My name’s Lorenzo Etherington, I’m a professional comic book artist, and long-time dedicated Lulu creator. I work as one half of The Etherington Brothers, a comic making sibling team with a client list which includes all of these folks:
I want to tell you how, despite all the people I’ve worked for, and the many original titles I’ve created with large publishers, the most artistically rewarding thing I’ve EVER done is to give all my skills away, for FREE. Here are the five reasons why giving is so much better than taking…
1: Sharing skills consistently builds discipline, which is the most important ingredient to any creator’s success.
Ten years ago, when all my paid illustration work was done each day, I began staying up at night (or getting up VERY early in the morning!) to create sets of drawings (“10 weird vehicles”, “50 hand poses”, “25 fishy character designs”) specifically to post up online to help people use as inspiration and reference in their own work.
Even when these images were only getting a couple of shares and likes, the fact that they seemed helpful to a few people spurred me on to create more, cementing the routine, habit, and discipline of being able to work even when no-one was paying me to do so.
2: You learn to put the reader’s needs before your own.
It can be tempting to create your art on a one-way street, offering it up for consumption by others but rarely empowering your fans or other artists to improve along with you.
Whenever I create artwork or tutorials to help others, it’s absolutely vital to me that the experience is as user-friendly as it can possibly be. By thinking about the experience your readers actually get from your art, you learn to create in a way which is accessible and useful, as well as challenging for you.
3: You develop a long-term approach to creativity.
It’s easy to be caught up with chasing likes and followers, or the latest trend in art and publishing, but that can lead to a very short-term outlook and approach to your art. This ultimately ends with you selling short your creative potential, and having a career which runs out of steam.
When I created my first 600-page sketchbook through Lulu eight years ago, I knew it was going to be a series, but a series which I could only create a new installment for every 4 years. Although this approach required an immense amount of patience at the start, these giant books are now bestsellers every month, all because I stuck to that initial vision.
4: You learn the value of evergreen content.
Success comes from taking an infinite, rather than a finite approach to the usefulness and value of your work. By thinking about legacy, rather than immediate gains, you achieve a very long-term approach to art, and this impacts your choices when creating projects.
As I began work on my tutorials, I knew that I wanted to create a series of lessons which would be as useful in 100 years time to an artist as they were today. It encouraged me to think of broad, timeless subjects, which have a universality to them, even if individually they seem incredibly niche.
5: If you inhabit the role of someone who shares useful, high-quality skills openly for free, you will see it inspire others to do the same.
The greatest joy for me is not to see a creator’s skills improve through the use of my tutorials (though that is obviously AMAZING), but to see another creator, amateur or professional, be inspired to share their own skills in the same way.
I created LEARNUARY, (a yearly month-long celebration of sharing skills which takes place every January) for this exact reason. Writers, photographers, filmmakers, makeup artists, musicians, games designers, potters, fashion designers, and yes, even we lowly illustrators ALL have skills that so many people would benefit from if we just took the time to share them.
We all have projects we want to create, stories we want to tell, art we’re drawn to make, not for anyone else, but just for us. That’s so important and is the essence of creative expression. But if we all took a moment to also share what we’ve learned by walking the artist’s path, we just might inspire an entire generation of unstoppable artists to bring to life their own creativity. And along the way, you may happen to accidentally create one of the most important and successful works of your career. Isn’t that worth a few late nights?