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Let me say right off that this blog post has nothing whatsoever to do with clothes, or the small rooms in which the tidiest of us keep them. It’s about work–my work, to be precise. I’m a designer, a writer, an illustrator, and a teacher. In most of those arenas, my job entails working to others’ specifications–making other people’s dreams come true. In some cases my clients know exactly what they want, and they just want my hands and computer skills. In others, though, my job is less giving my client what they think they want than it is showing them all the things they might want if they knew those things existed.

In short, I am paid to Think Outside the Box, to Dream Up Amazing Things, to show my clients things they don’t want so they can have a better idea of what they DO want. I am paid to take risks, to court certain rejection not occasionally but every single frigging day.

And I’m okay with that. Really I am. I understand that when I walk into a client meeting I will walk out of there with (if I”m lucky) two of my three dynamite ideas rejected out of hand–and it will probably be my favorite two. I understand that I am working in pursuit of another’s dream, creating another’s vision. That’s my job. I’m used to it. I know the dangers of falling too deeply in love with a concept–any concept. It’s likely going to get shot down–and the more I fall in love with it, the more likely the idea’s quick death on the boardroom floor is.

And yet sometimes it still happens. I go to the initial client meeting. I listen to their thoughts and ideas. I take notes. And then, at some point in the process, I am struck by lightning. I know–I just know–that I’ve got pure gold in my concepts. I hurry to the next client meeting on eager feet, clutching my concepts in my sweaty hands (not really–sweat is hell on comps, and these days it’s all about email and pdfs in my world, but you get the idea).

I present my work. And my clients look at each other out of the corners of their eyes and I know that, like Michael Bolten, I have perhaps been watching too much of the wrong thing. I have allowed myself to dream the big dreams, rather than the necessary ones, that my comps reflect me more than they reflect what my clients wish to say about themselves. There I am, singing in a rich, ringing voice of being Jack Sparrow on Tortuga, Forrest Gump on the bus bench, Scarface, Erin Brokovich, when what my clients want is a nice, tight little addition to their edgy little rap.

And so I put away my braids and beads, the crashing ocean and the blue, blue sky, my deskful of cocaine, and God-help-me my Erin Brokovich suit, and I re-set my sights on crafting a nice, tight little addition to their edgy little rap, because I am a professional, and i truly do know that my job is creating art and designs that will help my clients reach their dreams and goals. It’s not about me. Some days, I am a gun for hire.

But this video is for the other days, the days when I stride into meetings with a concept that goes giving my clients what they think they want, and shows them the world they might have instead. Sometimes they want it. Sometimes they don’t.

And this video captures that experience perfectly–so perfectly, in fact, that I suspect Michael Bolton may have spent some time as a designer. So for all those people who have ever wondered how a designer feels in a concept meeting–and for every designer who has ever been there–this video is for you. Play it proudly.

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Years ago, back when I lived in California and drank tea and ate scones at Paddington’s in Beverly Hills and wore designer clothes I sat in my friend Anne’s garden (here’s her picture–isn’t she cute? And she’s looked like that ever since I’ve known her. I wish I could have a DNA transplant). It was late spring, the time of year in California when the skies are still blue, the hills are rich green, and the breezes blow soft.

Anne and I were talking about our friendship. “I remember the day I met you,” she said. “Kevin had just finished interviewing me, and he was showing me around the office. It was after hours and you were cleaning and moving furniture. You were wearing bib overalls and had your hair braided. I looked at you and I knew that you were an old friend I had just met.”

I laughed when she told me that, even as I cringed a bit at her description of me. She was right, though, from the day we met, Anne and I have been old friends. We still are. I admire her serenity, her wisdom, and the love with which she embraces her life and family. She’s a remarkable woman, and I’m proud to have her as my old friend. When I met her she was a designer and I was a writer. Over the years our she has morphed into a photographer and I have morphed into a designer who paints and writes. If her blog is to be believed–and I have no reason to doubt–one of her photos is on its way to winning a National Merit Award.

Anne was right all those years ago, we were old friends who had just met. Today we are just old friends. Because we are, I am much better at recognizing other old friends when I stumble upon them.

