The Math of Creativity

When I worked full time, I was proficiently creative in my personal sketchbooks. Daily interactions and observations with people and places provided an endless stream of material from me to work with. As a freelancer, however, it’s a different matter. While client projects continue to allow me many creative opportunities, working alone in a home studio has atrophied my own personal creative output.

Realizing this, I decided to do this drawing of a mummy wearing a Fez hat. Why? Because I had nothing else to work with, and grasping at straws, I decided to take the first two sparks that came to me. One was the mention of Fez hats in a book about Morocco; the other was a commercial for a movie about mummies. So I launched into a drawing that I never expected to take seriously (or even finish), and instead, came away with something that I not only like, but also provided opportunities to explore style, elements, color, and anatomy.

Creativity may seem like the marriage of a perfect two and two. In reality, it can also be the union of a random one and three. Either way, a four is still a four, and it’s better than the zero of a blank piece of paper.

“You Should…”

Artists create work on an endless spectrum of subjects, mediums, and usages, yet amongst artists, from hobbyists to professionals, a common bond is hearing the refrain of “You should…”: “you should explore other subject matters, you should use other mediums, you should use more color, you should go digital, you should…”

While usually well-intentioned, this can also be hindering. I’ve heard “you should…” many times, both helpful, and hindering, mostly relating to subject matter, and sometimes forcing me to fight uncomfortably to impart certain elements and details into my work. As a professional illustrator, I’m always working to increase the subject matter that I can create. In my own personal sketchbooks, however, I leave behind much of the “you should”, focusing instead on drawing whatever what I want, in pure, raw fashion.

Recently, I visited the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY, where I discovered the work of late-19th century folk artists Fritz G. Vogt and John Rasmussen. I was drawn to their singular focus on finely-detailed, wonderfully-colored architecture and structures. Had they been around today, they may have heard “You should draw more than just buildings”. Luckily, such is not the case, and their work restored my faith in simply wanting to draw buildings (evident in many of my sketchbooks and client projects). Artists indeed create an endless spectrum of work, and to define your place on that spectrum, sometimes you just need to know which “you should”s to disregard.

Quick Travel Sketches

Stepped away from the studio for a few days to visit Cooperstown, a quaint town in bucolic upstate New York, which also happens to be the birthplace of baseball. Though there were plenty of fun things to do (99% of which involved baseball), there was scant little time to sketch. I did, however, manage to take a few visual notes in the tasting room at the Ommegang Brewery, and grab a quick sketch of Otsego Lake at dusk.

Draw Monsters

I love to draw monsters. In times of creative blockage or atrophy, monsters are wonderful therapy. You can’t really draw them wrong, they can be as serious or whimsical as you want, and you can take unlimited creative license. It also a good opportunity to try new art supplies, or simply to fill up a sketchbook page.

Here are some monsters I began drawing in a sketchbook sent to me by the fine folks at Art Alternatives. The first three were off-the-cuff monsters, and the fourth was for a friend, whom requested a rabid caterpillar. (note: the first three were colored with highlighters, which scan terribly. The caterpillar was colored with Prismacolor Premier Design Markers, which scan beautifully.)

First Moleskine Drawing

Here’s my first Moleskine drawing. It’s actually just a sketchbook drawing, though since it’s the $15 sketchbook that I waited a long time to buy and use, I’ll title it as such. And yes; I stuck to my little buildings. Particularly, this drawing is an homage to my sketchbook hero, Mattias Adolfsson, because I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and Adolfsson’s work has definitely made the gears in my head spin a bit.

Still a Sketchbook Warrior

This blog was originally called “Sketchbook Warrior”. It’s still a blog about being a sketchbook warrior. Why has it changed, and how’s it still the same?

I began this blog after leaving a studio management position at a design firm. Part of my job was finding illustrators for various projects, which involved looking at numerous illustrator websites. I viewed some great illustration work, which prodded at me because I was an illustrator whom wasn’t illustrating.

A lot of the work I saw was in sketchbooks. Other people’s sketchbooks. My sketchbooks laid virtually dormant, random pages being battled through, months apart. I’d had enough; I wanted to get back to illustration, and decided to revitalize myself through sketchbooks.

I went to the art supply store to buy a Moleskine sketchbook, the kind I saw so many good artists using. Standing in front of the Moleskine display, however, I realized that my creative stagnation didn’t warrant a $15 sketchbook. I’d have to earn the right to use one, so I bought a cheap $4.00 sketchbook instead, telling myself that when it was finished, I’d buy a Moleskine.

After finishing the cheap sketchbook, I bought another. And then another. Eight cheap sketchbooks later, I finally bought a Moleskine. In that time, I’d become a sketchbook warrior. And a freelance illustration warrior, visualization warrior, infographic warrior, iconography warrior, sketchnote warrior, social media graphics warrior, presentation graphics warrior, and whiteboard animation warrior.

My creative and professional world is now larger than sketchbooks, but sketchbooks still play a vibrant and dynamic part on so many levels.

So I’m back, and I’ll be posting more as I go along (infrequently; not too much at first). And yes; I missed interacting with the great blogs and people I’ve come across here on WordPress.

It’s good to be back; now to fill up a sketchbook page…

Race Car Drawing

For some reason, I’ve been wanting to draw an old-timey race car. It’s just an image that popped into my head, and also a reason to again draw purely with color, particularly with a blue/orange/white/grey color combo. Like the previous drawing, this will be an ongoing morning warmup drawing to play with before heading on to client projects. 

  

Finished Sketchbook Drawing!

Finished this sketchbook drawing. While primarily using it as an ongoing morning warmup and coffee break drawing, there are some reasons behind it:

– it’s inspired by a trip to a quaint (and touristy) West Virginian town in the Shenandoah foothills along the Potomac River. The snow capped mountains in the background are just because I love mountains. 

– I wanted to draw without using black outlines, which have been a visual crutch of mine, instead focusing on drawing purely in color, and completely filling the page with rich, juicy color. 

– It gave me a reason to buy and use Stabilo Fineliner markers. 

  

Morning Warmup Drawing

Here’s some progress I’m making with an ongoing morning warmup drawing in my little sketchbook. Every morning, before turning to client, studio, and business projects, I add to this little by little as a way to get the hand and brain moving. 

Oh yeah; haven’t posted in over a year. It’s been that busy, but in a good way. Going to be coming back little by little.

– Jason