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Lorena Alvarez

Lorena Alvarez

Lorena Alvarez

Lorena Alvarez

Lorena Alvarez

Lorena Alvarez

Lorena Alvarez

Lorena Alvarez

Lorena Alvarez

I found the amazing work of Lorena Alvarez, a freelance illustrator from Bogotá, Colombia, over at Behance not too long ago. And her work is just gorgeous. They’re full of beautiful textures, colors and characters. Oh and her characters! They just seem to want to jump off the page in all their illustrated glory. Fairy tales, magic and adventure seem to be the subject matters that are close to her heart; as evidenced by her bio:

Each one of my pieces is an attempt to create a small, colorful and whimsical world. Nature as a protective and nurturing element is always present, embracing playful and elusive characters in a theatrical composition. Im deeply interested in color language, its formal qualities and symbolic meaning. An important part of my work process is putting together a strong color palette, always looking for surprising and unusual, yet pleasant matches.

Although most of my work is digital, it also includes photography, toy making and traditional media. I enjoy trying different techniques and understand their particular qualities in order to take my work to the next level. As I’ve developed my own way to work with materials like paper and fabric, my conceptual work has gained complexity. Drawing, sewing and cutting are ways to elaborate my thoughts about the projects I’m working on. I usually begin with a simple concept that evolves into a narrative piece with multiple associations and approaches that I find through sketching. This process helps me to create elaborated pieces with a strong presence that invites the viewer to sift through their details and discover their inner tales.

See more of her work at her website and follow along her journey on her blog.

Bori Tompa’s fun hand-letterings & illustrations

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Bori Tompa

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Bori Tompa

Bori Tompa

Straight lines and text is highly overrated, if I can say so myself. Need convincing? Take a look at a selection of Bori Tompa’s portfolio and you’ll know what I mean. I’m loving her work that’s full of vivid colors with a twist of the unexpected – throw in some creative hand-lettering and you’ve got yourself a smorgasbord of illustrated fun.

Paolo Del Toro’s way with wood

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I fell in love with Paolo Del Toro’s work.  He’s based in Wales, and in addition to being an illustrator, he’s a woodworker – he creates these beautiful wooden boxes in the shape of heads (check out that last one with the teeth!) His illustrations are filled with all sorts of lovely textures and of colors of bygone eras. He has an amazing range of style too, and his blog is a testament to his talents. He’s one to watch out for, mark my words.

Artist interview: Sarah Dennis

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I was attracted at once to Sarah Dennis’ paper-cutting work when she sent me an email – and so I invited her to talk a little bit more about her process! I enjoy seeing how others interpret their style in various ways, especially if that means going for your strengths instead of measuring yourself against other people’s standards – like what Sarah has done.

Name: Sarah Dennis
Location: Bristol, United Kingdom
LinksWebsite | BlogShop

Tell us a little more about yourself!

Well, I have red hair and I feel like the red fox is my spirit animal! I  love orange, green and turquoise and seeing these colours together makes  me just so happy. If you were to take a peek into my wardrobe you would  find only these colours in different combinations. I feel like I can  speak fluent french but in truth I can’t speak a word, I just like to  pretend. I also like eating, cycling and dancing!

Where do you live? What stands out about living where you are, and what  is your daily schedule like?

I live in Bristol and I love it here! I have just bought my first house  with my boyfriend Tom, so it looks like I’ll be sticking around these  parts. I moved in just the other day, so my daily routine is a little  unsettled. In the flat where we used to live, I worked from home. I had  turned the downstairs dining room into a studio, which was great, it was  a nice big space with loads of light. Tom also worked at home some days  so I didn’t get cabin fever too badly. Our new home is quite old and in  need of some serious love, and I keep getting distracted sanding  floorboards and digging up the garden, so I’m currently on the look out  for a studio in Bristol. It will be really nice working around other  artists again. Bristol is the perfect place to be a freelance  illustrator, there are lots of artist studios and support networks with  lots of opportunities to collaborate with other people in the community.

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Are you a full-time illustrator? How did you begin finding work/commissions?

I am. It was initially quite hard to find enough work but in the last  few years I’ve been managing to get by on my illustrations, which is  great. For the first few years I had a part time job as well, but I  never felt like I was fully applying myself as an artist, so I got my  portfolio up to scratch and decided to dedicate all my time to making it  work. I put a great deal of effort into sending out postcards, writing  emails and connecting with as many people as I possibly could. Slowly  the commissions started to come in and it all snowballed from there. It  was a great feeling to be finally working on projects that I had dreamt  about while at university. I still have the occasional quiet patch, it’s  the nature of being freelance but it always passes and it gives me  valuable time to set myself personal projects and work on my artwork.

