Viewing Category ~ obsession sessions

Today allow me to share with you an inspiring individual I came across recently, meet Duncan Shotton. I first came across Duncan’s work via my friend and fellow Art Director Paul Parolin, who sent me this super cool kick-starter for something called “Rainbow pencils”. I did some digging up and found out the cool guy behind the project. I just had to have a few words with him.

I: Let’s start by giving a brief introduction about yourself and background.

D: OK, well, my name’s Duncan, I was born in London but grew up in the west of England in a little town near Bath. I graduated from Brunel University (west London) in Industrial Design and Technology in 2008. After that I worked for a design consultancy for four years, whilst developing my own design projects as ‘homework’ in the evenings. Then only last year I moved to Tokyo to set up my own design studio.

I’m allergic to cat’s, prefer the adverts to the programmes on TV, and my favourite food is probably yorkshire puddings.

I: Great, from the UK to Japan, that’s quite the transition! What would you say were the motives behind moving to Tokyo? and how easy was the transition itself?

D: Mainly, a beautiful girl, but I’d always been fond of Tokyo.
It’s a modern city. Whilst everything’s the same, everything’s different. That’s what makes it surprising, inspiring, and sometimes a little tricky.

I: Ahhh, women, the things they do to us men :) Now that you’ve been in Tokyo for a while, how have you found the language barrier? What would you say is one of the main differences between living in Japan and the UK?

D: I get by, but it’s difficult to express my personality because my Japanese is still pretty basic. The thick, humid heat of the Japanese summer is unlike any I’ve experienced in Europe.

I: So, what is your earliest “Creative related memory/activity” that you can recall?

D:  Maybe in a school play. I must have been about 15. I played a character whose costume included a top hat, which I snuck a white rabbit teddy bear inside of on the night of the performance. In the middle of my part, I paused, took my hat off, chucked the rabbit into the audience, saying something like “I should stop wearing magicians’ hats”, then carried on with the set script.

I: Hahahhaha, spoken like a true artist. And what would be your most recent creative foray?

D:  I did my first pop-up shop this year, it was in a tree. Recently, I’ve been designing and making a new one, which is even more ridiculous, but yet to launch.
My latest live project is Rainbow Pencils, recycled paper pencils that make rainbows when you sharpen them (currently funding on Kickstarter.)

I: Yes, a friend of mine actually sent me a link to your kickstarter, which is how I came across you. You’ve spoken a lot about that on the kickstarter website, I enjoyed reading it and think it’s a tremendously inspiring project. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time, physically & career wise?

D:  Cool, thanks to your friend for sharing and to you for reading, I’m glad you like it! I’ll be in either Tokyo or the UK. I hope my brand, range of projects and products will have grown, but not so much that they lose their ‘specialness’. Someone once commented on my work “It’s nice to just do a few things, really well”, and that made me really happy.

I:  And finally, Inspiration, who? what? where?

D: In 2007, when .mp3 players became the norm, the tape cassette became a nostalgic item, because everyone was sad to say goodbye. It was at that time I came up with Tape Dispenser (a sticky tape dispenser in the shape of a tape cassette). Similarly in 2011, everyone was talking about cloud computing, which is perhaps what made me think of Cloud Keyholder (a wall mounted cloud that uses magnets to hold your keys underneath to represent rain). I think icons and topics ‘of the moment’ inspire me and help make my products easily understandable by others.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

Kaboomi Studio
Design Boom
That Should be mine!

Monday’s are back, meet Macedonian mixed media artist Marko Manev. Marko currently is working as a freelance illustrator and designer while dabbling in some comics every now and then. I came across his artwork recently after seeing his Superhero Noir posters showcased on the web. I was immediately inspired and wanted to know more about this artist.

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

M: If legos count then that would be when I was 2 or 3 years old. I loved legos! I was an introvert kid that played with legos and watched Star Wars all day long! I never touched crayons or pencils until I was 7 and started drawing panels from the belgian comic Lucky Luke. I guess I never stopped drawing since.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

M: Film director! I’m hoping that one day I might do that.

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

M:  Tough question! So many artists, movies, film directors, bands, games! Ok I’ll try to pick 10 in no particular order cause the list will go on forever: Brian Wood, Jock, Banksy, Stanley Kubrick, Sergio Leone, Kazimir Malevich, Alien, Lord of the Rings, Rammstein, Metal Gear Solid. This are just part of the things that ignite my creative spark.

