Inspiration: The Venture Bros. on DVD

The Venture Bros.

The Venture Bros.

The Venture Bros.

The Venture Bros.

Adult Swim continue to 1-up themselves with the designs for their DVD sets, but the release of The Venture Bros. season 3 really prompted me to post the series. All of the box set designs are uniquely their own and so completely honest to the vibe from the show and the 70s adventure cartoon inspiration that makes it great.

Season 3 was just released 2 days ago and the Atari throwback made me lose my mind. Wonderful color on the interior as well.

Red Reflection sample

Red Reflection: James White

Here is a sample of a current freelance project I am involved with, collaborating with the photography studio Red Reflection out of Montreal. I was supplied with very nice, high-quality photography of the model and added lighting elements, textures and other things to add a bit of artistic style.

The client liked my La Femme piece, so this image is based on the visual style used there.

Between Creative and Technical

Between Creative and Technical by James White

I recently received an email from a fellow designer named James. I’m not really one to reply to emails in public via the blog, but the nature of his email is something that I’ve seen a few times before and thought it might be relevant to others out there. James tells me a bit about his struggle in the design industry, being just out of school, and asks some questions on how he might find his way in the field, specifically with his own work. Here is the short version of his note to me:

“I recently graduated in multimedia, and I’m not particularly happy with the development side of my work. I would really like to push my graphic design work, but the nature of my studies has turned me into a bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none”, For example my knowledge of design for print is lacking and I know 10 times more about photoshop than illustrator.

I’m just lost on how to take it to the next level as I have many ideas but still feel very intimidated, and I have no personal style (rather opting to hop from trend to trend, spending most of my time envying the work of others!). if you have the time any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated.”

I know this is a pitfall with a lot of designers and artists out there especially in early career mode, and I’m no exception. So I thought this might make for a good post on the blog (with James’ permission) if it helps out other like-minded designers out there who might have similar questions. Bear in mind, I write this based solely on my own experiences.

1. Pursuit of ‘Style’

I spent a lot of time during my early career (starting in 1998) trying to find “my own style”. I had been watching artists online developing their own unique work for a couple of years at that point, experimenting with the same graphic software I was using and creating results that boggled my mind. This is when I registered Signalnoise.com and started diving into Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash on my own time just like the artists I admired. This became intensely frustrating for me as I tried to force my creativity in different directions, almost entirely based on the work and direction of others. It didn’t work, which led to a lot of unfinished projects as I couldn’t get my ambition, creativity and technical know-how to line up at all. It was overwhelming.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was doing things for all the wrong reasons. Personal work shouldn’t feel like work, it shouldn’t have pressure or deadlines attached. Personal work should be fun. When you start having fun generating ideas and trying new techniques it relinquishes all of the pressure you put on yourself to create, and it feels like you’re a kid again slopping around paint just for the hell of it. Style happens by accident along the way as you continue to say “I wonder what would happen if I tried this.” I’m a metal-head who creates art with rainbows, so to say I never saw that coming would be a big understatement.

So my advice would be to forget about it. The idea of ‘style’ sounds like a destination, when art should be a constantly evolving beast.

2. Sources of Inspiration

I post a lot of inspirational artists on my blog because they inspire me and I figure like-minded creative types might think the same. Seeking out inspiration is a big deal for me, and the internet is a huge help in getting exposure to different artists through research or advice from others. That being the case, where does one start? I’ve always been nostalgic, so in my case the best inspiration I can find is the stuff I loved when I was a kid.

Everyone has a different range of art, music, movies, etc that they admire and from there one can draw a huge amount of inspiration that is uniquely their own. Flickr and Behance are wonderful for seeing what is new and cutting-edge, but try looking into things you enjoy offline. I have a bookcase full of art books with everything from Norman Rockwell to cosmic photography which is awesome to have on hand whenever I have a blank canvas in front of me.

Not to be too philosophical, but you have to look to what you love for inspiration. From there, it’s just research which is the fun part :)

3. The Tools

You have to know your tools and be willing to spend great amounts of time learning them, it’s as simple as that. This is something that doesn’t happen overnight, but after many many nights of playing with your favorite software packages. If you are a designer working at an agency, you can’t always be expected to do advanced Photoshop on all the jobs you work on, but you can on your own time. Never, ever, stop messing around with the tools you want to use for your work. Try some online tutorials and use the information you learn in different ways to see what might happen.

For a long time I had a disconnect between my creative and my technical and there is no one answer of how to overcome this. It’s all about how much time you put into it learning the subtleties of your software and discovering new ways of executing ideas. A bit of advice I can give here is to try creating things from the ground up on your own, without pre-fabricated textures, brushes, filters, etc. There are wonderful resources out there, but without leaning on pre-fab elements you will get a greater appreciation for what you can achieve on your own.

4. Conclusion

As I said at the beginning of the post, all of this information comes from my personal experience in the design field while exploring my own potential during free time, and the path is different for everyone. The key is to have fun with what you do, which is what creativity is all about. Research what you enjoy, draw inspiration from it, manifest your ideas, learn your tools, and never ever stop. The more time you put into developing your own skills, the stronger you will become. I started my own path in 1998 at the age of 21, and I’m still pushing myself today at 32 :)

So, I certainly hope this post gives a bit of insight into the abstract area between creative and technical, and feel free to sound off in the comments with any questions.

