Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Last, Last Call For Entries

Chances are really good that this last Spring Exhibit at my college will be the last one I’ll ever be allowed to participate in and I have mixed feelings.

First, it’s the first one that I’ve ever entered photographs. I had an incredible experience with Professor Bob Mayer in my Intro to Photography and I really got into it and found another love of my life. (No, not another woman… a camera… but that’s another post.) I found myself opening to a new level of creativity that I’ve never really enjoyed with a camera. I’m not just taking photography but capturing light – the exact light.

Second, I go from being worried that I’ll win too many awards or not win enough. It’s a complication emotion. If I sweep every award in the category that my work is nominated for than I’m like the major league ballplayer going up to bat against the local junior varsity team and my be perceived as a “talent bully” or a ringer. If I don’t win up against students with less experience than I, what does that say about me, I’m not that good as a designer?

Third, I just didn’t throw in pieces I’ve worked on during the last two semesters; I threw everything at “the wall” to see what sticks. Rather than be a graphic designer sniper tactfully hitting the target with one strategic piece – my work is more like a shot-gun blast hoping one of my pellets hits something. A couple of pieces that are either refreshes of pieces I entered last year or work is completely new. Then there are some that are deeply personal and from my life outside of college. While I tossed everything except the kitchen sink (I would have illustrated it if I could) there is the feeling that I left something out. Don’t ask me what, I just get that gnawing sense that something that should have been entered wasn’t…

Finally, there’s this overwhelming sense of loss which isn’t unlike the passing of a close relative or family friend. It’s not unlike that feeling one gets when they must move on, like the final days of summer camp or having to leave the ideal job that has become too comfortable but has lost all the opportunity to grow. I’ve never played in competitive sports so I can only imagine that this must be like for a college or professional athlete must feel like during the last game of his career.

In many regards this final Spring Exhibit is a going-away party for all the other graphic designers who I’ve learned and worked with for the past couple of years. It’ll be a rite of passage and a passing of the torch to the students that will follow us in the semesters yet to come. It’s also a sign that the training wheels are coming off and it’s time to get moving under our power.

I am passing through this threshold with the inability to see what lies beyond. Not because I don’t have eyes but because they have not trained to be able to see in the new universe that waits ahead. Is it like the one I occupied before returning to college, or is it a brand new realm that’s unlike any experience I had before?

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Age Gap: Young Turks VS Angry Graybeards?

David Gerrold of Star Trek fame (“The Trouble With Tribbles”) wrote about the illusion of a generational gap between younger writers and older ones.

“I have been unreliably informed that one of the current kerfuffles in SF is the generation gap between young turks and angry greybeards. This is news to me.
The young turks did not invent science fiction. Not when Asimov and Pohl were young turks. Not when Ellison and Spinrad were young Turks. Not when Gibson and Gaiman were young turks.

The "generation gap" in science fiction is an artificial argument -- the same way the New Wave versus Hard Science was an artificial argument back in the sixties.

The fact is that SF is an evolving literature. Unlike any other branch of literature, SF functions as a series of unanswered questions. Like science itself, it's not about answers, it's about questions and possibilities and more questions and more possibilities.”

I encourage everyone who likes good SF and an intelligent debate from a liberal (and albet sometimes angry) perspective to check out his writings. He’s very similar to Harlan Ellison in respect to experience and angst – I wouldn’t mind sharing a bottle of wine with those two for a podcast someday.

There are aspects of what Mr. Gerrold says that I agree with, and there are some parts that I flat out deny or shun. There are aspects of the different age groups that are totally different from one another; there is indeed a difference between the “Young Turks” and “Angry Greybeards” that needs to be addressed.

First you can take SF (also known as “Sci-Fi” to the uninformed and uninitiated.) and replace it with any other art forum; art, dance music, architecture, graphic design. Anything that involves creativity could be covered under his rant. If you are a so-called “creative” then his message could be received and understood by you.

