What’s your creative process or inspiration(s)?[So, we do also have creative process videos we plan to keep adding to the site, but we thought it would also be useful to share here all of the creative process responses from our interviews with our Allies, so here you go!]
A lot just comes from the inspiration of being outside and finding the light. That’s my favorite way.
But when I’m doing, say, a commercial shoot where I’m shooting somebody inside, then I’m trying to be a really curious little kid who really wants to know what every little thing is. I try to not think about the client or the model but really, What could be interesting in this scene? There must be something. And just following that around until I find something cool. I really have to zone everything else out and not think about what a good photo should be. But like, What’s this thing in my hands? Who is this person?
As a designer I approach every project strategically and intentionally trying to understand, What is this business? What are their services or products? What is their unique selling proposition? Who is their target demographic? Why are we working together? What are they trying to achieve through what we’re creating together?
I think all of that through almost every project and then depending on the client and the answers to those questions, I execute accordingly.
For instance, a photographer whose brand I designed, his work is very sexy, very high-end, a lot of fashion editorial work. A rough and raw aesthetic does not seem right for him so the brand I designed was very clean, very tight, it felt very premium.
Whereas the work I’ve done for Zeal Optics or Mountain Standard, they’re outdoor companies and it did make sense to have this kind of rough and raw feel because they’re all about being in the mountains and it’s okay if there’s dirt in your whiskey and bugs in your coffee.
So how I decide is truly based off of that design mind.
Just the creative streak. I’m inspired by almost everything — other people, nature, animals. I really wanted to be a vet but I just wasn’t cut out for that much schooling. When I was a kid I always talked to animals and I thought they were talking back to me. So in my art I really try and create some sort of emotion with the animals. Rather than them just standing in a field, there’s some sort of action going on. They really do express a lot of themselves in body language so that’s something I try pulling into my art. That’s highly inspirational for me.
Some people work on four or five projects at a time, but that’s not my style. I like living something for a bit and really pushing that for a while, kind of existing in whatever film universe I’m in at that moment.
I would love to be outside all the time and paint. A big reason is also for health. It’s not so good to have all those fumes. When I’m inside I know that I have a certain amount of time.
Outside I go for as long as I can. It’s nice to work with larger stuff and not worry about spilling, which is always great for me. I spill a lot. When I do backgrounds it’s as close to raw emotion as it gets – dip it in and whip it out really fast. I’m just moving. I don’t have to worry about it. Inside I have to go a little bit slower. Outside I’ll lay base layers and inside I’ll outline which is more refined. It’s nice to be outside to experiment.
The creative process, if I’m doing something for myself that I’m going to create, it usually comes from me being somewhere, doing something, taking pictures to remind myself of that area or what I’m trying to capture and then coming back home, looking at images on the computer and trying to see what was iconic. Then I design a sketch for myself and try to translate that to the canvas.
I recently did a bike ride from Devil’s Pass to Hope and the alpine and mountains are really different. It’s such a beautiful ride so I tried to ask myself, If somebody were to see a painting of this, how would they recognize it as this ride? Is it the flowers? Is it the rounded mountains, what makes it different? Then I come back and try to achieve that.
I think with skis, the creative process is really a lifelong process. [It’s] asking, How do I interpret the mountain? How am I going to bend the ski in the way that I would want to see it?
I think over time that creative process comes about through just constant analysis of how I’m skiing and what I’m skiing. But what I look at as a skier is, What was I doing with my skis at that moment in time? When I look at a photo that we shot and there’s this big powder cloud, I’m always looking at how I can make that powder cloud look prettier and how I can keep my body position in a smooth, technically sound and quiet style.[For storytelling,] ultimately it has to start with an idea, and whenever I get an idea for a story I want to tell I write it down. I carry around a little notebook where I write all my ideas down or jot them down in the notes on my phone right when they come to me.
