I think I may have said this already, but I can't really say it enough: thanks to everyone who left such wonderful and thoughtful comments on my post last week. Just getting the post written was cathartic, but the depth of the comments really gave me an amazing sense of support. So thank you!
The post last week seems to have cured my creative malaise, forcing into words what for months I could not express, and exposing the problem not as one of exhaustion, but of not knowing myself and how that translates into design. I think giving some thought to this will make all the difference in doing sustainable, creative work.
I do clean and modern design. This realization has been growing on me lately, and it was really somewhat shocking. I tend to imagine myself as a messy, unorganized person, which for me translates to lots of grunge and distressed designs (which is what I leaned towards when I started). However, this is a good example of my not really being self-aware at all, since in reality I like things clean and in their place. BUT I don't go all the way down the continuum to minimal. I think I believed in my heart you could either be a minimalist, or you could make it messy; I did not see the middle ground. But there is always a middle ground, and a place of balance is a wonderful, but tricky, place to stand. I was telling my mom over Christmas how I define my style as "minimal plus": I don't want stark emptiness, but I want clean lines with a touch of something crazy. At the time we were talking about home decor, but now I see that this really defines basically all my design choices.
Another difficult tension I walk is between order and chaos. Having trained as a scientist in school, I tend to think of myself as logical and left-brained, and I think that this description is not far off. I work methodically through a pattern that I've set for myself. However, I still do have the right side of my brain and it increasingly wants to get in on the action. In real life I have the strong desire to both stay home with my routine and to travel and have great adventures, at the same time. In my design work this expresses itself in my methodically prepared kits shadowed by random and eclectic bursts of something. Trying to walk the balance between these two forces is what drove me down into my creative confusion, and will probably always cause at least a little trouble. But there is power in knowing, and I've got my own number now.
Going forward I've got a few changes that I hope will help keep the creativity flowing and both sides of my brain happy:
- I've mentioned frequently my desire to make more layouts, so I've decided to declare one day a week to be layout fun day, where I just make layouts. Woo!
- In deference to my random side I'll be making more random stuff, as I've been doing lately. Smaller, one-off projects that can be finished quickly and allow for more experimentation. Also, everyone's enthusiasm for mini kits has certainly given me the freedom to consider more small scale projects.
- Keeping in mind my now defined design philosophy (which I'm going to call "clean PLUS"), I hope that I'll be able to follow my random heart, while staying linked to what I know I love.
Side note: I have often wondered about defining what I do as art, the difference between art and craft, whether there is there a difference between art and craft, etc. After all this self-aware, self-discovery, self-expression mumbo jumbo I've been partaking of lately, I feel pretty confident in calling myself an artist. There's a whole lot more of myself in these designs than I initially thought.
Extra side note: Upon finishing this post I walked into my bedroom and was struck by the exact presentation of everything I'd been trying to put into words. I could have saved myself a lot of time by just posting this photo.
First of all, thanks to everyone who left such nice comments on my post yesterday. They all mean a lot, and I'm planning a follow-up post, but I want to let things sit for a bit first. In the meantime, I've had another digi-scrap realization:
I enjoy making mini kits, since they don't require as big a commitment and you can try out things a bit easier since you know it's just on the small scale. However, I've felt like mini kits are just sort of the bottom of the barrel in the digi-scrapping world. It seemed to me that designers make them to give away, and then people like to download them, but no one really uses them. They just sort of float around, uselessly taking up space on people's hard drives. I'd always wonder to myself, "who really loves mini kits?"
Fast forward to right now when I suddenly realized, ME. I really love mini kits.
I have two main reasons for making layouts. 1) I do large projects, usually from trips, that I like to coordinate together. These require rather large bundles of specific things, which I like to make myself so that everything works just how I want it to. 2) I like to make random layouts of random pictures just because. For these layouts, I rarely want to use the same kit more than once. I want it all to be new. Also, if I'm presented with lots of wonderful things to use, I WILL USE THEM ALL, on one page. I can't really stop myself.
Clearly for a random scrapper such as myself who has control issues when it comes to limiting things on the page, mini kits are ideal. Even better you can get lots of great ones for free. This all seems really obvious as I type it right now, but honestly I just figured it out. And now that I have, I thought, could I use all my mini kits? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
Are there any other mini kit lovers out there? Anyone else who loves to scrap randomly? Anyone else with control issues? It's always great to have company.
I've been suffering a creative block since the new year has set in, and it does not really seem to be lessening. It's not a total block, as I've been making stuff all over the place, but it's been very difficult to make these things, particularly any finished bundle design. I think there are a couple of reasons for the block:
- I've been doing a large amount of designing without a significant break for too long. Everything I do now feels like I've done it thirty times before.
- While that last sentence is true to some extent, I also think I'm having a designer identity crisis, which is masquerading itself in my previous statement.
