Finding my opinion


For the last few months, I've been on an interesting creative path. My most recent work takes cues from much of previous work, where my hands-on collage art is informing my digital work. My true nature is in the abstract, I suppose.

That said, I've had this itch in the last few weeks to take my art motif to the next level, make something new from what I'm already doing. I don't want it to be arbitrary though. I want the transition to make sense and not be a complete departure.

On another plain, I've also been getting a bit itchy over the political climate, and I'm feeling a need to voice my point of view on the current situation, but in a creative way. The problem with this is that I made a pledge to back off of my blatant political rants. I made a conscious effort to stop talking about politics online for two important reasons:

  1. It made me unhappy. I was tired of seeing nothing but politics in my social media feeds, In the paraphrased words of Mahatma Gandhi, I decided to, "be the change."

  2. I was losing awareness with my fans, followers, and friends, probably because they were as sick of seeing politics in the feed as me.

I still have an opinion about these topics, and I never want to gloss over what I believe are important conversations, but I don't want to be the source of other people's anguish and disdain.

I made the conscious choice to be a voice of positivity among the overwhelming din of negative vibes, and it's been working, but I still have things to say, and I think they need to be shared.

The struggle is finding the line

Where do politics and positivity cross in my art? That's the questions I've been asking myself lately and the answer eluded me because they seem like diametrically opposed topics. Yet, I'm still compelled to find that crossroads.

I've been reading James Victoré's latest book, Feck Perfuction. To condense it down, it's a philosophical journey of what it means to live as an artist. One of his most pervasive thoughts that I can't get out of my head is, "Have a fucking opinion."

In the book, Victoré argues that your art should not conform to standards created by others. Trends and styles aside, the thing you say with your art should be uniquely yours. When people see the work you do, it should scream at them that it belongs to you. At the very least, if you want to keep people from copying your work, it should be so unique that nobody would dare touch it, or be called out for plagiarism.

In the book, Victoré also contends that what you say in your work can benefit from a quiet voice; making subtle, subversive statements on whatever topic you care about, instead of hitting people over the head with your words.

Art should be a velvet hammer—looks and feels inviting at first, but still packs a wallop when struck the right way.

Ok, so for my creative journey, not only do I desire to find a happy medium between my politics and positive nature, but I need to make my message subtle enough to make people think about what's being said? Where does this magical, artistic utopia exist?

The piece at the top of this post is something I created with the velvet hammer in mind. How can I express an idea without blatantly expressing it?

As I worked on the piece, I thought about what I would say when I posted it to Instagram. I thought about these words, and how I could use the art as the gateway into my thoughts, and if someone was compelled enough by the imagery, they might read further. That's when the bomb went off in my head.

Mike McQuade is a designer and illustrator based in the UK, and he makes some of the most compelling work I've seen in a long time—subtle, subversive, minimalist, and simply beautiful. Much of what he makes ends up as magazine and book covers, or editorial illustration.

When I was working on the piece above, my mind jumped suddenly to McQuade. He's an editorial designer, and though our styles are quite different, so am I. Most of my design life has been about building books and magazines from the ground up. It only makes sense that some of my art take on an editorial aspect.

I made that image above before I knew what I wanted to write, but it became the inspiration for this post. I made an editorial illustration, and I've been doing that for a while now without knowing it.

Typically, editorial illustrations happen after the words have been written, or at least a synopsis has been provided to the illustrator, so this one breaks the rules a bit, but I still new the idea of what I wanted to say with the art. Now that I know what I've made, I can 100% repeat that process over and over again.

Although not an overwhelming desire, I've always wanted to have my art grace the header of a magazine story. What if the work I'm doing now ends up getting me some exposure in the editorial world, and I can finally realize that dream? It all makes sense to me now.

I get to make art in my style.

I get to voice my opinion on things I care about.

I can still do that with a message of positivity.

And people enjoy the work, maybe they'll pay me to do it for their publications.

The muse has presented itself, and now it's time to act on this. Good editorial illustration is not easy, and subtlety is not my strong suit yet, so it might be a little premature to call this Utopia, but I definitely like view so far.