Kuumba and the Kwanzaa Creations Kit

Kuumba, or … Creativity. The formal Principle states: “To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.” Clearly Kuumba means so, so much more than art and music or whatnot, or even the creative process that leads to such. It means nothing less than the making of all of life better–however this grand ideal may be achieved. It follows beautifully and rather meaningfully from the immediately preceding Principle (Nia, or Purpose); is backed by its successor (Imani, or Deep Faith); all three of which in turn rest on the foundation of the the first four (Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, and Ujamaa–Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, and Cooperative Economics).

Yet there is no doubt that Kuumba is most often associated with creative and artistic endeavors; and, for good reason. Is art and culture not a significant part of who you are? Who a people are? Can the arts–music, film, art, whatnot–not convey the highest ideals of love and learning? Can they not soothe you during hard times; help connect you to others and to your culture; or remind you of what really matters, grounding you in a better reality? (Yes, I know a lot of art does not necessarily do all these things … and that is okay and even needed. Not everything worthwhile in life has to be of a profound nature. But art most certainly can do these things; and, sometimes, it does.) Moreover … is the creation of art not quite a process sometimes? With everything from inspiration to actual creation, to all the effort that may take, to finished work and shared enjoyment? A process that does sometimes leave life just a little more beautiful?

Collection logo image for the Gather 'Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit at The Draw on Zazzle

Logo for the Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit on Zazzle
© 2018 Darren Olsen

The Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit is the most complicated and drawn-out “project” I have yet done for The Draw. It took about four months from conception to completion–usually two-to-three hours a day–feeling at times as though the work involved was only growing. Yet while I am not of African descent, the Principles of Kwanzaa do speak even to me, at least a little … and not least of all Kuumba. While in deference to and respect for Kwanzaa and its non-commercial nature, I had long decided against doing a Kwanzaa drawing, the key there is “a” drawing–one lone drawing like any other, soon done and placed upon several products. When instead, I hit upon the notion of doing several drawings–pieces of innumerable unrealized drawings, really–whereby families and friends could gather at their computers and themselves create something truly special and unique–it was suddenly so much more workable. Hopefully, I could create something that would allow others–families, most of all–to truly create something unique and special for their Kwanzaa celebrations … and, of course, all while sharing time together, collectively creating!

Continue reading …

Advertisements

Solutions with Potential: The Draw on YouTube

The Draw now has a YouTube channel! But, it was not launched with a slew of videos, all set to go and entertain or inform. Rather, I needed to post a few walk-through videos (for the Gather Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit–what it is and how to work with it in Zazzle’s design interface), and as I did not wish to pay to upgrade this site to natively host videos, of course I turned to YouTube, the most famous video platform around!

Continue reading …

Kwanzaa Creations Image Catalog

The Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations Kit is a rather unique collection of items. Although each one only shows a handful of images at any one time, in fact, all of them contain over 80 (most of which simply are not visible by default). This means that through Zazzle’s design interface–one feature of which is the ability to show or hide available images–the options for customization and personalization are very great; certainly much, much greater than those of the typical Zazzle item.

Gather 'Round Kwanzaa Creations, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Gather ‘Round Kwanzaa Creations”
© 2018 Darren Olsen

This “catalog” shows all the images available, so that if you’re interested in designing your own Kwanzaa Creations item for you and your family (ideally with your family!), you have something to help you get started. This includes a few walk-through videos too, to truly show you all the ins-and-outs of working with the images in the design interface. For even a seasoned Zazzle designer could easily be overwhelmed with the sheer number and unfamiliarity of the images alone. And, if you have never worked with Zazzle’s design interface before, trying to get your item just right could otherwise be much harder–and even much less enjoyable–than it ought to be. (After all, it should be creative and fun!)

Continue browsing …

Fresh Watches and New Product Types

Zazzle offers hundreds and hundreds of different products, from countless Makers. Of those, there are perhaps 30 or so that I typically place each of my drawings on. Why? Well, mostly because they are “everyday” items that I am familiar with; items that many people, and many homes, already have–albeit in much plainer and less personable forms! And so, I have mugs and mousepads; pillows and light switch covers; keychains and compact mirrors; gift wrap and gift bags; stamps and stickers; and so on. Naturally, not every drawing is a good fit for all these items, and some are even specific to just a handful (like “Moonlit Dreams” for my Moonlit Dreams Nursery and Shower items; “Star Back” for my Star Back Playing Cards; or “Hazards and Limits” for the Hazards and Limits Anti-Speeding Bumper Sticker). Nonetheless, they are, in general, the “set” of items I draw for.

