Create Impact Through Art: Conceptualizing Unique Ideas That Resonate | Aram Atkinson | Skillshare

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Create Impact Through Art: Conceptualizing Unique Ideas That Resonate

teacher avatar Aram Atkinson, Storyteller. Filmmaker.

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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

8 Lessons (33m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. The class project

    • 3. Leave them thinking about your art

    • 4. Creating relatable concepts

    • 5. Bringing authenticity to new worlds

    • 6. The power of subtext

    • 7. Medium and Output: Thinking ahead to turn heads

    • 8. Outro

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About This Class

How do you create art so inspiring that it leaves people thinking about it for days, weeks, months, years?! 

There’s no blueprint to creating a new Mona Lisa, but there are ways we can elevate our own work, approaches we can use to add impact to our creative masterpieces. Some of these techniques are so simple you’ll be left scratching your head wondering why you weren’t already doing them, because that’s how I felt when I started to piece these methods together.

All of these lessons come from the real world insights that award-winning filmmaker Aram has learned over the years working with world-leading charities, pitching and making films that have gone onto be played at places like the World Health Organisation and UN. It’s taken 7 years of experimenting for Aram to figure out these simple concepts and the difference they can make to your art, so it only needs to take you half an hour.

The topics we’ll cover together in the lesson:

  • Making your art stick in an audience’s mind .
  • Making big ideas simple enough for anyone to grasp.
  • Bringing authenticity to your work.
  • Realise how you can say everything you want to say, without having said it at all. 
  • How to maximise your mediums for the ultimate audience experience.

You’ll be creating a concept and piece of art that will be completely unique to you and your values, and yet designed in a way that anybody will be able to relate to. Jump in!

Meet Your Teacher

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Aram Atkinson

Storyteller. Filmmaker.

Top Teacher

So you're probably wondering what can you learn from me? In my brand-building, productivity-producing, filmmaking and storytelling courses, I'd like to think there's a lot to learn (and enjoyably too)! I only include techniques that I have actually used myself, so you know it works, and I'm always happy to chat, leave feedback, and experiment on your behalf!

Take a look through the trailers of my classes below, and when you find one you like just get stuck in! 

