Monday, December 20, 2010

New Artist Statement

Today I submitted my work for consideration by Artist a Day, a gallery site which showcases one artist's work each day. Since 2007, the site has attracted 800,000 subscribers to its iGoogle gadget and shows some pretty nifty artwork.

Part of the application process was writing a new artist statement, which was a helpful exercise in thinking about why I do what I do and how my work is different. I will undoubtedly continue to explore these issues through writing.

Here is what I submitted:

Sketchbooks are often relegated to a preliminary role in creating art, which is understandable: for hundreds of years they have played an important role in capturing, incubating, and developing inspiration and ideas. Artists used sketchbooks to record and develop ideas that formed the foundation of finished pieces in other media. This perception is unfortunate because it ignores the potential of sketchbooks to be an independent, valid, and rich vehicle for finished work.

My view and approach are different. I see sketchbooks as a unique medium that combines finished work with the traditional repository of raw and unformed ideas. Every page in my books contains the entire history of an idea, from its origin to final expression, simultaneously occupying the entire continuum of the creative process.

I use my sketchbooks in part for traditional purposes: as a repository of ideas and inspiring words and images; as a laboratory for experimenting with materials, techniques, and styles; and as a incubator for nurturing, exploring, and developing creative ideas. But I also see my sketchbooks as finished pieces and give page spreads the same consideration, attention, and care afforded a finished piece.

I’m attracted to books because they offer us a uniquely intimate experience. They are small and tactile; we hold them in our hands. The experience of reading a book is solitary, absorbing us even if we are sitting in a crowded room. Written or visual journals are places in which we often reveal our most private selves.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1,000 Journals: the Movie

Despite my deep love of sketchbooks, I couldn’t envision them as the subject of a movie. At least not an interesting one. Despite long odds, filmmaker Andrea Kreuzhage accomplished that very unlikely task with 1000 Journals.

The movie tells the story of the 1000 Journals Project, an experiment in which a San Francisco-based graphic designer named Someguy released 1000 blank journals into the world, hoping that people would add to them and return them. Since it began in 2000, the project has involved hundreds (if not thousands) of participants in more than 40 countries and all 50 of the United States, as well as yielded a 212-page book and an exhibition through SFMOMA.

Kreuzhage began work on the film in December 2003, spending the next five years traveling the globe to interview nearly 500 contributors to the 1000 Journals Project. According to the film’s website, the crew shot about 165 hours of film, took well over 7,000 still photos, and made about 2,400 high resolution scans of about 80 journals.

The stories Krezhage collected, while engaging on their own, have even more power when taken together. In that sense, the movie is much like a sketchbook; the individual parts are given greater meaning and depth when taken as a whole. The film showed perfectly the power of the 1,000 Journals Project, capturing the spirit of collective creativity that has driven thousands to participate.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Creative Process Interviews: Scott Tredeau

Scott Tredeau is a curious mix of the type of person who chooses to live in any American small town, and the type of person who desperately needs to leave. He is a devoted family man and former car mechanic who loves camping, his four-wheeler, and living in the country. He also runs the Atlanta-based graphic consultancy TredeauDesign, Inc., plays guitar, and has a lifelong passion for riding and designing skateboards.

As a teenager in Ossian, Indiana, Scott sought refuge from the more stultifying aspects of small-town life. Skateboarding provided an outlet for his creative energy, opened up a new view of the world, and gave him an urge to experience more.

That desire led him to study design at The Creative Circus in Atlanta. After graduation in 2002, he founded TredeauDesign and built a specialty in graphic communication for non-profits. For many years he also owned and operated Boulevard Skateboards a skateboard design and fabrication company.

Scott and his wife Meredith now live in Social Circle, Georgia, with their two small children. I caught up with Scott between guitar practice and working on brochure layouts to talk about his design work, creative process, and how skateboarding helped get it all started.

What part did skateboarding play in your life as a teen in small-town Indiana?
Skateboarding was my life. It was to me what Little League Baseball was to some kids. Skateboarding influenced what I wore, how I thought, and how I looked at things. Back then, skateboarding wasn’t as mainstream and common or accepted as it is today, especially in the cornfields of small town Indiana. We were considered outsiders, different than the “norm.”

