As it happens, "mostly weekly" is open to interpretation. I'll be honest with you, writing a newsletter is harder than I thought. I want it to be a balance between what's going on with me and what I think might be interesting to you. This is probably the third or fourth iteration of this issue (see what I did there?) and I'm still not sure it's any good. Maybe that's the point. It doesn't have to be good, it just needs to be interesting and honest. Maybe I'll tackle "good vs. interesting" next time. Onward!
A Willingness for Reinvention
One of the questions that has become more and more difficult for me to answer is "So, what do you do?" Most of the time, I have to really stop and think about it and often the answer will vary depending on who I'm talking to — graphic designer, podcast host, writer, artist and photographer are all valid depending on the day of the week or how deep I am into a given project. I don't think I'm alone in this — in fact, far from it. For more and more people that I talk to (not just "creatives"), the idea of a single revenue stream or even a single pursuit is becoming a rarity. Being open to change is no longer merely an option — for many of us, it's a necessity. Recently, I've been culling through some of the older content on Faded & Blurred and I came across something I had written about the late Hillman Curtis. Hillman often described himself as "a filmmaker, an author and a new media designer." While I was an Art Director at Universal Studios, Hillman was one of my design heroes. It was 2001 and Flash was well on its way to being everywhere on the web and I loved it. Flash made things possible on the web that no other platform at the time would allow. As a side note, I was actually hired as a contractor at Universal building the Flash-based sites for Universal Theme parks. When I was hired permanently as an Art Director, one of the largest projects that I designed was a unified look and feel for the Universalstudios.com homepage and the major business units — all in Flash.
There was a fantastic conference for Flash developers called Flash Forward, and my then-boss allowed me and a colleague to fly up to San Francisco for it. All of the top developers at the time were there, including Brendan Dawes, Joshua Davis and Hillman Curtis, who was the main reason I wanted to go. So, I'm standing in line at the bookstore to buy a copy of Hillman's book Making the Invisible Visible and who should walk by, but the man himself. I introduced myself to him and told him how inspired I was by his work. He thanked me and we talked for about 10 minutes about process and inspiration. I asked him how he made the leap from musician to Flash developer and he said that for him, it really came down to curiosity and finding different ways to tell stories. As he shook my hand before he left, he said "You've always got to be willing to ask questions and learn something new," which I've never forgotten and think I've subconsciously tried to live by, even before meeting Hillman.
Since college, I've been a prop master, a milliner, a salesman, a barista, a coder, a Photoshop instructor, a graphic/new media designer, an art director, a podcast host and probably a few other things I can't remember. I also paint, write and take pictures. Here's the thing: each and every one of those things has contributed to or informed or somehow inspired the work that I do right now and all of it centers around a willingness for reinvention fueled by a hunger for curiosity. Experience happens in real time and while there may be shortcuts, they often come with a cost. Knowing the answers isn't nearly as important as being open to the questions. Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet, said it better than I ever could: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
How do you answer the question "what do you do?" Has your answer changed over time and is it currently what you want it to be?
In the latest episode of Process Driven, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with wildlife photographer Nick Brandt to discuss his latest body of work, Inherit the Dust. It's a fascinating conversation around a body of work Nick calls "an elegy to a vanishing world."
While I've heard the name for years, I really wasn't familiar with the life and work of Noam Chomsky until I watched the terrific documentary A Requiem for the American Dream on Netflix (trailer here). In fact, I may never have heard of the documentary had it not been that I follow Mark Wagner on Instagram. Mark is a fantastic artist who uses US currency as his medium and did all of the motion graphics work for the film.
Hyper-Reality by Keiichi Matsuda is a theoretical look at what happens beyond VR. I can't decide whether I'm fascinated or terrified. It's sort of like a mescaline-induced version of that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise's character is walking through the mall and all of the ads are talking directly to him. "Welcome back, John Anderton" indeed.
One of the great joys of growing up in Southern California was riding my bike everywhere, especially during the summer. More often than I can recall, I would get on my bike after breakfast and just ride — with no particular destination. Just ride. It's something that I still do and it's just as freeing as it was when I was a kid. Skateboard culture was just taking off and while I had one, I always preferred my bike. Here's a terrific photo essay by Jessica Fulford-Dobson about girls in Afghanistan who are forbidden to ride bikes, so they ride skateboards (skateboarding has become the number one sport for women). It's pretty awesome to see these little Afghan girls in traditional dress with helmets and pads, whizzing around a skate park in Kabul.
I would imagine that at least a few of you are going through some things that you may not think you're prepared for. Hell, I feel that way most of the time. One of my favorite sources of internal inspiration is the philosopher Alan Watts who said, among many other things: "The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance."