Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

How to Tackle Your Creative Anxiety

I wrote a guest blog post and illustration for The Artistic Engineer. Anxiety and stress are our natural responses, we just need to learn to listen to them and channel them into our creativity. Science tells us this. There have been links between stress relief and creativity.

Some of you probably think you’re not creative, and at the same time you create your life every day. How do you manage your anxiety when creating?

AnxietyIllustrationTitle

Read More

Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

How do you find your talents? Steal Like an Artist Book Review

In large white reversed type spread across two undersized black pages, each chapter begins with a simple and often counterintuitive thought. The square shaped book isn’t quite pocket sized, though it’s close. The book in this case is Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon.

Following the book’s lead, I’m going to … borrow … Austin’s 10 thing, letting you know how they’ve worked for me. Following the say “Yes, and…” maxim of improv, I’m also adding my own ideas for you to try.

1. Steal like an artist.

The first chapter begins with a minimalist and powerful diagram that asks “Is it worth stealing?” We borrow ideas. We aren’t the first to create with paper, canvas, clay, or even a computer. Even when those ideas seemed new, they were built based on ideas that came before them. The idea here isn’t to plagiarize, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s about giving up on worry. Stop worrying that it’s not good enough. We are our own worst critics.

Austin explains beautifully how we are all a unique remix of our parents. Our art is a unique mashup of our influences. Become a selective collector of influences. Concentrate on keeping what you love and throw out the rest. Studies show that a focus on love helps us generate new ideas. Look for who your favorite artists loved and who loved them and take from them what you like best. 

Try this: Copy your role models and leaders. Thinking of leadership as an innate trait rather than as a learned skill causes anxiety according to research reported by Psychology Today. The study concluded that people only benefit from role models when they acknowledge skills as able to be learned. Recognize that talents are learnable skills.

2. Don’t wait until you who you are to get started.

According to the American Psychological Association impostor phenomenon (or impostor syndrome) was first described in the 1970s. Unable to internalize and accept their success, we often attribute accomplishments to luck instead of ability. There exists a fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.

In this chapter, Keon reminds us that we all fake it until you make it. This reminds me of a TED Talk where we’re told to fake it until you become it. Keep pretending to make something until you make something. Creative work is theatre. 

Reverse engineer others work, take apart the pieces to see how it works. Learn their way of looking at the world. This reminds me of a (probably apocryphal) tale of composers George Gershwin and Maurice Ravel. When Gershwin asked Ravel to teach him about composition, Ravel is said to have replied “Why be a second-rate Ravel when you’re already a first-rate Gershwin?” 

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing” Salvador Dali

Try this: Recognize your accomplishments. Lack of confidence in your ability to succeed can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’ll try harder

3. Write the book you want to read.

Take your favorite parts and use them. Your own art is fan fiction combining the favorite characters and pieces from your favorite stories and images. Create based on the the stories you like to read. Ask what would make this better. Think about versions of your favorite work and then what would it be like next. If all your favorite artists collaborated, what would that look like?  

How am I writing my own book? I often joke with friends and strangers that when I’m nervous I just imagine I’m someone else. I’m the hero or the villain of the book. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do something. It’s beyond me or for someone else. I’m afraid to be the hero who fixes my problems. I’ll be afraid to be villainized and judged.

4. Use your hands.

Traditional art has power. Draw! Sketch! Computers are too perfectionist and bring out our inner perfectionist This chapter reminds me of a studies where paper money is psychologically different than using credit cards. Credit cards are abstract and our brain thinks of the money involved differently.

Try this: Sketch, doodle, and write by hand. The tactile experience can help you see and understand problems in new ways. The accidents created by hand movement can help you see new shapes and “feel” the energy of lines. Next time you have a problem, whether it’s an art problem or not, try a sheet of paper. 

5. Side projects and hobbies are important.

Productive procrastination is putting off one thing by doing another productive thing. Even the stuff that’s play — messing around — can turn in to something else. Have a lot of projects. What Unifies your work is that you made it.  I always say the best way to procrastinate is to do something else on my “someday maybe list”. The gym, cleaning, a walk. This blog. The podcast. Don’t choose between your passions. 

Try this: Find time every month for your side projects. Identify what you consider your side projects, the things you do just for the feel good benefit, and learn to diversify your time investments into happy tasks.

6. The secret: do good work and share it with people.

Obscurity allows you to explore and see what resonates with people . Make stuff, fail, get better, share it. Wonder at something. Invite others to wonder with you. Give away your secrets, your thought process. If you’re worried about sharing too many secrets, share small pieces and leave others to figure out how to connect them.

Try this: Whether it’s with your real life social friends or with established online connections such as this blog, feel more free to share your work.

7. Geography is no longer our master.

Create your own world, surround yourself with objects you love. Enjoy solitude with a pen, notepad, a book. Leave home. Enjoy new surroundings. Enjoy people who don’t do what you do. 

Try this: Add mastering the internet fearlessly to your life. Comment on the articles you love. Send thank you notes and appreciation to all of the authors, web sites, even celebrities who you really love. Share your artwork and design on any site that has pictures. There are people out there who wish they were as daring as you

8. Be nice (The world is a small town.)

Make friends, ignore enemies. You are a here to make friends, life isn’t a reality show. Say nice things about people . Surround yourself with good people, the best people, who are smarter and better than you.  Be willing to look stupid. Hang out with the most talented people in the room. Channel the energy you’d use on enemies and embarrassment on your art. Keon tells us to keep a record of all of the compliments you receive for when you need that. Save any nice emails, comments tweets in one place 

Try this: Write fan letters. Not to get a response just to be kind. Public fan letters. Write blog posts about people you admire and link to their site. Make art dedicated to your heroes. Do it for your own sense of gratitude and appreciation. If you’re a big fan of a Rihanna or Beyonce, why not just Tweet to them and let them know you’re a fan. Or handwrite fan mail. The idea that you did something out of appreciation will enrich your own life. You might not get validation. Many artists didn’t until after their lives. The guy who wrote the musical Rent was never able to see it’s success. Neither did VanGogh. People usually wont see or understand your struggle, good artwork looks effortless. 

9. Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)

Take care of yourself. Your personal finances, your family, and your friends all may need your attention. You need to sleep, eat right, exercise. This gives you energy to be creative. Stay out of debt. Learn about money, make a budget, spend less than you make, save, get educated for as cheap as possible. Say no to take out and new things to replace things that work. Keep your day job for connection to the world and routine and control over your life. Limiting your time helps you schedule your creativity. “Work gets done when time is available.” Use your calendar and schedule more things until you have most things scheduled. 

Try this: Keep a logbook, list what you’ve done every day. Not a diary, just lists, projects, a daily record of small details. Keep track of how far you traveled. What are the best things that happened today? Draw and sketch around your lists. Pick your friends, partner, and even family who you choose to have around you and how much. 

10. Creativity is subtraction.

Choose what to leave out.  Place constraints on yourself. Painting with one color. Make things work with what you have. Do with less. Art is struggle against limitations.  

Verdict

If I have one major complaint about the book Steal Like An Artist it’s that it’s too short! However, I’m definitely going to pick up the authors next book which is titled Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. I love that the book ends with a spread of “deleted scenes” explaining how the book began its life on index cards and showing you what didn’t make the cut.

More book reviews

Read More

Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

How to Be a Happy Artist: 3 Roles of Constructive Self-Criticism

There are ways to treat ourselves as a friend. We are often our biggest critics. How do we make our self-criticisms more constructive? We know that art can help with anxiety, stress and possibly even depressionTreat yourself positively  remembering that you are part of your support system. Treat yourself as a person and friend you like and admire. You are your own best mentor. 

I drew you as cerberus!!!People who focus on what others think rather than their own concept self-value tend to be more stressed and angry with relationship conflicts and eating disorders, according to a study published in Journal of Social Issues which tested the impact of relying on external sources for self esteem. This may mean that for artists, focusing on internal ideals of morals and self standards will yield better results. In the study, there was a link between internal self-esteem and academic performance. Knowing that our creative voice has it’s own unique meaning is a powerful thought.

The University of Waterloo found that self compassion toward ones flaws achieved a more positive self image. Those who accept imperfections were found to deal more easily with negative events, setbacks and life in general.  In your tone and words with yourself, even if you are frustrated attempt to be positive and practice gratitude. There are three main roles we can take when guiding ourselves: teacher, coach, and lawmaker:

1. Be Your Own Teacher and Student

You are your best teacher. A teacher identifies a problem, explains why it is a problem, and then helps discover choices so that the student can decide which is best for them. You’ve heard the proverb “Teach a man to fish and you’ve helped him feed for life.” As your own teacher, you are focused on helping yourself learn rather than just doing what’s easy in the moment. A teacher also gives clear instructions. Rather than saying “Solve this math problem”, a teacher will explain to you how to add and subtract. This is the same method we can adapt as an artist.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

A teacher builds trust in a student’s ability to learn understands the frustration of the learning process. In his TED Talk “Trust, morality – and oxytocin?”, Paul Zak talks about how trust is an important chemical process for individual happiness. 

Your script: Ask “Why?”

“What is the specific problem I want to handle and why?” followed by “What are the steps involved in coming up with a solution?” Be specific with yourself as possible. We might want to be a great artist and make amazing work, and at the same time that’s very vague to tell ourselves to be great and amazing. What is great and what is amazing? How do you create work that you like? If you had a teacher to tell you what that means, how would they guide you? As your own teacher, look into what you can practice in drawing, review and grade your work, and then assign yourself new “homework” to improve your art.

2. Be Your Own Coach and Player

You are your own best coach. A great coach accepts a player’s strengths and abilities. What are you currently able to do? Achieving a win in today’s game means using each player’s strengths as they are now. Asking yourself to draw in ways you’ve never drawn before isn’t likely to be a very fun or successful venture. A new artist starts by learning to hold a pencil, observe how lines appear on the paper, see and draw simple objects. Building on this understanding, we slowly get better. Coach the player you already are rather than who you wish or imagine you’ll become.

“The person being coached is not lacking, they simply need someone to tap on their microphone and turn up the volume so they can hear their own sound.” Suzette Hinton

Being a coach also means that you’ll have to put your players in the game. Players struggle and encouter new situations. On the field in any team sport, both teams will have a unique set of strategies and players that create a new dynamic every game. No matter how much practice there is, you just have to go into the game and play your hardest. This is what makes sports exciting and less predictable. When you create your art, you’ll have your own unique challenges and struggle in completing them.

A coach puts a player on the field and let’s the game happen. So every day, find a way to put yourself in the game. Find ways to finish your art, your assignments, and share them with the world. Share unfinished pieces, share rough sketches, share random ideas. Coaches and players don’t wait until they are finished to show their score. They let people see their progress as they get wins and loses, play after play, and season after season.

A study conducted by Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University and SF State graduate Graham Hill shows that if we spend our money on life experiences rather than objects, we tend to be happier because we aren’t bored of happy memories. Focusing on your role as a player means focusing on the immediate experience that you’ve “bought into” as an artist. You bought supplies, materials, and now it’s time to experience 

Your script: Use “I want…” statements.

Where am I and where do I want to be? How can I get there?” Rather than torture yourself with what results you wanted, you’ll want to be your own supporter. When you start telling yourself something like “This painting is terrible! The colors are all wrong”, you might reply to yourself with “Actually, I want to be able to paint better, here’s what isn’t working: the green is muddy and brown compared to my reference. What I want is a brighter green, which I can achieve by adding more yellow.” The coach role is focused on supporting our wants, then supporting us with realistic steps to take to move in that direction. 

3. Be Your Own Lawmaker and Enforcer

You are your own best rule maker. Your limits aren’t value judgments. They’re not good or bad. They’re what you do for your own safety and protection. You make rules that limit negative consequences. Think about crossing the street. Do you look both ways because it’s “bad” not to? Or do we look both ways because we don’t want to be hit by a car?

Being our own rule maker means that we understand our own problems and how to deal with them. We don’t justify breaking rules when we already know the consequence is something we don’t want. When you justify your procrastination, it’s denying the negative impact we already know it’s had. Rather than worrying, threatening, or nagging ourselves we can just accept it is our responsibility to hold ourself accountable.

“It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” Mahatma Gandhi

Changing just one small habit can set the tone for our exploration into having more creative ideas. A study shows that on average it may take 66 days for a complex habit to form, though a simple habit can form in as few as 20 days. The study also showed that immediate gratification and visible benefits is easier to make a new habit the easier the habit is to form. 

Accountability is the opposite of perfectionism. This means that yes sometimes we will procrastinate, you’ll slip sometimes, and you’ll break your rules. When you break your rule, what is the consequence? Coming up with effective consequences can be tricky. You might decide if you procrastinate, you’ll have to delay watching your favorite television show the next night so you can make up for the time on your art. This reaction has to be reasonable as well, you probably would be foolish if you thought you’d give up television forever to force yourself never to procrastinate again. Being accountable also means beings flexible at times. You will have to take up the lawmaker role again and again, revising the “rules” that didn’t work and the reactions that didn’t help you feel happier and empowered.

“Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour … If at my convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?” Charlotte Brontë

Once you’ve made a rule, you’re no longer the law maker. Your role is now the enforcer. Rather than be accountable strictly for results, be accountable to yourself for your decisions. This is often where we fall short. Even during the creative process, stopping to evaluate early on in our composition has huge benefits. Often enough I’ve reached the end of a painting only to realize I’ve worked very hard on a weak composition. It would have been better if I started over before putting in that much time.

Research suggests that we often continue working on projects that aren’t working. The studies suggest that when we set up criteria in advance, we are more likely to evaluate whether our original goals were viable and change course as needed. In my painting, I create a rule that I start with a rough thumbnail and five minute quick composition study. I might also commit to a rule of reevaluating my painting every half or hour of work to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. I evaluate every step and making any adjustments earlier in the process makes a huge difference. At this point, I have rules and just have to enforce them.

Your script: Use “If/then” statements.

“If I don’t work on my painting tonight while I’m free, then I won’t have time to work on it over the next week since I’m so busy. Therefore, I’ll work on it right now and take a raincheck on this last minute party invite.” Note that the “If/then” set by this limit is just a natural cause and effect, not a punishment. “If I stay up late tonight finishing this drawing, then I’ll be too tired tomorrow for my meeting. Therefore, I’ll go to bed at 11pm”. Setting positive limits for yourself and others is healthy and realistic. With each statement, you’ll find new ways to say “I can turn this situation into a positive moment.”

