Archive for art

It’s All About Heart – You Get What You Put Into It

As the last day of January rolls around most of us are already looking towards February, and of course, Valentine’s day. Perhaps most of you think about those you love and celebrating but it made me think about heart. Having heart. Giving from the heart. Does giving from the heart make you think about charitable giving? That’s not a bad thing. If each of us gave to those in need what a wonderful world this would be.

But what I really meant was giving from the heart to your clients. Give them over and above what they are expecting. Try giving them exceptional customer service. I like to give my clients the marketing edge not just provide a graphic design service. It always amazes me when designers don’t realize that they are the marketing expert on a project. Why do you design a piece a specific way? To catch the consumer’s eye. To drive traffic to a website. To get clients. Why do you select the colors that you do when you design a piece? Every artist knows that certain colors elicit specific feelings and emotions. As a designer you’re capturing that and creating a mood or a feeling for the reader.

I study each piece that I design by following up with the client to see what kind of response they’ve had, how they utilized it and what other needs they might have. I believe in giving the whole marketing design package. I give from the heart. I want my clients to love my service, to love my designs and to love working with my company.

It’s all about heart…and loving what I do and knowing how my designs can impact the lives and business fortunes of others.

Debby is a working writer, designer, artist, photographer and guest lecturer in Southern California. If you are interested in hiring her she is available for ghost blogging, strategic marketing planning, graphic and web design, photo shoots and more. You can email her at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

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Take Stock of Your Photos

Yay, its a new year and now everyone is focused on “out with the old and in with the new”, right? This is a great time to look at your company’s brand, to see how well your maintaining it and review your collateral material. How often have you sat in a meeting and just as you hand out a brochure you glance down at it realizing the second that it leaves your hand the information is old and stale? I know, you’d rather not admit it but it happens to everyone.

So, while you’re reviewing your collateral material why not also take a good, long look at the photos that you’re using on your brochures, flyers and web site? Chances are you’ve grabbed some stock photo off of a cd or purchased it from a web site (PLEASE don’t steal them off line -that’s a WHOLE other story!) and just had them strategically dropped into the design. But do your photos reflect your company? Are they the same photos that you’d find on similar materials in other companies in your city? Are they working for you? Do they make your company stand out? After all, you know the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Why are you even using stock photos, anyway? Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against stock photos and even use them in some instances. I just don’t use them all the time.

There are so many talented photographers available that its worth a little extra money to take good quality photographs of your business location, of your actual employees in the workplace to represent your company. Have you ever considered using a working action shot of the CEO or owner of your company? I love that so much more than a standard head shot. Everyone’s got a head shot, I want to see the guy or girl with their sleeves rolled up working away.

Get the picture? No, really, get the picture! You’ll be so glad that you did.

Debby is a working writer, designer, artist, photographer and guest lecturer in Southern California. If you are interested in hiring her she is available for ghost blogging, strategic marketing planning, graphic and web design, photo shoots and more. You can email her at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

So, I’ve been thinking…

I realized something as I got my year-end paperwork finished up, reviewed my invoices, both paid and outstanding, and just generally looked at the year as a whole. I spend a lot of time giving my clients marketing advice, helping them to market smarter and more efficiently but I don’t do the same thing for my business.

That always gets the leftover time that I have. Whatever energy and ideas are left at the end of a day for a week, that’s what flows into my business. Now, that’s not necessarily bad, as it means I don’t have that much time for my own marketing because I’m busy, which is the point of marketing anyway. But as I was evaluating a client’s business practices and building a 2011 marketing strategies plan for them I realized that taking the time to do that for myself would actually save me time in the long run, help me keep on track, working more efficiently and putting more fun time into my life. That seemed like a good idea.

So, no marketing resolutions this year. Only promises that I keep to myself and goals that I set for my business. The first goal? Develop my own strategic marketing plan. I’ll know every month what my marketing strategies are, my email campaigns will be scheduled and go out on time, I’ll keep in closer contact with my customers by being proactive and my evenings and weekends just might be empty enough to devote more time to my other creative pursuits.

I’ve joked about putting more hours in my day, well, this really does. Interested in a strategic marketing plan for your own business let me know. I’ll be glad to help you as well.

You can email me at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

It Must Be a Sign

I woke up this morning anxious and ready to paint and write. My fingers were itching to wrap themselves around a paintbrush, gliding the bristles through the nice, rich, wet thick paint. I could see the glistening strokes before I even opened my eyes. Long, flowing, perfect. Ahhh, such a blissful thought as my lashes fluttered open.

Along with that words danced and pranced around in my head. Lines of dialog floating around as characters chatted casually back and forth. “What a marvelous day this was going to be,”  I thought.  An amazing, creative Sunday.

