Archive for the ‘idea generation’ Category

How to cultivate good habits that will encourage creativity

Amy Ng
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Amy Ng

Amy is a teacher, writer and a self-taught illustrator. Her blog Pikaland, is popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce. Amy is also an adjunct lecturer at a local design college and has created online workshops for artists; teaching them how to use their unique strengths to create their very own opportunities. She believes that we each have a role to play and a story to tell –- and her personal mission is to help you discover what that is.
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Phoebe Summers

Illustration: Phoebe Summers

We’ve all given excuses before: I’m too tired, I’m too busy, etc. Whether it’s to avoid going for that run you’ve marked on your calendar, or to enter your studio during the weekends when you’ve already put in 40-hour-weeks at your day job – procrastination is a tough habit to beat.

As creatives, we live and breathe design – whether it’s graphic design, art or illustration. Our minds are constantly running background tasks even if we don’t know it. You may appear to be chewing your food silently, but the real fact is that you’re thinking about that art piece you saw in a gallery a week ago. Or what about that time when you had that family vacation? Your kids were running around having fun and the only thing running through your mind is work – yup, the one you left back at home. Such is the mind of a working creative.

But there is hope.

We wind up this way (yes, I’ve been there!) because we aren’t living in the moment. And while that may sound like it isn’t anything particularly serious, it’s a bad habit. And bad habits are one of the biggest obstacles to getting things done. One way that has helped for me personally is to introduce new habits – things that when done time and time again, will help you get back on the creative track.

So here’s what has worked for me:

Making a list

To-dos, grocery lists, or even things you need for your trip – you need to write them all down. Because if you don’t, it’s going to be hiding in the recesses of your mind, just waiting for the most ridiculous moment to pop up and remind you of its existence. And then you’ll forget. Yet again.

Our brains can’t cope with too much tasks at any given time. And when you load it with a task such as remembering X, Y, and Z, you’ll leave little room for the things you want it to do. Like thinking up rad new ideas or joining together ideas to form new ones.

So let it all out on paper. Write every single thing down so that you won’t forget and your brain can get some rest!

Having a routine

What gets your brain juices flowing in the morning? Coffee? A run? A shower? Do that. Sometimes it’s good to establish a routine, especially those that have worked for you before. By having a routine, it frees up a lot of time thinking about what to do – you’ve an automated schedule to run so that you can leave your imagination where it counts the most.

Doing nothing at all

When your body is reluctant to do something – listen to it. It’s trying to tell you something. Instead of just dragging your body to the gym (or somewhere else you need to be), stop for a moment and just take a nap. Or just lie on the couch and read that book you’ve been putting aside. Maybe what you really want is to catch that favorite TV show? Then just do it.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how refreshed you’ll be when you start listening to your body instead of going against it. We’re not recommending that you flake on your appointments all the time – but sneaking in some time for yourself – especially if you don’t do it enough – will save your sanity.

Limiting time on social media sites

Yes, you heard me. It’s a time sucker. And when you’re refreshing that feed of yours, think of the time you could have spent on other, more productive things – things that could improve your art, or figuring out a way to earn more income through your art. Besides, reading too much Facebook is depressing – definitely not something you’d want when you’re trying to be creative.

Limit your viewing to 5 times a day, or only check your social media happenings in the evenings. Or perhaps it can be a reward for when you’ve checked things off your to-do list. The point is, get things done instead of watching others get things done.

Looking up. Or down.

We always look at things that are eye-level. Supermarket shelves are stocked so that their popular items are placed at eye-level. But look deeper – up the aisle and down as well and you’ll be surprised at the things you find. Life is a lot like that as well. Inspiration is everywhere, the saying goes. And it’s certainly not limited to the scope of vision that we’re used to looking at. So Remember: look up and down wherever you go. Soften your gaze a little.

Writing down ideas.

Much like the above, you should write down any ideas you come across. Not just lists of things. Business ideas, ideas for your art, a new way of experimenting with your technique – all these should be written down because as we mentioned earlier, our brain can only do so much. And once you forget them, it might be gone forever.