Follow me on YouTube here | Follow me on Instagram here

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1. Introduction: I don't know if any of us really set out to be an artist when we start. I know when I was a kid I wanted to be a bus driver, then a barber, then an nice hockey player. But I think what we all want is to make an impact. We see things in this world that we want to give a platform to or we want to challenge, even if it's just internally ourselves, even our own sense of identity, perhaps. My name's Aaron, I'm a filmmaker, a writer-director, and I've been spending the last 7-10 years working with different organizations to help them have an impact through my art form of film. Art is more than words on paper, paint on canvas, it's the ultimate expression of a thought. But sometimes the art we create, it leaves us feeling as blank as the canvas was when we started. We're left wondering, ''Why doesn't that say what I wanted to?" Or, "Why isn't it being heard the way I hoped it would be?'' This class is where I share my approach to creating impact with your art, to framing your creativity in a way that will leave people talking about it for days and weeks to come. Whether you are an illustrator, a photographer, a filmmaker, these lessons apply because at the heart of what are we talking about, is how to translate a thought into a concept that anyone can relate to. Now, we'll be building up to making that final art piece, but we're going to be focusing on the concept stage beforehand. The beauty of this is that we can do it in whatever art form you choose. When I was 22, I directed a film about global drowning and it ended up getting played at the UN and the World Health Organization, trying to register this as a huge global problem that needed addressing. That was the moment that I first realized, the moment that I knew my art has the power to change the world, and so does yours. You have a perspective of the world, and that deserves to be heard. Hopefully, through the techniques that I'll share, you'll find it easier to put that into your art and leave the impact that you want to achieve. This is my art, these are my thoughts, and you're very welcome to join me. 2. The class project: Welcome. Before we dive in, I thought I'd just run you through what the class project is for this, and give you some idea of what we're going to be doing. By the end of this class, we're going to have come up with a concept for a piece of art that is going to leave a greater impact. Now, we'll be building up to making that final art piece, but we're going to be focusing on the concept stage beforehand. We're going to be doing that through 4-5 different classes that cover all these different aspects that can give your art more impact. The beauty of this is that we can do it in whatever art form you choose. If you are an illustrator, you can illustrate. If you are a photographer, you can do this through photos. At the end of the class, if you are happy to share all of the process or just parts of the process, whether that's the concept stage or the final piece of art, that's absolutely fine. There's no pressure on this, it's entirely up to your interpretation. When you're ready, grab that sketchbook or that notepad or that laptop, and we will get going in making your art have a longer, greater impact. 3. Leave them thinking about your art: What's the first thing we can do to give our art more impact? Well, it boils down to a very simple switch of the mindset, and this is something that took me a long time to get to grips with but actually as soon as I did, it just clicked. It's this idea of asking questions rather than making grand statements. We all love questions. Questions they keep us guessing and they open up a conversation. "Hey, how are you? Where did you get the shoes from?" These things they are far more engaging than, "Oh, you must be good. Oh, those shoes are from Zara." It's the idea of creating an open conversation for your art. Jokes and riddles are two prime examples of this. Let's just take one as an example. I have cities but no houses. I have mountains but no trees. I have water, but no fish. What am I? With creatives we're obsessed with making these big grand statements, that's what we think we have to do as artists. But if you think about times in your life where maybe you've done something that you regret or you've said something, or you've experienced something that has left you wondering, was that the right thing to do? It's that question that keeps us coming back. We're not thinking, I did something terrible, we're asking ourselves, was that okay? Was that the right thing to do? Allowing that conversation to open up, that's what keeps us thinking about it far after the events happened. Whether your work is covering a very topical issue or something a little bit more mundane, having that ability to keep us thinking about it longer after we've seen it, that's what we want to do, that is how we create impact. One of the issues we have when we try and present these ideas as a statement, is that I can come across as accusatory. People think that we're accusing them of not living up to the high standards, and people's flight or fight response kicked in and they're either going to get defensive or they're just going to ignore it. Whereas like I say, if we have that question, then we're allowing them to engage and actually reason what they think. We are opening our art up for interpretation rather than just saying our interpretation is the only right way to do it. What we're going to do first is we're going to think about some questions that cover some areas of interest for ourselves. But before we get to that, I just want to show you an example using one of my favorite pieces of artwork, which is Edward's Hopper, Nighthawks. It's beautiful, is cinematic, and yet the painter deny