Stay coachable.

Much of my life was spent behind a canvas (of some sorts) or on some kind of sports field/court.

So much of my time was always occupied with coaches and teachers. It doesn't matter what you are trying to learn. Whether it is how to properly observe and record perspective on a 2D plane or if it is trying to learn the proper timing of a jab step pull up jump shot. They all seem to take the same thing to learn.

Lots of hard work, quality practice and good listening. If you do not have one of those qualities then it will be hard to learn a lot of things. At that point you are simply getting in your own way.

My biggest takeaway is to stay coachable.

The moment you think you do not need to practice it or you know it already or do not think you need to put the work in. That is a main driving moment people stop progressing.

My high school volleyball coach did not know a ton about the finer aspect of the game. I came into a team that had some great athletes and I was a freshman that had been playing club and been around the game for just about my entire life. I could have been a huge ass and tossed my knowledge around like an arrogant know it all. But I didn't. I kept my mouth shut and learned something different from my coach. How to be a good leader, how to communicate better, passion and intensity, team building skills etc etc All of these things I would have missed out on learning if I didn't keep my ears open. I cannot thank my coach enough for teaching me how to be a better teammate, person and man.

How many hours with a pencil do I have in practicing human anatomy? Countless. How many hours do I have spent running sprints, practicing my shot, serve or any other skill? Tens of thousands of hours. This kinda of work ethic mixed with a constant want and ability to learn something new is what keeps driving my skills forward.

Even this day with so many repetitions and hours under my belt. I still learn something new..sometimes from the most random of places and people. But if you do not leave yourself open, then those things will surely pass you by.

Where it all started.

Everyone at some point ends up asking me where it all started with my passion for art and design.

It was my grandmother.

She loved art...especially oil painting. It was her hobby that she spent years developing. Taking classes, practicing, reading books and continually learning. Even till she was into her 90's!

From a young age, grandma loved to share her art with me. It was something fun to do with her and bond over. We did not live super close so I always would draw things and mail them to her religiously, showing her how much I have learned and how much better I had gotten.

She was the first one to tell me that I would grow up to be an artist of some sorts.

The never ending support she gave me to do what I loved to do is what really stoked the flames. At a young age I found myself in love with art and doing it now for myself.

She was always sending me old boxes of art history books, photos of her work (or actual work) art contests to try and of course materials to practice with. She continued to support me till the day she passed away.

If it was not for her, I have no idea what I would be doing now. Not one clue. It seemed like I knew that I was suppose to be doing this since day one.

Thank you gram' for everything. I love you very much.

 

Oh for fonts sake!

Now, do not misunderstand what I am about to say. So let me say this before we get started here....

There are tons of terrible fonts....a lot. But who gets to decided what is good and bad? Who are the gate keepers that decide what looks good and what is crap or passe?

There are some well known and great designers who use fonts that I would never think would be acceptable by mainstream designers. Other times I am like...."Ok, looks great but can we use something other than the same old 5 fonts?"

Good type setting seems to be slowly dying off and is being overlooked (super guilty, I am trying to step my game up here).

I understand that communication is key and that a font can say volumes with its kerning, tracking, density, serifs etc. So the importance of type choice is obviously super important.

What helps me stay sane is the notion that a character does not sit on or over the plane. But instead it sits inside the plane and the relationship between other characters and the space it is occupying is of the utmost importance. This fine dance we do with grids, spacing and composition can sometimes be exhausting.

At the end of the day though, is our ability to pick a good type just the result of trends? Does a trend make something good? Well of course not. Are some types timeless? Some would ague yes. Others would argue they have lives, to be born and die themselves.

Maybe there is something more I am missing. Maybe they are more like tools, thousands to choose from. Making the choice up to me (us) to choose which tool communicates the best.

But boy that leaves me still wanting though.

Shout out and a thank you.

I think it is super important to recognize people that influenced, taught, pushed and overall helped us progress further in whatever cause we are chasing for.

