DWPDX sketchXchange with Jordan Metcalf

I believe different process’ lead to different results and so following the same process is only likely to result in similar outcomes.
— Jordan Metcalf
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By Morgan Braaten

It’s almost time for Design Week Portland 2018, and we could not be more excited to share what we have in store! WeMake will be putting on three events over the course of the week, starting with a sketchXchange at the Portland Art Museum with designer and illustrator Jordan Metcalf. The talk will be moderated by Luke Choice, otherwise known as  Velvet Spectrum, and will take place on Tuesday, April 17. Get your tickets soon, and remember that the first 100 people at the event will receive an exclusive 9”x9” print designed by Jordan exclusively for Design Week Portland. As always, all proceeds from the event benefit arts education in Portland.

WeMake had the chance to ask Jordan a few questions about his work, his inspiration and his recent move to Portland, which you can check out below.

MB: We are so happy to have you in Portland! What drew you here, and how are you liking it so far?

JM: My, now, wife and I had been talking about moving for the adventure and opportunity of living somewhere new for ages, and after visiting the US and spending some time in Portland a few years ago I felt like it was a good fit for what we were looking for. I began the long tedious process of applying for a special skills green card visa and it got final approval in early 2017. We had to come to the country to get the green cards within 6 months of approval, or we’d have to re-do medical tests and some other things, and so we decided to just take the leap and commit to the move. So far it’s been great, it’s a pretty friendly, safe and creative city with beautiful surrounds, good people and great food so we’re excited to be here.

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MB: Every designer has a unique origin story. Can you tell us a little bit about your professional journey up to this point?

JM: Without getting into too much detail, I started out doing print, web and eventually directing motion graphics, working full time at studios, but quickly getting bored and moving on. All the while I was doing illustration, experimental lettering sketches and small freelance jobs on the side. It was before social media and design blogs were a thing and was at the very early stages of the re-emergence of lettering as a design trend, so I wasn’t really aware that the stuff I was doing for fun had any purpose or value at all, it was just a release for me. Eventually I decided to go it on my own and thought it was worth putting these little lettering pieces online and completely leaving out all the commercial work I’d been doing up until that point. I think it was more lucky timing than anything else because I had put it all up on Behance when it was still a much smaller platform and the work got ‘featured’ when that still meant that everybody arriving on the site would see it, and it was at a time when a few lettering artists were gaining traction and the ‘trend’ was taking root, so I quite quickly landed a few international projects with Nike and that created a knock on effect I guess. The more experimental lettering work I got the more it became what I was known for and eventually became what people primarily saw my work as, but I’ve also done lots of other design and branding jobs over the years which I really enjoy.

MB: What is your creative process like, and how has it changed over the years?

JM: I have never really adhered to any particular process, I’m not sure if it’s because the type of work I’ve done over the course of my career varies quite a bit, or maybe it’s the reason the work varies. I believe different process’ lead to different results and so following the same process is only likely to result in similar outcomes. I definitely have a number of different process’ that I’ve developed to make specific types of work and so use each when appropriate. But it’s arbitrary to believe everything needs to start with a pencil sketch on paper or any other way. Tools change and develop all the time and I’ve always enjoyed embracing new tools and methods and figuring what they can add to the mix.

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MB: What is a project you have worked on that you found particularly memorable and why?

JM: The early Nike work I got a couple months after going freelance. It was incredibly surreal to be random kid sitting in his small apartment in Cape Town, South Africa with a company the size of Nike willing to give me money to mess around and experiment. The world feels like it’s become smaller now, and I’ve worked with many big companies and realised they’re all just comprised of normal people at the end of the day, but at the time the distance and scale of a company like that casting it’s eye on just me, however insignificant the projects probably were in the greater scheme of the Nike brand, felt like nothing I should expect to have deserved or received at any point in my career. But with that impostor syndrome also came a great confidence boost in letting me know that the things I was excited about had value and could lead to a career that I could somewhat define and make a living off.

