Find Your Style: Five Exercises to Unlock Your Creative Identity | Andy J. Pizza | Skillshare

Find Your Style: Five Exercises to Unlock Your Creative Identity skillshare originals badge

Andy J. Pizza, Illustrator, Designer & Podcaster

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12 Lessons (1h 12m)
    • 1. Introduction

      1:38
    • 2. How to Find Your Style

      6:18
    • 3. A Cosmic Minute: Part I

      2:35
    • 4. The Big Ideas

      6:48
    • 5. Exercise One: Your Creative DNA

      13:58
    • 6. Exercise Two: Find Your Patterns

      7:38
    • 7. A Cosmic Minute: Part II

      2:36
    • 8. Exercise Three: You on a Plate

      8:01
    • 9. Exercise Four: Populate Your World

      11:33
    • 10. Exercise Five: Create Your Style Key

      7:11
    • 11. A Cosmic Minute: Part III

      3:14
    • 12. Final Thoughts

      0:50
5122 students are watching this class

About This Class

Take the mystery out of finding your style without losing any of the magic!

“You don’t find your style, your style finds you.” Discouraged by the words of his professor, Andy J. Pizza spent years following trends and feeling inauthentic in his art, waiting for his style to show up. Spoiler: it never did. So Andy set out to find it himself, a journey that led to experiments, breakthroughs, success as an illustrator, podcaster, and speaker, and ultimately this class. 

The culmination of Andy’s research, this fun and inspiring class lays out five hands-on exercises that will unlock your artistic identity. Working in your medium of choice, you’ll explore who you are and what you have to say, then put it all together in your own personal style guide. 

Accessible, step-by-step lessons cover:

  • Unpacking your identity, influences, and experiences
  • Cracking the code of what “good” means to you
  • Translating your taste into what you make
  • Experimenting to develop your visual vocabulary
  • Creating successful projects, now and into the future

For Andy, the search to find his style was really the search to find himself. Packed with weird and wonderful examples, each lesson includes his favorite projects, tips, and discoveries along the way. 

Whether you’re a designer, filmmaker, writer, or musician, unlocking your style is the key to feeling fully at home in what you make. Once you tap into your most authentic, joyous, and powerful creative work, anything is possible!

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This is a class for every creative, regardless of experience level or medium. You can follow along using Andy's creative influences pyramid and style dice, or customize the exercises to fit your materials of choice. Want to see what you'll end up with? Check out these sample style guides for some of your favorite artists!