Your portfolio is filled with paper cuts as your medium of choice – what  led you to it, as opposed to other medias?

I have never been great at working with paint, I would always end up  with more of it on my hands and on the floor than I would on the paper.  I’m capable of making quite a mess so I like working with a materials  that won’t drip or spill. The good thing about paper is you can make a  mess but it doesn’t stain the carpet! And the result is very neat which  I like. When I was at university I did more collage based work, I used to  collect envelopes, wallpaper samples, old books or whatever I could find  and would make my illustrations either digitally or by hand. It was  after I saw a great exhibition at the Bristol Museum on oriental  artwork, where I discovered Chinese paper cutting, my head exploded with  inspiration. After this, I started adding more and more detail to my  work and using a paper cutting technique within my art and illustrations.

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What’s your favourite project so far?

Last year I was lucky enough to publish my first children’s book  ‘Cinderella’. This book is like no other I’d seen before. I designed the  book so that between each double page spread is a delicate paper-cut  page which interacts and cast shadows over the background illustrations.  It has always been an ambition to publish a children’s book and I was so  thrilled to be able to combine my illustration’s with my paper cutting  skill. Its was very satisfying to hold the final book and to see it in  shops.

Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?

I do, although for my more detailed artwork I normally develop ideas on larger bits of paper to get the sense of scale right. But the sketch book for me is about about keeping a personal doodle diary and sketching  down ideas that emerge at random times.

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What or who inspires you?

I love nature, sometimes just watching a documentary will inspire me to  create a new piece. I’m really interested in the natural patterns that  emerge in nature: from the fractals in Romanesco broccoli to the  flocking of birds and fish. I also love to think a lot about the  incredible journeys that creatures make to survive. I have recently  discovered an artist, philosopher and professor called Enest Heckel. In  the 19th century he discovered and named thousands of new species. He  has hundreds of detailed illustration of marine creatures. I have  recently bought a selection of books all about his work, the detail,  composition and alien nature of some of these creatures just blows me  away. His work has inspired me to take an even deeper journey into the  ocean.

What keeps you motivated?

I have done a few different jobs in the past, and I know that working freelance as an artist and illustrator is what I want to continue to do.  I believe the harder you work on what you love the more likely you are  to land your dream project and have success in your career. I also read  a lot of design blogs and talk to other artists, friends and family who  help me keep focused and motivated.

What’s your favourite tool?

The scalpel, can’t live with out it.

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Where do you see yourself within the next few years?

I see myself in my new home, hopefully not surrounded by boxes but in a  lovely space that I have created to live in. I hope to a have a new  studio space thats large enough for me to start making large paper  sculptures. I have recently started running paper cutting workshops and  would love to have my own space where I can run classes and even have a  space that other artists can use to teach their own workshops. I hope to  be working on new and challenging illustration project’s as well as  having my own shop on my website, not just selling prints, but lamp  shades, cushions and cards.

What will be your dream project or collaboration?

I have starting planning a project where I work on a larger scale on a  theme of jellyfish and light. My dream is to develop these ideas as part  of an artist residency in Japan, I love paper and have begun a journey  into finding the perfect paper to work with. I’m really interested in  Japanese washi paper, I would love to learn the process of making my  own. I feel that making the paper from scratch and knowing more about  the material and its history would really benefit my practice and feed  my knowledge of working with paper and progressing as an artist.

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Tell us something random about yourself!

One of my favourite creatures is a kakapo, its a flightless bird which  almost looks like a cross between a parrot and an owl. Its only defence  mechanism from predators is to stand still pretending its invisible.  Unfortunately this tactic has not worked out very well for the poor  kakapos and they are almost extinct. I adore them, I have made myself a  kakapo plush toy which sits in my room and looks after all my things.

Thanks so much Sarah!

Work/Art/Play 2014 is now open for enrollment!

Work/Art/Play's 2014 enrollment is open!

You know how I’ve been dropping subtle hints for when the second session of Work/Art/Play will begin? Well the wait is over – because enrollment officially begins right now.