The young Turks haven’t been beaten down by the system of concerned parents, pragmatic editors and bitter failed authors turned critics. Young artists and creative types think anything and everything is possible because they don’t know better. To them there are no limits yet because nobody has smacked them out of the sky with the back of their hands with a loud, authorities thunder of the word “no.” They think they are invincible because they are – their armor of youthful enthusiasm has not been worn down by some “elder” indoctrinating them with “the rules” of art and/or the steps to becoming “successful.”

For many youthful artists the only thing keeping them from doing incredible work is experience with their medium – if they can imagine something than it’s just a matter of working with the materials and getting it done since “can’t” hasn’t been ingrained into their vocabulary.

As for the angry graybeards - there is a reason why they are angry. They were former young Turks with all the aforementioned youthful enthusiasm and boundless creativity until they were indoctrinated by the angry graybeards of their time when they were young. They accepted the words or phrases “can’t,” “must not” and should not” into their vocabulary.

I am one of those aging graybeards who refuses to be angry. What is my secret? I made the conscience decision to refuse to allow negativity to creep into my life and the work I do. I’m older with more experience with the elements and principals of design under my belt. I know the rules so I have a good idea how to bend them without breaking.

The problem with many of my fellow graybeards (especially the angry ones) is that there came a point when they became afraid to fail. Failure sometimes means going out on the limb for the sweeter fruit and falling out of the tree. After this happens, too many times, we become too cautious and play it safe; playing it safe means not trying anything new.

The trick at this stage of being a graybeard is to tap into the youthful enthusiasm is to literally unlearn fear and then find new ways of doing things. Like I said in my earlier rant, “Graphic Designers Are Reading: Science Fiction” you literally have to allow yourself to experience and explore new things. Go back to the time of your life when you had nothing better to do that experience life as you were coming into your own, the universe was boundless, and literally, anything was possible. Relearn what it is to be free enough to fail just enough to get that twinge of excitement that went with every new venture.

In short, angry graybeards need to relearn how to be Young Turks again…

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Time For A New Printer

Print quality is everything, if the printer isn’t up to the task of color fidelity then your perfectionism is for nothing. Perfect example are a handful of projects that I submitted for the spring exhibit at my local college, there were some incredible pieces that I worked really hard on while there were a few others that just naturally came together. Some of them didn’t look as good on paper as they did on the screen.

I thought all of them were guaranteed to at least receive a nomination for an award. There was one that I just “knew” was going to win. As a freelance graphic designer there are times when something needs to be printed professionally so your best work will look it’s best. I know that sounds like a cliché and it’s right out of a horrible ad from the 1960’s (something Don Draper or Dick Whitman would throw out with his empty rye bottles.) but if a printer or their equipment is horrible your work is going to look horrible.

When I went back to get my pieces that were rejected I took an extra moment to look at them. I mean really look at them. All of the pieces that I entered and were rejected had horrible print quality – they leaned too hard on one hue or didn’t reproduce the picture fidelity I was expecting. I was angry at myself thinking that the numerous sins of not taking care of the printing myself elsewhere would be forgiven by the fact that everyone’s pieces would have been printed on the same printer and would look “just as bad,” too.

In years earlier I took my best pieces that I knew were worthy of being nominated and went to an outside print shop and actually worked with the printer and it’s operator to get the best quality out of my work. The best inks, the best processing, and eventually the best cutting and trimming to the crop marks. There’s at least one Achievement Certificate on my wall because I took the time to make sure the final product came out right.

This might sound crazy but I feel as if I betrayed some of my best work because I didn’t take the time nor money to get my work printed elsewhere. I skimped and my work suffered and I used the excuse that I was “too busy” with other projects to get it done right! I wouldn’t have done that for one of my clients or employer, why would I skimp on myself?

My advice for myself and everyone else in this position is that maybe it’s time to invest in in a new high quality printer. I’m not (necessarily) talking about an actual printer that sits in your office but an actual printing service where someone makes a living out of printing professional products. Making content is what we do for a living and we depend on folks to pay us for the work we do for them shouldn’t we “pay it forward” by seeking out someone who prints out our content with the best equipment their money can buy.

