SNBC:58 – General Q&A session

Presented here is the recorded version of SNBC:58, with a general art and design Q&A session. Talked about Google+ quite a bit in this one. Lots of fun, check it out.

SNBC:57 – Personal projects and Creativity

If you missed out on watching the live version of SNBC:57, here is the recorded version with a focus on personal projects and creativity. Have a watch right here.

Back to the Future: FITC Toronto 2011

Here we go! For your viewing pleasure, here is a very nicely recorded and edited version of my Back to the Future talk from FITC Toronto 2011 back in May. My presentation tends to change every time I speak, but I’m always focused on personal creativity, self-initiated projects and telling stories along the way.

Big thanks to Vitamin T for the excellent job of putting this together. You guys make my bad jokes seem much more clever. Enjoy!

Nova Scotia: The Great White North patch

When you read news stories like this and this, you strike while the iron is hot. We have Great Whites in Nova Scotia these days. Living on the east coast of Canada we very rarely hear anything shark-related, let alone the kings. Top of the food-chain. Great White sharks, man.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” — Chief Martin Brody, JAWS, 1975

The Explorer

Here is a new work I created yesterday in almost one sitting, start to finish. I was heading over to the city to sit in a coffee shop to do some creating, and while on route to the ferry terminal I came up with “a giant triangle over the desert”. That’s all I had, not even a sketch this time.

I got to the coffee shop and started layering textures and images in, just playing. Tried a whole bunch of stuff. At one point the triangle was a giant crystal with red and orange stripes. Over the next few hours I beat this piece into shape, loads of trial, error and fun along the way. I was listening to Scott Walker on my headphones the whole time, which might have brought some influence with it.

Over the last month or so I’ve been messing with my own process in all kinds of ways. Really turning the knobs to challenge myself. I dove into this one head first and The Explorer emerged.

NASA mission patches: Hubble and James Webb

Here are my newest unofficial NASA mission patches, this time in support of the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope, a couple of the most important pieces of exploration equipment built. This brings my total number of mission patches to 4, seen above.

Everyone knows what Hubble is and what it has done in providing us with the best visualizations of distant nebulas and galaxies never before seen at this quality. The James Webb Space Telescope is said to be the “Hubble for the next generation”, due to launch in 2018, but is unfortunately fallen on hard times do to a massive budget slash. A very sad and important story, but you can find out how you can help right here.

Space is the place, man. So much we still don’t understand. Expect more of these mission patches soon.

Tutorial culture vs. Two Goldfish

First thing this morning I followed a link dealt on Twitter by friend Tom Muller entitled You Are Not a Designer and I Am Not a Musician. I’m not one for reading high-falootin articles labelling people this and that, but this article is very well written and got the gears turning. I enjoy articles like that. Interesting points, makes us question our progression and all that, something we should all do to keep things in perspective.

Then, right after that I went to check out someone’s new design and caught a comment below: “This is great! You should write a tutorial on how you did it.” Since the gears were already turning, this one little comment kind of hit home. Right time? Wrong time? Who knows, but here we are.

I got into using Photoshop and Illustrator way back in ’95 when the internet was still getting it’s footing. Years before it would transform from something neat to something very useful. And certainly long before the rise of the tutorial. Back then we had nothing to go on, just the small classes on how to use the basics to create projects in school. Outside of that, thousands and thousands of hours noodling around. In order to achieve new things we had to figure it out. Just want to repeat that, we had to figure it out.

Most of what I know about Photoshop came from one of my favorite artists, Dave McKean. Back in ’97 he and Neil Gaiman released a children’s book called The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish. Beautiful book with brilliant artwork by McKean. I spent hundreds of hours pouring over the pages, closely inspecting his art and dissecting the layers of texture. Looking at the effects on his hand-drawn linework. Trying to discern what was paint, drawings, photography or scanned texture. Then jumping into Photoshop (or my sketchbook) to figure it out. I failed miserably most times, but that wasn’t the point. I learned a huge amount about how Photoshop worked … but more importantly, how I worked.

Fast-forward to now. We have a crazy amount of great tutorials online. Some of my best friends are tutorial wizards who have created a living doing so, such as Fabio Sasso and everyone at the Tuts+ Network. The most important reason I think these resources are valuable is because they teach people technique outside of base-level knowledge of graphic software. They show a concept, then how to make it. Awesome. I’m a big advocate of helping people out, and it’s one of the core reasons I run Signalnoise.

That comment I mentioned above, I’ve been seeing that more and more these days and it’s concerning. When I read that today an immediate translation popped into my head: “I don’t want to figure this out, so why don’t you just tell me?” That’s it, and that’s big. So many levels to that which can’t possibly by contained in one blog post.

I learned skills from my time with Two Goldfish which I still use today. Heck, I used them in creating that graphic above. I’ll probably use them forever. No step-by-step instructions, no downloadable pre-made assets. Just a kid with Photoshop and a lot of time on his hands. That’s what it comes down to.

So why on earth am I writing this? Well, I’m getting the impression that more and more people are becoming dependant on tutorials for what they make. That makes me sad because it’s the complete opposite of how I learned. If you only do tutorials without exploring things on your own, then you learn only 1 thing: how to read. They’re a wonderful place to start, but it’s up to you after that. You should figure out how to do that thing you want to make instead of waiting for the tutorial to emerge. What does Fabio do before he writes his great tutorials? He figures it out.

When you figure things out for yourself it stays with you forever. It’s a sense of pride and richness. It’s an adventure. It’s fun. Because of that, those 2 little goldfish are more valuable to me than all the tutorials in the world.

SNBC:56 – OFFF Recap & Signalnoise identity

For those who missed it, here is the recorded version of SNBC:56 with a big recap of my trip to OFFF Barcelona 2011. Had a great time with great people, so check it out. I also get into some of the ins and outs behind my recent Signalnoise identity refresh. Fun stuff, have a watch.