I have endless ideas that I’ll ultimately circle back on. If it’s strong enough of an idea, it’s not something that I even have to sit down at a desk and write out how I’m going to pursue it. Because it’s what I’m thinking about when I go to sleep, it’s what I think about when I wake up in the morning, it’s what I’m thinking about when I’m driving up to the mountains, it’s what I’m thinking about on the skin track.
When I have an idea for a story to tell, whether it be a trip or a magazine story or a film, I start to shape it in my head. Then ultimately I do sit down and write down everything that’s in my mind about it. If it’s a document on my computer, it’s just notes and ideas and what I call the “blah” of the idea. I just put it all out there and then organize everything into how I’m going to shape it into a story.
Once I know that I’m onto something and feel strongly that it’s a story I want to tell, then I approach it from, How am I going to tell this story, who am I going to tell it to and what do I need to do to make that happen?
If it ends up that the best way to tell that story is a magazine story, then I’m going to focus on writing the best pitch that I can to go to a publication with. And normally when I come up with a story, if it’s for a magazine, I know which publication I want to pursue because it’s a good fit for them.
If a film is the best way to tell a story, which is how my mind works more and more these days, it’s How can I tell this story through a film? Then I develop the story a little bit further in terms of turning that “blah” of ideas into something more cohesive. At the same time I’ll start working on a pitch deck for it and ask myself, Who do I need to work with to make this happen? The simplest answer, and what I think a lot of people probably say when they look at it from a business perspective, is finding who I can get behind this that has the dollars. That part’s important, but also the vision and being able to follow through is equally as important because there’s no use getting all the money unless you’re actually going to do justice to the idea.
The creative process kind of always was the same. I come from advertising and to me, the creative process is problem solving. It’s not for you, you’re trying to solve a problem for your client. Therefore you’ve got to shoot that and then maybe add your twist to it, the reason they hired you.
It’s a very logical creative process. Every photographer today has studied Ansel Adams and the system of thirds and we all use it consciously or subconsciously. So that’s built into how I frame things up and I’m very quick to put things where I want. And I shoot all manual always, always, always. I might see some auto settings in the beginning just to start with, but then I’ll go right back to manual.
It depends on what I’m making. I don’t necessarily have an intention. Sometimes I sit down and just start drawing and things happen. As I build whatever it is, I have a better idea and I let the images kind of happen. I don’t want to say it “makes itself” because I’m making it, but sometimes I just let it flow.
Sometimes I’ll have something very intentional that I want to make that I’ll sketch out and have several different rough drafts of. Then I draw it with the ink first and then I’ll watercolor it. And I go back over the ink lines with more ink to make them pop again and then I’ll do gel pen detail on top of that.
If it’s pyrography I almost always sketch it out because when I’m working in a bigger scale, I really have to be more intentional with what I’m making because it’s a big piece of wood and it’s really unfortunate to do something that I don’t like.
So for that, I will draw it out and then I use a wood burning tool to draw light lines on it first, to get kind of a groove going, and then I’ll go through those lines again to make them really dark and intense. I’ll paint it from there and the dark, intense lines that are carved into the wood essentially create a dam for the watercolor — that way it doesn’t spread out.
I like using poplar and birch wood for the pyrography pieces because it’s the right hardness, I guess, to be able to make thick, dark lines. But also they’re not too porous where the wood grain will just soak it up.
I try to use whatever is on the wood to perhaps inspire what’s going to go on it. I really like doing mountain scenes on wood and I really like having part of the wood not be covered in paint because I am very intentional about using wood that is beautiful and I want that quality of the wood to come through in the piece as well, to be part of the artwork.
After I paint it, I’ll try to clean out the lines a little bit, so that way the wood burn lines pop again. And then I’ll do gel pen detail and cover it with the varnish.[On doing it all at once versus taking breaks:]
I don’t know if I’ve ever sat down and done a [pyrography] piece in a whole day. It’s a little bit more involved. My wood burning tools sometime limit that, too, because they’ll lose heat or my wrist will start to cramp.
