Ganske

Connecting Inspiration

Videos

Micah Ganske, along with people like Simon StålenhagCold Design Ltd or Ian McQue, have made a living bringing the future into reality. Though I’m not sure how much Ganske does the sort of industrial design that others do for games or movies. However what interests me isn’t the design-y art work, but his take on inspiration.

I’ve been thinking about how inspiration works in my life and making connections is one way seeing the relationship between creative work and where ideas come from. However, my memory isn’t great and making connections can be a surreal experience if it happens at all. To a degree I feel more free although I do worry about losing it all one day.

What Ganske and I agree on here is that inspiration comes almost after the fact. I don’t think about connections before I start creating. I create and find connections stepping forward from the darkness while I’m working. It’s strange really. And makes it difficult to find and tap the endless well of inspiration.

For Ganske’s part speed plays an important role. For me it’s getting out of my seat and exploring the world.

Planning Sucks

Planning Sucks

Random Thoughts

Heard a great quote recently, “Love the planning. Hate the Plan.” As far back as I can remember with my beer-brain planning was never something that I took seriously. Planning somehow crushed the free flow of ideas and stalled improvisation – an important key to my overall happiness. At some point I learned that my on-the-fly moves were pretty weak. So now I am taking steps to look into the future.

One of the biggest motivators in life is age. Growing old doesn’t really bother me, but I do track the approaching end with a little panic in my heart, because I see how badly our parents are aging. Several friends are finding out after the fact that our parents are having heart attacks, strokes, developing diabetes, or cancer. Debilitating diseases that often get hidden by the people we care about. My Mother, who is well past the age for retirement has several health problems and did her utmost to hide them, in my mind serves a kind of canary in the coal mine.

Given that her genes run through me I can see some mile markers coming up. As far as I can tell I probably have 15-20 good years of work left in me before my health starts heading south for the cold, dark winter. Since my nine to five is very physical I don’t foresee continuing to retirement building sets. I could probably draw pretty pictures from the hospital bed so that seems like a good retirement plan since my savings probably isn’t going to provide for my golden years. Even if our parents don’t blow up the social security dam in one last selfish hurrah before they go the way of the dinosaurs.

Focusing more on this year I have decided to commit to twelve illustrations in twelve months. This is an arbitrary number that you may have come across thanks to the modern miracles of social media. However it is one that may set the bench mark for future work. See, as a Do-It-Your Selfer I don’t really know what the f**k I’m doing so by committing to a number that from this vantage point appears reasonable I can look back from New Year’s Eve 2016 and say whether or not things look good and make adjustment for the next year.

That’s about as good as it gets.

One thing that I’ve discovered in the working world is that all of those grownups that from the outside looked like they knew what they were doing are just making it all up. Nobody knows what they are doing. Everyday provides new and unforeseen challenges for everyone and now that I’m one of those people making decisions (f**king weird) I get to first hand see how things can blow up in your face with or without plans.

That’s what is meant by “Love the planning. Hate the plan.” Plan as meticulously as you want, but be ready to throw it out the window in a moment’s notice, because shit goes wrong.

I’ll probably be able to surpass twelve illustrations for the year. However, now that I’ve committed to twelve illustrations I can start thinking about what it takes to get there such as: how am I going to promote these illustrations? How much will it cost to print them? What is my earning potential for the year? Can I be strategic about what illustrations I create? Who will be interested in these drawings and where can I find them?

I still hate planning. But the urgency of impending doom and the value of being able to see how all the pieces fit together makes planning something that I do now. Albeit on a limited scale. This will probably grow as things start to take off. Coordinating with venues, printers, show directors, manufacturers, and people of the planet Earth will demand it. Since my DIY style is to learn by doing this process will be organic and clumsy, but it’s the way I learn best. The way I think most people learn.

So twelve pictures. Twelve months. I already have three in the pipe and two under development and by the time of this writing it is nearing the end of February. Things are looking good. If you haven’t seen them, check out my recent posts on Twitter, Facebook or now Instagram. I’m going to go plan the next beer to drink.

