Playgrounds festival 2014

Last week had the pleasure to indulge in my nerdy ness and be immersed in the ’playgrounds’ of the digital arts, illustration and animation, at the appropriately named ‘Playgrounds festival’ in the Netherlands.

Once a year creatives of the same nerdy ness are given an opportunity to come together and listen to the creme de la creme of the industry reveal their secrets and tell their stories of success.
The perfect place to gather inspiration and generate the energy needed to keep soldiering on in this challenging industry.

In attending these events I often come away with the itchy feeling of wanting to make stuff and an over flow of ideas. And this year was no different when taking away some words of wisdom and food for thought.

As with each year we are treated to a soup of talent presenting their stories with a passion and enthusiasm for their work, which is contagious. A lucky bunch of fellows who make a living out of their ’hobbies’ and personal interests. And I am fortunate enough to say I also belong to the same club.

Last year their was a very strong message from each guest speaker which created a red line through the entire festival; “ follow your heart and enjoy what you do, or don’t bother doing it at all”.

So while attending the event as a  creative I often search for inspiration and a way to quicker success. Success being, as most, in well paid, commissioned assignments for big names. But more recently I have come to realise that something else is more important than big names and money. It’s about stress free success and enough time and money to do what I love. It’s not about slogging away for money we don’t have time to spend. It’s about enjoying life and making work we love & enjoy.

So this year I observed the festival slightly differently.  I now looked for similarities I had with the guest speakers and there need to do what they love, but also to see if it was possible to do it with out working themselves into the ground. In that I found myself comparing my work, wants and needs from the industry with:
Kevin dart –
Julian Frost –
Jon Bergerman –

The guys above are all freelancers who much like me love to draw, love a bit of comedy and love their freedom. Together you have the ingredients to (in my eyes) a pretty perfect job!

So what was it that inspired me?
Words of wisdoms:

Kevin Dart, illustrator and art director explained that your weaknesses often become your strengths, play on it. It is that little something which makes you stand out and shape how you work and what you make. You are unique, be proud of it and don’t try to be like anyone else other than yourself.

He also explained a system he had realised when looking for success:

1) Make personal work
2) Share it
3) Connect with others and create a network through your work
4) Collaborate

The above system should help you find what you are looking for in the name of work (which you enjoy making) and satisfying, healthy, long lasting collaborations.


Julian Frost is an illustrator and animator famous for ’Dumb ways to die’. He is also extremely funny in a very dry and self depreciating way.

In his talk he proceeded to tell us about his ’lazy strategy’ which at first take sounds … Lazy. But as someone who also lives by ’live life and enjoy’ his strategy is actually a strategy of ’efficiency’ which, when it comes to earning money is very smart way of working and not lazy at all.

If you can avoid the avoidable you can make more money in less time. Communication and plan before you start and the assignment should be a breeze.

4 ways to be lazy, according to Julian Frost:
1) Idea – make it good. It takes more time and effort to make a bad idea look good.

2) Design – keep it simple but stylised and  use interesting composition.

3) Acting – it’s not only about what happens but how it happens. Use the unexpected and/or exaggerate.

4) Interactive – If you animate, consider animating for interactive games and apps. This way you only have to make short loops which the viewer is happy to see again and again.

I am a true believer in working to live and not living to work. And when it comes to earning money, I believe that it should be done in the most efficient and least time wasting way possible. As an animator, this is pretty difficult, for it is one of the most time consuming ways to make a motion graphic. But there are ways to reduce time often waisted while making money. Time you could be spending on doing things you enjoy more.


And finally Jon Bergerman. A comedian in himself is a artist (fine artist / illustrator ) I praise. For he has kept close to himself as a person and an artist and finds fun in all that he does. The child with in did not die when he hit 16, he is defiantly still alive and Kicking.

The interesting thing about Jon is that his work has a simplicity about it that is almost unfair when thinking think how far he has come by doing the same thing over and over again. Yet it is just that, that makes me respect him. He has found something that people love and are willing to not only look at but also commission in to well paid commercial projects. As with Julian, he has a simple strategy which enables him to make money easily, while having fun, and provide him with enough to live life the way he wants to. What a lucky man!

Tips for success from Jon Bergerman:

Encourage the ferret!
1) Improvise – play the part
2) Use what you have – your knowledge and abilities are unique
3) Have fun
4) Ignore the idea of failure
5) Create a new game – life is a game play it and have fun


So with my days of indulgence behind me, I take away a reminder of ’ keep doing what I love no matter what and try and keep it simple when it comes to earning money’. It is after all about living not working. ‘Life is a game enjoy it’.

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