52 Podcasts That Inspire My Creativity & Productivity

Podcasts I listen to:

  1. Feeling Good – Psychiatrist and Author David Burns discusses mood improvement tips and exercises.
  2. Happier with Gretchen Rubin – Gretchen (author of The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies) and her sister Elizabeth Craft (TV writer) discuss habits
  3. Happier in Hollywood – Liz Craft and Sarah Fain discuss the struggles as TV writers in the male-dominated entertainment industry.
  4. Awesome Etiquette – The great-grandchildren of etiquette author Emily Post discuss modern manners in the digital age based on the tenants of consideration, respect, and honest.
  5. Getting Things Done – Productivity tips from author and consultant David Allen.
  6. TED Radio Hour – TED Talks adapted for audio
  7. The James Altucher Show
  8. The Upgrade by Lifehacker
  9. Slate’s Dear Prudence – Life advice from columnist Mallory Ortberg
  10. Windows Weekly – I’m both a Mac and Windows user. Power tips for power users of Microsoft’s operating syste
  11. Pop Culture Happy Hour
  12. InDesign Secrets
  13. By The Book – Jolenta Greenberg and her  friend Kristen Meinzer live by the practices of a self-help book each episode to find out which ones might work
  14. Hidden Brain
  15. HBR IdeaCast – Business and management ideas from Harvard Business Review.
  16. PBS NewsHour – Rated as one of the more objective sources of news coverage.
  17. Hello From the Magic Tavern – A man falls through a dimensional portal behind a Burger King into a magic land filled with wizards, magical monsters, and adventurers. Starring Chicago Improvisers.
  18. That’s How I Remember It – Actors flawlessly recreate perfectly exactly movies they’ve seen and haven’t seen from memory on the spot.
  19. A Way with Words – A call-in show about the English language linguistics, slang, new words, jokes, word games, grammar, regional dialects and word history.
  20. The Marie Forleo Podcast
  21. Radical Candor – Workplace advice
  22. I Hate My Boss – Workplace advice
  23. The Dinner Party Download
  24. If I Were You
  25. Dear Sugars
  26. Get-Done Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More
  27. The Savvy Psychologist’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Mental Health
  28. Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
  29. The Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Eating Well and Feeling Fabulous
  30. Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a Richer Life
  31. Planet Money
  32. Freakonomics
  33. Recode Decode with Kara Swisher
  34. Recode Media with Peter Kafka
  35. Katie Couric
  36. Judge John Hodgman
  37. Anna Faris Is Unqualified
  38. The Backline – An Improv Podcast
  39. This Week in Google
  40. All About Android
  41. The Accidental Creative
  42. Side Hustle School
  43. The Mortified Podcast
  44. Schmanners
  45. Myths and Legends
  46. Hannah and Matt Know It All
  47. Improv Nerd with Jimmy Carrane
  48. improv4humans with Matt Besser
  49. The American Life
  50. Design Matters with Debbie Millman
  51. Marvel Cinematic Universe – Covering Marvel Comics films.
  52. FiveThirtyEight – Politics through the eyes of statistics and probability

Also check out my podcast Uncanny Creativity. What are your favorite podcasts? Any I missed that need to be included?

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

What are the most common graphic design mistakes?

Commercial design, as creative as the field is at its best, is about business as much as any other job. We have a reputation to uphold with clients, coworkers, and employees. While design itself is often subjective, addressing the most universal business concerns will get more people on board with your visuals. What are some of the most common mistakes made by working graphic designers?

The biggest error we make is to choose style over substance. Yes, we’re artists and ultimately really want to be able to make clean and cool designs. That is at the heart of our goal and we are trusted to make that happen in any circumstance.

When the client doesn’t like our initial idea, we ask respectful questions to understand their point of view and do our best to make it work. We kindly explain some of the basic thought behind our design decisions: white space helped this page look less cramped, the muted colors were chosen as not to distract from the quality photography, etc. Present yourself as a problem solver and at the same time acknowledge that these aren’t the only solutions to these problems. The visual communication tools we rely on may not be the biggest concerns of your client or their audience.

We can take the role to inform others about how design can be a useful tool for their business and bottom line. To be able to do this, we have to listen more than we speak. How can we propose solutions if we don’t listen to the other person’s problems? If we hear that this person is very concerned about their event deadline and respond with color and negative space, how are they going to feel taken care of? In that example, we might mention how discussing the basic design goals is the next step to move forward. Frame your goals in sincere terms of how it helps them.