 

Being part of your own support system is essential for our overall happiness. Having a greater network is still a helpful tool, though the more we diversify our approaches to success and happiness, the more likely we are to achieve that kind of well being. In approaching ourselves and others, we can be a teacher, coach, and lawmaker. Most of all, we can be a happy artist. What scripts do you use to motivate your creative work?

Read More

Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

How Gratitude Maintains Connection: Artists and Designers Networking Guide Part 4

Artists and Designers Networking Guide:

Gratitude is the key for easily maintaining connections in all of your relationships. I was originally going to write this part of the guide focusing on “connection maintanence”. Not only does the idea of maintaining relationships like a car sound cold and fake, it’s not accurate. We don’t just fix and replace our relationships just so they’ll keep working for us. We help others because we care and want to contribute to others happiness.

Whether it’s with friends, family, coworkers, former coworkers, client or other professional contacts, the one easy way to connect, reconnect or reach out is to give thanks. Who doesn’t appreciate a simple thank you note? Even if it’s for something that was a long time ago.

In the first part, I talked about how our network is our friends and family. Introducing those connections to our art and design work is a key idea in networking. As artists we strive for creativity, authenticity, and a sense of sense. Understanding our role as a kind of friend to those at work and in more professonal contexts is key to become an amazing networker. In part two, the focus was learning how to talk to others no matter where we go. In part three, there were ten tips to following up with your existing or new friends. How does gratitude factor in at the point of maintaining a connection?

Networking has a sleezy reputation that’s based in the realm of “I need something”. Sending a simple thank you note when you need nothing is not only the way to make your relationships more human, it’s also just a nice thing to do. Attach a thank you note to an invoice, and add sentence expressing thanks to more emails. When you express that you’re thinking about the other person’s point of view, they’re more likely to help you. When you don’t know what to say, there is always something to say thank you for.

Gratitude creates win-win situations

An article in Fortune titled “Why gratitude is good for business, year round” tells the story of how a limousine business held a lunch for the secretaries and coordinators who contact them for services. Usually they are the ones who get to watch their bosses and collegues attend events. A simple one-time event of gratitude became one of the biggest selling points for the business. Now by using this particular limousine company instead of others, their bosses were able to get the side effect of giving those who assistant them a cool event. 

This also is a great reminder of how much more meaning we can give if we thank people who are never thanked. The actions we deem with an entitled notion that what was provided is not extraordinary. Therefore less worthy of thanks. Without their service, what would your life look like? If they all went on strike or vanished in the next rapture, what would you do?If you lived in a country or situation without them or were trapped alone on an island never to have help again, what would that feel like? If they were hit by a bus tomorrow, would you care even a little? When looked at it that way, showing appreciation for the existance of others is one powerful thought that too many people never allow to cross their minds.

Gratitude the opposite of expectation

Why say thanks to people for doing what they “should” be doing anyway? The real truth is that no one is obligated to help you. Inducing fear, obligation, and guilt are network killers. Even if you’re not inducing those qualities on purpose, if you don’t cultivate gratitude it can appear that you’re only connecting to cash in down the line. The goal is to provide emotional support, not just receive.Seperate messages and emails of appreciation from ones you are in need. Do you only send an email to your coworkers when you’re asking for something? 

“Learn how to be respectful to your friends, don’t just start arguments with them and don’t tell them the reason, always remember your friends will be there quicker than your family. Learn to remember you got great friends, don’t forget that and they will always care for you no matter what. Always remember to smile and look up at what you got in life.”  Marilyn Monroe

How gratitude helps you feel good

Thinking about others can be a very positive experience. When you realize all that they’ve done to help you, you’ll realize how much support you have. When you’re having a bad day, write thank you notes for all of those who contributed to your success.

In the TED Talk “Remember to Say Thank You”, Laura Trice discusses how asking for praise is a form of vulnerability: ” I’m telling you where I’m insecure. I’m telling you where I need your help. And I’m treating you, my inner circle, like you’re the enemy. Because what can you do with that data? You could neglect me. You could abuse it. Or you could actually meet my need.” Letting others know that you will appreciate them can be scary!

We let them know we do our best to meet their wants as much as it works for. We often don’t show praise for the same reason, it is vulnerable to trust and desire from others. What we cultivate by being appreciative is a world where it is easy to give and receive. When we do need to say no, doing so graciously and with thankful kindness is still a powerful act.

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.” Oprah Winfrey 

You might even decide to write notes that you won’t even send or to people who are no longer living. Writing a note to your departed grandmother for teaching you about perserverence provides you with a role model who you would strive to be more like. Psychologists found that those who focus on gratitude felt better about their lives; they also exercised more, became physically healthier and had a healthier general sense of well-being.

Other studies found relationships built on appreciation are more positive and  were more in working through concerns. Instead of showing your middle finger when a car honks, why not say to yourself “Thank you for being patient!” When you go through a crowd and say excuse me, why not add “Thank you for letting me by!”

How to respond to gratitude

When someone says thank you, we are taught to say “You’re weclome.” Other variants are “No problem”, “My pleasure” and “Of course.” In short form, the polite or common answers allow us to move on with our day. On Psychology Today, Adam Grant, PhD wrote about alternatives to “You’re welcome” providing a few reasons to give us a more thoughtful response. We can cultivate further gratitude rather saying that we’re happy to give. He suggests finding your own way to say “I know you’ll do the same for someone else.” That phrase let’s them know that you value appreciation as an idea in general. In the context of networking, friendship, and connection, we can imagine how we are more willing to do more for those who we know will appreciate it.

Thank people publically and privately. Sound grateful to people who aren’t even present and might not hear your words. One of my favorite things to do is when a friend or coworker comes up, I say a few things I like about them. Even if the person I’m speaking to doesn’t know my coworker, it shows that I think about how other people contribute. This tells my friend who is listening a powerful message that I will appreciate them too. They’ll imagine that I probably go around saying nice things about them too. It’s like positive gossip. Instead of social anxiety, this emphasizes social confidence. 

Thank you for reading my post! I know you didn’t have to and I appreciate you giving these thoughts a chance.

Read More

Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

Following Up: Artists and Designers Networking Guide Part 3

Artists and Designers Networking Guide:

Why follow up? Whether you’re hoping for a new client, a job interview, or just a friendly connection, following up is a key skill to practice. We all want to be surrounded with positive, trustworthy, and responsible people. When people see your name in their inbox, caller id, or text message notifications what do you hope they will feel?

If we know that opening your message, there will be something useful, kind, or positive of course that will be something I’ll want to read! If when I see you on the street, I know that I’ll be greeted with a smile and generous words, then of course I’ll be happy to say hello! You might ask what’s in it for you? What if you say positive affirmations and don’t receive the response you hoped for? Personally, I’d rather know that I made an attempt at being giving. Other people may not want what I have to offer and that is okay! You have a lot to offer for those kindred spirits who want to receive what you have.

“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”  C.S. Lewis

This is a key skill that we often don’t use to our advantage. When reading articles on job searching, have you noticed the inevitable quote about the job seeker who applied to 200 jobs a day and didn’t receive a single interview or job? One could guess that this person wouldn’t have time to follow up on every job lead. Asking a week or two later about the status of that application makes a difference. Even if you did get an interview and didn’t get the job, have you ever thought to contact them and ask them how their new hire is doing? If the answer is fantastic, they might still be expanding and you could now add yourself to be next on their list.If the answer is not as much, you could be the one they ask for next.