It only occurred to me last night that while I may be a bit tired of what I'm doing, I'm not really. Is there anything else I'd rather be doing? No. Do I want to make scrapbook layouts all day, every day? Yes. Do I see other designer's work and feel like I want to make more and more things? Yes.
Last night I finished reading a wonderful book, My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss. Near the end she started talking about her failed dinner party:
It wasn't that the food didn't taste good. It's just that it all felt so strained, my relationship with what I'd cooked, I mean. I'd expended a lot of time and energy on figuring out the menu, planning the dinner, sourcing the ingredients, and cooking the food, and then, once my plate was in front of me, it all just felt so foreign, so far away from what I actually wanted to eat. My throat closed right up. It was an unexpectedly upsetting moment -- to be surrounded by nine people kindly devouring all that was laid before them and to feel so estranged from their experience.
If you took out all the cooking reference and replaced them with designing, this passage would perfectly reflect what I've been feeling lately. And then, even better than just diagnosing the problem, Weiss offers a solution too!
After that fateful meal, however, I decided that I needed to approach my dinner parties differently. Clearly the old model was broken. I had to turn away from the complicated cookbooks and highfalutin ambitions and just think about the core of the matter. I needed to think about what I wanted to eat, first and foremost, when I had guests over. That's really all it was about. It was as simple and as complicated as that.
What do I want to eat?
And I think that's really what's been going on. I've been creating so many things, and a decent chunk of it just isn't appetizing to me upon viewing the final product. I mean, I made two bundles about the ocean. Why would I need two? And I'm honestly not super keen on either of them. Which is not to say that they aren't perfectly fine, but just that they don't fill me with satisfaction. And if I can't figure out what I like, how can I really keep doing this?
And so my designer identity crisis emerges from what I thought was just tiredness. It's been niggling at the back of my mind in recent months, that my design style is not really what I think it is. I think I've had certain ideas about what I like and what I like to make, that are frankly just wrong. This isn't really surprising, as whenever you start something new, especially as I did, by just jumping in and flailing around, you're going to get somewhere, but is it really where you wanted to go?
This realization reminded me of some great advice that my high school English teacher gave me, which she said in relation to learning to write, but really is applicable far beyond learning to write a perfect paragraph. She said that we first needed to learn the rules and work with the rules, and only when we'd done our time and proved we knew what we were doing, could we then break the rules.
Obviously, breaking the rules is the fun part, but if you don't know what you're doing, it's just going to be a mess. And I think that's where I am right now. I'm tired of doing what feels like the same thing over and over again, and so I want to branch out. But before I can do that I need to know what I love, as in actually be able to articulate it, before I start changing things. Otherwise, I may break something that really I don't want to break. Or break too many things at the same time and then have no where to stand.
Luckily I think this process of defining my design style will not be too difficult or strenuous. I have access to Pinterest, which has made curating and defining one's style into an easy and beautiful thing. I spent a little time browsing through finished designs, looking for things that I would actually buy and use. From this collection, I've written out what I think my design style is. I'm curious also if some of you would be so kind as to describe what you think my design style is, from things I've published here at Pixel Scrapper. I'm curious to see how closely we match up.
I'll be back soon to share what I've discovered and hopefully a new way forward.
Saturday was a historic day, as it was Pixel Scrapper's first live event! It was a super fun time chatting in real time with friends from the site, and on the side I did my first screencast. I made three layouts and answered a few questions. I'm sure we'll be doing it again soon.
If you missed the broadcast and are curious what I'm talking about, I've uploaded a few long snippets to youtube. You can find the list here.
Here are the layouts I made:
Thanks to everyone who came and made it such a fun time!
Pixel Scrapper Blog
Hi There! I’m Marisa Lerin and you’ll see me around at Pixel Scrapper a lot. I started this site in 2010 soon after I discovered a new love in digital scrapbooking. Pixel Scrapper has gone through some significant changes since that time and it’s grown into this lovely community site you are seeing now. I am daily surprised by the turn of life’s events that has led me down this path. If you're new to the site, welcome! Here are a few tidbits about me that I hope will help you get to know me better!
I’m originally from Minnesota, USA, but spent a good chunk of my childhood living abroad (in Bolivia and Hong Kong). I returned to Minnesota to attend university, got married and then moved overseas again (Korea, then Jordan and 1 year of traveling). My designs are heavily influenced by these many nomadic years. I am currently back in the USA, now living in the great state of Oregon!
I have no official training for what I’m doing, since I decided very wisely (haha) to study physics in university. I am always learning new things about digital scrapbooking, and this community has been immensely helpful for that!
If I manage to stop digital scrapbooking you will probably find me watching TV, reading or baking. I also enjoy writing for the blog here at Pixel Scrapper where I talk about whatever happens to be catching my fancy at the moment.
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