May 11th, 2011 Comments Off
“Sexy people are apple pies.” “One, two, tin …” “Acne, pimp, jerk…” The unlikely grouping and categorizing of words, phrases and numbers in the new exhibition “They Are Full of Holy Nonsense” at SF’s Creativity Explored range from the whimsical to the philosophical to the seemingly nonsensical. In fact, decoding the multiple layers of meaning in autistic artist John Patrick McKenzie’s show and understanding his unique, free-association thought process is all part of the fun.
John Patrick Mckenzie likes Cumulus Clouds, 2008
by John Patrick Mckenzie
In my very first article for the SF Chronicle, I was beyond thrilled to learn more about this fascinating artist and how he turns his hand-drawn typography into art. Read my full article on the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE. (and check out the newspaper version below!)
March 31st, 2011 Comments Off
Sometimes art speaks for itself and other times it needs explanation and context. The latter is the case for the work of the late artist-designer Tobias Wong, who takes the banally familiar and repurposes it into irony-laden statements about the things we buy and consume.
Now on view through June 19th at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Wong’s first-ever solo show of his irreverent and highly conceptual work, which includes objects, furniture, jewelry, lighting, and installation, is on display. But take note, unless you’re pre-acquainted with Wong’s designs and the materials he used to create them, the exhibit will leave you nothing but perplexed.
Read my full article on SF STATION.
Image Courtesy SFMOMA
November 16th, 2010 Comments Off
When walking through the Curious George Saves the Day exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, don’t be surprised if you find yourself delightfully squealing, “Wow, I remember that!” coupled with lots of, “Wow, I never knew that!” exclamations.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Contemporary Jewish Museum.
The exhibit truly is an entertaining trip down memory lane featuring nearly 80 original drawings combined with fascinating behind-the-scenes stories from the husband-and-wife team, illustrator H. A. Rey and author/artist Margret Rey. Their creative process, inspiration, and incredible tale of survival are revealed in a captivating exhibit that will intrigue everyone from little kids to the big kid in all of us.
Read my full arts review on SF STATION.
January 13th, 2010 Comments Off
“Dealing with rejection” – if you’re a creative (graphic designer, writer, illustrator, photographer, etc.) you might as well add it to the “skills” section on your resume. As creatives, it’s part of our job description to take a risk and put our work and ideas out there to be judged by others. And, of course, there’s always someone out there who doesn’t like our work. But where there’s risk – there’s reward (a.k.a. how awesome it feels to nail a concept). So we learn (and teach) the art of giving and receiving constructive criticism to others…and develop a skin as thick as can be.
But what happens when the people judging our work, the creatives in positions of hiring power don’t understand “the constructive” part of constructive criticism and just criticize?
Ordinarily, I would highly prefer not to broadcast my rejections faced in the creative business. But I recently encountered a Creative Recruiter in a high position of power who was rude, condescending, unprofessional, and seriously lacked understanding of how to give constructive criticism. My hope in telling this story is not to fish for supportive jabs at the idiot Creative Recruiter (I know my strengths and weaknesses – thank you) but to bring light to the fact that behavior like this is unacceptable and potentially damaging to young creative professionals just entering the field.
A few months ago, I went out on a limb and contacted the Creative Director of one the most prominent advertising agencies in San Francisco. I was seeking freelance creative work (writing, concepting, etc.) and this firm, in particular, has been on my “top places to work” list since the beginning of my career in SF. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d even get a response but I figured I had nothing to lose (and everything to gain!) Thus, I was so excited when the amazingly talented Creative Director himself actually replied to my email. He was honest and said he thought I had talent, but I might not be a good fit for the agency at this point and he referred me to their Creative Recruiter who could offer a better perspective on how to “separate myself from the pack.” So I contacted the Creative Recruiter, but after a month of radio silence, I just assumed they weren’t interested in working with me. And frankly, with the personal email I received from the Creative Director whom I had deeply admired for some time, I was just as content to move on. Hey, that’s the way the creative biz goes.
Then I got the phone call.
After 5 weeks of zero communication, I naturally assumed the non-response by the agency meant they weren’t interested in working with me. And I was right. But just so I was totally clear on this point – the Creative Recruiter felt it necessary to let me know, in the most condescending way possible, that it wasn’t a good fit. He definitely did not offer advice on how to “separate myself from the pack” and he certainly did not provide constructive feedback. He threw in the word “cute” to describe my work (a snide insult in this business) and concluded the conversation with something like, “hope I didn’t dash your hopes of ever succeeding [in this industry].”
Was I upset? Hell, yes. Because of what he said about my work? No. I have solid confidence in my talent and have two successful creative businesses. But I was seriously disturbed and completely taken aback by his sheer rudeness. I can only imagine how many people with serious talent he’s hurt or discouraged along the way. And that is NOT acceptable. There’s never a place for condescension in any field.
In article after article I’ve written, I’ve been a champion and cheerleader of creatives everywhere. I’m contacted on a daily basis by newbie designers from across the nation seeking advice on their careers, feedback on their design or writing portfolios, or interests in interning (which I don’t offer at this time, btw). Time permitted, I do my best to respond and provide solid, constructive feedback to all who take the time to contact me. Why? Because I was in their shoes once (we were ALL in their shoes once) and support and encouragement go a long way.
So drop the ego Mr. Creative Recruiter. Yes, your agency has earned enough awards for its share of bragging rights. But you sir, need to get a clue. And yes, you’re right – it is certainly not a good fit.
Here are some good articles on giving and receiving constructive criticism:
(originally appeared in SF Examiner 11/30/09)
January 13th, 2010 Comments Off
When running a one-man show as a self-employed creative (artist, graphic designer, illustrator, photographer, writer, etc.), how we prioritize our time is of the utmost importance to the success of our business. When the economy is good, our days are spent juggling “the creative side” with all the other tasks of keeping the company afloat. But when times are slow, like now, an imbalanced portion of our time is spent on promotion. This, of course, is an absolute necessity. But with a significant portion of time spent marketing via Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, blogs, online discussion groups, sending out direct mailers, emails, and the like, at what point do we take a break from all this promoting and start creating again?
Clever new card created for my greeting card company She's SO Creative. Photo Courtesy Stephanie Orma / She's SO Creative.
For my greeting card business, She’s SO Creative, I certainly find myself struggling to justify time spent on creating new cards when business is slow. Do I create new products when I still have a fair amount of unsold inventory or do I just hold off and wait for the storm to subside? Retailers need fresh inventory in their stores because customers will stop coming if they see the same old products day in and day out. And retailers won’t buy from manufacturers if they having nothing new to offer.
Along the same lines, how do we as commercial artists grow our talents in a sluggish economy, if we’re not gaining new clients? Taking on new projects challenges us, keeps our skills sharp, and feeds our creative souls. And those entities are the bread and butter of our business. Plus, creating new work adds another project to our portfolio; an extremely vital element as it’s the actual tangible item that sells our services.
Whether we create a new project in a graphic design or illustration class, take on a non-for-profit client, or write a magazine article on spec, this is our livelihood and we need to keep moving forward. I absolutely believe we should be spending a large portion of our time promoting our services and drumming up new business. But I think it’s equally important to dedicate a certain portion of our day, our week, our lives to creating. In fact, I’m cutting this article short to start working on some new greeting cards right now!
(originally appeared in SF Examiner 3/30/09)