MB: You have an incredibly diverse style, and are great at matching the personality of a piece to fit a particular brand or project. How do you set out trying to identify the best fit for any given piece?

JM: Design is a service industry and I’ve always felt that it was important that my work be adding value to the people and companies paying for it, so making work that was appropriate first and cool second has always just been part of my approach. But there isn’t a 100% foolproof way of figuring out and making work that is “right” for a job. I just try to understand the problems, and figure out what I think might work best within what I can offer. I believe that there are a myriad of appropriate solutions for most jobs, but there are also very obviously inappropriate ones. So I guess it’s trying to avoid the patently wrong solutions and trying to do something that is considered and communicates as best it can.  
 

MB: What or who do you find yourself inspired by lately?

JM: I have a broad range of inspiration, but lately it’s been a lot of the people I’ve been meeting since moving to the US. There is something inspiring about getting to know the people and companies behind the work that removes the abstraction and disposability that the internet creates. Amazing illustration, design, film, photography etc doesn’t just exist, there is always a hand and a mind guiding it and I find humanising work often makes me put in the time to really look at it and appreciate it.

MB: What are you doing when you are not working?

JM: What everyone else does I guess. Trying to live well, eat well, be good to people and not die.

MB: Why do you make?

JM: I heard this idea once that the people can be split into 2 groups, producers and consumers, and I think it’s roughly true. I’m not sure any of us get a choice which one we are, but I’m happy to be making things not just consuming them.

sXc with designer and Illustrator Jordan Metcalf 
moderated by designer and letterer Erik Marinovich

Door open at 6 pm. The talk starts at 7 pm.

A Botanical Journey—sXc with Courtney Roth, moderated by Kai Söderström

As I began to pay closer attention to the creative processes of some of my favorite artists, I noticed that the best botanical artists out there routinely draw from life.
— CR
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We were excited to host local illustrator and tattoo artist Courtney Roth in for our March sketchXchange. Courtney has always been treading the line between creativity and logic, the right and the left brain, and has seen no reason to indulge just one of those seemingly opposite paths in life. While imagining and creating have always been an integral part of her life, so too was the desire to understand. 

Courtney started her plant journal in early 2017. Since then she has documented her journey by pushing herself to explore nature, hone in on her drawing skills and create a place where she could share the work. We are excited to see these journals up close and talk about her work as a tattoo artists ( @courtneyrothtattoos ) as well.  I asked Courtney a few questions about her work and process, check it out~

Photos by Rowan Bradley. See more here!

YPE You started a new project from your botanical journal called the Plant People Project. How often do you get people asking you to draw different plants? Have you got anything sent to you before announcing the project?

CR Oh gosh, almost every day! Since the beginning, I’ve been overwhelmed with requests to draw different plants. I love seeing people inspired by my work and interacting with folks over common botanical interests, so I want to accommodate requests as much as I can. In the beginning, I would try to honor all the requests that I could, targeting hikes to finding native plants and scouring local plant shops and florists for the non-natives. I’d even send my husband out on his daily runs with a list of plants to look for. It got to a point where I just didn’t have the time to hunt down all the plants people were interested in seeing, and in many cases, especially international requests, I didn’t have access to the plants at all. I hadn’t made any kind of address public until now, so I haven’t gotten anything sent to me specifically, but I’ve worked with other botanical artists that I’ve met through this nature journal project to locate live plants to use. I’m so excited to see where it takes us! I’m hoping to keep submissions open over the course of a year to get a good sampling of species in different stages of growth over all four seasons and, hopefully, across many different ecosystems worldwide.

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YPE  Why did you start drawing botanicals in your journal and what inspired you to set up the IG the way that you did it?