Did skateboarding play any role in your interest in art or design?
To me, skateboarding is a creative outlet in that you are forced to view your surroundings in a different, creative way, while in search of places to skate. For example, a parking lot is not just a place to park your car. When on your skateboard, you look at it for ways you can incorporate it and its elements into what you want to do on your board. With design, the same process comes into effect, when I use things from my surroundings as different ways to communicate the artistic vision in my head. Design has become my new creative outlet since I’m too old and tired to skateboard anymore.

How would you describe your creative process? What are the steps you go through in creating graphics for clients or your skateboards?
The first step in a new project for a client is usually a kick-off meeting with the client to talk about the project’s scope, purpose, message, audience, medium, etc.

My creative process generally begins with a trip to the bookstore to research creative books and books related to the type of project for ideas and inspiration. I make notes and sketch layouts, which help guide me once I sit down at the computer.

I typically provide clients with three different design directions/comps. Based on client feedback, I move forward with the chosen design direction and complete the final product.

The creative process for my personal work, such as skateboard graphics, usually begins when I get an idea for something or some message I want to communicate visually, while trying to fall asleep at night.

I then start looking for images or ways to create the look/idea in a hands-on way, such as tracing, stenciling, painting, making textures with spray paint, bushes, found items. Then I start putting all the pieces together to communicate the message or vision.

As I begin including everything – all the thoughts and ideas – I realize there is too much going on, and I start editing/removing elements. It’s usually the simplicity that says the message best. The piece usually ends up much different than it starts, always evolving as it goes.

What is the difference in how you approach client work versus personal work, like a logo versus skateboard graphic?
Client work is structured, and done according to established schedules, budgets, and client needs; it’s a collaborative effort to design something that communicates the client’s vision. Personal projects are sporadic, with no structure or schedule; it’s personal and individual, and the only considerations are my ideas and messages.

You mentioned that your skateboard graphics ideas come as you're falling asleep. What do you think it is about that time or that state of being that brings about ideas?
It’s the time where my mind is free to wander where it will. Whereas during the day, I have to stay focused on my to-do list and daily priorities.

You seem to use to use a lot of non-digital media in your skateboard graphics. Why?
I think that because I use the computer and digital media so much for work, it’s when I’m not working or sitting in front of the computer that I get ideas for the graphics and inspiration from my surroundings. I want the skateboard graphics to come from what I create, not the computer.

How do your skateboard and design work influence one another?
The only way they really influence one another is that I want them to be different than one another. I really enjoy my design work and the projects I get to work on, and feel lucky that my business involves something I’m passionate about (art and design), but at the end of the day, it’s a job, it’s work. My skateboard art is a form of escape, and I want it to be everything my design work is not, and vice versa.

What’s next for TredeauDesign and your skateboard design work?
I’m in the process of a total over haul of the website, (, adding a lot of work to the portfolio, trying to tailor it to my current client base, which has evolved over the last couple years, since my last re-design of the site. My work has also expanded geographically recently, to include west coast clients and markets, and I want to take that even further. My skateboard art has had to move to the back burner for a while, because I just don’t have the extra time to spend on it. I’m focused on growing TredeauDesign right now, which is the priority. My skateboard art will always be a part of my life, just not a large part at the moment.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The New is Here!

The new has a variety of additional features that include expanded galleries, a blog, a resources page for books, websites, and DVDs about sketchbooks and creativity, and information about seminars and speaking engagements.

Check it out - enjoy the new images and features and please help me pass on the news.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Coming Soon

Sorry to have been so silent of late. I've been pouring my free hours into a complete revamp of my sketchbook gallery site. With luck, it will be ready for a big debut by early November. Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Train Type

Found type (or secret code?) at 
the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia.

I have a two year-old son who loves trains. Rather, he’s obsessed by them. Every time a train goes by, it’s a special event: we stop whatever we’re doing and watch.

I love to watch the trains go by too, but for considerably different reasons. Trains bring out the designer and typographer in me.

