Johanna Basford's sabbatical diary, weeks 5 and 6: A guilty confession

Over the past fortnight, Johanna has failed at multi-tasking but succeeded at tattooing a dog.

Johanna Basford is on a four-month sabbatical from paid work to concentrate on making herself a better artist, illustrator and all-round creative person.

Every week Johanna aims to publish a diary entry, which we'll be running on Digital Arts so you can follow the ups and downs – hopefully mainly ups – as she pushes her creativity and vision into new areas.

Weeks 5 and 6

I’ve had my suspicions for some time now that a blip in the space time continuum runs directly through my studio. This has various effects, the most noticeable being the loss of vast chunks of day. Recent events have strengthened my theory.

Weeks five and six tumbled past in a heartbeat.

My book pile (below) sits untouched – a monument to good intentions and unachievable reading goals. The tower of unopened volumes only disheartened me, so I’ve hidden them from view for a few weeks and resolved to focus on making things for a while.

This decision to streamline my concentration has forced a guilty confession: I’m a rubbish multi-tasker.

I know. I’m a traitor to my gender, my generation, possibly humanity as a whole – but as much as I’d like to be able to simultaneously read a book, create artwork, research an idea and prepare a presentation – I can’t.

Or more importantly, I perhaps could, but they’d stink.

As a concept, multi-tasking is pretty flawed. I think it must be like dating lots of different people at the same time: lots of dinners and movies, but not a single meaningful relationship. With multi-tasking, you’re pretty darn busy – but are you really doing your best work?

Why do we celebrate the inability to focus? Why does flitting between jobs – never fully committing yourself to one – warrant commending?

Say you’re doing three things at once, surely each of these are only a third as good as they could be? It makes no sense. For this reason, I would like to publicly denounce the silliness that is multi-tasking and declare that I will no longer buy into this conspiracy.

Instead I’ll channel every ounce of concentration, skill, effort and passion I can muster into one job at a time.

I’ll make it amazing. I’ll make it my best work.

From now on, I’ll mono-task.


Over the past two weeks, I have completed my cuckoo clock collection, then moved on to working solidly on drawing tattoos on a puppy.

The artwork for the clock is all ready to be silk screen printed and fitted with mechanisms.

With this finished, I worked solidly for a few days on the first of my tattooed bodies. Posca Pup is a white Weimaraner mannequin that I’ve been hand embellishing with inky floral tattoos (don’t panic, his tail is added separately – he hasn’t been docked).

I’ve got three bodies to tattoo, the dog and his two human companions. The male’s body art is going to be loosely inspired by sailor tattoos whilst the female’s will take queues from baroque textiles and costume jewellery.

Once caught up in the detailing, I seem to fall into a trance-like workflow – an inky bubble. It’s as close to meditation as I’ve experienced and it produces some of my best work.

It’s why mono-tasking works.

The non-inky studio pup.

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