CR I've been focusing on the natural sciences as a direction for my art for most of my life, but a few years ago I began to get serious about making a career out of my love for creating. As I began to pay closer attention to the creative processes of some of my favorite artists, I noticed that the best botanical artists out there routinely draw from life. You just see so much more dimension and detail when you're drawing from life, and I love to experience the way my subjects feel, smell, and maybe even taste. All of this informs the spirit of the plant and how I want to interpret it. I also had a personal goal to get more familiar with the native flora around me and the plant allies that I enjoyed in my teas and tinctures, so keeping a live journal (early 00's pun very much intended) was a natural way to do that. I had seen some other artists dabble in the side by side format (check out Vancouver, BC talent @leo.mortem ) and my photography style evolved as an extension of that. 

Folks seem to enjoy the research component of my botanical journal just as much as the art itself, which stemmed from my compulsive desire to learn as much as I can about our natural world while it’s still here. I have not always been a full-time artist: I spent a few years in a Ph.D. program, and while academia was not my ultimate calling, I learned a lot about how to conduct research. I love learning, and I love that the folks who follow my art do too. The fact that it marries my two greatest loves, art and science, is really what makes this botanical journal project exciting for me.

YPE Is there a favorite plant you have draw?

So many! Some of my all-time favorites are western hemlock (those tiny cones! Swoon!), salmonberries, and, of course, roses, particularly of the English garden variety. I also love documenting plants in various stages of growth. I enjoy it all, really. More than anything I love the variety that keeping a nature journal affords my art. The landscape is constantly changing and evolving throughout the year, and as a person who's pretty easily bored, I enjoy the diversity of plant life we enjoy here in Portland across our seasons. This is part of the idea behind the Plant People Project as well: to begin incorporating more different types of plants that may be tough to get a hold of locally.

YPE What came first, the plant journal or tattooing?

CR The plant journal, but not by too large of a margin. I had always focused on natural science in my work, but for a few years I was more inspired by the avian world (I'm sure I'll talk your ears off about my time working at a raptor center at the SketchXChange event). I’ve been focusing on drawing flora form life for a few years now but only began sharing my plant journal on Instagram when I was on the cusp of getting my tattooing license. Before tattooing, I worked in styles and media that were much more gestural and freeform, but once I got serious about tattooing I began focusing on cleaning up my linework and working primarily with ink. The plant journal project evolved out of those goals. I hadn’t been big on sharing my work on social media before then, but I knew that if I wanted to make a real career out of tattooing, I had to get used to it. It was scary at first, but needless to say, I’m humbled and honored by the reception that it’s gotten, the friends I’ve made through it, and all that I’ve learned along the way.

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YPE Are you looking to focus more in botanicals in your tattooing or would you tattoo anything?

CR I only accept tattoo projects that fall within the realm of the natural sciences. Botanicals are my bread and butter, but I'm finding that tattooing presents a very unique opportunity to engage people with art in a way that's unlike any other medium. When you tattoo an image on someone, the story that goes along with that tattoo is going to be a conversation piece for that person for the rest of their life. As an avid, lifelong conservationist, I’m very excited by the idea that my tattoo pieces can provide a platform for discussing our natural world. Like so many, I’m floored by what’s happening to our planet and how easys it is for most people to live their lives without really engaging with the species we share it with and the natural cycles that it follows. Focusing on flora that people identify with in one way or another is a great way to enhance that connection to our natural world and get people talking about it. 

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Back in the fall, after the Eagle Creek Fire, I turned to art and research as a way to deal with my own mourning over the loss of so much of our unique natural space. I created a series of five tattoo pieces that illustrated the stages of forest recovery after a devastating fire and response was overwhelming; people snapped them up within minutes of posting. So many people loved the story the pieces told together, and together we raised $1,150 for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, a nonprofit dedicated to gorge conservation. This really opened my eyes to how engaged people want to be with the flora and fauna around us and how powerful tattooing is as a medium to facilitate conversations about our natural spaces. This project is my favorite thing I’ve done as a tattooer to date, and I’m hoping to clear some time in my schedule in the coming months to create more like it.

