Friday, August 30, 2013

Progress On My Next Big Article(s)?

GPU-clusterHey folks, E.C. here with an update… I’m working on an article called “GPU Clustering for Digital Art and Graphic Design?” and doing research for it at the same time to make sure that A)I know what I’m talking about and B)I can actually do what I propose at the end of the article.

I started this blog to talk about Graphic Design, the lives of Graphic Designers, and the tool we use. I’m also getting back into digital art and what can be done with fractals while at the same time trying to tackle the issue for yet another article about whether or not we’re using our modern tools to their greatest poetical. I’m asking if we are pushing the limits of our processors, memory, and storage devices or are we just doing what Graphic Designers have done for decades but only doing it faster and cleaner than ever before while following the lead of a very few innovators?
I have surrendered myself to the fact that there are some days (specifically Fridays if my work is all done for the week) that I’m more fascinated by the tools of graphic design and digital art than actually creating design and digital art. I’m fascinated by the tools that have been used, past, present and the future. I’m also looking into things like the hardware as art, specifically wall mounted computers – computers that are built on a flat surface like metal plates, plastic or wooden boards with a sheet of clear Mylar between the two.

I’m also debating on whether or not I want to resurrect my former podcast and widen the categories to talk about the aforementioned stuff. I want to get other graphic designers, artists, authors to talk about The Creative Process.

So with that said… no new extra-long articles today and this weekend – keep your eye out for something extensive next week.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Content Of Character


“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin-Luther-King-JrYesterday we observed the 50th Anniversary of the famous March on Washington which was punctuated with the famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. voiced what every parent – regardless of color – hopes; that our kids will never again be judged by something so superficial like the color of their skin or where their ancestors came from. He was calling on all of us to deny and repress the most reptilian and base instincts; the fear of the alien or different among us. He challenged us to look beyond something so basic and look at the genuine, don’t judge people by what they look like but on what people do.

With rare exceptions, everyone around this planet have the same wants and fears. I’m like every dad: I want to see my children grow up and reach their full potential, then exceed it. I want them to work just as hard as I did to get to where they want to go and what they want to be, but go beyond what I did without my handicaps. I want them to live in a world where they can work for their basic needs and have enough left over to satisfy some of their wants and desires.

Like every healthy parent, I want my sons to have it better than I did while still having a respect for the world they live in and love for the people around them.

What I’m concerned about is that we still judge other people on basically stupid things. We judge people by their appearance. In the past I’ve judged women on whether or not they had ideal bodies which was predetermined for me by advertising and print media. I have judged other boys and men on what they do for recreation or occupation, and I have been critical of people who don’t read books and have no desire to learn something beyond the basics from high school and their trade. I’ve been incredibly critical of people who have no desire to keep up with current events.

Some of these critiques might be fair, some are not. But I’m reminded of that biblical quote; judge not lest you be judged. I’ve judged and been judged by the state of dress and fashionable clothes. I have judged and been judged by income status and the possession of material things. I have judged and been judged by the level (or lack) of education. I have judged and been judged based only on someone else’s political affiliation.

As a graphic designer and artist, I’ve judged people by the quality and quantity by their work and not on the content of their character, disregarding people who aren’t as ‘talented’ as I am while being jealous and envious of those who are better… but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

We still judge. 50 years after that famous and moving speech (and if it doesn’t move you, there’s something wrong and inhuman about you) we still judge. Will it and could it ever possibly end? Was Dr. King’s wish impossible and have we really made strides to meeting his goals in the last half century?

My answer to that wavers from time to time; things are better and things are worse. There are horrible social plagues such as poverty, ignorance, drug use, illegitimacy that has proliferated in our communities and inappropriate behavior has become normalized in our media. If you are not “into” the “right things” you’re excluded from many aspects of society.

People we label as nerds, geeks, and dorks are shunned and have limited access to a normal life regardless of their character and the positive things they (or we) contribute to society. Bigotry towards people who chose to be different shows little signs of disappearing in some circles, regardless of what we proclaim that we tread people based on how they act. Too often these “outcasts” are bullied by those people trying too hard to be “normal.” In the 21st Century it’s still hard to deny and repress the most reptilian and base instincts within us all; the fear of the alien or different among us.

The only room for me in my life now for being judgmental is in the realm of work and indeed; the content of someone’s character. Before I look at other people (and the speck in their eyes) how about the totem pole sticking out of my own? When I say “we” I also mean “me, too.”

Do we really work hard and smart enough? Are we actually competing for the right things like doing better work; not just work that’s better than our competitors but better than the work we’ve done in the past? Are we actually pushing our tools to create the best work possible besides following the same trends and styles that were created by other innovators? What are we actually doing as creative and professional artists to make the world a better place – not just for our clients and/or teachers but the rest of the world who have to endure our work indirectly?

Rephrased: What character are we displaying with our work and does our finished content reflect it that’s beneficial to ourselves and complements our client’s appropriately? As artists, creative people, and graphic designers are we showing positive content of character and leaving the part of the world we influence a better place through the content of our work?

In an occupation where results matter, we have to expand on what we mean by “results.” Yes, the work is good and gets the message across for our client, but is it responsible? Does the finished work show character? Or is it over-the-top to be shocking and provocative to entice people to talk about the work in a way just to create chatter?

Again, is our work responsible and shows proper character? I’m curious to see what the world will say of us and the mark we’ve left behind as artists after the next half century.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Looking for Work in Under-Served Regions


A fellow Linkedin Member asked…

“Does anyone know of a market that is underserved in terms of there being a ton of work? Is there any area of this field that is looking for artists/designers these days....preferably in the US?”

The short answer: Yes! Typically the further away from cities you get you’ll find them. The further away, the less likely they have a graphic designer who’s working their steadily and serving the region with good design question. Marketing yourself to those people is just as hard as marketing yourself in a competitive/saturated market; so be prepared to market yourself.

The long answer: Excellent question and one that I’ve been thinking about a lot these days; especially as I’m getting settled here in my own location and I’m looking back at all the places I’ve been (from various regions in Vermont, Upstate New York on the Canadian Border, Freemont California, Topeka Kansas…) and I’ve been wondering if I could make it there or if I could even be a graphic design student at college, period.
I have two schools of thought for your question.

The First: there are underserved regions all over the country on two fronts. First – there’s only one Nina (and only one Eric Fisk CGD) and there are many, many regions of the country. There just isn’t enough of us – as individuals – to go around.
Then there’s the school of thought that since Graphic Design is everywhere, and it’s constantly changing and evolving, and there are new needs springing up everywhere it’s up to us (again – as individuals) to find those opportunities. Mention you’re a graphic designer and people will as you if you do this, that, or the other thing.

The Second: There are indeed regions of the country that are desperately underserved. Perfect example is that there’s an establishment between my house and the college town of Keene that has a horrible sign. It looks like someone took some spray paint, some stencils, and a large piece of plywood or plastic and made up a sigh on the spot. It’s a crappy sign that says – to me – “like everything else, We care so little about our sign! If you think this sign is a mess, you should see our kitchen and bathrooms!”

This establishment is in a region where there are plenty of crappy signs; many are old and warn down “Clip Art” varieties, the hand-painted ones, and the ones made by a first year art student who must have slept through the classes on Hierarchy, Contrast, and Typography. Many business owners in these regions have the attitude, “We’re country, we don’t need nothing fancy” and mistake sloppiness for rustic charm.

Do these people need the services of a good graphic designer? Absolutely.

Do they understand why they need the services of a good graphic designer? Arguably, and good luck trying to make your case while trying to sell your services to them.

Too often I’ve found in rural areas that natives don’t take too kindly to stranger and they have a type of nepotism; they would rather give their business to someone whom they know does bad work but has been in the region for a long time rather than someone with talent but just moved in a short while ago. Also, keep in mind that “a short while ago” could mean anytime between last week, last year, or 10 years ago.

The bottom line is the same where ever you are; it’s about selling yourself. It’s just as hard to sell yourself in an area saturated with other graphic designers as it is to sell yourself in a region with none and you potential customers who don’t know why they actually need you. Not only do you have to be a great graphic designer but you have to be an excellent sales person and the product you’re selling is yourself.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What I Didn’t Know Then

This is an article that I wrote for my college paper… and it’s something that every graphic design student should read. ECF-CGD 2013

bluto-collegeIf I were granted three wishes, one of them would be to go back in time and have lunch with myself as a 18 year old from 1987. (Yes, I’m that old!) I would like to give me/him advice from everything I’ve learned in the past 26 six years. I would tell me/him to watch less TV, exercise more. Instead of reading on the couch, read on the stationary bike. Go to college, study what you love (graphic design and professional writing,) and stay away from women named “Sherry,” “Mary,” and “Mya.” Oh… and here is the address of a beautiful woman in New Jersey. She loves to ride horses so you better learn to ride. Finally, here’s the address of the most important buildings of your life, it’s in Gardner, Massachusetts.

Since I can’t talk to myself from 1987, I’ll share this with you – the five things I wish I knew when I first started as a student so many (many, many, many!) years ago.

Number One – Find out which of your first semester books will help you for the rest of your career and don’t let go of them. Perfect example for me for my graphic design curriculum was “Graphic Design Solutions,” by Robin Landa. We only needed this book for a couple of chapters for our first course – CGD 101 - but there are more chapters in the book that were necessary for the rest of our courses like typography. It wasn’t until later that I realized that this book could have really helped me through a couple of other courses, too. I write this paragraph with gnashing teeth and a clenched jaw… be careful with what books you return to the bookstore. In fact, return NONE of them. Keep them long after you’ve retired from whatever you’re studying to become, you’ll need them long after you’ve slipped the mortal coil of being a MWCC student.

