A Quest to Be Mindfully Creative

Posted on by Rob Stenzinger

To take on Lean Into Art Quest 7, I needed to explore my own approach to time tracking, perception of productivity, and getting more focused about mindful creative activity. In it, Jerzy Drozd, instructor and quest giver for Lean Into Art Quest #7 asks "What’s the difference between Zero and 60?".

Update On episode 81 of the Lean Into Art Cast, Jerzy Drozd and I explore both the results of this quest and the naturally related topic: journaling to learn about workday rhythms.

On that very topic, in addition to taking Jerzy's quest, I also recommend listening to Back to Work episode 128: Eating Scones in the Closet.

Time is something we can precisely measure, yet have a tough time percieving and managing.

Even though I've developed some habits over the years that help me deal with my time perception difficulties - I still find I need to practice and journal. By doing so, I get some traction to make tracking and estimating a less difficult process.

Two Illustraiton Projects

Project 1: The Collective

I've been wanting to revisit this piece from 2009.

"Track your time while creating your next piece of art." Also: track the time I'm not being productive or switching to other tasks besides making the art.

For the most part, making my web comic on a mostly regular basis for 2.5 to 3 years taught me how to focus and finish art projects on a deadline. Being a parent has helped teach me to be flexible with interruptions and coordinating precious time to work on creative projects. I'm far from perfect - but I'm better at noticing when I'm off task and choosing strategies that keep me producing - even in small incremental steps.

I chose to work on these illustrations during a weekend when my wife's parents were visiting. Most "distractions" had to do with me choosing slices of time when everyone else was busy to chip-away at these projects.

"At what point in the process did you need a break?"

I find that when I get into an intense focus I will forget my normal bodily needs. In recent months I've become a little better at noticing when I'm sitting for too long, mostly due to wearing a Jawbone UP band that vibrates if I've been sitting still for 45 minutes.

"When did you stop out of hesitation?"

I certainly hesitated when it came time to deal with choosing my color palette.What I ended up doing is downloading the iOS application color scheme to explore a few of the colors I had in my Copic marker set and how they fit together.Once I found a combination that work for me I was off and running again.

"When did you stop out of frustration?"

While I do get frustrated (often because I am trying to get too much done too short of time span), that didn't really happen during this project. I knew I had very little time to get it done and perhaps that lead to it being very unlikely to run into anything frustrating. As the former Governer of Minnesota said "Aint got time to bleed.

"What parts of the process went faster for you? Slower? Why do you think that is?"

Overall I think I spent far more time on the second version of this image in the first. The initial version was something that I posted for my web comic on one of my sort of day off days. The original was rendered completely and pencil and then digitally framed with some template elements I use for my comic.

Art Project 2: The Robot

Jerzy asks: "Select a previously-finished piece of art (or comics page) that you’re pretty happy with." For that part of the quest I chose to explore adding color to a recent piece of mine which was designing a large mecha robot purely with rectangles.

Overall Time Results


  • 15 min preparation and blue lines
  • 2 hours of pentel pocket brush pen work over 6 sessions
  • 2 hours of Copic marker coloring work over 3 sessions


  • 5 min preparation and blue lines
  • 2 hours of Copic marker coloring work over 3 sessions


  • 1.5 hour to write a rough draft of notes and answering the quest's questions.
  • .5 hour to edit and post the notes

Total: 6.75 hours

Iteration and Next Time

The projects I chose for this class the ones that was pretty sure I could work on the new version in the time I had available. I like the newer versions of the artwork. Each of these pieces needed a fresh iteration.

Next time I have a deadline for illustrating a piece I'll do more accurate tracking too - I wish I'd done that for the Zombies at the Gates piece.