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a better way to navigate your journey as an artist or illustrator, I’m here to tell you that there is. I’ve designed an online course that will not only help focus your strengths into creating works that you will love, but others as well. I’ll show you how self-promotion can be a lot less scary (because it really isn’t!) and by the end of it, you’ll see how the whole process allows you to stay true to yourself. You’ll also learn what works and how to find (and create) new opportunities you’ve never thought of before.  

Inside the Work/Art/Play virtual classroom

If you’ve ever met me in real life (or online), you’ll know that I love working with people. I’m a life-long student myself, and above all, I love teaching. I didn’t just come up with the materials for the class – I’ve also designed the online classroom myself – to ensure a great learning environment that’s conducive for students: one that’s beautiful and easy to navigate. It’s truly a full-on learning experience that you can carry with you wherever you go!

So without further ado, I’d like to invite you to join the Work/Art/Play experience. We’ve gotten lots of amazing feedback from our first batch of students, and we’d like for you to be a part of our smart and generous community. Click here for the complete syllabus, and learn if it’s right for you.

Enrollment ends on 10th September 2012 – and there’s a limit on the number of students I’m taking in for the Personalized Program, so if you’re looking for targeted feedback + extra help one-on-one, I’d suggest you hop on over right now (it’s already 1/5 filled!)

Work / Art / Play 2014: Registration opens next week!

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Folks, it’s time to hang on to your horses.

If you’ve been wondering when my Work/Art/Play online course will be opening its doors again, wonder no more – the date is set, and it’s going to be next week. The 25th of August, to be exact. The inaugural program we did last year was a success, and I can’t wait to re-live the experience with new students! For those of you who sent me emails asking when it would come again (there’s quite a few of you!) the nail-biting waiting period will be over soon. To make sure that you’ll be among the first to know when that happens, head over to the Work/Art/Play website to sign up to be notified. It’s going to be a good one, I can promise you that!

Watch this space for more details, and until then, have a great weekend folks!

Inspiration: Optical illusions

I have a love for optical illusions. Maybe it’s the fact that I like to figure things out a little – a sense of mystery behind a piece of art is a great thing. But when you add a surprise factor into it, a work of art can truly be an engaging experience.

I’ve been spotting amazing optical illusion works of art lately and these are a few that caught my eye:

Felice Varini

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What’s amazing about the Swiss artist Felice Varini is that he started creating optical illusion installation/in-situ paintings in 1979. If you think that his work is mind-boggling right now, think of how it must have looked like in the 1980s. He uses a projector and stencils to create perspective-localized paintings in rooms and other spaces. [Via]

From Wikipedia:

Felice paints on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls and streets. The paintings are characterized by one vantage point from which the viewer can see the complete painting (usually a simple geometric shape such as circle, square, line), while from other view points the viewer will see ‘broken’ fragmented shapes. Varini argues that the work exists as a whole – with its complete shape as well as the fragments. “My concern,” he says “is what happens outside the vantage point of view.”

OK Go – The Writing’s on the Wall music video

With perspective as its theme (both in it’s music video and the meaning behind the song), I was glued to this music video from start to finish.

From NPR:

The one-take video was done on a single handheld camera, with 28 different illusions set up in the giant workspace in Brooklyn. The setup took about three weeks to build, involving over 50 people.

Alexa Meade

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Art is when something old is made new again, and in this instance, Alexa Meade’s work of art is alive, and well, breathing. Instead of merely painting portraits onto canvas, she’s turned people into works of art by painting on them directly – I liken it to a reverse artistic take on the movie “A Scanner Darkly” (in which live actors were re-rendered in digital form to create the movie). [Via]

Oleg Shuplyak

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Ukrainian artist Oleg Shuplyak creates oil paintings that feature the portraits of famous figures hidden behind a seemingly normal scenery. It’s not hard to decipher though, and these portraits are easily recognizable – I found myself trying to piece together the entire picture after I’ve picked out the faces instead. It is during this time that I can truly appreciate his work although unseeing things can be tough! [Via]

Damien Gilley

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Portland, USA-based artist and educator Damien Gilley reconfigures built environments by giving an alternate view of what could be. Empty walls (along with their fixtures) become a pathway into a whole new world; one that can be seen but never entered. His style – though simple and plays on the depth of vision created by lines – is one that offers a mysterious scaffolding to be filled in by thoughts of one’s own. [Via]

What about you? Have you seen any interesting optical illustion based art recently? Which are your favorites?