 

copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Podcasts

Looking For New Podcasts

Creativity

Background noise makes everything better for me and lately I’ve been searching for new things to listen to. Podcasts have been my go-to while I’m grinding out work, but my appetite for new shows is growing and the catalog choices are looking kinda shitty. So today I bring you Sampler, a new podcast that does the searching for you.

I’ve dropped the dime on Adventures In Design a few times here and I still stand by it as a good listen while I’m toiling away. But that’s only an hour long (two if you’re a paid member) and I have a pretty long day to fill.

Music is great and I keep my playlist up to date, but I love podcasts for the free information they provide that can help upgrade my life. You get to hear from people who have struggled to make things work and learn about shortcuts that you can deploy in your own world. The problem is that there is a lot of crap to sort through.

Not that I know so much about making a great show or anything, but as a picky consumer I’m excited about Sampler because I can now outsource my search. Host Brittany Luse has that “make you feel awkward” humor that cuts to the chase and her first episode brings a trio of shows, two of which sound bad ass: Bodega Boys and Dead Authors. You’ll have to listen for yourself, but even if you aren’t interested in the podcasts she picks for interviews the show itself is pretty amusing. So that’s a plus that might make you add this to your playlist.

I’ve had lots of recommendations and the toughest part about keeping my interest is largely personality based, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but if you can show me something I haven’t heard before I’ll probably come back for more. The best shows are the ones that open a new world for you and force you to change perspective. Hopefully Sampler can do that. Check it out.

I’ll be back with more recommendations to save your sanity while slugging it out on the job, but let me know if you have any hidden gems worth checking out.

‘Till then good listening!

 

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Passion Is Overrated

Creativity, Random Thoughts

My entire life people have said, “Follow your passions.” Well what happens when you don’t feel especially passionate about anything?

At some point I noticed that things didn’t quite shine like they used to. It used to be that I got excited about things in life, but now, I realized, that my innocent youth had slipped away during the night and in its place now lives a cynical ass hat. Passion is harder to come by now.

There are probably several reasons for this metamorphosis including internal psycho-social conflicts and past heart breaks. All of which have accumulated into this perfect apathy that now darkens my senses. Makes the world seem grey.

Not that I’m without excitement, but when I consider my future there isn’t anything that sticks out as that one true love that I’m supposed to find. It’s as if after following Disney philosophies of saving myself for the Prince Charming of work-life balance I have waited in vain for the right job opportunity to come along and sweep me off my feet only to wake up one day and look in the mirror expecting a bright young bird laden maiden and instead realize that I’ve become an old witch with a cat.

My old curmudgeonliness aside I have to cringe when people talk about discovering your passion in life and letting it guide you. There was a time when I believed these myths, but after trying to find that secret energy for several decades I’m beginning to think that there is more to the story than people are letting on.

When I first started out doing graphic work I was excited about the proposition of making money from art. I was more than ready to turn my passion for creating into fuel for a money machine that would sustain me. It was more difficult than I imagined. My dreams weren’t crushed exactly, because I’m still pursuing a variation on that theme. However I did learn an important lesson: passion doesn’t last.

Up until very recently I would think that maybe there was something wrong with me. Why couldn’t I find something to be passionate about? Where was my Prince Charming?

Passion is a tricky myth to get around in my line of work. I frequently study other artists looking for things that I can incorporate into my habits. The best artists out there have single-mindedly pursued their craft and pushed the limits of their talents over time improving their skills. Many people who end up at the top of their class credit passion as the thing that drove them to their single minded success.

This is where it starts. The perspective of people who have already made it is like gospel to the uninitiated seeking the promised land.

Artists, often temperamental, can be very critical of their own work. Good artists use that dour energy to drive harder on the next piece and over time it’s this lack of confidence that pushes an artist to become better at their craft. But then something strange happens: one day they get out of bed and realize that they are in a completely different place then they were a decade ago. Suddenly people are asking questions like, “How did you get to be so great?”

If the artist is lucky he feels good about his body of work and the achievements he’s wrought. So upon reflection he thinks, “I feel pretty passionate about my past and present work now so that must be the key.” I don’t doubt that people feel passionate, but the message becomes “Feel something so intensely that it pushes you through the hard times.” Seems simple enough.

Having tried that strategy I know first hand that passion eventually runs out. That emotion isn’t built for long distance running. In fact it’s kind of a lazy emotion only good for a quickie. Think about your first date: it’s all exciting in the beginning. We get dressed up, put on perfume, make sure to fart in the bathroom and not in front of our new partner. But spend a couple of years together and the makeup goes away, we prefer sweats to real clothes, and farting has become an oddly competitive sport. That honeymoon period always ends with the excitement evaporating. Things never stay sparkly and new. The passion doesn’t last.

When we make passion our ultimate goal we end up chasing something that only happens occasionally, mostly by accident, and almost always after we have passed through difficulty. What the real goal should be is achievement. That’s what successful people are mistakenly passing off as passion, because it’s the projects that they worked so hard to finish that makes them feel good about their resume.

I draw because I like it. I don’t wake up everyday feeling like I have to draw, but I like the challenge and I want to get better at it and make money… someday. It’s the same reason that I build furniture from old pallets. It makes me feel accomplished. Like I’m contributing to the world. But I wouldn’t describe it as passion. I don’t feel like I have this overwhelming lust for life work. It’s just something that I happen to be interested in for intrinsic reasons.

The passion comes when someone buys a poster, or tells me that they really want that chair I made as a gift for a friend. When other people, especially strangers, get excited about the things I create I get excited. And that’s the passion that people are trying to express when they give advice about being passionate. That’s the heat-of-the-moment, flash-in-the-pan kind of emotion that only happens after I’ve poured sweat, and swear words into all the bullshit of making the thing.

After a couple of decades of wondering why it’s not working for me what I’ve finally decided is that passion is oversold as a miracle cure for feeling shitty about life and now it sounds like snake oil to me. You may not feel the same way and that’s fine. For some people it probably feels like passion day to day and you should consider yourself lucky if that’s the case. From my point of view it doesn’t hold water and I think that I can do better by redefining my goals.

When the passion fades and you get married, have kids, adopt a dog, you don’t stop loving your partner. Your relationship takes on new meaning because you’ve grown past passion. If you do it right your relationship turns into a deeply caring friendship. A kind of love that is – granted – earned through a little pain, but through each challenge met that relationship becomes stronger. Over time you might say that you kept the passion alive, but really it was something stronger. Something that became a part of you and in a sense is shared between you and your partner. I think it’s the same with your work. The passion gets you through the door, but it’s achievement that keeps you going. Strive for achievement. Not passion. Passion is overrated.

Lots of Dots

Video: Dots

Videos

It can be fun to see other artist’s processes. It can be intimidating too. Personally I don’t know that I would attempt something as time consuming as Miguel Endara’s tribute to his father, but right now I don’t feel confident enough to really experiment either. I’ll keep chipping away at it though.

Good Tracks

Autolux

Music

A couple of weeks ago I picked up Autolux’s Future Perfect album which has been great for cloudy El Nino weather. Like a pot roast or French onion soup Future Perfect is currently the comfort food for my soul. They’ve been compared to Sonic Youth and Radiohead and while I can hear that on tracks like “Turnstile Blues” or “Angry Candy”, they definitely have a more modern shoegazey spin on that classic sound.

“Turnstile Blues” is probably their most recognizable song on the album and it’s definitely one my favorites with that intense popping drum beat that’s easy to get stuck in your head. However “Subzero Fun” for some reason takes me back to my grunge days with the whiney grit on the guitars and the soft tenor on Eugene Goreshter’s voice falling somewhere between Billy Corgan’s (Smashing Pumpkins) shrill and Thom Yorke’s (Radiohead) quiet haunting. “Robots In The Garden” turns the album’s shoegaze into a sudden party while “Plantlife” intoxicates you with some screechy guitar that drugs you with a low buzzy-tingle – not sure if you are becoming energized, drunk, or both. “Capital Kind Of Strain” is a great way to close out the album with it’s echoing drone and light guitar sending you out into the world with it’s reverberations wanting just a little more.

Next on my purchase list is their other album Transit Transit which sounds just as good, but what really drew me in is their single release which is supposed to whet your appetite for their upcoming project due on the digital shelves after they play Coachella this year. Deep, dark, and dreamy “Soft Scene”, which I highly, highly recommend giving a listen to, especially if you are a Portishead fan, will play your dark emotions like a beat machine.

Soft Scene (Single)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Nwp5uMvvIU]

Future Perfect (Album)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi1IqQlWQb8]
Shit Advice

Online Advice Sucks

Business, Random Thoughts

For a couple of years now I’ve been chipping away at creating a business with some minor success. Although I’ve never… let’s say allowed myself to become fully independent, it’s partially the fault of crappy internet advice. When I was getting started my initial thinking was, “I can Google anything and learn.” Now I know better.

Used to be that I would absorb everything that people wrote about freelancing and graphic design. Online advice was useful for telling me that I needed a formal agreement and that I should have a process and tons of other 101-type shit. Yet when it came to delving deeper into subjects there was either no information to be found or it was hidden behind a paywall. More and more I found myself becoming distanced from what people said.

Everything that I was coming across was built on the clique-ish idea that you can build off of your previous career and attend magical conferences for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. To me it was like the rich elite telling me how great and easy their life was and that anyone could achieve this lifestyle if they just copied their model of living, morals, and philosophies.

My needs, hopes, and dreams are completely different from that. In a way I feel like the working class of the design world and the closest thing that I can call My Tribe are people taking cues from DIY and Punk aesthetics that have created their own space. I’ve found inspiration from others who have bucked the system and found their own path which I am now starting to take control of and develop in my life.

But it’s taken a long time because I put my faith in people who probably have something to offer for a certain group, just not for me. Since there is so much shitty advice in the world for people like me I feel like I should offer a tip to people who maybe feel some sympathy pains,

Finding your own way is hard because no one else has done it and no one else can tell you how to do it. Stay the course. Follow the things that interest you and you will find people like you and work that fits your personality.

That’s it. That’s all I have to offer. I’m not saying I’m qualified because I’m still trying to get off the ground myself. However, for people like us I know that all the other advice out there sucks because we are tinkerers, flipping things around, testing, probing, asking questions. This is a constant work in progress that will always create a desire to invest in yourself and your interests. These things will change over time as you develop and get better. And it will get better if you follow the one person who knows you best: yourself.

If you are like me taking the slow road to getting on the self employment train then you probably have the same start up cost concerns. You are probably trying to figure out how the labyrinth of business regulation works and still uncomfortable with your style. All of the “Top Tens”, “Quick Tips”, and “How To” articles suck for people like us because they are not meant for people who have to start with essentially nothing. There really isn’t anything there that applies to us. So when people write about working harder (like this article) and how life is actually tough – it resonates with me, but I don’t see working my side hustle as hard. I see it as enjoyable and challenging. I want more of it. I feel addicted to it and I’m willing to push myself further, not because I have some deep burning passion that I discovered at a seminar, but because I just like drawing.

Life doesn’t have to be hard. There is resistance from time to time and I am happy to bitch about how things are stacked against us. However you and I are still doing our own thing that we probably won’t quit doing. We will figure out what works for us. Customize it. Evolve or get out of the game because it’s not what we thought, but then it morphs into something else since we are not happy with just standing still. The most dangerous thing about reading articles that tell you these life truths is that you can fall into the trap of “I’m not like these people and I probably will never be.” It prevents you from even trying in the first place and the best thing you can do for yourself is to test it out. Just dip your toe in the water and if it sticks go with it. Don’t worry about following the rules or doing things the “right way”. Just do it and figure it out as you go.

When you are building from the ground up – when you don’t really have the resources to jump in – the only way you are really going to learn anyway is by doing it little by little, setting one stone on top of the other. That’s probably the best way too, because now you can learn while you earn. Have people pay for you to hone your skills and talents. Plus with your ass on the line these lessons will stick with you long after you have forgotten stupid, pointless articles like the one you are currently reading.

So the best thing to do is to ignore all that shit that people try to tell you and follow through with you ideas. Make mistakes. Get better. Start with nothing.

Sensitive Artist Type

Creativity, Random Thoughts

Just read an article describing artists as sensitive people who contradictorily rely on both outward, boisterous expression and quiet, inward solitude to keep themselves in balance. I’ve never really thought about it, but I think there is an element of truth to this concept.

Recently I’ve been thinking about my work style and temperament. As a general rule I find myself really driven and productive for a period of time followed by a sudden crash and a complete and total desire to do fuck all, as the kids over in the land of Eng say. I’ve always accepted these two extremes in my life, but others haven’t been quite so understanding. At least one friend asked me if I was manic. And I’ve openly wondered with my wife if maybe I didn’t suffer from bouts of depression.

With the perspective of this article (linked above) added into the mix, I think the whole package makes a little more sense when plugged into the model of a sensitive creative type: I get overstimulated and need quiet alone time to recharge. Some of my most cherished moments are alone, removed from society and culture. It is in solitude that my mind works best to come up with new ideas. And I’ve described myself as a little shy and socially awkward, but I also feed off people’s energy; if they are happy I’m happy; if they are sad I am sad. Plus I have these extreme moments where my highs are really high and my lows are pretty crappy: one moment happy and boisterous; the next quiet, reserved, and I’m a crabby prick.

Thinking back to the short period of time that I worked as a true freelancer (not just moonlighting like I do now) I would work solid ten, twelve, fourteen hour days for about three months. Then, running full force into a wall I would wake up late one morning and decide that I’m eating cookies and playing video games and nothing else. I am aware that I turned into a bag of shit, but I always figured that I gave too hard and my body shut down in order to preserve my health. Looking back I think there was a psychological need to recharge as well.

The one sign that there was, is, mental exhaustion is that after about two weeks of going full retard I would start getting twitchy again. My hands would crave some kind of craft and my mind would start spitting out new ideas even if they weren’t illustration related. I would find myself back at the desk creating again without reason or rhyme.

Now that I work full time on top of a side hustle that rhythm has changed a bit, but remains essentially the same: a period of sprinting followed by a period of exhaustion. These days I have a busy season that follows the school’s semester schedule. Mostly hitting hard toward the middle-end of fall and spring which I find really draining and I get pretty whiney. Then it takes me a couple of weeks to recover. During the off months is when I get most of my work done since I can direct energy to more creative pursuits, but once we hit our busy season my work drops off.

The frustrating thing is that I feel like I should be able to push harder. As one friend recently posted on Facebook, in order to achieve you must be able to push past the pain. I agree with this for the most part, except that I’m lazy, but taking into consideration all the things we have to keep in balance the real struggle is what do you focus on and what do you sacrifice?

While having full time employment is – to borrow from religious folk – a blessing, I would rather be working on my illustrations and prints. However, I know that I am not going to make a living off of my art yet, because I’m taking the slow road, but this current side hustle will need some more investment to get off the ground in a sustainable way. Yet, I can’t help feeling that if I quit my job and focused on my side hustle, trying to make it a full time gig I would a) feel a fire under my ass since it would be my only source of income, and b) be able to dedicate the time needed to get out there and promote the business like it needs to be.

Also I’m curious to see whether or not I can wrangle in this up and down cycle I’m on and better manage the energy I put into life on the whole. With the theory that I will get more enjoyment out of life if I can spread the energy out more.

For now all I can do is keep plugging away with the goal of achieving self sufficiency. At least now I know that I’m not totally crazy and maybe I can figure out a strategy to work with my temperament. One thing that has become a really important aspect of life is to take vacation time that separates me from normal life. Solitude is what I cave to recharge and if I can tap into a little bit of beauty in the process then all the better the recovery will be with the added benefit of inspiration.

Buck the Cubicle Pt2

Video: Buck The Cubicle Pt2

Videos

As someone who wants to find independence through work myself, this stuff speaks to my heart. Firing your boss is the ultimate dream for many I think and if this guy can make dirt balls and go solo, you can too.

Side Hustle

Competing Against Nothing

Random Thoughts

Living in California you almost have to have a side hustle. It’s expensive here and pay hasn’t exactly kept pace with living costs. Check this out: if I want to buy a house near where I live in Orange County you have to come up with, on average, $600,000. With 20 percent down for typical loans that’s $120,000, more than the average income in the state by about double. It’s a small chunk of what it costs to live in paradise, but it just goes to show that if you’re going to make it here you have to earn some extra scratch.

One of the things I like about living here is that a lot of people have that side gig and it’s not just to make money. We’re dreamers striving for happiness – hedonistic to the core. Not too long ago a couple – friends of ours – went off the grid. She went freelance locking in video work with a pretty stable company and he reconnected with a former job to negotiate a work-from-home deal. This is the perfect example of turning that dream of making your side-gig into a full time job coming true and I’m really excited for them.*

The funny thing about all this is that the very things we are pursuing may be eroding the ground our dreams stand on.

Almost a decade ago now I remember getting really excited over stories of how people were creating these great, collaborative, social projects to help people and make the world a better place. Things like Wikipedia have been an incredible free resource built on people’s good will. And when people couldn’t find it for free they would steal it through sites like Pirate Bay.

Now, I’m more hesitant. How do people make a living doing this kind of stuff? And how do we side-hustlers compete against the growing pool of free resources?

An interesting take on this whole free/sharing economy comes from Dan Pink, speaking at RSA, who points out that people are seeking fulfillment in their off hours and participating in projects and hobbies that create a sense of purpose rather than a steady income. Drive, it would seem, supersedes financial reward which explains why we are seeing seemingly contradictory behavior of giving away work for free.

The video is worth watching:

In an interview article from Vice Paul Mason talks about how social and technological trends are undercutting capitalism. Economic value has become detached from actual production costs and refocused on social impact. We are more concerned with reducing environmental pollution and achieving work-life balance than profits (at least, outwardly). Additionally companies are turning to more automation. Amazon’s pursuit of flying delivery drones and Google’s self driving cars will cut deeply into the delivery industry which employs a lot of people. It’s as if, Mason points out, we are living in a world where the goal is zero.

There are still Googles and Facebooks in the world that are making more money than the governments of some mid-size countries. And as far as my circle of friends demonstrates no one has given up employment altogether. Most are still working full time on top of their hobbies and side-jobs. So I don’t see the “End of Capitalism” as Mason describes it. At least not in my lifetime. But I do see that there are trends that will affect my side hustling people.

Take for example Miya Tokumitsu who recently wrote “Do What You Love: And Other Lies About Success and Happiness”. Pretty dismal I know, but her claim is that companies have caught on to Dan Pink’s idea: that people will work to create meaningful projects without pay; then encourage the behavior on behalf of the company’s profits.

Home-based business, soloprenuers, freelancers, crafters, and makers are a kind of return to pre-Industrial Revolution cottage industries where households used skills and trades to make income through various channels. People have taken up the call for homemade, handmade, bespoke, and other interests in part out of fascination for a bygone era of industry, but also to fill the gaps left in our economy.

As a side hustler I am forced to compete with free things all the time. If this trend deepens it could spell disaster for a part of our economy that serves to bring the amenities of life within reach. Then again it’s in my job description to convince you to support me and come up with new creative things that make you “ooh” and “awww” and hand over the cash. Isn’t it?

*Side note: my friend’s freelance gig crumbled, but forced her to pick up the slack and dig into solo-hustle mode.

Photo Credit Todd Quakenbush

 

copyright © 2015 Robert C. Olson