May 31st, 2004
10 ways to infuse your work with your personality

I have returned. Yes. I will keep you in suspense no longer, my talk went wonderfully! In fact I would say it was one of the best talks I have done, certainly the one in which I felt most comfortable. I’m not sure what happened, it was like somebody else took over my body, no nervousness or fears at all. I began by taking off my shoes (and inviting others to do the same). I’ve learned that it is helpful to try and shift the context of a place if possible. In this case the “ballroom” I spoke in was much too formal and stuffy, so barefeet were helpful. I shared the story about my first year art school teacher who asked the class to get under one large table. We sat there for a few minutes and she came back in and started pounding on the table top. In an instant that classroom became a very different place. You never knew when you walked in what would occur. Just a little shift is all it takes sometimes. I felt a little more ownership of this fancy hotel walking around the marble floors in bare feet.

I’m not sure what happened with this talk, but I really felt something shift in me. I think it had to do with the fact that for the first time I gave myself permission to be terrified (with the help of a few loving friends). So when those scared feelings came in I felt like, “oh hey, I know you.” In the past I might have tried anything possible to banish them from my body. I think the other thing that happened is that I do feel deep down that I have something that needs to be said, (different than what we were taught in art school). It seems that the art schools are becoming more and more business-like, more strict in their approach. I want to tell people that there are no rules in this game, you really can try anything, try something you’ve never done before. do the opposite.

I did incidentally feel a bit like an imposter at times. My room had an actual boardroom table in it. I had my breakfast delivered to my room in the morning, sitting at the end of the long table I would call a meeting to order. giggling. For some strange reason the hotel had a bizarre “urn” theme. There were urns everywhere. In every hallway, in my room. I felt like I was surrounded by dead people. I was on a quest for some tape so I could subtly adhere little notes to them that said, “Uncle Ernie, 1932-1987, rip”.

So for those of you artists and designers out there who could not attend, I am posting one of the handouts here. From what I could gather it seemed that my talk was quite a different focus than many of the others, (read:anti business/corporate, non-traditional, slightly controversial). This to me is the highest of compliments, I wonder if How Magazine knew who they were hiring.

1. Document what you are responding to regularly. *journal/sketchbook, blog, listmaking, photo journal, bulletin board collage, internet bookmarks, Allow yourself to go deeper into an idea. Find influence outside of your field. Consider that you are ALWAYS working for yourself.

2. Start to challenge yourself on a regular basis to try new things, (not just for work. *i.e. new foods, colors, processes, classes, travel, become a guerilla artist, etc. Your hobbies are your greatest source of play.)

3. Go back to your childhood, (the formative years). What were your favourite things to do? In this lies some clues as to where you want to focus your energy as an adult. What makes you burst with energy?

4. Do something that is not for money. For your own enjoyment. (Your greatest work will come from here!)
-x-mas card
-product concept
-gifts for friends.
Design for yourself. *See handout on guerilla art.

5. Use sources that are based on your daily life. Your life IS your art. What are the things that are most important in your current life?

6. Become a collector. Collecting allows us to look at one thing in a contemplative & mindful way. Giving you new insights and perceptions. Examples: Maria Kalman -purse contents, Steven Guarnaccia -shoe sole
rubbings, Ian Phillips & Grant Heaps -Lost & Found pet posters, Mark Ulriksen (former art director) -misspellings of his name, Charles & Rae Eames -toys from other countries

7. “Pay no attention to the man behind that curtain.” Ignore what other people are doing. It has no bearing on your existence or vision of the world. The times we feel the most discouraged are usually due to the fact we are comparing ourselves to others. Most times reading awards annuals, and industry mags only serves to make us feel inadequate. Try cutting it out entirely. Designer Bruce Mau recommends not entering awards competitions. His reasoning, “Just don’t do it, it’s not good for you.”

8. Don’t promote to target your audience. By all means send things out into the world, but don’t think in terms of “promoting to get work”. Send stuff out because -you’re proud of it, -you want to share something with the world, -it’s fun to get mail, -to have good karma, -you want to spread your germs, -you like licking stamps. Try sending a postcard of something you made for fun, (i.e. directions on how to make a finger puppet). When thinking of subject matter for promotions look to your current life. If you deal with topics that are important to you a piece will have much more life to it.

9. Take a lighthearted approach (Don’t take yourself too seriously). If you feel stuck, you can always reinvent yourself, (re: try something else).

10. Study other artists or creators who followed their own vision. Research.

Jun 2 2004
12:54 pm
Keri Smith writes:

for those of you who are inquiring, the handout on Guerilla Art was previously posted here:

Ad Free