LETTER #4

So, this is where I think these thoughts on my work will live. The writing was getting longer and longer and it started to seem too much for an email.

I hope you find this to be a more comfortable reading space!

I am sorry I didn’t start sharing this process earlier so people can know what the whole project start to finish was like but luckily we’re not even halfway through the ten years.

Also, if you're enjoying my work and want to help me to keep on making art for 10 years straight, the best thing you can do is give me $1/month over on Patreon.

My patrons make this work possible and I am forever thankful.


DAY 1230

1230.JPG

There’s really nothing else like seeing the world from so high up.

Whenever I get a chance to fly and have a window seat, I am pretty much glued to the window. I love getting to see the world from a different perspective.

I’ve been feeling really thankful that I’ve gotten the chance to travel, however infrequently, and take pictures like this.

I remember back when I was just starting to make this art and my only subject was the small town I walked through on my way home from class. I would spend the whole walk with my phone out, trying to take pictures of anything that seemed interesting. I would dream about one day getting to capture incredible things all over the world. I wondered how much better my art could be if I only had more interesting subjects for my photos. But now, even though I think I do have a database of images that would have made that past me ecstatic, I find myself feeling like I still haven’t seen enough. When I get to that place, I try to encourage myself to remember where I was 5 years ago. If I was where I am right now, making a design like this would have felt like a dream come true. Perspective is everything and I’m thankful for all I have gained on the journey thus far.

DAY 1231

1231.JPG

I’m trying to be more intentional with how I think about the elements of my designs. From the start of this project and up until about 2 years ago, all my shapes were opaque. I would create the geometry, spend a long time choosing colors, and then overlay them onto the image. And that was pretty much the whole process.

But now there are so many more levels to it, even for a simple one like this. While I still start with the geometry/shapes in all white or black over the image, once the composition is set I then edit each shape separately. On this one, I had over 5 of versions of just the outer ring: some with more glow, bluish hues, or more sections missing. I have so many more areas to get lost in with my work now and I love that. I also have started to realize that there are so many unexplored parts of my process that I can still learn more about. The creation process has definitely gotten longer since day 1, which is something I didn’t expect. I think I kind of expected I would become a little factory of art, just doing the same things effectively each day. And although the process is similar, on average, it has gotten much longer, complex, and much less streamlined than I thought it would.

DAY 1232

1232.JPG

This one is a favorite for me. The idea came to me while I was shopping and I knew it was going to be a good one. This is why I love having my art studio in my pocket, right on my phone. I was able to just sit down in Target and make this right as the inspiration hit.

I realized I hadn’t made a design this simple and solid in months! I’ve been trying to, but each time I do it just doesn’t feel right. The opaque colors and thick lines I was using when I started my daily designs feel so harsh now. That’s why I’ve been adding in the glow and fade things so they feel softer. But something about this color palette and simple background made the nostalgic simplicity work in a way it hadn’t in some time.

DAY 1233

1233.JPG

1233 was a frustrating one to make. I just couldn’t quite get it to a place that I loved.

I find that when I get blocked creatively, the best thing I can do to help myself get past it is to change the background photo. I kind of use the photo swap as a test: if I still don’t like the geometry and shapes, then I know I won’t be happy no matter what, so it’s time to start from scratch. When this happens, I try not to dive right back in. I take as much time as I can and then give it another go.

If I start a design and it isn’t working, I try to wait until after I’ve helped my son get to sleep, and then try again. It’s like if I can’t do it in the day, I need to try as late at night as possible. I find the break very helpful because I can easily get to a place where my inner voice gets destructive and when that happens I find I cannot do productive work. But sometimes I really do just need a different picture to make the geometry feel right.

Another method to combat creative block:  I make a point to avoid deleting the things I create, even my “mistakes.” I try to keep my canvas surrounded by my creations on hundreds of layers. If you’re familiar with digital creative workflows, this. is. insanity. But for me it seems to help quiet the fear of a blank canvas. I’m constantly reminded that I can do this. I have done this over and over. Today is no different; I can make something I’m proud of.

DAY 1234

I love this one. I was so happy with those tiny elements on the top left and right. I created those tiny horizontal textures in a totally new way and it really opened my mind to some new possibilities for my work.

This one is one of those bookmarks in this project that I will come back to and study. So much of my process is trying to understand my feelings about certain things.

This one feels so right to me, and it has as much to do with the way it was created as it does the final result. When this happens, I try to really slow down and try to understand why. What about this makes me feel more whole than I did before? Why? How is that possible? I don’t know.

But making this design felt like I had gained some kind of footing in this process, like I’ve touched on something important somehow.

I’m not sure why making art feels like this for me. It’s so intense. And I even kind of roll my eyes about these thoughts. But it’s just how it feels for me.

I don’t talk about it a lot, but I often have tears in my eyes while I’m working. I think it’s because my art represents my soul in someway. When I’m making something that is clicking, I love myself in a way that is usually kind of hard for me. I can be so intense, unkind to myself, and default to black and white thinking.

But when I am there in that moment, when I know I am onto something special, my critical inner voice melts away, and my world opens up and there’s so much space to just be me.

DAY 1235

1235.JPG

A huge piece of this project is music. I still have an insanely long way to go on that front, but music is the final frontier for me and maybe it always has been. Making music feels very scary. I’ve been studying, practicing, and composing for about 6 months now - it’s all bad haha. But it feels right and I know it will get there. One of my goals with this project has been to help people feel as free as I do while I’m making these designs. And I think, for me, the actual practice of making it is what rejuvenates me. But trying to really share that feeling with other people is so hard to do in just an image. I want to create truly transformative experiences that captivate you, and I think bringing in music someway will help get me there.

On the subject of sounds, I have often heard sounds when I create my pieces. If you’ve ever seen a slow motion video of a guitar string coming to rest after it’s been plucked that’s what this one is like for me. The warm tones and crisscrossing lines feel like that twanging sound to me.

DAY 1236

I took this photo in Washington state on the ferry through Friday Harbor. Some images seem so intimidating for me to edit.  I try to shoot most of my images without a central focal point. My philosophy has been that the photo is a canvas and I don’t want it to compete with what I am creating over it. When I’m shooting photos, I see tons of possibilities all over the landscape; it’s kind of like I’m looking for “empty” spots in my photos for where my ideas can later exist. This was one of the few I’ve used that does have a big central focal point.  My idea here was to create a graphic that draws the eyes to that focal point, instead of trying to divert the eyes to new focal points that I created in the design process.


If you’ve made it to the end, thank you! Every design I make is like a little piece of my soul and I’m so thankful to be able to make this art everyday. A huge thank you to my wife Hillary who edits these words into something legible and gives me the courage to keep going everyday ❤️.

Jeffrey Thelin