The sides of trains are covered with type that undoubtedly means something to company employees, but to me seem like mysterious abstract arrangements of numbers and letters. The messages are so starkly utilitarian and unselfconsciously ugly that I can’t help but love them. The best ones sit on a surface which usually has a weathered patina, further obscuring their meaning and adding considerably to their appeal.

I also adore transportation logos. They’re invariably rock simple, look sturdy as a house, and are adorably ugly. My favorites are those that look like they haven’t changed since the company was founded 75 years ago. But that’s another post for another day.

In the meantime, I’ll keep staring at the accidentally beautiful, abstract typography on the sides of passing trains.
More found type at the Southeastern Railway Museum.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Accidental Author (Sort of)

How many people find out purely by chance that their artwork has been published somewhere? As of a few nights ago, I’m the first one I know.

I’ve always loved books about sketchbooks and have purchased quite a few through the years. Recently, however, I made the decision to build as comprehensive a library as I can - one that could eventually serve as a resource for myself and others.

A couple hundred dollars of gift cards in hand, I spent an evening combing the Internet for new acquisitions. By midnight I had identified a dozen or so books I wanted and had looked at two dozen more. Bleary-eyed, I clicked on one more of the suggested links, leading me to The Journal Junkies Workshop: Visual Ammunition for the Art Addict by Eric M. Scott and David R. Modler.

Scanning through the “Look Inside” preview, I about soiled myself when I found some of my artwork incorporated into a collage. At first pissed off, I was relieved to see that they gave me credit in the back of the book.

Mountains of spam keep me from regularly checking the email account associated with, so it’s quite possible they had tried to contact me. Besides, I appreciate the fact that the authors are working to make sketchbooks a more valued part of art courses on the high school and college level. The fact that they plugged my site also helped win me over.

I immediately ordered the book, which arrived yesterday. A very thorough how-to book full of great ideas for materials and techniques, The Journal Junkies Workshop is an inspiring book for artists of any age.

Not that I’m biased, of course.

Check it out for yourself. Here’s a link on Amazon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Resources for Sketchbooks, Art, and Creativity on the Web

Last week I launched a blog page to hold my sketchbook, art, and creativity reading list. Today I’ve put together a similar page for resources on the web. As I discover new resources I’ll post them to the appropriate page and will let you know about it.
I’m always open to suggestions, so please let me know about your favorite sketchbook, art, and creativity books and websites.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Promise. Or, From My Lips to God’s Ears.

I’ve been thinking about making myself an outrageous promisethat I’ll devote every waking moment to one of my five greatest passions:
  1. Family, relationships, and helping other people;
  2. Sketchbooks, art, and creativity;
  3. My practice of Aikido and other physical exercise;
  4. Nutrition, health, and a balanced life; and
  5. Any activity that helps nurture the first four passions (e.g. reading, researching)
It’s crazy, I know. Most people are only allotted two or three successful sweeping changes in lifecommitments on the scale of “I’m going to quit drinking” or “I think I’ll drop those extra hundred pounds.” That’s the reason why far-reaching New Year’s resolutions fail at a rate that justifies the cliché.

There are a couple of reasons why I believe my outrageous promise is going to work. Or perhaps I should say, there are a couple of reasons why I think this promise is worth pursuing. The first reason has to do with advice from a dead friend; the second with the importance of underachievement.

A few years ago, a former coworker died in her thirties from a sudden illness. She was a powerful, dynamic, fiercely intelligent, determined person who achieved more at a younger age than most ever could. She was a vice president in our company, an extraordinary mother to her three small children, and a good friend to the hundreds of mourners at her funeral. At the service, her husband delivered a moving eulogy about Jen and her belief in living every day with intention. She wasted no time, deciding where to allocate her energy every minute. She made every moment of her life meaningful. That was her secret.

At the funeral I decided that living my own life with intention would be a the best tribute I could offer this great woman. I developed the habit of asking myself at random times, usually when I was waiting for something or deciding what to do next, whether I was living that moment with intention. Invariably the answer was “no.”

