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Don’t be scared, get weird.

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Damn it’s always a really great junt when you get to surround yourself by 300+ brilliant designers, artists, makers, entrepreneurs, down to earth, like-minded yet unique creative individuals. I wanted to take some time to look back at the Creative Works conference in Memphis, TN a few of us at ST8MNT went to last year. A conference in a city with such a rich cultural and historical influence. It was actually my first time spending any real time in Memphis and it certainly was a nice side-step from Nashville and it’s relentless tourism and country music appeal. A great backdrop for the conference. Then getting to hear such inspirational people talk about how they have made it through their personal and professional hurdles to become successful and fulfilled creatives was nothing short of… well, inspiring.

Shawana X got on stage and blew me away with her impressive hand-painted murals and how much she fills a room with 3D elements. Turns out that was never her thing. Never what she thought it would be anyways. After working almost exclusively in a 2D format for years a simple passion project turned her 2D world into a 3D world and a new career path exchanging pixels for paint and filling rooms instead of the screen. I’ve been following her work this past year and it’s been interesting to watch some of the art she’s been working on. Last year at the conference she was well on her way to giving birth to her first child and this past work you can tell how much that entire experience has made its way into her work. It’s just really interesting how artists find inspiration and how they interpret what’s happening in their lives and create art from it.

A post shared by shawna x (@shawnax) on

Ryan Booth also had a great presentation and highlighted this underlying idea of how being passionate about your work can have meaningful change. The dude was an amazing storyteller & filmmaker. While his career path is a little more linear, the pivot from a DP to director came when he found his new passion and wanting to tell his own stories. After a little time, hard work & portfolio building he’s now directing a ton of killer projects. He showed us this one piece he did for Vince Staples (HUGE FAN) and Spotify. Turns out this amazing piece of work came out of him just being passionate about his craft. Had he not taken it into his own hands and went out on the limb of the unknown it never would have happened. He just knew he wanted to capture a moment and he did regardless of what other people said.

Vince Staples – “Let it Shine” [directors cut] from Ryan Booth on Vimeo.

Lauren Holm who I knew from Instagram and all her amazing lettering projects spoke on her career. It was wild to hear about how all these passion projects she’d taken on had kept leading her to the next stage in her career. From trading sandwiches for chalk lettering to creating dick-shaped food blogs and getting away with it. Some ideas have worked out and others didn’t but she’s never given up and learned from the failures. All this has led her through a pretty amazing career with no signs of stopping.

Creative Works conference presentation with Lauren Holm

I realized a very strong piece that seemed to connect all these creatives and makers was the idea of passion projects and how much they actually influenced their work and creativity. I’ll admit, I felt a bit guilty not having taken the initiative to start a passion project in the past. I’d done things here and there but not something supported on a daily or regular basis. Before this conference, I’m not sure I realized the profound effects it can have on a person’s creativity. Luckily for me and all other slackers, it’s never toolate.

One of the other great parts about embarking on personal & passion projects is the skills you learn along the way. That on its own is incredibly valuable. You may have a skillset or talent you didn’t even know you had in this process of discovery. The fact that when you are working on a passion project you get to work in a way you probably don’t approach many other professional projects. The ability to escape with no rules, no deadlines, nobody else to please but yourself. Maybe when you put it out there people will be into it, or maybe they won’t dig it at all. Does it really matter though? If you’re resourceful and aren’t dumping your life savings into a passion project the worst case is it’s probably just going to provide an opportunity to learn from failure.

However, after hearing all these creatives speak the overall notion was more of success. The main being growth as an artist and creative. The balance that it can bring to your life creatively also seems well worth the risk of failure. I think so many designers and professional artists can get “stuck in a rut”. Sorry, that feels like a super southern thing to say but it’s real. You can be your own inspiration and breath life into your creative side with these passion projects. This just creates a waterfall effect that will show in the work you get paid to do. So really why not take on a personal passion project as a creative — explore something that you find fun, interesting, weird, or whatever the hell you want.

I had an idea to kill two birds with one stone. I’ve been wanting to learn to use my left hand to draw for some reason. I mean what happens if I have a freak chainsaw accident and my moneymaker right-hand gets dismembered? I don’t use chainsaws very often though so I’ll probably be fine — the point is I’d have a backup plan. ANYWAYS… I wanted something with plenty of content to get rid of the burden of coming up with something on the regular, yet simple enough I could actually practice drawing left-handed. So I decided to start drawing emoji’s with my left hand using just a sharpie. They definitely look p weiiird but it’s fun and people seem to dig it. Even started doing some larger painted variations of them on canvas.

Go check it out on Instagram @gnarlylefty

What’s your favorite emoji’s?!?! Post em below or on Instagram and maybe I’ll draw em 🙃

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