Q and A: Ever Thought About Your Creative Turnoffs?

For this edition of #WhatInspiresMe, we’re taking a bit of a departure from our usual process of spotlighting artists’ sources of inspiration. Today we’re talking about inspiration killers. Minted artists Elliot Whalen and Christian Bennin share both sides of the coin—what does and doesn’t inspire them—so, really, this is a “double issue” edition.

Elliot Whalen
San Francisco
Elliot’s Minted Artist Store

I prefer not to dwell on things that drain my inspiration, but while we’re on the subject, I can list a few. To start, I’m not saying I’m Superman, but I do take up all my vitality from the sun, absorbing its energies and converting them to creative inspiration. I love natural light and fresh air. In fact, I just assumed a one-minute power pose in the morning sun to write this feature.

IceSCREAM” custom art print by WHALEN

In a similar vein, cramped and cluttered spaces make me claustrophobic. Not literally, but in a creative sense. I get cabin fever easily. Growing up in Southern California near the beach, I spent a lot of time outside, which became a major inspiration in my art. I drew waves, surfboard designs, and beach landscapes in my school notebooks. And a few years ago I moved to San Francisco, which has the perfect blend of bustling city, creativity, and all the outdoor adventures you could want just 20 minutes away.

Whimsical Hitch” save the date card by WHALEN

Lastly, I’d have to say solitude. Again, not trying to get grave here, but I thrive on collaboration and loads of visual imagery. Seeing the amazing work of other artists and designers brings a ton of enthusiasm to my imagination. I am also influenced by other creative mediums such as architecture, furniture, and product design. I believe creatively thinking through design solutions with a functional approach has a lot of value. Building something both aesthetically beautiful that also has utility demonstrates an impressive level of creativity.

To sum up what doesn’t inspire me, I have a phobia of living in a dark basement with no windows, no access to the Internet, and zero friends.


Christian Bennin
Fishers, Indiana
Christian’s Minted Artist Store 

Working from home is sometimes difficult for me. I miss having co-workers to bounce ideas off of, and working alone can be challenging; although, a good creative brief can usually pull me out of a creative block. Which leads to my second inspiration killer: the open-ended project. I find parameters to be extremely helpful. I won’t take a project without a creative brief, no matter how small, and I usually spend a good portion of time on research.

Michael Bierut gave a great Creative Mornings talk where he mentioned that parameters can be great drivers of good work, and I’ve found that to be true. The more open-ended a project is, the harder it is for me to commit to a direction and find a source of inspiration. That’s also why I find the research part of a project to be so helpful—once you know what you’re representing, it’s much easier to go about creating something that’s not only beautiful but meaningful, too. I love the sketch and research phase of every project as I find it to be the most free-flowing in generating ideas. My best ideas come during the sketch phase, and then the challenge is transferring the concept into the final product.

One of the reasons I’ve loved being a part of the Minted community is that it addresses both of these issues for me. I get over creative blocks faster as I get critiques from other designers, and the challenge descriptions for each project really help me focus my thoughts. The story of my first Minted design challenge illustrates my point perfectly. The first Minted competition I entered was the Head of the Class Graduation Quickfire Graduation challenge. I was a bit over-eager and quickly created a design that hadn’t been thought through very well. Once I submitted my design, I saw how the critique process works and got really inspired by it. I decided to sit down and really “do this.” I sketched and designed two versions of a new design and used the community polling feature to narrow down to the option that eventually won me my first award! It was a great eye-opener to me and example of how the process can work.


Published March 2, 2016 • Become part of the Minted Artist Community. Submit to a Challenge here.

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