Spring Has Sprung!

I’ve been so ridonculously busy over the past few months, and I’m rather ashamed that my poor blog hasn’t had nearly enough attention as it should have! There’s been a huge but fantastic influx of projects from various clients that I’ve had so much fun working on. I guess a little bit of a catch up is in order.

The few projects I’ve been working on have been particularly huge for me, not in terms of project size but the fact that those clients have trusted me with their brands. While I’m completely confident I can work wonders with their new company’s brand, it’s a huge compliment for someone to trust me with it. The first big deal for me was one of my best friend’s new venture into a swimming school – and letting me create the logo, website and everything else. It’s going to be opening in October, and all the little things are slowly coming together, and I can’t wait to see it out there, living and breathing with the swimming school!

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Secondly, I handled a CI for a new music production studio. It was so much fun, from the very first sketches right through to the launch event of their studio! Logo design, business cards, email signatures, letterheads, a rather good-looking website and photos. It was like chocolate cake, with a gooey chocolate filling, covered in thick chocolate icing – I enjoyed every single bit of it!

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At the same time, I had a super short notice request for some business cards for a very talented baker and cake decorator friend of mine. From sketch to final printed business cards in just 4 days was a tad crazy, but they came out so cool looking, and when I saw them beside her incredible cupcakes decorated with printouts of the music studio’s logo that I’d designed, I almost cried! I can only imagine it to be something like seeing your kids go off for their first day of school. Yes, I totally just compared my projects to kids. But that’s how important they are to me!

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On the side, I’ve been working on a logo for a very unique and exciting local band, a branding service company, and a wedding media company, along with the usual monthly work I do for my previous company of employment. It hasn’t really stopped here, but I’m grateful for that!

And personally, well, August was a surprisingly getaway-filled month! The second weekend of August, my boyfriend and I went away to celebrate our 4 year anniversary, then 2 weeks later we held a surprise birthday party/camping holiday at our friend’s special campsite (the same place we went to for Easter) and then last weekend we went to Bela Bela. That last holiday was a blast, even though we were camping during a cold front and the water froze overnight! I got the most pathetic tan/burn on my legs from my 3/4 pants, and we spent most of each day walking around, sitting in the sun, relaxing by the pool, playing cards and cycling around. I haven’t ridden a bike since…. well, probably over 10 years, but it was so great to get back on a bike and just ride! Except that poor bike had zero shock absorbers, so I was a little sore the following day! We had some sheep and little sparrow weaver birds for company after most of the campers left on the Sunday, while we stayed until Tuesday. They were so curious and friendly, constantly hopping around our feet while we relaxed by the tent, I actually missed them all after we came home!

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And, well, since then I’ve been back at work, doing the usual au pairing and keeping very busy on more projects. I’ve also realised I have a lot of work ahead of me for my own businesses, as while my design has been doing so splendidly, my photography business totally needs some love. So I’m giving each business a little bit of pampering, some website updates and some blog updates, and lots of exciting things planned for the future. I’m not the best of bloggers, but I do enjoy it, so it’s time to put that to use and blog more! That’s right, you’ll be seeing a lot more from me, hopefully at least once a week, or once every two weeks! Until then folks!

Going the Extra Mile

While I like to think I do as much for my clients as I possibly can (and sometimes think I should be doing so much more), I learnt a little something this past weekend. A friend and I went to the local pet expo – The World of Cats and Dogs – and spent most of the day wandering around, saying hello to furry friendly faces and trying not to adopt a pet from every single shelter there! Most of the stands were animal food companies, animal shelters, toys and accessories and breeders.

There was one stand, however, that caught my eye – a local photographer. Now, I’m not sure if she actually takes the photos herself, or just personalises items with the photos provided. I asked her some questions, and when I asked if she can organise delivery, she said no. Perplexed, I asked where we stayed. Well, she works on one side of the city, and lives on the other. If I want to buy something from her, I need to go all the way to her – and in Johannesburg, that’s not cheap thanks to petrol, car maintenance and E-Tolls. I smiled, thanked her and walked away. But the thought lingered in my mind.

The fact that she wouldn’t make an effort to get her product to me (not even half way) had put me off using her services. As a designer and a photographer, I make every effort to work with my clients. That means going to the other side of the city to meet them so they don’t have to travel far. That means working longer hours and paying for their coffee. That means phoning them or emailing them to check on them so they don’t have to stress about the small things. That means couriering their photos to them or dropping them off personally – once they’ve been wrapped up with a handwritten note in them. I ensure that every interaction is (usually) at their convenience, so that they can meet somewhere they are comfortable, or don’t have to travel far at the end of a workday, or worry about when their photos are going to arrive. I take all the weight so they can enjoy the experience. Why? Because I’m offering a service, and I want them to remember me as the person who went the extra mile.

