My Road to Creativity, 8: The Basics

I realize I messed up and almost skipped this particular excerpt so I’m squeezing it in.

Not knowing how all this would eventually shake out, and rather than uproot my kids from school and their life, my family did not join me. So a small bedroom in a three bedroom house with two other graduate students would be my new part-time residence. A single bed. A desk. A book shelf. A meditation cushion. This would be my life for the next two years while I worked towards my masters degree in Graphic Design. 

Both scared and excited, I was signed up for three studio classes that fall quarter by my advisor who thought I should just do an undergraduate degree. I demurred and pursued my goal, hoping that I would get admission in the spring.

I walked into that first studio that first morning wondering what the hell I was doing in a group of eighteen and nineteen year old kids. The instructor, who was probably younger than me, came in and gave me a look, like, ‘who the hell is this old guy?’ I felt like a fool. 

Thankfully there was a woman in her early thirties in the studio which helped temper my angst to a degree. We managed to connect and become design buddies as she too was feeling out of place.

My boss at the construction company held the door open for me to return if this adventure did not work, something I considered many times during the first month or so until I got my feet on the ground and found I loved doing design, albeit, very basic stuff. Baby steps.

I went back home every weekend until the rigorous studio work load started to pile up on me. I found that design school was cerebral as well as heavily based on doing a lot of time consuming design work. I was working on projects well into the night as it was and was needing time on the weekends to keep up. 

The younger students were light years ahead of me. I was struggling. Again, my struggle with creativity was hampering me and I seemed to have to work twice as hard, if not more, to keep up with them. While they had any number of good ideas for any given project, I had a hard time finding one. Unlike my art studies at Mount Mercy, my instructors didn’t help me other than giving me the basic knowledge of design. Other than that, it was up to me to create the needed graphic images that were needed, most of which were abstract creations that busted my brain. I constantly was blocking myself by overthinking everything. As soon as I did that, I ran into a wall. I didn’t trust myself or allow myself any freedom of my thinking. My inner critic was having a great time. I looked at what few design publications in the library. I looked at other design disciplines like architecture for inspiration, inspiration the kept eluding me. But I kept working, doing the best I could do.

There was typography, symbology, precision drawing with drafting pens, t-squares, triangles, cutting and pasting, interspersed with understanding how people see and interpret information. Then there was basic composition, how to arrange text and image on a page, information hierarchy. I especially liked the composition part, something I never got or understood from my art classes. And, back in the pre-computer era, there was how to prepare a piece for the printer, needing no small amount of understanding.

The first quarter was over. I managed to pull straight B’s. Not good enough. The next quarter was harder. This was it. I had to present my work to the graduate committee at the end of the quarter. I worked hard on my projects, harder that anything I had ever attempted before. It paid off. My work was better. 

Scared out of my wits and sweating, I went in front of the committee at the end of the quarter to present my work. They accepted me into the graduate program . . . I was accepted . . . I kept repeating that over and over, trying to actually believe it. I did it.

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