10 Steps to Boosting Your Artwork to the Next Level | Brad Woodard | Skillshare

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10 Steps to Boosting Your Artwork to the Next Level

teacher avatar Brad Woodard, Illustrator + Graphic Designer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      1. Establish Your Goals and Passions


    • 3.

      2. Broaden Your Pool of Inspiration


    • 4.

      3. Collaborate with Talented People


    • 5.

      4. Set Rules and Limitations


    • 6.

      5. Work in a Series


    • 7.

      6. Write and Teach


    • 8.

      7. Experiment and Play


    • 9.

      8. Understand the Basics


    • 10.

      9. Be a Student


    • 11.

      10. Address Your Weaknesses


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About This Class

Looking to enhance or find your personal style? Want to land that dream job? Want to work on more exciting projects? 

In just 50 minutes Brad Woodard, professional illustrator and graphic designer, will share the same steps he followed that led him to co-found Brave the Woods within only two years of working professionally and create work for clients like Ebay, Microsoft, Target, and USPS.

Nothing replaces mileage, but you can get to where you want in your creative career, quicker if you follow these simple steps to success. 

*This is mainly talking head style with a few visuals, in a digestible format. Perfect for listening while you continue to work. Though it is a lecture style, you still have actionable tasks you can take from each step!*

What makes this class special?

  • Every step comes with an actionable task to help you see quicker results and track your progress.
  • Included are downloadable cheat sheets and worksheets to aid you.
  • The class is under an hour long and could be listened to while you are at work. 
  • You are getting access to content Brad generally saves for his lectures.

Who is this class for and what do you need?

  • Any and all creatives welcome! All skill levels!
  • You only need a healthy drive to make your creative goals happen. 


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Brad Woodard

Illustrator + Graphic Designer



I am a graphic designer and illustrator raised in the Great Northwest, now living in Boise, Idaho with my wife and two little kids. After graduating with a BFA in graphic design, I started my career as an information designer and illustrator at Column Five Media. The digital illustration courses I took in college paid off, as I found that more and more clients were requesting illustration work in their designs. Merging both skills together I have been able attract all types of work, including my work in advertising at Arnold Worldwide.

Now, my wife and I run our own design and illustration studio full-time, named Brave the Woods. We also started the company Artists for Education, which brings artists together to create beautifully designed, educational artwo... See full profile