Waiting for seeds to grow

"Green Thumb" by Yelena Bryksenkova

A few weeks back, I was obsessed with growing my own herbs.

You should have seen me – I was way into it. I love herbs and while I buy mine at the supermarket when a recipe calls for them occasionally, the thought of growing it myself never really occurred to me. That was until I caught episodes of Jamie Oliver doing his 30-minute meals. I have to say; watching him going about in the kitchen, snip-snip-sniping away at his herbs whenever he needs them really just flipped a light bulb in me – not only did he inspire me to take more initiatives to cook more, he made me interested in creating my very own herb garden. Watching that show also made me feel like I could do anything at all too, if I maintained a sense of fun and curiosity about it. I’m hoping one of these days to do a full vegetable patch, but with two jack russell terriers tearing around my garden, it doesn’t seem likely that it will happen very soon!

So I had Mr. T buy big packs of potting soil (because using the rather unfriendly looking reddish-clay earth we had in the backyard yielded poor results too many times to be a coincidence), and we had plastic cups all ready to go for germinating. I bought seeds of herbs that I liked – and as with anything I start, I did it with gusto.

After I sprinkled over my seeds of sweet marjoram, dill, rosemary and sage – all in individual pots – and stuck ice-cream sticks with the plant’s name on a washi-tape (because markers on wood looks icky when it gets hit by water). I gave myself a pat on the back and stood back to marvel at my handiwork. Hurrah! Then the waiting began. I watered them everyday, and looked at them in the morning, and once again in the evening. Nothing. All that stared back at me was black soil. I had hoped for a glimmer of green to peek through. Nada.

I waited and lowered my expectations. I peeked in nonchalantly (and yet hopeful) for a week before I spotted something popping out from the fresh ground. YAY! A quick glance over my other 3 pots of herbs however, signaled a nay. Maybe they weren’t  ready to come out just yet? Maybe I got some bad seeds? Maybe the ants got to them in the middle of the night. Or slugs munched on them maybe? I don’t know. All I know was that my web browser history is ridden with gardening vocabulary, of the amateur sort, trying to figure out what went wrong.

Which got me to thinking. Creating anything – work, art, writing, etc – is almost like growing your own little garden. The same goes for businesses too.

You can sprinkle your seeds of imagination and ideas and be careful about them – judiciously watering them, feeding them, talking to them – but sometimes they don’t turn out the way you want them to. Which is why you spread them all around, in different pots, in different forms: through seeds, new cuttings, or the bulb of an old sprout. Some may take root and grow upwards, strong and tall. Others don’t take, and ends before they begins. Some grow new shoots, only to be eaten by a passer-by snail; leaving only the barest of signs of being grisly eradicated before it could fully form.

Creating anything – work, art, writing, etc – is almost like growing your own little garden.

And once you get these seeds on the ground, all you can do is wait. And water them. And wait again. And this process repeats itself as it grows; needing a complex combination of efforts to not only keep it stable, but to allow it to thrive and bear fruit.

It’s a nod to the universe in so many parallel ways – your labor of love is as complex, and yet while you can control a big portion of it, the rest is up to fate. One hopes for the best, and yet prepares for the worst. It’s a little dance in which you won’t know how it all will turn out; but one thing’s for sure: if you keep those seeds hidden, locking them away from soil and sunshine – you’ll never know how it all turns out.

So toss your seeds – your ideas, imagination and creativity – into the ground. Let them take hold and burst through the ground fresh and alive with hope. And what if it doesn’t turn out? Well, then it’s time to plant new ones.

Just remember to add water and love. And watch out for those sneaky slugs.

P/S: Here’s my dill (the only one out of four herbs that made it!) I’m replanting new seeds – and this time I’ll know what to watch out for.

My dill plant!

[Illustration: "Green Thumb" by Yelena Bryksenkova via What You Sow – an excellent online shop for all lovely gardening related things.]

Renaissance GIFs Man

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I’m very much for the interesting juxtaposition of things old and new. And sometimes once in a cold, blue moon, I see something that just makes me laugh till my sides hurt and cry “why didn’t I think of that in the first place?!

The work of James Kerr of Scorpion Dagger has this very effect on me.

The premise behind his ideas are simple: he uses characters from Renaissance paintings and makes them come alive through animated GIFs. In ways you wouldn’t expect, and typically not in the fashion you would think. Niceties are out the window, and in comes the culture of the 21st century, embodied by characters who belong in museums (who look much too solemn to be twerking, you say? Prepare to never look at a painting the same way again.)

