Remembering why you like doing something is a great motivator for doing more of that thing. Knowing "why" will also help you determine the true intentions behind what you do with your creative endeavors. When there's a genuine interest we're filled with joy. When we do something just to get more attention or to get by then it can generate anxiety and less joy. This list should help you figure this out.
Sometimes when we're stuck or need some inspiration it's great to look to people who are doing the things we want to do. If it's someone that is well-known or someone who has a following it's more likely that you can find articles, books, or even video about that person. Read, watch, and learn from other people's experiences and mistakes. Use that information and take notes. (Make note taking a practice when engaging in enlightening conversations or learning about something.) With this creative challenge tip you're building a library of notes, ideas, and thoughts that you can revisit and use as needed.
If it's someone who isn't well known, then maybe you can just email them or invite them out for coffee if they're local (read my tips here on how to approach someone online).
Be careful with today's tip, though. Understand that every path is different and what works for some may not work for you. Examine what you've learned from your "virtual mentor" and really think about how it applies to you, think about what inspired you about their words or statement, and figure out if it's something you can incorporate into your own creative practice.
Is there someone you admire you're interested in knowing more about? I'm curious to learn more about other illustrators doing fun projects and collaborations.
Most of January was a month of rest and rejuvenation. I spent the entire month in Stockholm, with a brief stop-over in London, and literally slept for the first two weeks. I was beat.
But it's February (my birthday month — cheers to another rotation around the sun) and I'm back in Baltimore ready to get things popping. What does that mean? New projects, including book number 2!!!, and committing to my creative practice even more. And I'd like for you to join me.
With love day upon us I thought it would be fun to work together on nurturing something we love doing creatively. Sometimes we neglect the very thing that inspires us and brings us so much joy. So here's an opportunity to give your creativity some love.
Whether you're a full-time designer, a dancer, or just want to get motivated to create something this 14 day challenge is for you. Here on Fly and on Instagram (starting today) I'll be sharing exercises and info I've learned over the years as a designer/illustrator and design educator. These are all tips and tricks (and some reminders) that I use when I feel stuck or need a new perspective, and some that I use when working with my design students.
What do you need in order to participate? Just visit here or follow me on IG at @andreapippins daily to see the prompt for the day, and set aside a few minutes a day to flex that creative muscle. I will be posting more in-depth posts here to supplement some of the info.
We'll be using the #iamcreative hashtag to document the progression of the days. If you feel comfortable enough to share your experience please use the hashtag if you post images. I'd love to see what you're thinking.
Here is day 1:
What is that one thing you love to do and wish you could do every day, even for a few moments? Drawing, singing, cooking, painting, sewing? Sometimes we think we can't do it and then make excuses that keep us from our creative passions. For example, not having time or "I'm not creative enough." Honey, that's fear talking. Five minutes less on social media or 30 minutes less watching TV is plenty of time. And not creative enough? How do you really know unless you nurture it and let it grow? When you write down the 3 things that you think are stopping you let those inspire the things you can do to make time every day for a little creative expression. And then do them.
A few years ago a friend of mine and I decided we were going to stop saying "I don't know" when talking about what we wanted to do with our creative passions. After making that declaration I realized that I said it A LOT in conversations about pursuing certain projects and career paths. "I don't know" was so much a part of my narrative that it was difficult to not go to that default statement. It had become a scapegoat. Because as long as I thought I didn't know then I wouldn't have to live up to any expectations that comes with knowing. The illusion was that it seemed worse to know and not do versus claiming to not know and therefore not do. But really, they are one in the same.
Making that statement was just a way of avoiding the fear I had in going after what I really knew I wanted to do.
And that's the thing. We all know what we really want to do. But somewhere down the line something happened or someone told us that we can't do that thing because there's no money, no one cares, it's too risky, or we're not good enough. And we've let that block out the possibility. So much so that what we know gets clouded over and feels like it has disappeared. But it hasn't. It's always there.
There are a lot of ways to get at the core of what you already know. Of course meditation, doing a vision board, seeing a life coach, or writing in your journal — all of which are great and helpful in getting through to that hidden space. But none of that works if we don't start with trusting ourselves. Being open to trusting that deep place in your gut that truly knows who you are and what you really want do, and knowing that no matter what you are going to be alright.
