ASHTON SHAW DESPOT

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Being a creative person is not an easy job. Many artists don’t have the confidence, or support to continue with their art, and a lot of them quit at early stages of their development. I always find it fascinating when I see artists that overcome that hump of mistaken beliefs and go for it. Most of the time it has to do with exposure and being inspired by someone or something that you can’t ignore. It is no mellow road, we all have to start somewhere, and putting ourselves out there gives us vulnerability to be criticized as well as acclaimed. So be brave, and “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” Don’t be afraid, know that you have a gorgeous and huge community of people that want to help. We were all helped once by someone, and like my professor used to say: You gotta give back. This is my way of giving back. Giving you exposure to others, and showing you that it can be done. Just stay connected with your heart, and persevere.

My featured artist, this time, is Ashton Shaw Despot. Ashton is a very inspiring impressionist painter based in New Orleans. Her paintings caught my eye while I was researching for home decor. Her work communicates in mysterious ways I have to say. They are bold, yet soft in a soothing way. They evoke nature, emotion, freshness, and a harmonic balance of color and weight. There is something nostalgic about them, actually more dreamlike. Her use of light is exquisite and her bold short strokes showcase her spirit and passion for what she does. Her work appeals to me in many ways, and I hope it does to you too. I knew I had to ask her for an interview once I discovered her work.

this is Ashton Shaw Despot From South Louisiana. Last child of three.

How did you know you wanted to be an artist Ashton? 

I knew at a young age that I wanted to create something beautiful for the world. I have always been fascinated by the delicate beauty all around us. But it took some time and encouragement for me to explore art as a career. I was first challenged in high school by two amazing teachers. They put the bug in my ear to make it a career and the drive in my heart to live life passionately.  In college I studied graphic design, but always took painting and sculpture classes as my electives. My painting and drawing teachers influenced me immensely and I am thankful for their critics and patience. But it wasn’t until I studied art in Ireland for a month that I knew I could make it as an artist. I created more than 30 pieces while I was there and I had gained excitement and joy like never before. 

Ireland WOW! Im so jelly… So how does it work? Tell me a bit about your creative process. Walk me through it.

My creative process changes with each project and I try to let everything develop organically. In college my professors would always stress “trust the process” which meant you had to explore and develop your ideas. Skipping steps never made the work better in fact it was quite the opposite. I usually make binders with inspiration photos including colors and compositions. I use a plethora of photos and sketches to come up with the final composition. It can change drastically too depending on the day or the mood I am in.

Do you search for inspiration? Does it come to you?

I search for inspiration in a number of ways just as the meaning of the word “search” expresses. I gather photos from life, magazines, books, Pinterest, Instagram etc. Honestly, I’m kind of a hoarder of images! If I am organized enough, I take these photos and categorize them in folders. Then, when I am working on a project that might have the particular subject matter, I pull the file. I also have files on my computer and in Dropbox. It is actually quite an organized mess. It works for me though. Then, when I am working on the piece, I let it develop organically. I often turn the painting several times to ensure the piece is balanced. I use the drips of water to determine shapes, and I don’t worry about it looking exactly as I had pictured it in my head. 

Your work is heavily inspired by pastel, and blue color schemes. Is that part of your aesthetic?

I love blues and greens. I think they are soothing and natural. I am most inspired by landscapes so it seems fitting to capture the colors of lush foliage, water and the sky above. I am also very intrigued by light and how it dances on the ground. I love pops of light pink and peach to express a warm glow. I hope my work feels dreamlike and warm, and I think soft colors work best in achieving this goal. 

A lot of artists never put their work out there because they feel it isn’t finished. How do you know a piece is done?

Honestly, a piece is never done. But sometimes you are happy with what you achieved in that moment.

You seem to be a pretty positive person, is there a personal or professional motto you live by?

I live by the words of Confucius. “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”

The artist road isn’t an easy one. Surely, there are some things you’ve learned along the way you can share with us?

The biggest lesson I have learned in life is that nothing can be planned. You will think you have it all figured out and something always surprises you. You must learn to be fluid like water and go with the flow of life. Enjoy everything you can, but also don’t be afraid to feel sadness and worry as they are just as real as any other feeling. 

In moments of self doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?

