Write, Teach, Laugh

AdobeMAX: Unleashing Your Creative Weirdo

(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)


Artist and graphic designer Rich Tu, encouraging students to unleash our inner weirdo

A model, a DJ, and sugar skulls highlighted “Unleashing Your Creative Weirdo” at AdobeMAX, and that was just before the break. This workshop was one of a series of classes, speeches, and hands-on practice available at the LA Convention Center, October 5-7. AdobeMAX brings together users of Adobe software, such as Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere Pro, and Acrobat, with the engineers, developers and other people at Adobe Software who make the magic happen.

The instructor, Rich Tu, told us to unleash our inner weirdo, but not too much because the Convention Center would throw us out. What Tu had in mind was to get us to relax and be willing to experiment. He also said we could set our tables on fire, but took that one back really quick.


Music was provided to the workshop by DJ King Marie

Tu is an award winning New York based designer. His clients include Alfa Romeo, NPR, Verizon, Broadway shows and rap bands, among others.

He began with some physical tense-and-relax exercises. “Feel that?” he asked. “That feeling of relaxation is what you should feel when you approach your work,” he explained. The work he was talking about included the rainbow of creative specialties possessed by the AdobeMAX attendees, including graphic design, traditional art, photography, programming, and user experience design.

The participants in the workshop sat around circular tables full of sketchbooks, markers, Sharpies, yarn, glue, beads and other sparkly stuff. Tu encouraged people to be bright and colorful in their experiments. The DJ kept music going throughout the class.


Model Carmine Black sports The Thing hands from Fantastic Four

The first assignment was to sketch model Carmine Black, who posed on her own and with inflatable dinosaurs and hamburgers. The assignment was repeated two more times so that participants had to challenge themselves to come up with different approaches to the same subject.

In honor of the upcoming Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos holidays, the next activity involved paring off and doing a sugar mask of your partner. Sugar masks are a traditional form of Mexican art work, although we got to start with plastic masks, rather than molded sugar. Markers, yarn, and beads were applied to create fantastic faces.


Making sugar masks of our neighbor was one of the creative exercises

As the assignment progressed one of my table mates, a child of the computer era, remarked, “You know what’s different about working like this? There’s no undo.” Another observed, “I don’t remember ever having this much fun in art school.”

Lastly, came the shoes from Bucketfeet.com. Participants received a blank white canvas shoe upon which to draw. Bucketfeet is a site where artist’s designs can be applied to sox and shoes. Buyers pick from designs and Bucketfeet applies it to the footwear and sends it to you. Artists are compensated when the design is purchased and receive a commission for each pair that ends up decorating someone’s feet.

Bucketfeet founder Aaron Firestein told me that some of the site’s artists have made over $100 thousand from shoe sales.

As the class drew to a close (pun intended), I looked at the now messy tables full of beads, torn construction paper, glue, and drawing tools and it reminded me of preschool. Maybe that’s what the instructor had in mind. Getting in touch with uninhibited, child-like creativity was what everyone in the workshop needed. And that doesn’t make you a weirdo, does it?

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