Paper Crafts and Calligraphy at Home

Paper Crafts at Home Title

Paper crafts are a wonderful way to express yourself if you have artist’s block or you’re struggling to be productive. The first few months of 2021 were tough for me and mine and it really screwed with my creativity. My father had a small stroke back in February (he is OK now, thank goodness) and COVID continued to loom over us all. The European side of the company I worked for closed, and I was made redundant. I’m currently job hunting which can be a long process. None of these things could be helped, but it was important not to let them overwhelm me and prevent progression in other areas of life.

Usually when I struggle with creativity, the first thing I do is try something newโ€”whether it’s a course or class, a new art medium or just reading books and articles to pick up inspiration.

I chose three paper crafts to help me push through these uncertain times: watercolour painting, calligraphy and origami. You can start all of these at home and relatively cheaply. I also subscribed to Skillshare for its broad range of classes that will help me develop my skills. (You can find many free tutorials on YouTube and across the web, too!)

Bear in mind I am a true beginner in both watercolour and calligraphy and many of my early attempts are totally cringeworthy. ๐Ÿ˜Š Still, I’d like to share my progress here on the blog so people can see how easy it is to develop with a bit of dedication and practise. I’ll also provide links to resources if youโ€™re looking to try watercolour painting, calligraphy or other paper crafts.

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Creative Necessities | What Can’t You Live Without?

Blog Essential Creative Tools

Most artists and designers will have creative necessities that they just can’t live without. I’m curious to learn what other people use on a dailyโ€”or at least regularโ€”basis; those tools you depend on for your work and don’t think you can do without. They can range from hardware like computers and tablets, and software like programs and apps, to hand-drawing tools and must-have comfort items in your workspace. I’ll share my creative necessities below, with links, and I would love it if you shared yours! I am always searching for new tools and tips to make my day-to-day work more comfy and efficient.

Hardware & Software

  • iMac – This is my most important tool because even without any of the other stuff, I could still draw and create new products and artwork, share on social media and communicate with friends and family.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud – My second most important tool for creating. My main apps are Illustrator and Photoshop, but I occasionally use InDesign, Premiere Pro, Audition and After Effects.
  • iPad – Where I often sketch ideas and store products-in-development. All of my iPad sketches are rough and generally for my eyes only, but I love how easy it is to share artwork drawn on the iPad directly to websites and social media. The convenience is insane! Apple Pencil – Not a true necessity, but it makes drawing on the iPad a lot easier. As an addition, I’ll also add the Paperlike Screen Protector, which makes it feel like you’re drawing on actual paper.
  • Procreate – The app that I most use for drawing / creativity on a tablet.
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Behind the Scenes | My Design Process

My design process

This post contains Affiliate Links. This means that I earn a small commission if you purchase through my links, at no additional cost to you. Please read my Affiliate Policy to find out more.

Every creative is different in how they approach their design process. I’ve been a graphic designer for over a decade now, but I’ve only been creating and selling design products for a little over a year. I thought it would be nice to give you a glimpse of my design processโ€”from conceptualising a new product right through to creating the preview images.

The product I’m showcasing is my new design set, Summer Party Graphics, a collection of vector icons with a colourful, summertime vibe. I mainly wanted these graphics to work on party invitations, flyers and posters, as well as online in emails and on social media.

Read on to find out how I develop my products and view work-in-progress screenshots.

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Gaming and Streamer Logo Design

Gaming Logo Design Blog

Anyone who knows me outside the design community knows I’m big time into gaming. I’ve been playing on console since I was 10, after my parents got me a Nintendo for Christmas (Mario FTW). These days I play on PS5 and I’m hugely into The Elder Scrolls Online and the Dragon Age games (with a little Fallout, GTA5 and misc on the side).

It’s weird to think that in all the years I’ve been a graphic designer and illustrator, I’ve never really got into game design or designing for other gamers.

I was recently asked by a good friend and fellow ESO-er AJ – aka. Celtic Reaper – to design a new logo for his YouTube channel. The brief was to use a reaper, scythes and the Celtic symbol for Trinity. Click below to see the green version…

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How to Choose Your Social Media Accounts

How to choose social media

If you’re just starting out on your creative journey, knowing which social media platforms to use can be overwhelming. There are many options already and more platforms get launched every year, each of them strong in different areas. This post aims to help you decide which social media platforms are right for you and your creative business.

I always recommend picking 1-3 social networks to dedicate the majority of your online social time. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. Trying to dedicate time to too many profiles will spread you thin. It could end up diluting your brand, message and content. Focusing down on the most important tools is key to building a strong presence.
  2. Not all social networks will serve you equally. Relevance is often a factor. If you are a creative, chances are you want to show the work you create. A text-heavy platform like Twitter might not serve you as well as a visual platform like Instagram.
  3. You should limit your time on social media anyway. Too much exposure can be bad for your health, especially if you choose a platform where strong opinions are dominant (i.e. Twitter!).

Saying that, it’s OK to have additional accounts where you can cross-post content and support your engagement and reach. But these should be secondary. To make updating multiple accounts easier, people often use automated posting services such as Later, Buffer or Tailwind. I recently switched to Tailwind and so far I’ve found it useful for setting up posts, curating content and organising how I want my social feeds to look. You can do quite a lot with a free account, although the subscription service allows you many more options.

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Why It’s A Little Quiet on J. Oliver Designs

Why it's a bit quiet here right now

I haven’t posted much over the last few weeks and I thought I’d update you on why things have gone a little quiet ’round these parts. I don’t talk about my personal life much because this is my creative business space, but because this relates to my recent silence and has an impact on my online participation, I don’t want anyone to think I’m not creating new work!

