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Welcome to the fourteenth 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.
We are well on our way to 20 issues! Thank you for everyone who has joined along so far (and why not tell a friend).

Let's jump right into today's interview, with some creative juice at the bottom as always. 

Featured visual creator: Aaron Alto [Twitter | Instagram | website]
Visual style: sketches and short animations
Trusting the Process with Aaron Alto
Drawing by Aaron Alto. Full animation here.
Aaron Alto is a prolific visual creator on Twitter. He effortlessly shifts between short animationsaudience engagement, and even sketch tutorials. His posts come alive with a simple, consistent sketched style that is instantly recognizable. Sketching as thinking and trusting the creative process are the connective tissue that hold a lot of his social media content together. Since following Aaron, I’ve had this urge to play more with animation in Procreate.

Below are some thoughts Aaron was kind enough to share with us about his visual process.


Please tell us about the creative projects you work on.

I’m working on launching a design freelance business. Additionally, I’m working on a sketching course that aims to teach anyone the basics of sketching ideas. 

How long have you been visually creative and how did you land on your current visual style?

Since I could hold a pencil. First memories of drawing are from Kindergarten. 

I tried doing all kinds of illustrations. So when I stopped trying I landed on what I’m doing today. 

It was born out of a desire to impute humanity to my work. 

What went into the decision to start including original drawings and short animations on Twitter?

It started as a fun thing for the 30 or so people that were following me. 

I’m riding on the shoulders of giants like Jack Butcher, Matthew Kobach, and Naval. They’re talents inspired me to share the work. 

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

iPad and Pencil. Procreate (6B pencil). Rush. That’s it. 

Is there one image or animation you are particularly proud of?

Yes, the “Secrets of Life” animation with Steve Jobs. I’m proud of that. 

What advice would you give anyone who wants to build an audience using their visuals?

Find out who you are and what you want your life on Earth to be about. Follow your curiosity wherever it leads. Provide people with value. Hone your craft and march forward. 

Trust the Process. 

Are there any creators who work at the intersection of writing and art that inspire and motivate you?

Sure. Jack Butcher is a great friend and a huge source of inspiration. And then I’m blessed to have a circle of creative friends that continually inspire me. 

I’m a wealthy man when it comes to inspiration. 

Read full interview online
For the past few years, I've done year-end reflections in my sketchbook as well as year-ahead hopes and dream. These hopes and dreams have drifted towards doing yearly themes, which I've come to enjoy exponentially better than new year's resolutions. Themes are better than resolutions because they are more flexible with way less pressure.

I was largely influenced by CGP Grey's thoughts on this (he also discusses at much greater length on his Cortex podcast, like here). 

Anyway, late last year I decided to make 2021 the year of visuals and habits. As proof:
Just pretend I meant this as black-out art and not blocking embarrassing personal journal stuff :)
I've been happy so far with how it's been going. Starting new habits around visuals has been extremely rewarding, and I love that themes allow it to evolve. The two big components so far in my "year of visuals" has been starting this newsletter, and joining the daily visual community on Twitter and Discord.

Themes don't have to be annual either. Why not join me for a "summer of visuals"? Following our guest from today, Aaron Alto, is a perfect way to get the creative juices flowing (also, hopefully following this newsletter does as well).

More links to get the creative juices flowing:

Amazing concept art that influenced the whole aesthetic of the original Star Wars trilogy.

How social media star Zach King builds creative momentum. Love this mostly for the ending bit about how he views creativity: “When I look at the creative process, it’s about birthing a new idea into the world. It doesn’t have to be original, but it’s your version. But ultimately, I wonder if creativity is about following up on your curiosity and actually executing on it. I think that’s where the magic of creativity is. I think about it all the time, like what a shame, how many great ideas are dying with the person in the grave? If only a few had been executed the world would be so much richer.”

A visual breaking down what I hope this newsletter to be.

Don't follow your curiosity, follow your passion.

Ok, that's it for this week. Be sure to create something cool and share it with someone.

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