On being a self-taught artist:

I don’t necessarily have any formal art training, I actually studied History and Political Science in University, but have been making art in one capacity or another practically my entire life.

On where his ideas come from:

My ideas pretty much just come from silly thoughts that I have.

On how he creates his GIFs:

Once I’ve decided what I’m going to make, I start looking through paintings to pull out elements that I think would work best for that GIF. It’s then cut, paste, animate in Photoshop until the GIF is done.

[Quotes from We are Visual Animals]

“All I wanted to do was draw”

I love doodle by Lim Heng Swee

I was speaking to a fellow well-known artist the other day – it was the first time I met him after conversing through email for the longest time. And it was just brilliant. I always love meeting new people – even though the relationship wasn’t technically new, the experience of meeting someone for the first time is something I treasure, because of the wonderful little surprises I know that lies in store.

Whether it’s nuggets of advice and inspiration, or a forging of new bonds; my mind just buzzes with excitement at the thought of hands that are extended in friendship, and where a new thread becomes interwoven in the colorful fabric that has become my life.

So we sat down and talked over lunch, and the more we talked, the more I was fascinated at his ideas. “All I wanted to do was draw,” said the man who turned to art after studying to be a mechanical engineer. “And now I can.” It was inspiring, and to which I thought was incredibly zen-like. My head was brimming with ideas on how he could take it further, and I told him what I was thinking of. He just shook his head and said “I’m happy at this point of my life – I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m drawing, and I’m earning a living for myself and my family. I don’t have to go big. I’m happy.”

If contentment had a face and a voice, it would be his.

His name? Lim Heng Swee of I Love Doodle.

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You’ll be able to read more of our conversation through the Work/Art/Play online course that starts in September – sign up for more details when we launch in a couple of weeks!

Exquisite Corpse curated by Antigoon

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Dutch illustrator Antigoon has recently curated an excellent looking new exhibition at Walls Gallery in Amsterdam, open until 24th August, as an extension of his Exquisite Corpse website (last image, shown below). I love referring to the Exquisite Corpse as a creative exercise in my classes and his website was able to showcase the illustrations brilliantly.

For his new exhibition, Antigoon asked ten of his favourite illustrators – including Hedof, Nick Liefhebber and Joren Joshua – to work together in two’s, and for each pair to create a limited edition risograph print together. Just like the online project, the illustrators worked in sequence, with one creating the top half of the print before passing it on to their partner, with the partner only allowed to see a very small slither of what had already been drawn. The result is 5 prints which can see in totality at his Behance page, which are also up for sale.

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[Print #1: Nick Liefhebber vs. Olivier Vrancken; Print #2: Aron Vellekoop León vs. Hedof]

Our 2104 artists & illustrators survey results are out!

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So you might notice that I’ve been a little quiet this week. It’s for a good reason – I’ve been busy putting together the data collected during the last survey (it’s the one that touched on money and income!) into a handy 32-page PDF that’s available for all to download.

I wrote down a few caveats for those who are interested in the results of the survey: the problems that went into it, and how I should have made it better. Some of the entries had to be discarded/disqualified due to technical errors, and while I was disappointed with that, I’ve learned to take this experience forward and have learnt how to avoid repeating the mistakes I’ve made the next time round. It was the first time I did such a survey and through your comments and suggestions, I learned a lot – so a big thank you to all of you who participated (and to those who chose not to, and wrote to me to tell me why!)

So without further ado, you can click on the below image to kickstart the process of downloading the survey! And remember, I’m always learning, so don’t hesitate to write to me if you have any suggestions or advice to share.  

 

Have a great weekend folks, and I’ll catch up with you next week!

When you’re not where you want to be

Pulling a Plant - Eleanor Taylor

The thought about being a landscape architect never once crossed my mind as I was growing up.

I didn’t spend my younger days thinking about how great it could be if I could be one – to spend my time designing gardens, parks and pockets of greens; carrying T-squares, measuring tape, wearing a hardhat and safety boot and all. So what made me write that down when it came to choosing what I wanted to do in university?

It was simple – I didn’t want to be stuck in a lab doing experiments (that’s all I thought scientists-to-be did back then). And I didn’t want to spend my time purely in lecture halls hashing out theories and being spoon-fed formulas. I wanted to learn about art and design, and that course was my one and only ticket.