So usually I’ll do a couple of pieces at a time where I’m kind of going in between the different steps — maybe one I’m just starting and one I’m doing the dark lines. And then I’ll paint them all at the same time, do the gel pen detail at the same time and put the finish on all at the same time.
With watercolor and ink it just depends on what I’m working on. I’ll usually work on a piece over a week. Or I’ll just be so excited about something that I’ll finish it in a full day. But I typically don’t have all day for that, I usually have to tend to business things too.
If I’m not teaching, I’ll try to wake up and do emails, orders, errands in the first part of the day, and then in the second half of the day get more into the creative process. I work better creatively, I think, in the afternoon and the evening anyway. So it flows pretty nicely.
But it just depends. I like having art shows or events to help motivate me creatively, where there’s a little bit of pressure towards the end where I’m just like, Oh my gosh, I have one more thing that I really just want to get onto wood or onto paper and finish for an event and share it with the world! And so I’ll kind of crunch myself and get it done. It feels really good and satisfying.
I follow National Geographic, Animal Planet, zoos and just accounts that post amazing photos of animals. Animal photos are usually my main inspiration. I’ll just screenshot a lot of them and then at some point go back through my phone and see what I’ve collected over the past few weeks. Then whatever painting or picture inspires me, that’s usually how I pick out what I’d like to paint.
I pretty much just put on headphones and paint. I don’t plan anything, nothing is premeditated besides the animal I want to paint. There’s no real in-depth, How am I going to do this? It’s just whatever I feel in that moment.
It’s also the music that I listen to. I usually listen to 2- to 4-hour mixes and they go through their own waves of emotions as well. So if it’s a sadder or happier part of the song you might see that come out through my technique. It just depends on how I’m feeling, the music or just whatever is happening at that moment.
A lot of people who follow my art know this already, but I’m colorblind as well. So color isn’t what I preplan or focus on either. I hear the color through the music, and whatever I’m feeling is like a visual connection with the paint color that I’m choosing. If I ever have to go specific, like if I need red, a lot of times I literally have to look at the color that’s printed on to the tube.
I jump around a lot. I guess that’s where the deadline comes in. That pressure does something to me and even though I was really, really, really tired I was thinking financially at that point that if I didn’t do it then I was going to lose out on a few hundred dollars or whatever. So I just forced myself to paint.
But usually I have 30, 40, 50 paintings I’m working on at a time and once again, it’s that inspiration thing. Maybe it’s just the composition of the painting or the idea of it that I’m inspired with so I’ll do that part. Then I’ll lose the inspiration for where I was going and I’ll just leave it there. And then in my mind over days, weeks, months or years, after a while that inspiration hits again, then I’ll jump back into the piece.
A lot of times it starts with a thought or a theme. If I have a show coming up, I’ll reflect on where I am, what’s going on in my life. Or I’ll be drawn to an idea or a concept.
When I’m putting together paintings it’s a puzzle. I don’t necessarily have a full idea what I want it to look like. I want it to feel and I want it to tell something, but also I want it to be visually pleasing because that’s one thing that I like about art is you can feel good about it. You’re like, Oh, that looks great. You know? I don’t want to create things where you’re like, Oh, that’s terrible.
It’s very much like a puzzle to me, the whole process, and I work in a lot of different stages. And with layers the pieces can take a long time — because I work in oil paint so I put down a layer and then let it dry. And then I put down another layer and let it dry. Then I start to pick out things that I really like and I’m like, I love that section over there, how can I respond to that with this other space around it or include some elements of that in different areas so that when you look at the piece it looks solid and cohesive? But really, they kind of just build themselves. And as the artist I have to create or put the puzzle pieces where I think they work best.
