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

Why some people have difficulty following directions

As a teacher and trainer, I have often found many people who have terrible difficulty with following what would seem to be simple directions. It's a bit of a learning disability, and it can be horribly frustrating to the person giving directions and the person who should be getting them. Of course there are a lot of reasons why someone would have difficulty following directions, but the most common one I've found is that they think that they already know the answer. Sound familiar?

I've always prided myself on breaking down even the most complex tasks using computer software to small bits. But even the smallest bit of information needs to have a place to fit in someone's mind. If there's information already there, there's no place for it. And if the information is completely wrong, the conflict in someone's mind won't allow the correct information to co-exist with it. If you follow me here, it's a two step process: the bad information has to be deleted, and the good information has to be inserted.

And that's why my students who came to a class knowing absolutely nothing about something, for example Adobe Illustrator, would learn much quicker than people whose mind were filled with a lot of information that was wrong. You may have heard it called the "empty cup" theory, where it's possible to to put more in an empty cup, but a full one has no room. It's really true.

People who already know things, but which are incorrect, have a tendency to not be able to absorb correct information, and they defend the information they have. They become belligerent, and often see everyone around them as idiots. Sadly, these people are so blinded by their incorrect information, and their anger, that they have no chance to learn until they resolve that issue, and unfortunately many don't.

So here it is: if you're someone who has difficulty following directions, and learning new things, step back. You're not stupid, you're not an idiot. In fact, you may be more intelligent than the people who you watching who are "getting it". Just give yourself permission to admit that you don't already know it all, put yourself in that vulnerable position of a student. Empty your cup.

Image at the top of this post: cartoon drawing in Adobe Illustrator.

When you should work for free as an artist

As a graphic designer, and as someone who has taught graphic design, I'm always telling people that artists shouldn't work for free. For some reason, my industry (commercial art) always has people asking for free stuff, like a free logo. And so I tell my students and my fellow pros to just say "no".

However, there are times when you should work for free - and that's when you have no credentials, and no experience. That is, you can't point to your art degree, and you can't show anyone what you've done in the past. At that point, people would be kinda crazy to promise to pay you to do something that they don't even know you can do. At that point, you have to do it for free. And you'll either prove you can do it, or prove you can't. Either way, no one should have to pay you to take that chance. It's on you.

Doing something for free is an investment in yourself. It means that even thought you've never done something, you'd like to try. Usually that investment is only time. Sometimes there are hard dollars, such as having to drive somewhere, pay for gas. And you're the only one who can evaluate if that investment is appropriate for you.

Speaking for myself, I'm ready to try new things. I don't have the money to invest to go "out of pocket", but I'm willing to do something for free, if I feel that I want to know if I'm any good at it. I've done this all of my life, often finding that I just stink at certain things. But some things I found that I was good at, better than I had even thought I was. And from my efforts bloomed great things, a career in graphic design, a feeling of achievement.

Today I was asked if I would be interested in doing some voice work. It's something I've never done before, so I called a friend of mine who is a voice acting pro. I won't tell you who he is, but if you've lived in Arizona, you've heard his voice. He does all kinds of voice work, commercials, promos, you name it. But the thing that he can't do is Spanish, which I can. I listened to his Spanish, which he admitted was awful, and I had to agree.

So now I'm ready to do some artwork for free - voice, in Spanish. Yes, voice is an art form. So if the client comes back to me and expresses an interest, I'll tell that that I'm up for it, for free. I will probably ask for a lunch or something, but that's it.

I'll let you know how it goes.