Posts I like

More liked posts

Tag Results

2 posts tagged essay

Make Something

I always wanted to be a cowboy. The stetson, the horse, wrangling cattle, it’s all admirable; and the occasional bout of saloon rebellion, going against the grain, it’s all admirable too (even if my definition of a cowboy comes solely from old movies). The coolest thing about cowboys is that they appear to live for the moment, they embrace the land and their own self-dependence, their rewards weren’t always financial. If a cowboy did wrong, the sheriff would put up a reward, a financial reward, so the ‘normal’ people could come forward and claim that reward. Unfortunately, the norm in life is a financial reward. But there’s a lot more to life; anyone who has children, or has found their soul-mate, or runs their own business, or has climbed a mountain, or swum across a lake, or entertained a crowd, anyone will tell you, the best rewards are far from financial.

As an illustrator, a full-time creative professional, I frequently have to seek the financial rewards, the clients who will pay me, and hence pay my bills, for the future. However it’s frequently apparent that formerly client-focused people change their businesses and turn away from purely doing ‘client-work’ to find their rewards. Ladies and gentlemen… people are making stuff.

I’ve made a lot of things in my career. My wife and I have produced art prints, magazines, toys, clothing; some of them were great fun, some of them were profitable but most importantly, all of them were rewarding. Right now we’re setting up our biggest venture yet, a range of fabrics and homewares, we really are making stuff. This venture is much the same as most ‘making stuff’ ventures, they take a long time, they cost you a small fortune (in money/time/sweat, delete as applicable) and you have to learn more than you ever did at college. However, before we’re even selling our new wares, we’re already reaping rewards, our minds are more open, our hands are more skilled and our pride is riding high. There is no one way to manage a creative career, and I would never be able to drop client work entirely, I genuinely enjoy it a huge amount, but there’s a set of rewards that I believe will only come if you also make stuff for yourself.

Design a product, produce an invention, create an app, apply some creativity, build something, brew something, get your hands dirty, get your hands diversifying, publish a book, learn to print, paint, shape, synthesize, manufacture, mold, fashion, fabricate, forge, code, construct, carve and cut. Make something for you, not for a client, make something you can keep, or give away, or sell, whatever you do with it, it will reap rewards, the rewards are special, and the more you put into it, the more rewards you can reap. Make something new, make something good, reap some non-financial rewards, reap some life rewards, like a cowboy. Saddle up. Make something.

Here are some makers that inspire me, I don’t know if they’re cowboys or not, but I admire them all…





Be Exciting. Evolve. Be Exciting Again.

You got it!  All you kids have got it!  The younger you are, the more you’ve got it!  You may not have contacts or experience or savings to invest in your own PR campaign, but you have one thing that some older creatives will really envy.  You have pure, untarnished excitement.  You’ve got crates full of wonderful, delicious Excitement™.  The early part of a career is so exciting, the world is your oyster, you’re the little fish seeking adventures in the big pond, you’re the surfer anticipating the next big wave and many, many other oceanic metaphors and proverbs.  It’s good to be excited, in fact it’s essential, if you’re not excited about working in the creative industry then you’re going nowhere.  If you’re excited in yourself, then more than likely you’ll be exciting to others.  There is one piece of advice I always tell students or young illustrators if they ask for it… ‘Be exciting’.  Be excited in whatyou do, excite others, be exciting to work with and create exciting things, it’s all pretty simple.  I have no idea where I first stumbled across the simplicity of ‘being exciting’ as a single rule in enjoying my work and building my career, but it’s worked out somehow.  

Sometimes I honestly envy people who are starting out in the creative industry, I envy their excitement, running around with their wide eyes and excitable shaky hands*.  However on the flipside, I’ve also learnt that the excitement you have when starting out is easily achievable once you’re established; once you’ve learnt and toiled and strived for years.  You don’t have to start over again to be excited, but you can have a fresh start.  You can evolve.  

Every creative professional has to evolve, if you think you can keep doing what you’re doing right now for the next 40 years and retain some excitement, then you’re probably wrong.  I was wrong, quite a few times, “Yeah! I am doing some great work right now! I could do this forever!” but I couldn’t.  No-one wanted me to do it forever, no-one was going to pay me to do it forever, so I learnt to evolve, just to keep going.  Every good evolution really does bring with it the excitement of starting out again, the fresh start, the world opening up again like a big newly available oyster.  I think Charles Darwin* himself is quoted as saying “OMG! Evolution is AWESOME!” and he was right, for the most part.  Sometimes there’s a blip in the evolution progression; a poor decision, an unseen downfall or a glitch in the system.  I once evolved in a direction that I wasn’t happy* with, and to be honest my career just meandered for a few years until I evolved again and moved onwards, but I don’t regret that particular evolution, it taught me a lot and gave me more of an instinct for surviving as a creative professional.

We can all evolve in a few ways.  We can evolve our creative style, technically or creatively; new software, new inspirations and new directions can change the kind of work we produce.  We can evolve in our area of work, moving from print to digital, from fashion to interiors, from publishing to advertising.  We can evolve our businesses through new collaborations, new branding, a new structure to your working methods, new PR or a new output.  Whatever we do, every evolution is worthwhile, because it gets you excited again.  Evolution can give you a lifelong supply of Excitement™.

So, let’s move on.  Let’s evolve, freshen-up and grow.  Let’s cut-out everything that isn’t working out positively.  Let’s all stop doing the same old, same old, same old, same old design crap.  Let’s do Darwin proud!  Let’s seek Excitement™.  Let’s evolve.

* Those ‘excitable shaky hands’ that people have, like Macaulay Culkin running around in his empty house.

 * That Charles Darwin quote, not strictly correct.

* What was my unhappy evolution? No comment.

* There is no fourth asterisk, why are still reading this? Go and do something good.

Loading posts...