Doesn’t our work deserve the very best?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Graphic Designers Are Reading: Science Fiction

Inherit-the-StarsRecently I’ve been thinking about my most creative and productive periods of my life and what those moments had in common. In my youth I had great creative bursts right around the time I discovered an incredible new novel or motion picture that captured my imagination. One clue was thinking back to when a new SF (Science Fiction) blockbuster would arrive in theaters and most of my free time was spent with blank sheets of paper trying to recapture the visual aesthetics that I saw. I’m not sure if I was tapping into the inspiration or trying to mimic what what I saw with my own variations. Does it matter?

As I chronicled in my earlier rant (Remembering Frank Herbert) I was inspired to go even deeper into my own imagination and tried to create things inspired by what I read. I had no real “visual” queues other than the cover art and it’s font. Everything was from what I was interpreting from the text, period. My vision of the landscapes of worlds like Caladan, Ix, Giedi Prime and especially Arrakis were either similar to what other readers envisioned thanks to concept art by concept artist John Schoenherr or totally different.

I was amazed by the differences that I saw when I talked with other artists who were trying to draw the same things. 

That’s the amazing thing about actually reading science fiction – your version of “a world beyond your imagination” could be totally different than my “world beyond your imagination.” My idea for the Atreides crest were similar to many other artists because of the description and different in some ways thanks to our own interpretations. This is neither good nor bad – it’s the creative process.

DUNE is just one example of a book that ignited my imagination. There are dozens of other books that I’ve read that caused me to just start drawing. Currently I’m working on yet another project and I’m listening to “Inherit The Stars” via Audible and the ideas just keep flowing. Why is it important for Graphic Designers to read Science Fiction? What does my source of inspiration have to do with you and our other fellow graphic designers?

Without a doubt – and I know I’m reiterating a point that I’ve already made in other rants– SF expands the mind and increases imagination. An author takes you to another place via his words and your mind has no other choice than to try and fill in the blanks and create the “movie in your mind.” Especially if you’re a creative, our minds are specifically built to create something out of nothing, filling a vacuum that nature abhors.

The best suggestion that I can give is for graphic designers to get their hands on any good SF book and actually start reading and see where it takes you. Let the book take you to somewhere new where you’ve never been before, especially if you’re new to the genre or haven’t been able to enjoy it in the past. Keep a sketch book near by and just see what happens. I know that winter is behind us and the majority of us have or long reading days behind us until next December – but just bring your book and pad with you to enjoy the warmer weather during spring cleaning breaks.

If you try this experiment (read some good SF and see where it takes you creatively) please send me some of your results. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Monday, April 7, 2014


An updated, edited, more comprehensive version of this rant can be found on The Fedora Chronicles

