andrew j. nilsen

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Hitchya in the gut!

Karim Mayfield doesn’t sweat the technique in this process video of how photographer Kelly Nicolaisen and I made this week’s cover.

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Hanging with/for the wife on Saturday. She was able to learn and catch a layout in 1.5 hours. Pretty. Darn. Good.

I am feeling very fortunate this morning. And must thanks my parents for that. Thanks Mom and Dad.

I just received two gigantic boxes, full of all of my past creative work from high school through college. I knew this was on it’s way here but had no idea how much there actually was or what I saved versus what my parents saved.

What I discovered was a treasure trove of all my past inspirations, experiments, successes, and more importantly, failures. I got hit in the gut when I when through the first thing I grabbed - my photo negative binder. I discovered that it contained almost every single roll of negatives and the corresponding contact sheets for every black and white photo I took since 1996. Whoa. Memories abound.

What I also came across in that binder was the very first thing I ever did with photo paper - my first photogram, which is what that image with this post is. Oh how excited I remember being about this assignment as the direct translation from 3D object to flat graphic was something so purely simple and beautiful. And something I could easy understand.

Armed with a piece of gauze, a couple drywall screws from my dad’s workshop, a Lego gear, a scrap of 35mm film, a flat gear key chain that came with my tennis shoes, a ball-chain, an old watch back, and most importantly, the packaging sleeve from my very first set of turntable cartridges (needles) - the Stanton Pro Disco 500AL-MP (matched pair, oh yeah!). It had type screen-printed on a thick clear sheet of plastic that just seemed too good of an option not to test out.

Looking at this image, I can still clearly remember hovering over the table, staring down at the components and rehearsing exactly what order and where I was going to place the items when in the dark room. I still get the same sense of focus and clarity when committing to the creative process in the work I do these days (as long as no one calls or knocks on the door…) - a focus that never came from reading history, doing math, or learning a new language.

But I was learning a new language.

I didn’t really know it then, but this was my first step towards becoming a designer. Or visual communicator, rather. And learning to speak visually, with intention. Seeing the word around me with the tools before me, and finding my own way to combine those two elements into something that I was happy to see the result of.

And that’s what it’s really about. Doing the work, experimenting along the way, and trying to reach a place where what you do makes you happy. It’s all really about happiness, isn’t it? Whether you dabble in numbers, or words, or big scientific lab experiments, underneath all the layers we are all trying to find what makes us happy.

And I am. I am happy to get to see all this old work that played a big part in making and keeping me happy over the years. And I’m happy that I get to work with amazing photographers and illustrators at my job now. Sure, not everything is always rainbows and butterflies, but finding ways to do the things that give back to and fulfill yourself are what make it all worth it.

So there ya go. Blah blah blah, crappy old work from high-school, snore, happiness, blah blah. I’m no writer and this is probably the longest public thing I’ve written but here’s to not knowing how to properly end things! Awesome. Now back to work…