Being Creative Outside of Work

As I’ve started to do more design work, I’ve realized that I have done less for myself. I used to design stuff just for fun, outside of either work or while in school, like the book covers I did for my portfolio and the digital art I used to do. And I realized how important it is for me to do. Just like doing anything creative or anything that started as a hobby and turned into a business, it’s easy to fall into the mentality that what you used to love is no longer fun — it’s work.

And I think I’ve been doing that with design. The past year, I haven’t done many projects outside of work — in fact, I haven’t at all. The only thing that I wasn’t being paid for was the images I did for each blog post last year — which fell into the mental category of “work.” I hadn’t done a book cover redesign for fun, I hadn’t done anything. The moment I realized this was in November when I had an idea for a podcast — one that I will most likely never do (like I need anymore creative outlets) — and I, just for fun, designed a cover image for it. And I had a blast doing it. I was able to create a design just for myself and I’d missed doing that.

So this year, I’ve set as one of my goals, to do a personal design like that, just for fun, once a week. It doesn’t have to be big and elaborate, just a cover for a book or an album, a little graphic, a fun piece of digital art. Maybe even a motion graphics piece. Anything I want! Just for fun.

I think it’s important to flex other muscles and do things new, too, which is why I’ve been working on illustration for the last few years, trying to get better and improve my skills. I know that illustrating skills can be super valuable to a designer (depending on the type of design; it’s definitely a spectrum).

Anyway, I’m really excited to just take some time just to create something for fun again. And the best part, these are designs that I can easily put up on social media to keep content regular and I can add them to my portfolio. One a week is a lot — that’s fifty two for the entire year. Not sure if I’ll be able to do it, but I’m sure going to enjoy trying.

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The Curse of Procrastination

For the past few months, I’ve been preparing to start taking on work as a freelance designer. This is something I’ve been planning on doing for a while. Right out of design school, I thought I would be doing these exact things—not a year after I graduated. At the time of my planning, I hadn’t realized I was going to already have a non-design related business that I was going to be co-running that takes up a good portion of my time.

Because I’ll be freelancing part time, I’ve been looking at how I’ll be scheduling myself once I start taking on jobs. At first, I assume it will be one or two that won’t be hard to schedule and (hopefully) will begin to grow in numbers. I know that I have the time for these jobs, because right now, I’ve been taking that time to do the work on prepping to start freelancing.

Only…I haven’t. What have I been doing instead? Almost anything and everything I can think of, including, at best, adding more time to my writing schedule and at worst, doing nothing but stare at the wall. Why am I doing this? Why am spending so much time, wasting so much time when I could be working toward what I’ve wanted to do for so long?

The answer? I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m worried.

Am I ready? Should I do this? Am I good enough?

Every time I think about working on anything to prepare to freelance, I instantly become terrified of doing it and work myself out of even trying. I end up doing something else, wasting yet another day I could’ve finished my portfolio.

The worst part? Some days, when I have no excuse not to, I’ll sit down at my desk and plow through a lot of the work I’ve been procrastinating on…and I’ll love it. I’ll get excited again, I’ll be right on track and can’t wait to work on some more again! What was I so afraid of before? This is great! I’m going to do it!

And then, like clockwork, I take a day off from it or I’ll go to work for a few days, and then I’m right back at where I started. Am I ready? Am I good enough? Do I really want to do this?

When I think back to school, studying design, I would always push whatever I had to do to the last possible second. I’d convinced myself that I work best under maximum pressure, and I think, to a degree, that’s true. It wasn’t a good process of waiting for the last two days of an assignment being due to start working on it. It just stressed me out to the point of overworking myself for 48 hours, crashing for a few days and do nothing, then the cycle would continue.

But I realized recently that the deadline part of that process worked for me. And I figured out that because I never had a concrete date to when I wanted my portfolio site to go live, for when I wanted to start taking on clients, the answer always just being “soon,” I was stuck in that permanent cycle of procrastination. “It doesn’t really matter if I work on it today, I can do it tomorrow.” I’ve said that so many times the last few months.

The solution is to find a medium ground. Work steadily without the mad-dash finish, but still have a set finish line, a light at the end, an incentive to get out of this endless procrastinating cycle.