In September 2018 I began an online Master’s degree in Graphic Design. It’s a part-time degree, so it has been spread out across two years rather than the usual one year. What I love about the part-time MA is that I can do it at my own pace from home while still running my business and working a full time day job (and finding time to dedicate to my family and friends ๐Ÿ˜Š).

The MA ends in October 2020 and I am currently knee-deep in my Major Study, which is the massive project we do in the final semester. Luckily, my Major Study is centered around my freelance business so I can still work on everything at the same time, but it also means that time spent on social media and here on my website has diminished as I give my project a final push toward the finish line.

I’m happy to say that I’m now developing my next design product and I’m hoping to release it before the end of the MA (as I’d like to include it in my project!) along with another freebie. I’ll post an update about this nearer the launch.

I try to check in on social media as much as possible, but my Major Study must take priority at the moment. All I ask is that you bear with me for a little while longer.

Thank you for your patience! ๐Ÿ’› If you’re new here, why not check out my other blog posts or my shop for digital creative resources.

5 Reasons to Take A Break From Creative Projects

5 Reasons to Take A Break From Creative Projects

Creatives often find it hard to know when to take a break. Thanks to fast-paced digital media we’re conditioned to believe that we’re not doing enough if we’re not working our socks off 24/7. We’re prone to comparing ourselves to others who seem more successful, productive and happy. But even those people need breaks from time to time, and chances are they’re successful and productive because they know when to give themselves a rest. Breaks are important for a number of good reasons and burnout is real. If left unchecked, it can be dangerous to our mental and physical health.

I took a big break from work and social media over the last couple of weeks. I had to step away and allow myself to unwind, remember that relaxing is good and catch up with a few things I wasn’t able to do while working on my business and building my social profiles. I’m making this a regular pattern going forward; as soon as I notice the signs, I’ll step back. And I’m OK with that.

But I wasn’t always OK with it and it has taken me time to understand that it’s perfectly healthy to stop working, stop being socially present online, and understand that my world will not collapse as a result (in fact, it should result in me coming back more energised, productive and focused!).

Below you will find five reasons to take a break, plus a few ways to spot early signs that you might need to take a step back.

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Interview: How to Find Design Clients During a Lockdown

How to Get Design Clients During a Lockdown Header

Creative Market isn’t just a venue for beautiful design resources. They also host a blog packed full of useful design and business tips, advice and information. I was recently approached to take part in one of their thought leadership blog posts: How to Find Design Clients During a Lockdown. The article is now live on the site and I highly recommend reading it if you’re a small business.

In the article, frequent Creative Market blog writer Marc Schenker interviews shop owners to discuss how to get clients and keep your business rolling during adverse circumstances. Many of us are still experiencing partial lockdown, on furlough from our day jobs, or unemployed because of COVID-19. There’s so much uncertainty about the future and this hasn’t only impacted the creative industries, but all industries. Find out how different businesses (including mine) are coping with these changes:

If you enjoy the article, why not check out some of these other insightful Creative Market blog posts:

Remote Design at Creative Market: How We Do It. An insight into how CM are continuing to run the site during COVID-19.

How to Create Your Brand’s Social Media Aesthetic – Useful if you’re just starting out, and features links to invaluable resources.

How to Start a Graphic Design Business in 2020: Entrepreneurs Share Advice. A goldmine of tips and advice from some great designers and companies.

Five Foolproof Steps to Score More Freelance Graphic Design Jobs. Another great article for new designers or small businesses or anyone looking to expand.

10 Files Every Designer Has & Could Start Selling Today. An excellent article if you’re thinking of setting up your own business selling creative assets or services.

Why I Love Vectors and Why You Should Use Them

Why I Love Vectors

This post contains Affiliate Links. This means that I earn a small commission if you purchase through my links, at no additional cost to you. Please read my Affiliate Policy to find out more.

Vectors feature in almost all of my products, and while I use them every day for my work I forget that many people might not know what they are, why I champion them and the many amazing ways they can be used.

I’ve only been working with vectors for the last three years; before that I’d never touched Adobe Illustrator and worked exclusively in raster format (.jpg, .png) using Photoshop. It wasn’t until I got an in-house graphic design job where Illustrator was mandatory that I learned how to create vectors and finally understood how efficient and useful they are.

Why Vectors?

Vector artwork relies on mathematical curves, points and lines (or paths) to create polygons and due to its nature it can be scaled up or down indefinitely without losing quality or clarity. This makes it an ideal option for displaying graphics at different sizes across a range of media, from computer screens and mobile devices to flyers and massive billboards. Vectors give you crisp, clean lines rather than pixelated or jagged images.

The other cool thing about them is they allow you to easily edit things like colour and line thickness, and when a vector is made up of many different components you can rearrange the composition with minimal hassle.

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6 Creative Projects You Can Do At Home + Inspiration

Creative projects you can do at home

The wonderful thing about being creative is that there are many things you can do even if you have a small to non-existent budget. With everything thatโ€™s happening in the world right now, a lot of us find ourselves isolating at home with more time on our hands than normal. If you’ve only ever dipped your toe into creative projects but you want to get more hands on, now is a great time to do it. Iโ€™ve put together this post full of ideas, resources and inspiration to (hopefully) kick-start your creativity!

Just to note: because Iโ€™m mainly a digital artist a lot of my creative work involves a computer, although for this list I’ve tried to include a few physical activities you can do at home even with limited supplies. The key to this post is that you have choices and nothing is ridiculously expensive or difficult to access.

So without further ado, here are 6 creative projects you can do at home on a small-to-zero budget.

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