For as long as I can remember I’ve had a sketchbook on the go. I think I established the habit when I started senior school, but I remember having them back in junior school as well. They’ve been a companion beside me all that time, whether I’ve been drawing, writing, brainstorming, planning, or something else, they’ve helped me to be creative in some form or another.
When a new sketchbook arrives, it always brings a moment of joy. The moment the wrappings come off is one of the two moments that a sketchbook is perfect. There are no creases on the spine, no scuffs on the cover, no page corners curling up or folded in, everything sits square and compact, full of potential. I always enjoy that moment. When a sketchbook is first opened it’s exciting, there’s potential on those pages, but with it comes a hesitancy, it’s something that I don’t want to ruin.
It’s the fear of the blank page.
Over the last few years when I’ve started a new sketchbook I’ve developed a habit. I open it to the first page, grab a pen and I write the same sentence.
I give myself permission to mess this sketchbook up.
From then on I use it how I want and it doesn’t matter what goes in it.
It might seem a bit silly to write that sentence on the first page, but without it it would take a lot longer for my sketchbooks to get to their second point of perfection. The moment they are finished, either because they are completely full, or the year has ended. At that point it’s done it’s job and deserves it’s spot on my shelf alongside all it’s older siblings, it’s perfect because it’s been used and not wasted. It’s helped me think, helped me create, helped me process events that have passed, it’s potential has been met.
Without that first page sentence and my natural state of being a perfectionist, there’s a chance those sketchbooks would remain on the shelf in their first state of perfection. And in that state they would be a waste. What would be the point in owning them, if they remained forever in their first state of perfection and never made the journey to the second state of perfection?
It’s not just a sketchbook that has these two states of perfection. A blog has them, a canvas has them, a book has them, a roll of film or an SD card in a camera has them. The unused perfection, and the finished, full, complete perfection of a job well done.
When I was back home at my parents over Christmas I sorted through a couple of boxes of bits that were taking up some space in the room I sleep in when I’m there. During the process I came across some of my old sketchbooks from my Art Foundation course and had a flick through.
I was struck by how different they were compared to the notebooks I’ve been keeping for the last few years. They were full of creativity. Each page was different, whether it was exploring my own ideas on a project, or a contextual spread about a designer or artist that inspired me.
The last couple of days have been odd ones for me. After many months of not feeling much of the effects of my depression, yesterday when I woke up I could feel the heaviness and fog of it. I had the same thing this morning, so I’ve done what is the only thing I can do. I’ve tried to push on and not let it stop me doing my work.
This evening I put a film on, one of my favourites, Good Will Hunting and grabbed my sketch book, a scalpel, two magazines I get free from Waitrose, a pritt-stick, and my Bible. I flicked to one of my favourite verses and while I watched the film I sat on the floor cutting out words and letters.
It’s been a long time since I did anything like this and about ten minutes before the film finished I had finished. It might’ve taken me a lot longer than I remember it taking, but for those two hours there was no fog and I was just able to enjoy being absorbed in something a little more creative than my normal design work.
Over on Six Colors Jason Snell speaks of his disappointment with Adobe’s iOS offering. I’ve long been disappointed with Adobe’s approach to the platform and I couldn’t agree more with his comments.
But it’s frustrating that Adobe has failed its core design customers to such a degree—and it’s also a big risk for Adobe. Photoshop commands a lot of space in the brains of many creative professionals, but a lot of those people want to use iOS. If Adobe provided them with fulfilling tools for iOS—ones that are as capable as what’s available on macOS and Windows—it could keep its customers loyal.
As a designer the iPad has always appealed to me as a means of creating. It seems like it should be the most intuitive way of laying up designs and drawing out ideas. The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil only served to enhance this idea for me. Yet Adobe continually fail to acknowledge that we could do serious work in an iPad. They keep serving up “mobile” apps instead of actually considering how an app like InDesign or Illustrator could function.
It took Microsoft years to bring Office to iOS, and in that time apps arrived to fill the gap they had left causing Office to lose mindshare. That’s now starting to happen to the Creative Cloud apps, Affinity Photo is excellent, and more than capable of growing in to the gap left by a lack of a fully fledged Photoshop. My hope is that other apps will rise up to fill the gaps left by a lack of full versions of Illustrator and InDesign or that Adobe gets its finger out and creates them.
I’ve noticed over the last few weeks a distinct correlation between my ability to spend time on side projects and the amount of design work I have going on. Juggling a part time job in the Coffee House alongside running my design business makes for a distinct lack of energy to keep my side/personal projects going when things get busy. I find my motivation drops as my energy gets used up juggling the two, and it’s a source of disappointment since I know the importance of doing my own creative things on the side.
It seems to be a matter of margin or focus, I’m yet to work out which, but my gut (which is usually right) tells my it’s about focus. When I become invested in a project it dominates my mind. It becomes what I think about when I’m not really thinking and I’ve certainly become aware that this is what has been happening of late. It’s the reason I’ve started yet another side project that will operate on a schedule and is on a topic completely unrelated to any of my other side projects.
Whilst having a project sit at the top of my mind is helpful for work, it’s not always helpful for me mentally. I need to be able to create things just for the sake of creating them. It brings me a joy and satisfaction that creating for a client doesn’t always bring. Eric Liddell once said
I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.