Related Skills

Art Illustration Creative
Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, my name is Brad Woodard. I'm a professional Graphic Designer and Illustrator living and working in Boise, Idaho. To be a successful artists it takes a whole lot of hard work, a lot of practice, and the ability to grow. The hard work part, it's always going to be there. There's nothing that can replace mileage, but many of us are working hard without having clear goals to work towards. In this course, I want to teach you how to work both hard and smart. Just two years after I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design, I went ahead and co-founded my own design and illustration studio called Brave The Woods with my wife Crystal. We've been successfully growing it and running it for five years now, working with clients like Microsoft, eBay, Target, USPS. But now I want to help you boost your own creative career by sharing with you the top 10 steps that I took to take my own artwork to the next level. Now after each step, I'm going to leave you with actionable advice, accessible tasks that you can do so that you can see and mark your own progress. It doesn't matter where you are in your creative journey if you're just starting out about to graduate college or if you are 10,20 years into your professional career. This course is going to help you see tangible growth in your personal style and in your creative career. 2. 1. Establish Your Goals and Passions: The very first step has to be making goals. You have to know where you're going and no goal should be made without first understanding what your passions are because you want your passions and your goals to align, because obviously when you're more passionate about something, you're going to invest more time and energy into. You're going to try a whole lot harder and you're going to have better work as a result. But the problem is a lot of us don't plan ahead, and then we end up finding ourselves working at a job that we don't like or we find ourselves doing too much of this one style and we are like this is only style I know how to work in and it's nothing as being requested from my clients and you don't really know how to work out of that [inaudible]. A lot of that's just from not planning ahead, but you can of course correct. I had to do the same thing when I first got out of college. I started working with infographics, I worked at Column Five, did tons and tons of infographics. Infographics were all the craze and I loved it as a great part of my career, but I wanted to also move on to other things. I noticed it was very hard to get out of infographics, because everybody that was requesting work from me from the outside, I'll still have my full-time job and all my freelance clients were asking me for infographic work. It was really hard to get out of it because that's all I had in my portfolio. You don't want to be going down 5,10 years down your career and have that same moment where you're like, this is all I have in my portfolio, but I want to do something very different. Hopefully, the nine steps coming after this, as part of this course, should help you solve that problem. You can course correct no matter where you're at. We're going to go back to the goals. The best way to setting your goals is by setting smart goals. Smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. If your goal is none of these things, then you might as well just take a coin out of your pocket, check it into a pawn and just wished that it happens. I had a goal for a really long time. I wanted to illustrate a children's book. Let's look at our acronym to see how that was a smart goal. Is it specific, yes. I wanted to illustrate a children's book. Is it measurable? Yes. If I illustrated a children's book, it is measurable. Is it attainable? Yes. Actually, I illustrated my very first children's book because my wife wrote it and then we put it up on Kickstarter and self-published it, and we made it happen. So it is an attainable goal. Was it irrelevant? Yes. It aligned with my passions. I love creating artwork for kids, and my stuff was perfect for children's books, the stuff that I loved, and yes, it was definitely relevant for what my passions were. Is it time-bound. Yes. We did it in response to Typhoon Haiyan, a big Typhoon that hit the Philippines a while back and we wanted to help get clean water to some areas. The proceeds from the book went to helping those people get clean water. We did have a timeline and we wanted to have it happen pretty quickly. So we did it in under a year and we set the deadline, and then we went ahead and made milestones to get there. For you, once you have your goals, you want to make sure you post them somewhere, put on your computer, post on your wall, share with your friends, your family, social media, anything like that. Make sure they're written down and that you have them to look at and to frequently check-in on and follow up on those milestones. It holds you accountable if you're sharing with the world. Everybody else has already seen what you want to do and they're going to be anxious to see if you do it. So it forces you to do it. Now let's talk about what your task is. What's the very first task that you can do? How can you do this? Figure out your passions and then make some goals. To help you out, I've made some worksheets that you can download and that you can fill out. For example, for your passions, to figure that out, I'm going to ask you questions like, if money was not an option, what would you do for a living? Or what do people say you're good at? Is there anything you do that makes you really, really happy? What are some of your philosophies or values? Things like those are going to help you. If you start answering those, you're going to start narrowing down on what really makes you happy, what your real passions are. You need to start making some goals on how to attain them and start setting milestones. I'll have it set up so that you have a worksheet full of milestones that have a plan. So you can write down what you want to do, what the milestone is, what the plan is and what the completion date is and then it goes on. You can set multiple milestones before you reach the final deadline of reaching your goal. Take time, look at that. Take a look at the worksheets and go make it happen, make some goals. 3. 