Battling Resistance in Illustration

By Diana Zipeto


At an art school critique many years ago, my figure drawing teacher told me, “Your drawings have improved, but you still need to do some inner work.”

Even though what he said resonated with me (and stung!), I was not really sure what he was trying to say. Now, many years later, reading the book The War of Art, I now have a name for it:


My teacher was telling me I needed to find a way to battle my inner Resistance to really do my best work and commit to it.

Several years later, in a painting class, my teacher noticed I was going over the same brush strokes again and again in my paintings. “Don’t just repeat your brush strokes,” he said, making an up and down motion with his hand, “Each stroke should describe a new part of the painting, make each mark count.”

This was the same message: Push beyond Resistance and finish this painting.

Ever since I started creating art, Resistance to creating art has been a silent partner that has followed me. If my art was a theater, Resistance has sat in the row in front of me, tossing popcorn around, blocking my view of the stage. I could see the action and follow the story, but something was in the way.

I didn’t know until recently that a) Resistance had a name and b) I could separate it out from myself and take aim at it.

Sometimes people call it Procrastination, but that term seems a little lightweight. Procrastination is like some irritating thing you can shrug off, an annoying mosquito that is swattable and not necessarily threatening. The term Resistance incorporates the laws of physics, and implies that a universal force is at work trying to repel and push back against all the force we are applying to make our art.

THAT feels more like what is going on. THAT is something I can rally my forces around.

Even though I am now more empowered to battle Resistance, it still creeps into every work session, every day, trying to get me to do anything but the work I need to do to reach my goal of being published. Even tasks that SEEM like they are related to my goal can be an insidious form of resistance. Vigilance is required!

Portfolio Critique

At this year’s NESCBWI conference portfolio review, I asked people to comment on what they thought my portfolio’s biggest strength was and the area that needed most improving.

My favorite answer, the one that’s up on my bulletin board was “Biggest strength: cohesiveness. Area for improvement: heighten craftsmanship.”

Resistance again.

In my head, I “know” I can do great, finished work and fully realized pieces. But knowing without doing is Resistance at its finest. My work has improved over the last few years, but completely finished, solid work is still up on that stage and I am still feeling Resistance blocking my view.

It’s time to change my seat.

I am working at it on different fronts, the most recent of which is to develop a warm-up routine, a short session before I start my work that includes some stretching, some sketching, some looking at books. It’s a structured time that also allows me to be a little free-form and exploratory, loosen up and shift mindsets so then I can be focused and ready to work. It’s short, so I won’t worry that it is yet ANOTHER form of resistance to work. It’s a work in progress.

It’s a way of trying to wrestle with Resistance, to tell it that yes, I know you are there, but I am going to find a way to either trick you, work with you or destroy you so I that can get my stuff done.

“There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we are able to turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

You can see more of my successful battles with Resistance at:

Do you battle with Resistance in your illustration and writing? How do you overcome it to get your work done?

Diana Zipeto is an illustrator and designer living in an energizing artist community in Lowell, MA. You can see her work at She has most recently illustrated books in the Olive and Max series published by Schoolwide, Inc.


  1. Diane, thanks for your thoughtful post. I’m going to battle any resistance right now by opening up a manuscript I’m working on and putting my heart and mind on it! Any little push helps put me on the writing path.


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