a designer's life in 1 act

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Les boys Bleet & Oliver chillin' dans le sunny nook

A new project has begun here at the teak topped desk. Final art direction and details were gathered yesterday in a phone chat with the relatively new (to me) big fish Chicago company. This job is a line extension of a collection of gift/home decor product that I worked on last year and a collection that was met with much praise and accolades. On the phone yesterday with designer gal and peer (although when they're a customer somehow they never seem like a peer), who's project it is, of course I'm all brave and positive, oozing I know what I'm doing confidence (I remind myself that she already believes this to be true which is why she's calling me in the first place- sigh). After I hung up the phone and reviewed my notes I instantly began to think with a thud I can't do this!- Who am I kidding? Where ever will I begin? How on earth will I ever manage to come up with ideas and create new drawings that she will be no less than absolutely thrilled with? Sigh. Yet another hit from the soundtrack of this designer's life. You'd think after all these years I would trust my skill and ability a little more. That said - this job of self-employed designer/illustrator gal has helped me tremendously with the ability to silence the nahsayer that's camped out in my head.

This happens often with a new project and the cure is always to immediately stop all thinking and pondering and I have taught myself how to do it. A kind of neuro Cruise Control. Instead of thinking, planning and scheming which is my immediate fall back position (to most anything) I instead begin to research and gather all the necessary reference material (often this means trolling the www for ages - oh drat). With blank paper, and trusted mechanical pencil I will spend most of that first day just hunting and drawing ... very loose sketches and writing little notes, words, ideas ... and out of this will magically appear ('cause it always does) beautiful well thought out miniature thumbnail drawings. Drawings that most often garner oohs and ahhhs from customers. I swear I don't know who does these drawings - I think it must be that other girl, the Que Sera girl, the La-la-la girl who only visits from time to time and who I keep trying to convince to rent out the guest room. So ... lets review the creative process at the teak topped desk.

1. Art direction and instruction in (from customer)
2. Review art direction (with self) while confidence plummets
3. Turn esteem sections of brain to Off position
4. Research and gather reference and inspiration
5. Sketch (roughly) and make copious notes
6. Continue to check that portions of brain remain in Off position
7. Draw, draw, draw neat tight thumbnails
8. Pause in disbelief to admire own work (wonder to self who did that?)
9. Submit thumbnail drawings to customer
10. Receive raves and accolades (nearly always)
11. Humbly accept praise on Que's behalf
12. Proceed to final drawings
13. Send invoice

Repeat at the beginning of next project.


  1. we all have those same self doubts, susan! no matter what the big project at work, i put up a great front and then have a mini meltdown at my desk afterwards. once i dig in i'm fine but i always have to fall apart a bit first. i do that with my art at home as well. when someone commissions a piece i'm filled with self doubt and i'm always tempted to just pass but then once i start the research and the sketching i enjoy the process. maybe that is the only way we can get things started and then done?

  2. I get stuck in sefl-doubt, too. It can be crippling. Sometimes I don't have enough confidence to start on a project. I like the idea of neuro cruise control. I will try that. By the way, love the faces on your furry friends.

  3. You can do it. I have no doubts at all. Congrats on the new project! :^)

  4. Isn't it surprising what the right-brain magical design fairy will create for you when you just feed her a few crumbs of ideas! Congrats on getting the big job! Good luck.

  5. Love the photos of Bleet and Ver!
    It sounds like you have your creative process pretty well worked out, and OF COURSE all of those lovely designs come out of you! Look at all the loveliness you put in. :) Sometimes the hardest thing is just to get out of our own way, I know that's one of my big problems.

  6. Great news on the new project. You have your doubting self well under control. It's inspirational!

  7. At the end of every successful, accolade-riden project, it takes roughly a couple of weeks before I am completely convinced that I am a talentless hack who will never work again.

  8. Hi,
    Pretty soon you will be totally in the zone, drawing with a frenzy and loving every second. You already know that of course!

  9. Am so happy to hear that my affliction runs in the family. Merci !!

  10. When I get myself to 'be quiet' and turn off the 'you are fooling everyone' self doubt messages...the magic of the creative process is then allowed to start...at first it is a sludge...like cold gooey grease...but then it warms up and becomes subline and silky...and the flow begins...what a great place to be. The amazing thing to me is that each and every time I FORGET about that wonderful creative process and each and every time if astounds me when it returns. Thank you for reminding me. Just today I wrote on my blog that I hit the wall (anti-wall) of creativity and everything seemed stale. Tonight i read your blog and am once agian reminded of the eternal flow of creativity...if I can just get out of my own way!


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