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The Design Game of Timothy Goodman

It’s about approaching this whole thing as a practice, not as a profession.”
Images courtesy of Timothy Goodman.

Images courtesy of Timothy Goodman.

In today’s digital world there is a range of different types of graphic designers leading very different occupational paths. But I believe you can simplify designers into two categories: those who work for brands and those who get brands to work for them.

Timothy Goodman is a prime example of the latter. A golden boy of the New York design scene, Goodman’s hand-drawn typography has given brands like Airbnb, J. Crew, Sharpie, and Ford loads of attention. And his personal life is also in the limelight40 Days of Dating, his viral romantic experiment with Jessica Walsh, has practically turned him into a household name. Goodman is the type of artist that knows what he wants, does what it takes to get it, and then quickly outgrows it.

After wrapping up his degree at the School of Visual Arts, Goodman mastered book design at Simon & Schuster. Designing dust jackets might not have been his favorite artistic task, but this type of creative and illustrative work gave him the spirit of an independent artist that some designers never achieve. “What I learned the most from my year as a book jacket designer was the importance of having authorship,” said Goodman. “Because I was fresh out of school, I really liked having my name on an artifact. It made me feel a sense of identity in a way, and it allowed me to keep pursuing different visual styles. And I could tell my mom to go buy the book at Barnes & Noble. In the end, it’s all about mom.”

Leaving the books behind and taking his typography skills with him, Goodman moved on to branding work at Collins and then landed an in-house gig at Apple, all within a few years. These agencies helped launched his career, but his drive consistently outran the work.“I wanted to go off and create more work that would inspire others. I want to bend and twist and shake and squeeze the most out of life and my work without getting too caught up in the end game or the failures along the way.”

Today, Goodman runs his own studio, producing Sharpie workshops, beautifying magazine covers, throwing up murals, and conducting social experiments. “I love working on installations and murals for the sheer scale and audacity of it. It’s challenging, and you have to think about it in many different dimensions,” said Goodman. “Other than that, the personal projects I do are most fun. My ‘Memories of a Girl I Never Knew’ series is one of the longest and most rewarding things I’ve probably worked on.”

Goodman’s success could be owed to his talent and drive, but he might not have come this far without his willingness to wear his heart on his sleeve (or social media). 40 Days of Dating not only gave him national attention, it also gave him copious amounts of inspiration. “40 Days has torn down a wall I’m no longer interested in having up as a designer. So many of our own experiences and fears are the same as a lot of people’s, and I want to continue to connect to people and start a dialogue through my work. I’ve also been writing a lot about my personal life through a series I call 'Memories of a Girl I Never Knew. I don’t think I would be sharing this stuff with such an ease if it wasn’t for 40 Days. It’s given me a capacity for vulnerability. And with all vulnerability comes the risk of failure.”

Get up close and personal with Timothy Goodman at the WeMake Celebrates conference on October 2 at The Armory. He’ll be joining us as a keynote speaker, sharing his practice and his future projects. Don’t miss this special moment between Goodman and the Portland design community! Click here to get your tickets.

Mowing the lawn with Matt Sundstrom

I feel like the work that we do is our legacy. More than anything else. I feel very conscious of doing work that in some sense feels of this time, and also timeless.
Starvation Creek Falls, Oregon

RECAP: sketchXchange with Matt Sundstrom

August 7, 2015

On Friday, Aug. 7, Matt Sundstrom shared his practical insights into creating some amazing black-and-white landscape illustrations. We learned that Matt can't stop, won't stop making something everyday - hundreds of sketches, a backyard studio, a successful career at Instrument, a family... We also learned that nice guys do finish first. 

If you missed the SketchXchange, fear not. You can relive the evening in photos.

Photos by Britt Appleton & Chris Hoge

INTERVIEW:  Matt Sundstrom

There’s an unofficial “nice guy” test, I think, which is: in a heat wave, can you stand in a sweltering cabin in denim and be patient and kind? Can you answer sweeping questions thoughtfully when it’s 100 degrees and inside your house you have cold Coke and a daughter who’d like to play?

Matt Sundstrom is an incredibly kind guy. He’s a lot like his work. He is patient and studied and diligent. He is the Associate Creative Director at Instrument, and every night except Friday he’s drawing in the cabin he built in his backyard. It’s just an endurance thing,” he says. “If you’re not doing it every day, then you have this period of burn in where you just have to get a lot of really bad stuff out of your system before you start getting your feet under you.”

He draws comics, which is the first art form he fell in love with, back when he was a kid. "When I was in 7th grade or so I had a friend of mine bring in comics. He kind of challenged me to draw comics so that we could put together our own book. We created some really bad comics together, but I was just really excited about it."

process shots via SaltFireFallDust

He also draws landscapes. Landscapes are kind of his jam. "It's a niche that's not really occupied a lot here in America, so that would be a fun thing to be known for. It's something that I love doing," he said. "Whenever there's been polling done about what people view as interesting art, usually representation art and landscape tend to be high, but also high up on the kitsch factor."