Transcripts

1. Introduction: Hey, do you want to find your style? Let's go. You've heard it said that to be creative is to think outside the box. I think it's more about creating your own box, your own set of constraints. My name is Andy J. Pizza, and I'm an illustrator, podcaster, and public speaker. Today's class is about finding your style. So what even is style? I think on the most basic level, it means the choices that you consistently make in your creative work. But for me, style is also about, when you're making stuff and you feel like you're at home in what you're making. So instead of just sitting back and asking questions, we're going to do exercises to help you not just work this stuff out on the inside, but work it down on the page. You're going to start with a vague sense of your personal taste, but we're going to end with your own personal style guide that you can reference from this point on in your creative work. Really, all you need is a medium of your choice, whether it's film, or design, or illustration, or music, this class will help you dig deep into the depths of who you are and embed that stuff into your creative work. If you leave this class with just one thing, I hope it is a new found sense of empowerment that says, if I take these actions and I do these exercises, I will find my personal style. 2. How to Find Your Style: Hello and welcome. I'm so thrilled that you've decided to take this class because for me, these ideas are probably the most important ideas in my creative journey. I went to college in the UK for illustration and design. I went in there with the intention of finding my style, finding who I am as a creative person. But when I got to college, I felt like everyone around me was discouraging this active hunt. I remember talking to one of my first professors and saying, "I really want to use this time to find my style." He responded with something like, "Wow, find your style? Your style finds you." Except I was in England, so he didn't sound like a weird, mystical teacher from California. He sounded more like Miss. Depoter. I can't say in British accent. But this overly mystical take, this cliche idea that your style is just going to magically be handed to you if you become a chosen one. That mentality took all the responsibility out of my hands and made that I couldn't do anything actionable, practical, or strategic to help move this process along. In the face of that, I just gave up trying to find it. I decided subconsciously just to lean into trends. That kept me afloat for a little bit, but the recession hat and I was back to square one. It was in that place, in these dark days outside of school where I decided, "I really want this. I don't know any artist out there that's describing practices that you can actually do to find this stuff. But I'm just going to grit my teeth and through brute force, just do my damnedest to find some path to unearthing who I am as a creative person." Everything that I did in that period of time became the foundation of my entire creative practice. By style, what I mean as your definition of perfect, when you first get started, you might find artists too are your heroes, and you're like, "This work is perfect." But as you go along, you're going to notice the nuance of your own perspective. Eventually you're going to see, "I love how that artist does this. But it would be so much more palatable to me if they just moved it that way, they tackled a different subject matter, or they changed this choice or that choice." For me, my style has been more about just making a piece of work that does all the things that I like, when a piece does those things. It ends up being a set of choices that satisfy my own elusive definition of creative perfection. Something that really frustrated me when I was getting started out was, I thought all these decisions need to be made in my head before I started putting a pencil to paper. That was just the totally wrong way to find your style. Your style is found by making stuff, by doing stuff. We're going to go through five exercises of actually acting, doing stuff outside of our head, putting things on paper, making mistakes, failing, and through those decisions and those actions we're going to start finding some patterns that will help give us clues to what our true style is. Along this process, I'll be sharing pivotal moments and finding my style examples from my own creative work and we'll also reference some classic examples of creative style from other artists. This class is for anyone on any stage of their creative journey, whether you're just getting started and you're just a hobbyist or you're completely established in your creative practice, you are infinite. There is a depth to being a person and to consciousness. That means, you can always find another layer to embed into your practice. Wherever you are in your creative journey, these exercises will give you new information. Yes, these are things that I did about a decade ago that started to really unblock my creativity and open me up. But these are also things that I just did last week and found some new things to add to the piece that I drew just a few days ago. If you have already taken my other class, you can think of this class as both a prequel and a sequel. In the first class I talked about one of my all time favorite quotes from Dolly Parton. This idea that making art is about "Finding who you are and doing it on purpose." The last class was really about doing it on purpose, doing it strategically. This one focuses on that first part of the quote of finding who you are. All you need is your creative tools for your medium. You have all the class resources at your disposal. When you finish this class and you've got your personal style guide, be sure to share it in the project gallery as well. Now, before we get into some of the foundational ideas of this class, let's get a little weird. 3. A Cosmic Minute: Part I: So I want to tell you a story that I think explains why I believe that finding your style, finding your voice, finding yourself as a creative and as a person is such a worthwhile pursuit. Picture this, you're just going about your day just like any other day, but then boom out of the sky, pops a giant time-space wormhole and out of that wormhole pops a crazy looking alien with weird spects and a strange beard. Maybe they're covered in eyeballs, I don't know. But that crazy alien then reaches into its bag of tricks. It's cape, if you will. He says, I have come to bring you this device. There is three things that I must tell you about it. Number 1, this device is one of a kind, it is precious. There is none other like it in all of the universe. Number 2, inside this device is the known universe's most complex internal machinery. Number 3, now you better listen closely to this one. This is very important. I'm about to tell you what this device is for. But then boom right out of the wormhole pops another alien. Only this time, he looks really evil, so you know it is bad and he zaps the first alien out of existence before he can tell you what the device is for. If that was you, wouldn't you do whatever it took? Wouldn't you spend your whole life desperate to find what is this thing for? What is this thing capable of? Well, that is you. The only difference is you are the device, you are one of the kind, you contain in this noggin, the universe's most complex internal machinery. Nothing boggles scientists' minds like your mind. Yet, are you taking that opportunity for everything that it is? Are you doing whatever it takes to figure out your own personal number 3, what is this thing for? What is this thing capable of? 4. The Big Ideas: That was weird. Now that we're back on Earth, I want to go into three big ideas before we get to the exercises. These ideas will set the tone for everything we're going to do in this class. The first idea is this idea of neurodiversity. If you've never heard that term, it just means that every brain is different. It's usually in reference to the brains that are not seen as neurotypical; people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, people with ADHD like me or people that fall on the spectrum. But in my opinion, I like to think of neurodiversity as