Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Creativity is WORK!

     "Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes." 
-- Kevin Ashton, "Creative People Say No", posted on, 3/18/2013

People think artists are simply "born that way". That they are "blessed with creativity" or "god-given talent" or "have always been an artist". Um... no. No one is born with a pencil in their hand, just like they aren't born with a wrench or a hammer or a calculator in their hands.

I will concede that being an artist requires a different mindset, however. Artistic individuals do indeed see the world differently, but not because they have different eyes, different brains, are left handed or whatever... it's a different perception based on a curiosity and a desire to break beyond a certain set of norms. They force themselves to do this. It doesn't come naturally. A creative person simply wants to do something different than what has been done-- to be original! They are not content with a checklist approach. They have a hunger for seeing the unseen, knowing the unknown.

But this takes time. It's work!  People who think that creativity just  flows in one's veins or comes from some divine cloud will place expectations on artists to "just do it". "Here's my assignment, now give me something creative! Do it! Go! Gimme!!"  What's worse is these same people will undervalue the artist's work and expect it to be cheap or discounted or even free. "After all, you just do this in your spare time, right? " 

I saw a Facebook post of a bumper sticker that says "Artwork IS work!" I agree wholeheartedly. And that work isn't just the craftsmanship of moving the pencil or brush or mouse around to make a picture. There's mental work involved as well.

Last night I talked with someone who owns a food truck. He said that the logo he has on the truck is not what he wanted, but that the vinyl graphics company pretty much left all the work up to him. He had to choose the font. He had to choose the elements. The "designer" basically just arranged them to fit onto the truck and that was their "design". My friend also complained that every designer he's ever dealt with was that way-- they expected HIM to be the creative one. 

I explained to him that this is not how it should be.  A good designer should work to find out what the client's expectations are (what fonts they like, for instance) but also bring his/her own experience and ability to the table to mix into the stew. It's a cooperative effort. Both parties need to work together-- the client can't say "I don't know, just come up with something creative and I'll tell you if I like it or not" nor can the artist say "here's what will work for you, now pay up". By the same token, the client can't say "design it like this" nor can the artist expect the client to do all the work. 

I explained to my friend that when I work with a client, I try to get as much info from them as possible and then take that info to come up with really quick impressions-- things that don't take much time, but that narrow down the concept from generalities to more specifics. Once some common ground in the visions of the client and the artist is found, the artist can go into more detail and experiment

I'll usually come up with several designs that I will reject without showing the client before presenting him with three or four developed ideas.  I'll try to have elements in each that are completely different, not just present variations of the same idea. The client can then mix and match these ideas to come up with a final rough that we can agree on.  Once that is approved, I will then do the final cleaned-up design

Sound like work?  Again, to quote Mr. Ashton again: "Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work."  Here's an example of how I worked to come up with a logo for a Florida restaurant. The client wanted a fun dog mascot holding a hot dog. From there, I did some quick pencil sketches, nothing too elaborate, but I also did several that weren't sent to the client as well:

 The client chose #8. He liked the idea of making him the cook. 
I then did some minor variations on that drawing:

From there I did some color and background variations:

Then came type ideas:

The final artwork:

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