2. Broaden Your Pool of Inspiration: The number one question that I get asked by people is, where do you get your inspiration? Who inspires you? I have a love hate relationship with that question. It's innocent and I understand exactly why they're asking it, but it's a really hard one to answer. Maybe that's why I don't like it. It's because, inspiration shouldn't come from one source or just a few sources. It shouldn't be just one artist that inspires you or one era or one project or one experiences should be all of those things. You should be inspired by lots of things and then find out how to incorporate those into your art. It's a really hard one to answer. It got me thinking and this is what I wanted to share with you as the second step is have your artwork being inspired by lots and lots of different sources. I mean, we think that's easy, but when you're starting out and your in college, you tend to focus on specific era or a specific artist and you start making your work with them. The problem is that back then you understand that you're learning and you're trying to figure it out. But you can see when you're looking at your work you are, "wow, that was heavily inspired by this artist or that era." You know exactly where it came from, one or two different sources, but you pretty much know where it's at. When I'm creating the artwork I do now I hope people are looking at me like, "oh wow, that has a feeling of this, and a little bit of that. I wonder why they put this color in there." There's all these different inspirations, it elevates my work because it makes it more unique. I don't want to be the knock-off brand of someone else's work. I don't want to be the marshmallow mentees to someone else's lucky charms, if I can use my serial references? You want to be creating work that's unique and that takes lots of inspiration from multiple sources. I was born in West Virginia and then we moved to Seattle when I was really young. Every summer we still went back and visited my grandma and grandpa at their farmhouse. I stayed in my uncle's bedroom that was still decorated like it was from the sixties. That was an experience that really shaped the style that I work in right now. You can tell that I love that mid-century era. I love when there's bright, bold colors and shapes. I'm really drawn to that and I feel like it came from all of those days that I would spend in his bedroom. He had all the erector sets, he had all of the old science books and Hardy Boys books, all that stuff. I was very inspired by that. Another thing that was inspired by I was, I lived in the Philippines for a couple of years. All of the colors that they had there, all the fruit was super bright and vibrant and all the green, the jungle, canopy, how was the blue on the ocean and everybody's clothes were bright colors and other gamines and transportation, we're brightly colored. I feel like a lot of the color that I bring into my art was highly inspired by that. What I'm trying to say is be inspired by more than just what you see on your screens. Looking at your screen too can be depressing. It's dangerous. You can get to those downward spirals where you're just looking at other people's work and you're consuming more and producing less and you're feeling down about your abilities and what not. Get out of your office and get some experiences, you can pull from your past or you can create new ones. That's what leads me to your task for this step. Your task is to get away and go on a trip once a week. Try it, once a week. Now your trip doesn't have to be across the world. It just has to be away from your computer and out of your office. Take a trip to the antique store. I love doing that. I get to look at what was made, I get to look cool labels, antique stores and awesome ones. Go to a museum, go to a science center, go to an art gallery, go to a convention, go to a lecture. There's so many different places that you can go outside of your computer that will create an awesome experience and a great source of inspiration for you. Your task is to get away from your computer and go on a trip once a week, try it out. 4. 3. Collaborate with Talented People: One of the best ways I've found to elevate my own artwork is by working with super talented, smart people, by collaborating, becoming friends with, surrounding myself with all these smart people. You can surround yourself with stupid people and look really smart or you can surround yourself with super-smart people and make yourself even smarter. So when you're collaborating with people, you're looking into their process, you're forced to meld in your two processes together. You have to teachers, you have to listen to theirs. It's a process where you can grow quite a bit with your own style and you can create something that you never would have thought possible by yourself, which is really, really neat or went in a direction that you didn't completely plan because you have someone else's input. I know that was like my least favorite thing in school, because I really didn't want anybody else's input. I didn't want anybody working on a project with me. But as I've matured, I found that working with people with complementary skills is a huge asset not just to the project itself, but to my own skills and growth. So collaborating with people super important. I collaborated with my good friend Dustin Lee at RetroSupply. We work on projects like we've created lots of digital brushes and we've had to reinvent a different way to sell these brushes that made more sense to the buyer, is more valuable to the buyer. He brought the skills of being able to make the tools, but also be able to market them. Whereas I was able to present them in a way that was appealing with the artwork and then also be able to teach how to use them. So we'd been doing lots of them. We do other things like webinars, but that has really helped me grow in my career as well. You can collaborate with your clients. I highly recommend if you have clients and you treat them like they are a collaborative partner, that you will have a much better experience with the projects that you do with them. A lot of times we like to say, play God as the creative and say this is how it's going to be. I am the one that went to school for this. This is my job. A lot of that is true, but also your client knows who they're working with. They know the project more intimately than you do. They have solutions that could really help you out if you collaborated, or they can just help you out in general. I worked on a book called Oh No, Astro. I did the illustrations for Simon and Schuster. This book, it was my first one that I'd ever illustrated outside of my own self published one. So I was really nervous at creating it, but the client was so awesome in walking me through pacing and where you put the text on the book and how you'd like leave some pages blank or whatever. Lots of different things that I didn't know that they walked me through. If they hadn't have collaborated and helped me or I didn't let them, it would have been a terrible project, but it was awesome. Collaborate with amazing talented smart people, whether it's your client, whether it's a friend, whether it's anyone, make sure that you're collaborating. I promise your work we'll get better. So here's the task, find another smart, talented, hard working person that you can collaborate with and start a project together. It could be a really small one. It can be afterwards. It can be a little side project that you want to do. But just try it out, collaborate with someone and see how it goes. 5. 