I’ve kicked myself so hard because I had on many occasions, a great idea that I forgot to pen down. I would then spend hours or even days trying so hard to grasp or fill in the blanks. It was a waste of time indeed. And that’s if I can recall it again!

Revisit ideas and combine them to create new things.

Once you have a book of ideas, take some time to flip through it when you’re stuck. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find jumping out between those pages – because when ideas get together, the party is just getting started!

Doing the most important stuff first

Contrary to beliefs, your emails isn’t the most important thing that you need to do. So instead of firing up the Mail manager, you need to work on your work first. We get so wrapped up responding to things that we sometimes forget to create. So before you get sucked into the menial stuff, make sure to put your energy where it’s needed most of all – creating work that matters – before you start on the small stuff. Believe you me, it’s the small stuff that will suck the energy out of you before you know it!

Practice, practice, practice

All the above are simple measures to help you rein in your time. But without practice, you’ll fall into the same old bad habits that got you into trouble in the first place. So keep at them and you’ll find that all these habits will come naturally.

There you have it – my go-to list on creating new habits to encourage your creativity to flourish. Are these among the habits that you’re putting into gear post new year?

Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.

Posted by Amy Ng on 02/29/16 under artists,business,idea generation
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A better way to keep up with new year resolutions

Amy Ng
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Amy Ng

Amy is a teacher, writer and a self-taught illustrator. Her blog Pikaland, is popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce. Amy is also an adjunct lecturer at a local design college and has created online workshops for artists; teaching them how to use their unique strengths to create their very own opportunities. She believes that we each have a role to play and a story to tell –- and her personal mission is to help you discover what that is.
Amy Ng
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Philip Giordano

Ah, new year resolutions. 

The long line of promises you make at the beginning of each year to be a better version of yourself than the year before. To eat healthier, to move your body more, to be more present. To read more, draw even more, and to be braver when it comes to asking for more.

It’s a good thing really, resolutions. So why can’t we stay on track past February? 

Because it’s hard to break 10 – or for the more ambitious among you – 20 habits in such a short time. 

Let’s face it. That long list of things you’d like changed or improved? They’re there because in reality it’s something you feel that you lack or aren’t paying enough attention to. And that’s really awesome because acknowledging them is half the battle won. The other half though, now that’s a real tough nut to crack.

It’s easy to write down faults you have and what you want to do to improve it. But faults, like habits, are hard to change. So what works?

I’ve stopped making resolutions 10 years ago. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t grow or change. Far from it. I quit my job, I took on freelance jobs, gave talks, taught at a university, learnt coding (among many other things), read more, and traveled more, etc.

Wanting to make changes to your daily life isn’t just filled with affirmations on how you pledge to be different. It’s about taking concrete steps, little by little, day by day to reach your goal. It’s unsexy. It’s tedious. It’s hard work. New year resolutions on the other hand, can be like bursts of positive emotions and hopefulness, Instagram photos with random inspiring quotes, and stuttered promises made when you’re drunk. Guilt and hopelessness sets in not long after.

So here’s what I recommend instead: make a to-do list.

Not some fancy schmancy list of life-changing resolutions that you tape to your fridge on January 1, where it stares at you every day when you wake up in the morning when you grab your milk – only to be taken down, tattered and stained with failure and regrets of not being able to tick them off at the end of the year. No more. 

Figure out what you want to achieve, then write down what you’ll do to get there. Heck, you can even omit writing out the big goals. Just write out what you’re going to do every little step of the way. I’m talking about the most boring, mundane things that will trick your body/mind to complete it. Don’t just throw up a big life goal without a plan on how you’ll get there – we all know when we don’t know where we want to go, we’ll just stay where we are. It’s comfortable. It’s nice. Change is hard. And we also know that if you don’t pencil things down (and subsequently tick them off), nothing is going to happen. Step by step is where it’s at.

