Professional Practicer

Do you practice for the work you do, and if so, how?

I very rarely practice, in the traditional sense of exercising specific skills. I do a lot of studying…looking at the work of other designers and other creative people’s work, but practice is rare. Round 1 presentations to clients are the closest thing to practice that I do. It’s where I’m experimenting and working out a bunch of ideas and executions that will likely be killed. Is that unprofessional? Irresponsible? Likely, I think.

My working style may be closer to an improvisation…in that the work I’m doing for my clients is exploratory. It could have a dozen different interpretations. I aim for that more than executing a style that I’ve practiced and perfected and then plug their information in to that.

What’s unfortunate is that I’m certain I’d be a better designer if I practiced more. And perhaps my work would be more original…less derivitive. Or more technically successful. Less studying, more practicing…

Practice is safe ground for failure. They’re kind of one in the same. Failure and therefor practice, could be among the most obvious steps to successful work. The benefit is undeniable.

To dig further in to this, I asked Adam Lowitt, Adam Maida, and Steven Feinartz to describe the role practice plays in their work…

Adam Lowitt,

Adam started working for The Daily Show as an intern in 2002 and has been there since. Not as an intern. He’s an executive producer, writer, and on-air correspondent. I think longevity is somewhat rare in creative jobs. So working with the same company for that long is certainly something I admire. In addition to what Adam contributes to the Daily show, he consistently performs stand up comedy as well.

Whether you enjoy The Daily Show or not, he goes to work every day for one of the most respected and prolific comedic and cultural platforms America has to offer. With that…

Do you practice for the work you do, and if so, how?

“Practice” in comedy is always an interesting concept because the term denotes that there’s a final product.  At least where I work, on The Daily Show, you could say the making of that day’s show is just practice for making tomorrow’s show.  I think “refining” is a better term, which is what we do all day, everyday.  Can this joke be funnier? Can this graphic be clearer? Can this take be stronger?  And once the episode airs, hopefully the staff doesn’t get too drunk after work, and we’re able to make an even better show the next day.

I treat my standup pretty much the same way.  Each set is practice for the next. The writing and rewriting of bits, figuring out how to perform a joke instead of simply saying it.  There are no comedy drills for that, it’s just logged hours onstage. That being said, I’ve often fantasized about some comedy version of Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski that i have to meet up with at six a.m. every morning to hone bits.  We’re both wearing tear away pants and he’s got a whistle that he blows every time I forget to enunciate the word “Jewish” in one of my punchlines.

Adam Maida,

Working out of Rochester, New York, Adam is one of the best designers in the western New York area. He’s created some incredible work for the New York Times, and Criterion Collection, as well as for other entertainment venues and social causes.

I’ve gotten to collaborate with Adam on a handful of projects. He’s always had great ideas to contribute, and executes them in phenomenal ways. He’s got a great sense for how to use collaged and illustrated elements. He uses them in different ways than the rest of us.

His work is so interesting to me, and I regularly revisit (or study) it. So, I was curious to know more about what goes in to it…

Do you practice for the work you do, and if so, how?

I find that simply experimenting with my own work, wether its for a client or just personal, is the best form of practice. Anything from simply combining two opposites in collage to animating something i’ve painted. I think the action of playing with our work is inherently the best kind of practice for any artist . It is one of the few methods one can partake in to simply find something internally or externally which ceased to exist beforehand. This I believe improves our abilities to not just draw or design better, but to think and communicate better through our work as well.

Steven Feinartz,

Steven is a director who is primarily in service to the comedy industry. I was introduced to him when I worked on posters for a documentary he directed about a stand up comedian (who I chatted with for QM2) named Eddie Pepitone.

In addition to that documentary, Steven has directed and produced comedy specials for Seeso, Netflix, Comedy Central, and Showtime. I know he keeps busy, so I was wondering how he stays sharp…

Do you practice for the work you do, and if so, how?

I do try to practice as much as I can, but practicing can mean a lot of things as a Director. I try to absorb what other work inspires me and at the same time try my best to develop my own voice. I’ve also taken to become a little more hands-on with the camera than I used to be. Exploring what different lenses and lighting techniques do to the image is so crucial to being able to express what you are looking for visually to your collaborators.

Most of what I’m working with is in the comedy space. Whether its documentaries, specials, shorts or music videos, I always need to think what best serves the subject or story. For specials in particular, I practice in becoming accustomed to the comics’ style or tone, and plan on shooting as true to that as possible. As a Director, you have to be available to so many people and at the same time you are the one making the final decisions. There is still nothing better than on-the-job training. For me, it’s how I’ve learned from my mistakes and apply that to what I’m doing that has made me stronger.

It seems that each of us have integrated practice in to the work itself in one way or another. I think that’s interesting. We probably all used to practice in a more traditional sense, and now we just do the work.

For professionals, it seems, practice is an ambiguous concept. I suspect Larry Bird would disagree.

More info on Adam Lowitt at
More info on Adam Maida at
More info on Steven at
Header image by Derek Gabryszak.

Thanks for reading Question Market 7!


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