My sketchbook – a fantastic problem-solving practice. Sometimes, beauty is exactly in the overwhelming complexity of seeing five ideas all at once, unresolved. Why not? On the way to finding clarity, there has to be space and a way to enjoy the party of my many thoughts dancing their way along together, and listen out for which note is mine to sing along with. In a sketchbook, everything belongs.Read More
The poem ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ by Wendell Berry is always close to my heart. It’s been on my mind to make an animation based on his wise words so I created a few storyboard stills using some photograms I made in the darkroom. I hope it results in sharing something of the peace I find when retreating on my own into natural spaces.Read More
Always thirsty for time with pen and paper, I gravitated to Small Street Espresso today – one of my favourite places to think. Those who know just know.
I appreciate being able to sit on the pavements of my city sipping good coffee. Time in quiet, fresh air and a growing sense of arrival into new projects. Going my own way with quietness for a while is doing me good. I want to keep doing this, not rush away, and listen out for ‘the still, small voice’.
On the beach in Durban, a street child given permission to play in a safe place is loosed from the grim reality that grounds him. An unbelievably powerful moment quite apart from street tough survival which betrays secret longings – simply, to be a child. A lot of joy. A lot of it.
After finishing one really important work chapter recently—Alnwick Castle and the Zoology film projects—I've been reflecting back on previous significant chapters too, specifically, the years I spent devoted to documentary photography. I left a BBC Graphics position to go in pursuit of story-telling with my camera for a number of years and these travels took me—via Magnum Photos—to shoot street kids in South Africa (where the above photograph was taken), trafficked humans in Cambodia and Thailand, and communities in Peru healing from the harmful legacies of relatively recent civil war. My work was in support of charities on the ground in those places.
For various reasons, it's been difficult to see how I might include this particular story in the evolutionary mix of my developing practice. I sit in a beautiful studio in central Bristol, still telling great stories but generally uplifting and not really anything to do with poverty or social injustice ... then I realise, images like the one above have probably done more to crystallise my approach to communication than any other experience in my career.
It always comes back to motivation for me – why a person behaved a certain way in a certain situation, and why we should care about that. What we can learn from it. How we can be inspired to live our best lives.
The story of this boy leaping chokes me up even while I type this, and its over a decade since I shot that story. It probably would you too if I shared the full encounter, but that will have to be for another time.
Looking at the chinagraph marks around this particular frame, I am glad that a physical thing still exists and bears my marks on it, in tribute to the spirit of a stranger I came across one day far from home, and who has completely unwittingly motivated me to positive action for years now.
Work like this doesn't leave a person without scars, but looking back from a new space, I think it's high time I worked out how to acknowledge all this once again. More thanks than I realised are due to the people and places I found during these years.
Sunset and script in St Ives – a little more fresh-air lettering.
The beautiful therapy of fresh air hand lettering.
After an intense chapter of working on intricate animations, pretty much glued for months to my screens and mathematical keyframes, I finally took some time out to recharge and headed to St. Ives for a few days solo retreat. My favourite analogue habits finally had time to work their magic, as I picked up brush pens once again and began feeling my way back to some good new ideas.
Lovely little café Mount Zion Coffee was a perfect base for a day’s meandering around town. Here I let words flow – such a delight to see my sketchbook fill up with fresh expressions again!
My camera came out on tour too, so in between Barbara Hepworth, the Tate, watching sunset and surf from The Island and a throwing lesson with a local potter, I also have loads of lovely shots to inspire some writing.
What a great trip! I’m back in Bristol now, holding on to all this nourishing inspiration as a new chapter begins.
[ If you fancy seeing more from this little trip, head over to my Instagram here ~> http://instagram.com/lizzieeverard ]
Today’s spring air is giving us a lovely vibe here in the studio. It’s a day for catching my breath after a very long, intense chapter of work on a couple of huge animation projects.
I’m taking a moment to look at the long view again, and feel excited about soaking up some new inspirations which is so important when you’ve been pouring out for so long. I’ve booked a few days in St. Ives for galleries, sketching, photographs, even a clay-throwing lesson! Cannot wait for that.
