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The Plan and Design Developments

Since the start of the Pandemic and my transition to stay-at-home-dad, I have been devoting as much time as possible to graphic design and image manipulation. Doing so accomplishes two things. Perhaps most importantly, it provides me with tremendous satisfaction, energy, and excitement. I just love doing this stuff! So that's one benefit from all this work - the intrinsic pleasure I get from it, and enough reason all on its own.

But I have to be pragmatic and figure out a way to monetize all this creativity - a challenge shared with artists all over the world, of course. After all, I'm a 53 year-old scenic artist who A) isn't getting any younger and painting is a physical job, and B) works in a profession that is profoundly affected by the Virus. So the ultimate goal is to create a reliable, work-from-home income stream from my creative work. I've narrowed this to creating designs for clothing and other products because it feels more realistic and achievable than just being "an artist." Plus, I get a real charge out of seeing my work on a piece of clothing.

I decided on a multi-pronged strategy. One prong involves increasing my exposure on the internet by making stencil-style graphics of famous (mostly political) people and then making those images Public Domain in the Creative Commons. Please see my Flickr page for examples of this. Of course, creating these images and then describing/tagging them on Flickr (and by extension the Creative Commons) allows me to reiterate my name and repeatedly on the internet and begin building a large personal catalog with multiple ways to turn up in a Google search. If I make good, useful graphics, they will be used and experience traffic, and that traffic will be associated with my unique names. Searching those names will reveal more free graphics, but also all the other graphic/design work I do. The free stuff is the bait, and it's in my interest to make that bait as good and useful as possible. Fortunately, I love working on this kind of stuff, so this is not a chore.

All of this playing around with Gimp and Photoshop over these past months have brought me to level of competence where I feel relatively comfortable using these skills for other people, which brings me to the second prong: providing my services as a graphic designer. "Services as a graphic designer" is too broad, and I want to tie this in with my general interest in making designs for clothing, so this is refined as "services as a merch graphic designer." If I've learned one thing over the past decades on the web, it's the value of niche, so this has been further refined to target two niche markets - podcasts, and ex-pats homesteading in Portugal.

I love both of these things. Podcasts have been playing in my ear for at least ten years, and my strange-ish relationship/obsession with Portugal has been documented elsewhere on this blog. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on the what has developed on the Portugal side of things, although there are also developments on the podcast side that I am very excited about that will be discussed on a later entry.

As part of my research into and vicarious enjoyment of ex-pats homesteading in Portugal, I follow and watch a number of YouTube channels featuring just such individuals. Two such people are Luke and Sarah (and Molly the dog and Timmy the cat), living on 17 hectares in Castelo Branco, a district in Central Portugal which interests me a lot - see this deep dive into Castelo Branco. They have a great channel, "Luke and Sarah's Off-Grid Life," which I have been enjoying for many months. They check all the boxes - they're fun and engaging, they cover a wide variety of topics, they produce regular content, they have cute animals, they manage a big and varied property in true off-grid fashion on a budget. They could also use more traffic and merch helps with this, so I reached out to Sarah and offered my services for free. She was receptive, and we have been collaborating together on design work for them for about a month now. We have finalized two designs, are working on a third, and have one more in the hopper. It's been a great experience, and I have really learned a lot about the designer client relationship and process. Here's their store on Redbubble.

Part of the deal of doing this work for free for them was credit for it, of course, and a bit of promotion. Sarah was nice enough to give me a big shout out on their latest episode - thanks, guys! - and that immediately turned into two more potential clients. Sweet! One guy is a custom guitar builder and refurbisher in London, and the other is a beekeeper in Baltimore. I'm in the middle of introductory emails with them right now. It's all pretty cool and I'm feeling very optimistic.

The title graphic and the images below are some rejected designs from the Luke and Sarah design process. For this particular design, we settled on a very simplified version that you can see here. It's worth noting that all the silhouettes are based on photos of real things, so that really is Molly, Timmy, and the cork tree in their yard that one sees in almost every video they produce. I like that aspect of it a lot.

As always, more to come!

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