I: Share any piece of your work, recent or old and talk about it.

M: This is a piece form my recent Noir series that I’m really proud of. Inspired by the Man of Steel trailer, I wanted it to be a powerful and very subtle representation of the character. What’s interesting about this piece is when I was working on it, I thought more of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier with his X-1, than of Superman.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

geek tyrant
comics alliance

This monday, I’d like to introduce you to Egyptian Director Amr Salama. One of the most inspiring up and coming directors in Egypt, Amr has directed two feature films “Asmaa & On a Day like Today ”, and one documentary dealing with the revolution that happened in 2011 “Al Tahrir 2011, The Good, the viscious and the politician“. His work has won first place and recognition in many Middle Eastern and International film festivals. He also directed several ads, awareness campaigns, music videos, documentary films, short films and TV series. A blogger and writer, his blog boasts over 250 thousand visits and his YouTube channel has received over 1.50 million views. He has over 80 thousand followers on twitter and more than 18 thousand fans on facebook.

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

A: I used to draw when I was very young, started writing short stories in prep. school.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

A: I would have been working in a barber shop..  yeah.. really.

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

A:  Depending on the project, with everyone new project I pick couple of inspiration sources, but mainly ads, music videos, films and theater, everything I can put my hands on. With every film/project I make I target a director or an artist that I like and try to think as I were him/her for a long period of time, then throw that away and do it my way, as my intuition drive me.

I: Share any piece of your work, recent or old and talk about it.

A: Here’s a short documentary that I directed in 2005. It was the one that inspired me to work on my later feature film ”Asmaa“. It was a humble short documentary that didn’t take long to make, but it ignited a question in me, a question of ‘why’ do i do what i do?!. It  also gave another dimension to my profession and that’s when I discovered the power of making movies. Movies can be more than just an entertaining product, it can change people’s lives, inspire and influence them. This film was made to be shown during a big AIDS conference to an audience from the big Pharmaceutical corporations. Its’ aim was to show them how people living with AIDS in Egypt are suffering, so they can lower the price of medication. What was really amazing, is that they actually did lower the prices after the conference.

Other than that, the movie was a motivation for me to have this sense of social responsibility, which is something that’s very important to every film maker.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

Vimeo Staff Picks
JoBlo Trailers

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, but the obsession sessions are back full force. This monday,
I’d like to share with everyone my interview with a very inspiring letterer, illustrator, Type designer and occasional silly internet person, Jessica Hische. I’ve been following Jessica’s work for quite a few years now. It all started when I bought her first Daily Drop Cap Alphabet Fine Art Print -which is proudly hanging up in my living room- a couple years ago. She has provided constant inspiration with all the
cool quirky projects that she initiates, not to mention the extremely high quality work for top notch clientele that she pumps out at a horrifyingly fast rate. I have to say, what I admire the
most about her though, is the fact that she’s still in her mid twenties and she is running a very successful business that she started from scratch. Her hard work and talent are
what make her quite exceptional.

I’ve been corresponding with her occasionally throughout the years, and when I finally made my way to San Francisco this October, I got in-touch again and she invited me over to her meticulously designed studio in the Mission neighborhood for lunch and design talks, and also since Hurricane Sandy was shutting down everything on the east coast and I was stranded for an extra couple days, I was able to have another round of Design Discussions with her. Here is what she had to say:

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

J: Coming up with a first creative memory is tough… I feel like my first real memory of myself being creative was when I used to draw battle maps of my house growing up. I would draw these really intense detailed maps of the rooms in my house and track the dog’s movement throughout the house. Recently I’ve come upon some drawings I made as a little kid—I was super into trying to make up my own far side comics when I was very young, like six or seven. Things didn’t always make sense in all these comics but I tried so hard to make up my own sarcastic jokes and story lines. I also did a number of punny random drawings like “honeymoon” which was a moon covered in honey. Illustration must have been in my blood because most of my drawings were more like this, humorous wordplays or attempts to replicate comics, than landscapes or anything that might be considered more “fine art”. I think the battle maps came about because my brother and I were always at odds with each other. I was plotting territories throughout the house and our dog was a neural party. Like tracking the movement of fish through the ocean.

