How to create anything (even if you don’t know where to begin)

The struggle to constantly create new things, is very real.

Do you ever find that you’re so much more inspired when you get out of your normal daily routine? I do. When I went to that conference in Berlin last year, my neurons were firing around in my brain like it was the fourth of July. I was inspired. I want to do more. I want to be better.

It’s all very subjective of course, how listening, talking and interacting with other people can have an impact on us. For me personally, it’s validating to talk to and discuss about an artist’s personal projects, and to see how it all comes together in their work. That’s what drives me. Learning about instructional design and how I can make learning better for my students – both online and offline – compels me to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Stepping out

When people struggle to write or draw, but never do, it’s because they don’t have enough input. They might not have read or seen anything new that day. Or they may not talked to anyone or seen the way others do things. They didn’t encounter people or situations that would help them form and connect ideas into something new. They might not have someone to discuss their ideas with, or to play around with.

So what happens then? Your brain and mind remains in a constant dormant state. There’s no doubt that it’s alive and well, doing all the things a brain is supposed to do; but it’s just going through the motions – until you can inject something new in it a little (whether by accident or on purpose). So how do you spur it into action? Or at the very least, make it tingle with excitement – even if just a little?

Sparking… things.

We don’t live in a vacuum.

We respond to things, to stimuli. Whether it’s touch, news, emotions, etc – all of it is stimuli. When you’re used to the things that you encounter daily, it becomes a part of your life, and your brain accepts it as a normal state of being. Imagine if every stimuli that you encounter daily is a novelty instead – you’d be exhausted from being in a state of peak awareness! And so our brain adapts to the everyday, and becomes comfortable. It expects routine, because routine is good.

There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, of course. But in order for us to break out of our shell, to think out of the box, or, in my case – to finally get off my arse and get over my internal fears – one has to spark a reaction. Because I would be willing to wager with you, is that you’re not reacting to anything right now. If you’ve been stuck in some kind of creative limbo/rut, where you can’t think of anything or are frustrated with whatever you’re doing, and yet you’re not sure why; it’s because you’ve become a little too comfortable. At least your brain is.

So how do you spark something? Anything?

Get out of your usual routine. Read things that has nothing to do with what you’re used to, but something that you’d like to try. Go to a conference. Go for a class. Dance (especially if you’ve never done it before). Talk to a friend, a mentor, or just a stranger. Disagree with things, or agree with something. There’s no right way or wrong way of doing it. All you need to do is to shake things up a little.

It explains why we often come away from a conference with hope and a renewed fervour for tackling that assignment that you’ve spent weeks procrastinating. You’ll find that you’re also a lot more focused after attending a short class; where you learn new skills and new ways of seeing. Your brain is abuzz with ideas and excitement, because you’ve just given it a jolt of new spark.

What’s the one thing you can do today? Doing things like what I mentioned above, can be a bit difficult. Meeting people, talking to them and engaging with them can be even harder – especially if you’re not used to it. The easiest and fastest route, is to bury yourself in other people’s words. Read a book, flip through the newspaper, or even find articles online. Find one topic that you’re interested in. What if you’re not sure that it interests you? Here’s how to tell: you’ll have a strong reaction to it – whether you agree or disagree with what’s being presented. You’ll find that you’re spurred on by what you love and hate. And if you don’t feel anything (if it it’s more of a meh than a yay!), move on and find another topic. Come back and let me know – did you find one? What is it?

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If you’re also ready to challenge yourself, then you might want to consider joining the Portfolio with Personality online workshop that I’ll be teaching from 30th March 2020 for 5 weeks. Registration opens on March 2nd, and is limited to a maximum of 16 students, so that I can dedicate my time and attention to each individual student. You’ll benefit from a structured curriculum that will challenge and stretch you creatively from the inside out! I’ll be there to guide you at every step of the way, to find and express what you want to say, as well as how you can say it through your personal project, so that you can stay true to yourself as an artist.

You can read more about the class by clicking this link (where you can sign up to be notified when registration begins), and I hope to see you there!

[Illustration by Rebecca Green, source]

Celebrating diversity through new creative directories

https://www.womenwhodraw.com/

Illustration directories (or any other sort of creative directories, for that matter) have come a long way since the boom of the internet. It used to be that they were run by companies who would charge a sum for you to be included in their roster, along with other options such as appearing in their printed catalog/annuals, mailers, promotional items, etc. However, with the advent and freedom that the internet offers, anyone can be a part of (or even start up!) a directory on their own, for very little.

