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Reflective articles on lettering, creativity and life.

Enjoy Summer and Breathe New Life Into Your Sketchbook

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We are one week into Summer of Sketching 2016 and I'm already blown away by the participation this year! Thank you so much for making it an awesome launch.

I talk a lot about the importance of sketching, but this week I want to explore about what happens behind the scenes — the thought, ideas and inspiration behind each piece.

It's safe to say that we all follow artists online that make incredibly interesting work. It seems like everything they touch is gold, and their ideas seemingly come out of nowhere. Have they spent so much time practicing that it's just second nature to them? Maybe, but I think we can learn a something if we uncover their process...

Where do you do your best thinking?

When I was in college, our typography class took a trip to see our professor John Langdon's design studio in downtown Philadelphia. The space was bright and eclectic, with posters and random objects he had gathered from around the world covering the walls. Toward the back of the room was his drawing table.  There were books piled high and irregularly torn sheets of tracing paper with beautiful lettering drafts on them.

John explained, "This is where I make the design...". He then pointed to the opposite corner of the room at an old, beaten up la-z-boy chair and said, "...But here, here is where I do my best thinking".

I bring up this story because it made me realize that the work desk is not necessarily the best place to start a new project. I know it might seem counter-intuitive, but I found over the following years that getting away from the desk and finding a comfortable spot to think was integral to the process. For me, that comfort was found in nature as opposed to an old la-z-boy chair.

"If your work lacks life, it will be dead." –Andy J. Miller

I heard this quote on the Creative Pep Talk Podcast and it really stuck with me. What he means is, if you're not out there living a curious life, don't expect to have great ideas that resonate with real people. We don't need more "design about design for designers".

After the first year I did Summer of Sketching, forcing myself to get out of my comfort zone and explore new places, I noticed a dramatic shift in my process and my control of the tools. But something else also happened as I loosened up.

The concepts themselves got more interesting. Traveling to the different neighborhoods and cities, I was influenced by these new experiences, references and feelings that I simply wouldn't have found by staying in my apartment. Even if I did find similar things on the internet, they certainly wouldn't have stuck with me in the same way. Over time, that new inspiration made it's way into my personal work and client work, and it made a huge impact on my portfolio.

Release the pressure.

There were a couple emails I received last week from people telling me they were really excited about the project but they didn't think they had the guts to post their work online. If that's how you feel, I understand where you are coming from, but ask yourself, "What do you have to lose?".

I wanted to end with a reminder that this project is first and foremost meant to be fun. When you go out and sketch, you have to remember that this does not have to be your best work, and it probably won't be.

It's okay to put out imperfect work!

The goal is simply to explore and fill up a sketchbook with ideas. Perhaps by the end of the summer you will have one or two things you can continue to refine and use for a larger personal project. Through this process, you might even develop a sketching habit if it's not something you normally do.

I'm curious, where are you going this summer? Feel free to reach out to me directly and tell me your own plans and stories. Also if you'd like to read about a specific topic, definitely let me know. I look forward to seeing what you create!

Eric Friedensohn