I began to wonder: how many of those “no” moments make up my days? How much more could I accomplish if I reclaimed those moments for the things I care about most? Often, the simple act of asking myself whether I was living that moment with intention was often enough to re-focus that time on something important.

Living each moment with intention is an idealistic notion at best. If I’m going to focus my time on one of the five things that matter most to me, I’ll need to also make strategic use of under-achievement.

I know that sounds ludicrous, but bear with me. 

I first learned how to use underachievement in physical exercise. Like many beginners, I set fitness goals that were unrealistic and sapped my motivation. Through trial and error, I learned to reward myself for effort that failed to reach the mark. If I wanted to do 30 push-ups in a set, it was OK if I only completed 24; perhaps the next day I could do 25. Sure enough, the next day I was usually able to find the strength for the extra effort, and I slowly built my way up to my goal. 

I never compromised my goalsI still wanted to do 30 push-ups in a set. I simply rewarded myself for underachievement in order to keep my motivation alive and I allowed myself all the time I needed. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you refrain from judging yourself. 

So now I know that if I’m conscious of how I spend my time, I can reclaim more of it for my greatest passions. And if I keep my goals intact while giving myself the time and space I need to reach them, I might just fulfill that outrageous promise.

Friday, September 3, 2010

From My Library to Yours

Check out the new Reading List page for books I recommend about sketchbooks, the creative process, and creativity across disciplines. I'll continue to build this list as I find out about more books of interest. If you are aware of any books that should be on this list but aren't, please let me know.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Little Wisdom from St. E

Truth is not that which can be demonstrated by the aid of logic. If orange-trees are hardy and rich in fruit in this bit of soil and not that, then this bit of soil is what is truth for orange-trees. If a particular religion, or culture, or scale of values, if one form of activity rather than another, brings self-fulfillment to a man, releases the prince asleep within him unknown to himself, then that scale of values, that culture, that form of activity, constitute his truth. Logic, you say? Let logic wangle in its own explanation of life.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Wind, Sand and Stars (1939)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Busy Life. No Write.

There are good problems, and there are bad problems. Lately, I've got too much other good and interesting work to do, so my writing has slowed down a bit. But fortunately, I've continued to work in my books. Here's another sample from Book Seven.

As always, these spreads are also with all of their little siblings on the Book Seven page.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Armies of Cute and Other Wonders

More tidbits from Book Seven. Bon Appétit.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Haiku Interlude: A Paean to Professional Envy

Salieri’s Roller Coaster
Who has not felt it?
Love and hate and love again
Because you’re better

Monday, July 26, 2010


"In the art world there is a snobbery which suggests that the artist is meant to be a shadowy figure in the background behind the work. That kind of high-integrity marketing strategy is very common. Whether people call it a marketing strategy or integrity is another matter ... The monk-artist is an attractive archetype in a world where there are only so many - the belligerent drunk, the batty dame, the flaming tortured soul. Its a big part of the attraction of art - the work as a relic of the artist/saint/holy fool. People want to touch the cloth or whatever. It’s a part of the religion.”

British ceramicist Grayson Perry
Winner of the 2003 Turner Prize
Quoted in Dr. Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World

Meet Mr. Robot

A new poem in the Newspaper Blackout style popularized by Austin Kleon. Click on the image below to view a larger image.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Accidental Skype Poetry

My teenage son Harrison is visiting his maternal grandfather in China for the summer. In order to stay in touch, I recently activated a Skype account and am becoming familiar with the video call feature.

We quickly discovered that I didn’t have the necessary hardware: while I have the video camera that allows him to see me and the speakers that allow me to hear him, I don’t have a microphone which will allow me to speak. Consequently, we see one another and he speaks to me, but I have to type all of my responses.

