P.S. I talk about this concept more on the ‘Don’t be strangers’ podcast, which you can check out here!
Have you ever made family trees? Apparently this is a common assignment for kids — clearly, I missed the memo.
But don’t worry because today, we’ll be doing JUST that — except with a little twist.
The first episode of my favourite creative podcast, the Draftsman podcast, introduced me to the concept of art parents — this novel idea got me thinking a step further about creative families. It’s a pretty cool idea that we can create our own creative family trees in order to draw inspiration from.
The good thing about this analogy is, just like a family, your creative families can have things in common, or not! They can be an absolute mismatch of people you don’t think to get along but all have one thing in common: you.
Whilst you don’t choose the actual family you have, you can choose the creative family you get, and today, I wanted to talk about a few people who I consider as ‘creative family’ figures, which may inspire you in your journey!
Art is about making, not judging: what I learned from the wacky grandfather
Social media means we spend an awful lot of time comparing our 100%, with others’ top 10%. For me, this resulted in producing less work because of the pressure. That was until, I found David Hockney.
Despite being in his 80s, age is no barrier for Hockney as he churns out paintings from his ipad, to his several feet-long canvases.
Over the decades, his work has ranged from a variety of mediums to subjects. Photography, charcoal, oil, and digital. There’s no end to his range and there’s certainly no one ‘aesthetic’.
Not only that but — his work isn’t even ‘good’! His sketches and ipad drawings look childish in comparison to the art we are consistently exposed to.
To me, it is miraculous — an artist of so many decades creating work that looks ‘bad’: it was a sign for me to say that there is no bad art! When making so much work, there’s no time to perfect each piece, a philosophy that (as a self-proclaimed non-perfectionist) I absolutely love.
Seeing Hockney’s work made me realise I don’t need to be precious about art — I need to be prolific. I need to not care about results and just create — in whatever medium takes my fancy at that time. There are no right or wrong answers — there’s only art, and that is what you make of it.
I can safely say that since Hockney’s work, I have given up on my instagram aesthetic (and just, instagram in general!), and have focused way more on the work itself. Thanks, Gramps.
How this uncle helped me switch careers
You know that neighbourhood uncle that everyone’s kinda scared of, but is actually a softie on the inside? Yeah, that’s Chris Do.
Lockdown of 2020 meant that I spent a whole lot MORE time on Youtube. As I was going through a career crisis, I stumbled upon thefutur who l.i.t.e.r.a.l.l.y. changed my life.
Chris Do was the graphic design instructor I never had, or knew I needed — I spent hours watching videos on typography, branding, creative direction, pitching, business, the whole works.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from Chris and his team at Blind (his creative agency in LA), it’s by simply sharing knowledge, whatever stage you are at. It’s about creating useful information for people in an age where useful get’s lost amongst tons of useless.
Chris Do not only changed my career, but my content game.
Following the path of the cool cousin
Virgil Abloh, who passed away around the time I was getting into Hockney, was a serious legend in his field. From his architecture degree, he made his way up through the fashion world, eventually becoming the creative director of Louis Vuitton.
Not only that, but doing all of this as a black male, in a time when discrimination is so rife, is a serious inspiration for all POC!
If you listen to Abloh’s lectures on Youtube, you’ll see he’s just an average guy with (definitely not average) ideas that, with creative thought, can be executed by you and me. He’s down to earth, passionate about education, and kinda whacky too.
In fact, Abloh references several mentors of his in his lectures, including Rem Koolhaas, Mies Van De Rohe, Corbusier, and even Princess Di. Abloh himself is a great example of someone who has made his own creative family tree to draw from as influences.
Overall life hacks from the brother I look up to
Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I always (ALWAYS) reference Ali Abdaal.
I took a passive interest in his channel since his med school days (even if only because he’s a brown muslim dude on Youtube — a rare sight, even today!), but it’s been awesome to see him grow into who he is now.
Whilst not ‘creative’ in any artsy sense, Ali’s tips on productivity (like using Notion, habit tracking, and most importantly, how to start a Youtube channel), have seriously changed my game. If it weren’t for him, I’d definitely have given up my channel, and by extension, my creativity!
I like to think we have an awful lot more than we actually do in common — with Hockney, for example, he moved from the bleak, grey streets of Northern England to the sunny streets of California (after spending several years in Northern England, I moved to Dubai). With Abloh, he transition from architecture to another creative practice (as did I). Ali started off as a ‘part time Youtuber’ (as have I). And Chris…okay, Chris is just another level. The one thing ALL of them (or, should I say us?) have in common, is that we are multi-disciplinarians. Not sticking exclusively to one ‘niche’ (at least, 100% of the time) all members in this tree have stuck their hands in one thing or another.
So…how do I find my creative family?
It’s important that the creative family tree is filled with a variety of people, including those who may not be creative in the sense you are looking for — having balance is what helps give you all the elements you need for a healthy, creative upbringing.
Who haven’t I been exposed to that would inspire me if I knew they existed or knew the details of their lives? And how could I learn about those people?” — Barrett Brooks
So you’re wondering — how can I learn about these people? Where do I even begin to find them.
As I’ve noticed, it’s almost fruitless to go searching for inspiration, as it tends to come when you least expect it.
The best advice I can give is, like all of my creative family members preceding me, stick your hand into every niche that interests you. Jump down rabbitholes of curiosity. Scour the internet. Over time, the nice little algorithm starts churning things into your eye that will guide your interests. You find crossovers and liminal spaces that your potential creative family will be lurking in.
For a more immediate piece of advice, start looking at your favourite artists on Instagram. Stalk their internet presence — most importantly, find out who they like, and then find out who they like. Eventually, you will land on a person whom you can draw into your tree.
Most importantly, save these ideas somewhere. Write notes on your phone. Take pictures of their work and stick it in a journal. Keep this inspiration somewhere for easy access.
My tool of choice is (of course), Notion! I even have a page named ‘Rabbitholes’ which is basically a spreadsheet of various links I can pick through.
I’d love to know who you adopt in your family — just hit reply to this email and let me know 😃