Just over a week ago, on a Friday, I went along to CreativeMornings Cardiff. I’ve been before, but not for a long time. I’ve probably been to more in Edinburgh than I have in Cardiff. But my memory of each one is of meeting great people, really interesting talks, and coming away wih a load of new ideas. This one was no exception.
Suzanne Carpenter is an illustrator. She spoke with great humility and honesty, things I love about CreativeMornings (and creative people in general).
Forcing yourself to network
Something Suzanne mentioned immediately struck a chord with me. I reached for my notebook and scribbled it down.
I was never very good at networking and selling myself. I would rather sit in the corner and do some colouring. If someone came over and expressed an interest, then I would happily talk to them.
I’m very much paraphrasing here, sorry Suzanne.
(I’m a prolific note-taker, but over time this only seems to have provided a negative impact on my handwriting.)
- Having already looked at Suzanne’s Instagram account, describing what she does as colouring in might possibly be the understatement of the century.
- I feel the same way about networking and self-promotion.
To be a networker, you must think like a networker
At a networking event earlier in the week, a speaker advised students… if you’re afraid to sell yourselves, take on the persona of someone who is good at networking. Just for the next hour or so.
I like that way of thinking. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and allows you to achieve more than you thought you were capable of.
But I prefer to show and not tell. Let the work do the talking.
When I started out I wanted to be a web designer. So I started designing my own sites until someone paid me to do theirs.
When we started Reserve (a holiday rental agency we built over the last 10 years), we only had a couple of properties. So we did all we could to market them brilliantly (excellent photography, the best marketing materials, guest reviews anyone would be proud of). We waited for people to see it and come to us. And they did. About 300 of them.
I’ve got a whole page of thoughts and ideas from Suzanne’s talk. As always I was very happy that I went along (and arrived over half an hour early — super keen!). But this stayed with me above all else.
Think about what you want to do, and start doing it.
by Gareth K. Thomas / Made Clear
We asked the Cardiff folks for their favourite moments to celebrate February’s theme #CMmoments
Last month was the month of love and to celebrate our friends at Stills Branding wrote the #StillsLoves blog series. We were so happy to be a part of the series.
Here are the kind words from Stills Branding about our monthly events. These guys are inspirational in the Cardiff scene and it’s great to know that our events are bringing together some of Cardiff’s most creative individuals. Take it away Still…
This month we will be celebrating Change. Brilliant illustration from Victor Bregante too!
Language is about more than words. Language is the way we communicate with one another - that can be through speech, of course, but it can also include the unspoken ways in which we share meanings, feelings, thoughts, ideas, reactions and ourselves with other people.
Books, films and artwork all use language to tell their story; in the overt way, through words, but also through linguistic techniques - subverting our knowledge and expectations of language and its accepted conventions. The study of semiotics helps us to ‘decode’ the meanings of things that we can take from a scene or an image or a sentence, which is not explicitly stated. We are constantly absorbing things through language it its many guises.
There is a language of design too. Designers must often create a single visual that conveys a brand, an idea, an ethic and a distinctive style that can be absorbed in a single glance; recognised and remembered in the future by people who are constantly bombarded with images and ideas and messages.
Language isn’t just about speaking to each other; which language you use in the shop or shouting expletives at traffic: the very purpose of language is being able to reach each other and share things that often can’t be contained in words. It’s how we connect as communities, as artists as professionals and as people.
By Jenny Allan @SerenLasCopy
Work by Helen Di Duca
Like it or not, for most of us, our lives revolve around work (sigh). Many of us will think ‘Do I need to re-evaluate my life?’ or ‘God, I remember reading about people reaching this point in their life’, you know when we were young and didn’t need to work, but is it such a bad thing?
Let’s take a look at the bigger picture; the people we work with. Many of the meaningful relationships, for your everyday member of society, will have been formed in or around work. Bonds will have been built, ideas will have been shared and we will be a stronger, more productive individual than when we entered the role (hopefully). Arguably this is reflected by many when at the point of looking for a new challenge or opportunity. One of the main reasons we ‘stay put’ is because our “work family” are great. Let’s face it; we spend 2/3 of our lives with them, more time than with our friends and loved ones.