If you paint a picture and a friend says that it’s too big for their wall, you might ask them what they think of the next piece that is smaller. Think outside of the box when following up and staying connected. Remember, “networking” isn’t really a thing. It’s just a word that means making some really good friends who happen to have a professional interest in common.

Here are 10 ideas that might make follow up interactions more possible and comfortable for you and your friends:

1. Be Respectful

Give the benefit of the doubt. Be humble. There’s always the possibility that friends are caught up in other tasks. We all have a long enough list of things we’d love to do that will literally take us the rest of our lives. We’ll never be able to get everything done. Be mindful about that with others. Even if others wanted include you or benefit you, they won’t always be able to for reasons you may never know. If you haven’t heard from them, you might be helping them remember. Avoid anything thank can be read as “Why aren’t you answering me!?” Actions that consist of patience, trust, kindness, gentleness and support will be favorably received.

Try this: Ask about their wants and needs

They know they’re needs and wants better than you could. No matter how much experience you have or knowledge you attain, they will know their own lives best. Your personal scripts are kindess when they include questions such as “How does that work for you?” and “What would you want in this situation?”  No matter what the response, show empathy and consideration by using the most supportive and trusting language. One useful response, especially if the answer is unexpected or not what you hoped, is “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

2. Be Thankful

Gratitude is the foundation of relationships. A feeling of reciprocity helps create a sense of trust and connection.

Try this: Send a thank you note 

Every time I hang out with a friend, I send them a thank you text the next day. Be specific about what you enjoy. “Thanks for having dinner and telling me about your trip! You’re always so inspirational and have an exciting life!” Life is too short to not notice the good qualities in those around you and to express your appreciation. For bigger events, consider sending a hand written thank you note.

3. Be Generous

Generosity is giving with no expectation to receive. Many people are not generous because this leaves them vulnerable. To give without receiving can be scary. We don’t want to be taken advantage of. If we look at our lives with gratitude, we will notice that many people who impress us are the ones who do more than they could or have to. If we observe gratitude to the ones around us, we may even notice that no one owes us anything. None of our friends or family actually have to do anything for us. Even if we help them, they could choose not to help us anyway.

Why be generous then? It is for ourselves. To do something and know we can be charitible. If the person you are trying to connect with is genuinely someone who you appreciate or admire, then show appreciation for that inspiration. 

A coworker inspired me to try going to the gym at 6am. She went every week before work and while I tend to be an evening person, I thought I’d give it a shot. I’d tell friends about how she inspired me even though they didn’t know my coworker. A week or so later, making conversation at work it felt natural to say “Oh by the way, I thought of you last week! You said you went to Bodypump at 6am so I tried it. I’m still not a morning person, though because it worked for you I tried something new.”

“You make all kinds of mistakes, but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.” Winston S. Churchill

Try this: Show appreciation secretly

Think of how your skills can be used to help others or show appreciation. On The Uncanny Creativity Podcast I’ll often mention helpful tweets and thank them publically. With friends and coworkers, one of the most powerful things you can do is compliment them when they aren’t listening. “Oh wow, you worked with Samantha Roberts? She is an amazing writer! I worked with her on a project where she really did her homework and I learned a ton about Baltimore.”

Complimenting others when they may or may not hear tells the person you’re speaking with that you genuinely think about the people you meet. This also is a great way for you to feel like an appreciative person yourself. This also gives you a bit of conversation that you can share in future direct interactions. “Did I ever tell you how great that article is? I told John the other day that it really helped me understand.”

4. Invite

As I discussed in the practical tips article of this guide, there are many ways to be involved in your community and in the world including visiting art gallery receptions, volunteering, art organization events, and classes. If you’re attending events, then it often makes sense to invite others who might be interested. Make sure to invite them a few weeks ahead of time as they’re more likely to have less scheduled and will appreciate the notice Also be graceful if they decline. If you’ve given yourself a few weeks, you’ll still have time to invite someone else. If all else fails, go on your own as chances are you’ll see another loner who is interested. Great opportunity for at least a brief chat and maybe even a new contact.

Depending on the event, you may just invite one friend or contact or a few. Personally, I’d tend to keep my invites small and specific. I want to be able to talk with someone and create an experience together. Inviting a huge group of people and not having time or effort to invest in them can be both draining for you and less personal for them. Everyone loves an invite! 

Try this: Follow up after the event

Whether they were able to attend or not, follow up on the conversation and letting them know how it went. It’s another opportunity to discuss and have a mindful conversation. You might say “I can totally see why it wasn’t for you! Though I did hear about this website which you might want to check out.” If they did attend, thanking them as described above, a bit of a recap and asking their opinion on key points is a good idea. Just be yourself, a friendly human with a soul.

5. Persistence Versus Annoyance

Give a reasonable amount of time before following up on something you haven’t heard about. A general rule of thumb is to connect weekly or even every other week. This keeps you in mind without being overly attached.

Try this: Stay in touch

For ccontacts you haven’t heard about in a while or for former coworkers, check in and ask how they’re doing. If you’re a freelance designer, use all of the tips in this guide to stay connected with clients. For artists, we can stil connect with former buyers. If we befriend our clients and buyers, we gain friends. Our friends love to support us. The better you know them, the better you can offer your generous support as well.

6. Give space to decline

If you are getting responses that seem uninterested or if you are getting no responses at all after two or three attampts, give a longer period of a few weeks. Most people will appreciate not being pressured. Disengaging helps others know that you understand their not obligated to respond. If at this point you decide to send another follow up message, you can say something like “It’s okay if you’re too busy for this right now!”

Most people know how it feels to be rejected and don’t want to put you in a place to feel that way. Let your new and old friends know that it’s not a big deal if they don’t respond. The timing may be off or the task or conversation may not be a good fit. Craft a message that is polite and understanding as possible as you don’t want to burn any bridges. They may still think of you as a good friend when their schedule clears up. A new project may come along. They may have another friend who would be better served. 

Try this: Believe them

If they decline or you have any sense of interest, drop it. This might mean talking about something else. It may mean less contact. It may mean discontinuing contact completely. Ask directly about their interests and then proceed as if you believe them. 

7. Add Value

Show excitement about their new project. Adding value means that think you know something they might be interested in. With all of the above in mind, if you’re reading through articles and find one they may be interested in, pass it along. “Hey, this reminded me of a conversation we had about classical music!” Passing on an article is a great way to show that you don’t require a response.

8. Prepare for the worst

If you’re looking for a job and you know you would be great at that job, sometimes that company may want someone who is different from you. They may just feel better about hiring someone with certain experience that you don’t have. If you’re looking for a client, they may want to spend that money on a different product. If you’re looking for a friend, they may just want a different kind of friend or just don’t want to deal with the basic stages of anew friendship right now.

When it comes to our art and designwork especially, it’s purely subjective. Your work may be the most amazing, it’s just not what that person likes. A certain green that you love may remind them of their mean babysitter’s ugly wallpaper. Nothing personal. The analogy I often to to is my dislike for coffee and mushrooms. The most amazing coffeeshop or the most wonderful restaurant still wouldn’t be able to make me enjoy those tastes.