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I don’t find this a burden, in fact, I find it very rewarding. I once met a young lady who didn’t know Johannesburg very well, and I was happy to go to the other side of the city in peak out traffic just to meet her. She was so grateful because she was so worried about getting lost or getting stuck in traffic, and getting stressed out before meeting me. Instead, she found the place easily and we could have a relaxed and productive meeting. And all because I made the effort.

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Could I have simplified it and done a meeting over Skype? Yes. I could’ve just told her to email me her questions and I’d reply. Sure. But that’s not how I work, and while I do find it nice and comfortable in my office, I know it’s good to push myself out of my happy space just so I can make others happy.

Next time you have the opportunity to make someone happy by going the extra mile, whether it’s paying for their coffee or dropping off business cards in person, just remember that your client will be grateful for that!

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Behind The Scenes

Every tradesmen – or tradeswoman in this case – has their own tools and tricks of the trade. I thought I’d share with you how I work, and my tools, and what makes me a multimedia designer.

 

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During my studies, I put into practice what I’d been doing since I could hold a crayon – and that was draw. I fumbled my way through paint, pastels and wax until I discovered my love for ink, pencil and charcoal. During my studies, I got to use those more and more, and fell in love with them even further. I learnt to transpose from pencil to ink, charcoal and then onto digital.

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I was a digital artist for many years as well, so going from a scribble on some paper to a full digital painting was second nature to me. Then, when I entered the working world, I was stuck in a digital realm. Designs were done in the digital air, and it was a huge learning curve. I simply didn’t have the time to sketch things out before doing them digitally. It drove me crazy!

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Then when I went on my own, I realised I could go back to my process. And boy did it feel good. It makes every project feel more personal, special and each get their own dose of creative attention.

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Now, I am venturing to new territories – watercolour being my first. I have never been a natural painter, and while my first acrylic painting looked fantastic, I think I pushed myself and lost it completely. I did that for a pencil project once – I changed my shading style for a particular section of the drawing, and since then my style has never been the same. I’m not sure if I’d call it progress, but it’s certainly different.

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Now, my digital skills come into play. The more I work on something physically, the more I have to play with when it hits the digital realm. I love Photoshop – but mostly for drawing. It’s underrated as a creative tool by most people, but it’s my best friend. Illustrator is a mean machine that I leave all my design work to. Need a precise curved line? Done. Need a strange shape with a stroke and a gradiented fill. Done. Try do that in Photoshop and it’ll take a bit longer, and take you on a slightly more scenic route. I think of Photoshop as a bit of a hippie, and Illustrator is a perfectly organised and efficient sergeant. I love them both for it.

 

My Tools.

My oldest set of pencils – I’ve had them since 2005, and I’ve only lost 2 pencils. They’re not a well-known brand, but they’re fantastic. They’ve been put through more art exams, personal drawings, commissions and projects than any other stationery I own. They are rather tough, and up to 4B, the graphite has lasted well despite being dropped too many times to count. The softer pencils are more delicate and prone to breaking, but that’s pretty normal. I think you can see I clearly like the softer pencils more – that poor H pencil has barely been used!

 

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As much as I adore charcoal, it’s tough to find the right kind. Some charcoal is too thick, to soft, too brittle or just plain rubbish. This guy was fairly pricey, but as a git from my Mum, I’ve made them last quite nicely. And I *love* Daler Rowey like a kid loves ice cream in a heatwave. Nice and thin, not too brittle, you can even sharpen them if you’re gentle enough. And I love the fact that they’re wrapped in tissue paper, like a gift.

 

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If I didn’t have such a phobia of needles, and an ever-changing list of visual things I like or dislike, I’d get tattooed. Ink is such a fun medium to work with – it’s like that friendly kid in the playground that plays with you even though you don’t know them, and they just make it so much more fun to play. I’ve had this bottle of ink for about 10 years. It’s rather watery now, but it’s still fun to work up layers of ink. This bottle of Scrivener’s ink I got from Ordsall Hall in Manchester with some quills. I’ll probably buy some india ink and pop it into this pot when this one is finished, it’s just special and something I’ll keep for as long as I can.

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My latest experiment – watercolours. Everyone in my family is good at painting, apart from me. So I’m starting with watercolours, because they’re like ink, only with colour, and I can handle ink! And I love watercolour paintings, they’re so gentle and interesting to look at, with all the layers and edges where the paint has dried thicker and darker. And I’ve recently come across watercolour handlettering – something I need to try. We did minimal typographic work during my studies, only the boring basic stuff. Handletter is stunning, and with watercolours it looks like summer on a page!