There are some books that are worth more than their weight in gold! (Oh, and I’m not kidding about doing your reading on a stationary bike or treadmill… there’s something about getting the blood flowing that helps you remember.)

Number Two – Brace yourself; you are going to find out facts about the people in your life and a lot of it is going to be really ugly. I said something similar to my wife after her aunt died; hang on because with a change like this there are bound to be things coming out of background that’s not going to be pretty. I wish I was wrong. All the petty jealousies people have harbored against you secretly will come out in the open; all the animosities that were boiling under the surface are now exposed and festering like open emotional wounds.

For some people, the fact that you are going to college is going to seem like a death or suicide to some people – you’re “killing” the loser they thought you were. There are people that you’re counting on now to help you now will abandon you in the very near future based purely on envy; since you’re doing this (getting a higher education) why can’t they? Because they didn’t have it in them in the past or don’t have it now there will be some members of your inner circle who will try to undermine your success. There are a few people in your own circle of family and friends that want to suck you back down to their level when you find out who they are, cut them out of your life for as long as you are in college and when you begin your new career after you graduate.

This is OK because…

Number Three – Prepare to have your heart stolen by your fellow class mates in your curriculum. I can rattle off the 10 most important people in my life, and only three of them are in my own family (my wife and my two sons) everyone else who is important to me now have something in common: Mount Wachusett Community College. That’s teachers, staff members, and other students. Your fellow students are not your rivals; they are your allies and will soon become your closest friends.

Number Four – Budget your time and money. Don’t procrastinate! Don’t wait till the night before to do homework because - and I can tell you this from experience – you never do your best work under pressure. When you’re crunched for time you take stupid shortcuts which will cost you in the end.

This is the time to be selfish. The only thing that’s important in your life is you! Some other family members are going to have to help with the other day-to-day chores, period. Alas, I’ve had to bribe my sons with an in ground swimming pool that I’ll by when I get a steady job after MWCC; but you should see those little gremlins work now! Find new and exciting ways to motivate your kids and other family members.

(Also, playing Hanson’s “Mmmm Bop” over and over and over again will get them into high gear… after the fourth and fifteenth round they had the dishes done, the house vacuumed, the dog groomed and their toys put away. I don’t care if this is against the Geneva Convention – IT WORKS!)

Number Four B – Pain and exhaustion are temporary, the pain of failure and regret lasts a life time. Sacrifice a little now or you’ll be kicking yourself for the rest of your life. Do your homework as soon as it’s assigned. You don’t have all time in the world! Things happen when you least expect them. Early bird gets the worm; early student gets the best grades!

Number Five – Savor your time. Believe it or not, your time at MWCC will come to an end. It seems like May of next year or the year after that are a place far, far away… but when you get on this rollercoaster called College, it’ll be over too soon.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Other N-Word

I have a problem with some words. Word’s that are pejoratives outside of certain circles while badges of honor with-in those specific circles. Like “The N-Word” for people of color. If one person of color calls another the “N-Word” then in most cases it’s a term of endearment. If a white person uses the “N-Word” then that person’s way of life or personal well-being can be destroyed.

Just ask Paula Dean.

Then there’s the other “N-Word.” Nerd.

If my fellow nerds call me our “N-Word,” it’s like a badge of honor. If a non-nerd calls me our “N-Word,” it’s a pejorative.

If I’m talking to you guys about how I’m taking my father-in-law’s discarded XP machine and gutting it of optical drives and cables and putting them in my Gateway 7210 server to optimize it’s original potential before I install Windows Server 2003 and hook it up to the local network so I can install SCSI drives in the Hot-Swap Bay’s and dedicate each one to different clients and/or projects MAYBE I might have earned the mantle of “geek” or “nerd” in a positive way, but only from my fellow computer aficionados.

If I was a 17 year old loser and weighted 98 pound at 5’8” and I tell you about the Star Trek convention when I met this nerdy girl and how I got to third base (she let me hold her hand while telling me what was her favorite episode of The Original Series) then maybe I might have it coming as a put-down. It’s all about who’s using the word, in what context and what our established relationship is; A stranger who calls me a “geek” or a “nerd” because “I’m good with computers” might be in for a fight or heated argument.

What got me started was a post on a Facebook group that I belonged to when a woman was soliciting free work by saying; "I was wondering if some geek or nerd type would like to do a sort of ..." doesn’t even matter what the rest of the request was because she lost me. To call a true, professional graphic designer a geek or a nerd and not a graphic designer is cause for concern. If she doesn’t respect you as a true craftsman then there’s no way in hell she’s going to appreciate the craftsmanship of the finished product.
My response; “Gee... No. I'm sorry I'm not a geek or nerd type. I'm a graphic designer with my own equipment and software. Darn... Good luck with your search.”