It’s like a game. It’s fun and it can be frustrating. It can be like, Ooo, that was a bad move. [Laughs] But giving myself the freedom to make bad moves, that’s important. Initially I was so critical. I was like, Oh god, it’s just crap! And I would rip up canvases. But learning that I can just put another layer of paint on, and I’m going to create hundreds of pieces in my life, what’s another layer of paint? And if I didn’t try that one thing, I wouldn’t know what I know now and I think that’s part of the process.[T]ypically I’ll have between six or eight pieces going on at the same time. On average I would say [it takes] between two to three months [to finish a piece]. Some pieces I’ve taken years. I’ll just set them aside and I’ll be like, You know what? I’m mad at you, you’re going to rest, you’re going to the corner. [Laughter]
On the commercial side of things depending on the client it can be very structured. They might come with an exact idea that they want you to make and then I’ll just have to do some sketches, send them back to the client, see what they think, get their edits back, redo it.
On the artistic side a lot of it is kind of a stream of consciousness, just lots of sketching, sketching and sketching until eventually some idea comes out that I want to explore further. Then I’ll take that and refine it. With some of the map pieces I’ll try to find a map that works with that sketch and then I’ll do the final process of carving it and printing it. Most of them are collages.
So it’s definitely much freer on the artistic side than the commercial side — that can be fun but a pain.
It’s funny because a lot of people see these pieces and either think they’re paintings or just think they’re drawings. And I do have to explain that it’s actually all collaged together.
A lot of these [points to a few pieces of his work in his office] from a distance look like one flat thing. But if you get up close you can see the layers between each piece. And I think that’s where that black marker on all the sides of the paper comes in.
My personal creative process is all over the place. I wish I had the time to devote to being creative and actually thinking about things. I feel like my creative process is kind of forced, to be honest.
Creating a feature-length ski film is pretty much a year-long process.
We usually kick things off in the fall with some pre-production meetings where, as a crew, we’re going to talk about, Who do we want to work with? Where do we want to go? What concepts do we want to illustrate, if any? Because usually, they’re not super tangible, especially at that point in the year.
Once the snow starts falling . . . the bulk of that time is really everybody scrambling to create and produce as much content as we can.
Action sports films – ski films, as a genre – are equal parts documentary and action sports. . . .
So the creative process becomes very malleable throughout the winter and as we get back into the office towards the end of the year, we start to get a grasp of not only what we have, but how it fits together with what three, four, five, six other filmmakers who have been traveling the world also shot and we put those pieces of the puzzle together. We do that as we begin editing and the film itself really changes and takes shape throughout the summer.
I refer to it as being a forced creative process because that’s really what it is. We have a very definitive timeline with producing an annual film, so we don’t have a lot of flexibility to really take a step back at times and reevaluate things. It’s just go, go, go because the premiere is in September and we need to have a movie to press play that night.
We’ve figured it out pretty well at this point but that’s probably one of my biggest complaints – the tight timeline rather than really having the ability to dig in and have more creative control over what we’re doing. We’re pretty much reacting to what we have to work with and figuring out how to put it together into something we can live with.
I like photography too, so most of my work comes from photographs I take. When I was younger, before kids, it was young people at parties. I liked the way I could take the photograph and edit out any of the fuzz and unnecessary things when I drew it. I was starting with this photo but simplifying it and bringing it down to the simple lines, as simple as I could. It’s more of a cartoon style.
Then as I had kids, the focus became more them of course, but people don’t want to see just portraits of your kids. So mostly I would use animals in place of my kids, sort of personify the behavior of the animals to mimic what my kids did. And then lately, I guess I just draw from life. And still my kids.
Lindz: I would say that it’s not easy. I personally don’t know Adobe Illustrator so I sketch with a pencil, a piece of paper and a ruler. And then Jon will take a photo of that and bring that into Illustrator and he may work on it from there, send a file back to me, I will then print it and continue to draw on it with pencil. And then he will photo it again and bring it back in.
It can be a tedious. I think Jon wishes that I knew Illustrator. It would be a lot easier for us to create that way. But for the time being we try and make that work the best we can.
Jon: It’s 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. We take an idea and just run with it. I think that’s really been our MO [modus operandi]. From the first mural we did with extremely limited resources in an afternoon in Mexico just drawing on a wall together, that then developed into a year’s worth of art projects together. We extrapolate and then develop other ideas. We see what comes in the door and try to spin that and be creative with other ideas that are flowing through the studio.
