Clay Hickson

Publisher of Caboose/The Smudge

Illustration for The Quarantine Times

Interview by:

Whitney Mokler 

April 14, 2020

W: Historically have you found yourself feeling the most creatively fulfilled by the work you do professionally or outside of that?

 

C: I wouldn't say I've found one or the other more consistently fulfilling. This may be because the lines get a little blurred by my process. Most of the time when I am hired to do an illustration, the first thing I do is flip through a sketchbook to see if I have anything that might somehow relate to the prompt. It's rare (though it happens!) that I have an existing sketch that fits perfectly, but I almost always find something that sparks an idea for how to approach the job. I find it much more inspiring than, say, scrolling through a Google image search or something. I think there's some benefit to being your own source of reference material. In terms of personal fulfillment, it really just depends on how good I feel about the work.

W: What types of design or art do you partake in to fuel your need for creative outlet?

C: Well, as mentioned above, I'm a firm believer in maintaining a sketchbook, but I also think it's crucial to initiate your own projects instead of waiting around to be hired for your dream job. Just create the dream job at whatever scale you can afford! My wife (Liana Jegers, illustrator) and I have always loved printed ephemera and type design, but we just don't have the technical training or job skills to ever be hired to do magazine design and layout. So we decided to start our own monthly newspaper, The Smudge, where we would have complete creative control. It's really empowering to have a space to collaborate and be as experimental as you want.

W: How do you find your creative drive impacted by times of high stress? Including right now as we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

C: It's been a real rollercoaster. For the first few weeks of this current situation, I was feeling really amped up to have nothing but time to work on personal projects. I don't want to belittle the very real danger that a lot of people are in right now, but there was something exciting about the future being a total blank slate. That feeling has started to wane a little bit recently. For the first time in years, my wife and I spent a whole day on the couch watching movies. I'll admit it felt good, but it's hard to let go of the guilt of feeling unproductive.

 

I've been working from home for a few years now, so from a day to day perspective not much has changed. But this isolation has allowed me to slow down and let the days unfold more naturally. I don't feel the usual urgency to start working right after breakfast. It's opened up more time to read or listen to the radio and sit just with my thoughts (an ancient art form that I think has been mostly lost in the digital age.) I'm still struggling to find a balance between work time and leisure time, but I think I'm starting to fall into more natural rhythms and letting go of the idea that I need to accomplish a certain amount every day.

W: What are 3 tips you have for finding creative inspiration/outlet when in isolation or a high stress environment?

    Books, Movies, and music. Dig deeper into the ones you love and follow those threads to new stuff. Everything that inspires you was inspired by something else. Look into it. Do your homework.

 

Food would be the fourth tip.

 

And stay off the internet. There's a lot of good on there, but it usually gets drowned out by bad news.

W: If you could create any project right now with unlimited time, energy, and resources, what would it be?

C: This changes almost daily, but at the moment I'm hung up on writing and illustrating a children's book. Unfortunately, I'm a terrible writer with nothing to say and no wisdom to impart. So wish me luck!

"It's crucial to initiate your own projects instead of waiting around to be hired for your dream job."

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