4. Set Rules and Limitations: The quote, restrictions breed creativity, is probably more relevant now than it ever has been. We live in this technologically advanced digital art age, where we're able to literally dream. Whatever we dream of, we can create, in any dimension, out of any material, with as many colors as we want. We really don't have much holding us back from what we want to create, which I think sometimes can stifle our creativity. I love studying art history, because as an artist, I like to see how things were made before me, and why they made the things that they did. For example, one thing that I love, including in my own artwork, and I like it aesthetically, is the half tone patterns. I really love how that looks and I like how you can get away with doing less colors, using less colors, but still keeping value changes, because I can use this half-tones instead. But that wasn't created as this awesome aesthetic choice to begin with, it was created because of printing limitations. That was a problem that they had to solve, and that wouldn't have come from anything, if they didn't have to solve that problem. We use it as an aesthetics thing, when that was problem-solving then. When I have projects that I start, I try to use self imposed restrictions or rules. Even when it's just my own projects, because when I have billions and billions of possibilities, it's really hard to sit down and focus on one, and who knows if I'm going to create something unique. A lot of times we just fall back to our normal routine, with the normal tools that I like to use, or the normal colors that I like to go with. But when you say things like, on this project, I'm going to say, I'm only going to work in two colors. I have to think of a lot of different things, I'm going to have to say, well, how am I going to balance the artwork, how am I going to keep it feeling not too heavy in this area or whatnot. Or how am I going to be able to let some things stand out. There's a lot of problems now I have to solve, but in doing so, I'm making it a little bit easier on myself, because now there's other things that I have to worry about, all these other color things that I have to worry about during this project, I no longer have to worry about. I just picked my two colors and I'm done. Or I could say, I'm just going to create it in black and white. Or you can limit your tools, you can say, I'm going to paint this whole thing, but I'm going to do it with the toothbrush. I don't see too many people painting with toothbrushes, when you do that, maybe you'll find a cool new technique that you like. You may not use that all the time, but you might find a cool technique and create something new. Or photographers using pinhole cameras and liking the qualities that come from that, creating patterns out of just type. Lots and lots of different things, but creating those can help you solve problems you never thought were there. I think the quote is, necessity is the mother of invention, and I believe that's completely relevant when you're creating artwork. I'll get clients a lot of the times that like to reach out to me and, bless their hearts, they think they're doing me a favor by saying, "be creative as you like, I trust you, just just be creative." I'm like, "Okay. What do you want for this?" They're like, "Don't worry about it, you just be creative, I trust you." As much as I want people to trust me, one, I know that they have something on their mind that they want, and so that's going to come back to bite me later. But also, how do you start something for someone else, when you have nothing to work off of. Even if they just gave me brand colors and then said, this is what I'm thinking, that would help me focus what I'm working on, and make something that can truly solve a problem, that they would need. Otherwise, it's just me creating art for the sake of making art, and not necessarily having any goal for it. I'm going to give you a real easy task for yourself to do, admittedly, this could go along with the other tasks that you have, and you can merge as many of these tasks that you have on this list, from each of these steps. You can merge any of them you want, into one single task, one single project, that's totally fine. I just want you to have the opportunity to try them all out. On your next project, I challenge you to add three self-imposed restrictions. They can be small, they can be big, whatever you want to do, they can be the medium, they can be changing up your tools, or limiting your timeline, making it a quicker deadline. You can limit the amount of colors you want to have on there. Whatever it is, add three of them, and I promise if you do that, your work's going to be more unique, and you're going to discover something new on the next project. Go try it out. 6. 5. Work in a Series : Creating a one-off piece of art is infinitely easier than creating an entire series. You have to take specific elements and repeat them throughout, and sometimes showcase something, like the subject matter in a completely different light throughout a series, which forces you to really learn how to make that one thing. For example, let's say your thing is drawing bears and you're fantastic at drawing bears in this angle, you're like a side profile and you're really good. You really excel at making mountains and you have this beautiful scape. Let's just say it's a painting, and this beautiful painting has bears in the mountains. But, now if you want to be able to, and if you want to really take that to the next level and learn how to really draw bears or learn how to draw landscapes, you wouldn't stick with just that one. Try making it into a series. Let's say now it's down by a stream or now it's by waterfall, or now the bears are in a completely different pose at a different time of day, all of these things are pushing your skills further and further and further, and making you a better artist. Try and taking things from just a single one-off, and try to create an entire series. A few good examples from my own work would be this job I did with Card Nest. We had to do something called the definition