Lindz: I try my hardest to let Jon lead unless I am really passionate about something being a certain way. I hope that I’m patient most of the time and let him lead so that we’re not just butting heads and not moving forward. I’m happy to be creating and painting with the person I love, so I already am winning. I don’t necessarily need to have every interaction of us creating be a struggle and I don’t always have to be right.
Jon: Yeah, there’s that back and forth too. But really, from composition, layout, color scheme, to the physical tasks on the wall it’s deciding, Who’s taking what task? Which one is going to be more physically demanding to do? Usually I like to take that one, whether it’s her idea or my idea. She’s got a pretty steady hand, so some of that task does fall on her.
It’s these moments where everything just shuts off and you’re just present. Those moments – and they’re few and far between – I think you spend all of your waking moments to get those. For me, I think it’s a lot of small moments – just sitting alone with a guitar or a notebook or riding a trail alone – that are the main inspirations for the rest of it.
We’ll do weekly development meetings with our whole team where people will present ideas and we’ll brainstorm things we want to do. Then we’ll chat through the ideas and some kind of percolate up to the top. We get a group consensus and then we’ll look at the reality of getting them made. How realistic is it that we could do this? What’s the timeline? The timeline in production is a big thing. When’s it going to be shot? When’s it going to be edited? When’s it going to be distributed? That affects budget.
It always starts with a sketch or a doodle in one of my sketchbooks or a lot of times on sticky notes. I have tons of sticky notes and I’ll put them around places, sometimes on the bathroom mirror so I remember things or I put them on the calendar. I feel like I’m an old person, I don’t use my phone a lot for notes and things because I’ll forget that they’re in there.
And on the side of my table I also keep a stack of folders for certain jobs that I know I have the next couple of months and kind of organize them on the calendar that way.
If it’s a graphic design project and I’m doing T-shirt designs for a band, I do a sketch in pen and ink and that’s it. If it’s a mural, it’s a sketch on a little notepad that most times you can’t tell what it is and I’ll just go from there and freestyle it. When it’s a mural it’s more organic and flowing where I kind of paint it as I go or add stuff. When it’s on a canvas I really prep and prepare for that.
I also research. All my pieces are animal related and I study a ton about the animals, like I watch every nature program and learn about their habitats and what they eat. That’s how I get inspired. And I find it very important to know the specific birds that are around certain animals. There’re reasons why I chose to put them in my piece. I think that’s a lot more true with my fine art work though, I love to figure out and have an exact storyline to my work. But I also like people to tell their own story.
Sometimes I’ll use Photoshop to plan out a mural and add in colors. Sometimes I’ll do it with my paintings but mainly it’s just sketching it out and figuring out where things should go and getting photo references. Most of my photos are photos I’ve taken or friends have taken, I don’t like to snag things online unless it’s a very difficult animal like an orca or something I can’t get my own photo of.
Process-wise a big thing is I have to be in a really good environment to work. I have to have trees, mountains, nature nearby. And it sounds cheesy but a good vibe type of area.
I’ve had studios before and I’ve worked within my personal space. But since I work randomly when I get inspired I kind of like to have my work in the same space.
But yeah, coffee, good music and I try my best to turn off social media, my phone, computer. The next time I have a studio I don’t want it to have internet in there because it’s very distracting.
That’s the fun part for me about working with Jaime [Molina]. If it’s just me making an art piece, I know what it’s going to look like in my head usually. But when I’m making something with Jaime, I know the outline of it, but I have no idea what it’s going to look like which makes it really fun for me and, I think, for us.
So we work on the creative concepting together. And that’s why a lot of the lines get blurred as far as people who confuse us. They’ll say, It kind of looks like Jaime’s stuff. And I’m like, Yeah that’s because he’s the one that drew it, a lot of the times.
