Saturday, October 24, 2015

I'll always share ideas (even if no one notices)

"Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality." - Dalai Lama 

Tell me if you've heard these before: 
"Aren't you afraid that someone is going to steal your ideas?" 
"Doesn't it bother you that they could make money doing that?"

No, I am not worried about the ideas that I share for several reasons:

• I'm not the only one sharing-

There are many people such as myself who write and talk about illustration, creativity and the business side of things. Sharing is good for illustrators. The more we chat, the better it is for everyone. There once was a time when the Internet was not there to close the gap and help the world feel a little smaller. We created alone with little interaction. We lived in the freelance bubble. Now we can interact, mentor, discuss all the aspects of illustration freely and openly.

• It has nothing to do with being an expert-
I'm not an expert and I've been sharing ideas since I graduated from Art school. There is no written code that you have to be the best this or that or have million followers. Just jump into the idea pool. The water is just fine.

• Ideas are everywhere-

We are a resource. Believe it not,  as illustrators we are equipped with immense knowledge on skill, ideas, good creative habits and experience. Our trials, errors, screw-ups and successes are totally interesting. These experiences are so vitally rich to share that it's the number one question during interviews and spotlights. Questions that highlight your advice to newcomers is always a big focus.

• There are no new ideas-

Let's break this down by starting with how ideas happen. Ideas are random and what rocks your imagination will be different for someone else. Most of the time, ideas come from the TV, books, music or something we saw online. If you're like me, ideas come to you in vividly rich dreams. We think so many thoughts in a run of a day. Our ideas as illustrators do stretch beyond the average day to day thinking. We are hyper in tuned with gathering information as a way of exploring our world. It really is part of the job. The ideas may not be new, but they are new to us. From there we can put our own personal spin on it in our own personal style. In essence, we twist and reshape ideas as needed. The original idea is still there, it just took an interesting creative turn.

• We live in a sharing society-

We can thank the Internet for a very tight knit sharing community. Never before has knowledge sharing been so easy. I'm pretty certain this is the general purpose of Pinterest- to share everything. It's all there online 24/7. Need a hand reference? Google it. Need advice? Email a pro. Can't get your ideas across to a client? Skype them. Can't afford to go back to school? Grab a class on skillshare. The only problem we face is fitting all this great stuff into our already tight-knit schedules.

• It's not about awards, credit or accolades-

For me, there is no need for awards or labels suggesting this or that is the best or most respected. That's not for me to decide. If my ideas help, then I have done something positive. Quite simply, I'm a contributor in this fast-paced energy idea driven society we live in. Say that ten times and there might be an award in it for you. But seriously, we all want to be appreciated and discovered while leaving our mark. Do the work and be present in your career. Forget the trends and just do what you do best. Believe it or not, there's an audience for you. If there is an audience for reality TV then we'll be just fine. I think this quote sells it- "Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours." -Jane Kenyon

• It's just the way it is!

I'm hardwired to help. I once read that as tourists (because we are always exploring) on this planet, it's our duty to help, to lift up others and to spread knowledge. 
Sharing has an interesting integrity to it. 

"Integrity is doing the right thing even if no one is watching." - C. S. Lewis

Ideas are always contagious because one idea leads to many. An idea becomes something with many actions and cups of coffee. We can have all sorts of ideas in our heads, in our notebooks, sketchbooks but if we don't do something with them then they are just floating in limbo. 

"Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them." - Alfred North Whitehead

In a way, ideas are like a type of farming. In order for them to grow they need attention, appreciation and constant nurturing. Ideas take time and work. It's like Picasso said, 
"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else." This is true and this why we need to talk about them and share them more often. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

18 journeys towards an illustration career!

