June 17, 2014 | By:

The Empty Page

Taking to virgin canvas is one of the greatest challenges for a creative. At some point in a designer’s life it is learned how to collaborate with committees and persnickety clients. Much like riding a bike; it takes some time. There grows a calm in the face of crushing deadlines and rigorous reviews. Those aspects of the industry amplify greatness. As taxing as those elements are, there is still a mountain to climb. That mountain is a blank canvas. That page is a locked door to creativity. How quickly an artist can dispel an empty sheet of paper is a testament to their experience. What they do upon that sheet is indicative of their passion for the art.

Even now when I crack open my sketchbook, I feel a pit in my stomach. A pit put there by a pristine soft tooth page void of any marks. It looks me dead in the eye and with a blank stare and asks me “who do you think you are?” In a school-bully-way, it belittles my ability to create something worthwhile. It mocks my imagination as it presents nothing to inspire me. It’s blank. It’s white. It’s empty. It’s square. It’s flimsy. It’s fragile. It’s dangerous.

When art is the topic of discussion everyone will hear me say “you’ve got to be inspired”. To counter the absolute “nothing” that is a clean sheet of paper there must be an equal “everything” stored in your head. A good designer thrives in an environment of structured distractions. There’s a need for stacks of magazines, shelves of design books, bright colored walls covered in eclectic art, team members slathered in tattoos and piercings. Though rarely used, there is a practicality to having trinkets, baubles, and games all over the place. You see, more times than not, the only thing a designer truly has in front of them is a blank piece of paper.

My trick? I scribble. I take the first shot like a coked-up junkie with a hair trigger 9mm. I shoot first. I end the life of a beaming bleached white page as quickly as I can. Before my brain has too much time to be overwhelmed with the infinite; I scribble something within seconds. By something I mean nothing. I take the pencil/pen and make some jagged or curly marks. That’s my first step…always. After that, my brain starts to try and solve what those scribbles could be. I do the same for writing. I type home-row gibberish: ALGBGSLDNG.

With that scribble-cloud or word-blob, I conquer the great white beast. From there, the evolution of solutions starts to take form. The more hours I spend turning pages, defeating blankness turn after turn, the greater the more powerful the outcomes. The more refined that answers become. All that said, the empty page is always a challenge even for the experienced. In my case, I pride myself on being a master of “nothing”.

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