“Actually, when I was a kid, I was super into drawing.”
That’s what my friend Max Miller confesses after I ask about her art Instagram. There’s almost a hint of frustration when she describes how, even at a young age, she compared herself to all these other artists in her school. “Ugh, there can only be one good person here!”
And it’s wasn’t her, she claimed.
“So I’m not gonna continue,” Max proclaims, putting into words the very thing she would do next, which was to stop drawing “for, like, twelve years.”
Twelve years is an awful long time to stop doing what you like doing. Suddenly, I think back to when I first met Max. We were almost seniors in high school, introduced at a summer camp. I don’t remember think I’d ever even known that Max liked to draw. Not while we were at camp, and not even while we went through four years of college together (where we ended up taking the same degree at the same university).
Twelve years! I remember that I stopped taking ballet in all my four years of university, but I can’t imagine stopping for longer than that.
But this post isn’t about me though. It’s about Max.
Time to pick up where we left off
Max’s inspiration for suddenly getting back into her childhood love affair involved a couple things. One was the fan art of her favorite K-pop groups that she’d see on Twitter – or just artists she’d see on her news feeds in general.
But the second, and the one that really spurred her to pick up a pen again, was the coming of Inktober, an annual month-long community event where artists all around the world are challenged to do one ink drawing a day based on a prompt. While Max tells me she didn’t intend to follow the prompts, she did promise herself to try and draw one thing a day.
“But I didn’t want to be a copycat,” Max admits when she talks about the things she wanted to bring to life through her drawings. “Because when I was a kid, I was good at copying. So I was like, ‘Maybe I have to start from there first and then eventually I’ll develop my own style.'”
And that’s what she did. She followed artists whose style she really liked, or she drew whatever she felt like drawing. Until, finally, she got to a point where she was pretty happy with the way she drew. So she figured it’d be nice if she kept doing it.
Thus the birth of her first art Instagram account: Max Media.
Why an art Instagram?
“I guess I was really inspired by the artists [I follow] online.” Max tells me these people also made separate art Instagram accounts, so she figured starting her own wouldn’t be a bad idea. After all, there’s room for everyone on the internet, and none of these other art Instagram accounts are the first of their kind. So, really, there seemed to be nothing to lose by starting this passion project.
But Max tells me another, different motivation that also spurred her to make a separate art account all together.
“I want to learn how to digitize my art.” If you take a look at her profile right now, Max’s works are mostly hand-drawn on paper and pen. Later, she takes photos of her work then posts them online. “So it’d be nice to see how I started out drawing on ink. And then – if I could watercolor, what would it look like? That kind of thing.”
At the heart of it all, Max wanted to become a better artist. And an art Instagram was one of the ways she could track her progress. It was better than mixing her drawings with her personal Instagram photos – with a separate account altogether, all she had to do was scroll to see her growth through the months.
When Max first launched her passion project early this year, I noticed she posted pretty frequently. (My personal favorite from her first art series in January was a drawing of her and a friend crying at a Kpop concert.) So when I saw all the constant updates, I knew that she was serious with this endeavor.
And, of course, I couldn’t help asking about Max’s process for managing this art account.
“I set a certain number of drawings per month,” says Max. “I tell myself to post at least three times a month – bare minimum. So I try to think of a theme for every month, like an art series. Like in January, it was looking back at my favorite 2017 stuff, like highlights.” The process was simple enough. “So I think of an art series for the month, then I draw it. Then I think of when to post it.”
But is it really that simple though?
Of course, with any new passion project, we can’t have it all figured out in the beginning. While fawning over her gorgeous collection of pens and art materials, Max even admits that she doesn’t really know exactly what materials to use for her art. Getting to know what pen to use, for example, is just one of the things she’s still figuring out.
But figuring things out – and learning and growing – is all part of the appeal of starting a passion project, don’t you think?
And yet another thing Max admits is a difficulty in maintaining a creative passion project is following her own rules for herself. So she might tell herself to do all these drawings in a month, but sometimes life gets in the way – as it does. But there’s merit in making time and showing up to do the work. Because when you look back and see how far you’ve come (even one drawing at a time), that makes all the difference.
You might ask, “But what if I’m not that good an artist/blogger/what-have-you?” Should you still start a passion project?
The short answer: yes. But Max puts it really nicely for me when she says:
“At the back of my head, I don’t want people to judge me [for my passion project]. But honestly it’s not that big of a deal [anymore] because I’m not doing it to impress people. It’s really more for me.” She laments all the time she spent comparing herself to others, even while in college. But now that she’s grown out of the mindset, there was really no reason to not pursue her love for art.
So her advice to other people who want to have an art Instagram themselves? (But one that we can apply to anyone else with any other passion project idea!) “Do it for yourself. Don’t have a goal of trying to impress people – what a lame reason! Do it for yourself as long it makes you happy. As long as you have a good time, you’re good. Just push yourself to be better. You owe it to yourself.”
3 takeaways from Max’s passion project journey
- Shut out your inner critic. The truth is we all have one, and sometimes the only thing that’s really stopping us from going for what we really want is ourselves. Will the inner critic ever go away? No. But you can learn to hush it just as quickly as it comes. Trust me: you’re ready to do the thing.
- Don’t do anything just to impress people. To borrow from Max, “what a lame reason.” Besides, even if people judge you, you have nothing to lose. And they’re the ones wasting their time. So don’t use yours paying attention to them.
- Be kind to yourself. Max makes it a point to take care of her wellbeing so she can put her best foot forward for her passion project. She tells me she tries to get enough sleep and even puts herself in the right disposition before she plans out and does her drawings.
You really have to be okay with yourself, and then you can be okay with everything else.
In the future, Max hopes she can have an exhibit and an online shop to sell her art. She tells me she also wants to illustrate a children’s book. The reason she admires other people who make and share their own art is because they can tell their stories using whatever medium they have.