I turn to my friends and family. I have an amazing support system that builds me up constantly.  

Is there someone, in particular, you look up to?

I look up to my dear friend Amanda Judice. She was good listener, extremely kind and accepting. She had strong roots in faith and family, and lived in the moment always looking for the good in every situation.

What advice would you give other creatives trying to make it as an artist?

Follow your heart and never stop exploring. Get Up, Show Up, and Do Good Work. 

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Thank you Ashton for your words, and we wish you the best pursuing this road. Inquiries about Ashton paintings can be made on her website: http://ashtonshawdespot.com

ABC easy as 1,2,3 - (part II)

Just to recap where we left off on this post.

You’ve just gotten done thinking about your goals, finding inspiration, picking/or creating work you are proud of, and you’re now ready to start building a visual identity. Before we start, I want to clarify that creating a logo and materials to be ready for your next job does not mean branding yourself. Creating a brand is a complex process that involves graphic design, marketing, language and psychology. We could say that designing a visual identity is part of building a brand, but far away from being the same thing.  So, where do we start? 

Let’s identify what is the purpose of having a visual identity. A visual identity is formed by several components with a logo being its key. A logo is the most basic representation of your brand. Every time a person sees your logo, they should be able to recognize who it represents. The purpose of creating a visual identity is then to communicate. We are communicating who we are.  Besides from a logo, a visual identity has other elements, that should be all consistent in order to transmit a clearer message. Some of these components include letterheads, business cards, and websites. In this process, we will focus on creating a logo, a resume, and a portfolio that showcase all the projects you consider as the best of the best. This is the minimum you will need to create a legit presence. A website isn’t a must, but it will definitely set you apart from the other candidates. Think about it as an opportunity to showcase more work, more personality, and more information about yourself. Remember employers aren’t just looking for a great resume, but also for a great fit. 

Create a Logo

Creating a logo is not easy, and definitely impossible to talk about in only a few paragraphs, but I will try to make it short and sweet. The most important thing is to be resourceful! By now, you have a clear idea of who you are, what you are trying to achieve and hopefully a wide range of inspiration. Use it! Define your aesthetics and start designing in that realm. I can’t tell you what makes a logo be a great one, but I can give you some advice that will direct you into it. 

1. Treat yourself as a client. Set yourself a Creative Brief. What kind of information would you like to display? Full name? Nickname? Initials? 

2. Make sure it feels like “you.” Don’t try to look super formal if that isn’t your style. This job is about you, take advantage that you can do anything, you are after all… the client. 

3. Keep it simple and versatile. Make sure it works in different sizes and colors. Don’t over do it. Make several rough drafts and ask for feedback.

Here a few articles & books on creating a logo. Check them out for a deeper understanding on how to create a logo from scratch. 

Books: Logo Design Love | How to style your Brand

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/creating-logos-design-process

https://creativemarket.com/blog/logo-design-tutorials-and-tips

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Not a boring resume. please.

Long gone are the generic- standardized resumes. Like I said before, any chance you have to show your personality is a chance to stand out from the crowd. Take it! With that being said, remember a resume is an overlook of your knowledge and background, which means it should highlight your credentials, and state the truth. It goes without saying…don’t exaggerate what you know, or be too modest. Either way, your employer will find out how capable or not you are. Be honest. If there is a quality in the job description you don’t have, try reading about, taking a class or getting familiarized with it. You might not qualified for the job position, but it will for sure impress your employer and might give you a higher chance to get the job! I have compiled some resume inspiration for you. Check it out! 

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A killer Portfolio 

Remember all that work you did in Baby step 4 in the last blogpost? It’s time to use  it! Gather all your work and organize it by themes or some sort of categorization. A word document and folders will do for now! Think about it like an experience. Make sure there is a natural flow between one project to the next one. For each piece, also consider adding some extra information, such as client name, industry, a small description, and maybe even your role in the project. All this information will help the viewer with context and a clear idea of your involvement. Once the structure of your piece is set, and you have decided how many pieces you will show, and what copy will accompany it, it is time to decide on a format and start designing it.  

Most creatives have two pieces they show as their portfolio. One that is easily attachable to an email, and one that lives online in some sort of platform. Instagram isn’t a professional way to show your work. I personally recommend creating a pdf file, and a website. Design wise, the best way to make a piece you will be proud of is treat it like any client job. Come up with several looks, based them on the aesthetics you are passionate about, and make sure you love every graphic you make. Create a consistent layout and style throughout. The presentation of this piece will showcase, as much as your work, your talent and skills. 

Things to consider while making a PDF portfolio: 

  • Keep it clean, to the point, and concise. Don’t add too many bells and whistles that make the update of it impractical. (Example: Using custom calligraphy for titles! Imagine how much work that would be!)
  • Make sure your work stands above the design of your portfolio. Don't forget that the main focus is to create supporting material.
  • Create an intro page, that quickly welcomes, or maps out what the viewer will be looking at, some creatives do a table of contents, and some just a small paragraph. 
  • Display your contact information! You can’t forget this one! 
  • Name the file with something professional. AKA don’t name it portfolio_version90_colorway2.pdf

Websites. 

I get a lot of questions about this topic. Which one is the best platform? Which one is the quickest to make? How expensive is it? The answer isn’t simple. The one that works the best for you. There a lot of platforms out there, and many with affordable pricing and templates. I am currently using Squarespace and I love it. I find it extremely easy to manage, and super convenient to keep my work up to date. They have beautiful templates, and typefaces options, as well as functionality and help forums. I am also familiar with Wordpress and Wix, and both are, to me, not as good, but some people seem to like them! So really it is up to you! Do the research, test platforms, read about pros and cons, and make a decision! 

Some recent graduates decide to go with Behance portfolios instead, and I think that is pretty smart. It is hard to develop a cohesive visual identity after school, especially because you don’t really know what you like or don’t. I had a teacher that said that what you need is versatility. Behance is a good option for that, since it requires minimal visual identity, but simple enough to look professional and get the point across. I do think though, that the more experience you have, the higher the expectation of having a website becomes. Just keep that in mind. 

Things to consider while making a Website:

  • Your landing page is the most real state you will ever get. In the worst case scenario, someone goes to your website by accident…your landing page will be reason they stay or leave. Make it great! 
  • Count how many clicks it takes you from the moment you land on the website to the moment you see your work. It shouldn’t be more than two. 
  • Make it simple to navigate, and pleasing to see. Don’t use crazy harsh color backgrounds… and please please please… Do not play music unless there is a play button. That is just annoying. 

Having a portfolio that you are proud of is a constant work in progress. As soon as you are done with it, you will see areas of improvement and pieces of work that aren’t relevant anymore. This is why it is important to think of how easy the platform and files you are using are to update. 

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  create some buzz!

You have your logo, your resume, your portfolio and your website ready. So, now what? Tell the world! It is time! Sharing your work with others is key in landing job opportunities. Not saying you have to sit back and wait for them to come, but sharing certainly helps! Most opportunities come from word of mouth, so start spreading the word! Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are good places to start! If you want to bring up a notch, make yourself some business cards. Anything that lets others know what you are up to, will do the trick. If you are scared that promoting yourself as an artist might bring you trouble with your current job, think about it this way. Being open to let other opportunities fall in your lap, does not mean you are unhappy with your job. It just means you want to keep striving forward. There is nothing wrong with wanting to keep growing. Any employer would agree with this. Now, this doesn't mean being vocal and loud about it. No one likes dealing with coworkers that have one foot outside the door; but having an exit plan is always a good idea. 

Wrapping things up

We have gone quickly through the process of creating a successful portfolio. It all starts with identifying why you are doing this, getting inspired, and setting yourself some goals. After that you have to make a short analysis of what kind of work you've got, what do you want to use (or not) to promote yourself; and if you don't have enough work, then make some! Once you are happy with the quantity and quality of your work, start working on your visual identity. Create a logo, a resume, a pdf portfolio and an online portfolio. Once you are ready with all your material, create some buzz! Share with others what you do! And that pretty much sums up what you need to do to have your work up to date. Now, how to keep it that way?  Every time you finish a project you know you want to display on your portfolio, do it. Make sure every time you add one, you revise all the other ones that are there and rethink if they deserve to be called "your best work." This way, updating your portfolio won't be as much work each time you decide to apply for a new position. Also, while designing your visual identity, make sure your elements are timeless. Don't try to follow trends, they get old, and dated. If you do so, you will be redesigning a lot, and making yourself work twice as much. 

