When It Feels Tricky

 

lizzie-at-work

Analogue Therapy

 

Well, this week in the studio has felt just strange, I don’t mind confessing. Do you get days like this too? Days where it’s all set up just how you want it, yet for some reason, things just don’t feel in the groove and it’s hard to find an energy and flow you need?

One of the most beautiful things I want to learn is—as an independent and proud—how to keep going through these strange ebbs with grace and optimism, not let that backing gust stall me completely.

Some days everything’s clear, I have the best strategic head in the universe and all channels are loud and clear. Then other days, nope. Fog. To be a successful independent takes some doing, and it’s heartening to know I’m in good company by the way, sometimes finding posts from peers and heroes that acknowledge the same feelings. They get this too, and work out how to carry on, going from strength to strength, and these weeks become folded in to the grand experience so that next time, they’re not so thrown and are better able to sail through the breakers with a little more courage and wisdom.

Some days, your tired head just needs a break, a slightly different angle from which to look in on things.

When the weirdness hits (and it is a ‘when’), I have a few immediate and simple tactics I deploy to fight it off. I’ll turn away from my desk onto the big wooden table behind me and draw some letterforms out, flip through a design book, or write, or just eat an apple and put a tiny corner of the world to rights with Chesapeake.

Or else, I’ll wander downstairs and find Silkie (the heart behind this Forge vision) for a little chat, and somehow whenever I’m talking to her I remember how far we’ve come on this journey and straighten my spine up again.

I may decamp back home and write from a different desk, swim, run, cook, muck about with Rusty the enormous fluffball cat. Just stop forcing the ideas before they’re ready to emerge. And sometimes when it’s really bad, I’ll just go and stand in the boutique chocolate shop in St Nick’s market and breathe in until I am verging on a blackout.

Or another thing altogether, I might dip out and head to the farm and watch things growing on our allotment. That kind of seeds-in-the-ground pace I can handle, when the social media streams have turned into torrents, and everyone seems to have it nailed but me. (That is a lie, don’t we all know that, but so hard to remember.)

It’s good to desist from the screens and pick up a brush pen, scratch out a smudged ink word or two, look out of the window at the ever changing patterns of clouds and remember, it will be okay again soon. Clever head will return shortly.

When I don’t feel so bright, it’s good to have these pens, fresh apples, this table, these people. Ebb and flow.

{Today’s Soundtrack: Christine and the Queens – No Harm Is Done}

10 Things I Learnt From 10 Things They Learnt. 

ny-heart

Loving my Bristol home right now! There are so many great people around and about in our design community here, and getting out amongst them is throwing up such brilliant encouragement at the moment.

Last night in an upstairs bar somewhere in Bristol, a bunch of designer-types old and new got together and under twinkly, dimmed lights with drinks in hand, we heard from 10 local design heroes, 10 things they’d each learnt along the way that had seen them through thick and thin. We were there to celebrate West of England Design Forum’s 10th Birthday – WEDF pours such a lot of good stuff out into our creative midst, so I headed out to join the party and listen to some thoughtful gems. It was just lovely.

Each person who stood up spoke wisdom, confessed to messing up quite a lot, they made us laugh, they rapped, and showed us scans of their unborn children, and amidst all this vulnerability they did what really good designers do and gave us some proper gorgeous things to focus on. Many of these ideas resonated, so in the clear air this morning I sifted out my favourites, that I can say are also true for me too. (Please forgive my lack of credits, hopefully I can add these in due course. See note at the end.)

Here goes – my top ten of the ten top tens:

  1. Keep perspective.
    ‘No one died because of bad kerning/weird typeface’ etc.

    It’s true. In my BBC years, I once had a Natural History director storm out of an edit suite because he didn’t like the shade of blue I’d chosen for arrows on a map of ocean currents, and having nearly missed my granny’s funeral to get it done in time for transmission, there wasn’t time to remake it. As he flounced out and slammed the door, I was left standing in front of the Series Producer, biting my lip very hard trying to not cry. Oh dear! Probably one of my earliest lessons in how and why not to be a massive control freak.

  2. Humility can be helpful.
    See point 1, and remember that while it’s hugely important to fight for your ideas, being able to listen and learn is just as important. I’m not sure a need to be right opens up anything new.

    Curiosity, centre stage please!

  3. Speculate; have fun making personal work.
    Just go ahead and make that piece of work, just because you love the story and believe in the cause. You’ll learn something about yourself, and you may also just make that new connection you’ve dreamed about. My film ‘Tree Wisdom’ was a (sort of) case in point. It was a commission, but a totally open brief, and it’s proved so helpful in starting up new conversations.

    Chase an idea – you never know what adventure it’ll take you on.

  4. Be devoted.
    Get really good at your thing by doing it with such love, and give all the great ideas in you their best chance of life. I love looking at, or holding in my hands, the work of brilliant craftspeople, who spend years refining their skills.

    One from the aesthetic brigade – I really do believe that if you want us to think carefully about something, then make us want to look at it. Make it exquisite.

  5. Don’t forget the importance of your back yard.
    I really liked this way of describing the thing we all know but struggle to manage. Your ‘front yard’ is the polished, online space where your best work is featured – the well-presented 10% that gives everyone a passing impression. But it’s the much bigger back yard where the real stuff happens, the many more hours of play and discovery that really shape you. Don’t underestimate this space. Enjoy it, and celebrate that too!

    I went to a talk by Lisa Congdon a while ago, and asked her about sharing work online and vulnerability – she’s so prolific, and puts so much out there direct from a sketchbook, hard to believe she leaves anything out and imagine how much courage that takes. She doesn’t put everything out there, but the point is that this particular ‘back yard’ sees so much devoted action, what comes out of it is all the more beautifully, attractively real for it.

  6. Keep skills fresh by learning on every job. 
    Challenge yourself to acquire new technical skills with each project you do. It’s to budget and deadline, so you have the (helpful) pressure of it needing to be just right! I do this on all my animation projects, and I’ll never keep up with the best of After Effects nerds, but I remember point no.4 and try my best, and feel excited by new things.

    But…

  7. Don’t worry about being crap at technical skills. 
    Even if you were ‘around at the birth of Illustrator’ (or even—ahem—Pagemaker, on one of these anyone? Please say yes…) technical skills aren’t the be-all and end-all. You can learn these in time, but ideas are your true gold, and must come first.

    Good drawing skill with a pencil is the best companion you can give to your ideas, at least to begin with.

  8. Follow your gut instinct.
    It’s your business, and whatever advice you receive, you do know, deep down, what you want. Resigning from that previously-mentioned BBC job was a huge leap of instinctive faith, and few people really understood why I did it. Made no sense to anyone. But I’m still here, my smile is much bigger these days, and the quality of my work is so much better too.

    And yet…

  9. Seek counsel and advice from the older, wiser design owls.
    Those who have been there and done it have a lot of gold to share.

    Finally:

  10. If it gives you wings, even if you’re ‘an 11 year old white kid from Leicester’, it’s okay to rap like a lovely, obsessed geek. Honestly, this guy sums just about everything on this list list right up. Such a sweetie.

 

Not complicated, but real, and honest, and I’m very grateful to be amongst these lovely people trying to figure out how to keep things moving with bucketloads of style.

Big thanks to all you wonderful speakers, and hopefully WEDF will share a list of who you are again because, I’ll be honest, I’d had some wine and my brain wasn’t taking detailed notes. Here’s to the next 10 years!

 

{Today’s Soundtrack: SBTRKT – Pharaohs}

The Plot

the-plot

What are the spaces and places you love to go to, when you need to think better, feel refreshed? I’m guessing we all have favourite alternatives to sitting at our desks (however gorgeous the environment) and I wonder what yours might be.

My places mostly involve cliffs and coastlines – big, open, high places where my sense of size and place in the world is kept in healthy check, and life is flowing impressively without my help. Places where I can find some clear air, and distill priorities. Know what I mean? I suspect you do.

As an urban dweller though, I have to find other ways to get out and about, which is where our allotment among the animals at Windmill Hill City Farm comes in. So much of our working life centres on the inertia of screens, but as time goes on I find it’s impossible to keep it up effectively without a close-up dose of nature in the mix. The Plot, the farm, is where I get mine day to day, and you know what? I felt its high time to share some of that.

If you’re with me in wanting to balance our desk-bound, digital days with being more immersed in the natural order of things, then you might enjoy a podcast series I’m recording from the plot. Someone sowed the seed (sorry!) earlier this year about making a podcast, and it was one of those ideas that wouldn’t leave me alone, so here it is. An experiment for now – I’m using no fancy equipment to record it, the editing’s shonky, and sound levels all over the place. But I hope you will find space, peace, food for thought and wisdom for our brave work journeys. And some sweet (noisy) animals too. Look out for new episodes every Monday night, each no more than 10 minutes long.

I try to get down to the farm as much as possible – easy, really, 10 minutes walk from home, and on my way in to the studio. It’s a beautiful hit of clear air and smelly creatures, both food and people growing. “A place where people grow” is the farm’s motto. Sniff.

Anything that helps us work better with our ideas.

Consider this me spreading the muck and the love. 

lizzie-plot

Lizzie working The Plot

 

Find it by searching for ‘The Plot Lizzie Everard’ or subscribe to the feed directly in iTunes, on Soundcloud, or on my Opinion page, here.

(Please bare with me while I learn the ropes here, it’s all so new and not sure if I’m going about it the right way! Let me know if links don’t work or you need different info. And forgive me for the noisy Geese…  )

Thank you, NYC

 

How do you find New York?

In July, I made my first visit to the big apple, and made every effort to experience it on my own terms even (especially) in hitting some of the iconic sights. In making pictures, it’s a great challenge to capture everything we know a place is, yet bring yourself to the picture too! I really wanted to explain what it was like taking part in the NY thing, as well as being true to my personal reality which is about space, and peace, and breathing in and out.

The thing with NY is, we all know what it looks like as the backdrop to so much of our movie culture. There is a huge temptation to make something look like another picture I’ve seen, but I struggle with the point of doing that because what really needs to happen is we work on explaining experiences in our own voices. That’s how we get past the homogenous, corporate exterior of what we’re fed, and remain connected as human beings.

It was a massive challenge making a mini-portrait of my personal journey in NY—no more than one minute—and so much I had to leave out! I had a go though, without a plan, just to feel my way around with a camera, to see what would happen.

The place is frantic.

But amidst the street vendors clattering under hanging yellow traffic lights, and grubby subway rides downtown, I paid attention to quieter things too – to stay connected to moments and places where I could breathe and stop a while to digest that big, juicy bundle of apple-like life.

Thank you, New York, you and your Central Park roses were ridiculously, fragrantly lovely.

This was all shot on an iPhone SE and edited in After Effects. Music: ‘Raindrops’ by Grapes, under a CC License.

Settling Again

lizzie-table-corner

It’s been a really busy little while lately, settling back in the studio after lots of adventures and inspiration over summer. I’m sure you know what I mean!

Along with all those holidays and long, warm days, Summer’s a great time to step back and take stock, don’t you think? Although I find it does bring disruption to a more regular work flow with commissions and projects. It can be a bit of a ‘hold your nerve’ time in that respect if you run your own business.

To make ideas sing, to get into the heart of them and find their character, sometimes a change of scene is really helpful. And then sometimes, coming back to settle at your table, and pick up your tools to make them happen is the only thing to do next, even if you find it really hard to sit still! 

But I think the benefits of stepping back are always worth it. Drifting away from summer into autumn now, I have a couple of ideas to share which linger on the inspiring moments of summer a little longer, bring them inside with us, and keep the ideas and dreams flowing through a season of practical action ahead. Look out over the next couple of weeks for those which I’ll be posting about.

Meanwhile, life here in the studio is busy as ever – a heap of projects on the go, and personal work to push myself and keep learning. I’m a bit overwhelmed to tell you the truth, but trying to heed Victore’s advice that says “Ideas without action are just BS”! It helps to have a work table that feels like a treat to sit down at, and moving into The Forge earlier this year was a brilliant opportunity to switch things up and create a space that will do justice to the plans I have in my head. It’s really nice coming back to this after summer, a safe place to let things out and breathe life into them.

No more distractions. It’s time to honour the loveliness of all those ideas and get on with making them happen!

Happy settling friends, and may your work spaces be buzzing this autumn.

Sketchbook Pages

While making Seashore Slowdown, I wondered what words it may need to help the flow – default setting for an expressive typographer! Realising it could stand as a more pure edit with straight film, I decided to be brave and leave it alone. So, these words I explored—little haiku poems—will probably stay on their sketchbook pages after all. It was a neat writing exercise though.

The haiku, as I discovered, tends to contain two different ideas and reference to the natural world, as well as the 5-7-5 syllables rule.

I found it hard to keep things simple, but this did feel like a great way to practice being eloquent with fewer words when it comes to writing the next animation script.

Softly blazing? Thinking about it, I don’t know, I bet there’s a short film ready and waiting for these wordy ideas just up ahead.

{Today’s Soundtrack: P Sol –This Must Be Home}

Seashore Slowdown

Here’s a little (tiny) film I made to say ‘thank you’ to those small seashore moments of summer—trying to capture something of that easy feeling when you’re sitting at the water’s edge with your toes in the shore break and breeze on your face—and bring it on home.

I’ve been trying to stretch myself to work with film as well as pure animation techniques, so these clips are just me getting used to what my iPhone can do for quick, sketchbook captures. It makes me smile – right back in the oh-so-simple escape of it all!

Hope it helps you keep your inspirations of summer flowing too.

 

{Soundtrack: ‘Woman’ by Rocovaco, under a Creative Commons License}