card collection. It was a line of children's birthday cards, and each card had to have what the sound the character made and then an interpretation underneath a little definition saying like for the T-Rex, "ROAR" T-Rex for happy birthday, and we had to replicate that, not only that style when I was creating, I created T-Rex first, then I had to make sure that that style worked throughout. They didn't have to be exactly the same, but I wanted to make sure that style worked. That was a challenge in and of itself, recreating that same style and look, with different types of characters, not all animals, one was a robot. Same type of thing when I did the how design awards characters. Each character had to represent a different in-house award or a different design award like in-house, international, self-promotion logos, posters, all of those, and the same thing, I had to replicate a specific style, the same color palette, and everything throughout with different animals in different situations. The book that I did 'Oh No, Astro', I use it as an example because I'm sorry, these are all characters, but for me, I feel like this is most applicable to me as an illustrator. But my book 'Oh no Astro', that I illustrated, I had to take that same character and replicate him throughout in this book, put them in different scenarios, but I also had to change different facial expressions. That was really pushing my abilities as a character illustrator and be able to just like, I can create these one-offs, but being able to put him in different situations, different facial expressions, it was very foreign to me and really pushed my abilities, which helped me grow quite a bit. I just think [inaudible] forces you do account for a lot more things, like you have to think about color harmony, consistency, different perspectives or views. It can really help you extend your skill set and just make you a better artist overall, pushes you out of your comfort zone. The task for this step is to take a piece of art that you already have, you've already made, and then make two more pieces to go along with it to create a series of three pieces of art, and repeating that style, that theme throughout to make it feel consistent. So go try it out. 7. 6. Write and Teach: I love to teach. I love the whole process of figuring out how to organize information in a way that's digestible for anyone who wants to learn. I've had the opportunity to teach in schools, in universities, companies, at conferences, doing lectures, and workshops, all of these different things, and even here on Skillshare, I've taught here for five years, which is still crazy to think. But all of those opportunities have elevated my artistic abilities, just simply because I've had to put so much time into researching how I do the things that I do or researching a specific topic that I want to teach. That whole thing has really helped me get to the point that I am and I'm grateful for it. If you teach, you're preparing content in a way differently than if you were just to make that content. If I'm going to teach something I have to ask myself a whole lot more questions than if I was just to mechanically do it. A lot of times it's really good to if you want to teach, to having somebody else ask you questions about your process as you're doing it. Sometimes you don't really know what you're doing and it's hard to explain it. So if you have someone else asking questions like, "I didn't know that you didn't know how to do that," or "that was a thing that even needed explaining." But oftentimes it does, especially, when I was doing my intro to Illustrator class, I thought these things were just intuitive but they weren't to me either. I just didn't remember that I had to learn them. Teaching is a really neat process and it helps you study and focus. Just like teaching, another part of that I feel just goes hand in hand is writing. Writing is just another way to communicate. So why wouldn't you want to add that to your arsenal. Because when you're an artist, a lot of times you're going to have to explain why you did things and being able to write is a huge, huge boost to you. Being able to explain exactly why you used the colors you did or why you did it in this style or any of that, just trying to explain the piece that you did to other people so they can understand it. But also if you're going to sell it to let's say a client and you're trying to just pitch this idea, being able to write that out and be able to get the words down on paper and articulate exactly what you want is going to be massive for you when you're trying to sell your art. I started a blog right near the end of college in my senior year, as I really wanted to explore the industry that I was going into a little bit more and I wanted to share some ideas that I was learning, I just came out of college, I was super excited about a lot of things, I'd learned, a a lot of things and so I wanted to share it and I even took a bunch of creative writing classes because I wanted to get better at it. After setting up that blog, it wasn't a crazy detailed blog, I just wrote little articles about things that I was passionate about, maybe there's a certain style that I really appreciated, a certain era of art that I really wanted to talk about and my thoughts and opinions on it and I wanted to share that out there. But also if I found other art, I wanted to share what my opinions were of that and why I thought this was good or why this was bad. That process of evaluating something and then finding the words to communicate it really boosted my creative career. I would say it made more connections for me too, because I would interview people in these blogs, I felt they were untouchables, that they were more famous in my mind, these artists. They were very, very talented artists and you'd know all their names today. But me reaching out to them was a stretch. In my blog, I really wanted to learn from these people. It gave me an excuse to, I wrote out some questions that I had for them and they were able to write back and give me some awesome insights into their own process which helped me learn. I was just also able to create a following and people really appreciated that. It also put me in a position where I felt I looked like I was an expert or whatever in that field. Whether I was or not, I still don't feel like I am but I was able to create a lot more followers with my own work, which became really helpful because those artists that I interviewed have now become friends and were fans of my work as I was progressing and I get work from them today. So writing, teaching, all of these things are a great way to communicate with other people and not only sell your own stuff but able to just explain what your own ideas are and your philosophies are, so very beneficial. So your task for this step is to write one article about something that you're passionate about in your creative industry and post it online. 