1. As a kid, Ed Emberly helped me learn to draw. He was my childhood hero! 
2. I became obsessed with Where The Wild Things Are when I was a kid. Wild rumpus imagination is a good thing. It's now an everyday thing! 
3. I was allowed to paint on walls. When I was in elementary, I was asked to paint 4 murals on the walls of my school. Breaking the rules felt good! 
4. When I was in grade 10, I worked on props for Paramount Pictures for an 80's movie called Children Of Lesser God. I met and had lunch with William Hurt. The world felt a lot smaller that day.  
5. I had the best art teacher in High school. Mr. Murphy had the biggest open mind and helped me get into University. Asking for what I wanted was a good thing.  
6. I took a leap and went to art school for 5 years. Independence was both exciting and terrifying. 
7. I used to annoy one of my design teachers with my idea choices for projects. That's when I knew I was onto something BIG! 
8. One summer I designed sardine cans at a design studio. I realized I did not really want to be a designer. I didn't want to settle.
9. After I graduated from art school I went back to get my BFA for another year and focused on illustration. Making a decision felt like progress. I was that much closer to growing up.  
10. I took b/w darkroom photography the whole time at art school as an elective. This taught me both patience and attention to detail. The idea od organizing imagery within a frame is important as well as wearing dark clothing to hide spills. 
11. When I started illustrating, I tried using gouache. I disliked it so much I had to master it. Now it's my favourite material to create with. Persistence won!
12. I dared myself to send out a book idea. I got a publishing deal in less than a month. Taking a chance and believing in myself was both surprising and exhilarating. 
13. I worked as a veterinarian's assistant and helped animals. This taught me the customer has a heart that needs to be taken seriously. Listening became a good skill. 
14. I worked part time at a Health food store while freelancing and this taught me that everything is connected to everything. Now I understand the concept that you get what you give.
15. I served coffee. I worked at a coffee shop and learned coffee is much more than caffeinated liquid in a cup. I learned how to make a perfect cup. My love for coffee and I have been going steady for over 20 years!  
16. Having kids taught me to get back in touch with the original idea of creating. My girls reignited the making process which helped me to stop over thinking everything every minute of the day. Making a mess is not just for kids and I'm perfectly okay with all the imperfections.   
17. Being asked to share my knowledge was another surprise for me. As a shy kid, this was never something I'd thought I'd be doing. Standing in front of an audience, although nerve racking, proved to me that I could change the way I perceived myself. Luckily, I didn't die and the earth did not swallow me whole. I even made them laugh even though I was shaking in my shoes! 
18. Illustrating my first children's book taught me that storytelling is the best! It also steered me in a new direction which has been a much-needed shot in the creative arm. We really shouldn't put away child like things. 

Let's continue the conversation: What are yours? 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Creative Goosebumps!

© Holly DeWolf 

“The inner fire is the most important thing mankind possesses.” -Edith Sodergran 

Think back when you were younger when you had a deep love for someone or something. It's all you thought about, focused on and wanted to be part of. Your mind went there freely. There was no way you could be distracted from what was clouding your brain. Eating was  optional and sleeping wasn’t necessary. Your heart felt like a separate entity. You were consumed inside your personal happy bubble… and you're not even paying attention right now, are you?

Creative goosebumps are like an inspired light that never goes out. On the bad days it can feel hidden. On the good days, we go large and make things happen. Illustration offers the chance to stretch ideas and notions we have about ourselves and the world we live in. We really cannot be micromanaged or controlled because we are the business and what we make is the product. We are our own bosses and some days we’re cooperative and some days we can be real jerks!

Illustration is different from other careers because the work we do is personal. Just like your signature and the way we dress, our work is our own unique fingerprint on this planet. It’s the centre of everything. Your mind starts the day with ideas and ends the same way. If your lucky, you’ll even dream about it like an illustration crush. 

When I say an illustration crush, I mean it lightly. Like most crushes there is a HUGE love however it doesn’t always treat you fairly back. The creative drive is a tipsy relationship. We can get lost in flow one day and then want to tear our hair out the next. Sneaky things like perfectionism and comparison can step in and wreak havoc on your visual environment. For some of us we love it but we can feel uneasy and often scared of it. 

Then there is this funny little thing that happens when we love something-fear of success. We want it all but we fear not being able to follow through or keep it up. Remember (write this down): No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you go, you are still ahead of everyone who isn’t trying!  

Typically most people do not love their work. They punch in and log out. Many tolerate a career for many reasons and many hardly find a career they love that supports their lifestyle. Either they love it and it pays peanuts or the pay is great but it’s sucking the life out of them. 

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” -Vincent Van Gogh

Even with illustration, there are downsides. However, if you cannot love the whole career then try a section of it. Love the illustration career you're in or love the way you do it or both! It will make EVERY JOB much more enjoyable and rewarding. Shift the idea of how you perform in your work this way: 

1. Try focusing on creative challenges you can give yourself. 

2. Create something to look forward to daily, weekly and monthly. 

3. Take more chances. Say yes more to opportunities that scare you and say no to the things that drain your time and energy. 

4. Socialize more with real live folks! 

5. Ask for what you want and need more of.  

6. Remember opinions are relative. Good advice is gold. 
Criticism is like rain. It should be gentle enough to nourish your growth without destroying the roots.