I can’t see myself working with this woman regardless of how deep her pockets are and how green her greenbacks are. To ask someone to work for them while calling that person or nerd or a geek right off the bat isn’t any different than going to a diner and saying to one of the waitresses behind the counter: “I’m wondering if some bitch or whore type could fetch me a menu.”

Don’t be surprised if someone urinates in your coffee mug before you’re served.

There are some words of endearment that belong just to those groups, and those same words can be used to demonize, diminish or erode someone’s sense of self. Nobody gets to call my sister a bitch except her friends and family because it’s a term of endearment and we all know how bossy she can get. Call my sister a bitch when you don’t even know her… we’ll have words out in the parking lot.

I can’t believe that in this day and age, in the age of political correctness I have to spell it out to some people that there’s some behavior that’s unacceptable. There are some people who have worked too hard in their professions to be called certain things; to call the plumber fixing your sink or the mechanic fixing your breaks a “wrench monkey” is begging someone to do a half-assed job. Or worse, that “wrench monkey” might knock out some of your front teeth with whatever tool he has in his hand at the time.

I’ve worked too hard to become a graphic designer to have some old bat call me a “nerd or geek type” while she’s soliciting pro-bono work. I’ve worked too hard to become a graphic designer to do work for free, period. I would like to think that I’m at the point where I can command a little more respect and a lot more money for what I do.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Few words on Heisenberg.


I’ve made funny comments from time to time that if you mixed “Roseanne,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” in a used Maple Syrup jug you would have something that resembles my life.

Which one do I really most identify with? Today it’s “Breaking Bad” because of the tree male leads that remind me of myself in different times of my life.

First there’s Jessie who reminds me of my youth who couldn’t get anything done right, everything turns to crap and I relied on the wrong people to help me.

Then there’s Hank, the older and wiser guy who’s still rough around the edges. He’s successful and faced a lot of his demons but there is one last big score that eludes him. When he finds out the truth he can’t believe he’s been lied to all this time and feels vulnerable and alone. While he’s been proven right in the past because of his diligence in the past, he’s been questioned and mocked for what he believed was true in the beginning. He’s had to work all this time to prove he knows his stuff while hiding his insecurities under false bravado.

Then there’s Walter White, AKA “Heisenberg” who took his fate into his own hands after he learned about his cancer and he might die in the near future. He needed money and he needed it fast and took what he thought was his best opportunity to make it by using his talents in chemistry to make it. Because of that, he got mixed up in a world he didn’t belong in… until he mastered it a little bit at a time.

The things Walter White has done to get to the top of the food chain isn’t for the faint of heart and hopefully none of us will have to go to his extremes, but let’s face it – we are all a little jealous of him (and the actor who plays him) because he’s able to change the rules to suit his needs.

I’ll admit it, there are aspects of Walter White’s life that I’m jealous of and here’s a short list of unconventional reasons why…


The Stripped Down RV

Let’s face facts, even as a graphic designer you’ve wanted nothing more than to get in a camper and go somewhere quiet where there are no cell phones, no internet, and hardly any electricity. The only electricity you have is the electricity you brought either through batteries or a portable generator. There have been times that I’ve wanted to get a bare-bones camper of my own, strip it out of everything besides the bare necessities, and outfit it with a desk large enough for my computer and a couple of monitors. Let’s not forget all the media I need and tutorial/How-To books in case I need help figuring out how to do something.

Call it a work vacation or a “workacation” – something I could really use right now.


The Underground “SuperLab” under the industrial laundry

Breaking Bad (Season 4)

Admittedly, maybe the Tricked Out RV for Graphic Designers (or meth cookers) might get boring after a while and there’s just not enough resources to get the high level work done. Imagine your own “Gus Fring” and “Gale Boetticher” getting together to build this incredible lab that would suit your profession or industry.

What would a Multi-Million dollar “Superlab” look like for Graphic Designers? I personally have no idea, but if I had the money to spend we would all soon find out. An underground lab might be a bit of over-kill but fact is, it’s always cool in the winter and warm in the winter because after a couple of feet the ground is a constant 55°.

A “Superlab” is ever man’s fantasy for the simple fact that everyone of us have encountered a situation where we can’t finish our work because we don’t have something that we need at that very moment. We either have to stop what we’re doing to get it or find a work-around if we can’t afford it. Imagine how much we could do if we didn’t have problems like that and everything we could ever need is only a few steps away.


Being “The BEST” at something…

Few of us have ever experienced that feeling of being the best at something. If we have, it’s been temporary; like that feeling we get from our boss or client giving us an “Attaboy” or if one of our pieces of work wins an award.

There’s nothing like knowing that you’re the best at something, and everyone else that matters knows it, too. It’s an addicting feeling and it’s not something anyone could give up easily. Imagine your girlfriend was jealous of you and your success and she was just like an earlier girlfriend of mine and she said something stupid like “If you loved me you would give it up…” What would you do?

Granted, cooking meth isn’t the same as graphic design – nor as dangerous. But it would be pretty hard to walk away from something knowing that you’re really the best. It’s why professional athletes stay too long, why actors keep making movies that are crap long after they win an Oscar, and other professionals refuse to retire at the end of their careers.

