How I’m travelling the world this summer

With quarantine blues extending over the holidays, the realisation hits — there will be no summer vacation this year. But I refuse to let that stop me. I ‘travelled’ to South Korea for 10 days — and the best part was, I didn't even step outside.

Every time I opened my drawer, my neglected Ipad Pro and pencil stared forlornly back at me. I decided it was high time I do something about this situation. And what better way than to draw my own ‘travel photos’.

In reality, this was a way to jump back on the bandwagon and restart my drawing habit. Back in 2018, I had completed a 100-day art challenge (albeit, in more than 100 days…). Regardless, it sparked something in me. I felt more creative, able to make anything I wanted. And this was what has led me to complete several challenges since then. I’ve found that daily art is a great way to create a boost in creative energy and motivation.

Not only that but drawing myself into another country left me feeling like I had, in some small way, actually travelled there. I stretched my imagination in exploring all the different places which I may never have a chance to. And I found that, at least for this quarantine season, these travel photos will do me just fine.

Having come out of the other side raring to create more content, here’s what I learned from 10 days of drawings.

Time constraints get the job done

Constraints create challenges. And challenges drive creativity! My 2018 challenge was lazily completed over a lengthy 3 month holiday. This resulted in, more often than not, sub-par work. I had too much time to create one small thing which ended up with me procrastinating it until the end of the day. I would desperately try to get a decent photograph in the dying sun and post work I wasn’t all too happy with, often deleting or archiving the posts later on.

However, this 10-day challenge, was different. Squeezed in between a full-time job, and the last 10 days of Ramadan, I managed to fit in a couple of hours where I could. The time crunch meant that I had no way to put off the work — I had made a commitment and it was time to stick to it.

Despite having less time throughout the day than the previous challenge, it was less of a struggle. I only had a small window to complete the work so there was no time to fret over whether I could have chosen a better picture, or if I could have drawn more lines or used better colours. What I made was what was posted and that was that. Less time gave me more freedom.

Listen to the flow

In between the busy workday, this was a moment of calm. I learned to shut off the voice in my head and enter the flow state, the benefits of which have been enumerated by many articles, like this one.

With a shorter attention span and a consistent newsfeed in my own head, moments of complete silence and super concentration are rare. Yet whether it’s at work or at play, this is what I find when I am creative. And by the time I’ve emerged out of it, I find I feel fresher — and I’ve created some cool art to boot.

Be critical without criticism

Every day I’d reflect on my progress and see where I could improve, what I could do differently, where I could find a learning point. By the end of it, I had figured out how to draw quicker, generate more ideas, and create narratives within a picture. I even started a TikTok account (not sure if I should be proud of that achievement).

But the point is, I was learning how to make better content. In stepping back from the inner critic, I could see where I’d gone wrong and where I could improve the next day — all without self-judgement.

My grandiose expectations never came to fruition on the first attempt. But once I overcame my disappointment and realised that I would only get what I wanted through persistence, the journey became a lot smoother.

As much as this has been harped about all over the internet, I’ll say it again (because we always need a reminder). Perfection is not the goal — the process is. Finding what works and what doesn’t only happens when I let go and hand the reigns over to creativity to let her work her magic. Creating art is less about the end product, and more about finding meaning in the journey — or so I keep telling myself.

Mindless to mindful

Scroll, double-tap, scroll double tap, scroll — well, you get the picture.

More often than not, we tend to habitually flick through posts on Instagram without giving much thought. I don’t know about you, but it leaves me with a sinking feeling of un-productivity and severe time waste.

I used Instagram as the basis for my work— all the artworks came from pictures I found on several accounts. I spent a lot of time scrolling, searching, selecting hashtags and discovering new pages. But by the end of it, I didn’t feel drained. I didn’t feel like I’d wasted several hours of my time. Because I did all of that with a purpose — I knew that it would be worth it because I would get a piece of art at the end.

Using social media mindfully, following certain types of people (and unfollowing others), created a more positive headspace. By the time I put my phone down, I didn’t feel like I wanted to crawl into bed and never come out again.

External validation isn’t the end goal

Likes are nice. Comments are great. But that’s not what it’s about.

By Day 7, the Instagram algorithm had given up on me. My likes barely trickled into 5% of my following.

But I realised that depending on the likes and comments meant I was selling my happiness to a fickle and seemingly randomized computer-generated programme. Within 10 days, I slowly learned to detach myself, not just from my work, but from the appreciation of that work. Because appreciation of art isn’t tangible. And social media isn’t the best platform to gauge the true worth of a piece of art.

The effect our work has on others isn’t measurable through metrics. There are people out there who love your work so much yet forget to like, or choose not to comment. So the best thing is to just put the work out there and leave the rest to the higher power. Eventually, our time will come :) (and even if it doesn’t, that’s completely okay too — it’s about your own progress).

I learned more than just making art

In posting every day, I internalised how social media really is a full-time job. It requires thinking outside of the box, creating intriguing content, and constantly being on the ball. One of the best ways — and perhaps the only way — to learn this is to consistently make different content to see what reacts best.

My Evernote is now crammed with a never-ending ideas list of what to create — tutorials, big challenge ideas, even down to the hashtags I’ll use. What’s great is I now have my own artistic swipe folder to lean on when inspiration runs dry, which used to happen more often than not. Not only that, but expanding my reach to different platforms means that I can explore new ways of making art and engaging with a new type of audience.

I already have a list of countries I’ll be making a trip to — you can follow me over on Instagram and TikTok @noormajidart to keep up with whatever I post.

Even though we may not be able to hop on a plane this summer, there are still many ways to engage in travel — immerse yourself in a good book, or write yourself one. Create your own travel scrapbook from previous holidays, or invent some new ones through art. You may be stuck inside, but remember your creativity isn’t!

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Design. Draw. Do.

Design. Draw. Do.

Hi! I’m Noor I make videos and write daily about art, productivity and creativity (the sketching, painting kind). https://youtube.com/c/DesignDrawDo