that any symbolism of human isolation and urban emptiness was intentional. Stating, "Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city." If he's not consciously making some big statement, he's probably just thinking about how he feels in terms of questions. We can take a look at any piece of artwork and try and boil it down thinking about the questions rather than the statements. Think of the questions in this picture. Why these people here? How is someone feeling when they're sat in a diner at 2:00 AM in the morning? Is it normal to feel lonely? Is the loneliness shared less lonely or is it even lonelier? Are cities good healthy environments for people? This painting, it doesn't answer any of those questions, it merely presents them. We can interpret that how we want. For me, it draws me in because I can imagine myself not being able to sleep and thinking, I'll go and grab a coffee at 2:00 AM in the morning because I don't want to be alone either. So I'm thinking I'll go out and I'll find myself in a space where I don't need to talk, because everyone else in that space is feeling the same thing. That's how I interpret it, and you may interpret it different. But that's why this piece of art is so popular, is so impactful because we can all interpret it how we choose to. Now we just start building our artwork with a question. All we need to do is just think of a lot of questions that they can be about anything. You may want to give it a theme, you may already have some idea in mind, but it can be any question that comes to your mind. You don't have to try and plan this out super perfectly, is all about framing ideas and feelings you have just in a question. It could be something that you've experienced personally, something that you've seen a lot about and you want to know more about, whatever it is, just write them down. I'll give you 60 seconds and I'll write some down, and then I'll talk you through mine before we move on to the next lesson. The first question that came to my mind is, why can't we switch off? For me that's a big thing. I find it really hard to just switch off at 10:00 PM at night, my brain just keeps ticking over. I know it's probably reasons to do with digital media, anything like that. But that is something for me, I find it hard to switch of. That's the first question. Second question. Does rejection really strengthen us or does it make us weaker? This popular idea of the more you fall down, the stronger you are to get backup. Just is it true? That's just a question I have. Lastly, do I belong or does everyone suffer this idea of imposter syndrome? People talk about that sense of never feeling like they fit in. For me, that's always been something I've found in my day if I'm in the film industry or if I'm doing one of these, whatever it is, the idea of, maybe actually I don't belong here or I'm not good enough for this level, that feeling is quite commonplace I think. That's something that is actually out of all the questions for me leads me thinking that is something that impacts me and I'm sure would impact other people. No rush, if you haven't got questions as many exists, take your time, think of some more, and then move on to the next lesson. But just before we move on, let me give you the answer to the riddle. I have cities but no houses. I have mountains but no trees. I have water but no fish. What am I? I'm a map. 4. Creating relatable concepts: We've avoided the first pitfall of focusing on statements rather than questions and actually now we can open up a conversation. But what we want to do to make our art really have impact is to make sure we're keeping it relatable. There's a trope in filmmaking and this carries across in all art forms, "If you can't make it better, make it bigger." We've all watched those SQLs see basically all they've done is add more aliens or they've added a larger army. We're not left thinking about it, it just passes by. That's a trap that we can fall into in any art form where we'd think, "Okay, I will show this in the biggest way possible." But what if instead, we go down, we get more intimate, we think of a smaller way of showing something? By framing a question in a small and intimate way, we can add relatability. Just going back to Edward Hopper's Nighthawks briefly. Think of all the larger, more elaborate ways he could have shown that. A large cityscape where there's one light on and the rest they're off or a crowd of people, and one person is singled out. Instead, he focused on four people in a bar at night. We can focus in, we can really explore the scene, were not lost in mess and noise. We just have bliss going on and it compels us, it draws as in. So the way to do that is to think of these questions and just pick one or two and think about that as a scenario. How can we visualize that? This is the time to start using your art form. You might want to do this as a mind-map. You might want to do that as sketches, whatever art form you prefer. I encourage you to use your art. If you are an illustrator and start sketching these out, it'll give you some creative inspiration going forward. I'll give you an example. For me, the question that really stuck with me was this question of, "Do I belong? Does everyone feel the same way? Do you suffer from imposter syndrome?" I started to think about the scenarios in which I feel that. Well, the most obvious one for me is at the Film Festival. It was a large event, Philip filmmakers and I feel like I don't fit in with the crowd. Everyone's there. Everyone's in all these bubbles, and maybe I'm just somewhere in the bar feeling a little bit out of place. That's the large scale and these are the ones we don't want basically, but it can be useful to write them down, so you can keep the tabs of where you're at in your progression. But for other times, what other smaller or more intimate moments do I get that same sensation? Well, it can even be if I'm just out with two or three filmmaking friends. Let's say we are at a Kebab store or we sat in the car, we are having fish and chips. In these moments, I can feel like I still don't belong even though they can be my closest friends. This is what we need to do for this step, just to try to train your brain, to think small rather than big. If you can go down that route, you can make your art relatable, you can make your art intimate and you can make it have impact. Get jotting down some sketches, some ideas, and then we'll move onto the next lesson where we'll take that and we'll create authenticity with your art form whereas allowing us to expand these different worlds. 