Other practical mistakes that you can look out for are the basic specs of each job. These are the types of things that can save you and your associates money and build a better reputation. Check for low resolution images, exacting consistency (spacing, type size, typefaces), bleeds. If any of these issues require intervention from the client or colleagues be a neutral messenger explaining why this is an issue, the consequences of not addressing it, and clear next steps for them or you to follow.

Learn when and how to say no when you firmly believe anything doesn’t work and kindly provide a proposed solution. On the other side of the spectrum, practice accepting the word no from others when other solutions than yours are possible even if they are less desirable. If you’re not sure how to handle a situation, seek out advice. Build time in your schedule from the beginning for everyone involved to be able to review and resolve any issues. You don’t know what will go wrong, however something will and you’ll want to create time to fix it from the very beginning.

Any sane professional will want to support a colleague who prizes manners and etiquette. Even the less sane professionals will appreciate being treated as if they are sane.

Tweet this post: “Any sane professional will support a colleague who prizes manners and etiquette.” @sketchee on #designer errors http://ctt.ec/bZQ7y+

Readers, what designer mistakes have you encountered?

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

Acrylic Painting Tutorial: How to Paint a Composite Image

You’ve seen modern artists use tools like Photoshop to composite images. The tools may have changed, and at the same time creating compositing isn’t an entirely new thing. For centuries, artists including DaVinci, Michelangelo, Escher, Norman Rockwell, and Leyendecker have taken objects and changed the setting, lighting, backgrounds and composition. In more recent years, comic book artists are known to create huge narratives every month filled with detailed objects and scenes. For books on how comic artists create their visuals, along with information on anatomy and drawing basics, I’d suggest How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way and Drawing Dynamic Comics. I refer to these for a lot of my painting designs and poses.

Mona Lisa probably wasn’t sitting out in nature the way DaVinci depicted her. In painting the Sistine Chapel, standing on a scaffold with the speed limitations of fresco painting’s drying plaster, Michelangelo wouldn’t have the time to observe angels in the heavens even if such a thing did exist. Escher’s impossible perspectives were inspired by the architecture and landscapes of Italy, although he was unable to live there during most of his life. Rockwell relied on live models and created his scenes as close as possible in real life, though like most illustrators, there was a lot of liberties taken right on the page. All of these artists relied heavily on their own sketches and studies.

Leyendecker detailed his process which is similar to many artists especially before the advent of photography: “First make a number of pencil or charcoal studies. Select the most promising and on a sketch canvas do these in full color, oil or water with plenty of detail. Keep an open mind and be alert to capture any movement or pose that may improve your original idea.” Personally, as you will see below, I may tend to skip this level of detail and just work things out on my final painting just because of my own lack of patience.

“You may now dismiss your model, but be sure you have all the material needed with separate studies of parts to choose from, for you are now on your own and must work entirely from your studies,” Leyendecker continues. “This canvas will somewhat resemble a picture puzzle, and it is up to you to assemble it and fit it into your design at the same time simplify wherever possible by eliminating all unessentials. All this is done on tracing paper and retraced on the final canvas.” Sometimes I will use the grid method or most often freehand rather than use tracing paper.

Tutorial

For the painting in this demo, I used a mirror with my own reflection, several reference photos some of which I had taken myself (of myself), and some real life objects for the still life elements. This was done on bristol paper which was coated with gesso. First I start with a very rough underpainting to lay out the elements of the composition. I wish I had photographed the initial strokes in a thin wash of purple acrylic.

Step 1:

First, I covered the entire surface with a thin wash of color. A more neutral surface is created and covering the white surface at a later time while trying to avoid your strokes can feel tedious. You can use pencil and sometimes I do, though it takes more work to cover it up later. Dilute your paint with water and you can draw with enough detail. You can also wipe off the paint with water before it’s fully dry if you need to.

Step 2:

Continuing with detail and mapping out values. This is pretty much just drawing and sketching. If you were following Leyendecker’s method, you may have already mapped this out in a study or sketch. I didn’t do this and worked out the details here. For this underpainting (or grisaille), I decided on dioxazine purple and titanium white. Purple under paintings are popular in watercolor to create depth when painted over. The color you choose for the underpainting will likely interact with your finished colors.

