Illustrator Julia Zass on how drawing every day improved her art and upgraded her life

For the past five years, Tbilisi-based designer and illustrator Julia Zass has tasked herself with the personal challenge of drawing every day. We caught up with her to hear about how this activity has improved her artwork and improved her life in general.

Art, just like any other discipline, requires a lot of practice if you want to improve. And since 2017, Julia Zass has applied herself with astonishing regularity by taking it upon herself to draw every single day. In that time, she's seen her work evolve and develop, as well as her life improve as a consequence. And if you want to follow in her footsteps, she's got advice on how to stay on track.

But back to 2017. It was on a winter evening while reading a book about ancient tribes, which suddenly inspired Julia to draw daily. She found herself unable to sleep having read her book, so in a burst of creativity, she sprang out of bed and began drawing in her sketchbook.

"This simple event marked the beginning of my challenge," she tells Creative Boom. "From one day to two, and before I knew it, I couldn't stop. I was curious to see how long I could maintain daily drawing alongside my routine.

"After one month, I decided to continue for a year; by then, daily drawing had already become an essential part of my routine. I enjoyed the process so much that I continued without hesitation, and before I knew it, several years had passed by unnoticed."

And the burst of creativity didn't stop there. Between 2022 and 2023, Julia took things a step further and started a drawing journal where she recorded what had happened to her that week. Like her daily challenge, she says that she started this new routine when feeling the urge to depict her current life events or sensed a lack of art in her routine.

"This way, my mind satisfies my creative hunger," she explains. "So, when I'm in the challenge, it's pretty easy to continue because I perceive it as a necessity, not an obligation. It's like nutrition; you just find time to draw like you find time to eat regularly. It becomes a priority, a habit integrated into one's schedule.

"Once you find your own pace and style that is comfortable for you, such drawing challenges start providing numerous benefits and bringing so much joy during and after the process that they become a naturally enjoyable part of it."

Over the years, these challenges have helped to evolve Julia's drawings. They tap into the craving she has every once in a while to upgrade her work. For example, when she first started her daily drawing project, she concentrated on simple outlined drawings. As time passed, she grew bored of this established style and started experimenting with colour and intricate details.

"The purchase of an iPad in 2020 was a significant game changer, revolutionising my art," she adds. "At that point, I decided to transition to digital art for my daily journal, and since then, all my drawings have been created in Procreate.

"Interestingly, after experimenting with various styles, I concluded that simple outlined or black-and-white drawings are my best choice. They strike a perfect balance between being visually appealing and clear enough while also requiring a reasonable amount of time to complete.

"My drawing style has significantly improved over the years of regular practice. Drawings have become smoother, deeper, and more intricate. I'm grateful to these challenges for all these improvements that practically made my current style."

Maintaining daily output is difficult, regardless of the discipline. So, it's somewhat amazing to learn that Julia never worries about running out of things to draw. "On the contrary, it's actually the easiest part because when drawing your life, you will always have something to draw," she reveals.

"Life always moves forward, with events and impressions happening all the time, no matter how monotonous it may seem. This is the best outcome from such projects, especially for creatives struggling to draw something from their imagination. Here, everything is right in front of your eyes.

"Even with a monotonous routine, repetitive objects and events can be depicted in many ways. It's a matter of a different angle, a different representation, maybe even a metaphor that can convey the same thing in various ways."

Drawing so frequently has been educational for Julia beyond helping her improve her artwork. She feels that the challenge has helped her to grow emotionally, mentally and professionally. "I feel much more confident in my artistic skills, and my drawing style has become more crisp and unique," she says. "I draw better and faster. My mind is more nimble in generating and visualising ideas and quickly scanning my environment for sources of inspiration. Drawing is simply more natural and easy-going for me."

It has also made Julia more organised and disciplined, which has enabled her to plan her time more wisely with a focus on her artistic ambitions. "Regular drawing practice has taught me to be curious, investigative, and more active," she adds. "It motivates me to choose art and adventure over laziness. I started doing interesting things more often, just so I could draw them later.

"Before that, I wouldn't travel alone, go out much, or think about self-development. Since then, I've noticed missed opportunities, bad habits I should work on, and things I need to appreciate more. I've created many incredible memories and visited more events, new cities, and countries than ever.

"Now, I perceive the world differently and have a constant desire to see something new or discover the hidden beauty in familiar moments and routines."

If you're feeling inspired by Julia and want to get into the habit of keeping a drawing journal, she advises that you settle on a strategy and pace that suits you. "We are all different in our routine habits, so an approach that works for one person might not work for another, and that's normal," she says. "It's important to set realistic goals to avoid giving up."

And while it's easier said than done, Julia also says you should not put too much pressure on yourself. "For example, instead of planning to draw every day right away and necessarily filling a specific amount of sketchbook pages, give yourself the freedom to start with a weekly drawing without any predetermined size. Later, you can increase the number of drawings if you feel comfortable enough."

As she points out, drawing should be a pleasure, not a burden. You should be free to make mistakes, take some time off and create your own rules if you feel like you have to. "After so many drawing challenges and their various formats, I now enjoy the freedom of depicting my life without adhering to any particular schedule," she concludes. "I draw about my weekends, vacations, or specific events that catch my attention.

"I plan to continue experimenting with drawing journal formats and styles. Maybe I'll try monthly drawings sometime or return to the weekly format. I enjoy not knowing where drawing journals will lead me; I simply relish the process, which is the main goal of creating them."


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