A new look and a guest post

Last year I commissioned artist and colleague Fidel Fernando to create a new look for the Slow Academic. In this guest post, he describes the process of creating the image above. What I enjoy about this reflection is that Fidel took the challenge as an opportunity to learn and embrace slowness. On the other hand, I find it uncomfortable reading! Fidel chronicles the emotional journey of the experience. I underestimated the workload, pressure and bad feelings the commission would cause – and that is a lesson I will continue to reflect on and guard against in future. That said, I am delighted with the result and I thank Fidel for challenging himself and challenging me.

Creating a graphic for this blog is something that I took on as a project from Agnes way back in March 2021. Agnes asked me if I could create a graphic for her blog and I said yes, even if I had no idea what the brief was or what it would entail. I just assumed because I like drawing, I should be able to do this easily, right? 

Fast forward to November 2021. I still haven’t quite finished it. Increasingly as the months went past, I felt more and more terrible about this being late.  

Her blog is called the slow academic. It is about thinking, reading, listening, and connecting with each other in higher education. It is also about learning along the way. The blog is about scholarship, reading, parenting, illness, and the mess of working.  

It has been a long journey and here are my reflections. I have put this project off for so long, not due to procrastination, but more of a debilitating case of self-imposed pressure.  

I don’t know what it is. Is it the pressure of wanting to impress? The pressure of overpromising?  

I accepted the commission with the intention that I will learn how to create this along the way, much like the blog itself. I thought that it was something that I could force myself to learn quickly. Agnes is a fan of the Art Deco art style, something I was not familiar with let alone knew how to pronounce. My art style is usually fantasy, portraits, and fantastical cartoons … that sort of thing. In order to ‘brute force’ myself through this I spent nights thinking, writing notes, and I even took a class about art deco and how to create graphics using a completely foreign piece of software. I looked at many examples, created my own moodboard, as well as researching the history behind Art Deco and why it stood the test of time as a graphical style. 

Truly it was something I was not familiar with so I still kept gravitating towards my own art style. I started to create thumbnails to let the ideas flow, I brainstormed by looking at examples side-by-side and see if can imitate and copy. Lo and behold it came together in a mishmash of different ideas from different people. Was it stealing? Was it plagiarism? I don’t think so, it was more of taking inspiration from other artists and using it for my own – which is a concept Austin Kleon advocates in his book ‘Steal like an Artist’. I’ve come to learn that art is really like that. 

Even then, I wish I could end the story here. The other reason I froze was because there were focal points that were very personal, and I feel that I couldn’t represent ALL of them. The high conceptual nature was tricky, versus the typical commissions that I usually get that ask me to draw a picture of their cat or dog. Coming up with the concept from my own viewpoint means that this is my own interpretation. An interpretation of moments and events that I have no intimate knowledge of.  

Agnes is my boss, and that is huge pressure already. I think pressure is good. It makes us want to surge forward, but there is also a fine line that we could cross towards mental paralysis and doubt. I had to remind myself that I can draw. I had to remind myself that I can paint. I had to remind myself that I can learn. I also had to remind myself to slow down and simplify.  

What this has taught me is that some ideas really do take time. Some ideas need to be left alone to percolate. There is great benefit to silence and inaction. There is real joy in the journey of learning something new and improving something old. There is satisfaction in knowing what you can add, but also accepting what you have to subtract. We don’t have to have it all.  

My only regret with slowing down this much? 

I should have told Agnes that I would.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s