To Stay Sharp

What is the most recent skill you’ve developed?

I’m trying to figure out if creative development is something I need to stay focused on, or if it’s something that’s inevitable. I suspect that if I keep designing…if I keep creating things, it’ll be inevitable that I learn new skills in one way or another.

By committing to my work, I’ll either be adding more of myself in to the work, or developing new design-specific skills like figuring out a better way it retouch hair, or use geometry to help tell a story. Perhaps those are two ever-evolving avenues of creativity; how articulate you can be personally and professionally.

If you’re committed, I really think those two things are impossible not to evolve.

With that in mind, I asked Eddie Pepitone, Michelle Poler, and Dustin Stanton about what skill each of them have developed most recently.

 


EDDIE PEPITONE, Comedian

I’ve worked with Eddie on a few things, and he’s always been incredible. He’s responsive, friendly, courteous, etc…everything you could want from someone you’re doing business with. More impressive than those great things though is his creative energy. He’s a stand-up, and as an actor, he’s appeared in some of the best comedies of the past two decades.

His stage sets are like an intense massage. There’s pain in it, aggression…but you leave feeling lighter, relieved, and seeing things brighter. He’s calculated, in control, and completely reckless at the same time. That contrast is incredible. This set is from a while ago, but is so interesting. He flexes every muscle a comedian has. Watch how far away he holds the mic at certain points, while still being completely effective.

I hear he’s even dabbling in politics and community organizing. I love that someone as versatile as Eddie continues to develop, but he does…

What is the most recent skill you’ve developed?

“I think the things I learn how to do are ongoing. Modulating my voice from the rage to soft-spoken guy is something I’ve been working on as I realize it’s very funny to go to extremes vocally with an audience. I have been more conscious of varying my tone and range and it’s all about just being more present and not panicking as a performer.

I used to think I had to get a laugh every second and I’ve finally realized that the silences or the spaces in between are just as important as the jokes. In fact it sets up the jokes!”


MICHELLE POLER, Speaker

Michelle created 100 Days Without Fear. She’s Venezuelan and after studying at SVA in New York, she worked as a designer and art director. Then, through the process of conquering a list of fears she began telling her own story in a way that connected with others.

Her curiosity is what impresses me most. She’s been able to translate an exploration of herself in to exploring and influencing people across the world. She’s an interesting example of that intersection of personal and technical skill. I’m so happy that she said she’d answer my question…

What is the most recent skill you’ve developed?

“I believe that as artists we are constantly developing and polishing the skills we already have trying to become every day the best version of ourselves. 5 years ago when I got married I decided to buy a GoPro to capture in video my honeymoon adventure. We were going to Hawaii so I wanted to put together a short video to share with family and friends and also to keep for ourselves. My little brother was in film school at the time and he kindly edited a nice little video about our wedding day. I quickly learned the things you need to put into a video to make it entertaining, creativity was the main component. Two weeks after we came back from our honeymoon I gave editing a shot. People started to go crazy about the cool video I made and started to ask me to edit videos for them about their personal experiences. Shortly after, I became the official video person of the family and in my circle of friends. I created videos about meaningful occasions as gifts for the people I care about the most, but I never thought about doing something serious with my video making and editing skills. I would only do it for fun.

 Last year I decided to become a braver person by facing one fear a day for 100 days. I wanted to share my progress through social media so I decided to record myself facing the different fears, editing and uploading one video a day. After editing 100 videos consecutively I can see how much I’ve grown and how my skills have improved enormously. The thing I used to do for fun became my full time job. Most recently, I started developing video blogs (vlogs) which is different than shooting an adventure. So I had to learn all about cameras, lights, audio, tripods. Just when I thought I had everything under control, I had to start from scratch. So, yeah, we actually never stop developing and polishing the skills we already have. I wonder what kind of videos I will do next.”

DUSTIN STANTON, Designer

Dustin is a graphic designer for the entertainment industry. He’s created lots of great key art, but his contributions to Paul Thomas Anderson’s films have always shook me up most. His interpretations of the stories are so nuanced and personal…exactly the thing those films need.

I worked with Dustin on a gig poster for Bill Burr. The poster was for a tour of California and Bill gave us the idea to interpret the drought that California was in. Dustin built a great narrative based on that concept which I followed through on.

What I learned from working on that project is that a designer should be able to think their way out of any problem. You’re given a creative problem, you figure out an answer to it, and then execute it. Having a purposeful answer is an underestimated tool. That seems obvious, but more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself trying to figure it out as I go. My point is that Dustin sharpened my creative problem solving skills. So, I’m curious what he’s been working on for himself…

What is the most recent skill you’ve developed?

“One of the recent skills I’ve been developing is self editing.

I once heard (or read) a quote somewhere: “He with fifty ideas has none”. I get it. I think I’ve been trying to work that philosophy into my work and provide my clients with more quality and less quantity – putting forward the ideas that I believe in and have good reasons to present to them. So far, it’s been working well with the people I work with.”


I’m glad that our relationships with creativity seem to keep evolving. It feels like there’s security in that. Something of comfort that can constantly shift from being personally rewarding, to professionally.

More info on Eddie at eddiepepitone.com.
More info on Michelle at michellepoler.com.
More info on Dustin at dustinstantoncreative.com.
Illustration by Brett Mikoll, dierichgettrying.com.