One of the reasons why so many fictional heroes or anti-heroes appeal to us is because our inner desire to be the best at something and we want to emulate those characters. We are preoccupied with competing and perfecting our “game” from business, art, to sports. If we could master this “one thing” all the other pieces of our lives would fall into place.


… And our product is in demand

This dove tails perfectly into being the best at something – imagine if your product was in demand. Doesn’t have to be graphic design – it can be anything. What would your life look like if everyone wanted what you could deliver? Would your concerns about money be a thing in of the past?

Would a lot of your other problems be in your rear view mirror, too?



A Man Driven With A Singular Purpose.

The most important aspect of Walter White’s/Heisenberg’s persona is his singular drive to do something. Unfortunately it’s cooking an illegal drug which involves killing a lot of other criminals and some innocent people along the way. What would Walt’s life look like if he had stayed with the company he cofounded with his friend or friends from college before he sold out for “A couple months worth of rent payments and grocery money?” What if he put the drive to become “Heisenberg” into a company on the leading edge of chemical science?

We wouldn’t have a great story, but this fictional character could have enjoyed a pretty sweet life.

Instead we have a man possessed with the singular ambition to make enough money to take care of his family and eventually driven to create a pretty powerful empire and he wasn’t willing to compromise or back down. He was more than willing to do what he needed to do.

GusDeadBlowing up an adversary looks good on paper and it might be something a few of us sicko’s might fantasize while we’re stuck in traffic but we don’t ever stop and think about the collateral damage or the serious repercussions. There are always unforeseen circumstances. The lesson to learn from Walter White/Heisenberg is to find a way to be that driven to become a success while at the same time not ruin our lives at home and hurt countless of other people. That’s obvious; the real trick for me is to explain how.

The best advice I can give a graphic designer on how to be your own “Heisenberg” of our industry and in your own region is to actually do the work. If your work isn’t your hobby when you’re not getting paid to do it and you’re not spending your “entertainment” money on new how-to books and tutorials then you’re doing something wrong. Hunt down new opportunities and don’t take “no” for an answer. Throughout the entire series, Walter White never let a problem get in the way of getting the work done. He didn’t use a problem as an excuse to quit or take an unexpected vacation. Bryan Cranston and the writers of the show found ways for this character to power through the problems and find a way out. Many times the solution to his problems was the vast knowledge of science in general and chemistry specifically.

What if you could know everything there is to know about the elements of design, graphic design history, and the tools of the trade? And when I’m talking about tools, I’m not just talking about The Adobe Creative Suite, I’m also talking about rendering tools to create visual effects like aurora’s and fractals. THAT is how you become the ‘Heisenberg’ of graphic design!

Knowledge is power – and it’s a sure way to get ahead without whacking people who get in the way!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Father’s Day


Instead of celebrating my birthday on my actual birthday, we waited until the weekend for various reasons. This worked out better because it gave the chance to spend the kind of one-on-one time with each of my boys.

I spent a couple of hours with my youngest son, (screen name – ‘Tumble’) looking for an art supply shop to buy some woodless colored pencils and drawing pads. We found the name of a place in Peterborough, NH on Depot Street called “Art Academy And Supply” and we spent the time just looking at all the stuff and talking about what we could do with various things we found before settling for the colored pencils we came for.

The following Friday I took my other son, (screen name – “Coppertop”) with me to pick up some Chinese food with a stopover at a local electronics’ shop to find a much needed IDE ribbon cable for my server. This gave me an important opportunity to just talk to my son the way I wished someone could have talked to me at that age. I told him about the importance of finding something you love to do that people also want to pay you for your work in that field. It’s not an accident that we live in a nice house and are able to drive new cars every few years. Mom and I have a passion for what we do and we’ve been able to find stead work because of it.

“Now’s the time to figure out what you want to do for fun, make a game out of learning; if it’s not fun than you’re going to have a harder time making things that you’re trying to learn stick. Now’s the time to build some skills like drawing, riding a bike, basics of computers, the basics about tools and building simple things like bird houses and forts… skills that will pave the way for others in the near future.”

Sounds pretty serious but I assure you I tried to keep it as light and up-beat as possible. It wasn’t as if I was only trying to instill some values into my son, but I was trying to talk to the younger version of myself in the past who was so desperate for the kind of attention I was giving to my son in the present.

Fact is, and this is a complicated emotion that I don’t even fully understand; I’m jealous of my kids because they have such a great dad… who’s me. Doesn’t make any sense, it’s too hard to try and figure out other than they’re getting all the things I didn’t get and they’re getting it from me.

It’s a bittersweet emotion. I wish I had someone, a male role model other than a couple of teachers who said; “It’s OK to be a little weird and learn things other kids don’t. It’ll all work out in the end.”