referencing the fact that every single brain is different and every brain has its own set of completely unique strengths and weaknesses. I feel like there's almost a responsibility for humans to figure out what is special, and unique, and different about this particular complex machinery in my head. I see creative work as almost as much of being self-expression as it is self-excavation of just digging into this thing and seeing what is it capable of. That's a whole journey on its own. I don't feel like as humans that we take that journey as seriously as we should or see how huge of an opportunity that really is. I feel like this idea of betting on and digging into your own neurodiversity is really exemplified through the story that Jim Carrey tells often. I've heard him a few times tell the story about how his dad wanted to go into entertainment. His dad was hilarious and he was constantly impressing Jim's famous friends with his humor and charisma. But instead of betting on this uniqueness, Jim's dad decided to do the safer thing and become an accountant. But he actually failed at being an accountant, and he ended up having to go into cleaning as a janitor. Jim has this great quote, which I feel like really gets to the heart of why you should lean into what's different about you. He says that like his dad, you can fail at what you don't want, you can fail at the safe thing. You can fail at what you don't want so you might as well give what you want a real try. The second big idea is all of these exercises are experiments. I love this idea that comes from famous comic artist Lynda Barry. She says, artists always try to make a statement with their work where creative work is almost better used if you're asking yourself a question. If you will go into each piece that you make, not as a statement but as a hypothesis, as a question. If you'll not just try to self express with your work, but try to self excavate. That's when you start getting some of the good stuff. Every little thing that goes wrong or everything that's unexpected that happens on your page, you own that stuff. Sometimes you intend to do something, you intend to say something in your work and you end up saying the wrong thing, or you end up making a mistake, or doing something with the paint goes wrong. Those mutations, if you string enough mutations along, you've start developing this whole new beast, and that beast is your style. The third big idea, and this might be the biggest idea, it's definitely the weirdest idea, but it also might be my favorite, is you should think of your style. Not as this one particular thing, but more like emergence. Let's talk about consciousness just for a second. The scientific community doesn't really know where you are in this. They can't point to one single thing and say, "There you are. There's your consciousness." The best guess they have right now is this idea of emergence. Emergence is just how little things come together to be something bigger. It's how sub-atomic particles, all of a sudden are an atom or a lot of little atoms are then a molecule, and those molecules come together to be tissues and organs. But then your consciousness is what happens when all your individual neurons start firing together. It's the through line of that biochemistry that emerges into this one thing that is you. Why I love that, why we're doing some weird quantum science lesson is because I feel like that's exactly how you should be thinking about style. If you've ever tried to make one piece of work and put your style into it, you know how easy it is to fail at that. It's so hard to summarize who you are in one song, or one short film, or one illustration. Like that illustration, it can't contain the whole style. You can't get it all across there. It's just like one individual neuron in the greater sphere of who you are. So if you will shift from thinking about, "I need to put my style into this piece of work," into thinking, "I'll just keep making work," and all these individual pieces, in-between them, a style will emerge. It will give you the certainty that if you just keep going, if you just keep making, you will get there. All right, enough of the talking. I told you we're going to do some stuff in this class. Let's start compiling those little individual building blocks, your creative DNA, to actually get started. 5. Exercise One: Your Creative DNA: Just like how DNA becomes the instruction manual for building your body, every DNA is made up of these very particular proteins. So let's talk about what are the particular proteins that we're working with? What are the basic building blocks of a style? In my opinion and in my own experience and research, I feel like there are basically four fundamental building blocks to your style. They are your identity, your taste, your experiments, and your experiences. All of these things together make up who you are as a creative person. Let me just zoom in on each of those four things and explain what we mean by each of them. For the first one, identity, these are the things about you on a molecular level that are unchangeable. One of the clues to who you are as an artist starts with two massive clues. Your mom and your dad, you're some weird combination of those people. I do this podcast that's all about art and business, and it's no wonder that my mom's an artist and my dad's a business guy. He's a finance guy. There are so many clues in diving deep into who you are on a fundamental level. For me, that also means things like I'm ADHD, things like where I was born, who my extended family is. I think there's an interesting thing here because some of us don't want to face those facts, but don't be worried because it's just raw data. That data you can do whatever you want with it. You can completely subvert it. Some creatives take that raw data and their style ends up being an escape from those things, or a comment on those things, or turning those things on their heads. So don't be worried, the data is not going to tell you exactly what to do, but it will give you some fundamental things to work with. Number 2 is what I call taste. You might think of this as your creative influences. I like to talk about it through the lens of taste because that gets down to a more visceral level of excitement. I want you to think about it through the lens of, what's the creative work? Who are the artists that make stuff that don't just hit me on a cerebral level or on a cool level. But what are the things that light me up in my gut, in my heart that, make me cry, that make me laugh, that make me really feel something, that truly light up those creative taste buds? The other reason I like the word taste better than influences is I think that it gets to a foundational idea on how to approach creativity and what you have to offer that shifts how you think about your creative gifts completely. First-time, I started really thinking about taste was I heard Gordon Ramsay say on a talk show, someone said, "What do you look for in a young chef to know that they have the potential to be good?" I don't know what I expected him to say, I don't know if it was knife skills, plating skills. They they cook a medium rare steak to perfection. I don't know what I thought he was going to say, but what he said completely surprised me. He said, "I look for good taste because if you can't taste the difference between good food and bad food, then you don't have a chance of making it." That blew my mind because it made it not about skill, it made it not about what you can do, but what you can receive, the depth of your receptivity, the pallet, a great musician isn't about how skilled they are in an instrument and how quick they can pick up on. A great musician is having a good ear for music. A great illustrator is an eye for pictures. So I want us to get in touch with, for the building blocks of your style, you need to be creating from the depth of your receptivity. In the class resources, we have a creative food pyramid, and this will break down all the different places you can take from in your influences, from your creative taste. Things like old influences from the past, current things that are exciting you, guilty pleasures, getting influenced by other mediums. Some of