This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

June 19, 2019

How to learn Instagram

If you've never used a social media program before, you'll pick up Instagram instantly. That is, if you're a kid. If you're used to the hundreds of social media programs that have been around since the beginning of the 21st Century, you'll have a challenge. But don't despair.

The reason that people have difficulty with software programs that are similar to other software programs, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, is that they they want both software programs to be exactly alike. And when they aren't, of course, they get frustrated. I've seen it quite often that someone can be a wizard at Photoshop and be completely baffled by Illustrator. And then they see someone with no software experience at all who is off and running, and it seems puzzling.

I've helped people with this, but it has nothing to do with software, it has to do with a mindset. It may sound kinda mystical, man, but really you have to set your mind free. If you want Instagram to be exactly the same as Facebook, you're gonna be fighting it the whole way. You gotta let it flow. I'll tell you what I did.

I learned Instagram while I was house-sitting. I had a lot of spare time, and no access to my desktop computer. This was important because Instagram is a phone app, and it's best learned by being on your phone, posting, and looking at other posts. The best advice I've ever heard is "post pictures of your cat!" I posted a lot of pics of the cats that I was house-sitting (cat-sitting?). I also posted a video of the ants by the pool. I looked at what other people did, and followed people. I learned how to use hashtags, why Instagram doesn't allow hyperlinks. I played.

If you want to learn a software program like Instagram, you have to play. Open your phone, and open the app. Don't try to do anything important, just post. Carry your phone around with you and check Instagram compulsively. Post as much as you want. If you need a more sophisticated name for this technique, it's "immersion". Dive into it.

Like Adobe Illustrator, learning Instagram is a "light bulb over the head" moment. It just clicks, and the first thing that people say is "It's easy!" And like everything else, it's easy once you know it.

Now go play!

June 13, 2019

How to convince people that you actually want criticism

Most people just hate criticism. And it makes sense, it's a deep part of our human nature to protect ourselves. In a long life, I've learned that even the most confident-looking of people have doubts. And when those doubts really add up, it can destroy a person's willingness to be creative. And that's why it's best to not criticize people, even if they ask you for criticism. And so most nice people will just smile and say, "That's great!", when you ask for criticism, and move on.

If, however, you're trying to improve something, whether it's your golf game or your technique with Photoshop, it's good to actively seek out criticism. You are, of course, going to get a lot of stupid comments from people who never seemed to understand that criticism isn't appreciated (I call that "comments from the peanuts gallery"), and if you want genuine criticism from people who know, and who understand how offensive criticism is, you'll have to do a bit of work.

As a teacher, I rarely met anyone who actively sought criticism. There was one student that I remember, who said "Stop just giving me As, tell me what I can do to improve!" He meant it. I went carefully through his entire portfolio, devoting a lot of my time, and pointed out things that he could improve.

Asking people for criticism is quite a compliment - it means that you value their opinion. For a lot of people, this takes them by surprise as they begin to do what had been requested, only to find that the requestor is now on the defense, and they're now in a fight.

If you find yourself just gently patted on your head all of the time, and never get any criticism, it's your fault - you anger easily, and get defensive. So take a deep breath, and make a decision as to whether you want criticism, or if you just want to defend yourself.

If you have the guts to drop your guard, the right person will appear, and probably has been there all along, to help.