Try this: Hope for the best

Yes, if someone tells me they’ve cooked mushrooms then I’m not going to enjoy that dish. This doesn’t mean that every attempt to have a meal means being offered mushrooms.

9. Calling

There are a few phrases for a phone call that you need to know and use. Always always always ask “Hey, is this a good time to talk for 10 minutes about X?” This communicates that you have something specific to ask about and at the same time are mindful of their time. If you would like more than five or ten minutes, then you can arrange a mutually beneficial time to speak longer.

Few people enjoy cold calls. If you want your call to be greeted warmly, the next question in a phone call has to be “Are you interested in X?” or some variation. If they aren’t interested in connecting or discussing this topic, it’s a waste of time for both or you. You’d prefer a conversation with someone who wants to talk with you.

Try this: Make your cold calls warmer

The final question is the next step. Stick to your 10 minute time limit. If the conversation has dragged on past that, you might ask “Is it still a good time to continue talking, maybe we can set up a calll or hang out to talk more about this later?” Giving them space to decline often creates a more comfortable environment and conversation. The next step could also be an e-mail or another type of meeting. Let them know what you’re guess is if you have one, “I’ll e-mail you with that information and a bit of detail about what we’re talking about.” Then you can continue following up via email or address the continued steps at in the e-mail.

10. Send Snail Mail

Postcards, cards and letters are an underused way to stay connected. If you’re traveling and see your friend’s favorite artist why not send them a post card?  Since you’re an artist yourself, you can also make your own post cards. If you have better handwriting than me, you can write a special sentence or two just for them. Have your postcards printed with a note that them know they could frame it if they like it. People will often ask me about framing options for my post cards. I point them to the dollar star where they have some really nice frames for a dollar. One of my friends since high school often sends me postcards. They’re just sweet little images that remind her of me.

Try this: Mail something, anything

You could also deisgn a flyer or newsletter and mail that to your contacts. It’s a less personal way to use snail mail and yet could be effective. Use your artistic abilities to make your own holiday cards. This is a time of year when you’re already feeling generous.

Read More

Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

Practical Tips: Artists and Designers Networking Guide Part 2

Artists and Designers Networking Guide:

We looked into how to get started with networking in the first part of this guide and what that really means. I can summarize that post in saying that real and practical networking means to forget about the word “networking” and start concentrating on having real quality relationships. If you have relationships with friends, family, and former coworkers where you’ve already established that you’re freely giving and receiving without pressure. You’re more focused on helping rather than receiving. One of the many parts of your friendship may just be professional or work related, though it isn’t the focus of your connection with any of them.

In the first part, I also introduced social networking’s role in maintaining and creating real life connections. There is an art in conversation to avoid being too pushy or too focused on yourself. You never know what your online interactions will lead to. Here’s a random example of how interacting with Baltimore Magazine’s Facebook page led to my little gem of a comment being printed:

 

Baltimore Magazine consulted the expert on office party etiquette.

A photo posted by – Brian E. Young (@sketcheeguy) on Dec 3, 2014 at 7:18am PST

 

I’m being very practical here because I think this such a vastly misunderstood topic. For part two, I wanted to focus on some real actionable tips that you can do today and everyday. You won’t be able to do all of these every day, though if you create these as frequent habits, you won’t think about the word “networking” much at all. You’ll just live life surrounded by people you care about and who you would help and perhaps could help you.Help people when you have nothing to gain.

How to talk to anyone

The key to talking to anyone is to focus on the other person when possible. I recently listened to the audiobook How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes and that the author’s main advice. How many conversations have you found where you didn’t feel that you were truly listened to? This is a gift we can give others that will help them see that we are their friend. I believe that the trick to focusing on others is becoming truly interested. Find what’s interesting about what they’re saying and lead the conversation there. Give them your undivided attention.

If they ask questions about you, feed their curiosity to do so. This shows that you’re listening and want to give them the information that they desire. 

Dress the part.

 Dress up, wear something that you feel confident in and feel special. Wear something special that people might even ask about so you won’t always be the one approaching them.

Ask for advice.

Others appreciate being seen as an expert, so ask them questions about what they’d recommend you do. This still keeps the focus on the artist and their event rather than making it about you. When asking for advice, try to focus on you’re asking them what you can do for yourself rather than asking for favors. Rather than ask for their help, ask how you can help yourself.

Focus on what you can do for them.

If an opportunity to help others and be a good friend arises, offer. Don’t be pushy. An offer that is turned down easily is seen as sincere! So even “rejection” is an opportunity to show that you’re helpful. You might ask if they have a website. If not and it’s something they want, you can offer to help them build one. Or let them know about a great service that is low maintence.

Be careful about monopolizing time.

Offer to let others out of a conversation if it feels you’ve been talking for a while. This is also a chance to offer to continue the conversation another time. If a phone number sounds more personal than the conversation would allow, ask if they have a website or Twitter or Facebook.

Listen.

Avoid being so overly prepared that you are just trying to talk about your talking points. Allow the other person to share the direction conversation. Be interested  

Send a thank you.

Feel free to contact the artist via social media or even exchange contact information if the conversation is intense enough. 

How to Visit Art Galleries

If you’re near a city or even a fairly well populated area, you’ll have many local art galleries who are open to provide a service to the art community. Galleries have free events, art receptions, and concerts. This is a perfect setting for artists and designers to practice your skills, meet other creatives and talk about your art. The people who attend are already interested in the same things as you. Not only that, you’ll be able to see work to inspire you! I visit the local art galleries whenever I’m in a new town or city. If all else fails, t’s free entertainment.

Here’s an art gallery I visited in Chicago when I was there for a wedding that also sold vinyl, prints and posts from concerts. I had a great conversation about the staff and learned a little bit about the city and the area while I was there. Nothing forced, just natural conversation asking whatever I was curious about.

Show up at art openings and events. Dont expect too much, just brief conversations. Think of this as practice and play Otherwise just enjoy the art! Ask the artist questions about their art, focus entirely on them. Inevitably they may ask a little bit about you, use the chance to have two or three sentences about your artwork. Then gently focus back on them. Stay positive and focus on what you like or love. It may be their sense of color or even their bravery for simply being there

Talk with the gallery owner and staff. They tend to be very passionate about visual work, have a rich background, and a lot of inspiration and advice to give. You might be interested to know about the history of the space, how they decided to be in this career path, or to know what other events they have planned.

Share and talk on social media. Promote the events and shows you think are interesting, just like you do with your favorite restaurant or with other parts of your day. When you visit, take photos for instagram, tweet about the show, and connect. 

Respond to call for artists. Make art and submit to any open calls that interest you. This one isn’t just for artists. Graphic designers take note that many designers create work for shows. If you illustrate or design something interesting, submit it to a show.

How to Volunteer

Look for volunteer work related to art, design or even other unrelated interests. This is a way to meet new people, introduce yourself as an artist. I play piano and often when I was in college would play piano at gallery openings. See my post on why you’d want to be a design volunteer for a more thorough explanation on how to gain work experience, portfolio pieces, education, confidence and friends through volunteer work.

How to Interact with Art Organizations

Find the local art and design organizations in your area. You can volunteer with your local chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, without becoming a member. Many formal and informal organizations post to Craigslist and MeetUp.com with various art related activities as well. A simple google search for local events will give you a ton of ideas about what you can do.

