Kicking your creativity into gear.
As with anybody pursuing such endeavors, I, from time to time, suffer from a case of creative block. Arriving at such an impasse isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, and how you choose to get out of it goes a long way to your growth as a creative mind. One of the best ways to stay fresh, I’ve found, is to pursue personal projects. When you’re creating for yourself – no clients, no deadlines, no rules – you enjoy a freedom that liberates and can lead to some really interesting results.
North Carolina-based designer Matt Stevens has been thinking along those same lines. What first started with Stevens illustrating each pair of Nike shoes he had purchased dating back to the ’80s led to him designing daily depictions of the classic Air Max 1 shoe. “I began my own personal projects as a way to reconnect with just the exploring and ‘play’ aspect of design,” Stevens told me. “Just to do something completely for myself and see where it would lead. As an outlet and a personal challenge.”
After several iterations of the Air Max 1, Stevens had an illustration that reminded him of Aaron Draplin, so he turned it into something of a tribute. Then one inspired by Invisible Creature. And another and another, leading to a whole series inspired by fellow creatives. Once that mini-series had concluded, Stevens was faced with heading in a new direction. Where would he go next?
“[The tribute series] made it much more open and more of a challenge to be more conceptual once that ended,” Stevens said. “I began to explore my own range of illustration styles, found objects and photography. That was part of the fun. See where it would lead me. There were days I had an idea and couldn’t wait to try and execute it. It felt great to reconnect with that passion, even if it’s a simple shoe illustration.”
As the series has grown, so has the attention it’s gotten Stevens. His daily offerings, which just ended last week, were passed around on Twitter and other sites like a well-worn copy of The Who’s “Tommy” in a ’70s suburb. But the best part, perhaps? How it has helped the designer in ways he didn’t – and couldn’t – anticipate. “I found that some of the ideas and even just some of those ways of thinking found its way into my other work,” he said.
“Good conceptual thinking and creating has its own momentum.” Agreed. So try it yourself the next time you find yourself stuck in a rut. You, like Matt, may be surprised and pleased with the results.
Here are a few more of Stevens’ illustrations: