For the longest time, I kept creatively subscribing to what other people think I should be doing, which has led me to absolutely nowhere. Inclusive of studying, today has been six years since I started studying graphic design.
For one of the first times ever I feel invigorated, inspired and alive from the work I’ve been creating. Which I can’t say has always happened for me. A lot of the doubt, worry and concern I used to feel, have been alleviated due to one little secret.
I’ve found what makes me creatively me.
Over my creative journey, I feel like it’s taken me so long to learn one simple lesson.
I never had the balls to be myself.
Perhaps it was circumstantial. When I was working at an agency for commercial clients, it wouldn’t always be appropriate for me to “express myself” creatively. Though for the longest time I feel like I’ve always been working on “personal projects”, trying to explore new ideas and slowly find creative ventures that I could express myself in.
For the longest time, I thought lettering was my pursuit and the medium I found a voice in. As time grew on and I found myself clinging firmly to the rules, and would have trouble losing myself in creativity. I would keep focusing on making technically sound pieces rather than concentrating on expressing myself.
The rules of kerning, leading, letterforms just overwhelmed me so much that I was too afraid to make mistakes.
When I first started learning traditional tattoo illustrations, I would recreate/trace designs because I was too scared of failing and creating imperfect work.
When I created one of my first comic book styled illustration pieces, I spent three and half months on it worried about any slight imperfection thinking that it would mean I made a mistake.
In short, I was too afraid to fail. I was too scared to make mistakes, and I was too frightened to make a fool of myself. Which was the demise of my creativity. I was also scared to make any leaps of faith and experiment. I was too afraid of taking risks. I was too fearful of uncertain results.
Call it self-debilitating, but I look back at a lot of my work, and I see the “fear” inspiring these pieces. I can see the fear of creating something new. I can see the fear of creating something different. I can see the fear of going outside of the norm. Let's be honest, if there’s more art out there that looks like everything else, what the hell is the point?
You need to make your lane. You need to create a path for yourself, outside of the norm.
Now, this is easier said than done, but after relentlessly working; I feel I finally have found my treasure box visually as to what my unique offering is.
Visually I was always far too afraid to be myself. The weirder part is, I was also scared of creating things in a similar style of artwork that had inspired me. Trying to narrow down the things that felt more like "me", I created a mood board on Pinterest.
As far as subject matter goes, I started thinking about the things that inspire me. Which essentially is humour. I love things that light me up and make me laugh.
From both of these elements, I found what I feel is my “unique” offering. Which is creating popular memes in an illustrative way.
Blending illustrations and memes felt extremely weird. It's not a prominent subject matter for illustration and isn't say "the done thing". But it's something that comes from a very genuine place within my personality, which helps me offer something creatively unique.
I’m sure more experienced creatives can express similar statements, but to create genuinely unique results we need to go to our hearts and minds and find the truly unique offering and message. We need to focus on that “innate” nature that makes us unique.
Sure there are a lot of people who are involved in similar mediums. For example, there a tonnes of stand up comedians, but are all of them talking about the same thing?
Don’t let the medium that you’re using to express yourself stop you from finding the unique subject matter that makes you “you”.
In Kevin Hart’s book I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons, he talks about how he was trying to break into the comedy scene with made up and fictitious jokes. Sure he would get a few laughs here and there, but his mentor stressed to him that the audience would walk away without learning anything about Kevin. Which then meant they would walk away not remembering anything about him. Whereas if he used his perspective to tell personal stories, and use his reactions as the punchline; people felt like they got to know Kevin. That way they would remember Kevin.
I feel there’s something in this story that would help a lot of people, especially in a creative sense. My biggest take away from this is to; reveal yourself. Be yourself, showcase who you are and be vulnerable.
It’s what we hear all the time, but there’s only one you on this world.
No one else sees things the same way you do. There will be people with a similar point of view, but only you have your unique influences and individualistic set of circumstances.
So if you’re doing anything creative, showcase that to the world, and I’m sure you will gain better prospective results.
So stop following trends, and trying to replicate "what is current". Wholeheartedly be in tune with yourself and make sure you’re revealing who you are and pursuing things for the right reasons.