Do you say "I don't know" a lot? In any situation? I still catch myself saying it, especially in conversations where I get a little flustered. How do you use this statement? I try to only use it when I'm asked about something I'm unfamiliar with. What about you?
I am a true Aquarius. A thinker and definitely a dreamer. As a child I spent a lot of time in my imagination, creating worlds with my color pencils and words. Writing was a fun past-time for me. I have tons of old notebooks from that time, filled with drawings and stories from my grade-school years. (I was/am also a true nerd.)
These worlds I created were places I wanted to see and be a part of and they always generated new ideas and projects that I wanted to execute. At some point.
Thinkers and dreamers are the folks we need for innovation, exploration, and providing solutions. These are the folks who ask the questions no else would think to ask. Like, what if people could fly? Or what's on the other side of the ocean? We need these questions, but we also need those same folks to be doers.
I have idea books filled with questions, ideas, and projects I'd like to pursue. Most of which no one could probably complete in a life time. But how sad if none of them are never executed?
Another classic Aquarian trait? We are easily distracted — but in today's tech and social media obsessed culture most of us are and fall victim to never-ending scrolls. Then of course life distracts with it's many obligations. But these are all excuses keeping us from exploring the dreams and questions we all have. For me, putting my head down and spending more time making and less time on my phone and watching TV has been my effort to be more of a doer.
Coupling our ideas with action puts those ideas into motion. Any effort, any tiny spark of energy towards the idea will ignite the project and give it life. It doesn't matter how long it takes, just do something when you can until it's done.
Let's be dreamers who are doers.
So what will you do today towards executing one (or more) of your amazing ideas?
We live during a time where we have easy access to tools that will allow our voices to be heard in any form that we choose. Which I love, especially since there are still so many stories yet to be told. But lately, I've been wondering if having access to these tools make us feel like we HAVE to say something.
For the past few months I've been fairly quiet on social media. Not because I don't have anything to say, but more because I question why do I feel the need to say it — online. There have been so many times where I have written a status update on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter and deleted it after some thought. The questions that seem to always pop up are, "do I need to say this?" and "what is my intention if I do?"
In general, time is a huge factor in this as I am working on prioritizing my daily activities, but also trying to be more aware of what I put out into the world (along with what I'm ingesting). This doesn't mean I won't share something silly or fun. But filtering out what makes sense to share with close friends versus the public helps me determine whether a Facebook status update or a text message to a friend is the best form of communication. (Or if it's necessary for me to add to the chatter at all.)
All this to say, if you feel the need to say something just for the sake of updating your feed — it's really okay if you don't. It's okay to be quiet. When your intention, vision, and purpose are authentic you won't lose the audience or miss out on opportunities that are meant for you, and you won't lose anything from not being a part of that conversation. Trust me, I am a living example of this, (coming from someone who suffers from FOMO).
The beauty of this: when you're not always saying something, people are more likely to listen when you do.
What are your thoughts about feeling the need to share? Whether it's on a blog, on FB or Instagram (or any platform). Have you had to curb the reflex to post something? Please share your experience below.
A week ago I had the honor to present a talk to the creative studio at Hallmark Cards. The opportunity still has me pinching myself and playing back all the sparkly moments during my time there.
Everyday, I am grateful for these experiences, these doors that open unexpectedly, and these points on the path that expand my vision and dream.
But I do want to share that my creative path has not been easy, or a seamless line of never-ending yeses (read more in other Creative Tips or here). For every yes there are a ton of noes, which many people don't get to see or hear about.
I have a vision for my life and a dream list of things that I would like to achieve, especially in my career as an artist and educator. In the last decade I've written various proposals for projects, books, and events. Connected, networked, and linked up with a lot of folks to discuss opportunities. Brands and organizations have also reached out in regards to cool collaborations that sound really fun and promising. This is always happening, which I'm so thankful for, but most times the answer has been no, the project cancelled, or a collaboration is put on hold indefinitely. Which often brings disappointment, especially when it seems this thing just might happen.
I try not to dwell in the space of disappointment, instead I try to remember that everything happens, or doesn't, for a reason and that what is for me is for me. We need the noes to appreciate the yeses, but what I appreciate most is that the yeses are often there to tell us to keep going.
