|“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” —Thomas Merton|
Creative thinking connects ideas that haven’t been used together before. Sounds simple when put that way, but gaining a fresh approach is often challenging. Here are some exercises to help you break out of routine thought patterns with any project.
You’re an alien. You’ve never seen or heard of this topic before. What to make of it? How would your alien culture solve it? Is it a problem, or is it something much simpler? Look at questions as if for the first time. Research related solutions from other fields.
You’re a three-year-old. Ask questions. Think of every possible question you can relating to the solution at hand. Then ask a nearly infinite series of, “Why?”
It’s your best friend’s problem. Pretend a good friend has just approached you and asked for your advice on the matter. Often, when you detach your personal investment in the project, you can see more possibilities.
Use a pen. Put pen to paper and draw, brainstorm, doodle, make notes—flowing ink gets ideas flowing. Writing down your thoughts helps you see connections you might have otherwise missed.
Don’t overthink it. Keep relaxed and open with these brainstorming tips. Planning your approach is like knocking on a door. Ideas will answer.
Mark Montgomery is an acclaimed digital illustrator. He specializes in caricatures with fluid geometric lines, inspired by cubism. Recently, Mark was kind enough to share some of his insights with Kreative Joose.
What motivates you to keep creating?
Being a part of creative groups, locally or on social media, that target people who do similar work. There is always something to learn from other artists. Also I’ve started reading artists biographies to see how they thought and worked. This year I’ve been studying Thomas Hart Benton, Picasso, and Michelangelo. Also, I read Kreative Joose to keep me motivated.
The computer lets me work closer with my sketches and I can endlessly edit the lines and shapes in Illustrator. Not necessarily for speed, because some images can still take as long as I want. The ease of editing is the draw to digital, I think. Plus it can easily be enlarged to print in any size for a physical product or digital use.
What do you do to recharge your creative energy?
Work in a different medium, like paint or ink. Drawing and finishing something by hand gets me back to why I got into illustration in the first place. Plus, there are a lot more “happy accidents” when you can’t “Command Z” your way out of a jam.
What reaction do you hope to inspire in others?
I would like immediate laughter. That means they are connecting to and recognizing the likeness or message. Secondly, I would like them taking a closer look to see what I was thinking. I want to inspire looking at the physical world differently. I like to hear comments like “That’s so cool, how did you do that?” from the general public. And “I don’t get it; it’s weird,” from my parents.
Any personal experience or moment that brought you to this craft?
My uncle was a creative director for an ad agency in Kansas City. One day, while I was in high school, my parents and I visited his office. It was the first time I had heard of graphic design and art direction. The atmosphere was fun and creative and I just loved the idea that every image pattern on a hamburger wrapper or street sign was drawn by somebody first. I knew from that moment, this was the world I wanted to be a part of.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Do your own thing and let the world catch on. Trust your instincts. I’ve seen a lot of young illustrators in New York who study with a famous illustrator, and then end up with the same style. They get in magazines and make some money, but I can’t tell them apart.
Don’t give up your day job. Not yet. It’s OK to work two jobs for awhile.
Never stop learning or asking questions.
It is better to be rejected from a national magazine than a local one. Swing big. Treat your portfolio of work like it is gold and people NEED to see it. Be bold or no one will notice you.