5. Bringing authenticity to new worlds: Not all of our artwork it's going to be set in reality. Some of it may be set in the future, the past, different worlds, different experiences altogether. But we still want to bring a sense of authenticity to that world, to that work, so how do we do that? How do we keep authenticity when we're exploring completely new places? Well, a very easy way to do this is to just borrow things from your reality. We want to do this so we can make it easier for our audience to relate to and we keep that sense of humanity within whatever art form we're creating. Life imitates art, and art imitates life. The woman in Edward Hopper's image, that is his wife, she modeled for the painting. It's even suggested that that is them. It's a little time capsule of their relationship as romantic relationships was a large inspiration for a lot of his work. Even though that's not the focus of the arts at all, there's an element of truth in that. You don't have to put your own reality in verbatim, you may want to just borrow aspects and then turn it into a completely new art form but by using different aspects of truth, whether that is emotional, experiential, or visual, whatever it is. If you include that in there, it will give us as the audience, something to grab hold of and think, "Oh, I understand that. I can relate to that." How can I do that with my art form, for instance? So obviously, film is a great way to explore different time periods. Maybe I want to capture my scene in the '60s, but obviously, I'm not from the '60s. I don't know that world. How can I do that authentically? Well, I could take people that I do know. I can take real situations, real people. If I was an illustrator, I could paint my best friend in that world. Maybe I want to place them against the cityscape of the city that I grew up in. Again, there's that intimate connection of reality or I could take aspects of my family's truth. My granddad, he worked at Heathrow Airport and when I was young, my mom used to take me towards the plains takeoff, so I could take that and put that into the '60s. In that way I've got this real emotional connection, but it's in a completely different time period. It could be a different airport entirely. But I have the building blocks to work from and they act as an infrastructure that we can then paint in our own new world. Here's a mood board that I've created where I've taken different aspects of truths and place them somewhere just to give me something to go back to you, so when I'm building my new worlds, I'm thinking of new ways of showing whatever story I'm showing. I can come back to it and take that, work with it, and then create something new from these building blocks. By leaning into our truths and using that in our art form, we can keep a sense of authenticity that's hard to do without that. Again, I encouraged you to use the art form that your expertise lie in and work within that. So if you are an illustrator, sketched some truths that you have. If you are a photographer, maybe pull up some old photos that you've got, whatever it is, work within your art form, if you can, otherwise just write them down somewhere, maybe on a mind map again, whatever form you choose. 6. The power of subtext: This is by far the hardest step because it relies on you to get your head away from the obvious and really think about, what are the connections between different environments to answer the same question? One of my all-time favorite films is Crazy Stupid Love. It's a romcom and it's just brilliant. But there's a moment in there which demonstrates this idea of subtext really well. There's a phone conversation between Cal and Emily, who are a recently divorced couple. In that phone call, all they're talking about is a boiler. We as audience can see, though, that the boiler is not broken. In fact, Emily's nowhere near the boiler. But we understand the subtext because this conversation is not about the boiler at all. It's all about just missing that person. That basically saying, I miss what we had. I want that feeling back, but I know I can't have it. But it's giving us a hint that maybe that love lost isn't lost at all, and that's never said. If you just took the dialogue out and read it on its own, you would think, well, this is pretty boring conversation. But when you understand what's really going on, you as an audience, you feel smart, you feel in the know, and you warm to that. You feel, this is something I can relate to, this is something I've understood, and yeah, it rings true. That's what we want to create with our art work. We want to present an idea through a question without just putting it right out there in their face. We want to hide it and let them find it on their own. That way, they feel they've understood the art, they've interpreted it how they want and how, really, we wanted them to. Subtext is what separates good from great. It's the key to unlocking the subconscious. It's like inception. We're putting this idea in the audience's mind without having even said it. People think that it's too difficult or it's not really the