Because when you believe in something so strongly and know with every corner of your soul and every molecule of your body that this is what you should be doing then to keep going is the only option.
In the last year there have been quite a few noes, but peppered with some really amazing yeses. The Hallmark talk was definitely a moment for me to reflect and remember that I love what I do and need to always keep going.
Have you ever had a moment whether you questioned the direction of your dream? Thought about stopping? Heard too many noes, or had a great yes? Please share!!
As an artist/designer I collect tons of books, papers, and magazines all with the hopes of using them for inspiration in some way in the near future. Therefore, it's super difficult for me to let these items go. Especially now that I've started collaging and every scrap of paper has the potential of becoming a piece of art. But the result of this collection leaves my space lacking in regards to storage. Every shelf and corner on the floor of my studio is stuffed with stuff. I don't like it, so I've been working on letting things go.
It's been a slow process because it takes me a long time to go through my magazines and papers to determine what I can let go (the "dump" pile is always smaller). But when I haul the goods to The Book Thing (a great place in Baltimore where you can unload your books and mags, or pick up stuff for free) it feels really good. And I never miss the items once I leave.
Purging clothes is on my list, too. Gladly, I don't have a problem letting clothes go. I tend to wear the same thing over and over, so my wardrobe is pretty small. If it's something I haven't worn in a while it's nothing for me to throw it in a plastic bag and give it to Goodwill.
Every other weekend I've been setting aside time to go through my stuff to see what might be a good candidate to donate or just throw away. Once the collection is hefty I make plans for a drop-off.
Freeing up our space is a great way to free up our psyche. This allows opportunities and good energy to flow in easily and effortlessly, which ultimately leads to more happiness (see this great TedTalk by Graham Hill, Less Stuff More Happiness).
As we start this new season (a great time to do inventory and get rid of summer stuff), I challenge you to get rid of some stuff this weekend. Spend an hour or two going through that junk mail pile covering your dining table, that closet of stuff you don't wear, or that art supply storage bin filled with dried up paint. You'll feel great letting go so you can let some other goodness in.
Tips for disposal:
• Getting rid of batteries or paint? Visit your county or city website and search for "disposal of hazardous/toxic materials." Like Baltimore City, they may have a monthly drop-off for your hazardous waste. Some of these drop-off locations take electronics as well. You never want to put those items in your regular garbage.
• That old TV tube or computer not working anymore? Some electronic stores, like Best Buy, take and recycle electronics. Be sure to call in advance to find out drop-off times and what items they accept.
• Getting rid of towels and bed clothing? Pet shelters love these items for their furry occupants. Call your local shelter to see what they need.
• Letting go of gently used clothing or household items? Homeless shelters, Goodwill, Salvation Army, churches, or temporary housing are great candidates for these.
• Don't need those books, office or art supplies? Baltimore has the The Book Thing, but some schools and libraries are thrilled to take books and supplies that are still in good shape.
• Getting rid of magazines? Go through them and tear out pages you like and recycle the rest of the publication. Store the clippings in a folder or binder.
Do you have tips for letting stuff go? Please share!
Last April I took a risk. I resigned from my job without much of a plan except a strong belief that I was going to be ok no matter what. While contemplating my move I mapped out a dream list of what I would need monetarily in order to survive fairly comfortably for the next six months.
To survive? Just six months? That's pretty small thinking, huh?
What happened in the weeks and months that followed the conception of my risky decision blew me away. My survival, ahem, dream list was smothered to smithereens. Not only had my goals been surpassed, but I was offered opportunities that I couldn't even imagine would come in a lifetime let alone within weeks of my resignation.
So here's what I learned. I was dreaming way too small. That financial survival list that included what kind of work I needed to do as an artist/designer to make sure I could pay my bills was too narrow-minded. Why was I dreaming in survival mode? That's not what dreaming is for. Why not think beyond my wildest dreams? Why not imagine changing the world and perhaps getting compensated to do so? What if I had thought to dream bigger then? What might the results be now?
The great thing about dreams is that it's never too late to make new ones or edit the ones we've already established. Dreams are supposed to be magical. It's not a time for us to think about how but simply think about what if.
