Escape the Comfort Zone: Uncanny Creativity 41

Making art often means getting out of the comfort zone.

Alan Henry of Lifehacker explains the science of breaking out of your comfort zone:

Routine and patterns minimize risk. Making something scares us. Creating something inherently feels risky. Who knows if it’ll be good?

The comfort zone feels happy with low anxiety and low stress. This is why most people never make anything.

Optimal Anxiety

Slight anxiety helps us. “Optimal Anxiety” increases performance. Too much stress and we do poorly. Comfort is the opposite of productivity. Volunteering as a designer helps me escape my routine. It can feel stressful, yet also I’m helping people.

Regularly facing fear in controlled ways prepares you better for out of control problems according to researcher Brene Brown:

Try this: Venture a new medium, performance art, visual arts, practice new tips. Small tweaks to normal ways of producing art involve exploring your curiosity.

Productive Discomfort

It gets easier to push boundaries the more you do it. Alina Tugend describes this effect of “Productive Discomfort” for the New York Times.

It’s easier to brainstorm if you’re seeking new experiences, new skills. You get used to looking at the world in new ways and question confirmation bias. Old problems will seem new.

Try this: Do old things differently. New restaurants, drive a new route, switch out apps you normally use.

Take small steps

Avoid putting things off. Keep a list of “someday maybes”. Review it regularly to see if they match with your schedule. Always wanted to paint dogs or nudes? What’s the next small step to make that happen.

Take small steps. Set small actions. Weekly daily. Think big in the long-term and small in the short-term. If you want to have a huge gallery show, first you need to slowly make painting
Try this: find clarity through action.

Remember to return to your comfort zone. Have rituals that you return to for comfort.

Try this: Slow down or speed up on decisions that you have to make. Be more spontaneous in areas where you’re usually very planned. Try being more calculated in the parts where you usually are carefree

The Sweet Spot Between Overconfidence and Anxiety

Optimal levels of anxiety tested as middle range by scientist, Business Insider explains. If we’re overconfident, there may not exist enough anxiety to focus and perform the task at hand. With too much anxiety, we’ll have trouble performing even basics of tasks. Self-described worriers tended to have “high levels of brain activity when they made mistakes”. The test became difficult compared to those with less anxiety.

Try this: Actively Practice worrying less. Actively practice worrying less. Working out. Meditate. Question and answer the facts behind your worry. Practice optimism. Seek help – friends, family, therapy.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

When Creativity Feels Hard, Take Action

You might think being creative on demand is “hard”. Here’s what I’ve learned on the job.

I’m sad that society heavily sells this idea that creativity is “too hard” That we are constantly being indoctrinated into it. Adults spout tropes about the difficulty of creativity, sounding like children talking about monsters under their bed. No evidence of a monster, just fear. (See also: Face the Fear of Failure)

Hard is one of my least favorite words. Most of the time considering difficulty is impractical. When you catch yourself doing it, take it as a sign to practice. Pondering how easy or difficult a task manifests as a common procrastination habit. We place mental blocks in front of our own goals to protect us from imagined outcomes.

Anyone who got to the point where they could read this has already tackled countless difficult tasks.

Fairly early in my career, a more experienced designer told me starting with a blank page is the hardest part of the job.

So I’ve found to make it easy, at the beginning of a project I focus on the most practical parts of it. Break apart the project. Open a document. Get the size right. Put something on the page without judgment.

If it’s a particularly creatively challenge project, I name the file “Project Name Ideas”. Then it’s a super judgment-free space.

If you know any text or ideas for text, put it on the page. If it’s even more intimidating, scribble some messy thoughts on paper.

Sometimes just drawing boxes or grabbing a photo or texture works. Or make a list of steps.

Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Look at inspiration and try using very specific parts of what you like in your own idea. Draw from a few inspirations and try getting them to mesh together

Try out the bad ideas too. Afraid of becoming unoriginal? Copy something and then try to fix it until it’s unique. Make something hideous and see if you can fix that too. Even at your worst, you’ll have some usable thoughts.

The important part I’ve found is to show your work. If someone could see you, could they describe an action? Thinking is not an action in itself.

Think through actions and through making.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How to Plan Then Execute Goals: Free Downloadable

As artists, when we’re setting our daily, monthly, and years goals it can be a pain to figure out where to start. Maybe you’ve read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen and looking for a refresher. Maybe this is entirely new to you. Either way, the Get It Done downloadable poster pdf is the perfect way to get your goals in motion. Making decisions can be daunting, here’s a Choose Your Own Adventure style strategy for making it less stressful:

Get It Done Process Poster: Based on the Book Getting Things Done

Get It Done Process Poster: Based on the Book Getting Things Done

Capture: Where do you start? Anywhere! Write down anything and everything related your goals. Keep an ongoing list as you live your life. “Do laundry.” “Answer Joan’s email.” “Talk to Tim about the Johnson Report.” There are tons of list apps for any technology platform. Everyone has their favorites. If you’re a paper and pencil kind of person, that’s always an option too. Capture thoughts as you work to keep them out of your mind. If you have a thought on how you get your ideas down, please share in the comments.

Is it actionable? As you decide whether a task is actionable, try to think of the smallest practical task. Think of a task in a way that’s big enough that you’re not wasting time listing the baby steps. And yet not so large as to make the task overwhelming. “Write the Johnson Report” would be a great project, not a task. Smaller tasks make up a project when a goal is too big to be a single task. What’s needed for your report? Who do you need to talk to? Think your goal out as much as you possibly can. For any task that tasks less than two minutes or so, just knock it out and cross the item off your list right way.

Smaller tasks make up a project when a goal is too big to be a single task. What’s needed for your report? Who do you need to talk to? Think your goal out as much as you possibly can. For any task that tasks less than two minutes or so, just knock it out and cross the item off your list right way. If an item is not now actionable, then:

Forget it: If the idea is something that would be nice and at the same time does not need to get done, is it best to forget it completely? Maybe you don’t need to talk to Tim about the report after all. His insights would be nice to have and still are not completely necessary. Drop the idea from your list. You might also change your original task at this point. Perhaps you’ll just email Tim thanking him for offering to talk your idea through. Let him know that due to time constraints you’re going to give it a go and if a stall happens you’ll check in.

You might also change your original task at this point. Perhaps you’ll just email Tim thanking him for offering to talk your idea through. Let him know that due to time constraints you’re going to give it a go and if a stall happens you’ll check in.

Someday/Maybe List: For tasks that are so low priority that you’d like to revisit them later and have no clear or necessary deadline, add them here. Perhaps you’re okay with a messy desk for a while. Someday you’ll organize things and for now, you can live with it.

Reference: Save the thought for reference. Perhaps this bit of information you captured isn’t necessarily something you need to act on. If the idea appears useful for your tasks, save the thought in a place that’ll you’ll be able to find it quickly. Many of my reference ideas end up being useful when I’m writing blog posts and emails

Right away? If the idea is an actionable task, the next question is whether a task must be done by you. If so, if it’s possible and necessary to do right away. This means that it’s a high priority task! Add the task to your “To Do/Action List” as a top priority. If the task is not necessarily a top priority task, consider your options:

Someday/Maybe List: See above. Send the task back up to the maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow list!

Delegate: Is this task better suited for someone else? That coworker who’s playing solitaire might want to feel useful. This also could refer to hiring a temp, freelance, or full-time employee if no one is around. If you can afford a housekeeper, you might delegate some of your cleaning. We live in a service economy, don’t feel as if you must do it all! Schedule a time to follow-up and let those you delegate tasks know that you are available

Schedule It: Add the task to your calendar. Today’s lower priority might be tomorrow’s number one task! This is also great for tasks that are better suited for certain days. Save that discussion for your weekly team meeting or quarterly review if it makes more sense. Call back your mom when you’re having a less busy day or during lunch.

Scheduling is a very powerful tool! I always schedule haircuts, dentist appointments, get-togethers with friends,  and anything else I can! Also schedule reminders and conversations. I like to check in at some point before meetings to make sure that it’s still a good date. Also, schedule a time to check your tasks. At work, I like to do a quick check in the morning and after lunch.

Waiting List: If you’re waiting for a response, for files, or any other information then the Waiting List is where you’ll want to keep such tasks. If there’s a certain point where a Waiting List item becomes more critical, add it to your schedule. Wait and if you don’t hear back from Cindy in a week, you can schedule a follow up email. This is a powerful place to keep items that need some attention eventually, and that you can forget about for now.

Organize: There are many ways to organize all of your information. Calendars, lists, and apps are all popular goal trackers. Decide on rules keep these categories separate. You’ll be able to find clear answers as you work and keep moving. Always know what your highest priority task is! If you don’t, go back through the above steps.

Get it done! Work through your tasks in order of priority, one tiny step at a time. If thoughts pop into your head, capture them. Feel free to get back to that idea later unless you’re sure the thought is more important than what you’re doing. What steps add to your creative process? Let’s talk about your goals in the comments!

Get It Done: Download the Free Poster as a PDF

How to Plan and Execute Your Goals: Free Downloadable

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How to Edit Out Glare From Glasses Using Photoshop

Picture source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/877183

As you can see in this picture, there is a lot of glare in this boy’s glasses. Although it may be tricky, you can remove the glare using Photoshop.

Step One: The Tools

There are a couple of tools that people like to use to remove glare: The clone stamp tool and the healing brush. The shortcut for the clone stamp tool is “S” and the shortcut for the healing brush is “J”. For both tools, you need to collect a sample area. Press the ALT key to select a part of the picture that you want to copy over the glare with. Ideally, you want the sample area to be very close to the affected area. That way the same color and texture is being copied over. It’s important to take very short strokes and keep selecting new sample areas as you progress.