How to Take Classes

They offer classes at galleries, art supply stores at a variety of local businesses. Anywhere you can go and see the same people more frequently will encourage more connection building. Once people are familiar with your face, you’re more likely to easily strike a conversation with them. Even if it’s to say “Hey, we’ve been in this class for a few weeks and haven’t talked! You seem really good at this!” 

How to Freelance

Using freelance and paid side projects can be a great way to network and make money while doing it. Look for companies and organizations with a need and see what you can offer them. This is another place where the local Craigslist comes in handy as well as the major freelance sites. 

Read More

Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

How do you become a prolific artist? 8 secrets no one says outloud

Last month I attempted my first plein air painting in Montrose Park in Washington, DC. I was very nervous and had a lot of doubt: “I’m supposed to be an artist! I have a degree in art! I work as an art director and I’m a good painter. Why is this scary?!”

Whenever we’re doing something new, it’s still a test of wills. The same lessons come back to us every time. No one tells you it’ll be easy, yet they don’t exactly proclaim to you how hard being an artist can be. Here’s the final painting which is no masterpiece and at the same time I learned a ton and felt proud about it:

1. It’s okay to procrastinate

Prolific artists procrastinate. Procrastinating is a form of thinking. You’re doing one thing like watching tv or playing video games, and you’re distracted thinking you could be painting or drawing. It is okay to procrastinate. You’re still thinking about your art. Use whatever you’re doing to find inspiration. Write down any thoughts you might have.  

I thought about plein air painting for years. Even had planned to last fall at a plein air painting event. It started to become a big deal in my head. I thought I needed the right supplies, the absolutely right event, the right motivation, and the right place. It turns out all I needed to do was go outside.

Try this: Write down your goals and ideas. While you’re procrastinating, while you’re in the super market, while you’re at work just stop for a split second and jot down the note such as “I want to paint trees.” “I want to sketch people.” You can use a cellphone app or tweet it or text it to all of your friends. Next time you’re finding yourself free and tempted to reach for your television remote, you’ll be more likely to know that you really would rather sketch and paint.

Read this: Awesome Secrets to Super Inspired Procrastination

“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. What mood is that? Last-minute panic.” Bill Watterson

2. It’s okay to be be messy

Prolific artists make messy sketches and thumbnails. I use stick figures in my thumbnails to quickly get ideas down. Stick figures are a cute and fun way to draw out an idea and not care if it’s a masterpiece. Even though I’m a trained artist with a degree in art and a job in art, I still use stick figures. These poses can be further developed into bigger and better drawings later. Once I see an idea as a concrete thumbnail, it really helps me to get excited about it. 

When I worked on my first plein air painting, I quickly was disheartened by the composition I chose. I didn’t really think about it much. I didn’t do any planning. I just looked in a direction and started making marks with paint. That’s okay! I learned something from that! Next time, it would have been smart to take 60-seconds to scribble down a few different compositions. There is no mistake if we can’t learn from it.

Try this: Take 60 seconds to create 3 thumbnails before making anything “real”. You’ve heard this and yet you still don’t do it. I preach this for years and I still didn’t do it. Practice it, make it routine. It’s just a fun way to break the ice. Don’t look at it as a must, an obligation, or as pressure. This is the fun part where you get to be a child and not care about the result. Make them and ignore them. Make them and learn from them.

Read this: Acrylic Painting Tutorial: How to use thumbnails for inspiration

“We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.” Walt Stanchfield

3. It’s okay to fail

Prolific artists are persistent when facing failure. It’s only a failure if you give up without learning anything. Don’t give into your fear and doubt. Be persistent and decide on the next step. Be nicer to yourself.

After a night of painting, I often will feel discouraged. The painting didn’t look exactly how I imagined it could. The next morning, in the light of day I will look at it and say wow that actually looks pretty cool. It’s different yet something about it works. I’m ready to take last nights failure and make the adjustments needed to get the painting finished.

There is a lot I didn’t like about my first plein air painting. The composition is centered and uninteresting, the colors are brighter than I wanted, and I wish it had more depth. How do I know this? I know it because I tried. I tried and now have something physical to look at. Through those experiences, I’ll have a better idea when I try this again. And I will try it again.

Try this: Fail at something you’re afraid of. If you’re afraid to paint, then paint. I used to be afraid of asking for help at the grocery store. I know it’s silly, there are people there to help you and they’re friendly. Still I was afraid of it. Then I just learned to ask anyway. Whenever you’re afraid and you have all of the reasons that failure is possible, just do it anyway.

Listen to this: Face The Fear of Failure in 6 Steps: The Uncanny Creativity Podcast, Episode 31

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” Octavia E. Butler

4. It’s okay to take breaks

Prolific artists take breaks and then just pick up where they left off. We retain information better when we have space away from it. Ever have trouble remembering something? The best thing to do is to stop focusing on that thought and return to it. What happens is that we focus on the idea that we can’t remember so much that we can’t actually process the memory. We often find things when we aren’t looking for them.

When we’re focused on the thought “I forgot”, “I feel guilty for forgetting”, or some variation, it just makes it that much harder to remember and reinforces our “I have a bad memory” persona. Let go of that! You walk away from that guy at the gym who’s name you forgot, then remember it that night while doing dishes. Yes, this has happened to me.

When I was painting outside in the beautiful park in Washington, DC, it turned out to be insanely helpful to just say to myself “Wow, this is a beautiful day and I’m lucky to be here.” See all that was around me and know that I’m inspired by it all. The memory of that is a good one. Practicing a bit of gratitude can help fix any situation or problem. There’s always a lot to be thankful for, don’t miss it!

Try this: Focus on one task for a block of time. Then take a break. One study shows the best in their field only practice for 90-minute blocks (PDF link). If you are going to return to the task after the break, try to take at least 20 minutes focused on anything else. Do your best to focus on your new task. If your mind wanders back to work, be nice to yourself and bring your attention back to what you’re doing now. If you’re taking your lunch break, you might just focus on the taste, sound, and look of your meal. If your break is another type of work, try to give it your full attention.

Listen to this: Picking Up Where You Left Off: The Uncanny Creativity Podcast, Episode 30

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” Maya Angelou

5. It’s okay to have hope

Prolific artists are positive. Optimism boosts creativity. One of the easiest ways to find a silver lining is to understand what we are grateful for. Yeah somethings in life suck and you’re okay for feeling that way. At the same time, those bad things don’t have to outweigh the good things. A realistic approach is ultimately healthy and positive. Reaching an understanding on how to balance the good and bad thoughts you might have will put you into a better place to make decisions and not cave under pressure.

Now I have a better understanding of how my thoughts and feelings play out when I’m painting in a more public situation. I’m used to painting at home, by myself. The only critic I deal with there is me. Now I understand that the critic even when there are others in the park asking about my work is still just me. Only I give their words any meaning. Most onlookers in a park are probably wishing they were bold enough to be there. By painting, I’m already brave enough to do something that many people never tried. By even reading this article, you’re contemplating ideas that many people would be too afraid to even consider.

Try this: Learn something new. Look at a situation or experience you found challenging and use this as a chance to learn something new. Next time you’re in a similar situation, what will you do differently? The past can’t be changed and the future can.