With clients, we give them a rendering of the piece on a wall, and it’s more like a line sketch. Then it’s a color theory. And then that’s where the client has to have a little bit of trust, but we have plenty of examples of our other projects to show clients. Usually if they like the line rendering, they’re going to love the piece once it’s done.
Usually [we work on] just one at a time but it depends. Luckily there are two of us so we have worked on numerous projects at the same time, just kind of jumping back and forth.
I’ve got a couple of different ones. One is where I’m just freestyling, where I have an idea — whether it’s from a dream or interaction — and it’s very loose and free forming.
Sculpting is all freestyle now, whatever’s inspiring me. A couple sculptures have been from dreams, a couple are comic-based stuff. This is sort of a passion project thing still, so there’s a lot more creative freedom.
Then there are projects I apply for or commissions where someone wants a specific piece and I’m doing a lot more back and forth with content and conceptual ideas. A lot of my mural work started in residential and commercial stuff, which was more bringing someone else’s vision to life. It’s fun and rewarding but it also can be very draining, much like tattooing where you’re creating for someone else. With tattooing it’s almost like you need to be a therapist you deal with so many emotional things. And it’s a breathing, shitting, complaining canvas, you know? It’s moving, it’s got feelings and emotions.
I like both but I prefer this [freestyling].
There’s a lot of limitations in tattooing where there’s not with painting. I can pull off bright eggshell whites, neons and stuff like that with painting.
When I’m designing for tattoos I’m drawing for hours on end almost every night. A lot of artists will be like, Okay, I drew this rose for this person and that’s it. But I want to maximize my usability of that image and am really trying to extend that design to t-shirts or paintings or merchandise or whatever just so I’m not only getting a one-shot opportunity for that design.
I haven’t used pencil and paper in probably five years. I feel like I kind of scratch that itch with painting — it gives you that kind of raw, primitive feel. You’re actually touching something, you’re actually pulling lines so I don’t feel as guilty using an iPad all the time. It just speeds everything up. If you’re doing a symmetrical design there’s a tool that mirrors the other side of it. And you can do color studies on the fly very easily.
I use a projector to project a lot of my images onto my pieces so that I can transform them. Even today I was doing an image and it was a little skinny on the top so I just stretched it out and made it perfectly parallel. It’s stuff like that — had I done a raw image it would have been so hard to go back and re-edit that. I probably would have had to start over.
I’m drawing a lot of patterns like the sunrise and the night skies. Even these rocks [points to a skateboard with his art on it] are a pattern. I’m always looking for a pattern to join the rest of the family. Some patterns have been kicked out.
I’m putting together this story in my head. All the subjects in the patterns kind of follow the same story — I don’t know what the story is, really, but it’s coming out.
When I start I kind of go with this feeling like, What kind of patterns am I really into doing right now? Drawing sunrises are way funner than drawing rocks. It’s almost like the more repetitive it is the easier and faster it goes, or more flowingly.
It’s pretty much just a blank piece of paper and I go straight to pen with it unless there’s a subject that I’m drawing like a person, then I’ll use a pencil. I don’t go straight to ink with that because I want to get that right.
But everything else it’s just straight to ink, especially leaves and stuff. That would be crazy to draw leaves in pencil and then go over them again in ink.
I usually just go one piece straight through. But there have been times where I jumped around. I don’t think I like doing that, I don’t like something sitting around. I like to get at it until it’s done. Eight hours is a good sesh, but I’ve drawn 24 hours straight for sure.
Since I work night shifts I’ve had really broken sleep and for the past ten years it’s been common for me to draw for 16 hours and not rest. And I don’t do drugs, I don’t even drink coffee. There’s nothing that’s keeping me awake, it’s really just drawing. It wires me. Sometimes if I draw for eight hours and try to go to sleep I can’t because my brain is so wide awake.
Basically what I’ve been doing lately is I’ll draw it in and then I’ll block it in with these bright colors, get more accurate color. Then I’ll probably paint one more session of oil and then make it really messy – kind of ruin it – and then come back in and draw it more accurately with pencil.