I: Hopefully you still have these lying around somewhere?

J: I know that my mom must have them somewhere, but I don’t know, I really want to find them because it’s such a clear memory to me. But she was probably like “oh what’s this drawing full of squares” you know? -laughter-. When I was in college I took Anatomy and Physiology 1 &2 as my sciences and I was the only non-nursing or pre-med person in my class and also the only one to get an A. This sort of freaked me out because they’re all going to be sticking us with needles in the future and I’m the one sitting here drawing fancy letters. -laughter-

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

J: That will be tough to answer because I have a wide variety of interest. I was always super interested in biology and sociology. I aced all of my anatomy classes in school. I feel like I would actually end up in something weirdly medical were I not a letterer…or an anthropologist. When I was in college I took Anatomy and Physiology 1 &2 as my sciences and I was the only non-nursing or pre-med person in my class and also the only one to get an A. This sort of freaked me out because they’re all going to be sticking us with needles in the future and I’m the one sitting here drawing fancy letters. -laughter-

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

J: Where, would be the woods, plus Brooklyn, plus these areas surrounding SanFrancisco and my office of course.

The what, would be everything, it’s difficult to say what specifically inspires you. I think for me a big part of my inspiration is just getting myself in the right frame of mind to just hammer away at something because I think the kind of work that a person does when they’re lettering or as a type designer is really different than a conceptual illustrator. They are probably looking more for the moment of divine inspiration for the most intense concept ever, where as the most difficult part of my work process is finding for the inspiration to work for a long time on something. It can be a break, treating myself to something a really excellent meal, it can be the best cup of coffee plus the best pastry that I could have at one time. Those would be the things the inspire me. Or it can be an album that I’ll re-discover that I haven’t listened to since college and all of the sudden all I want to do is work because I’m suddenly reminded of working into the night in art school I just want to bathe myself in warm feelings of nostalgia.

The who is a lot of folks that I see out in the industry working super hard. Other people’s work ethic is certainly inspiring. A big part of that is that I’m in a transition period after your early twenties and after you’ve had a bit of success in the field where you don’t have to work for 20 hours a day anymore and would have a hard time doing it if you tried. Part of that is that I now have so much other stuff going on surrounding my business like answering interviews, traveling for conferences, etc, that I can’t actually spend as much of my time creating as I used to. I’m super jealous and super inspired by people that plug away and work and draw 24 hours a day. Also, surrounding myself with lots of friends and colleagues that I admire and respect is super motivating. Sharing a studio with Erik helps tremendously because he works way harder than I do right now. It makes me sad and jealous and proud all at the same time—and he’s shaking his head… laughter-

I: I think like you said earlier, it’s stages that you go through, so you knew that in your early twenties that you had to really buckle down, while you’re getting your name out there.

J: Well it’s also the way that your business is run when you’re starting out is so different then the way it runs once you’ve been going for a while. I deal with things now that I’ve never dealt with when I was twenty four, now half my day is devoted to going through email, answering interviews, dealing  with requests for really weird stuff, managing conference talks that are coming up, billing conferences and dealing with all that paperwork(y) stuff. When I was starting out, I still had paperwork to do, but I was just like “Invoice .. done”. I wasn’t getting a lot of random letters from people or random requests to do speaking, I wasn’t getting a lot of interviews and because of it I had a lot more time to work, so now I feel I don’t work hard enough, because so much of my day is devoted to doing the businessy stuff that I have to do and I’m jealous of my former life in which I was just drawing all day.

I: Yeah, it’s a bit different when your name has a certain clout, there is a maintenance that comes with it.

J: It’s not even like I spend all day trying to maintain my name, it’s more like I get fifty emails a day that actually require a legitimate response, whether it’s some parent asking you a really intense question about their kid who’s applying to art school, or whether it’s a kid who is sixteen who is loosing their mind because they’re failing on a client project—which is so adorable and amazing, that people now when they’re 16 know what they’re doing—or whether it’s a legit sounding magazine, blog or conference that is contacting you, you can’t just send a canned response, it all has to be very customized, you have to really think of everything before you send it, you can’t just spam everything and walk away from it. It’s just not something that you really think about when you’re starting out, that six hours of your day would be devoted to this (business aspects) rather to just plugging away in illustrator.