That’s all well and good, but what does this mean, then?

It means that the barrier to entry; of being listed in a collective space online, has reduced significantly. You’re no longer bound by expenses, or gatekeepers that were previously the domain of huge, existing directory companies. They would still have their merits, having existed in the industry way before anyone else. But unlike before, you now have a choice. If someone turned you down, or if the cost of listing your profile/work was prohibitive, you can now list your work elsewhere. For free, even.

http://www.panimation.tv/

Will it work? Will you get more work from it?

You may, or you may not. But with self-promotion, I like to go with the analogy of idea of throwing out as many balls as you can out into the world, to see who throws it back to you. Sometimes it comes back immediately, and sometimes, it takes weeks, months and even years before someone sees your profile and decides to reach out. In addition to the kind of work you produce, luck and timing plays a very big part for every artist that gets discovered online, and by putting yourself out there through various channels, you’re increasing your odds, even if by a little bit.

https://queerdesign.club/

Getting yourself on a list

The biggest difference that we see in the new directories is that it’s more niche. Instead of merely having filters that readers and potential clients could sift through, the entire directory itself is more specific, catering to clients who are looking to add diversity into their hires. There’s a directory for women illustrators. Latin designers. Queer/LGBT designers. Women, trans and non-binary animators. Black designers. Most of them are free, and many more creative industries are following suit, so take your pick and go from there!

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Share with me: What do you think of these directories? Do you like them, or would you prefer a different solution? Do you have more to share? Or what if you have happy stories of being found by clients or fans on them? I’d love it if you would share your thoughts with me!

Drawing as a state of flow

Caris Reid - Lunar Water Watcher

Caris Reid - Lunar Water Watcher

I didn’t know how to swim until I was a teenager.

The only place I ever hung out in was the shallow end of pools. The area that when you stood up, the water would only reach your waist. The sissy end – my friends would call it. At first I didn’t want to join them at the deep end, but it got lonely (as it often does, on the shallow end). I asked myself – what was the worst thing that could happen? That I’d drown? There’s a lifeguard. Stick with your friends, hang on to the side of the pool and you’ll be fine. What if your leg cramps up and you can’t move them? Stick with your friends, hang on to the side of the pool and you’ll be fine.

Fine.

So I made my way over to the deep end.

I didn’t drown. I stuck to my friends and inched out further away the sides of the pool gleefully with each subsequent visit.

Slowly over the next few weeks, I found that I could float quite well. I drifted away from the edges, letting go of the reassuring feel of the mosaic under my fingers and the sound of the lapping water against the hidden water overflow outlets. Swimming wasn’t hard at all, I thought. I could even tread water in a way that didn’t tire me out, with just my legs, kicking at a lazy pace that kept me afloat. I found that I could even do the same with just my arms.

Bobbing against the water and I found myself relaxing – I was using my body to stay afloat, but it was rhythmic and automatic, and not struggling spasms, like before. Being in the water felt good. I felt great.

And I moved further away from the edge. I did underwater somersaults. Backward flips, front-freewheeling balls. I was weightless, and I’ve never felt freer in my life.

Drawing reminds me of being in the water.

Not only was my mind free to wander and to do backflips when I’m drawing, but my hand were free as well. I draw from my shoulder, and not just my wrist – so that my movements across the paper was large and unrestrained. My entire arm and shoulder moves as I draw, just like they would if I were to float in a pool. It feels like I’m in a constant state of flow.

When I learned how to swim, I’ve found that it’s easier to stay afloat if I relaxed myself and let go. I don’t fight the water, I embrace it. I could feel myself melt into the invisible pores of the water, as if we are one.

Drawing, to me, feels very much the same.

Just like swimming, it took some time for me to embrace my strengths, instead of fighting against it. I’ve accepted that I draw the way I do, instead of trying so hard to be a second rate version of someone else. With each stroke, it gets easier; until you feel a part of you flowing onto the paper itself.

When that happens, it feels like I’m back in the water again.

And once again, I feel free.

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(This article ran previously, but I edited and rewrote it again. I’m going to take older articles and re-run them again in the next coming weeks to get a jump start on things. P.s. It’s good to see you again, too!)

Image: Caris Reid – Lunar Water Watcher limited edition print (source)
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