Personally Speaking/In Quest of That Magic Moment

Nothing compares to that feeling as you labor and experiment in the studio while creating something that really gets you excited. That moment comes when you realize you got it. A moment that brings goosebumps with it. A moment that has you getting out of your chair to throw phantom high fives! There’s really nothing like the feeling of that breakthrough when you’ve created something unlike anything you have done before. Something that moves you. It can be exhilarating. But what’s great about it is not only the thrill you get out of the final solution.

It’s also the zone that you get into during the whole process. There is not much that can compare to that “aha” experience when you are in a groove and can’t stop because what you have been working on is coming alive; coming alive with work that is as good and sometimes better than what you could have done before – work that you could not have imagined. It makes me want to show the results to students, colleagues and friends. It can be transcendental.

I have friends and colleagues who have experienced the same thing. That experience where you go to bed late at night only to wake up early to get a look at what you created – to make sure you weren’t dreaming. I am sure that musicians, chefs, writers, interior designers, filmmakers and others in the creative endeavors of their fields have at one or more times experienced that moment.

As a long-time graphic designer with a 40-year career behind me, I’ve done a lot of work that required specific solutions – solutions based on objectives communicated upfront between me and the client. The goal was to solve the problem, to resonate with the intended audience based on client objectives. Lately, though, I’ve been working on projects that are much more personal. There really is no other goal than creating something that I like. It’s a different experience from working with clients because I can explore while not worrying about making mistakes or getting it right – just doing what feels and looks good to me and, I hope, to others.

With my recent work, it feels as if I’m closer to being a fine artist than I have ever been. My earlier graphic design work always had an applied context. My current work has no formal objective other than what I come up with. This work incorporates typography, illustration, photography, texture, form, pattern and color as well as collage. Lately I have been focusing on a series of patterns. As I work in my studio using digital tools, I create, adapt, explore, evolve and eventually get to a final solution – a solution that isn’t really final because it is usually a catalyst for my next solution. When working as a designer for clients, occasionally I did create a solution that really got me excited. Now that I’m creating work that is more personal, too, those “aha” moments are more frequent and more pronounced. (It’s weird because I used to get paid for helping clients and now I get nothing but I love it so much more!)

I am extremely thankful for those moments and feel lucky that what I do as an artist and what I do as an educator means I get to experience them. For me the creative process and those “aha” moments feed my soul. Of course I must thank, too, my Mac and the Adobe Creative suite: tools that aid me significantly on my journey. I thank the internet for all its offerings: Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr or some other image-based destination. My gratitude includes the internet’s ability to categorize images: photographs, clip art, line drawings, animation; black and white, monotones, duotones or full color. I thank the internet for allowing me to find artists that I have never heard of: artists who inspire and motivate. In 1980, when I was a student majoring in art at Madison, I used to go to the library at the Elvejhem to read Print magazine, which was devoted to graphic design. I spent hours and hours looking at the Regional Design Annual. It was loaded with the best graphic design of that year. When I compare that single and valued source to the wealth of inspiration today, it warms my heart as I anticipate the wealth of “aha” moments still to come. The sky appears to be the limit.


March 17, 2019