Congratulations, you’re creative.

Now get to work!

At DragonCon 2014 on Friday night at 7pm, I’ll be giving a presentation in the Hyatt Hanover A – B called “Congratulations, you’re creative. Now get to work.” I invite all creative types to visit and have a chat about your creative career.

I meet so many people telling me they’re an artist, creative, and have a passion for what ever it may be. Great, welcome to our creative circle of trust. Now get to work. I’m sharing with you my professional philosophies that have brought my success in a happy, healthy art and design career. 

If you just need a job, everyone needs to be born, to be educated, and to die.
There will always be jobs in those three areas.

Power of your people

  • Funny people are successful.
  • Smart and funny people are more successful.
  • Being pretty doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t always work.
  • Drink with friends. Don’t take drinks from strangers.
  • Good sportsmanship is always admired. Bad sportsmanship is always recorded.

Self-marketing Skills

  • Embrace your unique style. 
  • Take pride in your work.
  • Never give someone the stick to beat you with.
  • Wolves smell weakness. Present yourself in a manner that is kind, strong, confident, and prepared. 

Interviewing Techniques

  • Work for knowledge, not money. 
  • Ask weird questions. They get the best answers.

Design Industry Business Practices

  • Don’t just stand there, do something or get out of the way.
  • Don’t say or THINK anything close to “oh, I don’t know that software . . “Oh, I only do ____________.”
  • Learn, take chances, and learn some more.
  • Get lost just to learn how to find your way.

Always, always, always changing. That’s the one thing in life we know for sure – things change.

Expert Negotiation as a Creative

November 17, 2016
One Fantastic Weekend

Who am I, what I do, and why I’m talking to you

  • I am an artist, a graphic designer, and an educator
  • History | agency designer; freelance artist, college professor; design consultant
  • Current | solution principal of experience design practice at a consulting firm in Atlanta with clients such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot, IHG, Chep, and RaceTrac.
  • Negotiate | as an artist, as a designer, as a leader on behalf of the business and our clients. This usually involves time, resources, space, and money.

Who are you?

  • Do you run your own business?
  • Are you also on the two-career track?
  • Are your day jobs creative?
  • What things do you have to negotiate?

Today we’re going to focus on the power of negotiations in the creative space. You may say to yourself “I’m an artist, I don’t negotiate.” False! You have to negotiate on a regular basis and today we’re going to get a little better at understanding it.

Motivation of Negotiation

There’s interdependence between negotiation and relationships. These aren’t one and done situations to focus on a task. These are your clients, your buyers, and your colleagues. I see negotiations more about understanding yourself and others, valuing the relationships, and leveraging your network of people and resources as needed.

It’s important to understand the motivation of why you’re negotiating and the core needs of each party. It is our job to ask why again and again until we understand the client, the business, and the audience. When we understand the motivation of each party in the negotiations, we are better equipped.

What are we negotiating for?

  • Time
    • start date
    • deadlines
    • paid time off
    • working from home
    • external responsibilities
  • Services
    • space to work
    • bringing in assistance
    • access to equipment
    • perks
  • Deliverables
    • revisions
    • final documents
    • assets
    • supporting materials
    • presentations
    • working files
  • Money
    • payment time
    • inclusion
    • price range
    • percentage

Know who’s negotiating?

Know yourself

  • Be your professional self at all times. This is the clean, posed version of you.
  • Take pride in your work, yet stay humble. It’s a balance.
  • Know what your existing expertise is
  • Understand your professional value
  • Embrace your unique style. You’re fabulous!
  • What can you live with once it’s all said and done

Know your peers

  • Understand the talent of your team
  • What’s the value your team has to offer?
  • Take consideration of your peers weakness and strengths so you can be a good advocate.

Know your audience

  • Research the client or audience to better understand the history, role, and goals
  • Know the company structure and business model
  • Who has authority, budget authority, and the actual money
  • Listen closely to what they say AND what they don’t say
  • Ask thoughtful questions
  • Challenge them like a good friend

Tactics you’ve likely encountered

  • Time Crunch
  • Flinch
  • Garbage on the Lawn
  • Limited Authority
  • Nibble

Time Crunch

As deadlines approach, clients get more and more serious about making a deal happen. You will find that with a client that has a real need and also values your skill set, they become less and less inclined to negotiate as their deadlines approach. Take your time, but use it to understand the need and qualify yourself while remaining ready to close.


Sometimes unconscious, other times used with intent, the Flinch is just what you imagine. You give a number and the audience acts shocked. Give this physical expression little consideration. It’s one of the more dramatic tactics and can be rather amusing. Don’t feel the need course correct or flinch back. Remain confident in your negotiation needs and move forward.