8. 7. Experiment and Play: As long as you're working for other people, not every single project that you do is going to be super fun for you, or something that you're super passionate about. That's okay, unless you're a fine artist where you're creating art for the sake of art, and you're going to have to deal with some clients, and with some projects that you may not typically want to take on. Nothing that you're morally opposed to just projects that you're not super passionate about, and that's why it's so important to find time, to experiment and play, and to really explore what the possibilities are within your own skill set, and but also find what else you're interested in. I worked in multiple places. I worked at a small design firm. I worked at a startup creative agency. I worked at a large ad agency. After all, but I was a designer at every single one of those, so I had to come home, and do the projects that I was really passionate about, and a lot of it turned out to be illustration work. I didn't really know like if I had a style or anything like that, so that stage of experimenting and playing around just for the sake of doing it. When I got home, even though I was burned out from work, it was my outlet, and I would take that time and stay up late working on those. Then it started bringing in client work, for the type of work that I was doing in my free time, so I had to generate some reason for potential clients to come to me and ask me to work in that style, or work on illustration in general because I hadn't done it in my day job. Really important to find times to experiment and play. Now, there's a time within every project I feel like and you can collaborate with, I like to collaborate with my clients because then I can really open up the expectation a little bit of, or let them know that I want to explore a little bit beyond what they're thinking for this project, a lot of clients will come in. They'll say be creative, but a lot of them have a set thing that they want in their mind and they don't let you deviate too much from it. If they're are one of those clients, I like to try to set up a rapport at the beginning with them, so they know that we're pushing ideas back and forth, and this is the process I want to go through. I like to experiment beforehand, so that I can open up and have there's no wrong answers, just explore, and then there's another point after that where you have to just start doing the work. But yes, so play around, one way that I open up and experiment plays, I work with different tools. Sometimes like maybe if I'm always using a paintbrush, maybe like I said, I've talked about a toothbrush, or I use a bigger brush, or use different medium, or work with a different medium, work in different styles, like I said in the last video about my character challenge. I worked on tons of different styles for these characters. The cool thing about it too is, you discover a lot about, like I said what you can do but also, what your preferences are, it's a good way to discover what your style is, what you prefer. For example, I'll keep talking if I don't just get to the point here. On the character challenge for example, I was working in tons of different illustration styles, just trying to figure out, just trying to play around with my characters. No real reason. But what I found was, is that I was doing my eyes, like a lot of times, my first reaction was this type of eye. I noticed that as I did that I noticed other little things that I was doing, I was like, I'm using that color a lot, or I like to do this little outline with black, and just some parts of the illustration. No matter what style I did, I kept introducing that into it and I found those are a little bit of me coming out, that was my style trying to break out. Working in a million different styles didn't stop my style, didn't stunt my style at all. But what it did was is it helped me make it even better, and so I found other things that I can incorporate in that same style that I like to work in, and it was just a really neat idea. Don't be afraid once you start [inaudible] one way in your play time, that don't be afraid just to go chase that and see where it leads. One thing that I started doing a lot of recently in the spirit of exploring and trying different things, is I started doing woodworking, and or woodcarving I should say, I have been doing woodworking too, but in terms of trying to apply my skills to a different medium, wood presented a lot of new challenges that I had never expected, and I had to really alter my illustration style to fit a specific medium. But in doing so, I've learned a lot about my style and I've picked up some really cool tips and techniques that I normally wouldn't have done. I did that and the same thing with, sometimes I'll notice that working in one color limits me as well, and helps me figure out like how I'm going to tackle different things like textures and all that, and not to mention, like working in 3D. Maybe this little elephant guy, he's not super detailed, not amazing, but it forced me to look at this elephant in every single perspective, every single angle, which was new for me and it helped me learn more about the anatomy of an elephant, or animals in general. Your task for this step is to try applying your own skill set to a brand new medium. Whatever your creative skill is, apply it to a new medium and create one piece of art. It doesn't have to be big, just, it could be any medium. It just needs to be something that you haven't used before, and see how that goes for you and make sure to track down everything that you learned. 9. 