I hope these two articles push you to think about working on your portfolio. Remember building a portfolio is hard work. You will not have time to work on it, unless you make time to work on it. The same way you make time to go on vacation, or watch Game of Thrones. It requires will and discipline. So, are up to the challenge? 

-A

ABC easy as 1,2,3 - (part I)

How to create a portfolio & keep it up to date

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Most of us have done at least one portfolio in our lives, and most of us DREAD IT. I mean job hunting is a nightmare just because of how much work creating a portfolio might mean. Don’t worry, it isn’t just you. It can be an overwhelming process, but let me tell you the bad news first…

YOU NEED A FREAKING PORTFOLIO.

(Sorry, but you do.)

Yes! YOU! The happiest worker in the company, or the unhappiest. The truth is that we ALL need one. I’ll go into more details about why later, but I think we can now go into the good news. If you break down the process into easy-peasy, itty-bitty steps, it becomes a lot more doable. I promise. I pinky promise. 

So, Why? I am just going to give you four reasons, but you can keep adding to them. 

  • Job security in our field is like finding two prizes in a cereal box. Hard to find.
  • Versatility and change push creative souls to experiment and create better work every time. In a few words, change is key to master your own skills and get a new perspective. 
  • Every employer in our field will ask for a portfolio. If your work does not reflect who you are as an artist, the chances you find a good fit for yourself are minimal, if not zero. 
  • Having an easy to maintain portfolio allows you to do less work every time you have to update it. This is like going the dentist to check for cavities every six months in comparison to 5 years; you are saving yourself a crap ton of pain, if you ask me. 

I have redone my portfolio at least five times since I graduated school four years ago. So, I have pretty much nailed down this process to the best of my capabilities, and I want to share it with you. I think you will find it is a lot less scary this way. :)  This process starts with you having nothing to show to an employer, and it ends with you ready for interviews. There is a whole lot in the middle, but I want you to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks a bit like this. 

Let’s imagine we are on a journey from point “A" to point “C." Think of point “A" as your home or starting point, “B" as the checkpoint in which you realize if you are on the correct path,  and point “C” as your final, happy place. Trip A to B has around 4 baby steps, and trip B to C another 4.

So let’s begin, shall we? 

THINK. WRITE. REPEAT. 

When starting a journey, it's always important to know where you are going, how long it will take you to get to your destination, and why you are taking the journey in the first place. With the "why" being the most important. Without the "why" there is no reason to take the trip at all. In simple words, set yourself a goal, a timeframe and a constant reminder of why you are doing this. I would recommend writing them down and being realistic about them. Take your time, no rush. Once you feel good about these, then we can move on. 

Still nothing? If you are having trouble setting your goals, I can help a bit by showing you an example of how this might look if you are a designer. 

Example 1 - Goal: I want to be a freelancer. Why: I want to be financially independent.  Time: 1 year
Example 2 - Goal: I want to work for an agency. Why: I want to push myself outside my comfort zone.  Time: 6 months
Example 3 - Goal:  I want to be an illustrator. Why: It makes me happy Time: 3 Months

GET INSPIRED. PIN PIN PIN. FIND PATTERNS. 

This is one of my favorite parts of the whole process. Finding & gathering inspiration. There are many ways of doing this, but for me, the easiest is using Pinterest. Now, don’t just pin away, make sure every image you pin speaks to you. Imagine you have to pay for each image you are collecting. So, be choosy! You will realize that the pickier you are, the easier will be for you later. Make sure you have a good variety of inspiration, meaning typefaces, colors, textures, layout, anything that speaks to you as an artist in a special way. Let your gut do the picking and sorting. Bring all those images into a page and analyze your picks. Soon enough, you will notice there are things in common. (If it is taking you too long, try setting aside the odd picks; sometimes it helps) These things are what I would call “your own aesthetic,” and later, it will help determinate your brand assets' look and feel. 

BE PICKY. BE CHOOSY. BE A PAIN TO PLEASE. 