I wrote about this to an extent in my rant “Role Model” and there was an aspect I wanted to expand upon this morning…

Some of the greatest influences in my life are Ralph McQuarrie, Roger Lean, Andrew Probert and (although I didn’t know it at the time) Milton Glaser. I loved the idea that you could take art and make something real that people used in their everyday lives. I was astounded that artists used art to create places and periods in time to take people where they’ve never been before.

There was someone out there who created works of art that were printed on cans of tomatoes, billboards, movie posters, magazines and catalogs. I wanted to be one of them, as far back as I can remember.

That’s what Graphic Design is, it’s creating the greatest piece of art in the shortest amount of time for the most amount of money a client or employer is willing to pay. Anyone who says Graphic Design isn’t art is an idiot. If I had known that then my life would have been far easier since I would have had a label to use for my work.

When I was younger I used to create strange symbols out of thin air. I would get an idea and just draw it out. I would draw it out many times until I got it right. I would have folders of this stuff saved in hopes that someday I would understand what I was doing and what it was called before making a career out of it. Whatever those people did (because I didn’t know it was called Commercial Art or Graphic Design back then) I wanted to do, too.

Not just because it looked like fun, but because it’s the only thing I wanted to do and the only thing I could actually do.

I would draw symbols and logos inspired by the books I was reading or I would catch a glimpse of something random that would inspire me. At some point I was told by my elders (sans art teachers) to stop. It was foolish and childish. It wasn’t a manly thing to do. “Art is for pussies.” It must have been frustrating for them who didn’t understand the creative process, it was as if I was I was receiving signals from outer space in my head and putting them down on paper. It must have seem pretty freaky to them since this seemed the extreme opposite of ‘normal.’

I was told by my pseudo-stepfather that if I didn’t stop he would take a hammer and break all the fingers in my hand. So I began hiding my work in the strangest places like in the insolation in the basement where my room was, in glass jars and old thermos’ hidden in the woods behind my mother’s house, in secret nooks that I found along the way between school and home when I had to walk, and in my own locker at school.

At some point I had to quit in fear of getting caught. It was getting hard to keep track of all my hiding places and the stress was getting to take a toll on my creativity.

It’s been a hard long process to get to that level of creativity starting with channeling my previous self by listening to the music I enjoyed decades ago and simply applying the pencil to paper.

The damage has been done though because I’ll never know what I would have accomplished if I had been in a safe environment and a little encouragement. Even my own father wasn’t too supportive when he and I reconnected before I turned 18.

“Why don’t you draw something more real or something different for a change?” he used to ask with some contempt and confusion.

I’m in a similar position with my oldest son who likes to draw nothing but dragons. That’s his thing right now. Before he was copying the style of the Anasazi cave paintings that he saw on a documentary, and before that he was doing his own drawings inspired by Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are.” It’s tempting for me to tell him when he gets stuck in one of these phases; “Why don’t you draw something else?”

The worst thing you could do to an artist of any age or any genre is to critique, especially when they’re exceptionally young like my kids or me from 25 years ago. You break something that too often can’t be easily repaired or never fixed again.

Kids by their nature want to please, they inherently want to impress their parents and elders with the things they do. One of my most intense memories from my youth was wanting to be approved by people who should have been my mentors. I wanted my contributions to mean something, if I wasn’t good enough then tell me how I can make my work better. I needed someone like my own father to tell me I was on the right path and not treat me like I was just another set of hands to help him with his work.

Criticism kills. When we beat down our kids we are literally murdering the people whom they would have become if they were given praise and guidance. Kids like my son ‘Coppertop’ draw the same things over and over again because they are trying to perfect their craft. They’re repeating the same thing over and over again as a means of working it out of their system and trying to learn from what they’re doing each time. Just as children learn how to walk or talk by doing the same things over and over again, they learn by repetition; especially if they are trying to learn something all their own.

Spending time with my own kids and doing what we love to do has done more for me than I could have imagined. Not only have I improved their confidence I’ve also done something more for myself. I hate to use the cliché, but by nurturing them I’m nurturing the kid who I was that felt lost and abandoned all those years ago.

And I’m also getting some awesome drawings of dragons and robots in the process, and who can say no to that? Nurture your artists and don’t be worried about the ruts they get into since practice makes perfect…

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thanks To Yahoo, Another Service Bites The Dust: Rockmelt.

RockMelt-Logo3I’m really getting sick and tired of Marissa Mayer's shtick.

The first bit of shtick didn’t affect me other than I was annoyed with her hypocrisy of telling Yahoo employees that none of them could work from home while at the same time she had the office next to hers converted to a nursery. “Yahoo!” is the same company that pushed telecom companies to provide broadband service to suburban and rural areas so they could provide their services and tools to people (like me) who work from home. (I wrote about this in an earlier blog post… check it out.) Working from home is great for Yahoo so long as people who work from home are putting money into Yahoo’s accounts, but working from home isn’t good enough for Yahoo’s employees.