In my hands I have this short stack of pages all stapled together on the left hand side. On the front over there’s a map of this town pirated from Google Maps and inside there are other maps that illustrate the center of town the way it is now and how it could be again if we all just “cooperate.” I’ll admit that there are a couple of good ideas but the question remains – how are we going to pay for any of these ideas and can we take just the good ones and ignore or delete the bad ones?
“Bad ones?” you ask. On some of these maps there are “shopping,” “business” and community centers proposed right where people already have homes and/or business already. This committee suggested that “The Town Of Rindge” seize these homes in North Rindge at “fair market value” via “Imminent domain.”
There are also aspects of this “Charette” (the name they gave this proposal) that suggest that some parts of the town (or the whole town) be “rezoned” to accommodate smaller buildings. As it is now, you need a minimum amount of anchorage before you can build – part of this ‘proposal’ suggest that we turn minimize that minimum to just 1 acre … or a half… maybe… depends on who you ask. That (might) mean that if you own a 5 acre lot, the new zoning laws will turn that into individual 1 acre lots (all bunched together) and your taxes (might) go up. …Depending on which expert you ask.
A small group of people actually read this proposal and have concluded that this isn’t good for this town. They took what they learned and made an effort to tell their friends and neighbors – “Hey, we don’t think this is good for this town, we gotta divorce it from the actual town’s master development plan.”
Before I got on the bandwagon I asked a lawyer friend of mine to read it and give me his thoughts; his conclusion that this short stack of paper be a bane for some but could be a boon for others. It could cripple some people who want to start a business out of their home, it might not. The problem with this “Charette” is the ambiguity. If the town commits to making this their actual plan you could see your taxes go up while your property values go down.
(Again, I’m abbreviating because I’m dancing too close to 500 words here… just to the point where I might lose your attention. I bet there are some lurkers who are reading this screaming “you’re over-simplifying!” Yea… no kidding, ya think? )
Other people looked at this, didn’t like it. Some people actually spoke up at one of the town meeting I attended and said that they read it and it’s pretty clear that this contains a plan to remove them from their homes to put something in its place to give other people the sense of a community.
This past March “The Town” put it to a vote – should we keep the Charette or exclude it from the town’s over-all development plan. The voters said ‘get rid of it’ via an overwhelming majority.
Since then there have been a handful of people (some who were involved with it’s development) cried foul. Voting against this thing is “racist” and against “poor brown people” – says the white people who were in favor of the Charette.
To clearify – the pro-charette clan now claim that these people who were against it are “racist.” The people in West Rindge who were going to be displaced via Imminent domain? According to the pro-Charette people: RACISTS!
On what basis does one become a racist because they don’t agree with a development plan that doesn’t mention race? White people who are for something can claim that other white people who are against must be… what? Just make something up. That’s like saying that people who doesn’t like anchovies are UNIX experts.
Now, I asked the question publicly – how is voting this “plan” out racist? What evidence do you have that the people who don’t like this are bigoted? Give me some quotes, screen shots, audio recordings… anything to prove that the people who were against this plan are racist.
Nothing. No response… except I’m no longer “Facebook friends” of some of the people who are charging the Anti-Charette people with racism. Well, now they’ve moved on to calling the deletion of the charette with book-burning, an obvious allusion to Nazism.
There’s more detail to this that I’m oversimplifying this for brevity sake(because graphic designers and digital artists don’t have time to read about bullshit that involves a town they don’t even live in…) but this bundle of paper called “The Rindge Charette” caused a big stir.
Why is this important for graphic designers? This is “Fisk’s Graphic Design Blog” after all.
Business is good for graphic designers. If you have business coming into the region and you’re a good graphic designer you’ll always have enough work. You could also have enough steady work to start your own Advertising/Marketing company. So long as the business climate around you is fine your bottom line should remain in The Black.
Local controversies like this – especially when it comes to politics – could also kill your career if you’re not careful taking sides. There’s a fine line between being involved with local issues because it does affect you and taking a side that’s too controversial. Some might go out of their way to ruin you for retribution for what you said and done. At the same time – as part of that balancing act – not taking aside and not being involved might be detrimental, could be misconstrued as waiting for one side to win before you pick aside.
I picked my side when I saw, read and heard some of my friends we being called racist – including some of my Hispanic friends were tainted with that label. The audacity of white people calling Hispanic people racist is beyond irresponsible; it’s reprehensible.
ksv094IcU42As to the name-callers; I can have an honest and even heated debate with literally any reasonable person on almost any subject and I pride myself on admitting when I’m wrong or misinformed. I quit debating with people when they’re obviously losing and frustrated and thus resort to name calling because my continued participation might be misconstrued as an endorsement of that person or obstinate views.
The charges of “book burring” is an obvious reference to Nazism in the Nineteen-Thirties, egregious – especially after your claims that anyone who voted against The Charatte is “racist” and “hates brown people”- immature, immoral and unfounded charges like that means that whatever moral-ground you had is lost.
For me, your credibility and even respect is diminished. You’re not the person I thought you were if that’s what you really think of people who simply want Rindge’s future in the hands of Rindge citizens, period. You can justify it all you want, but to resort to calling people harsh names like “racist” reveals a cruel and ignorant streak ingrained in your very nature.
My only regret is that I didn’t “unfriend” you first.