Read Part 1 here.
I remember the moment that really triggered the impatience with my continuing fear and it was around the same time that I had coffee with my girlfriend who informed me about digital magazines and their work-for-free policy. It was back in early May. I had stayed home sick, randomly. Feeling gross and stuck in bed all day, there was a silver lining… I was able to watch a live stream of the Adobe MAX keynote speakers. I had no idea who any of these creatives were. Now, even just a couple months later, I want to stab myself in the foot for not knowing who Paula Scher was, but alas I did not.
The only way I knew she was someone important in the design industry was because she was speaking there of course. I remember how incredibly impressed I was with her work, never having seen any of it before. It is literally transformative. I was in awe at how smart and talented this woman was.
I needed to break out of this place of fear and figure out what Graphic Design was all about. Paula Scher made me want to do this.
Ready to dive in, I started to research anything and everything I could get my hands on that would give me insight. I think the scariest thing was wondering if I would truly love it once I really dove in, not to mention whether my skills could even get close to those of someone like Scher.
I started by referencing my Twitter feed, which is one way I like to bookmark designers I want to learn more about. I went back and searched through all the Graphic Designers (there were a lot). I began looking at portfolios, watching lectures and reading interviews. One of the first designers I researched was Jessica Hische because I knew a little about her and wanted to know more. I watched her “Procrastiworking” lecture at the New Adventures conference which is just what I needed. It was pure luck (or fate) that it was one of my first design lectures. She talked about how important it is to search for something you love to do nine hours a day and not to work toward any title. This is of course the opposite of what I had done my WHOLE life. I was always searching for “success” in job titles, even after I learned that I loved sitting behind a computer designing. She went on to explain the title she made up for herself (Letterer) and what she does all day. It looked like a dream to me (watch this fun interview if you’re interested). It freaked me out, but nonetheless looked amazing. Type is one thing that scares me most because I know how important it is to Graphic Design and also how complex it is. I love type, I appreciate it, but I don’t KNOW it. Not to mention, at this time I was still scared of the pen tool!
Inspired by her talk, especially where she emphasized the importance of not letting anything hold you back, I decided to get on Illustrator and learn the pen tool (which I blogged about here). This was my first digital illustration above. I did a rough sketch first (and had fun digging through my art box looking for my tools). Next, I tackled the pen tool in Illustrator and was a little surprised that it wasn’t as “impossible” as I had always thought. Maybe I was just determined. I added the type later. I was a little scared at first so it was just the fiddle for a couple weeks.
To be clear, I am in no way saying the pen tool is easy. It’s quite hard and I have a lot of practice hours to log before illustrating with any degree of accuracy and/or speed.
After enjoying the Adobe MAX keynotes and Hische’s talk so much I have since been watching Creative Mornings lectures, reading The Great Discontent interviews weekly, listening to podcasts, following inspiring designers like James Victore as well as ordering design books from Jason Santa Maria’s suggested reading list. Needless to say, I’m spilling over with inspiration and yet somehow I just can’t get enough.
Here is a Creative Mornings talk given by Debbie Millman which was amazing. It’s from 2011, but it’s worth it nonetheless. I’m also reading her book How To Think Like a Great Graphic Designer, which is basically a documentation of several casual interviews with some of the best designers. It’s a really great read. I think a better title (or maybe a subtitle) would have been “Understanding Graphic Design”. Through the recounting of several great designers, it becomes clear what Graphic Design really is and how amazing it is. I didn’t even miss the iPad at the car wash over the weekend (which Lamont took with him to Comic Con).
Below is my second personal project. The pen tool is still hard for me and I don’t know ANY Illustrator shortcuts, but I’m getting a little more comfortable with it. I have to keep reminding myself that nothing is going to look great right now, but practice will pay off. Plus, I’m having SO much fun! I’ve never done what Jessica Hische suggested in her “Prograstiworking” lecture, which is to just do what you have fun doing and then create a career around that. This was mostly a problem because without knowing myself for so long, I was unable to discern what I enjoyed doing. It seems so simple, but it doesn’t come easy for everyone. So for now, I’m in the just-having-fun and creating stages, but as I improve I look forward to where all this could lead me…..
Before these two personal projects, I had never done anything like this because I couldn’t understand the purpose of working on something without any “purpose”. After listening to enough talks and reading several interviews, I learned that personal projects are almost more important than the projects you get paid for. Sometimes, you can even land a paid gig just from putting them out there. Not a sure thing, but a possibility nonetheless.
I am currently overwhelmed by inspiration, hope and motivation. It’s an amazing feeling. I leave my day-job and can’t wait to start working at home. What I eat for dinner is not even a priority, which is saying A LOT for me.
In case you’re wondering… How? Why now? Where is your sudden motivation coming from after years without much direction…… I have an answer for that.
Stay tuned for Part 3 and the conclusion tomorrow…