Since then, I’ve also had clients who have been inspired by this project and have worked with me to create pieces that tell stories about other ecosystems as well. For example, I do many pieces themed around various ecosystems within the PNW, and have a Bob Marshall Wilderness tribute piece coming up that I’m very stoked on. These projects that raise awareness and incite conversation about the natural world are the direction I want to take my work going forward, and I’m humbled to be able to impact real-world conversations in this way.

YPE Why do you make?

CR Short answer: I have to. Long answer: I’ve been making my entire life, for as long as I can remember. While most kids were playing sports, I was drawing. However, I did not grow up in a creative community and listened to the whole “you can’t make a career out of art” thing early in my adult life (it’s a lie!), but found that all I ever wanted to do was create. I’d sketch whenever coworkers weren’t looking, draw under the desk in meetings, and constantly try to engineer my time so that I could spend as much of it making as possible. It’s meditation for me. It forces my active mind to slow down and appreciate what’s in front of me. Now, I can use that process that feeds my soul to create meaningful pieces for others that contribute to collective conversations about our natural world, something I’ve always been passionate about. Making allows you to have complete autonomy over what you do and why you do it, which is an absolute dream. I am infinitely grateful to be on the creative path that I’m on and for the supportive community that makes it possible. 

About the moderator, Kai Söderström

Kai Söderström is a local Portland tattoo artist and visual artist of many mediums. Her true loves are clean lines, vibrant, unique colours, and bold black ink.  She's a survivor and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse and trauma, and aims to use tattooing as a way to heal and empower others to reclaim their bodies, minds, hearts, and souls from oppressive modern day systems. She is also an advocate for accessible arts programming for kids of all ages and deeply believes the power of art can change and save lives. She has a passion for nature, and the inherent magic within it, as well as a particular fascination with the divinity inside of us all. You can find more of her work at www.knowfolly.com.

WeMake Design Week Lettering Exploration

Yay! Design Week is rapidily approaching and we are bringing three amazing events to celebrate!


TUESDAY 4/17

sketchXchange with Jordan Metcalf,
moderated by Erik Marinovich

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South African (newly relocated to Portland) designer and illustrator Jordan Metcalf explains his creative process and shares the magic of his imagination during this inspiring talk. His breathtaking typography and lettering has appeared on the covers of National Geographic and Oprah Magazine and in The New York Times Magazine, plus on walls, editorial pages, packaging, book covers and apparel for Nike and Reebok. Jordan’s consistent mastery of emoting type is pushing boundaries in the design world, and this is a rare opportunity to meet and learn from Jordan himself.

We also welcome San Francisco based lettering artist and designer Erik Marinovich. Erik is also the co-founder of Friends of Type. Since 2009 he has drawn letters, logos and type for nice folks like: Nike, Target, Google, Hilton, Facebook, Sonos, Sharpie, The Criterion Collection, Air Canada, Gap, Ford Motor Company. In 2012 he co-founded Title Case, a creative work space that conducts workshops and lectures. Between client work, teaching and side-projects, you’ll find him on the road promoting Keep Fresh Stay Rad and Let’s Go Letter Hunting, two new releases from Friends of Type published by Princeton Architectural Press.

sXc with designer and illustrator Jordan Metcalf 
moderated by designer and letterer
Erik Marinovich.

Door open at 6 pm. The talk starts at 7 pm.

The first 100 people at the event will receive an exclusive 9" x 9" print designed by Jordan exclusively for DWP, and all proceeds benefit arts education in Portland.


WEDNESDAY 4/18

Lettering Workshop with Jessica Hische

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On Wednesday, April 18, lettering super star Jessica Hische (co-founder of Title Case in San Fransisco) will lead a 3-hour lettering workshop, guaranteed to inspire and leave you in awe. The class will work through a conceptual lettering project from starting idea to finished sketch, with plenty of tips, tricks, and helpful criticism along the way. If you can’t place her name, you already know her work: the USPS Love stamp, Mail Chimp’s logo and her title design for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. You won’t ever be the same.