the biggest style breakthroughs for me where when I quit looking at illustration and I started looking at photography, there's a leap in logic there that is poetic to me and it does something for my inspiration. The third building block is your actual experiments. If this is your medium, you probably have some amount of past work that you can pillage. This goes back to that Alfred Hitchcock quote of plagiarizing yourself. How can you go back through stuff that you made and just go look at the things that happen on accident. They might meet happy accidents, as Bob Ross would say, but they also just might be things that you didn't intend. I was drawing this little chart and each of the drawings, they had to be really small, and I didn't really think of drawing small things as a style component, but it felt like home, it felt right. There's something about when drawing on a massive scale, there's too much detail. I like having to try to do something within a small area. It makes you minimize different parts and stylize other parts, and so drawing small ended up being a big part of how I think about my style. The fourth and final building block is your experiences. You own everything that's ever happened to you. Think of this as your story. How were you treated? How are you mistreated? What were the tragedies? All of this stuff influences what you're all about, your past wounds. They really influence, and determine, and inform how you can heal others and what you want to speak to. So if you will tap into what were your core memories that make you who you are and filter your work through those, those are things that nobody else owns. Therefore, they're great building blocks for your unique voice. For this first exercise, we're going to create a series of Pinterest boards. We're just going to create little collections for each of those building blocks. We're going to create a board for your identity, for your taste, for your experiments, and for your experiences, and then we're going to use those later and comb through them, and start making some conclusions about who we are and what our choices are going to be. I'm going to go through some of the ones I've been working on. These are things that could have been on my first boards almost 10 years ago, but also some newer additions, some stuff that I've been adding now. As you can see, we got the identity board, the taste board, the experiments, and the experiences, plus a master board that we're going to get into in a little bit. But let's dive into identity. My favorite place to start pulling at with who you are as a person is looking at your mom and dad. As I was working through here, I thought about things that my parents had in common. Those are things that are likely to carry on and me, one of them, I got Jim Carrey right here doing some silly kicks. Both of my mom and dad are really silly, but they're silly and really different ways. So I pretty much had no chance. I was going to be silly no matter what. This is his role in Eternal Sunshine. I put that in there because it's like the sad clown introvert side to me. This idea, I have this tattoo right here. This is a melancholy thing. I think my dad has a side that even though he has this upbeat persona, that when he actually retreats and has a lot of alone time and has a lot of introspection, I thought that that hinted at that. Then I have things like ADHD and references to that. That was one of the things that I really struggled with about my identity growing up in my dad's house, was trying to explain to him how my brain's different or accepting that there's all these different ways to go about having a good life, so to speak. Let's talk about the second board, the taste board, one of my favorites. As you are penning stuff to this, I want you to move beyond the influences that our surface level, that are not deep, passionate influences. Some of this might mean going back to your childhood and thinking, what were the core memories as I was engaging with different forms of art as I grew up? It might be a show that you watched as a kid. It might be a museum trip that you made. But what were those moments where time stops and you just get sucked in by something? Those are the kinds of things we want on this board. For me, there's some Dr. Seuss staff, there's illustrations from the book The Little Prince, there's Orko from He-Man, and even in this stuff, I can start seeing some patterns of the hiddenness. I like illustration that is almost like an illusion of I'm drawing what's not there. I like all of that stuff. I like how that stuff makes you feel. A lot of this stuff is really lush. There's a lot of floral organic growing, life bursting at the seams. It's busy, but with simple parts, you want to be as as brutally honest as possible about what really, really does it for you and put it on that board. For the next board, it's your experiments. This board is just going to be made up of your work. I wanted to highlight things where I tried something new or something unexpected happen, and I started to go back through all of the stuff that I made and try to pick up on things when I remembered , I didn't expect that or that was a complete accident. For instance, this is a piece where I was drawing this little bear, chilling, having a cup of coffee, and I wanted to draw him just listening to records. So this is where I attempted something different of, what would it look like if you drew sound? That ended up working so well that I ended up carrying that into a bunch of stuff of how do you draw what something feels like? Something sounds like? Something smells like? How do you represent that? There's all kinds of little bits and pieces here that carried on. This is an experiment that actually was client work for Amazon. They wanted me to do my work, but they needed it to be in Illustrator instead of Photoshop, but they still wanted my textures. This is what I had to fumble around in the dark and see how could I replicate what I was doing in Photoshop, but in Illustrator. But actually, something totally unexpected and different happened. It had a totally new field for me that was slicker and unexpected, and I ended up using that same tool. I liked it so much. We did it for YouTube, and https://www.warbyparker.com/, and all kinds of other projects, where I used that same texture technique. Let's do the last board. We'll talk about your experiences. On these, I started to think about where I grew up and what things happened in childhood that made a big impact on me. Right here, we have this cornfield from Indiana. I love the cornfield because there's this sense of mystery. If you're a little kid running through a cornfield, you can't barely see three feet in front of you. We'd play hide and seek in those cornfields and you wouldn't know if your friend was five feet away or 30 feet away. Another one is, I really like this tower. It's called Emley Moor Masts. When I lived in England for five years, I lived out in the fields of Thurstonland, and I was out running, and I had this idea to go run towards this tower. It was like an epic journey. It was like Lord of the Rings or something. I've got to go to the tower. I ended getting super lost and informed a bunch of different analogies and thoughts. But it's also just the epic vibe which you now see in my work all the time. That's just getting started. Like I suggest going much further than that, add a bunch of stuff where it's an intuitive feeling and you can't explain it. The whole point of these boards as you don't know why you're putting them there. Once you've done that, we get to the real fun part. This is where you start having some breakthroughs. We're going to play detective and start searching for patterns, searching for through lines of all these disparate dots. 6. Exercise Two: Find Your Patterns: You gathered a bunch of data points, now we actually need to analyze the data. We need to go back through those boards and use our critical minds to start recognizing patterns. Don't worry about what they mean at the start. In your master board, our final pen board, we're going to start adding things that hopefully start drawing some conclusions about our core values that make up our style. You're trying to figure out, what's the code here? What is your definition of good? When you start understanding that definition, it's so much easier to hit a target you can see. So that's what we're trying to do. Let's get in here. I find it helpful to not just keep all this stuff in your head, but let's actually write it down. To get working on your master board, we actually got to go back through the previous boards and just one by one, take these things and do a deeper dive into what you like about and why you put them down. Let's just start using descriptive ideas. These can be aesthetic things, practical things, but they can also just be thematic or intuitive things. But anything you think about, why did you put this down, list and write it down. Here's this ADHD piece. I like it because it makes me feel seen. It tells me something about me that I hadn't been able to articulate. I like that it's celebrating different ways of thinking. I also like that it's illuminating or illustrating an abstract idea in a finite way. Making something that is hard to see, much more visible. Go into another board and start poke and add it here. Go to my experiences. Let's go back to this corn field. I like that there's a mystery to this. I think that's interesting too because the only reason a photo of a corn field is mysterious to me is because that was an experience I had. If you'd never ran through a corn field, if you never had those experiences, then that's not going to impact you. It's going to look so mundane. It's familiar, feels like home, reminds me of childhood. A lot of nostalgia throughout the stuff that I make and actually that's a core value that ended up informing, focusing on kids illustration is that I don't know if it's arrested development or what but there's something about me that is just like a big kid and I noticed that. I think before I started doing these boards and research in this stuff, I was thinking, "I don't have a target market. My works for anybody." But after seeing some of these patterns and realizing like, "Man, childhood just comes up over and over again in a abnormal amount," that started to inform my style. Yeah, you can go back through each of these pieces, especially ones that really stand out for you and just write down five to 10 things of trying to pinpoint what is it about this that hits me on a visceral level. I went ahead and made a few lists for individual pieces from different board that stuck out to me. The more you can do, the better and the more things you can list and really push yourself into thinking, "Why is it? What do I like about this? What's the thing about this that in particular is setting off those internal taste buds?" As you go back through to make this master list, you can start seeing things that maybe you didn't see before. It can be as simple as like surface level stuff. For instance, over and over, I'm seeing this flat color thing happen. I'm also seeing something that I haven't even really thought about until recently which is this simple but busy. It's like a minimalism, maximalism thing happening. It's where this complex image because there's so many things going on, but if you break it down into individual pieces, each drawing, each character, each piece is actually really minimal and stylized and pared back. So there's this studying some of my influences stuff for my taste board, things like Alexander Girard,. He was a mid-century modern illustrator and designer, but he was known for pioneering, taking minimalism to the max and I think that that's what I loved about his work. I'm seeing that over and over. I love all this busy composition made of simple things, made of flat color, but then you dive a little bit deeper, you start seeing things like mystery comes up almost every time, hidden things. We're going to see and reminds me a childhood a lot. There's a lot of that stuff going on, the nostalgic stuff. There's a connection there. Then another big one is these different personalities celebrating different ways of thinking. There's something about even from a young age, I liked a diverse range of characters. There was something about that that made me feel at home, which again, like we said, style is making work that makes you feel like you're at home, you're comfortable, you're in your zone of genius. There's something about it that over and over I'm seeing like, I like diversity in these pictures. Then you can start constructing your master board, one board to rule all pen boards. What you want to do is, as you notice those core patterns, start picking out images from previous boards that really exemplify those core values, and you can even add some new images that really embody those patterns that you're noticing, for instance, celebrating different ways of thinking or neurodiversity or diverse personalities. I added images of the Muppets where it has a big group photo or Barbapapa. I like this one because multiple of the patterns show up in this piece. So we had the flat color, we have the maximal meets minimal, we also have the diverse range of characters. As you start noticing those patterns, pick images from previous boards and totally new images that really embody those patterns that you're noticing. Once you start noticing the patterns, you're going to start combing through Pinterest and life and new pieces of art and books so differently. Your metal detector is going to be calibrated to notice those new pieces of influence and inspiration like never before. Next up, we're going to get to the good part. We're going to take all this research and thinking and make some stuff, put it all together on the page with our work. But first, let's take a little detour. 7. A Cosmic Minute: Part II: I want to talk a little bit about why it's so important not to do all the work in your head, but to do the work on the page before you're ready. The reason is, one of the key ingredients to finding your style is failure. Doing things before you're ready, ensures that its going to go wrong and that's what we want. We want mistakes, we want accidents, we want things we didn't expect. Creativity is a lot about going places you didn't intend to go, starting without knowing where it's going to end up. It reminds me of superheroes. Like, what's the difference between super farm hand, Smallville, Clark Kent, high school guy was bumbling, awkward, but he's pretty good at bailing hay. What's the difference between that, and then Superman, the movies? Well, I think the obvious answer is superpowers. Like Smallville Clark Kent, can't even fly. But the truth is they have the same superpowers. What they don't have the same of is self-knowledge. Maybe self-knowledge is the real superpower. But how does Clark Kent figure out that he can fly? Well, he doesn't do it by sitting in his bedroom and brooding and thinking, who am I? What am I capable of now? He doesn't do it by sitting in a guidance counselor's office doing a career aptitude test. That test there, it wasn't designed to pick up on the uniqueness that is Clark Kent or you for that matter. No, the way that he figures out that he can fly is that, he goes out there. He tries to use his powers in real time, fight bad guys and whoops, well what happened? He falls off a building only to discover that he's built for flight. It's in those moments under extreme pressure, trying to perform, trying to do something that we find what we're capable of. It reminds me of how the Higgs boson we have to take this huge giant machine and put molecules under extreme pressure to really see what they're made of. So finding your style and finding who you are, it's not going to happen in a little safe environment where you're alone in your room experimenting, you've got to try things, fail things, make terrible drawings, put them out there, see what happens. Through that process, if you string enough of those failures together, you're going to find some success. 