When I was reflecting on three things that give me life I was surprised by what came into focus. I want to unpack each one a bit, but I thought I should start with a brief summary.

 Culture: I’ve always wanted to be a sponge when it comes to culture. I want to soak up every surface of knowledge about who we are as people, what we care about, what we deem as ‘popular culture’ vs. ‘subculture’. understanding these nuances feeds into image making pretty directly as we as designers and illustrators feed into the zeitgeist with the subjects we communicate. 

Discovery: These moments of discovery often come from observations of culture. I get a lot of joy in ‘discovering’ things I wasn’t aware of before. Particularly when it feels like it permanently expands my field of vision. For example, I only this year realized Annie Lennox was part of the Eurythmics, and, as I’m sure you can agree, I’m much better off having made this discovery than the naive world I was living in before. 

Solitude: This is a tricky one. But it remains true that periods of seclusion do bring me joy. Like a lot of introverts, it feels unbalanced to not get time to sit with your own thoughts at times, and of course, I find the ability to make work in these quiet moments rewarding. 

With these three ‘elixirs’ I’m beginning to see a through-line emerge between them. Tapping in to the rich, endless culture that surrounds us and the layers of community we exist within, making discoveries, and being able process and sit with them in a space that feels creatively fruitful (for me that means solitude). This pathway seems to influence my process as a designer. I’m not sure if this is a unique realization or a universal truth, perhaps a bit of both.
Where do people turn to for comfort and escape? They turned to art and culture. To media, to music, to streaming. Consuming culture is a never ending buffet of viewpoints that take you to places you haven’t been before. I often muse about how I want to be a sponge to culture. I also think about how, while we have our contemporary ‘popular culture’, there are decades of prequels to catch up on. I’ve always wanted to be a time traveling designer, so visiting the culture of another era and comparing it to where we are today is fascinating to me.

Culture resonates differently to each person, indeed there are subcultures that don’t cross into the mainstream but have equally rich layers of built up understanding. From the New Romantics, the Beatniks, the Retro Futurists and the Vapourwave obsessed. These subcultures still influence our fashion, art, music, and the way we have designed the world around us.

When was the last time you stumbled on some new information that completely blew your mind? Something or someone you were completely unaware of before that then led you down an hours-long rabbit whole of Wikipedia searches and YouTube videos? I love these moments. When something has been in the world without your knowledge, and you finally come face to face with it, the world begins to feel a tiny bit smaller.
One example of this is when you discover an artist you weren’t aware of before. Just recently I was listening to Andy J. Pizza's podcast ‘Creative Pep Talk’ where he asked the question to his guest, ‘What is the art you consumed that made you an artist’. I remember finding Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work when I was 15 and getting immediately obsessed with finding out about his life and work. All of which had been under my nose the whole time and I had come into contact with his work on previous occasions without knowing it. From that point of contact on, his work became a contributing influence to me.

I felt similar ‘spirals’ of discovery when I learned about Levittown Pennsylvania, expo67, and James Rosenquist’s paintings. All of these ‘discoveries’ were influential to our culture decades before I found them, but they all led me to really rewarding projects as an excuse to learn more about them.

Following these trails of discovery when something peaks my interest is one of my favourite ways to find direction in both the personal and professional work I create.

I suppose it makes sense that because most of my time creating is spent alone that I would enjoy solitude. For me this space of quiet and uninterrupted time is where a lot of creativity can be harnessed. It can also be a space where you lose a sense of time and the world around you. I become fully enveloped in what’s right in front of me as everything else fades into the background. This can be a much needed escape, retreat, or a method of avoidance. But it’s always there when you need it.
But as with the other 'elixirs', alone it is incomplete. For without the influence of culture and energetic community with others, time in solitude yields nothing. 

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