Or, the Curious Connection Between Laziness and Efficiency

Reading Under a Tree by Amy Crook

Reading Under a Tree by Amy Crook

In my experience, there are two general types of lazy people. There’s the people that will do anything to get out of working, often expending enormous effort to avoid expending a modest effort on actual work; and then there’s people like me who just do it once, do it right, and get it over with.

Of course, it’s lazy to pigeonhole people like this, but it also sort of proves my point. There’s also many un-lazy types who work diligently but with varying levels of accuracy, for instance, but I’m not really talking about those people.

I’m talking about lazy people.

Here’s the secret that people like me have figured out:

You don’t have to work 17 hours a day if you’re really efficient for the first few hours.

If I make a list and sit down and just get started, and I pay enough attention to what I’m doing that I don’t make (ideally, any) mistakes, then by the time that mid-afternoon lull hits, I’m done.

I can kick off and read a book, watch a few hours of television, play some pointless Facebook games, and appreciate someone else’s hard work and creativity for a while. Or I can spontaneously declare extra weekend days when I’m not feeling it, knowing that I can catch up in a couple of hours the next day. I can let creative ideas lie fallow for a few days, bubbling and brewing until they’re ready to be poured into the best possible work I can do.

And sometimes, when something unexpected comes up, I can pull out all the stops, find my well-filled reserves of energy, and work that one really long day without going crazy.

I’ve got enough expertise and experience that I can charge enough per hour, job or painting to pay the bills on just a few hours of work a day.

I’m just that efficient. And lazy.


Mermaid by Amy CrookIn a completely non-metaphorical way.

I’ve been doing a lot of decluttering the past few years, wave after wave of getting rid of the things that don’t really help me anymore (or never did). I’ve culled through my books (a little), my toys (a lot), my collectibles and tools and even my art. I made a pile of stuff I just didn’t like, wasn’t happy with, or wasn’t sure anyone else would ever like.

The art was all works on paper, prints and watercolors that didn’t quite do it for me. I’ve been recycling them into Etsy packaging for larger sales, for the most part, though so far I haven’t actually destroyed anything I didn’t really dislike. In fact, I’ve even rescued a few pieces from the pile over the time it’s been there, and one of them was this Mermaid.

If you look at the page there, you can see how it’s marked “sold.” In fact, it sold the same day I posted it, and I’ve had several compliments on it aside from that.

I got $400 for a piece of art I nearly shredded into ribbons or turned into an origami box.

What’s the moral of this story? Well, first off, that everyone is their own worst critic. And even if you think you know what people want, maybe you just know what you think you’d want.

It cost me nothing but a little time and effort to scan the piece and post it as a daily art post, something I needed pieces to fill up anyway (I’ve still got a big pile of finished work, but eventually I will run out, which has motivated me to start working on some new stuff). That, and the storage space for it and the other pile of maybe-art I’ve got sitting on a tray on top of my refrigerator at the moment.

I know that I “declutter” my ideas list just as often as I do my house, abandoning things that seem half-baked, or don’t quite fit my idea of what’s awesome. The problem, of course, is that I’m not actually my target audience — I only have so much wall space, and a lot of it is covered by bookshelves. A lot. So now I’ve been making an effort to doodle more, to post little sketches and see what resonates with my audience before I totally ditch an idea.

What are you getting ready to toss that someone else might love?


I thought my Not Dead Yet people might like to know how the Big Art Sale went, and also just get up to date with the Land of Amy.

So, to get you up to date:

  • My 72-year-old Mom is getting married! She is having a very hard time picking a date. It was going to be in September, then July, then May 21, and now it’s in late June.
  • I held a Big Art Sale when I suddenly realized May 21 was about 3 weeks away and I still didn’t have plane tickets. I sold some art! One commission, one painting, one Cartoon and a website banner. Enough to pay for the trip, in a completely awesome manner.
  • The late June date is really really final, and plane tickets have been bought. Soon, I’ll be flying 2000 miles to go visit my family.
  • To thank the people who bought or commissioned art, I posted some free wallpapers. Feel free to suggest different pieces if there’s something you’d like to see as your computer or iPhone background.
  • I’ve also been posting Daily Art over at Antemortem Arts, only some of which is for sale. Doodles and paintings, sculpture and miscellany, once a day! It keeps me on my toes.
  • As a result, I’ve been making more art! And getting more illustration clients, as well. So expect some changes around here to show off the shift in my business model from design to illustration, and the place where the two meet.
  • Be a Cartoon is still going strong as my favorite new thing that I’ve added this year! I am wembling about whether or not to keep the Draw Your Monster version as a permanent item, especially now that the Monster Coloring Book is out; I’m on the home stretch for Monster #2 of my original 3 clients, and they’re just so much fun. Thoughts?