So what I’ve decided to do, is to take myself more seriously and to get over this feeling of unreadiness I have, I’m setting a deadline for myself. Instead of procrastinating, instead of letting myself feel that nervousness, I’m not going to take any days from working on it. I’m going to do at least one thing every day that brings me closer to my goal. And the hours I already have scheduled to prepare, I’m going to make sure I don’t do anything else. I’m going to keep the momentum going.

Officially, since I’m saying it here, so that even with the small amount of people who read this, I’m putting it out there to hold myself accountable to complete it. By March 15th, I’m going to finish the list of things I need to accomplish, loose ends to tie up, and finish my portfolio. By March 15th, I’m going to have my site with that portfolio up and running.

I have exactly one more month, to the day, to push myself passed the finish line.

EDIT 03/15/18: Even thought I’ve been working hard every day to reach the deadline I set for myself, there are still a few things I need to iron out! So I’m pushing it a few days to Monday, the 19th of March!

Book Cover Design

Ever since I decided on going to school for graphic design, I’d always had the goal of designing book covers. It made perfect sense to me: as a writer and a reader, I’m surrounded by books. It’s something I’m passionate about. So it feel natural and exciting to start the process of designing books.

To start, I had a goal of marketing myself as a book cover designer to do freelance work. But I knew I needed some work to go into my portfolio to do so. This led me to the idea of redesigning the covers of books I love to bulk up my portfolio. But I didn’t want to just design books that had terrible covers, I wanted to redesign covers that were already good, maybe even one of my favorites, to challenge myself to make one as good—or better. I don’t know if I accomplished that, but I’m dang proud of the ones that I’ve done so far.

I’ve been working one a few in the last few months in my spare time. Here are three that I really love:

These are just front covers that would work for e-books, but I’ll have a few full spreads in my portfolio for print hardcover jackets and paperbacks.

My goal for the very beginning of 2018 is to have a portfolio up online (other than the link above to just a WordPress page) and to put myself and my work out there to get jobs with self-published authors or small independent publishers.

If you happen to see this post before my portfolio is up and ready, like the covers above, and are in need of any design work (not just book covers!), feel free to message me through any social media outlet or here on WordPress. I’ll have a proper way of contact up soon!

Hand Lettering

Each month, I’ve been focusing more on one goal for the year over the others, setting aside a few hours a week to one goal instead of trying to fit them all in. This has been making it easier to dedicating more time to them rather than spreading myself too thin by trying to do a little of them all. One of my goals was to work on my hand lettering skills, and having only taken a calligraphy and letterform class in design school, I wanted to practice it more and get better.

Over the month of May, I practiced as often as possible—which ended up not being that much, but much more than I had before—and, though I still need to work a lot more, I can definitely see an improvement from just one month alone! Some were done quickly, some when I had a few hours to spare, so the quality varies. Overall, I definitely felt like I had improved by the end. (Also, if anyone has tips or books on lettering, please share!)

Here are a few pages of work I’ve been doing over the course of the month:

After doing some on paper, I wanted to try vectorizing a piece of lettering to use in a full design, and because I’m already working on redesigning book covers of some favorite books to add to my portfolio, I though I’d give it a try and add some lettering to my redesigned cover of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I’m not entirely happy with it—my lettering skills still need a lot of work, but it was still worth it to try out.

I also designed the cover without the lettering, which I prefer anyway, to go into my portfolio. I did it in a few different color options, and I think I prefer the white cover with the single star shape.

Screen (+ Relief) Printing

Recently, I’ve been getting into the idea of printing—both relief printing and screen printing. If you don’t know what those are: relief printing is like a stamp, using linoleum or rubber or wood as a surface to carve into, and using ink or paint to print the carved image onto paper or fabric using pressure; screen printing is using a meshed screen in a frame, having the image displayed through a hardened emulsion layered on top of the mesh, allowing the ink to go through where the emulsion hasn’t been hardened—it’s a complicated process, and if I didn’t explain that very well, Google it, it’s cool.

Anyway, I’ve been following a few printers on Instagram and have been inspired to try it out. There’s some awesome DIY ways to go about printing, so I’ve been doing a lot of research on the best way to do it and most cost effective way to get the supplies I need. I never had a chance in school to do any screen printing before, though I have done some relief and have all the tools needed to do it, so I’m excited to give it a go. I have plans to design a lot of different things in the future and would love to be able to print them myself, giving them a more handmade, personal quality to them.