The clone stamp only fixes the affected area with the source sample. The healing brush takes some of the texture that surrounds the affected area and mixes it with the source sample. That is the only difference between the healing brush and the stone clamp tool. You should experiment with both because not every picture can be cured using the same methods from previous projects.

To effectively remove glare, you want to use these tools in very short strokes and the picture should be zoomed in to work more efficiently.

If an eye was affected by glare, I would copy the other eye to place over the glared eye and touch it up with the healing brush or clone stamp tool. However, both eyes are glare-free, so it is not necessary for me to make copied selections of an eye.

Step Two: The Process

Select the clone stamp tool and make a copied layer of the original. You always want to save your work to protect your project. You want to make the first copied layer to work with. Save the original for reference and backup.

Zoom in until you feel like you have enough canvas to work with. Your canvas should primarily consist of the glare and sample sources you can use to remove the glare. If there is too much glare, you may to select some copies of similar skin textures with the lasso tool to place over the glare. Since there are a lot of sample sources in this picture, I did not need to select copies of skin.

Make sure you zoom out once in a while to see how your work is going. You may need to backtrack and redo some parts. By now, I have used both tools, but I’m primarily sticking with the clone stamp tool. The healing brush is taking texture samples that do not mix well.

Make sure the new skin tone matches other skin tones around it. If it doesn’t, the picture won’t look authentic. You may want to lower the opacity of the clone stamp tool to help the skin tones blend and match.

Step Three: The Finishing Touches

About midway through it, I made another copied layer. It acted like a “save point.” The boy’s right eyebrow was the hardest to effectively fix since there was not much sample sources for it.

I used the healing brush for a couple of spots near the frame. For the most part, I just made sure that the skin tones were even.

Removing glare may be a little tricky for beginners, but with enough practice, it is possible. Not every picture can be treated the same way, so it’s important to learn different ways to remove glare. One technique I did not use was copying other patches of skin or textures. This can be an effective way to remove glare as well.

Sara Roberts writes for Just Eyewear, a discount eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses online retailer.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Illustration Ideas Step by Step

Thinking of new ideas for your artwork is certainly tough. Image block when you’re on a deadline is tough. It’s hard to think of a new, fresh idea with that kind of pressure. Luckily, illustrator Nate Williams was willing to share his secret for tackling the problem on his blog:

“A lot of the time when I create an editorial illustration an idea just pops into my head … but sometimes this does not happen, so I have this little methodology for creating new ideas that has helped me time and time again.

The idea behind this methodology is similar to writing a song. There are only a few musical notes, but by rearranging their order, length and speed you can create an infinite amount of songs.”

A methodology for creating new ideas (http://www.n8w.com)

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Tips for Designing an Annual Report

The annual report is an important communication between a company and its shareholders. Typically the report discusses the progress of the business and instills confidence in its investors and officers. Because this is a crucial publication it is vital that the annual report inspires optimism in its future.

Design Showpiece

For many companies, the annual report is a design showpiece. Even if your company has experienced some difficult economic times, don’t cut costs in producing the annual report. Take the time and money necessary to describe what the company has accomplished during the year, and let the quality of the production reflect the success of the business. Since the annual report is a once a year publication, use all the company resources to make it reflect excellence.

Appropriate Look

Make sure the overall look of the annual report reflects the nature of the company. A law office annual report looks much different from a bakery franchise annual report. An upscale and conservative business such as a finance or mortgage company needs to have an annual report that uses a professional and high-end design.

Professional Branding

Utilize the logo and branding colors of the company or business throughout the annual report design. Consistent use of branding elements in company publications inspires confidence and helps to build the reputation of the business.

Make it Personal

Consider using photographs of employees and officers in the annual report. Using real people in this vital publication instills a sense of personal investment in the company and makes the annual report more believable. Think about hiring a professional photographer to take pictures of employees in their work environment rather than standard head shots. Further illustrate the success of the company in the annual report using appropriate and meaningful charts and graphs.

Balance the Content

The ideal annual report design utilizes a balanced amount of images and text. Use words as well as images to convey how far your company has come in one year. Consider hiring a professional copywriter who understands how to work with a designer to make the annual report worthy of attention and respect.

Paper Matters

Choose paper and cover stock that helps to describe the business. Select a heavier paper card stock for the cover of the annual report in a color that reinforces the graphic identity of the business. Make sure the interior paper compliments the cover and the design of the interior of the report.

Take the time to make the high-quality and professional annual report that investors and financiers look forward to receiving every year.

This is a guest post provided by Snap: “Looking for a professional print design company to assist with your annual report design? For those who like the flexibility of creating their own brochures and business stationery, Snap created an online web-to-print solution that’s quick and easy to use. Because at Snap, we do more.”

 

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.