Oh sure, I could hear you ask – why not just go to a college where you can pay to learn exactly what you want? I got an entry into the local university; and where I come from, to get that was as good as if you had struck lottery. The price of a degree at a private college could cost up to 10 times more than it did at a local university. I wasn’t about to go in debt by choosing to go to a private college, and I didn’t want to let my parents worry about funding expensive tuition fees only to get a piece of paper I might not end up using in the end (I was being realistic).

So I chose the best route to go about it. I knew I liked art and design – and if I were to chose a course within that university, the only one that was available to me was landscape architecture. I could learn about the fundamentals of art and design in a studio environment, I had access to art teachers and designers, I had more flexibility in how I scheduled things (studio-based classes meant that you had plenty of time to experiment with ideas); and I didn’t have to worry about money so much. I told myself I would figure out the rest later.

Four years later, when it came to deciding what I wanted to do after I graduated, I gave myself 6 months – it was when we had to be an intern at a real consultancy firm. The rules I gave myself were simple: give it my best shot, and if I still didn’t feel that it suited me, then I’m free to do whatever that I wanted. Six months passed – the boss’ firm passed me with flying colours and told others that I was one of the best interns he’s ever worked with. I left, happy.

It was also the last time I was a landscape architect.

“Why did you give up your degree?” was the common question I had in that first year after I graduated. “It was four years – all wasted, down the drain,” said others. Even my father was at a loss – he couldn’t understand why I would give up being a landscape architect. I could have a good job, a stable career. A title. I could be a professional. I could be Amy Ng, the Landscape Architect. I didn’t blame them at all – they didn’t know why I did it.

But I did.

Because when I went into the university to do a course on landscape architecture, I wasn’t looking to just be a landscape architect. I was looking to learn. I absorbed everything like a sponge – even the stuff that people didn’t care about. I inhaled snippets of knowledge and sniffed it out whenever I could. Lecturers were held hostage as I left them a barrage of questions. Little wonder that when it came time to decide to narrow down a focus for my final project, I went with campus design. I loved learning that much.

I went to the library often. I didn’t just go there to scoop up the latest architecture tomes – I went in to borrow books on art, illustration, cooking, exercise, writing and technology; all because I was curious. I maxed out my book limit every time because I there were so many things I wanted to know. I didn’t know where all of this digging would lead me, but I knew that deciding on a destination just because I was handed a ticket seemed silly.

Instead, I wanted to make my own fate. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And when I look at myself right now I’m still figuring it out – just like everyone else. I try hard to not confine myself to anyone else’s definition of success, and to stay true to myself by constantly asking myself what I want. Being happy was always my goal – and I’ve been incredibly lucky on that front. Somedays I still pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.

So for those who feel as though they’ve been handed a curveball in life, or that they aren’t in the place that they want to be – I want to tell you this: you can’t control the cards you’ve been dealt, but you sure can change how you choose to deal with it.

Oh, and no one ever asks me about that degree anymore.

SHARE WITH ME:

Have you ever been in a less than ideal situation? How did you make the best of it? Share your story with me below in the comments! 

[Illustration by Eleanor Taylor]

Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld

I first came across Tom Gauld’s work on Flickr, and once I started looking, I couldn’t stop. Tom works in the UK as a cartoonist and illustrator; counting The Guardian and the New Yorker among his clients. His comics are filled with robots, astronauts hapless personalities that combines innocence with wry wit – there’s so much eloquence in his panels, delivered in a deft swift kick.  I read an interview from 2011 where he talks about what he does, and I wanted to share some snippets of the interview that I thought was really thought-provoking.

On  his working process:

I sit and think and doodle in my sketchbook until I have a good idea. Then I’ll make rough pencil sketches on copier paper till I have things worked out visually. Then I hone these sketches on paper and in photoshop till I have a rough version of the image which I can send to anyone who needs to approve it. Then I will print out the image and use a lightbox to trace an ink version which I crosshatch then scan back into the computer where I can clean it up, tweak bits and add any colour. I love using the computer but I try to stay away from it till I’ve done most of the thinking for an idea, looked at it from all sides, because I feel that once the computer is involved things are on an inevitable path to being finished. Whereas in my sketchbook the possibilities are endless.