My words blog, 'Finding Words to Live By' has a fresh, clean new template, as I decided it was high time I gave my writing and photography a beautiful space of its own again. Do have a look if you have a moment.
Also, I’m finally getting down to making a trio of short films I’ve been daydreaming about for ages now – working title ‘Soul Trilogy’ although I’m not settled on that yet. They’re inspired by ideas from my TEDx last year, and I’m so happy to see this work evolve and lead on to the next exciting chapter. Look out for more news as it takes shape!
Bristol! There are so many great people around and about in our design community here, it makes for some brilliant encouragement at the moment.
To celebrate West of England Design Forum's 10th Birthday, last night a select bunch of designer-types old and new were gathered and under twinkly, dimmed lights with drinks in hand, and we heard from 10 local design heroes, 10 things they'd each learnt along the way that had seen them through thick and thin. WEDF pours such a lot of good stuff into our creative midst, so I headed out to join the party and listen to some thoughtful gems.
Each person who stood up spoke wisdom, confessed to messing up quite a lot, they made us laugh, they rapped, and showed us scans of their unborn children, and amidst all this vulnerability they did what really good designers do and gave us some proper gorgeous things to focus on. Many of these ideas resonated, so in the clear air this morning I sifted out my favourites, that I can say are also true for me too. (Please forgive my lack of credits, hopefully I can add these in due course. See note at the end.)
Here goes – my top ten of the ten top tens:
- Keep perspective. 'No one died because of bad kerning/weird typeface' etc.It's true. In my BBC years, I once had a Natural History director storm out of an edit suite because he didn't like the shade of blue I'd chosen for arrows on a map of ocean currents, and having nearly missed my granny's funeral to get it done in time for transmission, there wasn't time to remake it. As he flounced out and slammed the door, I was left standing in front of the Series Producer, biting my lip very hard trying to not cry. Oh dear! Probably one of my earliest lessons in how and why not to be a massive control freak.
- Humility can be helpful. See point 1, and remember that while it's hugely important to fight for your ideas, being able to listen and learn is just as important. I'm not sure a need to be right opens up anything new.Curiosity, centre stage please!
- Speculate; have fun making personal work. Just go ahead and make that piece of work, just because you love the story and believe in the cause. You'll learn something about yourself, and you may also just make that new connection you've dreamed about. My film 'Tree Wisdom' was a (sort of) case in point. It was a commission, but a totally open brief, and it's proved so helpful in starting up new conversations.Chase an idea – you never know what adventure it'll take you on.
- Be devoted. Get really good at your thing by doing it with such love, and give all the great ideas in you their best chance of life. I love looking at, or holding in my hands, the work of brilliant craftspeople, who spend years refining their skills.One from the aesthetic brigade – I really do believe that if you want us to think carefully about something, then make us want to look at it. Make it exquisite.
- Don't forget the importance of your back yard. I really liked this way of describing the thing we all know but struggle to manage. Your 'front yard' is the polished, online space where your best work is featured – the well-presented 10% that gives everyone a passing impression. But it's the much bigger back yard where the real stuff happens, the many more hours of play and discovery that really shape you. Don't underestimate this space. Enjoy it, and celebrate that too!I went to a talk by Lisa Congdon a while ago, and asked her about sharing work online and vulnerability – she's so prolific, and puts so much out there direct from a sketchbook, hard to believe she leaves anything out and imagine how much courage that takes. She doesn't put everything out there, but the point is that this particular 'back yard' sees so much devoted action, what comes out of it is all the more beautifully, attractively real for it.
- Keep skills fresh by learning on every job. Challenge yourself to acquire new technical skills with each project you do. It's to budget and deadline, so you have the (helpful) pressure of it needing to be just right! I do this on all my animation projects, and I'll never keep up with the best of After Effects nerds, but I remember point no.4 and try my best, and feel excited by new things.But...
- Don't worry about being crap at technical skills. Even if you were 'around at the birth of Illustrator' (or even—ahem—Pagemaker, on one of these anyone? Please say yes...) technical skills aren't the be-all and end-all. You can learn these in time, but ideas are your true gold, and must come first.Good drawing skill with a pencil is the best companion you can give to your ideas, at least to begin with.