This shout out goes out to Fabio Sasso.

Firstly you can find him at.

http://fabiosasso.com/

http://abduzeedo.com/

He is the founder of abduzeedo which is a responsible for helping, motivating, connecting and inspiring millions of creatives around the world.

He is by trade a designer, product designer and art director with just a stupid (in a good way) amount of talent and years of hard work to back it up.

Years ago I found myself looking for new tutorials on how to learn Photoshop better. I stumbled across the abduzeedo tutorials page where Fabio and other awesome knowledgeable designers had amazing tutorials to help anyone looking for something new to learn. I probably went through just about all of them one by one, step by step, trying to recreate the style or effect.

I learn by doing and this was perfect for me. Being able to take advanced techniques and with some growing pains memorize and keep them as my own bag of tricks.

I cannot emphasize enough doing tutorials, even if you think you have a pretty good grasp on things. Even reading through them I can pick up on tips, tricks and moments to keep in the ol' tool chest.

From there I explored the rest of his page. His links to other artist, creatives and companies...connecting people all over the world. Sharing ideas, information and art/design etc...it was amazing. I spent so many hours going through links and exploring the awesome web of creatives across the globe.

So simply said, thank you Fabio (I hope you find this some day). I cant thank you enough for what you have taught me.

Make better Photoshop selections.

One thing that has really pushed my photo editing and manipulation game to the next level is my ability to select exactly what I want and need.

Those little "marching ants" is what is keep you back from some exemplary work. Even with the best typographical, composition, color theory and illustration skills. If you are making crap selections for your photography then it will painfully show through.

A lot of young designers do not put enough practice into selections simply because it is hard and tedious. Do not get me wrong, it sure can be. Understanding photo resolution, how the selection lines interact with the pixels, how to adjust your feathering, which tools are used to create the best selections needs etc. It can be pretty daunting for a newbie, let alone someone who has been at it for awhile. But with many hours of practice it is well worth the pay off.

The basic selection tools are a great way to get started. Practicing with how everything interacts with one another will help you build a quality foundation. Just getting good at those is an accomplishment.

If you want to step up your game you can learn how to use layer masks. I used masks for awhile but I found it bothersome and lacking the exactitude that I wanted and needed. At least for my liking. So i ditched that for the tried and true pen tool.

Being able to control exactly where the pen line goes has helped me create perfect selections for any type of editing need.

I cannot stress taking the time to learn the pen tool, how to use the anchors and get your ants marching just right.

But maybe you like the other tools better, maybe you have a way that is different then my own. That is wonderful. Whatever you find yourself enjoying the most is the best tool for the job.

Make amazing selections and do some beautiful edits.

Discipline > Inspiration

There is an ongoing pervasive trend throughout any community which requires hard work. This idea of constant need for inspiration and motivation.

Now, do not get me wrong. I am not here to say that these two things are not vital in our search for well, anything. But I am finding that many people are using these two ideas as the foundation for where they build their house.

Much of the life lessons that I have learned from have come from either my studies of art and design or from the world of sports and performance. Many have built some kind of false dichotomy between these two. That they are incompatible and offer little to know understanding between the two. But I would like to humbly disagree. The people tend to be pretty polarizing and at face value of no use to one another. There is so much more to the two groups then what we like to believe.

One of the major ways that these communities are almost exactly alike is their use of motivation, inspiration and discipline.

Social media is overwhelmed with every piece of content available to us through every available platform, absolutely chalk filled with motivational pieces; photo's, quotes, videos, blog posts and everything else. Some can light a fire so hot under your ass that you feel like you can jump over mountains. It can be pretty sickening and almost nauseating at all of it.

This being said in full understanding that we are all in different places in life, that we all require different things at various stages in our lives. Which is super important to understand. But I continue to say this,

Inspiration sucks it isn't your friend and often will get you no where.

Discipline is what drives the engines, which keeps you going even when gas is on E. Everyone that I try to learn from in my studies has overwhelmingly one thing in common. It is simply that they do not rely on motivation as their foundation.

