Josh Bell

Art Director at Nuun Hydration

2016 Mural for the Urban Artworks Organization

Interview by:

Whitney Mokler 

April 21, 2020

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

J: I think I've been fortunate enough through probably 80% of my career for it to feel like an even split. I get a lot of fulfillment from projects that I do on my own just for fun and projects that I'm being paid to do by various people. 

 

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

 

J: I am an Art Director for this really fun brand, Nuun. We are really busy all the time with everything from packaging to branded campaigns to digital advertising, etc. I'm constantly involved with a ton of interesting creative projects. I work with a team of four and a half you could say, the later is a contract designer who is part time, and they all report up through my role. So given that, I'm partaking in a ton of great creative projects through work. Outside of my current job, I got my start doing drawings and illustration. I found ways to make good money when I was in my early 20's through illustration, but the older I've gotten I've realized that I like to take pictures of stuff a lot more. I have my little photo blog that really doesn't do anything other than serve my own creative interests. I like to have it public because, why not?

W: I looked through it on your website and found it to be really fun. I loved looking at your work trip to Sedona. 

 

J: Yeah, that was a lot of fun. We're out here cruisin' America. So yeah, I really like to do that just for my own personal gratification. It serves two functions, it feels like creative output, but it's also creating a photo album of memories. It's great.

 

W: I haven't seen that on any designers websites before. I really appreciated seeing that because it allows you to see a bit more about that person. Yes, this person does really awesome work, but who are they?  What is it that they like to do? What do they like to put out into the world and receive? I thought that that was a really cool touch to include to say, "Hey, I go do stuff. I like taking pictures, look at it."

 

J: Yeah, I love the camera. Drives my wife nuts. In a few years she's going to thank me.

 

W: See that's what my mom always said when I was growing up when she took hundreds of pictures everywhere we went and she was right. I hated it at the time, but now I love it.

 

J: You can get over a bad photo over long enough of a time span.

W: So shifting gears a little bit, 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?

J: Right now it's been interesting. It depends on where the stress comes from, because I think a lot of times the stress is from work. My job is so deeply tied to creative output, and sometimes work and personal creative projects can  get a little motivationally mixed up. That can be a little frustrating. This is an interesting period because I have so much extra time to work on additional projects. I've picked up four or five little extra things. I do some nonprofit work and I'm working on this website for them. I've also picked up some packaging stuff for a couple brands down in Portland that I have had relationships with over the years. So I have a lot going on and because stress is often tied to work, and work is tied to creativity, it can sort of lead to a desire to not want to do anything creative. At least being in front of a screen. Which is another reason I think cameras are nice. With my illustration and design background, if I get burnt out and feel stressed, I don't want to be doing either of those things. I want to go out and take pictures of what I'm doing, which then becomes a creative project for later when I'm not annoyed with the laptop.

 

W: Personal Pinterest!

 

J: Yeah, exactly. These are the things I am seeing out here. It's really pretty, this Earth. And lately I’ve even been just trying to take photos of my house and my neighborhood, and there’s honestly tons to see. So even with the pandemic, it’s a nice outlet.

"My biggest tip on creative inspiration has always been to not be over critical of yourself about being productive."

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

 

J: I don't even know how I find creative inspiration, I've always struggled with questions like this. I think that for me it's the ‘go outside as much as you’ can mentality. Obviously we're not supposed to be doing that right now. I think in times like these, creative inspiration or anything else aside, you've got to just have some fun and do something that you've been wanting to do. 

 

I think my biggest tip on creative inspiration has always been to not be over critical of yourself about being productive. I think a lot of creatives struggle with being critical of their production levels. How much stuff you made, what you did, and when you updated your blog or website. If there's anything I've learned after working for however long, it just doesn't matter. As long as you're not going to get kicked out of your house or something big like that and you still like what you're doing don't put pressure on yourself.

 

Also, if you keep finding reasons to not do something that you used to like doing maybe you don't like doing it anymore and that's okay. Don't beat yourself up about it. It's ok, there's so many other things that you can do. I haven't liked the stuff that I like now for my whole life for sure. I don't know if that equates to advise.

W: I think that's great advice. I think any insight is advice. Final question, If you could create any project right now with unlimited time, energy, and resources, what would it be? 

 

J: I think that what I get the most joy out of right now is the archival cataloging of my little blog and all the photos that I've got.  Every year that goes by it becomes more and more of a reminder of how awesome it is that I have this whole collection of snapshots from 2013 on. I would love it if I could have unlimited time and also magically have the will power to go back through and archive all the photos correctly. To build a book or series and have printed versions. I think that's one thing it's really lacking at the moment. There is something so satisfying about a photo book. I know so few people who have them now. I feel like our parents had all these photo albums with printed photos stuck in the plastic sleeves. You can do that now and just have them printed, but who has the time these days. So, that would be a cool project for me to work on.

 

W: Yeah. I think my mom has thousands of  those.

 

J: Right, every time she needs a good cry or a walk down memory lane she pulls those out.

I know that's what my mom would do with them. I'm feeling this way too. We're going to have a baby this summer and I'm so excited to start archiving their life, our lives, life in general.

 

W: It's gonna be so much fun! Maybe you could make them a book.

J: That's what I'm saying. I'll make a bunch of books for everyone.

"If you keep finding reasons to not do something that you used to like doing

maybe you don't like doing it anymore and that's okay."

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