Garbage on the Lawn

The client knows your team does great work and that is why they keep coming back to you. The client then attempts to devalue your services by throwing out seemingly inconsequential negatives, like “You changed your inventory list before the show” “You got sick right before the deadline” “Your consultant doesn’t wear socks!”

They know they can’t negotiate your real value down, so they attempt to throw garbage on the lawn, hoping that will reduce the price. This is fine as feedback and nothing more. Don’t let it affect your numbers.

Limited Authority

When shit gets real, clients may attempt to shut down negotiation by saying, “I have to ask my boss.”

This can either end the discussion or lead you to a meeting with the person with real budget authority. That is always the person you want to talk with.

As artist, we use Limited Authority as well. “Oh, I’m just . . .”

Initial negotiations are happening all around us, everyday. We see and hear about all sorts of opportunities for our creative businesses and other artist in the community. We’re better together! Gather information and pass it on to collaborate.


There’s a man negotiating the purchase of a suit. He spent hours getting measured, exploring options and picking his fabrics. As the tailor was finally writing up the bill, the customer asks, “Which tie are you giving me?”

A tie was never part of the deal! The Nibble is an attempt to leverage the seller’s willingness to finally close the deal, just to get it done. This happens for us, all the time. Just at the last minute, the client attempt to increase scope. Or, even once we’re on site, the client will try to add in services that were never part of the original discussion.

Always say, “No!” Accepting the Nibble sets precedence, with this client and perhaps others. They all want something for nothing. Of course, we are always interested in increasing scope — as long as the price increases along with it.

Back to you

What questions do you have that I can help with?



Part II: Congratulations, you’re creative. Now show me your work.

September 4, 2016
DragonCon Panel | Part II

Today we’re going to focus on you as a creative body of work and the three areas you need to be aware of when presenting your work: self-marketing, interviewing techniques, and design business best practices.

Self-Marketing Skills

Everything we’re about to cover applies to any creative person pursuing their career goals. This rules of engagement can be used in person, in social media / communications, interviews, and in the work environment. So pretty much always keep these things in mind:

Be you

  • Embrace your unique style. You’re fabulous!
  • Be your professional self at all times. This is the clean, posed version of you.
  • Take pride in your work, yet stay humble. It’s a balance.


  • No one gets to beat you. Never give someone the stick to beat you with. You are allowed to be in this space, you are allowed to pursue your goals.
  • Let them point out the path. Letting them use the stick to point out opportunities for you to grow is acceptable. This kind of feedback is very valuable. You may gather some really important information to make you more successful.
  • Understand the truth vs perception. Things will happen and people will have a perception of you. This perception may or may not be the whole truth. However the perception can really have a big impact on your reputation.


Wolves smell weakness. Present yourself in a manner that is kind, strong, and confident.

  • Be kind, which means not defensive. The conversation will stop if you’re fighting every step of the way. NO ONE wants to work with a jerk or a little brat.
  • Be strong, like a tree in the wind. Things will not go as planned and the wind will blow. You got this, stand strong like a tree with your roots firmly in the ground.
  • Be confident. True confidence is calm. Cocky confidence is aggressive and loud. Understand the difference? If you haven’t found your calm confidence yet, please take time to do so. It may be a journey, so pack a snack.

Interviewing Techniques

The interview started before you even walked in the door of the office. We’ve gone straight to your LinkedIn page, to your Facebook, to your website, and anything else we can find out about you.

  • Be prepared. Be prepared. Be prepared. Have your social media cleaned up, your portfolio up-to-date, your resume up-to-date, your stories prepared, and know that being prepared will help you survive whatever may come.
  • The portfolio addresses the target audience. Whatever work you bring in needs to address the target audience / needs. Again, be prepared and have this together before hand.
  • Craftsmanship. The details of your craftsmanship speak for you. Have your work together and flawless.
  • Your appearance matters. The way you physically represent yourself is part of your brand. You do need to look put together, healthy, and clean. Can we put you out there to represent us?
  • Ask questions. When you ask questions you’re showing interest and that you’ve been paying attention. Even if you’re not getting this gig, you still have a great opportunity to learn something new.
  • Work for knowledge, not money. This is a big one. If you want more money, go get a job. If you want to be a successful creative career driven person, work for knowledge. Trust that the money WILL show up.

Design Industry Business Practices

The creative and design industry today is deep in the digital revelation. The one thing we know for sure is it will keep changing. With that said, you too will need to keep changing in order to keep up.

  • Take ownership. Don’t just stand there, do something or get out of the way. You are the professional being hired because you are the expert. Really take ownership in knowing your craft deeply.
  • Learn, take chances, and learn some more. Don’t say or THINK anything close to “oh, I don’t know that software . . “Oh, I only do ____________.” Google it! Pick up a tutorial and figure it out. You got this.
  • You’re not lost, you’re just finding your way. No one creative person knows everything in your space. It’s okay to have to keep finding new things, information, and ways of doing things.
  • Follow through with your commitments. A big complaint from clients is that creative types don’t follow through. This is an epic fail when it comes to business. Make it a good practice to follow-up with your clients.
  • Be a good partner. This is not just about making money. You are a partner with clients and colleagues. Be a good partner and someone who they all want to work with again. What does that look like?