Macbook Pro 17

Macbook Pro

After about a month and a half of researching, flip-flopping and scratching my head, I finally took the plunge and ordered my new system, a sweet little Macbook Pro 17″ which I affectionately named ‘Beast’.

I wanted to hold off on posting anything right away regarding the new computer just to have a bit of time to get to know it. Not only did I leap from a PC to a Mac, but also from Adobe CS2 to CS4, so the past week or so was a lot re-learning keyboard shortcuts, file systems and all the little processes I take for granted as I work. It’s like trying to drive before locating the steering wheel.

So after a week of crunching through Photoshop and Illustrator as I continued with my freelance jobs, Beast passed all of my tests with flying colors (literally). The glossy monitor is stellar with nice bold colors and I love the simplified design with it’s sleek silver casing and utilitarian black rubber keyboard. I worked on some stuff last week at my local watering hole, something I had never done since I had only owned desktops until this point. I feel like I’ve been living in the stone ages.

The last Mac I owned was a Performa circa 1996, which would freeze up in the middle of summer on the equator. The bad taste in my mouth led my straight to a PC (Dell, to be specific) which I had been faithful to for 10 years. Yet here I sit, enjoying the cool aluminum below my palms and marveling at the adorable little icons at the bottom of my screen.

Twitter icon for Inspired Magazine

The Blue Tweagle at Inspired Magazine

The kind folks over at Inspired Magazine asked me to create a custom Twitter icon to be included in their Social Bird icon set. Great little set with some wonderfully creative little birds designed by some very talented illustrators. I named mine The Blue Tweagle.

Swing over to the post at Inspired Magazine to view and download the whole set.

Inspiration: Bookman Swash

Bookman Swash

Bookman Swash

Bookman Swash

Bookman Swash

Many designers become quite monogamus when choosing the typefaces to use in their works, and I’m no different. This inspirational post is dedicated to one of my favorite typefaces, the mighty Bookman Swash. I decided to write a post featuring this typeface as I’ve had many people asking me about the type treatments on my posters, which is a mix of Bookman Regular and Bookman Swash.

This typeface quickly became one of my favorites after seeing it prevalent on a book featuring advertising in the 1970s. Bookman Swash was littered throughout the book, obviously one of the most beloved typefaces of designers in that era.

So, for all the type nerds out there, here is a bit of interesting information on this beautiful typeface brought to you by Wikipedia:

About Bookman

Bookman Old Style is a typeface derived from Old Style Antique designed by Alexander Phemister in 1858 for Miller and Richard foundry. Several American foundries copied the design, including the Bruce Type Foundry, and issued it under various names. In 1901, Bruce refitted their design, made a few other improvements, and rechristened it Bartlett Oldstyle. When Bruce was taken over by ATF shortly thereafter, they changed the name to Bookman Oldstyle.

Bookman was designed as an alternative to Caslon, with straighter serifs, making it more suitable for book and display applications. It maintains its legibility at small sizes, and can be used successfully for headlines and in advertising. In 1936, Chauncey H. Griffith of the American Linotype foundry developed a revival.

About Bookman ITC

ITC Bookman is a revival designed by Ed Benguiat in 1975, for the International Typeface Corporation. Benguiat developed a full family of four weights plus complementary cursive designs. Benguiat also drew a suite of swash and alternate characters for each of the members of the family. This version adds a large x-height and moderate stroke contrast to improve legibility.

Fonts for swash and alternate characters were eventually released in OpenType versions of the fonts, or separately as ITC Bookman Swash.

Interested in purchasing the Bookman family? Check it out on Veer.

Inspiration: Nicolas Alexander

Nicolas Alexander

Nicolas Alexander

Nicolas Alexander

Here is some great inspiration from a fellow Canadian Nicolas Alexander, who goes by the moniker Good Morning Stranger. Nicolas is amazingly adept at smooth lines, texture work and wonderful typography. I’m really enjoying his newer creations, such as his Omega Code piece above, where he is exploring a black liquid effect with his slick color usage. You might have seen his Good Morning Stranger wordmark above all over the web, or the many imitations.

Nick’s website will be launching soon, but in the meantime you can check out his blog as well as his Behance. To be even more specific, check out his wicked reel.

Inspiration: Jen Stark

Jen Stark

Jen Stark

Jen Stark

Jen Stark

Jen Stark

Jen Stark may very well be one of my favorite modern artists. I have seen her work online for about a year now but didn’t truly understand how meticulous it all was until I watched a feature on her and her work (shown above).

In simple terms, Jen creates her art using nothing more then a knife and multi-colored paper. With these simple supplies, Jen creates ellaborate and intricate arrangments full of color that really draws the viewer in. Beautiful color systems and mathematics at work, I can’t even understand the patience Jen must have to achieve such a wonderful body of work.

Check out more on Jen Stark’s website, as well as her blog.