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THE FEATURED IMAGE
 

 

Welcome to the sixth issue of The Featured Image newsletter, a place where writing meets art. As a reminder, the goal here is to add visual creativity to our work and gain inspiration from those already doing it.
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Janis Ozolins is one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter. He illustrates thoughts and quotes that hit home for anyone in a creative pursuit.

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His audience has doubled in the short time I’ve been following his work and it’s all thanks to his approach to pairing thoughtful ideas with simple, striking illustrations.

I caught up with him over email and he was kind enough to share his journey getting started as a visual creator. Be sure to follow Janis on Twitter for non-stop great visuals and sign up for his email newsletter right here.

Tell us about the creative work you do.


I illustrate various things around creativity. For the most part: creative struggles. This quote captures one of the primary goals I try to accomplish with my illustrations.

“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”
― Shannon L. Alder
 

What was your journey to get to your current visual style?


It’s been a while. In early 2016, I decided I want to be part of the Creators Economy. I tried a bit of blogging and YouTube, plus some other things, but it never lasted.

Around mid-2019, while reading this article by James Clear, I was fascinated by how he visualized concepts for extra punch.

I was hooked and started to illustrate lessons I’ve learned over the years. After a while, I found Visualize Value which made me push harder to nail down a really minimal aesthetic, but I struggled to get to a point where I was satisfied with my work.

Aaron and Andrew got me curious about drawing with hand. In a matter of days, I had an iPad in my hands, and I started to draw. I loved it, and with extra inspiration from Liz and Mollie and Tim Urban, I developed the style I have now.

Here is a thread with examples and some addition to this story.
 

What went into the decision to start including original visuals with your work? Do you find it helps you communicate your ideas better?


I’ve never been a big reader. I love audiobooks, podcasts and I prefer if people add visuals to their blogs as it helps to illustrate the ideas better or hold my attention for the piece I’m reading

It goes back to the good old advice: make something you would love to see yourself.

Also, I love the challenge of taking an idea and trying to figure out how I could communicate this idea so my audience understands it instantly without burning many calories.
 

What tools do you like to use for creation and publishing?


Step one: always be ready to capture thoughts and ideas, so you don’t end up like this.
 
Step two: have your constraints in place (color, schemes, fonts, etc.).
Step three: Communicate your idea within those constraints.
Another tip: it does not always start with a lesson of the message I want to deliver. Often it starts with a simple object or situation I’ve noticed, and then I figure out what message could go into that.

For example, I noticed this “Life Sucks” playlist on Spotify.
I then figured out how this could fit into an illustration, and I came up with this:
The most important tool in my tool stack is the iPad with Apple Pencil. All the drawings currently happen in the Procreate app.
Read the rest online

 
Creative Juice

Austin Kleon. I've been well aware of Austin Kleon for a few years but I haven't had a chance to read his books yet (soon!). I do really love his weekly newsletter though. It's full of great links and short thoughts. Also, he was on Slate's Working podcast, which I highly recommend if you are interested in creativity.

Getting started with Procreate. I can't recommend Procreate enough for anyone looking to get into drawing or illustration. You'll notice that many of those interviewed for this newsletter use it, and it's really an amazing gateway into satisfying digital creation. 

If you already have a compatible iPad, it's completely worth the investment of an Apple Pencil and Procreate if you can swing it. 

Procreate is only a $10 one time purchase and is an all-in-one tool. Getting too deep into the Adobe creative infrastructure involves monthly subscriptions and who needs more of that?

The biggest disadvantage of Procreate vs something like Adobe Illustrator is that Procreate does raster graphics (if you zoom in you see pixels), while Illustrator uses vector graphics (images created with math in such a way that you can zoom in and out with no pixels and always have clean lines).

This isn't a big deal unless you are a professional illustrator and you need the ability to create scalable images (like for a poster if you need to) of images you've created. You can still make very clean lines that looks like vector images within Procreate. 

I've been playing around with Procreate for a few years now, but I've recently decided to really invest some time into learning it properly. If you are in the same boat, I recommend a few things:

1) I went through this fairly short (and free) course on Skillshare. I found it incredibly helpful. There are so many little tips and tricks built into Procreate that it's almost impossible to solely play around with it and figure it all out on your own (even thought it's simple to pick up and create with). 
2) Check out the Procreate subreddit for inspiration on designs and motivation. 
3) Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Trace over things and follow tutorials. Search YouTube for Procreate tutorials and when you follow along, you'll be amazed at how well it turns out. Art with Flo is a one I hear a lot about that I plan on checking out.
4) Start with creating simple visuals. Pair thoughts or quotes with visuals that involve basic shapes and graphs. Play around with color. Maybe even commit to posting on social media every day to hold yourself accountable. That's what I'm doing!
 

Ok, that's it for this week. Go create something cool and share it with your friends.

Erik 
 
 
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