Illustrators and Inspiration

I am a proponent of all individuals needing inspiration no matter what they do, but especially illustrators.

Why?  Because inspiration is what ignites the motivation and passion to achieve something.  Without inspiration, a political speech would lack fervor.  Without inspiration, doctors might do more harm than good.  Without inspiration, I am convinced that most things we now find great or admire would simply be bland elements in the world around us.

I’ve heard the phrase, “Writers read.”  I believe that to be true to some degree.  A successful writer likely needs to read in order to be inspired to find new ways to convey stories, to learn about structure and content and word-choice.  How else could a writer’s vocabulary expand unless he reads?  In reading, I expect he finds a source of inspiration to compose his own stories.

I find I am most inclined to illustrate when I am inspired.  Now that inspiration doesn’t always come from the same source.  Often, observation of the world, interaction with other human beings, and simply sitting and thinking can be great sources of inspiration.  For my lot, I consider my Creator to be the greatest source of inspiration for all things I do.  But I also know that in a visual art I must be visually stimulated so that my brain finds new venues to create on the page the things I imagine.

For illustrative inspiration, I view Behance. There are many artists, artworks, and designs, and I can filter to view a type of art and also follow individuals whose works I like.  It is a good community for sharing work and Behance even features local portfolio reviews.  I am inspired by the idea of like-minded people coming together to help improve one another’s passions.  At Behance, I am often inspired such that it’s diffcult to contain my desire to begin working right away.

So at the end of the day, I conclude that the difference between good creativity and great creativity is inspiration.  In whatever you do, be sure that you’re inspired.

 

An Impression of the Art of Illustration

When reviewing various Illustrators, I noticed a common theme: impression.

Because individuals vary in their perceptions of the world around them, we see the expression of those perceptions come through art — and in all media, whether it be modern sculptures, painting, digital media, and even through what I’d consider the craft of social media.  I interpret Twitter’s maximum character usage to be a form of literary art wherein the individual attempts to capture  a moment or idea in its most condensed packaging.  It’s the Campbell’s soup of thought management.  But then, Campbell’s soup might lead you to think on Warhol’s famous piece and what it might suggest about his impression of repetition.  I don’t believe we are meant to look at the series of cans and think, “Mmm, wish I had some soup.”  In fact, the impression I get is of blandness, too much repetition, mechanized reproduction with only a detailed variation in the naming of the soup itself.

Repetition is, I’ve been taught, a strong component of good design.  When managed appropriately, it has the ability to elicit visual interest.  This can be done with color, shape, typography, anything that is an element on the media surface.  Which leads me to wonder what this suggests about our impression of the world.

I believe that we admire uniqueness.  I believe that if you were to see a colony of bats taking flight and in that colony spotted one albino, that you would have more interest in it than in the entire colony of “normal” bats.  But then again, the albino has a sufficiently similar shape and behavior to be considered a repetitive element amongst the group.  I very much doubt you would notice or care about a bird that had happened into the colony of bats.  I don’t believe so.  Instead, I believe your eye tells your brain — there is a group of animals all very similar and then there is one that is similar, but starkly different in its one characteristic.  And so that makes it visually appealing.  The impression that you get is strikingly paradoxical — repetition married to variation.

I assert that it is this same general likeness but unique variation that makes the human an interesting piece of art, as well.  For whatever reason, I like seeing illustrators put a ton of people on any media and just looking at all the differences, yet understanding our alikeness as humans.  Can you imagine if we all looked exactly alike?  This makes me think of the Twilight Zone, Agent Smith in the Matrix sequels, and any other number of Hollywood imaginings of cloning, mass copying, etc.  I think when you see exactitude of likeness portrayed in those stories, it is not done so positively and often evokes a fearful response.  Inherently, I think one of our greatest fears is having our individuality destroyed.  And yet another paradox — we struggle to be “like” so many others.  Think about it — it’s in the way we dress, fix our hair, grow our beards, get our tans, eat our food, drink our coffee, watch our shows.  As much as we want our individuality, we also seek commonality.  This is, I think, the apart of the great canvas of humanity — having the common shape, having a basically similar format, and yet still being characteristically unique.  We are humankind, but we are also countless variations of that one format.  Much like snowflakes, rocks, trees, etc.