Thanks for reading Question Market 2,

Derek

Go. Ready. Set.

Art classes never felt creative to me. I was never lit up by the task of drawing a bowl of fruit accurately. It wasn’t until about half way through high school that the creative challenges within graphic design made me feel like I could pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Several years ended up passing before I was properly satisfied with a visual problem I had attempted to solve. There’s always that first one.

I asked Brandon Schaefer, Open Mike Eagle, and Al Madrigal what they considered to be among their first successes as creative people.


BRANDON SCHAEFER, Designer

Brandon is an incredible graphic designer who primarily designs movie posters. Brandon fascinates me because he so consistently remains a student of the movie poster and design game and that comes through in his work.

He’s created great images for some great projects and people. He is the creative director for Jump Cut, an entertainment advertising agency, and explores the world of his chosen profession on a podcast he co-hosts called The Poster Boys.

What do you consider one of your first successes as a creative person?

“This might sound silly, but it was something really small that felt quite big at the time. During my senior year of high school, I was asked by my design teacher if I wanted to design the program for my class’s graduation ceremony. The details are hazy – it’s been over a decade – but I remember how excited I felt to be given the chance to make something that would be seen by a lot of people.
For the next week or so, I spent a little bit each day after school teaching myself how to really use the pen tool in Illustrator. The first Spider-Man film was hitting theaters around the time, so I drew him web-slinging underneath “Class of 2002” with a graduation cap and a diploma in his hand. It was a pretty simple black and white illustration that was printed on a folded sheet of blue office paper…honestly, nothing incredible about it – but seeing it printed and in everyone’s hand felt like a tremendous accomplishment. I’ve been lucky to have worked on a lot of great things since, but I don’t think any of them have touched me in quite the same way as that first experience did.”

OPEN MIKE EAGLE, Rapper

Mike is a rapper from Chicago. I’m fascinated by the depth of Mike’s releases and output. He has a storyteller persona more than the persona or function that many rappers/MC’s traditionally take (to keep a party going, or defeat an opponent). I feel very few degrees of separation between him and his music, even when he’s not referring to himself at all.

I wasn’t able to connect with him properly for artwork on his latest album (“Hella Personal Film Festival”), but am thankful he gave us the following peak inside his brain and story. Thanks, Mike.

What do you consider one of your first successes as a creative person?

“i would say that my first success as a creative person came when i won my first rap battle in high school. I didnt really have much to hang my hat on socially before that point and becoming part of the skills based community of underground hip hop was really big for my self image. But actually progressing to the point where I can win a battle was a big turning point. I was like I had gone from ‘I can do this’ to ‘I can be great at this’ and I hadnt had anything like that in my life before. And realistically I havent looked back from there.”


AL MADRIGAL, Comedian

Al is a stand up comedian, actor, and entrepreneur. I’ve worked with him on and off for years and am reallllllly glad he said he’d answer my question. Al is interesting because he wears many different hats so effectively.

He’s been a contributor to The Daily Show since 2011, and co-created the All Things Comedy Network. His ability as a comedian is obvious and it’s where he’s dedicated, but I’ve always gotten the sense from him that he’s interested in the inner workings of all the other worlds he gets exposed to by doing comedy. Television, film, design, business, family, politics, technology…etc…

What do you consider one of your first successes as a creative person?

“After spending three years a mute in high school, I finally decided to run for study body treasurer my junior year. My first creative success came with my campaign posters and speech. The posters were all very detailed and fun – “Ask your mom” (Along with a variety of older mom ladies) I’ve always been relatively comfortable with public speaking but when I had to do the speech for study body treasurer at 16, my junior year of high school, that was instrumental at developing my comedy career. It was the first success I had at being funny in front of a crowd. I don’t know what possessed me, it was 1988, but I thought it would be funny to do a Jesse Jackson impersonation. It was Jesse Jackson’s second presidential campaign, so very topical.  Super hacky but my speech rhymed and the impersonation seemed to be on point. I talked about “fiduciary responsibility” and such.., it killed. I remember afterwards the vice principal pulled me aside to tell me that I won in an absolute landslide. I got 1200 votes out of 1300. The guy I beat out ended up transferring out of the school.

Because my speech for study body treasurer was so successful, Mario Prietto, S.J. then principal of SI, lobbied me to be the salutatorian for my senior year.  Back then, at my school, salutatorian was not given based on academic accomplishment. Huge honor, because salutatorian was chosen based on who was funniest and would give the best speech. I did a light roast of the entire 1989 class and did an impression of Mario Prietto. That’s when I got the bug, my first creative success.”


The confidence gained by those first experiences is so interesting to me. It’s a real world application of something that each of us have long suspected. It’s gaining access to a room we’ve always wanted to go in.

More info on Brandon at seekandspeak.com.
More info on Mike at mikeeagle.net.
More info on Al at almadrigal.com.

Thanks for reading Question Market 1. I’m working hard to bring another one soon.

Derek

 

The Question Market is Coming Soon

The Question Market will soon be bringing you insight to brilliant people’s relationships with creativity. How they approach creativity and the struggles and successes they have working in their particular genre of it.

Designers, artists, musicians, moms, chefs, athletes, teachers, barbers, butchers, boozers and more. We have more in common than you think.