- Follow your gut instinct. It's your business, and whatever advice you receive, you do know, deep down, what you want. Resigning from that previously-mentioned BBC job was a huge leap of instinctive faith, and few people really understood why I did it. Made no sense to anyone. But I'm still here, my smile is much bigger these days, and the quality of my work is so much better too.And yet...
- Seek counsel and advice from the older, wiser design owls. Those who have been there and done it have a lot of gold to share.Finally:
- If it gives you wings, even if you're 'an 11 year old white kid from Leicester', it's okay to rap like a lovely, obsessed geek. Honestly, this guy sums just about everything on this list list right up. Such a sweetie.
Not complicated, but real, and honest, and I'm very grateful to be amongst these lovely people trying to figure out how to keep things moving with bucketloads of style.
Big thanks to all you wonderful speakers, and hopefully WEDF will share a list of who you are again because, I'll be honest, I'd had some wine and my brain wasn't taking detailed notes. Here's to the next 10 years!
What are the spaces and places you love to go to, when you need to think better, feel refreshed? I'm guessing we all have favourite alternatives to sitting at our desks (however gorgeous the environment) and I wonder what yours might be.
My places mostly involve cliffs and coastlines – big, open, high places where my sense of size and place in the world is kept in healthy check, and life is flowing impressively without my help. Places where I can find some clear air, and distill priorities. Know what I mean? I suspect you do.
As an urban dweller though, I have to find other ways to get out and about, which is where our allotment among the animals at Windmill Hill City Farm comes in. So much of our working life centres on the inertia of screens, but as time goes on I find it's impossible to keep it up effectively without a close-up dose of nature in the mix. The Plot, the farm, is where I get mine day to day, and you know what? I felt its high time to share some of that.
If you're with me in wanting to balance our desk-bound, digital days with being more immersed in the natural order of things, then you might enjoy a podcast series I'm recording from the plot. Someone sowed the seed (sorry!) earlier this year about making a podcast, and it was one of those ideas that wouldn't leave me alone, so here it is. An experiment for now – I'm using no fancy equipment to record it, the editing's shonky, and sound levels all over the place. But I hope you will find space, peace, food for thought and wisdom for our brave work journeys. And some sweet (noisy) animals too. Look out for new episodes every Monday night, each no more than 10 minutes long.
I try to get down to the farm as much as possible – easy, really, 10 minutes walk from home, and on my way in to the studio. It's a beautiful hit of clear air and smelly creatures, both food and people growing. "A place where people grow" is the farm's motto. Sniff.
Anything that helps us work better with our ideas.
Consider this me spreading the muck and the love.
How do you find New York?
In July, I made my first visit to the big apple, and made every effort to experience it on my own terms even (especially) in hitting some of the iconic sights. In making pictures, it's a great challenge to capture everything we know a place is, yet bring yourself to the picture too! I really wanted to explain what it was like taking part in the NY thing, as well as being true to my personal reality which is about space, and peace, and breathing in and out.
The thing with NY is, we all know what it looks like as the backdrop to so much of our movie culture. There is a huge temptation to make something look like another picture I've seen, but I struggle with the point of doing that because what really needs to happen is we work on explaining experiences in our own voices. That's how we get past the homogenous, corporate exterior of what we're fed, and remain connected as human beings.
It was a massive challenge making a mini-portrait of my personal journey in NY—no more than one minute—and so much I had to leave out! I had a go though, without a plan, just to feel my way around with a camera, to see what would happen.
The place is frantic.
But amidst the street vendors clattering under hanging yellow traffic lights, and grubby subway rides downtown, I paid attention to quieter things too – to stay connected to moments and places where I could breathe and stop a while to digest that big, juicy bundle of apple-like life.
Thank you, New York, you and your Central Park roses were ridiculously, fragrantly lovely.
This was all shot on an iPhone SE and edited in After Effects. Music: 'Raindrops' by Grapes, under a CC License.