THURSDAY 4/19

26— A Lettering Show

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Join 26 international, national, and local typographers and letterers as they display their exclusive 9x9 prints, created using only three colors — black, metallic gold, and WeMake orange. Each of the artist’s 40 limited-edition prints showcases a letter, word, or phrase, and will be available for purchase. Some of the letterers participating include Gemma O’Brien, Tobias Hall, Erik Marinovich, Maia Then, Nick Misani, Mary Kate McDermott, Masgrimes and Zach Yarrington. You’ll only be able to purchase these prints at this once-in-a-lifetime show, and 100% of the proceeds go towards funding arts education in Portland.

26—A Lettering Show

Participating Artists: 
Joseph Alessio, San Francisco
Craig Black, UK
Pies Brand, Portland
Thomas Bradley, Portland
Colt Bowden, McMinnville
Mark Caneso, Austin
Anna Drivis, Sweden
Martina Flor, Berlin
Tobias Hall, UK
Josh Higgins, San Francisco
Jessica Hische, San Francisco
Dani Loureiro, Portland
Shauna Lynn, Orlando
Erik Marinovich, San Francisco
Masgrimes, Portland
Mary Kate McDevitt, Philadelphia
Hope Meng, San Francisco
Jordan Metcalf, Portland
Nick Misani, New York City
Gemma O’Brien, Australia
Pascal "KKADE" Flühmann, Switzerland
Brett Stenson, Portland
Maia Then, British Columbia
Brian Patrick Todd, Louisville
Travis Wheeler, Portland
Zach Yarrington, Portland

The show is free and prints will be on sale $20 each, with 100% of the proceeds going towards arts education.

Food and drinks will be available for purchase, too.


Friday 4/20

Learn to Burn, A Woodburning Workshop with Make & Mary & Electric Lettuce

Although this is technically not a WeMake hosted event, it is happening in our headquarters at Tillamook Station. Use the discount code WeMakeMM for $10 off.  

Find out more at Make & Mary

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Colortime with Nick Stokes—sketchXchange

My happiness as a human being is wholly dependent on making things. It’s the best way to hold my fragile ego together. Also, I’m not good at much else.
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Written by Morgan Braaten, Photos by Rowan  Bradley

WeMake was excited to welcome illustrator and art director Nick Stokes for our second sketchXchange of 2018. His talk was moderated by friend, coworker and poet extraordinaire, Becca Wadlinger.

Nick’s playful work was a great indication of what the night would hold - there were plenty of stories and laughs, all with a clever, intentional edge. Topics included everything from his early doodling days to directing his first Super Bowl commercial for Wieden+Kennedy (and being pranked fantastically while doing so).

We also had the chance to ask Nick a few questions of our own, which resulted in the perfect combination of inspiration, process and Kanye poetry. Check out his answers below:

MB Your style is so playful and full of color. Was that a natural approach for you, or did it develop over time?

NS My disposition overall is pretty upbeat and positive. I think my work is naturally an extension of that.  Bright and bold colors have always been something I’ve been attracted to, and it’s been a shorthand for communicating fun and playfulness. I’m sure a huge part of it comes from watching so many cartoons as a kid where everything is bold and colorful.

MB How has incorporating animated elements into your work changed your process?

NS I like to think of animation as another tool in the drawing toolbox. If an idea works better as an illustration I’ll keep it an illustration, but sometimes the story is better told through an animation. It’s been really great experience adding animation to my workflow thought. There is something I like about tediously drawing frame after frame in an animation that's so mundane, tranquil and therapeutic.

 Also, animation adds some cool production value and wow factor to the work.

MB You’ve worked with some amazing clients. Can you tell us a little bit about a favorite project that you’ve worked on? What made it special?

