Friday, November 11, 2011


I am a self-taught hack graphic dabbler. It’s been a hobby of mine for a bit over three years.

My graphic designing life has gone like this:

Back in early 2008 sister Whitney wanted a unique banner for her blog. To the sounds of my whining about it, Mark had loaded the Adobe creative suite on my new iMac. So I told Whit that since I had the tools and was utterly lonely in Reno, I’d dig in and see what I could come up with.

When it comes to self-teaching I used books from time to time but mostly hunted down the right video tutorials online. And over time I got the hang of Photoshop (which is where I started, and I’m proud to say that I now operate almost exclusively in Illustrator, as I should have been from the beginning).

Over the course of the next year I spent no less than 1200 hours on my butt in my office gaining weight and making myself into a full-blown design hack, uneducated but dangerous enough to charge for my services. And charge I did. In the first month of my taking blog design clients I made twenty-two-hundred bucks. And then I began the burn out. Doing that much design work in the evening after working at my real job all day damn near killed me. Oh, and it helped me start developing a serious loathing for clients.

But I liked the money too much. So though I ratcheted back significantly, I continued doing blog design work with the odd logo or business card job here and there.

Until I just couldn’t take it anymore and I put a fast stop on taking on blog clients.

But I could’t just not design stuff.

While doing blog design work I’d also started to do some print design stuff. It all started with the Keep Calm and Carry On deviations I made as an exercise in procrastination. There was an interest in those, so I made them available for sale. And around that same time I was looking at the walls in my house, bummed that there wasn’t any spiritualish artwork that I found appealing.

So I made it for myself.

Multi-font scripture prints. And then quotes. And on. My early print work is basically hideous. (I had a guy email me recently asking where he could find a certain print he’d seen in a friend’s home. Too bad buddy, it’s ugly. I killed it). But over time I got pretty good. My designs were clean and I’m still proud of that.

And then I came across alternative movie prints. On Imagekind there’s a bunch of minimalist movie prints and as I surfed through them I thought, I can do that. I want to do that. I have ideas!

So I set those ideas alight and began posting my movie print artwork in my Imagekind shop. And once I got some validation from my little Imagekind network, I took a deep breath and submitted some of the prints to blogs and such that are devoted to alternative movie posters. And the people liked them. So I submitted more. And then I was asked if I'd like to participate in a book of alternative movie prints. And then I got an email from a gal asking if she can interview me for a movie print book she’s putting together.  I don’t care if anything every comes of it—I’m just honored she asked. It told me that my work is good enough. My work is worth considering in other people’s work.

I need stuff like that. Because I’ve put my prints out there, I get to see comments and such from total strangers. Most of it is fine, but from time to time I’ll read things like (direct quotes):
• Princess Bride poster is cool. But it has nothing to do with the general themes and ideas of the movie.

• Once again, I am convinced that these putzes that make "minimalist" revisionist movie posters are all The Worsts.

• These are all awful, and this trend needs to end already,

• The poster I did for this move was way better.

• This doesn’t make any sense.
I’ve gotten good at not letting this stuff get to me. In some cases I actually try to make the posters obscure. In just about every case I like the end product. We don’t all have the same taste and in making the movie prints, and I’m in no way trying to be revolutionary. I’m trying to learn and have a good time.

I get pretty hung up on having credibility enough to have the right to adopt a title (you must have black feet like Rabid's to call yourself a “runner,” etc.), so I’ve never felt comfortable calling myself a “graphic designer” or, heaven forbid, a “graphic artist.” But, as it turns out, I’ve come to make some cool designs. Stuff that might even be called art in some [dilettante] circles.

I’m no Matt Owen (my favorite) or Hunter Langston (also fantastic) or even Måsse Hjeltman, but the positive feedback tells me that I’ve got some game.

So I’ve decided to finally call myself a graphic designer. Self-taught hack or no, I make some pretty sweet sh*t. Ask [almost] anybody.


Sue said...

Has that person even SEEN Princess Bride?

Kelly Mo said...

I love the one of a kind poster you did for my family. I am so glad I stumbled upon knuckleheaders and found you. Thanks again!

Jena said...

I'm inspired.
You've got some sweet skillz.