Searching with my good eye closed…For Inspiration in Design.

Some days this ingenious song lyric (Chris Cornell via Soundgarden) is how I feel about finding inspiration for new projects. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my day job, and one of my hobby’s is graphic design.

Now that’s a pretty big umbrella statement, as (GD) has a multitude of facets, and I am hardly a guru in all of them. Like they say, a jack of all trades is a master of none, so I’ve had to pull back on my desire to learn something useful about every single facet of graphic design and focus instead on a core group of skills that are near and dear to me. But at its heart, (GD) is still about producing artwork, perhaps not “Art” but commercial art nonetheless. No matter how hard I try I don’t ever feel like an artiste. Even though I make 100% of my living off of producing quality images, logos, compositions, type set pages etc etc… To me I don’t feel like an artist. I may well be more artistic than the average bear, but I don’t dress all in black, nor do I walk about covered in paint/ink/chalk, nor do I wear a beret or act particularly bohemian. (I know that is a fairly stereotypical account of what an artiste is, but it’s a hard image to break inside my own head). I’m also a pretty shallow person (in mind set) I’m not all that concerned with symbolism, reading between the lines, undertones or subtext. I’m… for lack of a better turn of phrase; blunt. Like a grey cinderblock. Perhaps because I have eschewed the preposterousness of pretension I feel like I’m not an artist. I also have very little creative control over the substance of what I produce, except for where the item(s) are for myself. Artistic integrity is a luxury I can’t afford at this stage. Not to say that some things don’t rankle my bones, and make me spitting mad, but my job is to produce what others have asked for, in the format they have asked for it. Perhaps those high level agency types know what it is like to be able to walk away from a project over “creative differences” or “artistic integrity”. I don’t quite have the weight to throw around like that just yet.

Back to my main point, which is, searching for and finding inspiration. A real creative spark. I personally have no formula to follow, no checklist to run down in order to find that spark of life which will turn an average idea into something that really gets people talking, or creates a very visceral response. I am not even all that superstitious, so I don’t have the luck to believe that wearing the same socks, or hat or sitting in the same chair will bring that feeling back. So some times that fabulous little spark finds me, and some times I do what I can without it.

So then, what does searching with your good eye closed mean? I don’t actually try to look at stuff with my eyes closed, that’s preposterous… well unless it was a tactile object meant to be experienced, touched, interacted with, rather than just observed… but you hardly close your eyes and touch a poster (scratch & sniff excepted here). It is a whole lot like reading a page while not paying attention to it. Your brain is reading the items, but the words flow in one eye and out the other (I almost said in one eye and out your mother, but that’s another Soundgarden inside joke). You sort of know you read the words but you didn’t take in all in, you just weren’t all that present while you read it. You were on a sort of distracted auto-pilot. Then you have to go back and actually re-read it again (This idea isn’t new, by any means. Any sociology text book or phycology text will have a far better explanation of this than I will ever put down in words.) But what I mean is, there are a whole lot of times when I am searching for inspiration under time constraints, and rather than soak up the nuances of the research materials I’ve gathered for a project, I’m glossing over them and missing that … that, I don’t know, just that “THING” that jumps out at you, akin to a mental domino in your brain that falls against something else and begins to snowball and before you know it your synapses are firing like mad and a picture is forming in your head, and you just start pouring work out onto the page. That excited rush of ideas crashing over you in waves, some of them so fast and furious you don’t even have the time to get them out onto the page before they have slipped out of reach again, but you have flashes of them still, which you cling to and work off of. If I’m lucky a few of those little snippets are enough to bring the idea back into my conscience thought  as a whole idea and I can take it even further. Other times I’m left with parts of a good idea, but have to really work to unify them, or pull them apart and use them piece-meal elsewhere.

In order to be (oh god, I am going to say this, Ugh) “open” to finding inspiration, I need to really take the time to look, and see what is in front of me. Not just view it absently, but really take the precious time to not watch the clock, not be consumed by the deadline, and just look, think and brainstorm. Sounds really hokey, and wishy-washy I’m sure.  But it happens to me, I get so tied up in the technical details that I don’t take the much needed time to really look and see. I have to just keep reminding myself to come back to it with fresh eyes, and positive outlook.

But, you say, even when I have the time and am really aware of myself and my subject matter, there is no guarantee that I will find the inspiration I seek. Yes, sadly that is true. I have no real insight into helping anyone else with this same issue. But perhaps you are taking a breather right now while reading this. That might be all the help you need.

I always feel just a little bit better after putting things down on paper.



Collections: What’s the lure?