Part I: Congratulations, you’re Creative! Now get to work.

September 2, 2016
DragonCon Panel | Part I

Today we’re going to focus on you as a creative person and the three areas you need to be aware of: yourself, your relationships, and your process.

Yourself: What is your motivation magic and your core values?

Motivation Magic

What are you creative about and why? What magic keeps your creative heart beating? What motivates you to keep going?

Core Values

What are your core values?

Activity: Take a look at this list and check all that apply to you. Then go back to the ones you checked and circle the top five. 

Authenticity Achievement Adventure Authority
Autonomy Balance Beauty Boldness
Compassion Challenge Citizenship Community
Competency Contribution Creativity Curiosity
Determination Fairness Faith Fame
Friendships Fun Growth Happiness
Honesty Humor Influence Inner Harmony
Justice Kindness Knowledge Leadership
Learning Love Loyalty Meaningful Work
Openness Optimism Peace Pleasure
Poise Popularity Recognition Religion
Reputation Respect Responsibility Security
Self-Respect Service Spirituality Stability
Success Status Trustworthiness Wealth

Relationships: Power of your People 

Who are the people you surround yourself with? Do you have a powerful circle of people?

  • Funny people are successful.
  • Smart and funny people are more successful.
  • Being pretty doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t always work.
  • Drink with friends. Don’t take drinks from strangers.
  • Good sportsmanship is always admired. Bad sportsmanship is always recorded.
  • We don’t have to like you to respect you.
  • Always know where the lines in the sand and sticks are.

Activity: Take a moment and introduce yourself to a person in the room near you that you don’t know yet. From here forward, start to become more aware of who you allow into your life and what power they bring. 

Process: Just because you take a different road does not mean you’re lost.

  • Art is an adventure of the mind.
  • The creative process can be the best part of the artistic journey. Do you really understand yours?
  • What do you do that gives you back motivation or makes you start to think of creative ideas? Are you making that a part of your process?
  • It’s in the details sometimes: What do you eat? What do you wear? Where do you go? What are you listening to? Who’s in the room with you?

But really, here is the process:

  1. I have an idea!
  2. Record it now. (ex: write it down, draw it out)
  3. Plan how to get there.
  4. Start. Start again. That’s okay, start again. You got this.
  5. Follow through.
  6. Accept it.

Make space for art in your life.

From small to big, you can always make space for art in your life. In this lesson, I’ll talk about realistic and affordable ways to make some space for art supplies and to work.

X Small on the go: pencil bag and drawing pad | working space is a drawing board

Small: toolbox and storage portfolio

Medium: desktop easel and storage unit

Large: use the walls to work and store your equipment | invest in a nice easel

Art supplies to get the party started!

  1. Portfolio | portfolio, approximately 30″ x 24.” large enough for your biggest pad of paper
  2. Paper | bound sketchbooks. 8.5″ x 11.” 50-100 page; large drawing newsprint pads. 18″ x 24″; XL Mix media pads;  tracing paper pad
  3. Drawing Media | One each Graphite pencils: B, 2B, 4B, and 8B; boxes of vine charcoal; white charcoal pencil; Sanford Ebony graphite pencils Soft 14420
  4. Other Drawing Supplies | kneaded erasers; Magic rub erasers; straight-edge; Clip/clamp light: (available at hardware stores); plastic Oval palette; roll of 1″ masking tape (not blue tape!); ruler; pencil sharpener; Xacto knife; standard T-Square 24″; dry cleaning pad


Dick Blick |

Sam Flax |

Look trouble in the face.

Howdy All! Today’s creative minds tips are really 3 things:

1. Look Trouble in the Face

2. You’re not in control of everything

3. Go take a break

Design on,

L. Rush

Morse Museum

Located in the charming town of Winter Park, Florida is The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. This is an impressive collection of famous American craftsmen, but the main focus is the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933).  As you walk through the collections, you really get a snapshot of American design history and the labor of love. This is a must see for fans of the American Arts & Crafts movement or of the Art Nouveau movement.

The show stopper is for sure the Tiffany Chapel. It was originally designed in 1893 and exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Morse Museum reassembled it in 1999. When you get there, take a moment to sit down and just take this whole space in. The detail and craftsmanship is to be respected.

My personal favorite find the whole museum is the invites that Louis Tiffany would make. I found them to be so personal and made with love, that I think all my future invites should be made by hand.

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~ Live in Design History ~