Thank you to everyone who bought some stuff!


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Pod is a little brat.Or well, I’m in the middle of moving. My ancient Blogger blog is dead, and I’ve finally moved this whole site to WordPress. We’re fixing up the sidebars, changing up the portfolio, and generally trying to give it a face lift without actually doing a whole new design in the middle of the rest of the madness.

If you were one of the awesome few reading off my RSS feed, the new feed is here, so pretty please update yourself!

Otherwise, you’ll see a few things changing around and getting spiffed up over the next week or so, but feel free to point out if anything isn’t working for you!

Also, I’m doing a Big Giant Sale over at Antemortem Arts in order to get plane tickets to my 72-year-old mother’s wedding. This includes my Be a Cartoon service, so if you’ve been wanting a cartoon (or for me to draw your Monster for you), please take a moment to check it out!

Also, please enjoy this photo of my cat, Pod, who tucked himself into my bed for a nap and then got annoyed when I woke him up with the camera.


Wood Sprite by Amy CrookOne of the things I’ve been doing lately is trying to change my relationship with money — feeling like there’s plenty of it, like I’m really allowed to have some, and like I have enough to share. I’ve also been trying to shift my professional focus from design to art and illustration, to let my creative side feel like it has plenty and let go of the ingrained image of the starving artist.

As of yesterday, I’m doing two things:

  1. I’m posting some kind of art every day at Antemortem Arts, whether it’s a sketch or a finished painting, for sale or sold, unsaleable or just something I want to keep around for myself.
  2. I’m donating 10% (of the gross, rounded up to the nearest dollar) of all my art and Etsy sales to charity.

I’m starting with Kiva, and at the end of May I’ll give them a lump donation of everything I’ve saved up for April and May. Then I’ll change to a new charity — probably the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I’ll rotate every month or two so that I can give to the causes that call to me, that always seem so endless when trying to choose just one.

So, what do you think? Would it feel better to you, as a supporter of the arts, to know a part of your money was going directly to another good cause?


Rey as a Carton by Amy Crook

My little Draw Your Monster sale was a success! I’ve got 3 Monsters in the queue, two of which are already sketched up and waiting refinement. Once they’re done, after the coloring book comes out, I might revisit the idea, so if you were waiting to see how things turned out you’ll have a chance.

I also got some great advice today from Naomi at Ittybiz about my Be a Cartoon sales page, and have added a bunch of new people to my Cartoon portfolio page, so check it out! I’m thinking of doing a Cartoon sale for Mother’s Day — maybe including some free greeting cards or something, what do you all think?

March was a hard month for a lot of us, but it seems like (once those tax payment checks clear, anyway) April is starting to look up. The sunshine, despite all my efforts to keep it out of the apartment, is starting to cheer me up and bring in some much-needed energy. Not to mention secret burblings of site updates, possible joint offerings with other people, and maybe even something teleclass-ish.

How’s it going for all of you?


Cute Monster by Amy CrookEveryone has Monsters.

They’re those voices in your head that whisper discouragement and negativity, those stucknesses and blocks and fears that keep us from moving forward. I’ve got a few of my own, and I bet you do, too.

The little guy on the left there is one of my Monsters — he just wants to be friends, but his big scary teeth can get in the way of safe snuggling. Still, having seen him out in the light, I know he doesn’t really mean any harm.

The brilliant Havi Brooks has an awesome-looking new product in the works: The Monster Manual and Coloring Book*. And I really, really want it! But it’s tax time and money is tight, so I’m doing a limited-edition offering to help fund my own Monster adventures:

Draw Your Monster

We’ve all got our Monsters, real and imaginary. Do you have lurking fears that you’d like to bring out into the light? Is your dog sometimes a wicked creature? Do you just really want a cartoon of a cute monster?

I’ve got you covered!

For $59, you, too, can have your very own Monster — I’ll even mail you the original, or a high-quality print if we end up going digital.

Cthulhu Egg by Amy CrookWhat I’ll need to get started:

  • A snail mail address for your original monster to be mailed to you.
  • To talk about your Monster! If you’ve already got a vision of your Monster, great! If not, we can email back & forth until we have a clear idea of your Monster’s form. Questions to start with:
    • Fuzzy? Lizardy? Bat-winged? Multi-eyed? Insectoid? Tentacley? Fog? Wall? Creeping Black Void?
    • Is your Monster growling, hiding, making puppy eyes? Sheltering, blocking, posing nonchalantly?
    • Color preferences?
  • Generally speaking, I will decide the medium (ie, pen and ink, watercolor, whatever) based on the special needs of your Monster.