Then I received word that one of the apps that I use every day – Astrid - was bought by “Yahoo!” and was shutting down for reasons I neither understand or want to hear because I’ve moved on to another app. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to keep using Astrid because I got alerts when other members of my family or team finished a task; but there’s no point in dwelling on the how’s and why’s it’s being discontinued since I have other things to worry about – like my own work.

Then I got word that a browser that I’ve used for years is also going away – “Rockmelt.” This has been a wonderful tool that integrated Facebook and Twitter; while I was working I received alerts about other people’s posts and tweets and I could respond accordingly. Rockmelt has been bought by “Yahoo” and will be going away at the end of this month.

Granted, I couldn’t care less about Yahoo’s spending spree’s until the products they buy are products I once used and can’t any more since they aren’t replacing them right away. As I stated elsewhere, why would I use Astrid again when I’ve been forced to move on to something else like “Any.Do?” Why would I change back again? Why would I use the next version of “Rockmelt” after this one’s vanished for a period of time?

The only reason why I would install Yahoo’s version of Rockmelt is to see how my websites render on that browser. Besides that, why would I go back to using Rockmelt if it ever returns? How do I know it won’t disappear again like other browsers in the past have done; like “Netscape,” “Mosaic” and “Flock.”

Yahoo’s business model is both confounding and aggravating – they are essentially demanding that we try out their competition by shutting down their own products they’ve bought. They’re demanding that we try and eventually liking other companies while getting along without theirs. Why would we go back after they introduce their new and improved products? That’s assuming they ever develop replacements. Yahoo is alienating their potential clients by pissing away the clients their new purchased companies already have…

While this blunder should be annoying to anyone with half a brain I’m reading commentaries about how “bold,” “brave,” “confident” and “courageous” Yahoo’s CEO is and how she’s a “wonderful role model” for other working women. I’m not sure if those commentators are stupid, or if it’s me? Am I the idiot? A lot of these commentators are implying that critics like me should take a wait and see attitude while they’re excited to see what comes of all these acquisitions. What do we do in the meantime without any of these products Yahoo has shuttered?

Who are these people cheerleading for Ms. Mayer? How come these commentators aren’t seeing what we’re seeing? How can they not see that they’re alienating their client base with “Yahoo’s” actions now? Are they paid shills? Do they have stock in this company? Do they have a personal interest in seeing Ms. Mayer succeed?

I have no idea; but I would like to know if her publicist would like to take me on as a client, too!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why Personal Appearance Counts

saggy-pants-computerI had this conversation with a genuine arrogant jerk a couple of years ago about how I discriminate and how I’m prejudice against certain types of people and how, as a potential business owner, I would and should get sued. But my discrimination and prejudice has nothing to do with color, race or gender – it’s about personal, unprofessional appearances.

Let’s just suppose for a minute that I put out an ad that my company – Eric Fisk CGD Advertising and Marketing – is hiring. Three people show up, one guy shows up in normal attire for a job interview with an above average portfolio and some kid wearing his hat on backwards on top of a hankie with his pants half-way down his legs has a much better portfolio; but the one with the best portfolio is genuinely odd, like a vampire – dressed in all black and his face caked with white foundation and black make up. Who am I going to hire?

For those of the people who say that I should hire the kid with the better portfolio is wrong. I wouldn’t hire him, and neither would you? Why?

Whether you want to believe this or not,  your employees are a reflection of you and your business. Their quality of work is just as important as an employee’s appearance. It’s a reflection of you and what a tight ship you run. If you let your employees look like an extra for “The Walking Dead” or a gangbanger – then what other areas of their lives are left wanting?

What kind of employer am I for letting that kind of shenanigans happen in my place of business? How your employees look and behave, how clean their work spaces are and what they overhear says more about your leadership skills than it does about them. I know of plenty of people who have lost potential clients because they allow their people to run amok, companies have lost business because someone wore pajamas to work on casual Fridays, or that someone was listening to misogynistic music in their cube.

Am I wrong? Is it fair or right that people discriminate against employees who dress odd to work? Is it wrong that a company would not hire another one because of the appearance or behavior of one of that companies employees? We could be having an argument about how the world really should be and how we should just let people (especially artists) be themselves and let them express themselves through their personal appearance and wardrobe; but such an argument would be futile.

It doesn’t matter for the simple fact that it’s the way it is and the person who writes the checks has all the power. We shop with our feet and our decisions; I chose not to shop at a specific chain of grocery stores because of the horrible attitudes of their employees and depressing atmosphere so it’s not hard to imagine that a potential client would choose one graphic design company over another. A client might just use any excuse to eliminate one potential company for superficial reasons to make it easier to choose which one to hire.

As an employer I might use the same tactic to eliminate candidates based on inappropriate attire to narrow down my choices.

Are we catering to people with money and power? You bet we are, especially when this argument isn’t just an academic exercise when we have bills to pay and a potential client has cash in hand to get a job done.

