Posts Tagged ‘Design’

1,000 Paintings; 10,000 Hours

Monday, March 29th, 2010


While at Bellevue’s wonderful Affogato this week, we were discussing what we did for a living and our various expertise levels in it. My girlfriend mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that 10,000 hours is a magic number: that it doesn’t necessarily take exceptional talent or passion to get good at something, but if you spend 10,000 hours doing anything you become an expert at it by default.

I’ve heard similar theories. In art school, we were told you’ve got 1,000 crap paintings in you, so you’d better get them out of the way. I’ve also found a similar sentiment about writing — there’s 1,000,000 terrible words you have to write before you’re good. Write them now so you can begin producing quality work.

I have, since college and by rough estimate:

  • Spent approximately 18,650 hours designing.
  • Spent approximately 1,000 hours making art/illustrations.
  • Spent approximately 2,000 hours writing, having written approximately 400,000 words.
  • Spent approximately 29,200 hours sleeping.

10,000 hours is apparently a lot of hours. The above are estimates, but I would have guessed I spent way more time making art and writing than I actually did.*

Outside of arbitrary numbers divisible by ten, these rules all have the same idea — practice makes perfect, which is something I can absolutely get behind.

What’s interesting is that my day job is design — the reason my hours are so high for designing is because I’m doing it for 40 - 50 hours a week, for almost nine years. Despite exceeding the magic mark for hours, I would not consider myself an expert. Good, yes… I feel confident that I can solve any visual problem you can throw me. But an “expert”? No, there are people doing bigger and better than I in the land of design. I love it, but if it wasn’t my day job, I doubt I’d get near 10,000.

I haven’t read Gladwell’s book, this isn’t a review. This is simply an observation about a theory presented second-hand. I will say seeing the time I’ve spent doing some of the things I’m passionate about makes me re-evaluate them. Ultimately, as long as I love doing it I will continue to design and write and illustrate.

But I also wonder how much time I’ve spent with family and friends, or on the road to see those friends or family, or waiting for bus or food. Time I’ve spent cooking or working out or online. I don’t want or need to quantify these.

There are 10,000 hours in 417 days. I say a well-rounded life is one spent filling those hours with passions — both professional and personal — even if you never get ground-breakingly awesome at any them.

Let’s have a beer soon.

My my, look at what a philosophical turn this took.

*Not that any number of hours incorporating a comma is something to shake a stick at. And dang, I’ve got mad skills at sleeping. Go ahead, quiz me.


Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

I did some screen printing on Tuesday night. It was my first time printing on fabric, and my goal was to do a pillow design that would compliment the mural I painted on the wall in my studio. The mural is a bunch of birch tree trunks.


You know, I don’t even like orange that much as a color. It’s kind of obnoxious most of the time if it’s on its own. However, I wanted a room that would pop, and a turquoise/white/orange combo will do just that.

Of course, now the pillow needs put together. Need a button sewn on? I got it. Split your dress pants doing some heavy lifting? Not a problem. You would like refined straight seams that construct something that will fit a pillowform?

Oh my, aren’t you funny?

That’s why it’s nice to have friends like Val, who has offered to teach me how to use that mysterious voodoo box that makes cloth stick together. I don’t trust it, I tell you.

Great at One or Good at Many?

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

My 27th birthday came and went last week. To be honest, I sometimes forget exactly how old I am. If asked, I will undoubtedly pause and think about it. And then Josh will correct me when I guess wrong. (In my defense, I’m usually only a year off. They all started to blend together after 23.)

Anyway. I’ve been struggling for a couple months now with my various activities — Design, Illustration, and Writing — and how they affect my life and balance with one another. And there’s a battle going on.

Design will always be Priority #1. It’s not only my bread and butter, but I lurve it. I love creating visual solutions, and drooling over other people’s work. Package design, a good logo, a beautifully integrated illustration or an amazing commercial… it all makes me warm and fuzzy inside. There are so many wonderful ways to conquer the same problem — that is, communicate a message in a unique and memorable way — and I haven’t found them all yet. There’s nothing else I’d rather spend 40 - 60 hours a week doing. Illustration is that back-burner love that has fallen back into my lap, which is lovely. And writing is something I’ve been doing for years, and I’m only recently feeling ready to explore the professional end of it.

This is where my conflict lies. I have three things that I love to do, and so I divide my time amongst those three occupations. I understand the idea of wearing many different hats, and I’ve been juggling all three competently enough. But does splitting my time between those three somehow rob one of them of the potential to be the best it can be?

For example: if I’m never published, will it be because I didn’t give writing the due concentration it needed?

I never want to stop pushing myself, and I love them all. But I have to wonder if I’m sacrificing the quality of one to pursue the others. So what matters most here? Quality? Or quantity? I would usually say quality… but when the quantity is improving the quality of life as a whole… where does that leave things?


This is heavy thought for a beautiful Friday. Let’s have a donut.

Mullet Reserve at WearPittsburgh

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

So far, this is my favorite design that I’ve done for WearPittsburgh.

Mullet Reserve

There’s no way I can describe it any better than Woy does on the website:

We’re proud to present the newest addition to the WearPittsburgh family: Mon Valley Mullet Reserve!

Mullets first settled in Pennsylvania in the late 1970’s becoming a prime breeding ground, reaching a zenith during the Great Camaro Upheaval of 1982 when the new model was introduced. As mullet numbers diminished nationwide, more and more mullets congregated in the lush, fertile Mon Valley. Their numbers are hearty and continue to flourish even today.

It’s business in the front and party in the back in Pittsburgh’s best kept natural preserve!

Get yours today!