 

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These beauties are my pride and joy. I got them in about 2006, and adore working with them. There’s something so incredibly satisfying about blending colours and creating new colours with pencils instead of using paint. I did most of my matric art projects in coloured pencil. The great thing about these guys is that they don’t smudge while you’re working. And the colours you can get are just gorgeous. When these run out, I’ll definitely be buying some more!

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Just A Few Days

Firstly, I hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend just gone by! It feels like just last week it was Ash Wednesday, and now suddenly Easter is over and we’re heading straight for Winter. Time flies!

And speaking of time, it’s amazing what just 2 days of holiday can do for you. My boyfriend and I had planned to head to the coast for the Easter weekend, purely because it was our best chance of getting a decent holiday in. But when the weekend crept up on us, the places we wanted to go to were all booked, and the cost of petrol alone was insane. Our favourite places were all booked up, and it soon looked like we wouldn’t be going anywhere – and possibly pitching the tent in the garden! I’m the kind of person who needs holidays, otherwise I become grumpy, miserable and useless. But on this past Wednesday, while at our weekly social evenings, our buddy mentioned they were going to their family camp site up north, and invited us. And boom! There was our holiday!

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We went through on Saturday morning, and arrived to beautiful hot sunny weather (and I’d only packed clothes for cooler weather!). It’s the kind of place you can get away with doing absolutely nothing – even staring into the distance feels good! On Sunday morning, we drove up the mountain to the highest point for several km’s, and watched the sun rise over the flat plains of Limpopo. Gosh, it was amazing. After snapping some photos, we headed back down the mountain and tackled the rough terrain. After a slightly hair raising and stomach churning ride home (I don’t have the strongest stomach in the mornings before breakfast!) we got back and made the most of our holiday.

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On our way home, we took the more scenic route to avoid the expensive toll roads and e-tolls, and had a ride up the cable car to the top of the Hartbeespoort mountains and ended up having lunch there! I’m not one for heights, but it was pretty magical, and worth the slightly scary ride to the top! We made our way home through the Cradle of Humankind, through some beautiful driving roads, and we made it home with time to spare for unpacking and freshening up before dinner.

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This break showed me just how drained I get, because my brain actually never stops once it gets going – I’m always thinking of ideas, trying to solve problems, and my mind is constantly absorbing information, to the point where I don’t want it anymore, but I can’t stop it. Just 2 days of getting away from that and switching off has done me a world of good, because now I feel like I can tackle any oncoming projects with gusto and fresh creative juices! So, if you’re thinking you should keep pushing on, give yourself a break, and you’ll be glad you did!

Photo A Day Challenge – January 2013

Ever since I saw my best friend wandering around with a camera and capturing priceless images, I’ve had a crazy love for taking photos. It sounds terribly clich√©, I know, but I mean it. I remember grabbing my camera and watching him and then copying him. I soon realised it wasn’t about just taking a photograph, but seeing it. It’s all in the eye, not in the camera.

Having touched the tip of the iceberg when it came to learning how to use a camera, I found every book, video, magazine, tutorial, blogpost and whatever else to teach me. And the more photos I took, the more I saw to photograph. And the more I photographed.

Anyway, let’s cut to the point of this post. Last year I started a challenge set by the Nikon South Africa page on Facebook. It’s the #NikonPhotoADay challenge, where one takes a photograph everyday that fits into the theme for the day. I started it in August last year, and completed 3 months before university ate my life, and almost me too. I took a 2 month break, and now I’m running around with my camera in my hand, taking photos every day. It does feel good again, I’d forgotten how much I missed it.

Here’s the first 6 days of photos, and I’ll be posting one every day, or a few photos every few days so I don’t overload you.

Day 1 - New Years Resolutions
Day 1 – New Years Resolutions

For the past 2 years, we’ve gone camping with amazing friends for New Year’s, to a place 150km north of us. It’s 4×4 country, but it’s beautiful. At about 11:00pm, we hop into a 4×4, grab some drinks and head out to an empty field where everyone gathers to celebrate the new year. We set off fireworks (there are no animals nearby, thankfully!) and cheer into the new year, greeting strangers and wishing everyone a happy new year. Then we all head back to the campsite, plonk around a fire and talk about last year’s resolutions, and make new ones for the new year. It’s special, personal, intimate, and fantastic. Sadly this year we didn’t get to go out there, so we headed out to some friends on a farm. It wasn’t as much fun, and I felt horribly ill not long after arriving. Something didn’t feel right, so we headed back home just before midnight. I welcomed the new year in while on the road, but watching fireworks and floating lanterns as we drove past.