Read this: You’re not an innovator and you never will be: 7 Reasons

“Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.” – Albert Einstein

6. It’s okay to have bad ideas

Prolific artists create first and judge second. Put an idea down, try it out, see what happens. It’s okay to be average. Your first idea is rarely your best. This is why we sketch (see number 2) so that we can work out the best idea. Even if your best idea was your first one, creating a few bad concepts can solidify your choice and help you feel stronger about your final drawing.

Try this: Brainstorm without judgement. Write down all of your thoughts as a quick list before starting on an intimidating or time-consuming task. The thoughts might be completely related or really stupid. Make a point to include the ones that usually feel very uncomfortable. Facing that discomfort and writing it down is part of the fun. It’s now just words on paper without any meaning.

Read this: 5 Steps to Having More Creative Ideas

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.” Linus Pauling (Nobel Peace Prize winner)

7. It’s okay to improvise

Prolific artists make it up as they go along. We give up the idea of how we once thought it “should” be and move on to how to make things work. Every brush stroke is a fresh start.

I painted my trees, even as I realized the composition didn’t work. I could have left or just started over. Those would have been great ways to improvise too. I just chose to continue and that made all the difference.

Try this: Finish what you start. No matter how you are feeling about a project, rather than give up find a way to complete it. It might be as simple as signing your name and calling it done. Your usual next step doesn’t have to be the next step you take. Do something that isn’t obvious.

Read this: Can Improv Teach Us About Graphic Design?

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” Charles Darwin

8. It’s okay to ask for help

Prolific artists are part of a team. You have a support system, friends, family, coworkers, and a professional network who you can rely on. They may not even be part of your art, they just may help you be a whole person. The people in our lives help us by inspiring us, by helping us with conversations, by showing us love and affection. Having confidence in more parts of life helps us realize our abilities. Be prepared to not get the help you want and still be happy that there is someone who will listen to the question. Ask for exactly what you want and need.

By now you’re probably tired of hearing about how I created that painting. I didn’t do it alone, I am lucky enough to have someone in my life who enjoys painting as much as I do. We went to the park together and created very different work. It’s really nice to just spend time with the people you care about. At the end of the day, it wasn’t about painting at all. That day was about a new experience. Create experiences, not just things and not just images.

Try this: Reach out to someone you love. Provide help, a listening ear, or a fun night out and give them everything they might need. You’ll see how much others love your help and create friendships that will be there when you’re in need too. The idea of reciprocity isn’t to just trade, it’s to give. Create a generous experience together with those you care about. When you’re genuinely interested in others, there is a beautiful impact on those around you.

Read this: 6 DOs and DON’Ts for Killer Creative Teams: Confession of a bad team player

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”  Martin Luther King Jr.

Read More

Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

Acrylic Painting Tutorial: How to use thumbnails for inspiration

Creating a scene can be intimidating when painting. Making thumbnails can help you develop an idea without investing too much time. Sometimes just a simply gesture of a shape or a few messy lines can give you clarity on an image. Instead of trying to picture it in your head, take a few moments to use your sketchbook or scrap paper to make some shapes. In this tutorial, you’ll see how I took a tiny thumbnail in my sketchbook. I used the idea for a drawing which made the final painting very quick to execute. Any questions?

Here is the finished painting, titled “Job Search” (11×14 inches): 

Step 1: Thumbnail

I had this image in my head of a guy wearing a paper hat. Just seemed like a funny thought that could become something. I sketched a few super tiny versions of it. These are only about an inch or two. At this size, you can really just make a few lines and start seeing where they take you. It’s often like seeing shapes in the clouds. I really exageratted the poses, something I’ve been playing around with.

Step 2: Drawing

Using the app Grid Drawing Assistant on my Android tablet, I placed a grid over the original sketch and transferred it to 11×17 paper. So cool these days that you think of app and someone else has already done it. I just wanted to capture the outline and feel of the thumbnail. Only after the composition is roughly sketched in will I worry about correcting the anatomy. The rhythm of the thumbnail is more important to me first.

Step 3: Detailed drawing

I worked on the drawing until it was a full size sketch using a mirror, reference photos, and even real objects in my apartment. You’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll actually save by working out the details in the drawing. When painting, there is color, shape, form, hue, tint and line. Here we get to concentrate on the composition, anatomy and any details 

Step 4: Light

The drawing phase is also a good time to work out some of the basics of the lighting. For this one, I didn’t go too far into those details. If I had found anything complicated or interesting while playing with the image, it would be a good opportunity to work out the forms further.

Step 5: Gesso

Now starting to paint. I often use acrylic paint on bristol board. Gesso the paper, then added burnt umber to the second coat of gesso. If you’ve never used paper, it’s a really fun material for acrylic. Gesso both sides of the paper to make for a more sturdy surface. Adding burnt umber gives a neutral background. This avoids the feeling or work of having to fill the white space.

Step 6: Transfer the drawing

Using the grid again, I transferred the basic outlines to the paper using pencil. This is the same method that I used for transfering the thumbnails. There are a lot of ways to transfer an image, this always felt the simplest to me. Pencil was used here, though a small brush with watered down acrylic would have also worked. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s just a close approximation. You have your original drawing and will continue to match that in paint. Some of the accidental imperfections worked in my favor, making room on the book for a mug that wasn’t in the earlier thumbnail or drawing.

Step 7: Shadows and Highlights

Add the shadows and highlights. I often use various reference images to make sure I have each element to the right proportion and details. I still see some corrections I need to make.

Step 8: Development

The pencil drawing still has a faint grid from transferring from thumbnail, so that’s a big help. I have tablet my for reference photos of anatomy and textures. The book An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists is a very affordable compilation of reference images. I also use a mirror to capture the human form.

Step 9: Underpainting

As I developed the underpainting, I have enough detail to get the idea of most tonal areas. I continue to develop details. Making this version as detailed as possible will help when I add color. Photographing the various steps is also helpful in case you want to see if a decision needs to be reversed.

Step 10: Color

First washes of color. I always keep working on the face throughout the entire painting. Even if some parts of a painting are a little under detailed, that’s okay as long as I have a really sharp and well done face and figure. This part always feels like being a kid with a coloring book

Step 11: Color and detail

At this point, adding more colors. The local colors are mixed with their complimentary colors to create contrasting shadows that are more vibrant and dimensional. 

Side by side with the drawing at the end of the night.

Step 12: Finishing touches

Sharpening the final pieces, working through the backgrounds and making each detail close to the final drawing.

Final drawing

Read More

Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

Inner & Outer Peace: 3 Ways Art Can Help

Sherwood Gardens by Brian E. YoungSaturday, helicopter speakers above my apartment blasted unintelligible words. Streams of protesters took to the streets right outside of my window chanting, drumming together, pleading for hope.

Driving through the streets later that day, I saw many more streams of protesting groups all throughout the city. There has been turmoil and uncertainty here in Baltimore for the past week which was heavily splashed on national news. It’s not a new problem for the city which has a clash of different cultures, income levels, and neighborhood geography.  

In Baltimore’s decidedly upperclass neighborhood of Guilford, there is a beautiful garden of tens of thousands of tulips. While we could think this was an oasis among the trees and mansions of the city, my thoughts drifted as I experimented with my second plein air painting.

Sherwood Gardens is as much an illustration of the national discussion about the city’s inequality as the stretches of vacant homes and food deserts just a mile or two away. How do we appreciate value and beauty during inner and outer turmoil?

