As anyone who’s followed me for more than 5 minutes could tell you, I love California. I love all the ways in which it’s changed me, from the struggle of making a life here to the quality of living here. The beauty beyond my studio window still takes my breath away several times a day, and I always feel like I’m seeing the ocean for the very first time.
California has given so many things–to my health, to my family, and to my design career. This week, especially, it saved me as a designer. Is that dramatic? I do that sometimes.
I’ve hit walls before, and I’ve had designers’ block dozens of times. But I’ve never experienced something like the fog I came out of only yesterday. In a moment of panic and doubt, I sincerely believed I had run out of ideas and inspiration. I feared looming deadlines and having to eventually tell someone that I had nothing left. Like a basketball player who’s broken his knee and is forced into retirement. Again, dramatic? It felt like a desolate black hole.
I tried everything in my designer toolkit this weekend: taking a break from the computer; talking to real, live humans; exercising; eating clean(er); doodling; getting a good night’s rest. I painted with watercolors, and reached the end of the internet in search of inspiration. I worked out twice a day, running the long, beautiful trails of Aliso Wood Canyon. Nothing. Maybe a close call with a rattlesnake and a touch of a sunburn, but nothing I could use.
Until I saw this old piece of sheet music, and in a moment I could see out of the black hole. Almost as much as I love California, I love old, imperfect hand lettering, and anything with a textured, vintage aesthetic. (Let’s all pause to consider how obnoxious the previous sentence is.) I got that feeling designers get, where something clicks, and the green light comes on. I was ready for my first Creative Hour project in weeks. (The Creative Hour was something I did in my freelancing career; an hour each day to create something for no one but myself, for nothing but fun.)
I copied this by hand with a combo of pencils and Micron pens. My scanner decided not to work, and I was trying to keep this exercise to an hour, so I quickly “scanned” it with my iPhone instead and brought the drawing into Photoshop that way. I did a little clean up on “California,” and probably should have done more, but I like the imperfections and the goal was to keep digging out of this black hole. Momentum is more important than form here.