Step 3:

I chose this purple because it’s a color I often mix into my shadows as it’s can be very dark and near black. The idea being that it’s such a dominant color in my scheme that it makes sense to start there. Other popular options for value studies include mixing titanium white (or white gesso) with burnt umber, raw sienna, or mars black. You can also choose two complimentary colors to work with against white. Yellow and purple for instance. This seems a bit complicated for me when I’m just trying to draw.  Experiment in your sketchbook or on scrap to see how these create different effects. Browns are my other favorite method.

Step 4: 

The more finished the underpainting, the less thought you’ll have to do when it’s time for color. It’s never too late to make huge corrections or changes, however. It’s just paint and can be painted over. After I’m satisfied with the basics of the composition, I look closer at anatomy and work out some of the more important details. Fashion photos helped me pick out the shirt. Google Images and Pinterest are ideal for this stuff. If you have it in life, that’s ideal.

 

Step 5:

 

Most importantly at this point are the values of light and dark. I like to place light areas “behind” my dark areas. Dark areas are also “behind” my light areas. This can be subtle or obvious. The contrast in value between two areas is what creates the illusion of a line without literally creating an outline stroke.

Step 6:

In starting with color, I decided on a yellow shirt since it’s the compliment of purple. Using the compliment of a color in it’s shadows makes for more interesting shadows and creates more contrast than a pure neutral. For the skin tones, I did a simple wash of greens first as skin tones are heavily loaded with reds. (Point being that green and red are compliments.) For the brown hair, I decided to use blue with highlights of orange to create a varied brown. The theme of the foreground colors is warm tones. When applying color, thin washes are often useful so you can still use your underpainting as a guide. This isn’t always possible and that’s when having a photo of your underpainting or a nearly complete sketch is helpful. Thin washes also help to hide brushstrokes and create smoother DaVinci-like “sfumato” style painting. A wash of paint along the hard edges will create soft edges.

 

Step 7:

The blue translucent plate is just a matter of painting two images on top of each other, the wood of the table and the definition of the plate. With the right balance, you’ll have what appears to be a blue plate.

Step 8: 

Since the foreground is heavily doused in warm tones, it only follows that the background is cool. Cool tones recede into the background naturally, which is an effect called atmospheric perspective. Note that I made a number of corrections as I worked and didn’t rely solely on the underpainting. Taking photos at various stages and comparing tones to the final colors also helped as I work out the colors at appropriate values and contrast. Each local color is worked with it’s compliment. Colors also reflect nearby objects so they feel like they are in the same space. Note the yellow of the table near the yellow shirt.

Finally the finished painting. Is this what you imagined it would look like based on the underpainting?

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

Quotes to help you have more fun

A few quotes that help me have more fun:

When overgeneralizing, be curious about what’s new and different:
“All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” Alexandre Dumas fils

When it’s all or nothing, explore the what’s in between:
“We must stand firm between two kinds of madness: the belief that we can do anything; and the belief that we can do nothing.” Alain

When magnifying the bad and minimizing the good:
“Disappointment is really just a term for our refusal to look on the bright side.” Richelle E. Goodrich

Jumping to conclusions and imagining the other’s thoughts and possible terrible futures, be present:
“Our busy minds are forever jumping to conclusions, manufacturing and interpreting signs that aren’t there.” Epictetus

When emotional reasoning, look for truth:
“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” Christopher Hitchens / Hitchens’s razor. (Latin proverb “Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur”, “What is freely asserted is freely dismissed.”)

When “should” clouds your expectations, stop resisting:
“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

When labels feel true:
“People are too complicated to have simple labels.” Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

When blame, comparison and guilt cloud your senses:
“Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

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

Review: Bienfang Watercolor Brush Pens

After a month or two of trying out these Bienfang Watercolor Brush Pens, I’m fairly impressed. With caveats. What are they? They’re a set of marker-like brushes filled with thin paint. Squeeze the handles and paint comes into the brushes. 

Sure, they look like brushes and you can do some watercolor effect type things. However, they are not watercolors and have to be used as their own medium. I think that’s part of the fun of the product! They’re somewhere in between markers and paints. Perfect for travelling with my sketchbook and adding touches of color.

A few tips for using them:

  • Work from light colors to dark. They’re fairly permanent and you can cover up your earlier drafting if you keep it light.
  • Give up on the idea of emulating local color. A green object is going to need white and yellow highlights and some red and brown shadows. I even just use the colors for their values often and forget about local color altogether.
  • Read the instructions. The instructions have a few tips for blending and smoothing things out. Using wet paper, the blending brush provided and lots more.

 

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