to take after the direct and indirect experiences [37:24]

  1. Share what you experienced. Talk to someone, write a blog post or journal about it, condense the experience to a phrase/ tweet.
  2. Take time to think. Will goes on bike rides or hikes almost daily. Jake and Lee like to run. Take time to listen to your thoughts. We spend so much time consuming that sometimes we don’t allow time to think and process.
  3. Keep a sketchbook or idea book. Jake started keeping one in the early years of his career and would write down any ideas he had. Looking back on it now, there are lots of dumb ideas but also lots of nuggets that help spark creativity in his art now.

The book, “Choose Yourself” says to write down 10 new ideas a day. Jake has tried it and it’s hard. It really stretches you. Try it out! Creativity is a muscle - the more you use it, the better you get at it. Some ideas will be really dumb and silly, but still write them down, the good ideas will come. You can write down ideas for art, for new places to walk your dog, for a business opportunity you think Amazon could take advantage of, etc. etc. You will become more creative!

Choose Yourself!

People with tons of ideas get published [44:31]
The more ideas you have the more you push yourself. Will relates this to children’s books. He has seen that people with lots of ideas rather than just one get published. You have to generate tons of material and then refine.

Be comfortable with changing course [47:00]
Changing courses is part of the creative process. You will see what things work and what things don’t work and change gears accordingly.

Sketchbooks [51:08]
Don’t allow your sketchbook to limit you. Students sometimes feel as as if a sketchbook needs to be perfect but Lee recommends calling it an idea book instead. Then you don’t have to feel pressure that each page has to look amazing, you can have lists and stick figures if you want!

Rapid Viz: A New Method for the Rapid Visualization of Ideas

IlLISTtration: Improvisational Lists and Drawing Assists to Spark Creativity


Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

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Episode 02: Am I Too Old to Get Started?

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Many people wonder, is it too late? Or, am I too old to start?

Will, Lee, and Jake talk about this age old question and discuss how it isn’t too late. There are many successful creatives that didn’t start until they were older. Lee shares his story and how he didn’t start art until later on in life.

We talk about ways you can amp up and make the most of your early years if you are starting for the first time, or looking to accelerate your growth later in life. We discuss some of the benefits of age and the need for sacrifice and prioritizing to create a thriving career in art.


Podcast production and editing by Aaron Dowd.

Show notes by Tanner Garlick

Am I Too Old to Get Started?

Am I too old to shift careers? Am I too old to start as an artist? Am I too old to start this big project I’ve always wanted to start working on?

What’s the average age to start working? If you grew up with an interest in art, drew all the time, and went to art school then most people start their art career maybe in their mid-twenties. Often people who get to art a little later in the game wonder, “Am I too old to do this?” Young people think, “When am I going to get that job?”

Regardless of your age, you are probably comparing yourself to people older and younger than you, and wishing you had done something different when you were younger or feeling like you are so far behind.

Examples of Successful Late Starters

Sang Jun.

Didn’t start drawing until he was well into his twenties. Realized he loved drawing, and started practicing, went to art school, ended up getting a job at Lucas Film doing character design for Episode 3, and then became a lead character designer at Blue Sky. You don’t have to start in your late teens to make it.

Lee White.

Didn’t draw in twenties, or teens. Wasn’t interested until he was in his thirties and started drawing. Applied to Art Center of Design and got accepted with a scholarship, moved to LA, and graduated when he was 33. Then started getting his first books when he was in his mid-thirties, and that’s not the end, it’s just an on going thing.

Miyazaki, the Walt Disney of Japan, in animation all throughout career until 40. That’s when he decided to start his own animation studio. He did a graphic novel at age 40 for Nausica that he wanted to make into a feature film, all of his great movies were done in his post 40’s.

At age 40, you still have 25 years till most people retire, that’s a long time!

You really don’t ever have to retire.

Art isn’t like playing football, it’s not hard on your bones.

Zombies video

As You Mature, Your Art Matures

Greg Manchess was winning awards and competitions for years, and he came out to do a lecture, he had just done the cover for “Above the Timberline.“ Speaking of that painting he said, “10 years ago I could not have painted this” even though 10 years ago he was winning awards for the Society of Illustrators, etc.

If you really are serious about being an artist and creating the best art you are capable of creating, you have to make it a lifelong goal. It’s not a sprint.

You need a schedule for yourself. You need to have an actual goal, something to look forward to. Without it, nothing happens.

Don’t judge results by if you are right on target.