So if you want to make a new resolution this year, do yourself a favour and start a to-do list.

You can thank me on 31st December.

Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.

Posted by Amy Ng on 01/07/16 under business,freelance,idea generation
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New Sketchbook Skool Class by Penelope Dullaghan

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

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Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.26.59 PM

“Illustration Friday friends, hello!
 
I wanted you to know that I am teaching at Sketchbook Skool for the first time! Sketchbook Skool is an online video course (or ‘kourse” as they say at Sketchbook Skool) that lasts six weeks and has a different teacher every week. We made more than a dozen videos in which I appear telling stories, sharing pages of my sketchbooks and doing some demos. Here’s a video trailer about the kourse
 
You can learn all about the Skool at their website, sketchbookskool.com
During the week I am teaching, I will be right there with you, answering questions and comments and admiring the artwork you’ll share! It’ll be so fun!
 
One of the things I love about SBS is the wonderful, supportive community that has developed there. There are thousands of people from around the world, some are professional artists and illustrators, some are complete beginners, all collaborating and encouraging each other. It’s a great experience I think you’ll love, too!
 
Enrollment starts today and the kourse begins on January 15th. I hope to see you in klass!
 
As a special treat (and for the very first time ever) Sketchbook Skool is offering a 20% discount only to members of Illustration Friday — like you.  When you check out, just use the code: Pennyatskool2016 and do it soon — it expires on January 15th.
 
Can’t wait to begin!”
-Penelope Dullaghan

Posted by Thomas James on 01/04/16 under art supplies,artists,business,children's art,classes,community,Events,idea generation,IF community,IF news update,illustration
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Inspiration Board for This Week’s Topic of OLD

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

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IF_inspirationboard_OLD

 Hello fellow artists!

As part of our ongoing efforts to make Illustration Friday more of a community focused on the art of idea generation, here’s our Inspiration Board for this week’s topic of OLD.

You can download, save, drag and drop, print, or do whatever you want with it if it helps you to brainstorm ideas for your illustration.

Let us know in the comments if this is something that you think is helpful or inspiring enough for us to keep doing!

Posted by Thomas James on 09/04/15 under idea generation,illustration,inspiration board
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How to stretch yourself

Amy Ng
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Amy Ng

Amy is a teacher, writer and a self-taught illustrator. Her blog Pikaland, is popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce. Amy is also an adjunct lecturer at a local design college and has created online workshops for artists; teaching them how to use their unique strengths to create their very own opportunities. She believes that we each have a role to play and a story to tell –- and her personal mission is to help you discover what that is.
Amy Ng
Follow me

Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.

Here’s a secret about me: I love to exercise. Having been exposed to different sports training while I was in high school only made me love my body more when it’s in movement.

I’ve been on various teams: rhythmic gymnastics, volleyball, hockey, running, mountain climbing, and taekwondo – all at the same time. And when I’m not at school picking up a ball, I’m at home skipping rope and doing mat pilates. Early morning swim runs with my childhood friends remain in my memory as one of the fondest activity we get together for. Being in the water makes me feel as though I’m fully immersed in the moment – as though my body is one with all that is around me. Drawing feels very much the same way.

But age catched up. I found that I could no longer run without feeling it in my knees afterwards. I took cautionary steps to alleviate the pain, but after many years of following Mr. T along with his run, I’ve decided that it wasn’t for me. So now I concentrate on doing yoga flows and pilates stretches instead because it helps me open up my shoulders – hunching over my keyboard or Wacom tablet for long periods on end makes me feel as though a curled up ball of wrangled nerves at the end of the day.

With any yoga pose (or anything at all, really), practice makes perfect. But one particular pose has eluded me for many years – the yoga push up (also known as the four-limbed staff pose). For those who don’t know what a yoga push up is, it’s basically a push up but instead of your arms being the same position as your shoulder when you bring your body down, it’s instead at a 90-degree angle, with your upper arms running parallel to your torso, so that your body weight rests on the middle of your body instead of the top of your body (and your wrists are holding your body weight up at the middle!) I just read that last sentence and oh man, here’s a case when a picture tells a better story.