7. Make more time to let ideas incubate. Daydreaming and random moments of silence lets the good stuff come out.   

8. Put in 150%. What else would you be doing? You’re going to be making something anyway. 

9. Consider it all a great big experiment!

Most important: Treat your career like a best friend. Always be kind to your work, your ideas and to yourself. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Why self-directed work is important!

Photo ©Holly DeWolf

Remember drawing for hours as a kid? Remember what it felt like to make things your own way? There wasn't a time limit. There wasn’t a client waiting. There were no contracts or a heaping pile of paper work to go with making an illustration. Once you were done, you cleaned up your crayons (sometimes), stuck your art work on the fridge before going out to ride your bike. 

All of this sounds like freedom. 

Self-directed work is the freedom to make things on your time, your own way however you choose. It’s an exercise we should consider making time to do. Having creative spare time is probably what got you into art in the first place: the chance to make something!  

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.” -Paulo Coelho

Self-directed work is a promise to yourself to keep making work everyday. It’s your own creative downtime in your already busy schedule. Think of it as practice. Think of it a break away from routine. 

Getting into the right frame of mind has to have the right setting. Good music, lots of paper, freshly sharpened pencils, glue, scissors, inspiring books, a thesaurus plus a hot beverage is a good start! It can be scheduled or completely unplanned. This is also the time to relinquish control. As hard as it is, put your harsh critic in the corner for a while and make something anyway. 

Instead of interrupting the creative flow with your own personal judgments, allow yourself to be fully engaged in the process. Create when you are inspired and save the technicalities for later.” - Marie Wilson. 

Reasons to make random art:   

1. A good time to make a mess.
No plan? No problem. Letting go of control can be one of the most freeing things you can do. As Tobias van Schneider says, let yourself be stupid

"The only way a side project will work is if people give themselves permission to think simple, to change their minds, to fail--basically, to not take them too seriously," says van Schneider. "When you treat something like it’s stupid, you have fun with it, you don’t put too much structure around it. You can enjoy different types of success."

2. A good time to make more mistakes.
Mistakes are what we all have in common. Its part of the human experience of growing up and moving forward. I often think making mistakes is how we really get in touch with ourselves. Neil Gaiman says it best: 

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

3. A good time to work things out! 
This creative downtime is the perfect time to practice and hone drawing skills. Not good with representing hands? Do your backgrounds in your illustrations need a new approach? Always working in the same colour schemes? I always call it the time to get weird. It’s unstructured, it’s random but you are making time to learn and create something that will be useful later on. There’s a definite method to the madness. 

Another way to work things out is by breaking through bad days, burnout, illness or other disruptions. As they say, crap happens. These things can sideline your productivity or stop it completely. Treat it as a Plan B approach to work it out creatively. 

4. A good time to enjoy the process again.
The biggest part of illustration that I love is the process. I love grabbing that idea and doodling. I love the words and narratives that come out of certain themes. I love setting up my desk to get the ball rolling. Client work can often feel rushed with too many revisions. If it's a tight deadline, we could lose the energy for the project along the way. With self-directed work, you get to take the time to get to know your process, your habits and your natural way of creating. The more you know about how you work, your process, your peak times and your creative habits, this will all help with future client work. 

5. A good time to get off the computer to be old school.
As I always say, “Sorry, out to live. Be back soon.” Being online needs to be part time for some of us. Just because we need to social network and make computer art doesn’t mean we should stop buying and playing with old school materials. Load up on oil paint, gouache, watercolour, pencils, tape, glue, pastels, sticky notes, pens, rulers and whatever else you find. Throw some crayons into the mix, make a mess and cut loose. 

5. A good time to make something new.
This creative mess making can be a good time to begin a series, a theme, a promotion, a book idea, a gallery show, handmade work to sell in a gallery, add collage bits to your work, textures, or experiment with hand drawn lettering. All of this will benefit your work and your online portfolio too. 

6. A good time to develop a new way of working.
We are always told to focus on the importance of style. We need to develop one and maintain it. However, as we go along, our style will change and grow and then one day we could discover we want our work to look differently. This is the prefect time to experiment. 

Lastly, remember to look for the magic in your daily routine. Happy creating! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Design Your Own infinite Creative List!

Every idea is a useful idea eventually. 

We're always being told to catch all ideas and write everything down. A few years ago, I started an idea pile for random future illustrations. The original plan was to make the brainstorming easier. When I got around to organizing all my notes I discovered a HUGE visual archive. Then it hit me: I should just start an infinite creative list. Done.  

Think of it as a go-to visual intention index. This process can help push your self directed work farther by creating a new creative habit. 
This collection will come in handy when you are in-between commissions or when you want to do something new. 