So as I challenge myself I'd like to challenge you. No more safe dreams, the ones you've seen others accomplish or the ones you already know you can achieve. Try a powerful dream that blows your mind when you say it out loud, one that gives you goosebumps when you write it in your journal, or the one you have no idea how to make happen but just believe that it will. Those are the big dreams.
Then share them with people you trust and who wish you well.
But don't say all apprehensively, "Hey I'm thinking about maybe moving to Tunisia someday and opening up a bed and breakfast if this money comes through. What do you think? Crazy, right?"
You don't need permission or validation to pursue your dreams. Share with people who can add power and encouragement. Tell that friend who's most likely to say "what are you waiting for" when you tell her, "Girl, get ready because next year I'm moving to Tunisia to open up my award-winning eco-friendly bed and breakfast."
Then take action and make incremental goals (this is the how part), because like Denzel Washington said recently to a group of novice actors, "a dream without goals is just a dream."
So dream big. I can't wait to see/hear what happens for you.
This is for everyone, really, not just folks in creative industries.
I frequent many gatherings and events and meet a lot of folks, which usually involves an introduction that begins with a handshake. Being a germaphobe I don't really like handshakes, but do feel that they're necessary, and always try to give the best when I do shake hands. It just feels like a great way to initiate a conversation with someone new.
One of my biggest pet peeves: limp handshakes, which often feel un-welcomed or unintended from the other party.
There are tons of studies about it, and the phenomena has probably been discussed somewhere in business magazines and articles, so I'm sure there are all kinds of resources on a why a good handshake is important. So no need to bore you with theory. Instead, I thought I'd share why it's important for me to give a good one.
I like to give good handshakes because:
1. It's a great way to be present and command attention. We all bring something of value to any space we occupy. A good firm handshake is a great way to remind ourselves of this and to make sure the other person is aware of that energy, too.
2. It's a moment to acknowledge the other person. I love the basic tip: shake the hand firmly and look 'em in the eye. Kind of like in the film Avatar, where the Na'vis from the planet Pandora, greeted one another with the statement, "I see you," as they take a moment to look in the eyes of the other person. Here on planet earth, it's a simple way to remember that no matter who you're meeting, on a very basic level, we are all human beings. We should always acknowledge that fact, and a good handshake is great way of doing so.
3. It's a great way to make a good first impression. The first two can really be rolled into this reason. It sucks that we can be really amazing people but that a first impression can make for missed opportunities or bad experiences. But in this standard western greeting, that's just how it is. Therefore, knowing this allows us to be prepared when starting an introduction with the intention of being great — even if it's for a fleeting moment. Because in every moment we should always be awesome and a lame, disingenuous, limp, finger-only handshake is not the best we can do.
Those are my thoughts. What are your experiences? Are you aware of your handshake? Does it matter to you if you give or receive a bad handshake?
When you're creating art as a business the "starving artist" philosophy doesn't work. Business is business, and regardless if it's your full-time career or a side-hustle, it's important to create a system of compensation that is professional and fair to both you and your client.
There are tons of perspectives and ideas on how to run the finances of a business, but I'd like to share three tips I feel are important in regards to getting paid for your hard work. They seem pretty obvious but even in my many years as a freelance designer (12 years!) I'm still learning and taking heed to these very basic tips.
1. Always start projects with a contract.
It doesn't matter who it is (family, close friends, and the like) if there is an anticipated cash transaction then there needs to be a contract. Don't worry about offending anyone, help your potential client understand that it's not personal, it's business. (I talk a little about valuing yourself and your work here.) There are great books out there (like the Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines for graphic designers), industry websites and blogs that offer guidance and tips, and even sample contracts. You can do research or consult with a lawyer. It's a pain in the beginning (well, it's not really that hard) but so worth it because once it's in place it's done.
2. Start a project with a percentage of the full amount paid upfront. (The go-to is usually 50%).
This practice does not guarantee you won't get burned, but it usually provides a sense of commitment and investment on both parties. If the client resists this requirement then this gives you an opportunity to decide if this is the right collaboration for you. It also allows you to be compensated in some way for any work done even if a project is at a standstill or is cancelled.