 

1. Art Helps with Stress and Anxiety

Visual art’s relationship to anxiety have been studied: increasing positive emotions and reducing stress. This is according to a six month study testing how creative arts intervention can assist cancer caregivers by Barry University School of Nursing. The creative activities were designed to be easily completed while at their loved ones bedside so that the caregiver would be available to assist the family when needed.

Even a family member dealing with care during distressing illness can make time for themselves. The lesson here is that self care can put us in the position to help others. There is evidence that art therapy can ease symptoms in cancer patience themselves as well.

2. Love Helps with Creativity

Our thoughts about love can help us think of new ideas. The hypothesis that romance causes us to think differently was studied at the University of Amesterdam who found love does truly alter our thoughts. The results suggest that romantic thoughts inspire long-term thinking, wishful attachment, and fantasties beyond the present.

How is this linked to our creative passions? The experiments found that love and desire have an influence over how we think of all aspects of our lives. The halo effect that helps us see the positive or even idealized qualities of loved ones also was then shown to apply to unrelated contexts suchas inanimate objects. Thinking about love makes us generally more imaginative.

3. Painting Helps Depression and Fatigue

Weekly art therapy sessions creating paintings in a study at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology resulted in reduced levels of depression during chemotherapy. After only four appointments of art therapy, there was a measurable change in both depression and fatigue. In patients with Parkinsins disease, another study also found positive affects on depression levels. The could be one reason that the most productive artists tend to practice positivity.

 

I’ve often turned to painting as a way to become more introspective about my inner world. I find creating art can be sometimes challenging, yet mostly rewarding and I feel happy about the end results which makes for a better day. Even if the result isn’t always amazing, there still is a certain joy in knowing I tried. I don’t think that my painting of Sherwood Gardens in my favorite. Getting out of my comfort zone and attempting plein air painting created for me a chance to try some new techniques and see the city of Baltimore in a new way during a week of protesting and riots. We know that our creative habits can impact our levels of creativity. Painting channeled my energy and thoughts into something visual. This painting has already began to inspire some new ideas for future paintings.

Has your art helped you in times of stress and anxiety? Do you think you’re more creative when you’re in love? Try out some of these ideas and let us know how they worked for you in the comments.

Read More

Sketchee-Design-orange1920x1024

How to Finish What You Started: Uncanny Creativity 33

Play Podcast in New Window | Download Episode

Kari E. McLean (‏@MsMcLean1) shared How to Collaborate More Effectively on twitter. I replied asking her if she had any thoughts to add:

@sketchee Yes: Getting on the same page from the start. Liked yr thoughts on listening, collective intelligence, & constructive criticism”

Cameron Sutter wrote in response to Fear of Failure:

“Fear of failure is one of my favorite things to talk about. So many people’s creativity is crippled by that fear. Usually they don’t even start, but lots of time they start and then don’t finish. It takes real moxy to go for your goals and push past that fear to a complete product.”

“Creativity Inc. has some great words to say about the fear of failure. “When it comes to creative endeavors, the concept of zero failures is worse than useless. It is counterproductive.” — Ed Catmull”

“We have to fail in order to succeed or else we aren’t doing anything meaningful. The cost of failure is an investment in our future (paraphrased from Ed Catmull).”

Last fall I showed some of my art work and fashion design work at a local art gallery and promoted it to my coworkers. I majored in fine art and painting. I only took up sewing a year before the show, making my own clothes and wearing them. To me it just seemed like a fun way to go having custom shirts and pants in fabrics I picked out. Didn’t seem like people noticed I made my own things or tailored my clothes. My coworker cut out a quote from Matisse in a magazine that said “It Takes Courage to Be Creative”. I loved that.

Let’s figure out why you’re not finishing and find your courage to be creative. Why aren’t you taking the next step. Each of the following tips asks first why and then how to tackle that roadblock.

1. Is it perfectionism?

Perfection is impossible. Set a deadline or a certain number of hours. Whatever is done at the end of the deadline is it.  With my art I love the site Illustration Friday because it gives you one week to start and finish a project. When we did drawing classes in school, we’d do a series of short five or ten poses to sketch. Try setting small goals that you know you can easily finish. 

Another aspect of perfectionism is not realizing all that you did accomplish. You made it this far, you bought your supplies, you started a project. You woke up this morning, you tied your shoe laces. You finish things all the time. Perfectionism is an excuse,

2. Is it not sticking to your deadlines?

An external deadline helps! Tell your friends, family, social networks that you’re starting a project and you’re going to finish it by that date. You might even have set deliverables, like daily or weekly progress reports. However, this isn’t about having other people police you. Be accountable to yourself and be prepared to let other people witness your how you do with that.

3. Is it time management?

Making a specific schedule or plan is often very difficult for a lot of people. I’ve struggled with it, I’m sure we all have. One way to manage this is to set a frequency in your head and stick to it. You might make a mark in your sketchbook daily for ideas.

4. Is this a priority?

Is this a project you actually care about? It’s okay to not finish artwork or a design or move on. Leave it as is Just call it done as is, sign it, and hang it on your fridge. Imagine you received a C in math in high school, yet high school is over. So is this painting. Would you spend your life regretting it?

5. Do you have a clear and attainable goal?

If you’re goal is to create the Sistine Chapel and be the next Michaelangelo, it’s time to get real. Look at your current set of skills, pick one thing that you’re trying to learn on this project and then try at it until you know more than you did at the start. Learning doesn’t mean being the greatest master of all time. It just means getting something out of it. Change what it means to finish. Take some time to think about what finishing really means to you. Be okay and even happy with where you are and trust your future self to make it even further.

6. Are you afraid to handle criticism?

You’re already handling criticism at this point, it’s just that it’s coming from your own thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t you though and they are often fear. Rather than fear judgement learn to embrace it. For more the episode I did with in depth tips for handling criticism will be linked in the show notes on uncannycreativity.com. As I said then, be positive, listen carefully. Your reaction to criticism is a choice, you also are allowed internally decide that certain views aren’t worth dealing with. Just be polite, thank people for looking at your work and move on. What other people say is often just as much about them as it is about you. Not everyone will like you and even if they love you, they might not like your work. That’s not personal, that’s just who they are.

7. Are you too ambitious?

Knowing what you  know now, was it even possible to finish any sooner?

8. Have you started to second guess your idea?

When you started this was an idea you loved. Your painting was going to be the best, funniest, coolest, and awesomest. Now as you face challenge after challenge you’re wondering if it’s all worth it. The time for ideas is over however, so move forward and just take step by step.

9. Is it the fear of failure?

When dealing with the fear of failure, I recommend these six steps:

Step 1: Test the beliefs that cause you fear.

Step 2: Learn from where you are, ask why or how.

Step 3: Be positive and grateful that you were in the position to go as far as you have.

Step 4: Identify your fears.

Step 5: Figure out another step that you’re willing to take

Step 6: Be kind to yourself.

10. Are you overwhelmed?

Just take a single step. A small stroke. And if that’s as far as you can go, then stop and call it finished. Quitting and finishing are often the exact same thing. It’s okay to just finish and decide to end where you are.

If you like this show, do me a favor and share it!

Uncanny Creativity is an art and design productivity podcast helping you to be more imaginative everyday. Brian E. Young is a magazine art director and artist in Baltimore, Maryland. If you have a design and creativity question I can help answer, send me your letters by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.

Read More