NS Yeah I have been very lucky so far. If I had to pick a favorite, I think it may be IGN, the video game and pop culture website. They found my work a couple of years ago through a personal project my good friend Eric Swanson and I created called 'What Ye is it?'. It was a website that featured a new Kanye West looping animation for everyday of the week. They found that project and asked if I could create a similar series of animations for their social media channels. They gave me free reign to create whatever animations I wanted based on my favorite TV shows, movies, video games and pop culture moments. The nerd inside of me couldn’t have been more excited.

MB On the flip side of that - if you were given the opportunity to work for anyone on anything, what would it be and why?

NS Oh man. My bucket list is a long one. I think on the short term I would love to design a beer can or a series of cans. I have ideas I’ve been bouncing around in my head for the last few years that I’d love to get out. I would love to work with the publishing company Nobrow too. They put out such an amazing collection of work. It would be a blast to work with Nike or Adidas again. Both of those companies do such great work with illustrators. I would love to do an illustrated identity for a band, work in cartoons, design toys, direct music videos, design tattoos and do another another skateboard series. I mean the list is endless. I could sit here and add to this for days.

MB What or who do you find yourself drawing inspiration from recently?

NS Recently I’ve been really into French illustration. Folks like Moebius, Hergé, Jean Jullien, and Je Andre. There’s a really cool style the French use called ligne claire that uses fine black outlines and bold eye catching color palettes. I love how clean and crisp it is.

 I’ve also been really into 1980s New York city. There was an awesome grime and grit to it that had so much character and charm. All the hand painted storefront signs, garbage, graffiti, steam from sewer grates, and traffic add so much life to the city. It’s been a big inspiration in several of my personal projects.

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MB You seem to be constantly creating. Have you ever experienced burnout, and if so, how do you overcome it? What do you do to prevent it?

NS I get burnout from advertising work for sure. The industry is really intense with crazy timelines and that can be a total drag. It helps that I have my own personal work. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced burn out from that. Drawing is my favorite thing to do. It's how I charge my batteries.

MB Can you please write us a short poem about Kanye?

Kanye West you are the best.

Aladdin had a purple vest.

Had I three wishes from a magical genie,

I'd use all three to see your weenie.

jk

MB Why do you make?

NS My happiness as a human being is wholly dependent on making things. It’s the best way to hold my fragile ego together. Also, I’m not good at much else.

 

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Supporting the IPRC with $12,000 donation

Print is not dead and storytelling is a vital element of creative expression.
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During the month of love, we are so excited to announce WeMake’s $12,000 donation to the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), a Portland non-profit providing invaluable resources and tool to our amazing maker community. Our donation builds on the generosity of many IPRC supports who have donated to a recent Kickstarter campaign to fund the organization’s move into a new space this summer.

"I am absolutely thrilled to be working with the fine folks at WeMake and to have them supporting our mission at the IPRC!"
-- Brian Tibbetts, Interim Executive Director Independent Publishing Resource Center

This is one of WeMake’s largest contributions in its seven-year history. Over the non-profit’s existence, we have donated about $95,000 raised through community design-in-action initiatives.

"We need organizations like IPRC to flourish and I am thrilled that WeMake can help to that happen. Congratulations on your twentieth anniversary, you are amazing!”
- Yvonne Perez Emerson, WeMake founder

None of this would be possible without the support of Portland’s maker community, artists and volunteers who have donated their time and talent at sketchXchanges, workshops and our WeMake Celebrates conference since 2012. 

This year, we will continue to support local arts education by donating all the proceeds from our 2018 events.

Thank you, everyone! 

About the IPRC
Now in its 20th year of operation the IPRC’s mission is to provide affordable access to self-publishing resources and outreach programs serving Portland’s marginalized communities including those experiencing incarceration and home-/houseless-ness; at-risk youth, vulnerable adults and LGBTQ community members.