8. Exercise Three: You on a Plate: From working with creative people, I hear the same thing over and over. It's this idea of, should I play into this part of me or should I play into that part of me? These things seem like they're contradictions. We go to these places in our creative career where we're constantly feeling like we're in a fork and a road, do I pick photography or design? Do I like the maximal or the minimal? Do I like this influence or that? I always say, "Yes, both." Because all creativity is combinatorial. It's the art of mashing those things together, finding those connections, bridging those gaps. For instance, one of my favorite bands is the 1975, and they make the weirdest connections. The first time I heard one of their songs it sounded like emo pop punk mixed with Sigur Ros. Once it was down on the same page, it was like, of course, that makes total sense. But before that, if you said, should anybody do a dashboard confessional song that sounds like Sigur Ros? I would have said that there's no way those things can go together. Yet they put in the work to combine those forces to create a new thing. Every time you run into what seems like a contradiction, see it as an opportunity for connection, and that's what we're going to do. We're going to take all of those individual pieces, all those core values, all those patterns. We're going to try to force them down on the page together at the same time. It's going to be uncomfortable, it's going to be messy, but it's also going to be great. One of my favorite creatives, a creative hero of mine is Gordon Ramsay, and I watched all his programs, Hell's Kitchen, and Kitchen Nightmares, and MasterChef. He kept saying the same phrase, called "You on a plate." He's always encouraging the chefs to put themselves onto the plate. For the longest time it was just white noise I didn't really think about it. But eventually, I realized he's saying, you know that bag of contradictions that's you, that has these experiences, and these tastes, and these things that don't seem to go together, they go together in you. You'd see these people that were like, "Should I make down to earth country food since I'm from the South, or should I play to my fine dining taste?" He would say, "Yes, how can you elevate that country food? How can you fuse those things?" When you do that, that's you on a plate. This exercise is about fusing connections of all those contradictions inside of you. You know I'm not a big fan of doing all this work on the inside. We got to get it out of ourselves onto the table. How are we going to do that? Well, I'm glad you asked. I just happened to make these cute little dice for such an occasion. These are the "You on a plate dice" and you can actually download them and print them out from the class resources. Each side has a different thing that can reference something from your boards, your identity, your building blocks of your style. All right, so we're just going to toss these down and see what happens. All right, we've got six-year-old tattoo with family history. Now in the class resources in the download, they're going to tell you what each of these means exactly. But six-year-old tattoo is one of my favorites. It's this idea of if your six-year-old self got a tattoo that you like today, what would it be? For me, it might be a dragon. I still like dragons today I still draw them all the time and then family history, choose a core memory and mash that up with a dragon. It sounds crazy, but I probably have drawn that before. All right, let's throw another one. This is good, guilty pleasure and your past. That actually reminds me of a piece that I did which was an early combinatorial, creative fusion of all these patterns that I was seeing, my past, I did a portrait. It's a fantastical portrait of my mom and she's a big smoker. I did this character, this giant figure of my mom who's smoking, and the giant figure that's dwarfing all these other characters is talking about how she had a disproportionate effect on me in my past. Mixed with guilty pleasures, fragile rock isn't necessarily a guilty pleasure, but it is an obscure unorthodox inspiration for modern illustration. I took that past and I mixed it with the organic characters. Actually, that's a really good example because these are really great for starting to think about the intentional mashups and enforced connections. But don't forget as you're going along to let those core values from your master board be your guide. Try to get those into as many of the new pieces that you're making as possible. This example of this piece about my mom, that I'm mashing up with fragile rock. I remember that was really me trying to get one of my classic inspirations, Alexander Gerard, which is mid-century modern clean aesthetic with the fragile rock, organic, natural, zany characters thing. I remember, I kept struggling with, do I want to make this mid-century modern stuff or do I want to make this floral, organic, natural, a little bit grittier stuff? At some point I was like, you know what, I'm going to try to do both at the same time and I don't care if it's just the ugliest thing ever. I've got to try to make it happen. Now looking back, I can see that I also had other things for my master board of this diverse cast of characters. There's 30 characters in this piece of work and a simple flat colors. At the time, it felt so experimental. I thought there's no way this is going to be good. I spent a lot of time on that piece all the while in the back of my mind thinking this is going to be a waste only to find out it became a pivotal piece and it informed almost everything I did after that. Have some fun, force some connections, but don't forget to embed some of those deeper core values into these combinatorial creations. When you're forcing some of these connections, they can be little sketches, they can be miniature, little vignettes, little tiny pieces, little explorations. If you're a musician, they might just be a little chorus or a lyric. But after you've piled together a few of those combinations go ahead and make a finished product that embodies some of the good things that are happening in those explorations. Now, these combinatorial creations, this piece of work where you've mashed up all of these core values, that piece is you on a plate. If you're brave enough and you want to show the world, you want to play it, go ahead and share one of those pieces in the project gallery. Next step, let's populate your world. 9. Exercise Four: Populate Your World: I love this story. It's a classic myth in the creative world. This idea that Picasso was selling these drawings for $100 each. These little tiny drawings that he was doing on the fly. He draws this little fang, and the guy's like, what? That costs 100 bucks? That took you five seconds. He said, "That drawing took me my entire life." He chase this idea that, an artist in their flow state, they're grabbing all of these references from all the things that they've ever made. You can do that on accident or you can do it on purpose by just isolating individual things, applying your core values and, then reaching for those things whenever you want. This exercise is all about populating your world. Instead of thinking about, all the time to create my world and draw everything at one time. There's actually a lot of value in isolating individual pieces that you can reference later. For instance, when I draw a shoe, I don't think, how should I draw this shoe? No. I think, how do I draw shoes? I just do it, without thinking, and that means I can draw 50 characters very quickly because I have all of these little patterns and things, and I can isolate those micro decisions to the ones that are relevant to this new piece of work. I did an interview with one of my favorite musicians, Yoni Wolf of the band Why? He said that when you're making a song, it's a tree where each individual choice is another branch and all those little binary choices of this note versus that note, or this drum kit versus that drum kit, or that word versus this word, each one of these micro decisions and your style influences all of those things. But also if you start populating your world, if you start making micro pieces of work that add up over time, a lot of those small, insignificant decisions can be made before you even get started, and you can focus on the important aspects of this new piece of work. One of my favorite examples of this is the Muppets. When the Muppet Show hit the TV screen, it seemed this crazy, deep, diverse group of characters that were all three-dimensional. It just