So I have lousy upper body strength it seems, and no matter how much I try, I fall flat on my face every time – never mind that just getting to that bit was a torture in itself. Imagine this: You’re ready to do a push up. You square your hands, resting your hands firmly on the mat. You take a deep breath, and hope that this time will be it – it’s the time you won’t fall flat on your face because your arms betrayed you. So on to the beginning of the descent – a few inches down – and oh boy! It’s looking pretty good so far. A couple more inches, and your upper hand begins to quiver no matter how tightly they’re tucked away at your sides. Your thigh begins to feel nervous, trembling at intensity of keeping the body parallel to the floor. And during that last pivotal moment when you’ve almost hit that 90-degree angle, your body gives way, and everything – your hands, thighs, torso and all – come crashing down in a tangle of limbs.

I thought to myself there’s no way that I could do it. Some muscles obviously did not get the memo that this is the one thing that is still on my list.

My poor yoga mat almost has an imprint of my face from the many times I’ve landed face first into it. But I still kept at it. Lately, I mixed up my routine a little and instead of letting myself fall, I allowed myself to go as far as I could without diving head-first into the mat. And then, right before I felt that familiar jelly-like feeling creep up my hands, I come up for a cobra pose (here’s what that looks like).

It felt really good. I did a couple more each time.

And today, I tried the yoga push up again on its own, and I was surprised at not landing on my face. In fact, my face was an inch away from the mat as my body balanced itself parallel to the floor. I blinked in surprise. I held myself that way for a few seconds – in disbelief. It was surreal. I did it. And then I did it again. It wasn’t a fluke!

My shoulders were hurting afterwards – as though I had worked out muscles I never knew were there in the first place. It was throbbing with a dull ache, warm to the touch and tight. I felt proud.

I believe that we never stop growing or stretching ourselves. The biggest takeaway for me from this whole exercise (pun intended!) is that it takes time to practice anything at all. Whether it’s yoga, drawing, or doing your own business. You might think that you don’t have it in you, but it’s all there. Every bit of it. You just need to find your way, and maybe you’ll fall down like I did (and I don’t just mean on the mat!) but you’ll soon find the strength you never had.

When that happens, it’ll just take you completely by surprise.

And then you’ll be proud you stuck it out.

[Illustration: Surrender, by fellow yoga-loving illustrator (and IF founder!) Penelope Dullaghan]

Posted by Amy Ng on 08/26/15 under artists,business,idea generation
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HEART by Lena Erysheva

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

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heart

Submitted by Lena Erysheva for the Illustration Friday topic HEART.

Posted by Thomas James on 08/19/15 under artists,children's art,idea generation,IF community,illustration,weekly topics
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Inspiration Board for HEART

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

Latest posts by Thomas James (see all)

IF_inspirationboard_heart

 Hello fellow artists!

As part of our ongoing efforts to make Illustration Friday more of a community focused on the art of idea generation, here’s our Inspiration Board for this week’s topic of HEART.

You can download, save, drag and drop, print, or do whatever you want with it if it helps you to brainstorm ideas for your illustration.

Let us know in the comments if this is something that you think is helpful or inspiring enough for us to keep doing!

Posted by Thomas James on 08/19/15 under idea generation,inspiration board,weekly topics
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VIDEO: My Process for Generating Ideas

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

Latest posts by Thomas James (see all)

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Illustration Friday Editor and Creative Director Thomas James shares his process for generating ideas for illustration projects. Send us your own process here.

Posted by Thomas James on 08/14/15 under business,community,freelance,idea generation,IF community,IF news update,illustration,resources,technique,tutorial / how-to
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Why drawing is a lot like gardening

Amy Ng
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Amy Ng

Amy is a teacher, writer and a self-taught illustrator. Her blog Pikaland, is popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce. Amy is also an adjunct lecturer at a local design college and has created online workshops for artists; teaching them how to use their unique strengths to create their very own opportunities. She believes that we each have a role to play and a story to tell –- and her personal mission is to help you discover what that is.
Amy Ng
Follow me

Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.

FlowMagazine_Vakantieboek2015_LiekevanderVorst-930x1200

I started growing my own herb garden last year. 

They’re potted mostly, but that’s because with two jack russell terriers tearing away in my garden they wouldn’t survive on the ground for long. I was inspired by Jamie Oliver picking his selection of herbs straight out a pot when I re-watched past episodes of 30-Minute Meals – and I asked myself why can’t I do that? Supermarkets around me aren’t always stocked with herbs. Well the fancy ones do have them, but they’re far away and I really didn’t want to drive 30 to 40 minutes to a mall just to pick up a few sprigs of rosemary!

So I started my gardening journey by buying packs of compost and potting soil (because using the rather unfriendly looking reddish-clay earth we had in the backyard yielded poor results too many times to be a coincidence), and had plastic cups all ready to go for germinating. I bought seeds of herbs that I liked – and as with anything I start, I did it with gusto.

After I sprinkled over my seeds of sweet marjoram, dill, rosemary and sage – all in individual pots – and stuck ice-cream sticks with the plant’s name on a washi-tape (because markers on wood looks icky when it gets hit by water). I gave myself a pat on the back and stood back to marvel at my handiwork. Hurrah! Then the waiting began. I watered them everyday, and looked at them in the morning, and once again in the evening. Nothing. All that stared back at me was black soil. I had hoped for a glimmer of green to peek through. Nada.

I waited and lowered my expectations. I peeked in nonchalantly (and yet hopeful) for a week before I spotted something popping out from the fresh ground. YAY! A quick glance over my other 3 pots of herbs however, signaled a nay. Maybe they weren’t  ready to come out just yet? Maybe I got some bad seeds? Maybe the ants got to them in the middle of the night. Or slugs munched on them maybe? I don’t know. All I know was that my web browser history is ridden with gardening vocabulary, of the amateur sort, trying to figure out what went wrong.

Which got me to thinking. Creating anything – work, art, writing, etc – is almost like growing your own little garden. The same goes for businesses too.

You can sprinkle your seeds of imagination and ideas and be careful about them – judiciously watering them, feeding them, talking to them – but sometimes they don’t turn out the way you want them to. Which is why you spread them all around, in different pots, in different forms: through seeds, new cuttings, or the bulb of an old sprout. Some may take root and grow upwards, strong and tall. Others don’t take, and end before they can even begin. Some grow new shoots, only to be eaten by a passer-by snail; leaving only the barest of signs of being grisly eradicated before it could fully form.

And once you get these seeds on the ground, all you can do is wait. And water them. And wait again. And this process repeats itself as it grows; needing a complex combination of efforts to not only keep it stable, but to allow it to thrive and bear fruit.

It’s a nod to the universe in so many parallel ways – your labor of love is as complex, and yet while you can control a big portion of it, the rest is up to fate. One hopes for the best, and yet prepares for the worst. It’s a little dance in which you won’t know how it all will turn out; but one thing’s for sure: if you keep those seeds hidden, locking them away from soil and sunshine – you’ll never know how it all turns out.

So toss your seeds – your ideas, imagination and creativity – into the ground. Let them take hold and burst through the ground fresh and alive with hope. And what if it doesn’t turn out? Well, then it’s time to plant new ones.

Just remember to add water and love. And watch out for those sneaky slugs.

[Illustration: Lieke van der Vorst]

Posted by Amy Ng on 08/14/15 under artists,business,idea generation
2 Comments

POINTY by Joanna Kaufman

Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

Latest posts by Thomas James (see all)

pointykaufman

Submitted by Joanna Kaufman for the Illustration Friday topic POINTY.

Posted by Thomas James on 08/13/15 under artists,children's art,Humor,idea generation,illustration,weekly topics
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