Tom Gauld

On illustrating a book cover versus a cartoon:

I feel more pressure doing a book cover than almost anything else, I think “This author has probably spent years writing this book: I mustn’t mess it all up with a crap cover”. So I have to try and find a way to react to the book and make something which is suitable, but is also strong and interesting in its own way.

Tom Gauld

On how Edward Gorey has influenced his work:

I like that what he makes is unclassifiable: he makes picture books for adults which aren’t comics, many are self-published but they’re beautifully produced. I love his drawing, the odd narratives, the design of the books, the compositions, the hand drawn typography: everything really. The way I crosshatch (with small “patches” of short lines rather than long ones) I learned from Gorey.

On what he thinks is next for books and print:

One thing which might happen with the rise of e-books is that the books that DO get published in paper may have to justify themselves by being better made, designed and illustrated. That would make me happy.

Read the complete interview here. Also: another in-depth interview about his comic-drawing process that’s really good.

Links: Tom Gauld’s website | Flickr

His books: You’re All Just Jealous of My Backpack [Amazon link] | Goliath [Amazon link]

What if you reclaimed your time?

Paul X. Johnson

I made a decision about a month ago to not renew my contract as a creative lead for a PR firm. I had been in the position for only 3 months, but it wasn’t working out for me as well as I had hoped (remember this equation?)

I took it on to help out a friend, who needed someone to help out with the team on fleshing out the creative side of client briefs and campaigns. I was the go-to person when it comes to working out imagery that would work; the piecing together of visuals, style and form to form an effective campaign. That I did.

I went in without knowing if it would work; whether I was up for the job, or if I would fail terribly and end up embarrassing myself and the firm. So I took it on as a challenge. I told myself that it was something I hadn’t tried before (not in a formal capacity anyway) and so ahead I went. It soon dawned on me – it wasn’t whether I was up for the job or not; but in the end it really boiled down to me asking myself, “is this really what I want?”

It came in small whispers – it doesn’t feel right. You’re not happy. I had a knot in my neck that didn’t seem to go away. I felt as though time was slipping away like sand between my fingers as I tried to hold on as tightly as I could. Where did the time go?

Although I loved working with great colleagues, it wasn’t for me; it ate away at the time which I’d rather spend on other things – like Pikaland. Having the amount of hours you could spend on something you love cut short by other commitments really helped me refocus and find clarity. For example, I had been faffing around with the redesign of the blog for a few months, but when I left my position, I instantly got to work and got everything out there within a week. I started with just an inkling of an idea and turned it around into a full-blown working website design within a few days. I felt incredibly happy.

Maybe it was a burst of timely inspiration. And maybe it was. But more importantly, it was me realizing and thanking the universe for the gift of time that has been given back to me. And I didn’t want to waste time in getting back to the work I felt I was meant to do.

When I was working at the PR firm, I asked myself constantly – what could I be doing with my time instead? Don’t get me wrong – having built up a creative direction for a campaign really convinced me of what I was capable of. But I didn’t just want to do work that I was capable of. I wanted to do more. I wanted to do work that thrills me to no end (well, maybe for the most part!) I want sleepless nights not because of clients and their imminent deadlines breathing down my neck – but because I was excited that I couldn’t wait till morning came so I could get right to it.

It was a great opportunity, many people said. “You’re crazy – I would relish the opportunity,” said one. I thought so too – if it were 5 years ago. But the beauty of it was that if it were indeed 5 years ago, I wouldn’t be given the same opportunity. I could only laugh at the irony of it all.

What I gave up might be an wondrous opportunity for others, but I knew it wasn’t for me. So instead of hanging on to a title that would eventually kill me, I’d rather part ways to focus on things that wake me up with purpose. Plus, on the flipside, I like to tell others that it isn’t very nice to hang on to positions/jobs that doesn’t quite fit you – what if someone who really loves it comes along, only to have it occupied by someone else?

I didn’t regret the experience one bit – if anything, I know better what I am capable of. Learning through stretching myself has always surprised me in good ways, and I am grateful for the amazing experience that was offered to me. Rory Cochrane once said: “I do not regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do.” – and it certainly rang true in my case.

The good thing about having your time given back to you? You’ll appreciate it that much more. I know I do.

SHARE WITH ME:

I’d like to know – if you could reclaim your time, what would you do with it?

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My Work/Art/Play online class will be happening this September! To make sure you’re not missing out on details and to be the first to know when registration opens, click here to sign up! (psst, you can also read up on what our past students thought of it too!)

[Illustration by Paul X. Johnson]