seemed like the work of a super genius. How did you come up with this TV show? But the truth is, James Hansen didn't come up with all Fozzie, and Piggy, and Gonzo, all just at the same time making this show. He had already populated this world through the ads that he was making over the years. He had made all these individual little short films that were ads for other products with all these characters, and over time, picked and choosed which ones felt basket and which ones hit the core guidelines right. Then he put that cast together and it seemed magic. That's what we're going to do today. Instead of taking on the mammoth project of making a masterpiece illustration, or a masterpiece of a book, or a film, we're going to take and make just little scenes, or little lyrical explorations, or little small individually illustrations, and then add them up over time. I want to talk about a project where I got to watch a style developing real time in a literal vacuum. It was a project called Color Me, it's a project idea with a close friend of mine, Andrew nightmare, where we drew a massive mural that was black and white, that could be colored in by the public. Then my buddy, Andrew, who is a product designer, created this giant five-foot marker for people to come color in this mural in real time as the exhibition opened. What was amazing about it from the perspective of style was that it started out similar to our last exploration, the You Want To Play, where it was me and Andrew styles. The first mural we did was just a doodle mashup. It was just my drawing and his drawing. We weren't really totally happy with that first crude version. It felt like two people. It didn't feel us together. Just like that, I want you to take those You Want To Play explorations and I want you to start identifying what works about less mashups and what doesn't work. You can create a little list. These can be your rules, your guidelines. You've heard it said that to be creative is to think outside the box, and I disagree with that. I think it's more about creating your own box, your own set of constraints. Those constraints are what become your style. We looked at that crude doodle mashup and we started to pick out things that we really liked and created our own system of rules. These guidelines became what made our style. One of them was we liked these markers that we were using. When we first did it, we just went at it, willy nilly, no rules, but what we noticed as if you used it consistently from one edge, you could get a uniform line. So that became our first rule. The next thing we noticed was we did it like any cross hatch, what we liked was creating visual grays with perfect circles. So that became a new rule. If you want to create a gray tone, don't do it with crosshatch, don't do know a scribbling, do it with a halftone circle pattern. We liked when lines ended perfectly, either flat or with a perfect circle edge. All of those rules became what guided us into our next shows, which became a practice of populating our world. Here's what we did. The next show that we did, we decided we're not going to make a huge scene like we did before. We're just going to focus on individual items, like a sticker sheet, and we'll apply these ideas, these rules to individual things. We'll say, using only flat, consistent lines, what does a shoe look like in this world? You can see with the marker, I'm going around the edges so that it's a consistent line weight. We might say, in this world, we're asking ourselves questions, what kind of dimensionality do we have in there? How do we draw laces? Well, if we're going to use that thick line, that determines that the laces just have to be a line. They can't be as shape. Then we thought, well, what happens if we want to add some visual grays? We can't just crosshatch because we don't like the messiness of that. We didn't feel that worked in the mashup. We actually want to create a halftone pattern, where we're taking this marker, we're spinning it round to create these little perfect circles wherever we want to add some gray. Then we say, well, how do we want lines to end? We said we had to end lines with either a perfect flat line or a perfectly rounded cap. That's what a shoe looks in that world. We just created these like a sticker sheet. Let's do one more. One of my favorite things that we created that we ended up putting in a few of these murals for some reason is a sword toothpick with an olive on it. We like how this sword is just represented with a thick line. That fits within the rules, we like this slight, forced dimensionality. Then we actually had a decently and long conversation about do we break the rules or not? Should the sword end flat or should it end with a curve? Neither of those feel right. Let's make an exception to the rule. Add an addendum to our style guide. We actually said, you know what? It's okay if this ends with a point, and we added that into our guidelines as we went along. As you start populating this world, you're going to find things that you need to address, and once you address them, you don't ever after address them again in any future piece if you don't want to. You can just grab those things willy nilly. What happens as we end up doing a bunch of shows where we're just doing these individuals sticker sheet floating items, and eventually, we feel like, you know what? Let's go back to a full scene. Let's make a mural that's a proper piece of work, and we will pull from all of the shoes, and the jeans, and the cheeseburgers, and the windows and all of the things from the world, and make this giant piece of artwork that feels cohesive. It doesn't feel him, it didn't feel me, it felt like its own style. Within the laboratory of the art gallery on these white walls, that virtual vacuum, we saw it go from a crude mashup to a populating the world, to a final style in real time. What you're going to want to do is go back to those you want to play crude mashups, comb through there and see what things you liked and start listing out those as rules. Then as you're populating your world, you're going to run into all kinds of new problems that you hadn't solved in those roles, or addressed, and you're going to start creating exceptions to the rules or new rules altogether, and add those to your guidelines. If you're a musician, this might look like Modest Mouse's first album. It's called Sad Sappy Sucker. I love it. A lot of those songs, they're less than a minute long. They were recorded of him just calling a voicemail and playing the song. They're just little explorations of this sound or these rules, and you can actually hear some of their style components coming across in how they do guitars, and how they do drums, and some of his little lyrical tricks that he does from time to time. You can hear them individually in those tracks, that he goes back later and uses in bigger pieces of work. For the Color Me project and the [inaudible] project, we made literally hundreds of these individual pieces. But you don't have to do that yet. Maybe just start with ford and nine of these things. If you want to do a few extra, that's even better because you want to take the pressure of each individual item. You want to feel free to mess around and make some mistakes, and eventually, we're going to come back through here and pick our favorites for the next activity.f 10. Exercise Five: Create Your Style Key: Now it's time to put all those individual pieces from where you populated your world together into one master piece. We're going to take all those pieces, and put them together, to create your own style guide. This is your personal cheat sheets so you can reference at any time and remember, oh yeah, I do that thing, I do this thing, these are my rules, these are my guidelines before you go to create because it's so hard to keep all of this stuff in your head as you're going along. So take all those things that you did, those individual pieces. Here's some of my individual pieces from my node project. I made 260 of these and we ended up screen printing them all. It was a mistake, it was a huge undertaking, but I'm happy that we have them now. We're just going to take your favorite things, from populating your world. We're going to put