And as artists, we not only are individuals, but also see the world through those individual eyes.  So when I see a tree (a white oak for instance), I see it in a certain way, a certain form and shape and color.  And if a hundred artists surrounded me, looking at the selfsame tree, they would interpret it according to their own impressions of it.  I believe you would not find alike any two artistic renderings of that tree.

I love that when I have applied for jobs on Elance, creating a bid proposal and attaching some works to demonstrate my capabilities to the Client, that often I have been rejected with the following reason:  “Prefer another style.”  In truth, it is impossible for the Client to know exactly what my impression of his project would be unless he gave me the chance to show him.  It is not of chagrin that I speak to this, but of interest in that one phrase: “prefer another style”.

I’d much prefer instead, when someone considers my art, my illustration, my design, to decline it on this basis: “prefer another impression.”  Therein I believe is the greater truth.

The Beginning Starts at the Beginning

So, for a while now, I’ve been doing this graphic design freelancing thing.  Last year it was my main gig.  This year, I actually joined a company based in Washington where I’m helping with some technical migrations for DNS and email.  Interestingly, it’s during this time that I discovered exactly what I want from and love most about graphic design.

Surprise:  it’s illustration.

Why is that a surprise, you ask?  Well, I have been learning the tools of my trade . . . particularly InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.  Learning these tools takes time.  Time goes on and peels itself away in layers until you reach a moment where you realize a certain level of comfort with such tools.  When you reach this comfort level, you begin to experiment, to think more creatively, to branch out — all because the fear of not knowing how to use the tool has diminished.

You’re not afraid of the pen tool in either Photoshop or Illustrator anymore.  You know how blending modes work.  InDesign’s master pages, spreads, and styles no longer seem to be complicated processes, rather time-saving tools.  Overall, you see the tools in a different light.

The comfort with the tools then leads you to understand what it is you’d really like to be doing with them.  I found myself looking at sites like Behance where creatives post their works and for a ProSite membership, you can even create a portfolio website of your works.  I discovered The Mighty Pencil, perusing various artists and admiring the quality of their work, especially drawn to illustrations created digitally.  I voraciously consumed with visual fervor the so-many artists who are striking a consummation between hand-crafted and digital art.

It’s funny when you experience an epiphany that basically had been slapping you in the face your entire life.  When I explained to my wife what I really wanted to do, she nodded knowingly and we both agreed that illustration was not only an integral part of who I am, but basically had pervaded my life from my earliest memories until now.  Pencils, crayons, and paint now found their way from paper and canvas to the screen of my iMac where I have been working diligently to discover my own creative voice.

Moreover, as a believer, God has been gently nudging me toward this truth in His own enigmatic, but fully revelatory fashion.  He has shown me what I hunger for.  He has given me a hunger.  Along the way, I’ve parsed out where He has been showing me and prodding me and patiently waiting for my eyes to open.  At Fellowship, we’ve been walking through Nehemiah, which is a fantastic examination of a calling, a plan, a ministry, and the fulfillment of God’s desire in one’s life.  This has helped focus my vision and strengthen my resolve.  I have prayerfully considered how to proceed and am planning the next steps.

There are still many unknowns.  But who cares?  The beauty of this truth is that I’m going pursue something I’ve loved my entire life.  I’m excited about learning and discovering more about illustration.  I want it to be a labor.  I want it to be challenging.  I want things to come through thought and creativity that blossoms after immersion in prayer and consideration of art.  I want this to be something that I leave behind me that arouses curiosity about how I viewed the world around me.  I want others to look at my illustration and wonder what I was thinking, why I chose this color, what motivated my hand.

It’s not as if I am predestined to experience success in this thing I love.  Well, that is, as the world measures success.  I do believe that there is success in providing for one’s family and in worshipfully creating art, employing the gift that God has given me.  And ultimately, using that gift and those resources to serve the world, to help those in need, to become something more than a fixture in this world.  Fixtures can be replaced.  Men and women with purpose, drive, and a heart for the Lord cannot.  They live forever.

But one thing that is common among dreams and purposes and visions and plans for the future is this:  the beginning starts at the beginning.