I have a confession to make, and it isn’t one that I make lightly. But here goes:

I have a knack for collecting things, or perhaps it’s just a weakness of mine. I have collected all sorts of items over my lifetime (well, at least since I’ve had a job anyway, which means I started at about age 12). I have collections of; books, music books, comic books, toys, movies, music, video games and a small number of musical instruments). I’m pretty lucky as my wife shares at least some of my interests at heart, mainly books, movies and some video games (yeah she’s pretty awesome that way).

What I’m getting at is that I can never seem to want just one of anything (well my wife excluded, I’m not from Utah, a Mormon, nor do I have an interest in being polyamorous). So I have a huge array of Spawn Toys, and some polystone statues, the newest of which showed up at the house this week from a great place called Side Show Collectibles [this is what really got me to thinking about just how much of my life has been spent collecting]. So here we are at the heart of the matter, as I said previously I can’t seem to ever own just one of anything, and now I have the “bugg” again. I spelled that with two g’s because it isn’t a disease for me (I can stop at will & I do for long periods of time), nor is it a stomach virus I am speaking about. I wish I could say that I am in-thrall of pop culture items, or that I have a need to archive and curate such oddities, but the truth is, I get this weird internal desire to just “have” stuff. Mind you this stuff looks awesome, and has incredible detailing, paint jobs, clothes, weapons etc etc… but I digress.

So this is how the story plays out for me, perhaps it is the same for you. You stumble across something in a store/catalogue/on-line/at a friends house or at a convention (whatever!!) and you have some room in your budget to pick up an item that really gets you excited. Then you see what other companies have to offer, and pretty soon, you’re weighing one item against another, planning for more purchases, rationalizing with yourself over possible purchases, and then either you go a little crazy and later suffer some buyers remorse, or you snap a lid on that “bugg” real friggin’ quick and move on. I’m getting better at snapping a lid on it and moving on, after all I’m not made of money, and I have a crazy ass dog; who likes to sink his teeth into things that we love, hell even the way he chews his own hind legs gets pretty ghastly if he has an itch he just can’t quite scratch.

The thing I wished I’d had available when I was younger was Youtube, yup it has come in handy when squelching your need to own everything in sight. I’m pretty fond of “Hot Chix Cool Toys” 1/6 scale toy reviews, as a means to seeing neat items up close and personal, hearing all about it, but not having to pay $200-300 bucks for that un-boxing rush of new item coolness.

The items I do have are pretty cool, and I have every intention of displaying them in my home when the time is right. As it stands now I wouldn’t bother displaying every single piece, some of the items have lost limbs and accessories or been damaged over the years. Every so often I find an item that catches my eye and I just start to assemble large volumes of it, I have a small collection of War Hammer 40K items, which I spent many hours painting, but have never played a single game with (I probably don’t even have an army to skirmish with, as I bought the cool alien species, Orks, Tyranids, Cadian forces blah blah blah…) I’d be more interested in building a detailed diorama and setting them up on it, rather than rolling dice and going to WAAAAAAGH with them anyway.

Not to mention that I also have a large collection of paintings which I have done, and now that I spend so much more time working on a computer in my particular field of expertise, namely graphic design, I have a substantial collection of personal Photoshop Composites building up on my hard drive[s] (yes plural). On the downside I don’t paint with acrylic’s at all any more. I have a few canvas’ left, but I have just become so enamored with HDR style Photoshop compositing. To be honest, I can’t even really remember the last time I stayed up all night, or even into the evening to draw some comic book pages, or pin-up art. No, scratch that, I was taking life drawing classes again at the end of last year and it was taking a real long time for me to remember any tips & tricks I had learned as an avid comic book artist from my teenage years. (Crohn’s Disease did a real good job of keeping me in my room/house for days & weeks on end as a pre-teen, so drawing was a great way to escape & explore beyond my bedroom walls). But that was life drawing of human nude models and not anything comic book related.

Some of you might think I have collectors ADHD, and that is probably true. I can get bored with stuff fairly quickly. Although now I am getting more comfortable saying that collecting is my hobby and not a habit.

But, whatever, I like to collect stuff.

MH Snowboards available through Amazon

Here’s something neat that I didn’t expect to see. Some of the Western Market snowboards I designed with Don Burns are up for sale on I guess that’s a good sign if people are willing to pay $200 – $300 bucks for some of my handiwork. Some elements from the design came from Russell Branding & John.St as well.

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PS. I’m also getting ready for the GFN’s show in Guelph Ontario tonight. It’s going to be a blast so come out if you can. Bands go on at 9:30pm inside Van Gogh’s Ear, on Wyndham St (South End).