I’ve never thought about it in that way but I can certainly relate to it. Like Liddell I believe God made me for a purpose, but I know He also gave me a gift of creativity and a passion for design. When I use my gift, especially just for the sake of it and not just for my work, I feel His pleasure.
God created the world because he wanted to, because it gave him satisfaction and joy to do it (Genesis 1 v 31). He enjoyed walking in his creation and meeting with the people he created, which we learn from Genesis 3 v 9 when God goes looking for Adam & Eve. When I create something because I want to, I feel God’s pleasure because in some way I am mirroring Him and that is an incredible thing.
My God is the God of creation and He has given me the gift of creativity. When I use that gift to create I feel His pleasure and that’s why I need to firm my resolve to create for the sake of creating something because I want to create it.
With the arrival of Micro.blog my interest in my blog has picked up considerably. It’s always been there bubbling at the back of my mind, but actively posting micro posts to it has me once again looking to post other content more regularly. CJChilvers linked to an article by Seth Godin that Explains Why You Should Blog Daily resonated deeply with me and the growing desire to post to this site more regularly. It’s both a creative outlet both and a mental outlet that I know will be good for me. I intend to mix the content I post between links, quotes and original articles/thoughts alongside the afore mentioned micro posts.
The desire to tinker is strong in this one.
I have this problem when it comes to my blog. The more I start to post to it, the more I want to tinker. The more active I am on the site, the more I notice little things I don’t like and want to fix. The more I post to it, the more I want all my internet posting to originate on it. It’s like an illness.
It’s something I’ve always struggled with, and I confess it’s a side to blogging that I enjoy. The trouble is, the more I tinker the less I post. The more I craft the design, the less time I spend writing.
It’s a battle, although one I’m sure I do not face alone. It’s not just the battle of a blogger, it’s a battle of a designer. Most of the tinkering I do is design related, little details and quirks in my theme which I notice but very few others will. I also know from experience, that I will get to the point where I’ve caught the little tweaks I need to and they will be fixed. Then it’s just a case of resisting the bigger things I’d like to do. Or at least knocking off the major ones first, like finding a way to post photos here and on Instagram, displaying them in a way I’m happy with. The key though, is to keep the posts flowing. Keep to my challenge of posting everyday, and getting through the tinkering stage until I get to the point where I’m just posting each day and all my published content originates here.
Or is it just a pipe dream? Should I just keep posting and ignore the little bits that nag?
But I know I can’t just ignore the nagging. I’m a designer, I like details and its in my nature to keep refining bits until they’re gone. To keep crafting until they as close to perfect as can be, it’s just important to keep the perspective, to keep in mind that perfect doesn’t exist. It’s about getting things to good enough whilst keeping on posting each day and building momentum so that the writing takes over the tinkering and becomes a creative outlet in its own right.
Drew Coffman has some interesting observations in the opening paragraphs of his article about Building a New Photography Workflow with the iPad Pro.
“I’m just now realizing that the more and more I embrace each creative process, the less time I want to give to anything but the act of creating”
So often we change things because we think we should, but in actuality we should only really make changes in workflows and apps we use with motivation similar to the above. To free us up to create more things.
I like my blog, I enjoy it from many angles, from creating the design to posting to it regularly. But on reflection I realise that the thing I dislike the most is editing and feeling the pressure to write well. I just enjoy posting or my blog, and I enjoy reading articles and sharing the ones which I think are most interesting. Hence why my posting rate has increased since I made it easier to share an article to my blog from my iPad or my iPhone. The change in workflow has allowed me to do more of the thing I most enjoy about my blog.
So often when we think of a blank page we’re scared by it, it creates a fear, a fear of the possibilities. But maybe we need to turn that upside down and find freedom in a blank page, freedom to create.
To create doesn’t mean you have to draw the plans of a skyscraper or the physics formula for the unifying theory of the universe. It can be as simple as taking notes in a meeting or writing a journal entry. Every new mark on a page is a baby step, and before you know it you’re taking leaps.
After a brief break last week, I was on a mini-holiday, The Week in links is back with it’s 26th edition. This weeks take a look at how we work and think, how the design of the web is pushed a bit more. And then some furter thoughts on Apple Watch, headphones, cameras, and the often speculated Apple Car.
This weeks edition continues the evolution of the The Week in Links. Rather than presenting a list of links of varying length I decided it was time to start adding a little commentary and injecting some more of my interests and personality into the column. It is after all my personal blog that it appears in.
This week covers some technology news, some views on Art and Creativity, Le Tour de France, how dressing could affect our approach to work and an incredible video that I highly recommend you watch with your Sunday morning coffee or evening glass of wine.
- The story of Windows 10 from inside Microsoft — It’s been a big week for computing with the arrival of Windows 10. I’ve long been a Mac user, and will be for a long time to come, but I have to say this release of Windows has me intrigued. I’m interested to see how it does and whether it can bring any traction in the mobile space.
- Approval & Art by David duChemin — I really identified with this when I read it, in particular this short paragraph:
The problem is that safety, in many ways, is toxic to art. We get addicted to it. We cling to it and venture out less and less. We risk less. We repeat what “works” and avoid what doesn’t. But if what works is what holds us back, it becomes a kind of sabotage to keep doing it.
- Taking on the Tour de France — With the end of Le Tour last week, this VSCO Journal is timed nicely. Rather than your usual photographic essay looking at Le Tour with a focus on the Peloton this one has a more interesting take looking at those who are watching as well.