The real question is, why handicap yourself? Why hinder your potential as an artist, graphic designer, or an employee in general by wanting to make a ‘fashion statement.’ Shouldn’t you be making a statement through your work? If you want to prove to the “world” that you are an individual than do so by finishing your work with your own individual style. Make a statement by doing it on-time, under budget and better than your client or employer hoped for. And save the ultra-low hanging jeans for the weekend and the vampire make up for Halloween.

As for the jerk preaching about fighting conformity; he fell off the face of the earth and I haven’t heard from him after he posted about how he quit his job because he was tired of being critiqued for dressing like The Green Lantern one too many times. Someone told me that he’s out of the Graphic Design field and is now serving java at a Starbucks at minimum wage.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pet Peeves Knock Knock!

There’s a knock on the door and from my chair in my office I can see it’s a man in a nice suit with the tie slightly loosened. He doesn’t have any brief case with him; he’s not holding any religious literature, nor a badge and arrest warrant for someone who he’s looking for at the wrong address. I have no idea who he is or what he’s here for, I’m at a loss because I don’t recognize him nor do I have any appointments today.

I answer the door and he introduces himself by saying, “Hi, I’m John from the investment brokerage that just opened up a branch office here in your town. I know all about you and your business and I would love to talk to you about some exciting opportunities…”

As I’m standing there, my back is to the wall where I have a piece of paper from the State of New Hampshire signifying that I am registered as a “DBA” which means I am technically a ‘business.’ “That’s great! What’s my name and what’s my business?”

He looked shocked for a moment? “What’s your name?”

“Yea, how did you find out about me? How did you know that I was running a business out of here? Did one of my happy clients refer you to me?”

“Uh, I…” he began to stammer. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“John, you said that you know all about me and my business. I would love to find out how you heard about me.”

“Well, for starters I have a great way to grow your capitol and help you invest in some better tools in the future…” he said, trying to change the subject.

“John, come back when you actually know who I am and what I do so you have a better idea of what you’re talking about,” I said, cutting him off by closing the door.

On another occasion, the doorbell rings at 11:30AM the way it should have. I answer the door and there’s this guy there who looks like my usual type of client and I invite him in. He begins his routine about his faith and how his religion is the only true religion while the world is going to hell in a hand basket while I’m picking apart his pamphlet apart visually and how this violates a lot of design rules such as contrast and typography.

It takes all of two minutes to realize there’s a mix up – he’s not there for my business… he’s there for my soul! This isn’t my 11:30AM appointment… who just pulled in the driveway and is now blocking this guy in. Talk about uncomfortable.

Before I vent any further, let me say once and for all I don’t have a problem with other people’s religion. I have no beef with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Buddhists, or Atheists. Whatever gives you comfort in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm or times of tragedy; fine. Who am I to say you’re beliefs are right or wrong? By no means am I trying to criticize anyone’s religion.

I also don’t have problems with people who make a living on the road either by making sales calls or deliveries. Whatever it is that you have to do to make a buck that’s neither illegal nor immoral is fine so long as you don’t make it my issue.

This is exactly where I’m going with this rant; when other people’s issues find their way to my front door. I have a problem with people who knock on the door during regular working hours and insist that I deal with them.

What a lot of these people don’t seem to understand that as a freelance graphic designer there are days when my time at home is not my own. If it’s between 6AM and 7PM (why, yes! That is 11 hours) and I’m sitting at my desk there’s a good chance I’m either doing work for a client or for a class I’m taking. This person knocking on my door to give me the latest issue of their religious publication, solicit me for an investment opportunity, trying to unload a truckload of frozen meat they stole, Girl Scout cookies, isn’t just stealing my time but they are also stealing from my clients.

It’s no different than if you went to someone’s work place, got thought the receptionist before literally walking up to someone’s desk and started with a ‘cold call’ sales pitch for whatever they’re offering. Imagine if I went into someone’s church during a service and started handing out my business card while asking “need some new logos? How about a website? I know both Wordpress and Blogger! Stationary – I can do that for you, too.”

Does this mean that I only want these people to come knock on my door when I’m not working like on the weekends? The only time I really have with my wife and kids is on the weekends and vacations. It’s the only time I have that I can actually feel free enough to walk away from my desk and actually do something physical outside, or create something that isn’t graphic design.

In short, there’s never a good time for strangers to knock on my door. My driveway is not a thoroughfare to low hanging fruit. As a graphic designer I’m not sitting here for desperate attention from just anyone – silence and privacy is what I need most of all and if I can’t get it here than what’s the point. For a graphic designer, being alone does not translate to ‘being lonely.’ (In fact, I have all the critical voices in my head to keep me company…)

As a result, I have created a new sign to put on my door during business hours – “Forget The Dog! BEWARE OF THE GRAPHIC DESIGNER!” and my hourly rates; knock on my door and you’ll be charged $150 for the entire hour. I’ll let you know how well it works.