This is a tough one, mainly because this is the stage where you realize: YOU HAVE NOTHING YOU ARE HAPPY WITH. It is okay if you don’t. Most designers/creatives have to start somewhere… and only a few get jobs that allow them to fulfill their own aesthetic of what is “cool to make.” Don’t get discouraged. If you got zilch projects that you love, think about it as an opportunity to have a blank canvas. At least, now you know what type of work you enjoy and have an idea of what you want to be creating. If you do have some work you are SUPER SUPER proud of, clean it up and save it in a special folder; you will need it later. 

THINK. MAKE. SHARE.

You know that feeling when you are done cleaning up your closet, and giving all your old/not fitting clothes to Goodwill? That feeling of emptiness, sadness, but excitement because it means is SHOPPING time! This is exactly how you should feel now. It’s time to create some cool art. Now, don’t freak out on me. Let me solve this by stating the main causes why you aren’t creating art you love. "I am not inspired! I’m too tired! I have no clue what to do! I work on a demand basis! I need a job that makes me do it! "… We can keep going on about all the reasons why you aren’t making art. The only fact you need is: You can start anytime. There are so many tools to avoid not knowing what to do, many challenges on Instagram accounts, many workshop books, and there is always Skillshare! Take a class. Go on a small trip. Find whatever you need to make it happen. Create, create, create. The more you create, the wider your pool to pick the very best work. Once you create the work… don’t keep it to yourself! Share it. Maybe you aren’t the social media kind… then show it to a friend or family. Preferably someone that knows what they are talking about and can give you some feedback. Constructive feedback, obviously. 

Once you have enough art you are happy with, you've reached a checkpoint.  WOOOOOHOOOOO! You are half way there! That's right! Take a break! Relax and celebrate! 

We will continue this blog post very very soon! :) 

- A

 

Botanical Utopia

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Almost six months ago, I started this lovely collaboration with Frances & Theo! I think none of us would have predicted how it was going to turn out, or what was exactly what we had in mind; either way, HOLY COW; this is the cutest fabric! I had a lot of fun working on this project, and I can't wait to keep making more! If you are interested in purchasing any of these cute products designed by us and made by @applesauceandketchup, follow the links below! :) 

FABRIC: https://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/6924678-botanical-navy-tiletest-by-francesandtheo

CROWN: http://www.francesandtheo.com/new-products/botanical-gold-crown

COLLAR SET: http://www.francesandtheo.com/new-products/collar-bow-set-1

BOW SET: http://www.francesandtheo.com/new-products/bow-sets

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Good design is...

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Today, like any other Sunday, I woke up and made myself a cup of coffee. While I was waiting for it, I checked Instagram for some daily inspiration and came across a post by Typetopia that said: Good design is: ________. Almost instantly I said to myself, "Caring." Design is caring. But why? Because the why motivates the what. (Thank you Simon Sinek)

Our limbic brain, which is the part of our brain that controls our feelings, is also responsible for our behavior and decision making. Which explains why sometimes we act from our gut, or we make decisions based on love. If we want a person to change the way they behave, we have to talk to their limbic brain. We have to create a feeling, not a message. We have to share the why, not just the what. It's simple to understand, but a little harder to execute. A person that cares acts based on a stronger motive than a person that only understands their job or knows what to do. We should strive for why we do what we do. Not only what. This is the main ingredient for good design.

Once we are connected to the "deeper" meaning of what we do, the differences are stunning. We start acting from loyalty, we work overtime because we want to do a better job and not because we have to make up time. We look for solutions, and we don't just do what we are told. We are passionate and critical, not just obedient and efficient. In the long run, we care. 

So YES... GOOD DESIGN IS CARING

 

The real question here though is "How can I make myself or others care?" The answer is... We can't. It's like asking someone how can I make you love me. We can't... It is a hit or miss thing. It's specific to each person. You have to be in touch with what makes you happy. Only then you will know how to act with care. I am moved by the simple act of creation. Seeing something that I made from nothing makes me feel empowered and valuable. It allows me to have control of a tiny little world and how it works. For some reason, this brings me joy. Like William Blake, "my business is to create."

So I encourage you to find what motivates you in life and start caring. Because once you do, you will stop working, and you will get paid for doing what you love. 

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If you are interested in knowing more about the golden circle and Simon Sinek, you can watch his TED talk here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4