Having hosted and produced Arrest All Mimics, the creative innovation podcast for nearly two years, there are times when I feel like my head is about to explode. By the end of this calendar year, I’ll have passed the 100-episode mark. There has not been a single episode where I’ve come away feeling like I haven’t learned something significant, no matter how in your face obvious or delicately subtle. Artists, filmmakers, designers, art directors, theatre lecturers, electronic musicians and illustrators, to name a few have made up a powerful archive of storytelling and advice sharing.
When I started to do it, I always envisioned the lineup of guests being interdisciplinary. Many felt that because I was an illustrator, this would be an illustration show. Indeed, my career began as a wholehearted crusade to become a full time, freelance illustrator and somewhere along the way, started to grow from that foundation. I’d always taken my influences from far and wide, without really recognising its worth. At college I wrote an essay on Fight Club, the movie version of a favourite book. At university I chose to write my dissertation on graphic activism because something about the way these disruptors challenged status quo through their creativity spoke to me on a subconscious level. As we speak, I’m writing a second book based on the symbiotic relationship between personality and creativity; our natural character being the biggest clue we have to make sense of which path to take through the arts.
Yet for many years I was guilty of the same thing I see in many students. I looked only to illustration for my inspirations and that is the fastest way to follow the herd, to disappear into repetition. Any truly great innovator, or anyone who has succeeded in making a living and remaining true to personal ideals has fuelled their fire with sensory ingredients from far and wide.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that after moonlighting in the music industry, film, writing, fashion and many other fields, the early rumblings of a collaboration between myself, photographers, filmmakers and musicians has started to develop, taking on more of an agency feel, able to put ourselves forward for bigger, multimedia projects.
Some of the lower listener numbers on the show have been for episodes where I strayed quite some way outside of design and illustration, my core audience. I saw great value in Rebecca Johansen’s story as professor of theatre at New York University as she told me about spectacle and scale on stage. Marianna Pestana welcomed me to the V&A museum in London to talk about design futures, dazzling me with exclusive insights into great tools and knowledge that could give any visual communicator an edge. I understand; I arrived at college with a book of artwork from the video game Metal Gear Solid and wrestling magazine. My cultural horizons were few back then. In art history and then at university, my elective module, where we were encouraged to study something totally different to illustration, I would mess around and question the worth of this intrusion on my drawing time. Trouble is, my drawing was influenced by a very limited group of things so I didn’t develop too fast.
Now, nine years into a career in the creative industry, I chase the most obscure conversations with people who can bring great value and ideas to my viewpoint. More and more, people frown and scratch their head when I conjure up some wild project suggestion. Granted, some have to be discarded and are ridiculous, but there are gems that could never have existed if not for the things I’ve seen from travels into new territories. Don’t get me wrong, I still treasure few things more than sitting on my studio sofa with a cup of tea and an illustration compendium, tongue hanging out over beautiful line drawing or particularly sexy paint mark. My love of my specialism is richer than ever having broken out of the loop you get caught in when you stay in one place for too long.
Ben Tallon is a freelance illustrator, author of Champagne and Wax Crayons: Riding the Madness of the Creative Industries and host of Arrest All Mimics, the Original Thinking and Creative Innovation podcast.
He works with WWE, EMI, Channel 4, The Guardian and The Premier League among others.
Want to hear from Ben? His recent podcasts will resonate with freelancers and creatives looking to hear from likeminded leaders in the industry. Visit: https://soundcloud.com/arrestallmimics
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