I: Share any piece of your work, recent or old and talk about it.

J: I’d love to share all the work that I’m working on right now but unfortunately I’m a little NDA’d (Non-Disclosure Agreement) on a couple of them. So the work that I’ll share is the Penguin Classics project that I’ve been working on that I’m super psyched about. I feel like I have so much ownership over the project—usually when I’m brought in as an artist to work on a book cover, you don’t feel all that special being a part of the project. It’s a client job like any other. Even when you’re working with a giant author, often times you never communicate with them. It’s always like, “hey, we were trying to solve this in-house but we’re reaching out to you because we can’t solve it in-house”. But with this Penguin project, they approached me and said “we want this to be a really awesome partnership between you and Paul Buckley—who is the art director for the books— and they’ve been branding the series as being our series. All the promotional materials and stuff mention me by name, and that’s really awesome and rare because it makes me feel so amped that they’re excited enough about my work that they’re putting my name out there as being a major proponent of the project. So, I have so much reading to do for that because there are 26 books in total and I’ve made the first 6 so far. The sketches for the next 6 are due in a couple weeks so it’s getting down to the wire to read some books. -laughter-.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

J: Truthfully, I don’t do a lot of web surfing to look for inspiration visually, almost all of my web time is devoted to email, Facebook, twitter and all the links that come from that. I sort of use twitter as a place to curate all of the outside inspiration sources, because in general I follow people whose work I like, whose opinion I like and I rely on them as sort of being the curators of content for me on the internet. So there’s not a specific daily inspiration site that I goto, nor are there several of them, because it can jump around, I can discover some random persons’ tumblr account and then spend an entire day on it. Or, suddenly re-kindle my relationship with a design blog that I used to check everyday three years ago but I haven’t checked since because it’s difficult to get work done plus get the business worked on plus actually look at stuff online plus tweet often and maintain an online presence.

Monday morning (in this part of the world at least) and another day ripe for inspiration to be plucked. Meet French graphical gamer Grégoire Guillemin. Sometimes he uses the pen name Léon. People tend to describe him as an artist, but he prefers to be acknowledged as a creative with no style and no tools of preference. Grégoire likes creating and doing it fast. For his graphic work, he comes across as an Eclectic Graphical Gamer. In 45 years, he has always seen himself a gamer before anything else and playing is something that he plans to do forever.

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

G: Difficult to say, as soon as I knew how to hold a pencil in hands, I began drawing I never stopped… I remember big paper sheets which I recovered of battles of tiny characters.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

G: Certainly of the music, it is moreover the hesitation that I had when I finished my studies the bass or the pencil? I chose the pencil.

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

G:  The inspiration? Many things inspire me to create is only to be inspired, the more we have of reference, the more one created if I began to enumerate the list of those who inspired me, one in finished step …You, Rembrandt, Keith Harring, Lichenstein, Hugo Pratt, Noma Bar, Guillermo del Toro, Tapiès, Loisel, A.M. Cassandre, Banksy, Bilal, Tolkien, The Pink Floyd, Tom Waits, Michael Connelly, Herman Hesse, Franck Miller, Philippe Stark, Franquin, The Monty Phyton, Hooper, Jérome Bosch, Gorillaz, ThreeA (art toys), Tarentino, Delacroix, the life… Everywhere, Everytime… I continue or I stop there?

I: Share any piece of your work, recent or old and talk about it.

G: My famous Capsules… Why? Because I think that it is a very complete work … The creativity: try to represent faces known with a minimum of signs. The minimalism. The culture: because all that we find been a part of my own culture, my memories … And especially the game … Which pleasure to know that people are above going to spend time, not necessarily for its graphic aspects, but rather to try to identify each of these faces… ;o)-

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

Design you Trust
My Modern Met

Hi, I'm Ibraheem Youssef
I'm a Creative,
currently based in Toronto.

Welcome to my blog.

Art Direction / Alignment / Colours
Cooking / Design / Folding
Illustration / Paper / Printing
Ping Pong / Type / Walking

are some of the things I tend
to obsess over constantly.
Find out more about me here,
or check out some shots from my
travels around the world here.

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