8. Understand the Basics: My first art class in college was my drawing 101 class, I remember it well because the very first project that we had, I came in pretty cocky. Not outwardly cocky, just I thought I was a really good artist, I thought for sure, because I'd never also had a critique, a real critique by a teacher, to stand up the front and talk about your art, I wasn't prepared for that either. Our first project was pen and ink still life, we were focusing on just line work. I remember I chose, and it could be anything, I chose a watermelon and this pineapple. I put them on the table in front me, just right next to each other and I started drawing it. I added all this detail and I thought I did a fantastic job, it looked so good. That next day I went to turn it in, put it up on the wall and we went and talked about it. I was the first one up. All right. Let's do this, let's hear all the good words, hear all the praise about my pineapple and watermelon. I remember my drawing instructor just hating it, not liking it at all, and ripped me apart in front of everybody. I didn't get it until he went and explained it, there's nothing here, it's lacking, there's no composition, there's no real scale, both fruits are exactly the same size pretty much, and there is shading, but there's not necessarily coming from a specific direction. There's no perspective or just balance at all. There was just really nothing to it, it was just detailed fruit. It made me think at first, how I could fix it. I try and fix it, and this is what I turned in. Well, lets add some lines here real quick, and there's some perspective. He hated it. But despite all of that, I remember the way he had told me was, you should take a design class, a graphic design class. I wasn't sure if I should be offended and say, you shouldn't go in this fine art thing or this illustration thing, you should definitely go to graphic design. But for whatever the reasons was he did that, it was perfect for me, because I had never really fully grasped the principles and elements of design. I needed that to really take my work to a new level, to be able to communicate on a new level. Because before I was doing just straight fine art, which was awesome and great, But I wanted to communicate with my art, and even if I was doing fine art, my fine art you can tell I was lacking, because I didn't know these things. Having that helps you communicate whatever your idea is, whether it's just a painting, or a photo, and it's just a beautiful piece of art. But knowing how to compose that, or trying to communicate a specific thing to an audience, or a client. Learning graphic design for me helped, because I got to learn these basic elements. As creators, as artists, these are things that you should really know, and if you don't know them, take the time to study them. It's simple review, I'm not going to go through each one of them, I'll leave you a little sheet that you can download too, that has all these with the definitions. But the basic design principles are: balance, pattern, repetition, proportion, rhythm, variety, unity, movement, and emphasis. It depends on who you're asking, but some of these have one or two more, or a few less, but then those are the main ones that I remember. Also the elements of design are: line, color, shape, space, texture, typography, scale, balance, and harmony. These are amazing tools to help you take your own concepts and apply your style to something that works and communicates in a compelling way. For me it was like learning to speak a new language, understanding I could truly communicate with the art that I was making, and it resonated with people in the way that I was intending, which was awesome. For you, look at these principles, these elements, make sure that you know them. I got lots of people who are not in college yet, are asking if they should go to college, because they feel it's all about your portfolio. Unless you're super motivated, there's a lot of things I learned in college, like these things, these principles and elements and I learned them throughout all different mediums. I took watercolor classes, and painting classes, and sculpting classes, and all these different types of things. Not to mention every other thing about creative writing, and taking history classes, and all of these different things that I had to take, that really rounded out my talents as a creative. Aside from all that, understanding these principle is super important. I'll leave you list so that you can take those and study those. But your task is to create a project focusing on two of those design elements: line, color, shape, space, texture, typography, scale, balance, harmony. Pick two of them, and create a project, piece of art or whatever, focusing with just those two elements. Then of course, if you aren't as familiar with these, then try doing one project, or one little art project for each of those elements. I remember doing that in school and it being really eye-opening and really helpful to understanding when you're actually doing it. Try it out and see how you like it. 10. 9. Be a Student: Well, this one's going to be pretty easy. You guys are students and you're here, so you're already winning and doing this one. I don't think I need to push too hard on why it's important to be a student. But in order to get better, you obviously have to be a student of your own craft, but it's also important to be a student of everything else and having interests outside of your own craft. Within your craft, like I love learning the history of my own profession, which is graphic design and illustration, I love learning about that because it helps me understand why things were made the way they were, what problems are they solving. Maybe there's problems that I'm trying to solve right now, I can look back and see how they've solved them. I don't need to start from scratch and re-invent the wheel. There's lots to be learned from those who came before us. A lot of things that we do for pure aesthetics or we think is a cool style, there was an actual reason for doing it before in that process of how they came to the solution can help us with some of the problems that we're having, the things that we're trying to look for solutions for. But at the same time, you can learn and learn about your craft, which is amazing. When I was in school, I did that all the time. All the books I had were just craft or design, but I was just completely enveloped in the design world. But after I left, it was important that I sprinkled in lots of different things. Because you're not going to get projects just as a graphic designer, I can get project about graphic design, for example, I worked at a place called Column Five and that we did info-graphics, and I was learning about fracking, I was learning about celebrities unfortunately, I was learning about how to make aluminum, how they got water and remote towns in Nepal, you know all sorts. I had to explain how this new jet engine worked for GE, you know, all these different things that I was trying to learn had nothing to do with graphic design, but it still had everything to do with my craft because I know I had to understand how to solve the problem and I had to research it and understand it. So being fascinated by lots of things can really really help you and help your understanding and execution of whatever craft or whatever skill you have creatively. So look for opportunities to continue to learn. If you're going out, going into an art show, don't always