On personal projects and purposeful digging

While I was in Singapore for the Illustration Art Fest, I had the pleasure of hearing a talk by Raphael (one half of duo Icinori – his partner is Mayumi) on how they got to where they are today.

I was also very lucky to to learn about the works of Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud  as well as hear Louis speak about their work as they create pop-up books, apps and workshops for children.

What they had in common was their love of personal projects. Icinori continuously pushed the envelope when it came to self-publishing their ideas and graphic experiments in the form of limited edition zines, books and prints. Anouck and Louis experimented with pop-up books and pushed the boundary of creative learning by creating apps as companions to their beautiful books.

It wasn’t solely about the money (that came later), but it was a lot about quality, craftsmanship, attention to detail, creativity, ingenuity and about having a whole lot of fun while trying to find out who they were and what they wanted to do. And because of this, people started to knock on their doors. Clients didn’t tell seek them out to emulate another artist. They wanted their work. Their style, their story, and their spin on things. Not anyone else’s.

I wasn’t surprised. It was a common thread that I find come up again and again as I talk to other artists, illustrators and designers.

Pikaland was is my personal project too. It’s where I began to spread my wings by continually striving to go deeper into what I loved – illustration – and had lots of fun experimenting with wild ideas. Right now I cannot remember if there was a bigger purpose beyond it being a place where I could talk about the things that fascinate me, and where I could talk to the people who inspired me. I didn’t plan things out, and I didn’t write for others – I wrote for myself. I chipped away to create a small space in the interwebs, just for me.

Then interesting things started to happen. I met many like-minded people, and opportunities that I wasn’t even looking for began to come my way. Illustrating, researching, teaching, writing, speaking – I said yes to many of them. I created mini projects that were fun and sometimes silly. What surprised me the most was how others came along for the ride too.

I had never thought that 10 years would fly by as I go about digging and feeling my way through my thoughts. I sometimes I dig myself into a corner, and there has been many a time where I hit hard ground, unable to continue because of a setback, or because life just happened.

But I’m still digging.

Perhaps you’ll notice that I don’t come up for air sometimes – only because I’m deep underground, chipping away, even if bit by bit. It can get frustrating. It can get lonely. I’m very aware that there might be no gold, no reward at the end of the tunnel – but for me, this whole underground chamber that I’ve built is it. I’ve twisted my way around obstacles and figured out rocky bits as I charted new territory for myself (and I hope for others too).

I come up for air from time to time to share with others how my process has gone, and what new discoveries I’ve uncovered. Sharing this with others allows me to evaluate what I’ve done, what I did not get right, and what I could improve on. I come up for air to get away too. I’ve traveled more in the past few years to get away from life a little, and to take in more for myself.

But I still go back underground, every single time.

As I step back, I see a vast labyrinth of underground tunnels, pathways and passages. It looks like a map – one that I’m continuously building as I put one feet in front of another. There’s dead ends, and there’s plenty more unexplored territory. I catch myself asking sometimes: Why are you digging? What are you looking for? What’s the plan here?

I don’t have an answer.

I still don’t.

Maybe I’ll know it when I see it.

But until then, I’ll keep digging.

[Illustration: Icinori]

Illustration Arts Fest 2017 in Singapore

I’ll be selling the Good to Know zines + artist zines among amazing, talented people at the Illustration Arts Fair in Singapore from 12 – 13th August 2017 , so it would be great to see you there!

There’s workshops and talks by Icinori, Kristal Melson, Chiaos / Tseng Din Yuan, Louis Rigaud and Anouk Boisrobert; and entrance to the marketplace is free. I’m excited for the festival as last year’s festival was so much fun (and I made so many new friends!) It’s really exciting to see illustration get its long overdue stand-alone event here in South-East Asia, so if you’re looking to get inspired and to get yourself some illustrated goodies, come on down to the LaSalle McNally campus in Singapore this weekend!

(More information + tickets are available at the IAF website)

Caitlin Keegan’s The Illuminated Tarot: From personal project to being published

Today I want to share an interview I did with Caitlin Keegan, author and illustrator behind The Illuminated Tarot. We’re focusing on how Caitlin took her idea that stemmed from a personal project, into one that’s published by Clarkson Potter (available on Amazon).


The Illuminated Tarot is beautiful! You mentioned that the idea behind it stemmed from an interest in learning about tarot symbolism and archetypal imagery. Could you tell us a little more about how your project began?