Say, you’re 35. 5 years will pass whether you like it or not. You’re gonna be 40 at some point. Wouldn’t you rather have done something interesting with those 5 years between 35 and 40, or and tried to do this thing? If time passes anyways, you might as well do it.

If you are starting later, you won’t be creating the same work that you would if you had started younger. You have had so many life experiences: losing jobs, family, work, etc.

Beauty of age, experience, which leads to more informed art.

If you’re older, you’ve figured out how to work and developed a good work ethic. You don’t quit until the job is done. Broader perspective, more interested in learning than instant gratification.

Gina Jane- was a student going back to school. She turned in some of the best projects in the class, she had done a lot of graphic design stuff but hadn’t been drawing for a while. However, she had the work ethic, and she worked so hard at applying what she was being taught. She easily turned in some of the best pieces in the class.

You can accelerate your learning with your experiences. Older students are more okay learning something without instant gratification.

i.e. learning perspective, having a more broad perspective and being more willing to learn.

Battle Plan

For someone starting at, let’s say, 35-36..

Phase 1 or Year 1:

  • Draw for 2 hours a day.
  • Enroll in an online school, SVSlearn, schoolism, CGMA.
  • Learn the Fundamentals: Perspective,  Light and Shadow, Figure Drawing, Composition, Color, how to use Line/shape/tone
  • Fill 6-7 100 page sketchbooks, during your 2 hours a day.
    Work on hands, head, the figure, landscape, perspective, shading, this is your your sandbox for practicing and applying what you are learning.
  • Pick 5 of your favorite artist, do 20 copies from each of these 5 artists. Each copy, you will learn so much from trying to deconstruct what these artists have done. You want to learn how that artist did it.
  • You’re gonna fail with some of them, but you try and learn from the masters by copying their work.
    Depending on what your goal is, it might change your approach.
    Jon Klassen. Does a lot more simple graphic design type work.
    Craig Mullins. Studied industrial design. He didn’t like the industrial design look. Then he went back to school and did illustration.
  • Seek advice from a professional: "these are my goals, what should I do?"
    Sometimes students want to become a children’s book illustrator but don’t really know any illustrators.
  • During this first year, you need to educate yourself on this field.
    If it’s children’s books, every week maybe read 5 a week.
    If it’s comics, know what’s in comics, not just 20 years ago, but what is happening now.
    Fill your creative bank account with what people in the industry are doing.
  • State your goal publicly: and then share your progress on the social media platform.

    That’s your Phase 1/ Year 1, it might take 2-3 years.

Phase 2: Build Your Portfolio

  • Draw 4 hours a day

  • Intermediate classes, these online schools, and svs have more advanced classes. More one on one with teachers.

  • 4 sketchbooks this year, not studies, concept art for portfolio.

Illustrator: ideas for illustrations or childrens books
Comic artist: ideas for characters, your take on Wolverine, etc.

  • Complete the Draw 100 Somethings Challenge: boats, trees, flowers, gummy robots, dinosaurs, robots, etc. Teaches you to not be satisfied with first 2-3, or 20 designs. Teaches you that true creativity comes after you have drained all the low hanging fruit. Jake did 200. Just to prove that there is no end to the ideas you can do.

100 Somethings, Youtube:

  • Continue Studying. If you’re aspiring to do childrens books- keep studying children’s books. concept artist or animator-reading every word in the “Art Of” books. Comics, keep studying comic books.

  • Social Media- post your 100 somethings. Post your sketchbook studies. Can start growing a following, cause you aren’t just practicing but sharing your own unique ideas and what you are bringing to this field you are entering.

  • Choose your heroes. Educate yourself on what you want to do. i.e. children’s books, comics, animation.

  • Post regularly, share your work, journal chart progress, share what you’re learning.

  • Keep Studying
  • Start to pay attention to stories. At the end of the day this is what will separate you. See what the story is about, not just the details, separate that.
    Eventually everyone will be able to draw and paint, and story is what will separate you.

Ultimately, Star Wars is all about a family. It’s a family drama, that’s what it is about. Be able to see the broader view, what’s the story about, and how did they tell that story. You can really get some great insights to storytelling, story building, and how to tell your own stories.

You don’t want to just be a vapid artist who isn’t saying anything.

Key: Ultimately, it is your stories that you tell that will separate you from the others.  Be observant of stories in your life and all around you. What the story is all about, what is the broader view? How did they tell the story. Look at it separate from the details.