Looking at working relationships, Raymond Meredith BeIbin spent his career researching and developing management theory, looking at ways group dynamics can be used for optimum productivity. Belbin was able to categorise an employee and build teams so they could reach optimum operation. An interesting starting point if you’re looking at relationships and how to create a positive and productive organisational culture.
Combine this with what makes people tick and the skills they excel in and you’ll be on the winning team. The more we invest in the people we work with, the stronger the industry we work in becomes. For example, in the last 2 years the productivity of the arts and cultural sector has increased by 6%, generating £76.9bn across the UK creative economy, here in Wales that equates to 51,000 jobs.
Get to know those you work with, they may surprise you. Let’s make the creative community here at CreativeMornings and beyond, stronger, more passionate and productive than ever. That way we can make more of an impact on the creative economy and make changes across other sectors raising the value of core thing we do, be creative.
Shock, like sex, sells. In a world where clickbait headings and tabloid extremism are used to peddle beauty products, lifestyles and dubious political affiliations it is becoming harder and harder to shock people. We’re now wary of articles telling us we’ll ‘never believe what happened next’, or lists that assure us that number six will astonish us. We grow desensitised, apathetic, mistrustful.
In art shock is used to the opposite effect; to jolt us out of our comfort zones and make us consider our own situations from another perspective, or to demonstrate the full impact of someone else’s story. Shocking an audience captures their attention and focuses it on what you want to say, which is why it’s employed by advertisers and tabloid journalists as a cheap sales tool. For the artist there is no commercial gain, and this is the difference between shock and the crudity of sensationalism.
Shocks to the system can do us good; they shake up our thoughts, they breed creativity and open new perspectives and they challenge us so that we don’t just accept and submit and trudge along day after day. Sensationalism keeps us wrapped in our comfort blanket of procured idealism and distances us from a reality we don’t want to engage with, and therefore cannot change.
Through art we are able to visualise and actually experience a reality other than our own. Art that can shock is a powerful and emotive tool – used well it can change the world; used cheaply and it may or may not sell a new line of diet pills.
It’s tough to see where we go next. What will shock the next generation? What will be ‘too much’? What will make us stop?
Post by Jenny Allan @serenlascopy
Society seems to centre on revolution in some way or another; as if it is a pivotal concept that mediates a wildly diverse society being ruled by a few individuals working within a highly specific set of beliefs. A way of restoring balance.
It is impossible to please a group of millions at once. The varying needs, attitudes, politics, beliefs, religion, class etc. within a society cannot be governed in such an idealistic and simplistic way. It is possible to argue that democracy provides relief in the form of regular referenda, but in a society that grows ever more politically apathetic the representation of the needs of the masses begins to wane and people search for more radical ways in which to bring about the changes they need.
Historically revolutions have been bloody, righteous uprisings against tyranny and oppression and we make retrospective heroes of the prominent figures; Owain Glyndwr, Che Guevara, Robespierre. We love a figure who stands up for what they believe in – as long as we are not the ones who have to do the standing up. We are willing for them to carry out the often-necessary atrocities in the name of freedom. But one person’s freedom will always be another’s oppression.
Creative revolutions are generally less bloody, but are always as poignant. If art is a tangible representation of the world as the artist sees it (as Eisenstein suggests with the notion of the Kino eye) then without cultural, artistic, linguistic change there can be no societal development.
Art opens people’s eyes, because it allows us to see the world from somebody else’s perspective.
Politics, like art, is about relationships and how we see and do things. But art has the scope for inclusivity, participation, tolerance and opinion.
Art and culture and creativity revolutionise by allowing people to see from a multitude of perspectives at once and learning to accept them all, even as we dislike or disagree with many.Post by Jenny Allan @SerenLasCopy
Ink by Gareth Strange
Invitation to speak at Creative Mornings
Two weeks before the Creative Mornings Ink event, I was really looking forward to it. I was wondering who the speaker might be, what he or she would have to say and what I would learn. As a designer and illustrator I work with ink every day, so this event definitely appealed to me. Then, one afternoon, Sarah, the organiser of Creative Mornings Cardiff asked me if I would fancy speaking at the event. I pondered the invitation for a night or two whilst I pieced together a talk in my head, then accepted with excitement.