them into the same thing. If you're a musician, you can take all those vignettes and make an album. Jim Hansen, before all them up at success, made this short film, I believe it was an Oscar winner called Timepiece. It was just things like, what would it look like if I shot a guy hand gliding in my style, what would it look like if I shot clock falling into mud in my style? It was all these disparate parts, and he just crammed together into one piece and called it a short film that was super abstract. But if you watch that short film, you can see all of the style choices that go on to create the through line of the Hansen style through his directing and writing over the years. After I'd done this daily drawing project, these characters started to become reoccurring characters in all of my work, and they started to have these new meanings. I started do attribute these abstract, invisible ideas to the individual characters. One was hope, and another one's melancholy, and another one was a dream. I started putting all of these things into my work on a regular basis, and for me personally as an artist, I was , "Man, this is what I love, this is what I'm all about. I love how this is going, but I don't feel like anybody else was picking up on the vision of what these characters were, or what I was trying to do, or noticing that through line." Eventually years into this, I got really frustrated. I was just like, "Okay, nobody gets these invisible things, I'm constantly talking about how I'm all about drawing invisible things and it's just not clicking or nobody cares or I don't know," and I just was I had enough and I thought, "You know what? I'm going to create a visual key to understanding my work." Something people can reference and be like, "Oh, okay, that's what that is, that's what he's trying to do." Just hit him over the head with it, and I'll do this piece and then maybe I'll just move on from it, and so what I did, was I took all these individual characters and I put them all together, and boom, put them together in this frustrated flurry, and I put it out there online, and was like, "This is it, this is what my work is about. These are the invisible things." I figured, all right, that'll be, and maybe I just won't make this work anymore. To my surprise, this little style guide, this reference cheat sheet for myself in this key to my style, ended up going viral on Twitter. I got something like 60,000 likes, and 25,000 retweets and, went all over Instagram and lead to all kinds of new opportunities, that I'm not even at liberty to discuss at this minute, but this piece, this process have really articulating, this is what my work is about, not just myself but to the public, it became a press release for understanding my work. I can see the obsession with the hidden things in this guts character where his guts are visible through him, and I can see that the fear and the heebei-jeebeis of that hidden worlds right beneath the scenes, I can see that neurodiversity, the cast of characters, the celebration of all these different types of people. I can see the flat color, I can see the simple shapes. I feel like there's this cliche of them, mysterious artist and, don't give away your secrets and make sure you keep all of your genius and a shroud of abstraction. But I feel like there's, that's what leads to people being misunderstood in their own time, and at best their work being discovered after the artist has passed on, and I think that, let's not do that. Let's not be that artists, let's do the work forearm, shown what your work's all about both so that you have a visual reference that you can go back to, and also so that people can start engaging with your work, and noticing this continuity throughout all of your practice. So what exactly should you do? Well, if you're visual artists like me, it might be a visual key like this. If you're a writer, it might be a collection of little explorations and short stories, and example of this is Jenny Slate, the comedian just put out a little book called Little Weirds. It's just a bunch of random little ideas, little vignettes, little short stories all compiled into one piece, a book. Or if you want, you can do a visual reference info graphic like I did here, with whatever medium you choose. I did this for Wes Anderson, and these are just little style guide cheat sheets for those artists of the style points that we know and love them by. This moment was a decade in the making. It didn't happen overnight, it didn't happen with one little experiment, one little piece, one little mashup. This is the product of a style emerging over time through a history of making stuff. The whole reason I made this class, is that we could condense this ideas down and codify them into a framework that would mean that it wouldn't take you a decade to find your style. I hope with each individual exercise, and all of these pieces laid out, that you can do this process in a much more efficient manner than I ever did. 11. A Cosmic Minute: Part III: When I was preparing for this class, I started looking back over the journey of finding my style. I went back to an early video of when I first started my daily drawing project where everything started to come together for the first time. This video is almost a decade old and it's uncomfortable. I think everybody feels a little bit uncomfortable watching a past version of themselves, but it was especially uncomfortable because I feel like if I told you that this person was my cousin Bruce, who's insecure and doesn't really know who they are. They're not comfortable in their own skin. That would be more believable than saying, "Oh, that's just me from 10 years ago." This invoked researching who I am, what I love, and what meaningful experiences I've had in things that have shaped me. That's a little bit uncomfortable. But the thing I was struck by most was that in that video, I was saying everything that became invisible, things that became the poster that I did ten years later that broke open all kinds of stuff for my creative career. I'm looking at this person, I'm thinking, you already have it. You already have the gift, you already have everything that you're looking for right there. You said everything besides calling it invisible things you're like, "Come on, just go pass the finish line. Why do you have to spend a decade working this out and going on this journey and struggling blood, sweat, and tears with this thing?" But then I thought about how you never feel that way at the end of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, you never feel like that about Dorothy when she finds that she had the ruby red slippers the whole time, she had the power to go find home that whole time. I thought, why don't you feel that way? Why does it still feel satisfying? Why are you glad that this character went through the struggle and went through the journey? Then I realized that the journey isn't about finding the gift, it's not about finding what you don't have. This process of finding your style, it's not about going out there and attaining something that's outside of your grasp. The journey and the struggle is about finding what you already have. It's about becoming the vessel that can contain the gift that is within you. I feel like looking back at this past version of me, I was right. I was like Agent J, Will Smith in Men in Black, they had the little tiny universe that they were trying to find and protect in their possession the whole time. He had it. But he had to put in the work, he had to put in the time to find out what it is he had. 12. Final Thoughts: Congrats, you did it. You found yourself, right? Wrong. You did do it and I am super pumped you went through this, but don't forget, these are tools you can go back to over and over. This is a prequel, and a sequel, and a trilogy. These are tools you can use for the rest of your creative journey to dig deeper and deeper and find more and more layers of the infinite being that you are as a creative person. Share your journey with us in the project gallery. I want to see what you look like on a plate, on a page. I want to see you embedded into your work. Thank you for going on this journey and I'm so pumped for the world to see who you are.