They’re not saying anything, or they’re saying the same thing that has always been said.

  • Be conscious of the style that you are developing.

See "Uncovering your Style",

Phase 3: Make a Product.

  • Kickstart and Create your comic, illustrate your book, concept out your idea. Create something that works for you.


  1. Teaches you to Start and Finish a project.An actual product, suggests a finality to the project. Not just a project. Finished not perfect.

  2. Learn Marketing

  3. Learn Production

  4. Learn Salesmanship.

  5. Learn who prints things, and how to get things printed.

  6. Learn about how when things get screwed up how to fix it?

You’ll be more educated and understand what’s happening behind the scenes.

Year 3 is all about taking everything you are learning and create something with it.

  • Enter contests, put yourself out there, step up to the plate, try it, and get work out there. This is the best that I have got, this is what I have to share. Helps propel you to a new step. Do your best, and then move forward.

You need moments of finality and stair stepping, then you can ask, “Where to go next?”

  • Keep finishing things, then you go on to the next thing, and keep doing your best, then you can decide where to go next.

Don’t just keep a bunch of unfinished things in the drawer.

Ultimately, we want you to teach yourself how to finish and present something.

  • This will also help you flesh out a network. If you want to be successful, you need to build a network. People above, next to, and below you.You’d be surprised at what jobs and opportunities will come.

Someone above may like your work and throw you a bone.

Someone next to you may recommend you for a job. 

Someone below you has opportunities too.

Start building that network by building things and putting them out into the world.

Get into the network/world that you hope to enter.

Project creates a connection with people in that world, starts a network.


  • Study a film a week, a graphic novel a week, etc.

Will used to have though that “If I look at other people’s work I would be copying.” Originality comes from taking and combining, and studying. Will wishes someone would have grabbed him and told him that. Keep feeding yourself.

All creativity is, is connecting dots. Connecting dots that other people wouldn’t haven’t thought to connect. In order to connect dots, you have to have dots in the first place if you’re not filling your brain, then you have no creative capital to work with, you have no thoughts.


How Can I do This?

You have 4 hours in a day. You work for 9-10 hours. You have 14 hours. Maybe you shave off an hour of sleep, maybe you stop watching a TV series.

It really comes down to what you want to sacrifice. You shouldn’t sacrifice family, or your job. But there are some things you need to sacrifice to go down this path.

Need to discuss this with your spouse or significant other.  I.e. “This is something I feel really passionate about, let’s work out a plan, maybe Thursday Friday nights are spent doing this, and you get me Saturday and Sunday.”

Maybe it’s not 4 hours a day, and it’s 2. You can get a lot done in 2 hours. If you don’t prioritize it, it will never happen.

Come up with a schedule. Maybe it is Thursday or Saturday.

Early to Rise.

Jake gets up at 4am to work on Skyheart.

Lee wakes up at 5, works from 5:30-9:30 or 10AM.

During that grouping of hours, stuff happens.

You can get a ton of work done in that group of time.

Pursuit of Happiness. The main character would drink less water, so that he didn’t have to use the restroom as often and could therefore make more calls.

You’ve got to ask yourself, how bad do you want something? It comes down to that.

I really want to play the guitar, but I didn’t sacrifice for it, I didn’t prioritize it. I said that I really wanted to play the guitar, but if you don’t sacrifice and prioritize it, then you don’t really want it.

You can’t have good things without some sort of sacrifice or some sort of skin in the game.

Yuko Shimizu,

She had a full time corporate job, and kept her job until eventually she hit the tipping point and she quit her corporate job, and now is an incredible illustrator.



Jake: Skyheart, 60 Pages left to color, it’s coming along well!

Lee: Working on illustrating some different subject matter.

Do rough sketches, then Find 3 key beats or difficult passages, and does an illustration of those passages, cause that will set tone for the rest of the book. Not just page 1, 2, etc. and does those pages and then it influences all the rest of the pages.

Will: Wrapping up Texture Painting class, Finished up the Alice in Wonderland series for Comic Con, and just finished a children’s book.



Jake Parker: Instagram: @jakeparker, Youtube: JakeParker44

Will Terry: Instagram: @willterryart, Youtube: WillTerryArt

Lee White: Instagram: @leewhiteillo

If you like this episode, please share it, subscribe, and we’d love it if you left a review! These podcasts live and die on reviews.

If you want to join in on this discussion log onto, there is a forum for this episode you can comment on.