That’s when my creative caravan screeched to an abrupt halt. Wasn’t there something I was supposed to do today? Oh, yeah….now I remember, I know what it is. No wonder I’m feeling so deliciously creative. I have floors to scrub. Laundry to wash and fold. A design project to get off to print. Christmas cards to write. Bathrooms to scour. I could feel my mood sinking, the creativity being sucked out like a vacuum cleaner stealing away my little creative projects that circled around in my brain.

But wait! Maybe not all is lost! A glimmer of hope fluttered across the horizon. Today was going to be a marvelously creative endeavor after all! There are three times and/or places that seem to always inspire me. Driving. Lots of great ideas and I’m so thankful for my little recorder to capture them. The shower. Did you know its really hard to write with soap on the shower wall and read it later? Cleaning house. Yep, something about cleaning makes me come up with lots of new ideas. Some might think then that waking up thinking creatively might be a sign that my house needs cleaning…I think its a sign that cleaning my house is going to lead to an amazingly wonderful, creatively filled day!

A Great Idea Just Demands Life

Okay, let’s face it. Some ideas are okay. Some are good. And some are great. The reality is that great ideas don’t come along all the time but once they have been conceived they grow and take on a life of their own. Yeah, sure, you can put them off for a while and try to ignore them. But they just won’t let you go that easily. Yes, I meant exactly that – THEY won’t let you go.

A great idea tries to be come a part of you, needling and prodding you to nurture it and let it blossom into the idea that it deserves to be. I know. I’ve had one of those ideas and I’ve stuck in a corner, stuffed it in a closet, hidden it on a shelf. Okay, not literally – just figuratively.

But my point is that I’ve tried to hide it away and it just won’t be hidden. It thinks that it deserves to see the light of day. It thinks that it deserves to be welcomed and allowed to grow into a full-fledged project.

So, if it’s so great, why am I ignoring it hoping that it will wither away and dry up into a small pile of insignificant dust to be swept away under the carpet or blown away by the wind like some dandelion? Hmmmm… now that’s an interesting question! The truth is that I just might be a little afraid to take a chance on success. I might not want to leap from a 20-story window without the promise of a safety net below.

What happens if I try and fail? What happens if I try and succeed? Perhaps both ideas scare me equally. And of that’s the case what is a girl to do?

Busily Bored…

Okay, let me start this with I have a LOT to do. My list of pending projects looks like Santa’s Christmas scroll. I could unroll it and it would bounce happily down the hallway, cascading down the stairs and continue going. I have a lot to do.

The problem? I don’t want to do any of the things that I have to do. I want to do something. I just don’t know what. Should I play a game on my iPad? Should I paint? There are gifts to make and craft shows to get ready for but “I’m not in the mood”.

The reality is that I’m just not inspired. I’m not feeling the creativity sweeping over me, surging through my veins begging to be released. Maybe that’s because I create for a living. Whether I’m designing a project, writing or painting, its all ‘work’. Now don’t get me wrong – I LOVE what I do. I am so lucky to be able to create for a living.

Just sometimes its hard to sustain that. Sometimes its hard to force yourself to sit down and begin the creative process. Once I begin the process takes over and the ideas spill forth like water tumbling from an island waterfall. Its the getting started that’s the hard part.

So I find myself reading everything I can find online. News stories that normally wouldn’t get a second glance become so captivating that I must read them. I have been bitten and infected with a deadly virus…

Procrastination. The enemy of all mankind and especially the creative mind.

Bombarded and Overwhelmed

I hear people say all the time, “I don’t know what to do”. Wow, that is NEVER my problem. My problem is that I just don’t know what to do next. It seems like the more I exercise my creativity the more I find to do. Well, that’s not exactly true. The more things find me.

Sometimes I literally cannot keep up with my notes and tickler file of ideas for projects ranging from stories to poetry to pictures and paintings. One little idea trickles into my thoughts, dancing and prancing as if to say “look at me” and before you know it that little idea is joined by its brothers and sisters and long-lost cousins – a bevy of ideas begging to be noticed.

It’s not so bad when I’m at the office in front of my computer and pen and paper but when I’m driving, well, it can be dangerous. Trying to juggle pen and paper while perched at a stoplight can be hard. Thankfully that hasn’t happened as much since I discovered its easier to use a small recorder. What a lifesaver.

I have been known to chant a story over and over, dashing through the front door, still reciting the dialogue over and over again in my sing-song voice, plugging my ears and violently shaking my head no as family runs to greet me. I have to commit the words to paper before they flitter off into the heather-filled mist.

Just having notes on scraps of paper in my ever-changing filing system doesn’t seem to make the little tykes happy. They demand to be created – for me to breath life into them, giving them substance and form. Not one at a time but all at once.