After one of our recent calls, I glanced at the transcript left on screen. It reads like some strange poem:

[7/20/2010 9:41:13 PM]     I can hear you perfectly
[7/20/2010 9:41:27 PM]     I can see you, but you're fuzzy
[7/20/2010 9:41:32 PM]     Yes.
[7/20/2010 9:41:46 PM]     It's like a series of still pictures.
[7/20/2010 9:41:57 PM]     What room are you in?
[7/20/2010 9:42:04 PM]     What's that horse?
[7/20/2010 9:42:17 PM]     Cool.
[7/20/2010 9:42:32 PM]     Oh yeah?
[7/20/2010 9:42:51 PM]     Does your Grandpa know them?
[7/20/2010 9:43:04 PM]     Near by?
[7/20/2010 9:43:11 PM]     Army? Bummer.
[7/20/2010 9:43:31 PM]     Air Force.
[7/20/2010 9:43:35 PM]     They're more civilized.
[7/20/2010 9:43:45 PM]     They have some civil unrest.
[7/20/2010 9:43:51 PM]     Not too bad.
[7/20/2010 9:44:01 PM]     Me too.
[7/20/2010 9:44:09 PM]     I'm sure it'll be OK.
[7/20/2010 9:44:13 PM]     Yeah?
[7/20/2010 9:44:22 PM]     Yes. She's pretty.
[7/20/2010 9:44:29 PM]     Cool.
[7/20/2010 9:44:34 PM]     Will you see her again soon?
[7/20/2010 9:44:54 PM]     Where do you see them?
[7/20/2010 9:45:10 PM]     Is that close to the house?
[7/20/2010 9:45:15 PM]     Yes, picture clear.
[7/20/2010 9:45:35 PM]     I only see a mutant.
[7/20/2010 9:45:49 PM]     You look post-apocalyptic.
[7/20/2010 9:46:05 PM]     Wow.
[7/20/2010 9:46:10 PM]     That makes a funny noise.
[7/20/2010 9:46:18 PM]     What do you have planned today?
[7/20/2010 9:46:33 PM]     Bummer
[7/20/2010 9:46:44 PM]     How's your Grandpa and Colleen?
[7/20/2010 9:47:05 PM]     Is he bummed out about not working?
[7/20/2010 9:47:18 PM]     Cool.
[7/20/2010 9:47:22 PM]     He's an interesting dude.
[7/20/2010 9:47:27 PM]     Has he told you any stories?
[7/20/2010 9:47:49 PM]     Once you're older, he'll probably tell you more of them.
[7/20/2010 9:48:07 PM]     Maoist wine?
[7/20/2010 9:48:12 PM]     Sounds crappy.
[7/20/2010 9:48:22 PM]     No?
[7/20/2010 9:48:26 PM]     Oh.
[7/20/2010 9:48:43 PM]     Well, they had nice hats.
[7/20/2010 9:49:24 PM]     Sounds like a cool bottle.
[7/20/2010 9:49:33 PM]     Cool.
[7/20/2010 9:49:37 PM]     Glad you got to try it.
[7/20/2010 9:49:43 PM]     Maybe...
[7/20/2010 9:49:51 PM]     Yes, that's true.
[7/20/2010 9:50:00 PM]     Sure.
[7/20/2010 9:50:06 PM]     Hey, I did some research...
[7/20/2010 9:50:18 PM]     ...on the microphone thing.
[7/20/2010 9:50:29 PM]     I think my computer is trying to look for the microphone...
[7/20/2010 9:50:37 PM]     ...the same place it finds the speakers.
[7/20/2010 9:50:50 PM]     Yes.
[7/20/2010 9:51:00 PM]     There's no internal mike on this piece of shizzle.
[7/20/2010 9:51:25 PM]     Sure. This just isn't too good a PC.
[7/20/2010 9:51:31 PM]     It's old.
[7/20/2010 9:51:55 PM]     Sounds bad.
[7/20/2010 9:52:01 PM]     How hot is it?
[7/20/2010 9:52:13 PM]     Sounds hot.
[7/20/2010 9:52:35 PM]     Seen any crazy cab drivers?
[7/20/2010 9:53:13 PM]     Sure.
[7/20/2010 9:53:17 PM]     The subway sounds good.
[7/20/2010 9:53:26 PM]     What were you going to say about your Mom?
[7/20/2010 9:53:38 PM]     Heat stroke?
[7/20/2010 9:53:42 PM]     Bummer.
[7/20/2010 9:53:52 PM]     Maybe she's dehydrated.
[7/20/2010 9:54:04 PM]     Sure.
[7/20/2010 9:54:13 PM]     Have you had any good food?
[7/20/2010 9:54:25 PM]     Not that I want to change the topic away from the runs.
[7/20/2010 9:54:36 PM]     Japanese food?
[7/20/2010 9:54:39 PM]     Sounds good.
[7/20/2010 9:54:56 PM]     Blue Frog?
[7/20/2010 9:55:04 PM]     Do they have TV in English?
[7/20/2010 9:55:11 PM]     What shows?
[7/20/2010 9:55:31 PM]     What's that movie?
[7/20/2010 9:56:24 PM]     Taxes are like monsters.
[7/20/2010 9:56:32 PM]     Big and scary.
[7/20/2010 9:56:42 PM]     Cool.
[7/20/2010 9:56:49 PM]     Was there an apocalypse?
[7/20/2010 9:57:07 PM]     Maybe obsessed with a small "o"
[7/20/2010 9:57:27 PM]     I'll explain...
[7/20/2010 9:57:41 PM]     When someone is doing something in a big way, you say that...
[7/20/2010 9:57:54 PM]     ...they are doing it with a big first letter.
[7/20/2010 9:57:58 PM]     Like this...
[7/20/2010 9:58:06 PM]     I love pizza with a big "L"
[7/20/2010 9:58:15 PM]     Like, LOVE.
[7/20/2010 9:58:40 PM]     So a small first letter means not
[7/20/2010 9:58:51 PM]     enthusiastically or extremely.
[7/20/2010 9:59:10 PM]     Yeah.
[7/20/2010 9:59:22 PM]      Are you adjusted to the time difference?
[7/20/2010 9:59:35 PM]     Do they let you sleep in?
[7/20/2010 9:59:52 PM]     Really? Why?
[7/20/2010 10:00:06 PM]   That sucks.
[7/20/2010 10:00:16 PM]   6?
[7/20/2010 10:00:20 PM]   What's that beeping?
[7/20/2010 10:00:34 PM]   Nice watch.
[7/20/2010 10:00:50 PM]   Looks good.
[7/20/2010 10:01:05 PM]   Is it real?
[7/20/2010 10:01:14 PM]   Good enough.
[7/20/2010 10:01:35 PM]   What did the site say?
[7/20/2010 10:02:08 PM]   Some guy took pictures of our school from the air using an RC plane.
[7/20/2010 10:02:21 PM]   I don't know.
[7/20/2010 10:02:26 PM]   He just sent them to us.
[7/20/2010 10:02:33 PM]   We didn't even know him.
[7/20/2010 10:02:52 PM]   He uses our soccer fields for a landing strip.
[7/20/2010 10:03:01 PM]   No, really.
[7/20/2010 10:03:06 PM]   OK
[7/20/2010 10:03:47 PM]   Yep.
[7/20/2010 10:03:50 PM]   I'm here.
[7/20/2010 10:04:04 PM]   Iron man?
[7/20/2010 10:04:09 PM]  That's cool.
[7/20/2010 10:04:12 PM]   I liked that one.
[7/20/2010 10:04:27 PM]   We saw it together.
[7/20/2010 10:04:42 PM]   I dunno.
[7/20/2010 10:04:45 PM]   Both were good.
[7/20/2010 10:04:49 PM]   Maybe the first one.
[7/20/2010 10:04:57 PM]   But just a little.
[7/20/2010 10:05:14 PM]   OK, sounds fun.
[7/20/2010 10:05:34 PM]   Maybe we can play charades.
[7/20/2010 10:05:42 PM]   I can do charades instead of type.
[7/20/2010 10:05:50 PM]   OK. Good to talk to you.
[7/20/2010 10:05:58 PM]   I was kidding about the charades.
[7/20/2010 10:06:00 PM]   Love you too.
[7/20/2010 10:06:03 PM]   Talk soon?
[7/20/2010 10:06:11 PM]   Uh...
[7/20/2010 10:06:30 PM] *** Call ended ***