For now, I have most of the thing I need to do some relief printing, so I think I’m going to work in that medium for a while and get to screen printing later (I’ll have to gather the supplies needed for screen printing gradually because of money). There’s a lot of choices to make and I need to save a bit of money for the supplies, but I’m excited to work on some stuff and document my journey on here.

On Instagram, I’ve been following Eva Stalinski and Chris Neuenschwander.

Art + Design: Favorites

Since the last time I posted about my recent art and design favorites, I’ve stumbled upon more – as I often do thanks to Pinterest and Tumblr. There’s a mix of new album art of songs that I’ve bought, some art and design finds from scrolling through Pinterest, and some newly discovered books with incredible covers. Here they are:

Album + Single Art

 

Illustration + Miscellaneous Design

 

Book Cover Design

 

Note: the cover of A Conjuring of Light, the final book in one of my favorite trilogies by my favorite author VE Schwab, is A+ and matches perfectly with the others, which I love— they’re my favorite covers of all time.

The End of Part One

Recently, (as in a few days ago) I finished school. I completed all my classes and I’ll officially have a degree in graphic design. I’m both excited that it’s over and excited for the future and terrified that it’s over and terrified of the future.

I’ve always sort of had my plans up in the air and thought I’d figure it out eventually. Well, I did that, and I sort of figured out what I want to do (I mean, I know what my passions are and I know what my dreams are) but now that it’s here, right now, I feel like I’m not ready for it. But at the same time, I feel ready enough. It’s a weird limbo-like roller coaster ride of anxiety with a lot of pressure that makes me feel like I’m dying. But it’s totally fine, I’m fine, it’s fine.

But because of that pressure, I feel more focused. I’ve suddenly became aware of my surroundings and things—specifically that I lack a good set up to start doing anything. My work space is broken up into three different rooms and I’m in the process of planning to reorganize my life and work space (after the holidays, I’ll be actually moving and organizing—and I think I’ll post all about the setting up my new work space.) There’s also a lot of researching that needs to be done, some purchases I need to make (like possibly a new computer, some more storage, and definitely a new printer) which all has to happen as I need it and as I can afford it, but it a mostly all takes planning.

The end of school sort of feels like going off a cliff. You’ve been able to see the cliff the whole time as you were running toward it, but you’ve always seen it further away than it really was. And while running toward it, you were supposed build a plane along the way before you fell off. Well, I’m off the edge of the cliff with only half a plane. All the schematics are there, the plans to build the whole plane are there, I just have to finish the plane—as I’m going down. So that’s what I’ll be doing in the new year: building the plane before I hit the ground.

My plans/goals are this: the small business I co-run is expanding in January, so I’ll be working hard on that; I’ll be drastically reducing my involvement with my current job, sticking just to freelancing design work for them; I’ll be doing more freelance here and there when I can; and I’ll be working on my own art and design to hopefully start selling online, prints and stationery and other products. And of course I’ll be writing.

So there is a plan. There are goals. Planning and focusing and working is the only way it can happen. I just have to begin. The time to do it is right now—and I think I’m ready.

Art & Design: New Favorites

I’ve posted design favorites before in different categories (book covers, film posters, motion graphics, patterns, etc.) and I made some “update” posts with recent finds, but I decided to expand from just design and share illustrations and other forms of art in my favorites. So here are recent favorites that I’ve found and became obsessed over:

BOOK COVERS

 

FILM POSTERS

 

ILLUSTRATIONS

 

Design: Favorites – Updated Album Covers

Like I posted in March, my series of posts about my favorite designs (cover art, title sequences, prints, etc.) need to be updated from time to time to reflect recent favorites that I’ve discovered or forgot about. For this post, I’ll be adding to the original post here about my favorite album covers.

Here are the covers of Birdy’s Beautiful Lies with art-deco-like typography with an image of her, standing in a field, draped in red against a darkening blue sky; Halsey’s Badlands, showing the blue-haired singer among the rocky desert, bold type covering her face with a vintage, textured layer over the image; the band Lucius with Good Grief, the sort of childish cursive type under an image of a woman holding an invisible person, a blip of color in a sea of black; and SOHN’s Tremors, an photograph of a man walking down a dirt road with snow on either side, white smoke climbing out of frame ahead with the large, simple type at the center.

 

All great album covers, all some of my favorite designs.