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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.

40 Guidelines for Composing a Landscape Painting

When creating artwork, finding the flaws in your own work can be difficult.  Furthering your understanding what works and what doesn’t can make this process far less frustrating.  The tutorial on art destination site and forum Wetcanvas has demystified the most common problems. From the article, by Johannes Vloothuis:

“I have put together a series of “ rules” (I’d prefer the word, tips) of composition that when used properly should reduce the flaws in your landscape paintings. These are a compilation of what appears in most books on composition plus some of my own ideas. A word of caution; do not allow these to hinder your work. They are to help you out when you are in doubt on where to place diverse elements in your work. Rules are made to be broken, in which case you should at least know what rule you are breaking and why and not err due to insufficient knowledge. There are 23 pages so get a cup of coffee and prepare yourself for a long haul.”

Landscape Composition Rules (wetcanvas.com)

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

Is your graphic design work a mess?

Seeing these examples brings back memories… Clean Up Your Mess is a site that explains the most universal principle rules for design out there. Sure, what really makes great design has changed with fashion and fads. These rules are timelesss, however.  They can be broken. Often it’s not worth the risk and more times than not fails.

I remember working as a newspaper ad designer over four years ago. The sales and design staff were totally separate. The sales staff was put into the position to care only about making their commission. It didn’t matter if the retailers who bought ads had a successful ad. One that had impact. Designers weren’t given the access to make recommendations.  So usually the ads requested by the sales staff and retailers were listings and heads. Way too much content. Oh, and it all had to “stand out”.  Put this in a burst? Put this in a box? More typefaces please? If only there was a way to get them to clean up the mess.

Clean Up Your Mess, A guide to visual design for everyone (visualmess.com), discovered via Lifehacker

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

Want to be in the next inspiration and artist profile post?

This is a new upcoming feature on my blog. Every once in a while I’ll post a round up of the best in typography, design, painting and illustration.  How do you get featured?  Just join my new flickr group, Uncanny Creativity and add your artwork. Make sure you tag it appropriately. 

You can also go there to talk to your fellow artists and designers and discover even more work for yourself.  Tell your friends to join too!

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

Is Print Dead? (Infographic)

We all know the newspaper industry has been hit long before the economic downturn of 2009.  As a magazine designer for a newspaper company, I was curious about how the industry is doing as a whole: What parts of the industry have the most growth?  Where are the jobs?  Is employment falling?  How do books, magazines, and newspapers compare with “new media”?

Here are some stats showing a few of the more interesting sectors packaged with some editorial illustration. Make sure you check out the references for links to more numbers coming out of the industry.


Embed this graphic on your site:

Print isn’t dead. The classic rules of newspaper layout can also teach us about graphic designer: the best newspaper page designs have clear headlines, excellent flow, relate photos to their stories and have informative captions that add more to the related stories.

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