James Victore on sketching

“For four years I designed greeting cards for a company called Rohnart. It sounds like a straightforward enough endeavor: Design cute holiday and greeting cards, like Hallmark’s, with sappy, endearing messages devoid of any emotion or meaning. I worked freelance and on commission, which meant the more cards I created, the more I got paid. The challenge was to come up with as mean ideas as possible on the simple themes of ‘Happy Mother’s Day,’ ‘Happy Father’s Day.’ ‘Happy Easter,’ ‘Happy Bar Mitzvah,’ and so on. Every spring I was already in Christmas mode, creating hundreds of ‘Happy Holidays’ designs in order to end up with a few new good ideas.

Sketching became like the discipline of doing push-ups; in order to become strong you can’t do three – you have to do twenty or fifty or a hundred. The process was this: Examine the cliche, then dig deeper into the idea, and do that again and again, turning and twisting it each time. Carving each idea down to a sharper and sharper point As tedious as it sounds, this practice still forms my base, and is the core strength of my work. The hell with genius. Work hard.”

— James Victore