We have got it backwards. Lets take a look at building a fire.

You start with small flammable pieces of wood/paper/etc, things that can get caught on fire easily. Like a match. We all know how fast a match can burn out tho, almost just as fast as it was lit. We have to quickly add other things to it, building up volume and mass for the fire to catch till we are slowly adding branches, then cut up limbs then eventually logs.

These types of fires are the ones that burn all night or even longer. Just like our own work capacity, we want to be able to burn for a long time.

The beautiful thing about these types of fires is that even the morning after and all you are left with is coals. These warm coals can be quickly turned back into a fire with some oxygen. Add some small pieces and you are back in business.

Just like anything we work super hard for in life. You need a strong base of discipline. Something that you work at and practice daily. That way if the flames ever go out or you are in fear of them doing so. All you have to do is add some inspiration (oxygen) and you are back at.

All to often people start something with just a match. They don't add anything more. There is no substance to back it up, nothing left to burn once the motivation is gone. People hit a cycle of striking another match just to have that burn out too. Rinse and repeat for any major goal.

Add to your spark and make it a glorious blaze. That way even in you darkest, laziest, uninspired moments you can find solace in being able to add a touch of motivation to send it ablaze once again.

The lost art of drawing.

Before anyone gets too upset, just hear me out. I came from a fine art background so I am trying to be as unbiased as possible. I'll will let you be the judge of that.

Let me say this first.

So for the most part I have always been able to draw or use whatever is in hand to illustrate. With more years under my belt I have grown my skills and have gotten to a point where I feel comfortable being able to draw well...anything and do it well.

I believe this gives you a bit of an advantage when it comes to design. There seems to be no better way to understand the concept of form and space then trying to recreate that object on a plane. For example, being able to study how the human body is put together, how the skin sits on the muscles and gets wrinkled at curtains places and proper proportionality of anatomy.

All of these observations take place in the eye and brain. Taking mental notes trying to learn. But ask someone who cannot draw to visually show that information they just learned. Even if they spent an hour studying just the eye, they would only show a poor representation of what they had just studied.

Why? Do we forget what an eye looks like? Well of course not. But we have not practiced the forms. Many of us have to learn by doing, especially something that relies heavily on observation. We have to use our hand to practice laying down lines over and over again till we start to build whatever we are observing on the paper.

This repetitive practice of using these physical motor patterns and nerves firing help us learn these forms in a better fashion. That is why the vast majority of designers who have a background in illustration have awesome understanding of the basic gestalt theories already. Why? Because they have to, it they didn't then they would most likely not be very good illustrators.

Practice recreating forms and experimenting with space and volume. Teaching your eye not to just obverse but to be able to reproduce it down these physical pathways. Eyes have terrible memory so it is up to us to ingrain the motor pattern so that our brains are more in tune with this fine detail and level of observing.

I took a summer art class when I was younger and my teacher said,"Drawing is 90% observing." Which makes sense. Look carefully and thoroughly so you can properly understand the shape in front of you.

Draw more, people.

 

 

 

Teaching as a way to learn.

One of my favorite ways to learn anything I find myself not doing as much as I should.

Teach someone who wants to learn what you know.

Every time I give someone Photoshop lessons I find myself constantly reminding and remembering tricks, tips, even basic fundamentals that I often overlook. The ability to take what is in your head and put it in a way someone else can understand, is one of the best ways that I can think of for ingraining information.

I will use my Photoshop example.

When I am working by myself on a project you sometimes enter this autopilot mode...where you just go through the motions, plugging away at keys and clicking the mouse till something resembling progress shows up your screen. When people have watched me work some describe it as almost robotic. Knowing what each key does, the fastest way to do things, running scripts etc etc.

While all of these things are good, I often find myself getting ahead of myself. Skipping steps or moving things around or even adding things that shouldn't even be there in the first place.