way to do it. But you watch any great film, any great piece of writing, very rarely do they say exactly what it is they mean. There's two main rules in filmmaking which helps us to keep this in mind. The first one is show, don't tell. The idea is that you're going to show what you want to say rather than just put it in the dialogue. You're creating more visual way of demonstrating what you're actually trying to get across. The second rule is to avoid exposition. Exposition is basically where you just announce everything going on through the story. When you watch a really cliche film, there'll often be one character who just explains what's going on in case anyone in the audience hasn't quite figured it out. We want to avoid that. We want to just allow the audience to interpret the subtext on their own. I thought about this in terms of me not feeling that sense of belonging as a filmmaker. But how can I show that without being the filmmaker? What other ways are there to say, "I don't feel like I fit in," without having to show a filmmaker in a room full of filmmakers looking awkward? To answer that, I started by asking, what do I do to try to fit in? What are the things that I do to pretend? Or what do I see other people doing to try and fit in? The clear answer to me came in clothes. I see a lot of people, a lot of filmmakers wearing the same type of coat, the same type of beanie. That in itself says a lot to me. We're all trying to fit in, but we don't necessarily fit in what we're wearing. That sprung this idea that maybe I could have this question of, do I belong and does everyone also share this feeling, but shown through clothing, different types of clothing. Maybe I have a coat that doesn't fit very well. How I present this art form is up to me. This could be a film, this could be a poem, it could be an illustration. Likewise, it's up to you. Whatever your art form is, you can experiment with that as much as you want. As long as there's that sense of authenticity there. Maybe I include bits of clothing that I've actually worn. Maybe my coat that has rips in it. Maybe I use that instead. Or perhaps the people wearing the clothes, they're people I know. I could take this idea and place it in almost any environment. That could be in the office, that could be up in space. It could be back in the Western days. I have this entire world to play with. But at the heart of it, I've got the same question showing through a way that isn't just directly saying it. So that's the last piece of the puzzle, really, where once we can figure out how to piece them all together, which is where your creativity comes into it, that's where we start to create a really strong impact. Because we are presenting a question, not a statement. We're leaving it up to the audience to think about it. We are thinking small and intimate rather than large and vast. The audience can relate on a more human level. We're keeping it authentic, and we are putting it in a form that isn't just saying it exactly as it is. That way, the audience has a chance to interpret this how they want, and we lead them where we want them to go without them knowing we've done that. The key to doing this is to sketch out or write out whatever it is exactly as it is, and then see if you can turn that into a completely new format, a different picture, different set of words, but keep the meaning, keep the tension, keep the drama, whatever it is, that emotion you're going for. They are all the key components to the concept of your art form. But there is one more important thing. It's leaving an impact with your art. I'm going to talk about that in the next lesson. 7. Medium and Output: Thinking ahead to turn heads: Over the last number of years, every time I made a film for a client, often it's a pitch of 60 seconds and a 30-second video, and that's fine and that's great, and we create this beautiful film that does everything it needs to do and then at the end, there's this request on top of the widescreen 60 and 30 second advert. They will want a square version, they will want a portrait version for Instagram, they'll want a banner version of six seconds, of 10 seconds and suddenly this art, this bit of creativity is diluted, and it is warped into something that it wasn't meant to be. Now, as filmmakers, this has been a bit of a gripe over the last few years because it's our art at the end of the day that we're finding is getting changed at the last minute. But what if instead, at the start of the project, the brief was we want five, 10 second, portrait Instagram videos. You're going to shoot the film in a completely different way. You are going to think about it beforehand and when you do that, the output is going to feel so much more natural. It's going to land better, it's going to look better because you thought about the output before you started the input. There's a little bit more to this though than just thinking about the aspect ratio of your art. Think back to your favorite Christmas or your favorite birthday. For me, my favorite birthday is always going to be going to the space center with my partner. Going to the national space center and seeing all these things and being able to nerd out and have a really nice weekend eating good food, having good drinks. But what made that so great was the experience. When you think back to your favorite birthday, it's likely to be the same. You're going to be thinking of the memory, of the people, of the experience, rather than thinking about the present, a physical object, and that's what we want to do with your art. We want people to experience your art, not just see it. Now, this doesn't mean we will have to become installation artists, not at all. But it does mean that we can think about how the audience can interact perhaps. We're going to get more engagement. We're going to have greater impact. Now