I’ve temporarily reopened commissions for these — if you’d like one, just buy my Be a Cartoon package and let me know you want a Monster instead.

Chibi Cthulhu Feeds His Shoggie by Amy Crook
*Not an affiliate link so there nyeah.


Dance of Shiva Cards

First, I’m excited to see a project that took me a long time and a lot of painstaking work finally get off the ground. Frank Mitchell made a set of Dance of Shiva reference cards, and he hired me to illustrate the 8 arm positions in 64 combinations. I also made the results press-ready for him, so all he had to do was approve the images and then sit back while I sent it all to press (and pay the bills, heh). There was a card back and box art, and while I haven’t seen them in person yet, I’m crazy excited.

Shivanaut by Amy Crook

Shiva Nata Card Box art by Amy Crook


It’s been a week of getting back to cartooning, and I finally finished up most of the pending projects I had.

Elizabeth Halt asked me to draw her and her gorgeous puppy, Atlas:

Elizabeth Halt by Amy Crook

And then my friend Rey wanted to be immortalized as a Weeble:

Rey Magdael by Amy Crook

And finally, I drew up one of my Monsters (a la Havi Brooks), to show that he’s really a friendly, wee chap that’s worried for me:

Friendly Monster by Amy Crook

Beach Cottage

Finally, I’ve got a sneak peek for you at the header for Cottage Copy‘s new look, an original watercolor including the Cottage Copy Spaniel and Holly’s dream beach cottage:

Cottage Copy Header by Amy Crook
(Click to see it in all its full-size glory)


Be the change you want to see in the world.
– Mahatma Gandhi

Precious by Amy CrookThe above quote fuels a dozen blog posts a day, many of them trying to rally their readers toward the writer’s pet cause. Whether it’s eco-consciousness or stamping out Twilight, most people have a cause that’s dear to their hearts. Some causes have a thousand voices crying out to champion them, others have millions, and some are important only to a handful of people, but everyone’s got something.

I don’t have a pet cause. No one I know has ever been afflicted with some terrible tragedy, and the troubles I’ve had have all been fairly ordinary and — though quite angst-ridden at the time, I’m sure — nothing I couldn’t get over without an army of people rallying to my side. I’ve never had cancer or some obscure, uncurable disease; I’ve never been assaulted or even mugged; I really don’t have the mental energy to indulge in outrage for the sake of itself when I could be using that energy to make art (or play Mouse Hunt).

So I found myself wondering, what change do I want to see?

  • I want to see more beauty where people are creating ugliness.
  • I want people to have more compassion where there is now callousness.
  • I want more kindness, instead of deliberate or thoughtless cruelty.
  • I want to see people actually respecting each other, instead of grabbing at superiority under the false label of respect.

Some of these are easier than others.

As an artist, I create things every day that, I hope, add beauty to the world. From the paintings on my walls to the work I do for clients, I try to make things which are pleasing to the eye and the soul, even while they sometimes serve another function.

Compassion is harder for me. While my cynical apathy protects me from spinning myself out into nothing trying to help every person who needs or thinks they’re in need, it also keeps a lot of things from really touching me. Every person’s pain is deeply individual, and it can be very hard to resist the urge to play a rating game — your pain is your own fault so it doesn’t count, your pain isn’t as bad as his pain, your pain is fleeting so it doesn’t deserve as much. It’s hard to figure out, too, how much or how far to be open to things — my lines right now are pretty harsh, but if I move them too far I’ll just end up raw and useless in other ways.

Kindness seems easy, but thoughtlessness trumps it a lot. Kindness requires attention, being in the present and recognizing when someone needs you to give them something, a moment or a dollar or a smile. It’s a lot easier than compassion, though, because there’s a ton of small ways to be kind, and being thoughtful and kind can even help develop compassion. Someone deserving of kindness seems to us then to be more deserving of compassion as well.

The hardest thing to remember is that everyone is deserving of kindness and compassion.

Respect is the last one, and that one’s really hard on so many levels, because so much hides under the umbrella of respect these days. So many people equate “do what I say” with “respect me” and that’s just not the case. I can totally respect you as a human and an equal, and still have my reasons for doing things my own way. What’s ironic is that when people push it, shoving their way of doing and being down your throat, they’re disrespecting you while demanding you respect them. A lot of authority figures run into this issue — they want you to respect them because of their authority, but refuse to respect those who are answerable to that authority.

It’s such a thorny issue, and it pokes into every sensitive place in our society. I’m not intending to write a whole essay here, either, though, so I’ll let what I’ve said stand.

So, there’s the things I need to work on, if I want to be the change. Beauty and kindness, compassion and respect.

What change do you want to see? How can you take a small step today to become more of what the world needs?