Breaking something down as complicated as Photoshop into small understandable bits helps me constantly ingrain better habits. A couple things that I am always relearning each time I give lessons.

  • Do not just rush into the program with an idea to begin with, start with paper and create lots of ideas.
  • Be organized! Label your layers, put them in proper groups and order so you know exactly what each layer is for.
  • They give you an awesome grid for a reason. Use it to balance designs. (I find myself taking for granted my eye instead of using grids) Which ends up taking less time and is often better balanced anyway.
  • Use more shortcut keys, learn them all.
  • Ctr+S saves lives, tap it more.
  • Make a back up.
  • Make a back up to the back up.
  • No not on a thumb drive.
  • Rulers are your friends
  • Keep originals of photography and of large edits.
  • Learn the pen tool, practice and master it.

These are only a small list of the things that constantly go through my mind. This is just the technical stuff too. This doesn't even touch on the the basic and fundamental design Gestalt theory.

Whether you are learning a sport, a program, a new skill anything at all. Trying and teach whatever you have learned to someone else. It will only make you stronger at that skill.

 

I hate trends and so should you.

I hate trends...oh so very much....they are what constantly keeps the creative ceiling low and from growing faster.

We all know what trends are, those things, music, styles, fashion, art, design, hair etc that is pervasive throughout our society for a litany of reasons. Some are cool, some are harmless and others are just dumb. But somehow we decide what is popular and it gets used up and tossed to the side once there is nothing else to use (or something different and cooler comes along).

Trends keep creativity low because we become slaves to them. We want to provide content and work that people will like so we dip into the current trends to make clients happy...which is fair. Soon we become reliant on this type of photography, those font styles, that style of illustration and now we are stuck. We are left abusing these awesome resources till they are of no use anymore.

Then once a style starts dying off and new one comes to a head the same cycles presents itself. Use, abuse, dumb and continue the cycle.

Some of these things in and of themselves could last much longer but when coupled together with other objects to identify as a style...it is doomed for the bell curve.

We keep ourselves limited by wanting to do acceptable work so we can make our living or just provide good content. If we had more resources at our hands...one could only imagine the type of work we could produce. People say to think outside of the box for something new...but that is pretty much bullshit.

Unless this new thing has some kind of inherent value, usefulness, skill etc then it will be ignored. Most of the avant garde were thissss close to being ignored and not even recognized. The best way to have a lasting change on something is to either be that one off amazing new valuable thing. Or to work at the fringes...don't go outside the box...work near the edge of the box. That is were the new trends are, that is where you can find the lasting change and permanent impression we are looking for.

Not outside the box just near the edge.

Helping myself

There has been one thing that has helped me the most in my search for growth as a designer. It is pretty simple

Do more work and make it public.

I always thought that I was a perfectionist growing up. That I did such little amounts of pieces and work because I always wanted it to be perfect. But in the recent years I have learned that that is a bunch of crap.

I was and am.... scared.

When I was younger my sketchbook was always filled with finished pieces mostly and not ideas. It was filled with things that I would be proud to show people if they thumbed through my book. I was scared to have anyone look at stuff that wasn't good, that wasn't finished and that didn't show my skills. There was some kind of irrational fear that showed itself as perfectionism. 

There was a moment where I became a bit more self aware about my own growth as a person and designer. I was stagnant and boring...there was nothing being added and I professionally suffered for it (hell even personally).

So I decided to do more work...and show people. I made a online portfolio and an Instagram account along with some other platforms to showcase my work. It forces me to continually do more work, practicing, trying new ideas trying to better myself. But most importantly I have it public. For all eyes to see, to judge, to like, to not like..to comment etc etc.

This helps to keep me honest. To slowly build a body of work that represents who I am as a designer and person.

Hopefully this lesson doesn't come too late for me. Hopefully any damage done can slowly be mended as I try to "Quiet the lizard brain." Seth Godin. And do my best to be proud of my work.

So my tip to anyone out there. Do more work....and show it.