From Wizard Island

There’s something very contemporary and digital feeling about Matt’s landscapes. They look exceptional on a screen. There's also a friendliness that feels like classic children’s book illustration. Simply put, they’re nice to look at. Landscape without people is challenging, because it is not obvious where to focus. I think Matt knows exactly how much to include to avoid that problem.

I found with my work I tend to go in 10 year cycles of things that I’m interested in, so landscape is really interesting right now but it might be something else later.
spirit animals drawn for the 100 Days Project

Matt's currently working on a book of comics and landscapes about Oregon. He tries to do a book every year. He describes Stephen King's concept of mowing the lawn from On Writing. "The fun stuff usually comes really early or really late, the rest of your process is just mowing the lawn."

That idea means a lot to him. He says he repeats it to himself when he works. It's about more than the project for him. It's a legacy. "I definitely feel very strongly about the idea of your work standing for who you are," he said. "I think a lot of things really come down to the work. It’s really the only thing tangible that we leave behind, besides personal connections, which start to fragment as soon as you're gone. I feel very conscious of doing work that in some sense feels of this time, and also timeless."

 

Matt's studio, which he built

Find Matt online: 

  Matt Sundstrom.com  |  Salt Fire Fall Dust   |   Inks & Things    |   Fantom Forest  

Drive Into the Sun   |   PDX 100    |    Medium   |    Pinterest 

Instagram - @mattink        twitter - @mattink


Carson Ellis: a classy hippie

When I die I’d like for someone to say: she really followed her instincts.
From "Under Wildwood"

If you think you don’t know Carson Ellis, you might be wrong. She illustrated the Wildwood Chronicles. She does all of the art for The Decemberists. She has had editorial illustrations in The New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review. She painted that rad mural in St. Johns. I’m a big fan. It was bizarre to stand in her driveway and talk about how Beyoncé is overrated. 

Carson’s work captures what Portland feels like better than anything else I’ve seen. And I don’t mean quirky Portland, or in her words, “twee and precious” Portland, like art you might see at a street fair or in New Seasons, but natural Portland. The trees. Our type of cloud. And something harder to pinpoint. Something energetic. If you want to know what it feels like to be in Portland, flip through Wildwood. It’s so special I could cry. 

6b708b521a24de7a8accb7c708441490.jpg
Illustrations from the Wildwood Chronicles. Written by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis.

Carson grew up on the grounds of a dilapidated estate called Dellwood in upstate New York. “The actual mansion was in ruins,” she said. “There was a caretaker’s house with a grumpy old man who lived there. We lived in the carriage house, which was sort of like a barn. But my parents were hippies and it was a super tricked out hippie pad.” The place is gone now. Bought by developers and dozed for condos that were never completed. But the experience meant so much to her that she emails with a local historian. (I imagine she’ll make a book about it someday.) Carson spent a lot of time chasing the pony across the street, and a lot of time drawing. “I had an art practice from the time I was an elementary school kid, but I do think that I was sort of a crappy artist most of that time,” she said. 

She studied oil painting at the University of Montana. She wanted to study illustration, but it wasn’t offered. College was where she met her husband, Colin Meloy. She worked on xerox flyers for his band, and they were roommates. When she graduated she moved around, waitressing and making art. “I know now looking back at my post-college portfolio that I was unhireable,” Carson said. 

Mural designed for the St. Johns neighborhood in Portland

She ended up in San Francisco. She was super into the street art and graffiti culture. She drew with sharpies and paint pens. She said, “I just wanted to do something that was novel and unique. So I think what I was seeking out with these really exaggerated, stylized sharpie-drawn depictions, graffiti-influenced depictions of people, was a way to set myself apart. At some point I just stopped doing that. I saw that the art I loved was setting itself apart in ways that were a lot more nuanced.” 

In 2001 Carson moved up to Portland, and she and Colin started dating. They collaborated on promotional materials for his new band, The Decemberists. Carson was still drawing everything with sharpie, but she was unsatisfied. She said they were both really into comic books at that point. (She mentioned Meat Cake and Eightball.) She googled “what do cartoonists draw with?” The answer was brush and ink. So she went to the art store, bought a nib pen, nibs, an ink well, and ink. She said, “I dipped that pen in that ink well and it was like the heavens opened up, and I was like, this is it! It just changed everything about what I was doing. And I think it allowed the art to be sophisticated in a way that it hadn’t been before.” 

"The Littlest Hockey Fight" (my favorite)
I just want to be known for making good art. Being an artist is a journey. You have to always be checking in with your inner compass to make sure you’re doing the stuff you want to do. Evolving the way you want to evolve, rather than following the money, or the easy route because you don’t have time to do it the hard way. Or following the direction people want you to follow.

Carson uses words like, “psychedelic,” and “grotesque,” and “macabre.” She said, “I’m a huge fan of anything you find if you turn over a log.” In college she painted portraits of her friends where she tried to make them look ugly. She said, “I’m still interested in finding ways to make people look expressive. But I think I do it in a much more subtle way.” 

