What advice would you give on finding inspiration to create original artwork? It would be greatly appreciated! I'm young and have no idea on what my career path is. I have talent but I feel like I have to force ideas. You're such an inspiration!
Creative junk food and the quest for deliciousness.
The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
C. G. Jung
When I think about my creative process, I’m usually in one of two modes: divergent or convergent.
Divergent energy is like a light that shines bright. It flows. It plays. It knows no boundaries. Divergent thinking gets ideas moving. It un-funks and un-blocks and gives us permission to make a big ole damn mess. It suspends judgement and encourages us to let go, to free fall. Divergent energy craves quantity over quality. It is especially effective early on in a project — or in life for that matter. For people who crave control, seek predetermined results and hate vulnerability, I have two creative methods especially for you.
First, the Really Cool Shit folder.
I have a folder on my desktop where I dump every image I see online that speaks to me. It could be a bespoke logo; it could be a memorable color; it could be a beautiful woman. If it moves me in some way, it goes in the folder — no questions asked. This morning I printed out a few hundred images contact-sheet style and sorted them. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but as I began to sift and sort, I began to make piles. I pinned them up and now I am surrounded by:
-A mood board for a new brand identity
-A mood board for a women’s product
-A mood board for my dream life
-A mood board on zen
-A places-i’d-like-to-travel board
-And a storyboard for a children’s book I’m working on but couldn’t really “see” when it was in the computer.
To do this, you need…
10 minutes a day to wander and capture visual content on the internet.
01) Create a folder on your desktop and create a short cut in your toolbar so it’s always there for you to drag images into
02) Look at visual blogs daily. Some of my favorites are FFFFOUND!, Geometry Daily and iGNANT. Grab images liberally.
03) When you’re starting a new project or are stuck, select a ton of them (quantity over quality), open them in Preview, and print them 6 or 9 to a page. Cut them out. Sort them. Pin them. Share them. Leave them. Collect them. (Sometimes I tape them to the bathroom mirror or keep a stack in my purse for the train.)
Next, take yourself on an artist’s date.
At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.
The artist date is a famous assignment by Julia Cameron. It’s where you take your inner child spirit on a date. There are two rules: 1) It’s a solo journey. 2) There are no rules. (Other than rule number one.)
Think absurd. Think crazy. Think CRAVE. BURN. LONG FOR. That’s how you feed child spirit. Yesterday I was craving a visit to the book store with my sketchbook. I read about african masks and William Burroughs and the Bauhaus and IM Pei and paperclips. I sketched a lot. I bought 2 books. Over breakfast today I kept sketching. Turns out I was hungry for visual inspiration.
Other, previous artist dates have included:
-Racing a BMW Z4
-Dancing in the rain, inspired by this young girl
-Going to a museum and sitting in front of one painting the whole time
-Hand washing a car in the summertime
-Camping alone during a full moon
-Arriving in a foreign country with no plans, no hotel room and no phone
-Swimming in the ocean in the middle of the night
-Going to hear piano at the symphony
-Riding my bike without a helmet and with my headphones on
-Movie and popcorn in the middle of the day on a weekday
-Going to the dress department of Neiman Marcus and trying on what I like to call “goddess gowns”
So, to find more divergent energy, ask this question and follow the answer, wherever it goes: What do you crave?
Nourish your creative self. Go broad. Drink it all in. Spend the money and take the time to fill up your child spirit with the most worthy of inspirations and feelings and ideas and cravings.
The other energy, which we also need, is convergent. This is a great process when it’s time to focus, to hone, to be decisive. Convergent thinking helps us take all of that LET’S PUT PEOPLE ON THE MOON energy into action. Convergent methods gives us a plan. It cuts the crap. It holds us accountable so that we can not only get to the moon, but first, and more importantly, get out of bed.
Having a rough time focusing? Take 20 minutes and try this:
Make a list of your creative junk food and then vow to stop eating the damn stuff.
Dr.Clarissa Estes taught me about this exercise. It made me realize that there are some things I do that never ever forever in all of time will make me feel good. An example? Google searching a medical symptom. No. No. NO. Clicking “search” after typing in “Symptoms for X?” is is like eating poison that has been marinating in poison inside of a building constructed upon hazardous waste. We know it. But we still click it. And it never makes us feel good. Never ever.
On my list of creative junk food are all of the ways I procrastinate, many social networks that I overuse and habits I have to avoid doing my hardest (and most exhausting) work.
This morning over breakfast I discussed this activity with a girlfriend and we both made our lists. We talked through how we were going to cut back on the junk.
But then — THEN! — we made a list of the projects that we’ve worked on that have produced the most fruit. Because when we focus, when we stop eating the junk, when we cut the fat, then we can really taste those juicy strawberries and relish them for all of their magic.
I was experiencing this in my own work when many of my paintings were heavy and raw and sharp. They were intense and felt not too dissimilar from getting cut by razorblades. I didn’t want to make paintings that felt like that. And the next time I went to the art supply store, that little voice in my head said to me, “If you don’t want to paint black paintings, you have to stop buying the black paint.”
For the next six weeks I worked with color and produced an emotionally rich, light body of work — a giant juicy strawberry.
To do this, you need…
20 minutes, paper & a pen.
01) Set your timer to 5 minutes. (Timers are important.) Make a list of your creative junk food. Think Facebook. Think distractions. GO.
02) Reset your timer to 10 minutes. Make a list of the most fruit-bearing projects from the last year or two. GO.
03) Look at your list of fruit-bearing projects. What are the similarities between them? Notice any themes? Take 5 minutes to jot these down. Set the timer. GO.
I’ve been working alone for four months now. I need both divergent and convergent processes. And I’ve got to be self-aware enough to know where I am in my creative process so I can give my inner creative spirit what it needs to get things all the way to the finish line.
Some days I need to bike and swim and lay in the park like the laziest bohemian artist imaginable and other days I need to get out of bed at 7 and take a shower and get dressed and be in my chair with coffee and email turned off by 8 because that’s just what we’re going to do today (we decided this the week before and by “we” I mean me. Just me. Dressed and ready for work at 8AM. Employee of the week right here. *raises hand*).
Be self-aware enough to know where you are in your project and/or in your life.
Is it time to go broad? Time to narrow? Then, depending on where you are, find inspiration and methods and tools that will help you do what you’re doing even better. Oh, and people. I must mention them. Because they’re the key to it all. Why? Inspiration and accountability. Start with people. End with people. Find the people who believe in you and want you to put your best work in the world and then have breakfast with them once a week. Or a phone call. And give them lots of hugs and smiles and help, too, because we’re all trying to find our own paths through life, and it certainly is more fun together.
Elle is so inspirational. I hope to meet her one day.
I’m going to set up a “Really Cool Shit” folder today, and begin printing immediately.
Be a man and stop using sexualized women in your work. I recommend Facebox or UIfaces for those times you need real-looking people in your mockups.
No. Don’t be a man; be an adult.
Why have so many app developers (including prominent ones) failed to ship 'designed for iOS 7' apps at launch?
Hopefully so as not to just rush a shitty paint job out the door (as many have).
Redesigning an app is not a one sprint task. It may look like a few color and typography changes, but I guarantee there are dozens of screens and states you aren’t thinking of. There’s also most likely plenty of backlog work that is arguably higher priority than style changes. It pains me to say this of course, but my point is I’m not surprised more apps haven’t been refreshed yet.
Patience. They’re working on it.