Over the next week or so, I worked on my talk figuring out what approach and direction it would take. I decided to talk a little bit about the challenges of coming up with new illustration or visual styles for different brands or clients – taking a closer look at my process and experience. I selected projects I thought the audience would enjoy hearing about, such as Hokkei where I created an entire typeface which became central to the brand’s visual communications.
As a designer, I feel my presentation slides have got to look good - it’s nice to give the audience something interesting to look at too. As the topic was Ink, I decided not to use any system fonts at all. Instead, I hand rendered the typography using a calligraphy pen and ink – more time consuming but definitely worth it. Especially as we had a last minute slight technical glitch which would have defaulted all my fonts to Arial. Phew!
I didn’t want this to become a ‘show and tell’ kind of talk, I wanted the audience to participate as Ink is such a universal topic. Everyone has picked up a pen and drawn something at some point in their life, and everyone has a unique style. Far too often we hear people say “ I can’t draw” or “I wish I could draw”, so I decided to challenge every member of the audience to draw a self portrait as they entered the Abacus. The results were amazing – it was clear no two drawings had the same style when I looked at them all displayed in the reception area.
The story of James Thurber
The idea of everyone having their own style of drawing linked to a story that I told during my talk, the story of James Thurber. Thurber was an American humorist in the 1930s who wrote incredibly witty stories – however, he felt illustrations were needed to support his words. Being young and having just moved to New York he didn’t have a great amount of money to spend on professional illustrators, so he decided to have a go himself. Untrained and inexperienced as an illustrator, this must have been an intimidating challenge – but his drawings - made up of simple lines, had a real charm about them and helped to bring his stories to life. James Thurber went on to become a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine for many years and his works went on to inspire the likes of John Lennon. Now, if you look James Thurber up on Wikipedia it says he was an American cartoonist, author, journalist and playwright who celebrated wit. A cartoonist first.
Work on show
For me Creative Mornings Cardiff is more than just a monthly talk. It’s about the city’s creative community getting together and meeting new people. Myself and the Creative Mornings team invited some of our favourite local illustrators and artists to display their work at the event. We had beautiful inky based prints on show from the talented Belinda Love Lee, Dale Johnson, James Reid and myself. It was great to see such a wide range of work on display and was a real celebration of the talent and diversity Cardiff has to offer.
A print to mark the event
I always have several personal projects on the go – and one that I was working on the week Sarah invited me to speak was inspired by a five year old named Isaac. Isaac is my friend’s son who made me a ‘thank you’ card for lending him a Playstation controller so he could have a mate around to play games. On the card, he drew the controller in such a naive way, a way an adult would have real difficulty replicating. I decided to try and impersonate this style by drawing celebrities with my left hand – before I knew it, I had around fifty portraits.
This gave me the idea of creating a print to mark the event. I decided to ask the audience to take a selfie and tweet it using the hashtag #CreativeMorningsSelfie and I would then draw everyone in the audience, with my left hand. I was a little nervous people wouldn’t be up for this, but so many people got involved (even Goldie!) leaving me with my work cut out. I had around 40 portraits to do .
For me, the event was a huge success – I enjoyed every minute of the morning, I met lots of lovely people and the feedback was really positive. I would like to thank Sarah and the Creative Mornings team for the invitation and support throughout. I’m also thankful to everyone who came along to the event and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you couldn't come along and you'd like to watch the talk just check out the video.
Ink has a permanence about it. Indelibly imposing our art onto a surface has a specific appeal – whether it is tattoo art, calligraphy, drawing, writing…you can’t rub ink out. It is not like paint or pencil. There is not soft indistinctness or suggestive impressions; ink art is definite, brash and certain.
Art in ink is a statement. It is confidence. It is a way of expressing a boldness and assertiveness by making a mark that, once made, cannot be changed. It is a mark of skill and an expression of self-possession. With ink there is nowhere to hide, but for those willing to use it as a medium, the brightness, the versatility and the aesthetic of ink is its own reward.Post by Jenny Allan @SerenLasCopy