Never Stop Exploring
Over the years, many artists seem to have fallen into a creative rut within their chosen career path. Some may have found a comfortable day job that sufficiently pays the bills. Others simply retired early, claiming to have burnt out creatively, and chose to throw in the artistic towel for a simpler lifestyle, one far less plagued by self doubt and critical objections, I’m sure. Whatever the reason is, we as a society are more often selecting to pursue comfort over curiosity and I believe it’s hurting the progression of our personal artistic expression in both our culture and as individuals.
By choosing to accept what’s handed to you by media, you’re merely absorbing other’s ideas or predefined popular interests that have become media friendly rather than participating as part of the cultural influence. This accounts for many of the current trends that appear in graphic design, illustration, web design, music, and movies these days. How else would you have ended up with Independence Day, Mars Attacks, and Men in Black hitting the top box office charts all within the same year? You couldn’t. Aliens and end of the world scenarios were accepted as hot topics at the time, but are any of them truly remembered as works of art? I would argue the answer to be, “No”. What makes something a genuine work of art is the passion with which it is made. A fresh and deeply personal idea that attempts to either break the rules of the medium or painstakingly craft them to best suit your particular need.
For example, as soon as iOS7 was shown to the public, a majority of the design community’s reaction was negative. But as soon as this same operating system was made public and write-ups began appearing online from major figureheads in the industry, people’s views started to change, as did their designs. The same people who appeared to be so opposed to this recent announcement were beginning to cater their latest designs to having an extremely minimal feel, embracing extra thin typefaces and overly saturated primary colors. While I for one have definitely come to appreciate specific things about the iOS7 operating system, there are definitely things about it’s design that are not necessarily applicable to other interface scenarios. In short, just because a big company is successful with their design doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your project. No one’s remembered for who they’ve copied. They’re remembered for what innovations they’ve made or new ideas they’ve brought to the table.
Whether this trend is a culturally specific problem or something that has plagued mankind for years, I’m unsure. What I am sure of though is that I for one don’t ever want to find myself in this predetermined rut. I think everyone has great ideas, and it’s important for them to take the time to properly express them. It’s a matter of finding the motivation in yourself to make it happen and take the risk of making it public. As the great Bill Nye said, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t”.
I for one keep a persistent list of ideas that I want to explore, both in a physical journal and on Wunderlist, just so that no matter how random the idea may seem, I can at the very least document it to be reviewed at a later date. When I do have down time between projects, I never have to search too hard for a new one to get started. For instance, my current side project is to keep an ongoing list of fictional band names that my friends and I have collected over the years and make actual merchandise out of them as if they were real bands. I treat these projects like tiny experiments and allow myself to try new things, technically and mentally. That way, when I do return to my other projects, they never feel stale. I’m once again excited to work on them and have a new set of skills or ideas to help make them even better.
This is why I think it’s important that no matter what you do, whether it’s a full time design job, freelance illustration, or something far removed from the art profession you had originally pursued, to always keep your mind fresh with new ideas. Explore all possibilities and try new things whenever you can. The more you create, the more apt you are to legitimately think outside the box, rather than work within it’s constraints. And that, my friends is how you will be remembered, for being true to yourself and creating genuine, passionate work.