3. Have a plan in place if things do go awry.
Things happen. Mis-communication, the client's payroll gets messed up on their end, or the project falls through — anything can happen that can impact the schedule and/or you getting paid. But according to your contract you still must get paid. It's hard to anticipate what could go wrong but think about your options if you can't reach the client or the client suddenly cannot afford the balance. You can determine how rigid or flexible you want to be as long as you get paid. Payment plans, contacting the accounting department (if it's a big client), or getting your lawyer involved might be part of your action plan. Hopefully, it doesn't get to that point but it's important to be prepared.
This just speaks to the surface of being compensated for your business. I'm curious, though, what "get paid" tip would you offer based on your experiences? Do you have a story where you had to learn a lesson the hard way? Please share.
No matter what, even if you are taken advantaged of or mistreated, you never have to be rude, disrespectful, or unprofessional. Always handle any situation with integrity, you have to hold up your end of the bargain. Approach "invoice challenges" with firm grace and professionalism. Always stand up for yourself and your rights.
Cheers to artistic and creative wealth and abundance!
Several years ago when I was developing a business concept I created a chart that represented the ideal business model for how it would function. The chart became a map, so to speak, of how different parts will make up the new brand. Since then, things have shifted and I replaced the top portion (where the business name would go) with my name and began thinking about the different titles or roles that are a part of who am, specifically in regards to my career path and interests. Almost like a vision board, it gives clarity about the things that I want and things I can do to achieve those goals, but this option simply uses words and structure.
What I love about this "blueprint" is that it functions as a guideline for exactly what I want to do in a new role, or better define what I do in a current role. (And roles don't have to be limited to careers, it can relate to interests, projects, etc.)
Here's an example of how it might look (but yours can be handwritten):
2. In the second row of boxes add two roles you are or would like to be (note: I only included two boxes in the PDF but you can do more than two).
3. In the third row of boxes add an action or goal that relates to the role. In the example, you see "boutique owner" is the role or title, then actions like "sell clothes" and "promote designers" are actions this person wants to do as a boutique owner. The final row of boxes is where you would add sub-actions, or options to support the main action. So in the example, this boutique owner wants to have flash sales, create an online store, and revamp the store to sell clothes. (You can click on the image to scale and get a better view).
Once everything is in place you can start taking those actions.
When you're done you can put it away and revisit, or hang it up somewhere where you can see it all the time.
If you decide to do a blueprint for yourself, please let me know how it goes!
This question comes from a tough conundrum often faced by new designers who only have work from school projects, internships, and perhaps an entry level design gig. They're feeling like, "My portfolio isn't rich. I need more work to show, but I need a job to make more work, but I can get a job because I need more work..."
Yes employers would love to see a range of projects, especially ones that were actualized, but most importantly, they're looking for someone with amazing design thinking skills and a strong sense of creativity. The solution is easy. Create your own projects.
I mean, you can always do more freelance work for family and friends to help build your portfolio, but sometimes those assignments won't give you the opportunity to go as crazy as you wish. Therefore, pretend you're back in school or working for an imaginary design firm, make your own brief, and execute.
The beauty of this is that you can work on projects that really interest you, and spend as much time as you need to make it the best work possible. Whether it's a re-brand for company you admire, a t-shirt design for a hypothetical clothing brand, or a series of web animations for a toy store, you can add work that really highlights your creative skills.**
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what you can create:
Exploring subjects that you're passionate about will allow you to get excited, especially since this is extra work you're making for yourself — it should be fun. Using your imagination to create dynamic work is a great way to attract employers, especially if you create an imaginary brief for a company where you see yourself working. This shows the potential employer your interest early on, beyond a cover-letter and resume. It's also great to consider topics that aren't often explored, pursuing these topics will allow you to stand out.
After you execute, make sure you photograph or print your pieces, upload the images to your portfolio site/Pinterest/Instagram, and showcase the project on your blog. Show the world that you've been busy.
I have a few small self-initiated projects going that I revisit when I can. What about you, have you already done something like this for your portfolio or just to keep your design chops fresh? Tell me about it.
**important side-note: In the real world you're not always going to have the opportunity to work on projects or topics you like, which to some degree should not hinder how you solve a visual problem. Employers want to know you can provide a design solution regardless of the assignment. With that said, please know that "I didn't like the assignment" should NEVER be a good excuse for bad work.