I’ve been interested in tarot since I was a teenager because I felt drawn to the imagery, but I always felt skeptical about the “fortune-telling” aspect. Much later (in my early 30s) I had a therapist who suggested discussing images as a way to ease into bigger conversations. That led me to think of tarot in an everyday, non-psychic context and inspired me to learn more about it. I read about the parallels and historical connection between playing cards and tarot and decided it would be an interesting challenge to make one deck that could be used for both purposes.

Since a playing card deck has 52 cards, I realized that I could create one card per week and have a fully illustrated deck by the end of the year. To make it more fun for myself, I randomly drew a card to illustrate–so every week I would have a surprise “assignment” to look forward to and I would learn something new about tarot.

 

 

Having worked on the Illuminated tarot cards as a personal project – what would your advice be to other creatives who are looking to take their personal project to another level?

Be very realistic about how much time you’ll want to spend on something. I’m amazed and impressed when artists do daily projects because I know I could never accomplish that on top of other work deadlines. I would feel stressed and that would remove any enjoyment I was getting from the project. Then I would give up and feel bad about giving up– and that becomes a vicious cycle! For me, a weekly project is ideal. For others it might be bi-weekly, monthly, etc.

My advice is to know yourself and your work habits and don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall behind. You want the project to stay fun because that’s the best way to stay motivated and do your best work.

How were you able to take the Illuminated Tarot from a personal exercise in creating something new every week, to the deck of cards that you now have for sale? How did it go from a personal project to one that’s now publicly available for purchase?

I originally thought that at the end of the year, I would pull together the card images into a book proposal. But I was lucky that Jay Sacher, who I was in touch with through his work for Chronicle Books, saw the illustrations as I was posting them to Twitter. At that time, Jay was an editor at Clarkson Potter, the imprint of Penguin Random House that ultimately published the deck. I’m thankful that he liked the project and could see the potential in publishing it, and I’m thrilled with how the printed deck turned out.

My advice is to know yourself and your work habits and don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall behind. You want the project to stay fun because that’s the best way to stay motivated and do your best work.

I’ve noticed that you’ve used different mediums in your work – colour pencils and digital renderings. Could you tell us when you use one or the other, and why did you opt for creating digitally when it came to the tarot deck?

This is kind of a boring answer, but it has a lot to do with timing! It’s quicker to work digitally.

A less-boring answer is that I was really inspired by a book I have about E.A. Seguy, a textile/pattern designer from the early 1900s whose work is often grouped in with Art Deco. I just love the use of color in his work and I thought flat, bold color would be a good look for this deck. It has the look of a printed textile and also seems semi-psychedelic, which I see as a nod to the 1960s tarot decks I liked as a teenager.

I’ve since figured out a half traditional/half digital way of working and I’m excited to do more work like that. It’s a less time-consuming way to partake in one of my favorite pastimes: obsessive pencil shading.

How important are personal projects to you as an illustrator?

For me, they’re essential for staying motivated and inspired.

Has working on the project impacted your work in any way?

I think because tarot deals with universal themes, it’s particularly challenging to try and do something new with it. Modern tarot decks very often are reinterpretations of the imagery in the Smith-Waite deck–probably because those images are so ingrained in the memory of anyone who is familiar with tarot. I really wanted to break out of that as much as possible and find my own way of communicating.

Working on The Illuminated Tarot was like a lot like having a weekly editorial assignment. I would break down the card meaning into the simplest possible terms and then illustrate that idea. The process of doing this every week–while also trying (for the most part) to avoid traditional tarot imagery–really pushed me to develop my vocabulary as an illustrator.

I personally think that it’s a very exciting time for artists and illustrators, as they are able to take their ideas and run with it as opposed to waiting for others to collaborate with (which is how a lot of illustration jobs are like). What are your thoughts about that?

Certainly, with social media, it’s much easier to get your work out to an audience. That’s why I hope that we (especially we in the U.S.) will be able to stop those who want to privatize and further corporatize the Internet. Net neutrality is essential for the open exchange of ideas–for culture in general, not just for art. In terms of art and illustration specifically; right now almost anyone can be published online and I think that’s a good thing. The culture moves forward when more of us can be heard.

What’s next for you? Are you taking this project any further?

Right now I’m working on something involving dream symbols and interpretation. I’d love to do more tarot or oracle decks in the future too. I’m also keeping up a weekly surface pattern design project I started in 2016. I post a new repeat pattern every week to Instagram and many are inspired by my visits to museums and botanic gardens around NYC.

=========

You can check out more of Caitlin’s work on her website, and you can get a copy of The Illustrated Tarot on Amazon

Pages:1234567...72»