First attempt @ Vector Art & 6 things I learned

One of the things I am guilty of is looking at other people’s work so much that I neglect my own. I get sucked into perusing all of twitters inspiration collections, especially those from I look and review and start to feel inadequate as a designer since I am not producing work as beautiful as everyone featured.

And then I realized, it’s not that I am inadequate, it’s that I am not producing.

If I were to track my time, the time spent on perusing other people’s work/blogs/etc. would drastically overshadow the time I spend working on my own art. I had originally chalked the perusing up to research and my attempts to stay with the trends. But at some point, the research needs to stop so that I can contribute my own artistic perspective to the world. And maybe someday land in that inspiration list.

In lieu of that, I decided to try out my own vector art. It’s a technique that definitely has its place and can be used in dynamite designs. I had never really tried this before in Illustrator, and it’s one of those techniques I bookmark tutorials on, thinking that I need to try it. So, I decided to try it and see if it was something I could work on and add to my list of skills.

Ironically enough, I didn’t even sift through my Delicious account to find a tutorial. I just went for it, in hopes of utilizing the knowledge I had seen, and integrating my own personal style.

Because I also want to work on my sketching skills, I decided to sketch an image from J. Michael Straczynski’s “Midnight Nation” (a brilliant graphic novel, I must say). I grabbed my pencil and my Harry Potter sketchbook (yes, that’s right, a near empty sketchbook I had received as a gift after the first one came out, years ago).  And I did just a line drawing. This in itself was odd for me, as I love to shade. But because I wanted to do vector art, I was forced out of my safe zone into line drawing. Here is the initial sketch:

My line sketch for my vector graphic

I scanned the image in and opened it in Illustrator. I locked the layer it was on, made it 10% opacity, and started to color on the layers below it. Because I had seen so many examples of vector art, I knew that the gradual shade technique I love wasn’t an appropriate approach for the result I wanted. I tried to imagine the lighting and where my lights and darks would be, adjusting the shapes of the lines in hopes of making it actually look like the sketch I began with. And honestly, I just went for it. I hoped that my heuristic approach would work, and that my intuition would kick in and I would come up with something successful.

I don’t think I did too badly:

My First Vector Art

My next step is to try to put this vector art within a context, or just do some really cool design-y stuff around it that I see in my perusing. I don’t want this process to stop here.  I am intrigued by so many different styles, it’s time to put them together and develop my own.

Here is a list of things to remember if you are a new designer, or really any designer that may be stuck.

  1. Inspiration is good, but know when to stop
  2. Know what the end result you want is, and just go for it
  3. Produce
  4. Produce
  5. Trust your intuition…tutorials are there to teach you techniques, you need to apply them as yourself
  6. The process is on-going, always keep learning and trying

I’m sure there are a ton of ideas that can be added to the list, but these are the ones that struck me as I was trying new vector art.

There’s a quote from Nickelodeons series, “Avatar, the Last Airbender” that seems appropriate to end with. This is not verbatim, but it goes something like this:
“You are going to fail a lot before things work out…even though you will probably fail over and over and over again…you still have to try every time. You can’t quit because you might fail.”

5 things I wish I knew when designing my website

As stated in my last post, I just finished designing my website. I am a print designer, so making the transition to the web was a bit more challenging than expected for me. Code can, at times, be a challenge. But I did my research and used a variety of sites to help me accomplish my design goals. A few of the sites I used were:

And countless blog posts exhibiting examples of wonderful sites categorized into specific areas: minimalist, illustrative, grunge, watercolors, etc. The list is endless. I researched and researched and researched trying to understand everything I could so that I could build a perfect site. And these sites and all of the tutorials I read were incredibly helpful. I learned a lot by reading through these sites. So thanks to those writers and all the others who offered inspiration in my site-building quest.

However, at the end of this process, there are a few things I wish those tutorials I had read said. Here is a brief list.

Just do it
It took me a year and a half to design my site. Well, that isn”t exactly true. It took me about 2.5 months to actually design it, and the rest of the time was spent researching and perusing other sites to see what other people were doing. I was so busy looking at other people”s site, that I wasn”t working on my own. And to be honest, that much research intimidated me. There are some really amazing sites out there and it made it difficult to start working on my own. But after I had a couple friends point out that I should be done with my site already, I decided to forget what everyone else was doing, and do something that was natural for me and fit not only the goal of my site, but my personality as well.

Once I got started I thought it would be a quick process. But since my site is a portfolio site, preparing the images took a decent amount of time. I didn”t realize just how long it took to prepare the mass amount of pieces I had. Additionally, I had to learn to patient when the code I drafted didn”t work immediately. Sometimes it was as simple as I had forgotten a colon, other times it was a deeper issue and it required additional inquiry and research to figure out. There were times frustration took over and I made simple errors. As soon as I employed patience, it was a much smoother process.

Caffeine Required
I”m a bit of a caffeine junkie to begin with, but building this site required more caffeine than normal. And really, I expect this will be true for me as I attempt to increase my freelance projects. I already have a “9-5″ job, so I was working on my site post-work, post-workout, post-dinner (sometimes…if I got around to eating), and on the weekends. I stocked up on the coffee, Bing”s and monsters. This not only kept me going and motivated, but provided a nice break to stand up and refill my mug. Speaking of breaks…

I”m other passion is yoga. I found it essential to make sure that I took breaks from the computer. I would schedule reminders to make sure I got up and stretched. Sitting in a chair, staring at a computer for as long as we do is not healthy. It”s important to take a step back and take care of our bodies. I also found that when I took a break and stretched, I felt better when I returned to work. Any kind of exercise would apply to this, I just happen to be a yoga freak. As you can tell by the design of my website.

Celebrate the Small Successes
I do this with my print design and found it helpful in web as well. This works in tangent with the patience. I wanted my website done. But it takes time to put the whole thing together. I made sure to celebrate when I finished each page, got my shadowbox to work, etc.

The technical side of things is essential for web design. And that”s what the tutorials I read were focused on. These tips above aren”t technical, but definitely helped with my sanity and my physical well-being, which is equally important.

What tips would you add? How do you keep your sanity? I would love to hear from you.