Sometimes we all need a kick in our creative butts. But, y’know, a kick of encouragement in our creative butts! Every artist, writer, and right-brained person in general faces creative block, self-doubt, or fear from time to time. And James Victore has made it his mission to give us that kick in the creative butt (and right brain) to just say “Feck Perfuction” and get to work. Victore, whose work has been featured at the MoMA, uses his own experiences with failure and artistic struggle to create a series of inspirational videos, classes, and even retreats for fellow artists to inspire us all.
We talked to James Victore about what his series “Dangerous Ideas” means to him, his own experience with the ups and downs of the artistic struggle, and about some of his inspirational tips.
You’ve worked with some prestigious museums and clients! How did you get your start in the design world?
I was born to do this job. I, like everyone, was wildly creative as a child. BUT, my professional start was rather bumpy. I failed out of a regular University, then after moving to NYC to attend art school, was asked to leave after two years. I have never let failure stop me. On my own, I put a portfolio together of a few projects I would want to do (book jackets) and got my first jobs in publishing. I have been working steadily ever since.
You talk about how you’ve become an inspirational speaker by sharing your own mistakes and successes; when did you decide to start your video series and all of your creative help courses? What was the ‘ah-ha’ moment?
My ah-ha moment came more as a slow realization. I had been teaching at the School of Visual Arts (the school that asked me to leave…) and realized that I was a really good designer (with two exhibitions at the MoMA) but I was a much better teacher. Since then, I have ramped up my teaching through videos, workshops, and retreats at my studio.
What issues have you seen that creatives struggle with the most? What personal experiences do you draw on for inspiration to help?
Fear is always the issue; fear of our creativity, fear of our voice, and fear of how capable and creative we are. Personally, I have gotten better at dealing with the fear. I say “have gotten better” because it’s always there; it never goes away. With the right attitude and practice, you can get better at it.
For those who might not be familiar with your video series and concept ‘dangerous ideas’, what does the term ‘dangerous ideas’ mean to you?
A dangerous idea is one that challenges the status quo in our lives. Creative people think and see differently from the norm, but we also have to live within the norm. This creates schisms — you are creative yet you feel the need to conform, to make other people happy. We want to trust our creativity and let it take care of us emotionally and financially, but there are risks involved in that.
Tell me a little bit about the designs in your Artist Shop! Is it a mix of your designs for work and clients as well as quotes from your talks/courses?
The shop is a very organic project for me. When something I make strikes me, I try it out at the shop. I’m also not a ‘cute kitten’ guy or a ‘smiling ice cream cone’ guy; the work we put out is for a particular audience. We make work that makes us happy first.
A lot of your designs are hand lettering-based. Would you consider it your specialty?
Lettering is another measure of growth for me. I am always playing with type and testing its legibility. Too many lettering samples look alike — there’s no voice or authorship to it. Too many people are following Skillshare classes… including mine! I am a fan of poetry and I like strong statements, so my lettering seems a good vehicle to carry these ideas.
We make work that makes us happy first.
What’s a standout piece of creative or personal advice you received that’s always stuck with and influenced you?
Even as a kid, I have always been struck by the audacity of the New Hampshire state motto, “Live Free Or Die.” There is a bluntness and a very strong truth to it. I cannot imagine living my life on other people’s terms or standards.
What do YOU do when you get caught up in creative self-doubt? Does working on a video or inspirational talk, in turn, feed your own confidence and creativity?
The videos are almost my public therapy. I talk about issues that we all have, including myself. It is difficult being creative and getting paid for it; it involves divulging something about ourselves, and not everyone is comfortable with that. I try to bring forth concrete ways that people can deal with these issues.
If you had three bullet points for creatives who are struggling with self-doubt right now, what would they be?
The only bullet point is this:
- Find your purpose.
When you have a purpose in life, everything else – fear, doubt, etc. – comes second. “Fuck off, fear— I’ve got shit to get done.”