One student said that she always feels guilty when she tries to copy work from her role models and lacks the motivation to start. “It’s not even my work.”
My math teacher at school once said, “Go ahead and make your cheat sheets. Write down the formulas, the example calculations, and the solutions. Then before you enter the classroom, throw the slips of paper in the trash can.” She knew that something was already happening in our minds when we write things down, and more of the subject matter sticks.
It’s the same with creative work. Let’s copy, trace, and replicate our heroes’ work as many times as possible. Eventually, something magical happens. The more we copy, the more a secret ingredient gets mixed in: It’s ourselves. In the process of creating, it is impossible to prevent our personality, our view of the world, our interpretation, our handwriting, our attitude from flowing into the work.
There is also nothing wrong with sharing this work with people, as long as we include the source of inspiration. There is hardly a greater and more flattering compliment than reading “Illustration based and inspired by one of my favorite artists Sergio Ingravalle.”
Only when we copy work and put our name on it, it’s like slowly pulling the cheat sheet out of the pencil case during the exam and painfully straining our eyes.
Sketching has many forms. For example, a product designer can visualize his idea through sketching. He slowly feels his way towards the project and can share and discuss the designs with others. The same is true for logo designers or illustrators when finding a suitable composition. So sketching is the first or preliminary stage of the process to realize something.
He is an artist, craftsman, and salesman in one, and all three “beings” feed on one essence: creativity.
The artist in him has learned to ignite the creative fire. However, the designer’s task is now to tame and focus on this fire. Only in this way can he aim laser-precisely at his customer’s problem and solve it.
The craftsman in him has the task of using skills to turn the inner world of the designer inside out. He is constantly improving his skills and looking for new possibilities to accomplish this. He experiments, changes, fails, frustrates, and keeps trying.
The salesman in him has the task of presenting the work of his two colleagues to the world. He looks for creative ways and opportunities to reach people who will benefit from the work.
A designer can only consist of these three beings. If he lacks even one, he is not a designer anymore. He transforms himself, for example, into a free and independent artist, an art dealer, or a master craftsman in his own business. However, all of them make a living from creativity, just as the designer does.
In the post „Using time pressure as a motivational power-up“, I wrote that time pressure can be an excellent incentive to get a lot done in a short time. With the help of little tricks, we can also create this positive pressure consciously and literally fly over our to-do list.
For example, one day, I worked on my laptop in a coffee store when I realized I had forgotten the charging cable at home. I got annoyed with myself and started working. After a short while, I noticed that I had worked off more than usual. I was focused and didn’t waste a minute.
The battery indicator on my laptop was my hourglass. It drove me on like a boss standing behind my back, nagging me. But it was a positive pressure. I accomplished everything I set out to do and still had time for a coffee with friends afterward.
Since then, I’ve left the charging cable at home more often. If you have found such hacks that increase your productivity, please feel free to share them with me.
When we meet someone with whom we feel butterflies in our stomach, we want to know everything about the person. We want to be with them day and night. Only time will tell whether love will develop from this or whether we will go our separate ways again. If we have a brilliant idea for an app, a Netflix series, or a comic, the warm flickering behind our chest starts. We think about it every spare minute, gather information, and can’t wait to see where the journey takes us. Both the research and the falling in love should never be seen as wasted time, just because nothing turned out for eternity after all. We just keep searching until we find the right one.
Good ideas don’t come to us and don’t just strike us like lightning. Good ideas want to be found. They hide behind the obvious, the mundane, the banal. They lie beneath the surface.
To find them, we have to dig. Sometimes with our bare hands. As gold diggers, we work our way through the surface. In the search, we can despair, for it is arduous and sweaty. Sometimes we come across a lump of gold, only to realize that it’s just a light-colored clod of the earth. We want to give up, but we can’t. We know it must be here somewhere. So we keep digging and digging until we reach the place where no one has been before. Then we climb back up and show the world our treasure.
We have our minds set on it: We want to apply to grad school, write our novel, develop the app, start the relief effort, or plan our wedding. Our mission is clear. Suddenly, something magical happens: tedious work turns into mission tasks under the light of our motivation and determination for the major goal.
My mission was: I want to do illustrations for a living. I quickly realized that making “beautiful” drawings wasn’t enough. I needed a website, used social networks, designed advertising materials, wrote my first invoices, improved my English, and visited fairs and events. I even picked up the phone to call agencies and drove to distant cities to deliver my postcards in person. That’s something I would never have done before. Suddenly, I was a programmer, social media expert, graphic designer, salesman, and I read books only in English.
Each task on its own would not have brought me joy. On the contrary, I would have hated them. But since they served my mission, all negative feelings disappeared. I just did it.
In Italy there is a saying, “Hai voluto la bicicletta? Adesso pedala.”, “You wanted a bike, right? Now pedal!” I used to roll my eyes every time my father said this. But it just seems to be true: We can’t have one without the other. And when it’s blowing the warm summer wind in your face, pedaling is fun, too.
“Do it once to lose the fear of it. Do it twice to understand how it works. Do it three times to see if you even want to do it.”
To find your own style, a series of work on a particular subject is mainly, but not only valuable in illustration. Whether for the application portfolio for college or for the first job afterward. Series not only help us in our personal development, but they also say a lot about ourselves. More about this topic soon.
At first, it tastes bitter, and you want to spit it out. But once it is down, it works wonders.
This only applies to constructive criticism. Criticism has the sole purpose of bringing the criticized person closer to her goal. This can be during the logo design process, the realization of a business idea, or the improvement of shooting techniques in football.
“Why” questions shake the core of an idea and determine if it will stand afterward. “Why did you use that color?”, “Why did you use that font and not this one?”, “Why that particular format?”. They are the first stress test for an idea, and at the same time, the viewer gets a first impression of the thought processes of the creator. These can serve as a basis for both sides before getting down to the nitty-gritty.
There is a fundamental difference between loneliness and solitude: Loneliness is a state that is always related to our fellow human beings. Being stranded on an island, cut off from all people, makes us feel lonely. We can also feel loneliness even though we are with or surrounded by other people. For example, we can be out with our friends and still feel lonely because we lack a partner. We can move to a foreign city to study and still feel lonely, even though we meet dozens of other students every day. Loneliness has nothing to do with ourselves.
The moment we face it and overcome it, we absorb its energy and transform it in our favor. We feel pride, relief, and confidence that we will make it again the next time. It becomes our ally for the future and helps us to grow. In short, we grow.