Take Barbara Ardinger, for example (that’s Barbara, over there on the left). Barbara was my old friend from the time I saw the words Ars Gratia Pecunia in one of her comments on a list-serv where we were both members. Translated, the phrase means, “Art for the sake of money,” and when I read that I felt like I’d come home. The words glowed on my monitor, and I knew without doubt that the woman who wrote them was an old friend I had not yet met. I also knew that I must have a sampler with those words stitched upon it for my very own. Because she is Barbara, Barbara did it for me–and she did it in colors and images that are designed to promote prosperity. It seems to be working; if Certain People in Offices Far Far Away hadn’t gotten so damned greedy I’d be doing very well indeed. (Stop, Bodie…step away from the computer…easy…easy…now take a deep breath…) Ok, I’m better now. Moving right along.

I was right. Barbara and I are old friends, even though, technically speaking, we have not yet met. And yet I have never wavered in my conviction that she is an old friend. A smart-mouthed old friend, with a killer sense of humor. I’m going to be talking about her for a few posts here, because there’s a lot to say about her. Also because I’ve invited her to come visit, but I haven’t yet whittled the list of questions I’d like to ask her down to manageable size. Until I manage that, I’ve got control of the keyboard, the monitor, and the mouse. I can say what I want.

So back to Barbara. As I said, she’s got a killer sense of humor. Take, for example, the book for which she is perhaps best-known. It’s called Finding New Goddesses, and I’d really urge you to click here and see what Barbara has to say about it because it’s fun and engaging. For those of you who don’t have the time, the premise is that we should be as free to discover the goddesses that rule our modern lives as the ancients were to discover the goddesses that ruled theirs. Barbara backed her argument up with a book about this modern pantheon, which she discovered as she navigated her urban Southern California life.

I’m going to give you one of the new goddesses, but first I should mention that Barbara is a wonderful editor, that she loves the theater, and that she’s a regular on Women’s Radio, an amazing site that networks blogging, webcasts, book reviews, articles, and discussion groups into a remarkable whole. You should check it out. More about Barbara tomorrow, but for now, meet one of my favorites among the New Goddesses, for obvious reasons.

Artissima: Goddess of Drawing Covers and Kicking Ass

Here She stands upon the summit of Mount Parnassus, head, shoulders and starry boots above color-blind drawing hacks and naïve art directors.

“Do not mess with The Book,” Artissima says in Her voice like thunder. “Be not secretive of deadlines nor stingy of communication.”

Carrying Her pencils, crayons, paintbrushes, and styli, Artissima descends from the mountain and betakes Herself into the publisher’s office. “Now see here,” She says, “a book cover, like magnet, must attract, not repel. You must,” She says, pointing at an illustration with a Very Large Pencil, “use images that are both eye catching and refer to symbols with Layers Of Meaning. Do you get it?” She pokes the art director with a stylus, purely to get her attention. “This cauldron tells us that the author is floating in the stew of her over-wrought imagination.” Artissima winks, which is a Sight To Behold. “You know how authors are. Every little carrot or turnip or bit of grease in the stew is some damn metaphor or other. They just stew and stew around, and We Must Draw What They Are Thinking.”

The publisher blinks. “But we have artists—“ he begins.

“—oh, no,” says Artissima in Her voice of thunder. “Oh, no, you do not! Software is not Art. Software is created by programmers and nerds. Art is created by Me.” She pokes the publisher in the eye with a sharp stick. “Got that, bub? Got that??”

“Uh, yes,” he says, retreating behind his desk and picking up a contract to shield himself. “And the spirals?” he asks, to change the subject. “What do spirals signify?”

“The spirals,” says Artissima, drawing three interlinked spirals in the air with her biggest brush, and the air begins to gleam and glitter, “the spirals are curvilinear shapes that create a feminine and welcoming tone. See here,” She says, “there are no sharp divisions of space so that the essence of inclusion rather than isolation is created. Got that??”

“Yes, ma’am,” says the publisher. “You betcha,” says the art director.

“And also,” says Artissima, “the spirals say that the author’s mind has been, shall we say, bent and curved by substances of an illusory and creative nature. The author spirals into the ethers, where It Is My Job to Catch Her And Bring Her Back To Earth. Trust me,” the goddess adds, “I know what I’m doing.”

“Oh, Artissima,” say the publisher and the art director, “now that we understand, we do trust you. We do, we do, we do, we really do! Oh, Artissima, please draw this cover for us. Please draw the cover for every book we ever publish.”

“Damn straight,” says Artissima, and She settles down at Her Cosmic Drawing Board. The drawing begins.

So if you live in Southern California and find yourself in need of some really lovely portrait photography, give Anne a call; her contact info is on her website. And if you live anywhere and find yourself in need of an editor, a theater buddy, or a new goddess, call Barbara; she’s your best bet.

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