Adventures In Freelancing Comic #2 "The Tools Don’t Make The Artist"

AiF Comic - 2 - The Tools Don't Make The Artist

One of the most common questions asked of any artist, craftsman, or designer is curiously one of the most useless.

“What tablet do you use?”
“What kind of ___ is that?”
“What’s your favorite brand of pencil?”

Of course, this question can be asked innocently enough. It could even be coming from a desire for a recommendation they can trust.

A more misguided intention is the source of most of these inquiries, though: By obtaining ___, my ability will match theirs.

This mindset can be a serious pitfall, for a few reasons…

Clothes don’t make the Man

We all have artists or designers we look up to. We aspire to their level, to produce work as good as theirs. On the surface, it may be easy to look to their tools as the bridge between us and them. It’s a universal truth, though, that clothes don’t make the man. Putting on Michael Jordan’s shoes doesn’t magically make us better at basketball, (not in real life at least.)

Assuming that an artist’s work looks good because of the tools he uses is just the same. That artist got to the point he did because of the hard work and practice he put into his craft.

If you have the opportunity to ask an artist a question, why not ask about their routine, methods, technique, or discipline?

You’ll be able to “close the gap” in talent by gleaning that value from them instead.


When you set your eyes on a shiny new tool that you’re sure will improve the quality of our work, will you actually increase the work you do? Likely instead, your output will slow to a crawl, if not stop altogether.

If your mindset overemphasizes the tool over the artist, you could very well stop and wait to get it. If that involves saving up over time, think of how much practice with your dusty old implements would fall to the wayside!

There’s no shortage of premium tools available, and the cost of those can stack up fast. The actual benefit we receive from using the nicer stuff is marginal compared to practice, education, and constant hard work.

Start now with what you’ve got

Your best work will be the fruitage of your labor, not of your purchases. It will come from applying yourself, learning, and growing. New tools are nice, but they don’t make the artist.


  1. Hi Brookes. 🙂 I just got the newsletter from Brent with this post and I replied to him as well since I found it funny that this post showed up today considering what I just posted on my own site. I decided to make October a consumption free month for this exact reason – to explore what I can do with the materials I already have available rather than thinking that things will be better if only I buy this or that to work with.

    Constraining the tools and materials you have forces you to be more creative and work on your skills. So often we already have what’s needed if we’re just willing to put in the work.

    Check out my post and thoughts on the subject if you want:

  2. Ouch. Truth hurts. And is so valuable in making an awareness of our bad habits and could be, could, be the kick in the pants we often need to get our shi…stuff together and get to work. Thanks!

  3. That’s a fantastic idea! It’s so true. It’s the same with looking for inspiration, people can overwhelm themselves with other people’s work, then wonder why they can’t create. The accountability belongs to ourselves to make things. I’d love to check in on how you do with your month of consumption-freedom!

  4. Good read 🙂 I find that going back to basics solves all problems and gets yiu to understand yourself and things around you in a different way. People naturally almost always want the next best thing that someone else got, but going back to basics, what you always got initially, often brigs people back to ground level. Simplicity always wins! Thanks for the post and comic!

  5. This was so inspiring to me as I am just dipping my toes back into the freelance realm and have questioned whether my Mac or creative software are fancy or current enough. Thank you so much for this post! Very inspiring.

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