if you're wanting to paint a 30 square foot piece of art, that's great. But you're not going to want to try and place that in a 20 square foot section of a gallery. You're going to try and choose the art to fit the form. In that way the audience can interact more with it. They can experience it better, they can experience it true to how you want it to be experienced. So think about that. Think about where is your art going to sit? Where do you want it to sit? What do you want to do with it? What do you want people to do with it? It's great nowadays that if it is just going to be for social media, there's all these different apps to change how that works, so you get those apps where on Instagram you flick across and your picture split into two, and you get the first half, and then you get the second half. That's a way for your audience to engage, to interact. To think about this, what you can do is you can just draw out some different shapes. You may be thinking what is going to be on Instagram, so I need it to be portrait or I want it to be hung up in a gallery, but maybe I can make this a 3D space. I can actually create different planes of interest for my art, maybe there's the foreground, the background, the middle ground all split out. They're going to give a parallax effect and see different parts of the image. There's lots of different ways to be creative. You just have to take the time to think about it. Take a minute and just draw out some different formats that your art could be shown in. Give it some time to actually let this sit and think about what are my options here? How can I make this interactive in both the digital and a tangible world? This is marketing in a way of how you can get that maximum engagement from your audience. Writers are one of the luckiest people in this scenario because your work can be shown in so many different ways. It can be spoken, it can be written, can be drawn into different shapes, it can be sewn. There's no limits and that's the same really with any art form. You just have to think about it a little bit more. Give it its own head-space, give it the validation that it deserves. That's basically everything. That is all you need to do to create impact with art and I say all you need to do is actually not the easiest thing in the world. But if you can start to do this time after time after time, you're going to create that snowball effect where it becomes second nature. You're thinking, well, what are the questions I'm asking myself? You're thinking, how can I show this in a smaller, more relatable way, even if it's on a large scale? You're going to be wondering where's that authenticity, how can you drive that into the art? You're also going to be thinking about how do I put this out there in a way that resonates, that is true to me, true to them, and I haven't even said anything. It's all in the subtext. If you do all that, your art is going to be something truly special to experience, and it's going to leave an impact and that's what we're here for at the end of the day. Now we just need to wrap it all up and that means creating that piece of art. That means actually sitting there and drawing it, or painting it, or going out and filming at whatever it is. Just go through all these different parts of the journey. Give them that time that they're due and then create the piece of art. That doesn't mean you have to get stuck trying to get it perfect first time, you can go create the art, see what works, what doesn't, and improve either on the same piece or different piece. Every time you do something new and different is going to help you learn. It's going to help that journey continue, and once again, to get more impact with your art, you should be putting art out there, you need to stop getting too obsessed or precious about it being perfect. Nothing is going to be perfect ever. You can do with these steps, and at the end of the day, it doesn't mean that idea is going to be perfect. You may get 90 percent right, you may get nine percent right. But every time, you're going to learn something new, and that's what we're here for. We all want to grow as artists. We all want to grow as people and help others grow in both senses as well. 8. Outro: Now we're at the end of this class. I'm sure you probably haven't got that final artwork finished, but you probably got all the steps in place. You have different sketches, different ideas, and I'd really love to see that as a project. I'd love to see those different ideas that have come through, how you got that map to where you are aiming to be. Then when you're ready, you can upload your artwork as well because part of the experience with art is sharing it, and getting that feedback, and seeing what the world is interpreting your art to be. Embrace putting it out to the world because art isn't meant to be seen by only you. Art is there to be experienced by everyone. For me, I would love to see all those different forms of art that you have. I get inspired by photography, by designs, by fashion, all these different elements that come together and they all infuse into my work. That's what we aim for. We all want to keep improving our work. I think it's a brilliant thing that we all have this desire to follow our creative passion. All I can say is thank you so much for being part of this class, and I hope that it has helped you, at the very least given you some new ideas, some encouragement to start thinking about different ways that you can make an impact with your art. If you're keen to experience some of my work, whether that's my writing or my films, then please do reach out or follow me on Instagram. All of those details are on my profile here on Skillshare. Fingers crossed, I will see you in another class at some point soon whatever that class may be. Best of luck and can't wait to see what you create.