I've been using a little of my quieter time in the past few weeks to go back and look at older work, to see if there's anything I can update and re-use (as I started to discuss in this earlier post.) One thing that came to mind is the problem of being knocked off-track, whether it's by the need to pay the bills, falling under the spell of great work by others, or whatever.

This little image here is something I made quite early in my development and it was, for a little while, available on products through my Redbubble store. I took them down because it wasn't getting traction, but you know what? I think I might give it a shave and a haircut and put it back out there.

When I first made this piece I was pretty pleased with the result. It was one of the first handful that I made using Photoshop and the first piece in which the kinds of expression I enjoyed (abstract expressionism and all that) were coming through into my surface design work in something like the right way. It felt like the clearest signpost I had then to what I would focus on developing later.

But then I moved on, in response to a brief from somewhere or other, and the fact that this piece was largely ignored by others seemed to suggest I shouldn't bother going back. Since I pulled it I've been shown all kinds of things from other people which are related in some way to this piece. A couple of weeks ago I was introduced by my other half to the latest: the work of Lillian Farag. If you know her, I think you'd agree there's a bit of common ground there. If not, check her out for your own sake! 

In spite of all the growth since then, this piece still represents a seam of things that I really want to mine but still haven't tapped properly. I'm not saying it's a wonderful piece, but I can still read the sign well enough! And I can iron out the flaws for a POD re-up.

I'm sorry to say that I wound up so convinced that this piece was a failed experiment that I threw it out. I mean I actually deleted all the files from my main storage to make room for other things! Took me a couple of hours yesterday to find it in one of my various backups. 

So here's a few things I've learned from all this:

1. Don't chuck stuff away, ever. It was good luck that I still had the piece, not planning. My backup schemes these days are rigorous, but they weren't so tight back then. You never know what might turn out to be useful, so don't delete!

2. Back everything up. Yeah,  I know you know!

3. Don't let the currents of present need wash away the bigger picture. I've been surprised at how much of what I was doing back then is still relevant now and I've found that reviewing this stuff has helped me get mentally back on track in my personal work. 

4. Don't rely too much on third party judgments. I let the court of Instagram and the silence of the masses get to me and that was a mistake. Somehow we have to learn to be reliable judges for ourselves (forgive the plug, but my other half has some great advice on that!) while at the same time listening attentively to the views of those we trust. Views from other people are absolutely invaluable, but we  have to know how to use them. Also, there can be many reasons why this or that piece isn't getting attention on POD sites. It's a barometer of something, but what that something is is often not very obvious, so don't assume the worst.

I'm fortunate to be working with a studio that allows me a very broad range of personal expression. But rediscovering more of my early interests has shown me that I've gradually dropped and forgotten some things that I would like to bring back into focus.

I had a pretty good idea of what I liked when I came to surface design, which I suppose is not true of everyone. But there's a sort of golden period early on when you're not so worried about the results and are keen to try to reach some vision of what you want without the pressures of delivery or need or comparison to pull you around. Perhaps it'll reveal nothing for you, but as an exercise I can now recommend revisiting your work from those times in order to remind yourself of what got you motivated in the first place.