go to art shows about your own craft, go about others, you know, and learn and see how they solve problems of their own. I love watching cooking shows because, especially there's one that I love because it goes into the background of the chef and it shows how they've incorporated or created their own style of food within their own industry in which is really strange to me because it's like, yeah there's a whole new, they do the same things that I do in mind, but with a whole different medium. They have their own problems and things. So be a student and continue to learn, learn about your own craft and learn about everything else. Your task for this step is to replicate a piece of famous artwork. I did this in my Intro to Illustrator classes as the main project and it was super successful because, and I do this a lot in my own studies. I'll take a piece and I'll try to recreate it so that I could see how it was made. Now, I don't have to recreate it with the exact same tools that they did. That would also be very beneficial. But also like I'll take, something I saw it printed and I will recreate it in Illustrator for example or Photoshop in the tools that I use. So you can do the same for yourself, but find something, find a piece of art that you're drawn to, and try to replicate it and see if you can take notes on and learn a few things about how it was made maybe do some research. For bonus points I would research and find out why it was made and how they made it and be able to take all that you learn and apply that later to your own style. But I often do that, mimic other artists just for the sake, I don't share it. It's just for the sake of learning, so make sure you don't go sharing it places saying it's your own. Just try replicating it. 11. 10. Address Your Weaknesses: Well, I appreciate you guys opening this one because I thought many people would see, address your weaknesses, and be like, well, yeah, of course you need to address our weaknesses. But, the thing is how? It's obvious that we have to take care of these weaknesses. But how? We look for every way that we can to get around these things because it's time-consuming, it's hard, it's uncomfortable. For the longest time I drew all of my tall, skinny legged animals like horses or zebras or giraffes, I always drew them in tall grass. They all were in the Serengeti with tall grass because I didn't want to draw their legs. They were those weird knobby things that are I just couldn't quite get it right. It always looked weird. That was something I was masking the real problem. I got away with it, but it didn't make me a better artist until I addressed those. I'm fully aware of the fact that it's hard to address them. The way that I've done it is, I will look for an opportunity. You have that experimenting and fun time playtime that I've mentioned before. You can use that to do it or to practice it. Or in all your projects just try to sneak in that weakness that you have. Try to sneak it into each one-year projects. Even if it's a little bit. Maybe you're terrible drawing hands. A lot of us do this, we'll do the put them behind their back thing or will have unfolding their arms so you can't see their hands or it's in their hair or their pockets. We have all of these things or give them something else to do with their hands. We don't want to show hands where you just make a little ball hands. But if that's your problem, then make sure you force yourself say, hey, okay. I'm going to draw one hand in here, like maybe the guys hands in the other pocket and he's showing one hand and all the rest that [inaudible] of hands but you show that one. It forces you to start getting a little bit uncomfortable, but you're addressing it and you're practicing. Whether it feels like it or not, you're practicing because you're trying to solve that problem and you're working on it. Slowly integrate your weaknesses into your projects until you feel more comfortable to do bigger projects with them. I promise you if you do that, you're going to see yourself growing a lot faster than you ever would. Maybe you will start trimming that that grass down and showing those legs like I started doing with my animals. But yeah. I think the biggest thing that goes into this is nothing can replace mileage, nothing. You just have to put in the time and if you're looking for every which way to go other than putting in the time to make it happen you're not going to change at all. One thing that I did, besides trying to slowly integrate my weaknesses into my work was I created a thing like an accountability project. You guys have probably heard of these. I did this for a 100 days. I did this for 30 days. They track their progress, but that's basically what I did. I created a Tumblr page and it was for a character challenge. I didn't feel comfortable really with my character design, and I knew I wanted it to do children's books and other things related for kids stuff. I just love working with characters. Again, it wasn't what I went to school for, so I didn't really learn that and learn the process of creating characters. It was something that I felt like I needed to work on. I created this thing called the character challenge. I was just challenging myself to do one character and a new style every single day. Sometimes it took me five hours and sometimes it took me ten minutes. It was just depending on the day and I had to stay up late some nights to finish it, but I was adamant that I was going to practice it and do it, and in doing that really, really helped. I was really able to grow and understand characters a little bit better. Like I said, I did them in different styles so that it helped me really find something that I could attach to. Like I said, previously it's something that helped me learn my own style as well. There you have it. That's your task. Now we will start I'll say 30 day and you can go longer if you like. I'd probably recommend even going longer. But starting a 30 day accountability project. Pick something that you want to work on, some weakness of yours or something that you just want to get better at and try to address it every single day in some way, shape, or form. For me, it was just a little characters. Some people like to do types and people like to take certain types of photos, paint different things. Pick a letter that they want to illustrate if they want to letter for lettering, but pick whatever that is. Then hold yourself accountable, like I said, with same with your goals, hold yourself accountable by sharing it with the world and make sure everybody knows that that's what you're doing so they can expect to see it and it helps you keep yourself accountable and make it happen.