Hazards and Limits Anti-Speeding Bumper Sticker, product at The Draw on Zazzle

Hazards and Limits Anti-Speeding Bumper Sticker
© 2015 Darren Olsen

Early on, in fact, I would often alternate between posting a new drawing (one drawing on several types of products), and posting a new product (most of my existing drawings on a new product type). But eventually, I had reached a limit in terms of items I generally wanted to design for, and so with the exception of miscellaneous items that truly are suited to specific drawings (like the bottle and can coolers and such in my Ms. Deal Progressive Nostalgia Soda Set, or the Miracle of Hanukkah Remembrance Drop Earrings and Necktie and such), for a long time, no new product types had appeared in my store … and certainly not a product type featuring the bulk of my drawings.

Continue reading …

Drawing for a New Day

I first heard of Nowruz about three years ago, from a classmate who was kind enough to bring some cookies to class in celebration and observance of it. For those of you as yet unaware of Nowruz, it is a 3000+ year-old holiday that, at least as I best understand it, celebrates the arrival of spring, and the renewal not only of nature, but of one’s health and fortunes and such as well. Though it emerged with Zoroastrianism, for which it remains a holy day (as it does for certain other faiths as well), today, it is largely a secular holiday–most notably enjoyed by Iranians worldwide, but by many other peoples from Western Asia and the Middle East as well.

Maybe it was because of my general interest in holidays that I became inspired to draw something in honor of Nowruz (also known as the Iranian New Year or Persian New Year, and alternatively spelled Nowrooz, Nourooz, Nauruz, and so on). Certainly, that I occasionally draw for select holidays played a role, and being so secular and, might I say, universal, perhaps it was simply a natural choice. Throughout the process, I found myself thinking of Nowruz celebrants I once knew as well, including my aforementioned classmate.

Whatever my underlying motivations (and sometimes, with art, one’s motivations remain as special mysteries), “Nowruz” not only took a lot of time to actually draw, but quite some time to fully conceive of as well. I can only hope that it does justice to the holiday; a time that holds such deep, rich meaning for so many people, yet one so widely celebrated and secular as well.

Nowruz, colored pencil drawing by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Nowruz”
© 2017 Darren Olsen

Continue reading …

When Policies Change: Writing Product Descriptions

Full control over projects and enterprises is always nice, particularly creative projects. Or at least, it always feels nice. A nice thing about Zazzle then (and presumably other print-on-demand companies), is that Designers have full creative control over their work. Sure, Zazzle does have a few restrictions for art and photos (for instance, nothing that can reasonably viewed as discriminatory, nor anything that encourages drug abuse, is excessively violent, nor obscene or pornographic in a non-artistic way), but in all reasonable and understandable ways, Designers are free to create whatever they want. Of course, this extends to whichever products to post as well, plus, how to organize and present them.

Yet one is always well-advised to re-evaluate their work and practices at times, and as with being part of any community undertaking, overseen and managed by a third party, sometimes, Zazzle makes changes that encourage, or even force, Designers to react. Zazzle does these things, of course, not only in their own best interests, but those also, ultimately, of their Makers and Designers. And while such changes can understandably be frustrating at times (and granted, not all changes will directly benefit all Designers), taking time to adjust to and occasionally limiting what one can choose to do, if nothing else, they are, again, simply a part of creating and selling in conjunction with a company.

Continue reading …

Creating Ms. Deal

When I create artwork to be placed on Zazzle products, usually it is simply that: I draw a picture, scan it, tweak it ever-so-slightly, and begin placing it on a range of products. When I came up with the idea of Ms. Deal though, it all became a true project, with evolving concepts and multiple parts required for completion. What started as an idea for a can / bottle cooler only, eventually became several distinct drawings, mixed-and-matched on a small collection of products, and even a “backstory” for the products in question! Even my Star Back Playing Cards Set, which took a lot of thought and effort to bring to completion, was not nearly as expansive as the Ms. Deal project.

Ms. Deal - Assembled, colored pencil drawings by Darren Olsen at The Draw

“Ms. Deal” – Assembled
© 2016 Darren Olsen

Continue reading …