There are much worse problems that I could have. I could suffer from a barren wasteland, a dry and scratchy desert devoid of growth of any kind, cracked and dry and dying. I’m content to be bombarded and overwhelmed.

Do you ever have one of those days?

Do you ever have one of those days when ideas just keep bombarding you, bouncing around in your head, multiplying quicker than a group of rabbits in the spring? Well, today is one of those days!

Here I am all set to tackle the laundry, mop the floors and scrub the sink when suddenly I have ideas dive bombing me. What’s a girl to do? Being the creative maven that I am I guess I have NO choice but to put off those boring and mundane chores until I’ve grasped each and every little idea and safely tucked it away into its cubby hole, ready for use when I can implement it.

What a curse! : ) Forced to create instead of clean…its a burden that I must carry. Someone has to do it!

Celebrating the Blank Canvas

It is probably one of the most talked about aspects of art – staring at the blank canvas, or the blank page, afraid to take the first step. To make the first mark. Not knowing what to do first.

But I tell you, don’t fear the blank canvas – celebrate it! Rejoice in the infinitie possibilities!

I just bought 3 new canvases today. Fresh and pure. Their mere ‘whiteness’ inspires me. My only hesitation is what to start with first. Will I mar their perfectness by smudging something less than brilliant on them? Is perfection expected? Or even necessary?

Not at all!!!! By this afternoon I’ll have at least one less than perfect canvas that reflects the non-perfect me. It will be bright and bold and colourful with speckles of vibrant personality sprinkled throughout.  Or maybe dark and moody befitting a previous mood or sunny and full of expectations for the unknown wonders that will come to me today. The only thing I’m sure of is that it will reflect me at that moment I make the first mark. I might look upon it tomorrow and wonder what I was thinking.  Try to decipher the message that was so clear today. And a month from now I might even marvel at my own brilliance for a brief second or two before I push this canvas to the back of the closet, determined to work on a new masterpiece to reflect the new, ‘more mature’ me.

Think of it like diving into a swimming  pool. You stand on the diving board, bouncing up and down as you look down at the crystal clear cold water. Anxious. Filled with dread for that first second when the cold wetness sucks you under, holding you in its icy grasp. And yet, you hunger for the coolness of the water, to slice into it with your body, as a knife in butter. The oppressive heat of the day depletes your energy and just inches away the pool offers a renewal of your body and spirit. Slowly you continue to bounce. Up. Down. Up. Down. When what you should really do is jump in excitedly as though you were five again and afraid of nothing, except maybe a wayward monster hiding in your closet.

Jump in without thinking. Just feel your inner child’s excitement. Its the same with the blank canvas. Or the blank page.

Finding the Courage

Finding courage to face the unknown, to take a chance, can be excruciatingly difficult. It seems I find myself at a crossroads right now in my life.

Do I have the courage to take a step? One simple step. In my reluctance to move forward I think I might have actually taken about 10 steps back. Circled around that very thing I want to do, analyzing it from every side. On my hands and knees, peering at its underbelly. On tiptoe peeking at the very top of it. And found a million reasons that I’m not ready to move forward.

And now I’m tormented by this project.  It taunts me day and night. “I’m here,” it says. “Maybe the most intense, powerful piece you’ll ever write,” it teases.

“Or the worst,” I groan. “Maybe I’m not up to the project,” I add agonizing as I curl up, hiding under the covers. But the simple reality is that I can’t ignore it.

This concept came to me well over 3 years ago and has danced on the perimeter of my brain ever since. Little snippets sing to me in the shower. Of course – no pen and paper there! And while I’m driving, I have a flash of clarity. An entire conversation writes itself in my mind, but there’s no place to pull over. By the next stoplight the words fade and I berate myself the rest of the drive that I couldn’t remember them for a mere 10 minutes.

The greatest story never written.

And maybe the worst story ever conceived? Maybe this is my self-defense, my salvation from ridicule? I can’t know until I take the first step. And the next. And the next. Baby steps would even work. At least they would be moving me forward even if I was unsteady on my feet, teetering and tottering drunkenly forward. I have support to hold on to, to help steady me and guide me towards really walking. Then sprinting. Running full speed, head-first arms flaying towards the finish line.

So, why the fear? Failure. A feeling I’m not completely accustomed to and want to avoid at any cost. But, avoiding failure – doesn’t that mean I avoid real success as well? Float along in a sea of mediocrity? Just good enough to stay afloat but never discovering the new land filled with exotic sights and smells lurking in the mist?

“Set sail for the high seas!” My characters taunt me, begging to be brought alive. Writing the story isn’t about me. It is about them. They plead again for life. And I realize that my sanity hinges on setting them free. Today. One step. One simple small step.

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