Needless to say, there was no campfire reminiscing. So that morning, I came up with my resolutions, and jotted them down in a journal I received for my birthday. This year I’m going to stick to them as much as I can, and if they’re written down, I’m less likely to forget them. Well, that’s my thinking for now, but let’s see where it goes.

Day 2 - Skyline
Day 2 – Skyline

I’m not the greatest landscape photographer out there, I do really prefer to photograph people. But on the odd occasion, I grab my camera and attempt to photograph the landscape. This was as close to a skyline as I could get, since being on the West Rand isn’t a good place to photograph the skyline of Johannesburg CBD. This is the Roodepoort skyline instead, the mountains that surround the valley of Roodepoort and Randburg. And it’s a rather pretty view indeed, so this one will have to suffice!

Day 3 - Hair
Day 3 – Hair

Hair is quite a personal thing for me. The term ‘Ginger’ should give it all away – yes, I have ginger hair. It was the bane of my existence when I was younger, forever being teased and called names. I hated my hair colour, but there were the few who liked it, and for their sake I didn’t dye it.

About 2 years ago, I met Anthea Pokroy. I’d known her from Twitter as the ginger collector. She started a project called I Collect Gingers whereby she photographs gingers. I was amazed, and for once in my life I felt proud to be a ginger. I met her one day while at work, interviewing her for a photographer position at the company I worked for. She got it, and we spent a few days together, which was fantastic. Sadly, that didn’t last long and the company disintegrated. I still kept ties with her, and took part in being one of the gingers (I’m number 101!). Since then, I’ve learnt to appreciate my hair colour and it’s uniqueness, and become proud to be a ginger!

Day 4 - Behind You
Day 4 – Behind You

Meet my evil furry four-legged sister. Yes, sister. We rescued her from death, and she grew to love my Mum. We get on every now and then, but we fight more often than not. But she’s particularly partial to being photographed, and she loves the sound of the shutter snapping away. So she became the subject of my stalking session (just to annoy her) and the subject of my photograph. She’s the strangest cat in the world, but she fits right in at home with the rest of us.

Day 5 - Now Playing
Day 5 – Now Playing

My boyfriend is a gamer. He loves gaming, game reviews, game gear, gaming expos. Anything game related gets his ears up. While I’m not much of a gamer, I do enjoy the odd session of Guitar Hero or Dirt 3. Those games I can play, since they relate a little more to my skills range, unlike COD or whatever other things might be lurking out there. On this particular day, we woke up incredibly late and played games for most of the afternoon. It was fantastic to do so little and have fun at the same time. I almost forgot to take my photo for the day, and it worked out so perfectly. I’m not much of a product photographer, so I gave it a little more personal flair.

Day 6 - An Addiction
Day 6 – An Addiction

I think this covers a wide range of my addictions – baking, chocolate, cake and photography. Baking is one of my addictions. I call it “therapy for the poor”, because if I don’t have to go out and buy ingredients, then it’s bakeable and usually theraputic. It can sometimes undo me at times, and sugar seems to be my worst enemy. Chocolate, however, makes all things better – including headaches! Cake is just a recipe for happiness, and while I don’t often make cakes, it’s generally something I’ll order at a coffee shop to cheer me up. And photography, well, it very rarely makes me sad when I get the shot I want.

This was my birthday cake, and I made it because I needed to bake on the first day of the year! It’s a chocolate cake from Nigella, with icing and frosting based on a Ho Ho (Ho) Cake recipe by the BrownEyedBaker. Relatively easy to make, although my idea of an easy cake takes anywhere between 3-4 hours from start to finish. Strange, I know. Anyway, it’s remarkably light and sweet, and the white frosting inside balances out the sweet chocolate frosting on top, and the cake just goes with everything else. My best cake to date, and I cannot wait to make it again. Yes, again. And again. And again.

Day 7 - Key
Day 7 – Key

This topic suited today perfectly. I should’ve seen it coming. For the past 2 and a half weeks, I’ve been climbing into my car via the passenger’s side door. My driver’s door decided to conk out on me, and would no longer open. Nothing worked, not even the central locking. It was a huge pain, but at least the car worked (while the other one is out of commission due to a blown turbo. Yup. Good times.).

So, why was today so good? Because I finally got into my car from the driver’s side again! Having phoned around for parts, we took it to the locksmith down the road. The young guy climbed into my car, pulled half of it apart, banged, rattled, shook and clunked until he got the door open. Bear in mind it was close to 35 degrees centigrade, with no shade. 2 hours later, he fixed the lock motor, put it in, put the door back together. I’ve never been so happy to see a door open and close in my life. Never again will I take my opening and closing driver’s door for granted! Thanks to the awesome guy at Andy’s Locksmiths in Blackheath for making my day!