Thursday, July 22, 2010

BE a kid again and your creativity will soar!

What are 3 of your favorite childhood snacks?

What did you liked to do as a kid? Were you encouraged to do it?

What are 3 things you would NEVER EVER do?

Now, buy yourself those childhood snacks. Do those things you liked to do. And do those things you said you will never do. Because our creativity thrives on generosity with ourselves. You'll be surprised at how stingy we are with our artist self. Do any of these sound familiar?

"I don't have time to draw for myself" "I can't afford to fix my camera, or get that sweater" "Stickers are for children (trans: I will not buy that sticker. I'm an adult now.)" "I can't sleep, I still have work to do!"

We deprive ourselves of rest, of money, of time, of care, enjoyment, of child-like adventures. If we keep doing that, sure we can still make art, but chances are you will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for inspiration. The artists needs to be constantly feed with new experiences AND experiences that you enjoy.

The reason we asked about "childhood" things, is that most of the time, during our childhood, our enjoyment was unadulterated. We found amusement in a simple box. We made it into a jet, a cafe, a dinosaur. As we grow into adults, we feel that we must "put away our childish toys, go to the bank, pay the bills, cook dinner, go to meetings, sign contracts, walk, talk, and do things like an adult."

This is the fastest way to tack on stress, build health problems, and basically deprive yourselves of the freedom of creating. When we make art, we need to tap into our visceral. The more our artist self feels safe to create, the more it will play/work for you.

When was the last time you did your favorite thing? Hopefully, recently. But if you are like most of the population, probably days, weeks, months, and sometimes years ago. So let's begin again.

What is 3 of your favorite childhood snacks?

What did you like to do as a kid? Were you encouraged to do it?

What are 3 things you will NEVER EVER do?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Make Art For You

Only show stuff like this to your clients if they happen to be some of your best friends.

Often time as we're first setting out to become professional artists, we fantasize over realizing that dream. We imagine how amazing it would be to just get paid to create. However, when the reality of paid illustration jobs or concept art positions sets in, you need to remember to keep making art for yourself.

Now don't get us wrong, it's a great privilege and amazing to be able to draw/illustrate/print for a living. However, when you spend 8-10 hours a day drawing stuff for other people, or printing t-shirts that you didn't design, you also have to remember to keep creating for yourself, lest the art you do for a living becomes "another job."

If you don't have time to create for yourself (although we guess you probably do, but that's another story), then you need to make the work you're doing for someone else for yourself as well. If you get hired to do an illustration, you need to make sure that there is something about that illustration that you're doing for yourself. Yes, you have a brief that tells you what needs to be in the illustration, but make sure that you're finding ways to enjoy the revisions and feedback. If anything, sometimes we will do a quick draft of the illustration in a completely experimental style (that you never have to show to your client) as a way to quickly inject the fun into the assignment, even if you might not be 100% enthusiastic about the illustration.

An example of this is the above Save the Date. Monkey was honored to be asked by his good friends from Berkeley to design their Save the Dates and the invitations for their wedding. While Monkey likes to do more non-traditional wedding invitations, they were looking for something more parent-friendly. Monkey was happy to oblige, but the patience and attention to detail with the typography and designing is not Monkey's strong point, and thus for the Save the Dates he created this crazy, over-the-top monster bunny-as-a-weapon design to keep things fun. After that, he was able to really focus and design something that his friends could love and he could be proud of. As a side note, to show how awesome Monkey's friends are, they actually sent this digital save the date to their close friends!

The lesson to learn here is that with art, just as with every job, assignment, or task, is to figure out a way to do it for yourself. Find something fun and exciting and new to learn or try, and keep it fresh. It makes for much happier creating.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Protecting Your Art

As an artist, it's important to protect yourself and your art during the early stages of creativity and surround yourself with people who support your dreams. Once you've got a good start and are towards the middle of your project, it is then helpful to ask other artists to constructively critique your work, in order to evolve.

As an artist, the art of creating is very personal and vulnerable. So it's important that especially during the first early stages to be selective in who you share your work with. Often, the art needs time to mature, to brew, to cultivate the right way of being expressed. Too many artists make the mistake of exposing this early idea to everyone they know. It's natural to want approval or encouragement/ feedback to keep going. But you want to make sure that it's the right person. At this early stage, it's better to jump and go ahead and explore the idea. Risk being wrong.

Have you ever had a brilliant idea, a wonderful dream, and you run to someone who you think would listen to you and tell them all about it, only to get the wet-blanket response, "eh." A complete and utter disregard, a crushing silence, or even a "well-meaning advice" of "well that's kind of already done before . . . " or "how about this, you can do it this way. . . " Too many projects are crushed this way. It's much to early even for you, the artist, to judge the work.

You need to draw a circle and protect the work. For example, time and time again, Seal had shown her early ideas to the wrong people. These were often the people closest to her, people whom she had trust. Sometimes they were straight out negative, competitive, or plain clueless in being able to help the artwork. Especially people who don't understand the process of art would look at the early scribbles, first knitted scarf, or failed experiments and judge it as if it was already finished. Or compare your beginning drawings to a great master. ("Well, this certainly isn't a Michelangelo"). Sometimes well-meaning friends and relatives would like to be "helpful" and push their advice unto you, without being asked. "It would be better if you did this." While you will need some of this constructive criticisms later on in the work, when you are just starting on a project, it's best to show it only to people who trusts in your abilities and potential.

Seal knows that she can show Monkey, her ugly-duckling early sketches of her work before they become full swans. She knows that Monkey will be supportive, and say "yeah, go ahead and explore that." (It may not be the "best idea in the world," but at least it's one more idea that was explored.) The worse thing that can happen is that it doesn't work out.


Once you get going on your project. You'll come to a point where you don't know where else to take it. Or you've come up to your limits regarding your skills/knowledge, etc. At this time, is a good time to get constructive criticism. People who won't just be "nice" and say the work is "cool," without giving you ways to improve upon it. You want to be surrounded by people who won't settle, who want to make their own artwork better. And at the same time, the criticisms must be done in such a way that is constructive, specific, and have a respect towards you, the artist, and the work.

There is a difference between specific objective criticisms to the work than a subjective comment. A bad criticism is when its shrouded in generality and attacks the person and not the art: "I don't know what to tell you, it just doesn't work." or "something about this is off" or "this is bad art." (any of these comments don't really tell you "why, they think the way they do" and "how to fix it."

An example of good criticism: My mentor would always look at my work and ask me first, "what's your intention here?" That way he understands where the work is coming from. Then he proceeds to give me concrete feedback based on an action I can take forward. "If your intention was X, here's Y in how to do it" With good criticisms, there is always 1) a truth (a-ha! I see that, yeah, you're right the color would be better if I saturate it, etc). and 2) specificity about the work itself (never about you the artist), and 3) a clue or answer on how to move forward with the work.

So again, in order to grow as an artist, we must be bold in the beginning stages, stretch our wings and really explore all aspects of our curiosity while being protective of it by only sharing it with people who will be supportive of you. Then after the art has got a good running start, we must find the right kind of people, preferably other creatives like ourselves, who can give us constructive feedback about how to evolve the work.