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


Monday, January 20, 2014

Keep Drawing!

© Holly DeWolf- Keep drawing! 

As part of my big learning year, I'm going to sketch more, doodle more and I will be doing more narrative based posts like this. As fast paced as illustration can be and sometimes not, it's good to get back to basics and get in touch with the natural process of creating. 

Have a great week and happy doodling! ~ Holly 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Forget Resolutions- Choose A Theme Instead!

© Holly DeWolf- Happy Learning Year!

Happy New Year! 

I'm sure by now you've been inundated with reminders to make resolutions, make huge changes in your life while devising a better business plan. Yes, it's January 12th and apparently we're all running behind. 

This year, instead of a long list of resolutions and ideas that may or not may not happen, I'm focusing on a theme instead. 

“Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.” 

This year's theme: LEARNING! 

Its a simple concept but will require time set aside to give it real focus. The great part: I can add to it as I go along. I'm going to celebrate my strengths and learn so I can earn! 

Here is what I'm panning to do: 

1. Take online classes: signing up for classes is as easy as hitting a button! Sites such as Skillshare offer very quick informative classes on a variety of topics. Here is a great one from Seth Godin: 

The New Business Toolbox: Help Your New Business Do It Right The First Time

2. Read more books: start with a reading list and set up a heaping pile by the bed or the comfiest chair you have. My current reading list: 
2014 Children's Illustrators & Writer's market
Leap Write In
Encyclopedia Of Writing & Illustrating Children's Books
The Power Of Habit

3. Learn to be a better illustrator: like many industries you need to evolve or be left behind. Illustration is no different and will always be on a continual learning curve. Instead of reinventing my wheel, I'm going to focus on my strengths and while adding new ways of working. I have developed skills over the years that I should not have to put away because of new technologies. I'm a creator so I still want to show a human side to my work in an increasing computerized world.  

4. Learn to be a better at business: how we do business changes almost daily. It's a challenge to keep up as well as a challenge to learn it. Since I do not have an agent, I am going try a business coach instead. Coaches discover and help you move past hurdles, blocks, slumps, challenges, they can change your perspective and can help you be the best you can be. There's no shame in asking for help. I'm sure if I put my mind to it I could get to the third dimension but it helps to know the best directions too!  

5. Read more articles: Recently, I learned that abibliophobia means the fear of running out of things to read. Good thing we have the internet to solve that problem. I have set aside Saturdays as my reading articles day. Best advice: set up a list of found articles that you can pour over when you have to time to read them. Even if you only get 1 thing out of an article, you are that further ahead! 

6. Learn about podcasting: This will be a continuation from the chats I do with illustrator/designer Brian Bowes called Creative Coffee. Our caffeinated east meets west collaboration offers ideas, inspiration, and tips. As a creative collaboration, this is turning out to be highly motivating and inspiring. Connecting is good and feels like a gift to help motivate your career!    

7. Learn to hack life more to save time: sites such as Lifehacker, Mental Floss and Instructables are extremely useful. Life moves pretty fast these days so quick tips are definitely welcomed! Just recently, I learned that opening blister packs with a can opener works. Who knew? I will now save time and my fingers.  

8. Learn something different- As much as I love illustration and writing, I also want a life too. This year I'm going to challenge myself on a different level. The first item on my list, learn how to do a handstand! Wish me luck! 

"Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway." - Earl Nightingale 

I wish you a very productive and happy new year! 

What are you planning on learning?