She’s also really into Russia. She took a trip there in 2001 that she says has “literally informed every single thing I’ve done creatively since then.” She explains that “there’s something that appeals to me so much about how incredibly intellectual and elevated and sometimes very politically progressive Russia has been over the years, and also how tumultuous, how backwards at times...the constant tumult of that country. I feel like I am defending it a lot to people.” 

She claims that she doesn’t do anything unique. That she can look at any illustration and name the ten influences that amalgamated in her brain to create it. But she’s also glad that the internet wasn’t such a presence when she started. “I’m really grateful that I didn’t have all of that potential influence coming from every which way,” she said. “And also that I didn’t have that awareness of how much great stuff was being made in the world, because that’s daunting. If you’re making art in a bubble, then you have no reason to think you should stop.” 

wild dogs from "Wildwood Imperium"

Carson lives on a farm outside Portland with her husband and their two boys - Hank and Milo. (Milo's middle name is Cannonball!) They've got all kinds of pets - llamas, chickens, goats, a cat. And there's a horse next door. It's a dreamy place. Just trying to find her studio I wandered into two crazy buildings - a sort of tractor barn filled with guitars, and a silo. She has vague plans to fill her farm with giant folk art, but for now she's working on another picture book she wrote, and some unnamed projects with Colin. "I don't think I have anything coming up that's any better than what I've had going on, but I think I've had it good," she said. 

pictures of Carson's property from her Instagram
pictures of Carson's studio that I took at the interview

More Carson: 

website -  www.carsonellis.com        Instagram - @carsonellis         twitter - @cfellis

Books: 

Home written by Carson Ellis | Wildwood written by Colin Meloy | Under Wildwood written by Colin Meloy | Wildwood Imperium written by Colin Meloy | Dillweed's Revenge, written by Florence Parry Heide | Stagecoach Sal, written by Deborah Hopkinson | The Beautiful Stories of Life, written by Cynthia Rylant | The Composer Is Dead, written by Lemony Snicket | The Mysterious Benedict Society, written by Trenton Lee Stewart

The two loves of Brooke Weeber

I never really know what to expect from myself.

Talking polarity with Brooke Weeber is talking homeownership (hers is recent) and relentless pursuit of outdoor adventure; introversion and the need for people; and the difference between painting nature and experiencing nature. 

Brooke wasn't planning to buy a house. Before taking on the PCT she was planning to buy a motorhome and be untethered for awhile. She changed her mind somewhere in the woods. Backpacking alone made her realize how much she needs people. Her new home, which she shares with a roommate and her cat, is one of the many things she's done to surprise herself. Homeownership, rock climbing, the PCT, and starting her own business (as a freelance illustrator) are all things that she believed she could not do, until she did them. "I'm always a little bit surprised by how brave I can be," she said. 

I’m always a little bit surprised by how brave I can be.
shots from Brooke's nature Instagram (@brooke_weeber)

Brooke grew up in Oregon, baking with her mom and making things - with clay, with paints, with whatever was around. She got her degree in oil painting at U of O because it was the only path that made sense to her. But she also knew when she graduated that she didn't have an obvious career path in front of her, so she headed to the French Culinary Institute in New York City. 

Brooke also grew up hiking and camping with her family, but it didn't hook her then the way that art did. It took living in New York for Brooke to get it about Oregon. And she came blazing home. She started buying gear, got involved with the Mazamas, and got outdoors. If you follow her on Instagram (@brooke_weeber) you know that Brooke is outside a lot. You also know that she likes a challenge. A lot of her trips involve her climbing. Either rocks or just up. She does long runs and frosty cave tours and let's not forget, she did the Oregon section of the PCT alone. Alone means alone. It means when the sun has set and the tree branches all look like monsters and you swear you see eyes in a bush, you're alone. It's not something most people could do. Brooke said after all that walking and sleeping alone two things were true: she was sick of her own thoughts, and she wanted ice cream.  

"Together"

"Together"

"Let's go adventuring"

"Let's go adventuring"

If you follow Brooke's other Instagram (little_canoe) you know that her work is diligent, folksy, and a bit bizarre. Her paintings are highly natural, with plenty of animals, trees, mountains, and water. But there are parts to each painting that aren't easily explained. Hair often plays a big role. Animals can be fully dressed. And the humans in the scene are acutely involved. It's rare that she paints a person who is interacting with the viewer. Instead her people are engaged with the animals, or are having a surreal personal experience. For example: in one piece (in the gallery below) titled "I'll probably survive this" a woman lays back in black water decorated with flowers while her fingers reach up toward a chair that rests below a tornado. "I don’t include a lot of other people in my artwork. It’s more about me, and my relationship with myself, and my relationship to nature," Brooke said. The work is about Brooke, but she's thrilled if you relate to it. 

I think a lot of us look at someone who has found a living making art with envy. Brooke is in complete control. But it also means that she has to handle the business side; that she doesn't have as much time for personal work. It's a dual life. She's the employee who wants to cut out early to go hiking, and she's the boss who has to say "No."

A gallery of Brooke's work:

For more of Brooke's work, checkout her website and her Etsy

Check out the video with Britt Appleton here