Idea prompts to start the process:  

1.  What are you listening to?
As personal as our music choices are, they are still full of messages that are wordy and useful. Lyrics are quick short bursts of ideas mixed with repetition, metaphors and odd word pairing to get that right expression. Sometimes the nonsense can make total sense when you google the lyrics and read what is really going on. Some songs are cryptic and some are simple and obvious. 

Go ahead and watch this song by Heart And Head called Another Story. It may not be your style of music though the video and the song repeat certain ideas and themes. They pushed the narrative lyrically and visually. 

2.  What are you reading? 

What books, magazines or articles are getting your attention these days? To me, words are a huge asset for illustrators. Magazines are loaded with copy and buzz lines that punch the massage quickly. 

Books take you places beyond your everyday living and that is a good thing. When you get a chance to hold a book, make mental and visual notes. Remember, you have only one life to live but with books you can live thousands more! 

Quotes can be more than inspiring reads especially when they are not your run of the mill sayings. I'm talking about the quotes that grab every inch of your attention. Wise words, one liners, quips and just plain weird ideas can work well for promotions, your blog and your social media.

If you are feeling ambitious, try starting a quote file. When I was in university I started collecting unusual and witty quotes. Since then, this verbose folder has grown huge with thoughtful wisdom that is a a now become an almost priceless collection. 

3. Where are you going?
Escaping the studio means new stuff to take in because after all, we are crafty little sponges. Browsing can be good for your work. Go get lost in a bookstore for an hour and look at book covers especially in the children's section. Gift stores carry greeting cards, paper goods that are jam packed full of visual ideas. Galleries are another place to lose yourself but on a quieter scale. Go for coffee and look around. Check out the chalk board doodles, the packaging and art on the walls. Besides that, enjoy your time out of the studio. 

4. What are you watching? 

Watching TV does not always have to be a waste of time. Shows, movies, cartoons, TED talks, videos and stand up comedy can jump start ideas as well as setting the right mood for creativity. 

Humour comes with a positive energy that is healthy for your brain. To me, it's one of those creative diversions we should utilize especially on a bad day. Here's a jump start from some comedians discussing life lessons

 • What are you randomly hearing? 
No, I'm not suggesting you eaves drop on conversations however all that background noise can be oddly useful. We naturally filter a lot of stuff. Every once and a while something will get our attention. Mine consists of cartoons, kids playing, trips to the coffee shop, moments in the produce aisle. Typically its funny things said or witty one liners that catch my attention. If I'm lucky, I get it down in my notebook.

• Where are you surfing? 
Pinterest is addictive and now I know why. It's full of everything-quotes and sayings that are funny, inspiring images to the just just plain weird. Start a inspire board. Follow sites that promote creativity like Design Taxi and This Is Colossal. Customize your Facebook and Twitter page to showcase articles on what interests you from people and pages you follow. Make it easy to find sites that champion creativity by adding yourself to their newsletter. 

What to do with your new list: 

• an illustration challenge. 
• a continuous theme.
• a book idea.
• a series.
• a gallery show.
• a series of items to sell online. 
• a portfolio update.
• a promotion.
• an illustrated blog series.
• or getting back to some old work you shelved or didn't finish. 

Most people spend their whole lives waiting for ideas to come to them or that right moment to feel inspired. Most people wait for things to be perfect. We only have so much time to play with ideas each week. Time is a resource. If you utilize what's around you each day, you will have more resources, more ideas and an infinite creative list. Have a great week. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Save Time Looking For Information With This Google Tip!

Here is an online search time saver: Google Alerts!  

This handy dandy page allows you to monitor the Web for interesting new content and have that info mailed to your inbox based on your queries. You can set up many searches and save them while customizing the results to be mailed as it happens, daily or once a week. 

Examples of what you can use this page for: 
• Find out news about the illustration industry. 
• Calls for submissions.
• See feedback on posted work, news or published works and blogs. 
• Monitor news on conventions, seminars, classes and podcasts.  
• Keep tabs on your online google profile. 
• Publishing news. 
• Spotlights, mentions or reviews on kid lit books you may of illustrated or published. 
• Upcoming shows, group shows or networking meetings. 

And the list could go on. If you are like me and are always on the lookout for great reading content then this is a very useful tool. Give it a try! 

I really appreciate you reading my blog post. When I'm not illustrating, I regularly write about illustration, creative business and freelancing. If you would like to continue the discussion, leave a comment and feel free to also connect via TwitterFacebook and my other blog, Diary Of An Illustrator