A few months ago I began feeling a real desire to begin interviewing other artists, creatives, business owners, etc, and feature some of their stories. My ultimate hope is to get away from comparison and unhealthy competition and help foster conversation. In high school I really took a liking to journalism and I have always wanted to interview people. I never would have imagined it would be happening as a self-employed business owner. I really want people to glean as much as they can from my business in hopes that they will be encouraged to pursue the things The Lord has called them to. I don’t know how many of these I will be doing, and honestly it took a lot of time and work between meeting, transcribing, editing, etc. But I couldn’t be happier with the result.
The first in this series was with Jeff Frandsen. I was really intrigued by his 365 hand lettering project that I saw popping up on Facebook, and each one was just incredible. After the interview I was amazed at the breadth of topics that Jeff touched on that I think many people from many backgrounds will resonate with: the journey of creating, the joy of creating, the need for separation of work from home in order to value his wife and marriage, how comparison becomes the thief of joy.. I hope you enjoy!
I would say I really started creating when I was in middle school. Actually my creativity started with video.. I would just make these, like, stupid two to three minute videos. Me playing basketball, and doing these specials effects where I was dunking. Not really being a great story teller; just doing it because I wanted to have fun with this camera.
When I was in high school I did Broadcast Video and I produced two TV shows; a daily news show, and then we did a weekly sports show.. When I got to college I really wanted to be a director and produce sports games like baseball. Then at the same time I realized I really liked graphic design and so that kind of turned into “I want to be a graphic designer for television and design the lower 3rds, the scoreboards, and the pop up graphics,” because I thought that stuff was cool, and I thought a lot of it was a dated.
Then I bought a really crappy point-and-shoot digital camera. It was my sophomore year of college and I decided to do a 365 day project with taking one photo a day. All I did was take one photo a day. I didn’t take any other photos, and that was the photo I posted. I didn’t edit it. Those photos don’t exist anymore; one of my apartments got robbed and my hard drive was stolen.. but I don’t really miss it because it was terrible. But people followed it and saw my passion in it.. I realized it isn’t always about trying to prove that you’re good at something- but if people see you have a passion for something they’ll follow along and see your heart more than they see the talent.
As soon as I got that camera I considered myself to be an artist, and artistic. I remember having fun, doodling around on dial-up internet making these old school websites on GeoCities. And I could force it to make pop-ups that came on and I remember making these websites that annoyed people because there was just pop-up after pop-up after pop-up.. so I was always creating, like.. stupid things. And eventually, thankfully it all kind of weeded it’s way out into something positive, not just me being some kind of hacker, spammer these days, because that’s definitely the kind of stuff that I annoyed people with when I was younger.
For design there isn’t one particular person- it’s just a collective of people that I see what people are doing and I want to learn how to do stuff like that. I wouldn’t just follow and obsess over one person- I would just pick one piece and be like, alright let’s figure out how to do that and make it happen. So it isn’t like an idolization of any specific person. It’s more like using the internet as a whole, especially Instagram, to follow people and pieces of work that spike my creative brain.
I look for people who aren’t doing the same things as everyone else because that’s how I want to be as a designer. I don’t want to just conform; I want to be a creative on my own. So a lot of the people that don’t have a lot of followers are the people that I follow. I kind of steer away from focusing my time on the powerhouses of Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. I know that my mind will quickly go to comparison. “Oh they just got this awesome gig designing for HBO,” or “this photographer got paid by Camelback to go hiking through India..” I realize I don’t need that type of stuff to see. It’s only poison for my brain.
This is.. yeah, this is.. a good question, because just recently I had, like, totally worked really hard on changing my mindset because for a long time, especially in my photography, I would never ever finish it and feel satisfied. It would even get picked up by a huge blog, and I was just like.. “Eh.. Why did they take that wedding? I know I can do better, and better, and better..” Meanwhile I’ll have people tell me that my work is awesome and amazing. And I’m like, “Why am I feeding myself this garbage when I know that what I’m doing is good enough?” But going back to being on Instagram – that is when I realized it was based on comparison that I was feeding this negativity to myself, and so by not looking at other wedding photographers and wedding blogs, I became a lot more confident in what I was doing, and being a lot more creative because I was forced to come up with my own things. I’ve come to a point where I realized it isn’t about myself.
And then with my design.. focusing my art more on motivational, inspirational pieces. It’s more about reaching people than being artistic and getting jobs.. getting to those people who need to hear something that they don’t realize that they need to hear. If I can get one person in a better mood because of something I’ve posted then I feel like I’ve done a great job.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop thinking that I can’t do better.. [laughs] I’ll always feel like.. I can do better. But just being okay with that. I’ve literally only been doing hand lettering for a year and so I know there is room to grow, but by doing something every single day there is only one way; up. If I ignore it and stop then I’m going to get worse, but if it’s something that I practice and continue to keep up with, then there’s no way but up. It’s just through repetition and keeping up with creating that you get better.
Going back to that first 365 project that I did with terrible photos and a terrible camera… people followed it because they saw that I had a passion with it. That’s the thing that I love telling people who want to start their own business, their own blog. Don’t worry that only ten people are going to look at it the first couple of weeks because it doesn’t happen overnight. But if you show consistency, and your passion for it, and your heart- the people will come and they will be more attracted to your dedication to it than anything else.
My relationship with Jesus completely changed how I was as a designer.. My hand lettering project stems back from a day I was sitting in church when I was listening to a worship song. I think the lyrics were “If our God is for us, who could ever stop us?” I really liked that so I wrote it in my journal. And then I ended up going into the Over app. I found a random photo that I was like “This photo is cool,” and I typed the lyrics over the photo and posted it on Instagram. It got like the most likes that I had ever gotten, and most comments, and people saying “I needed to hear that today!” I was like, “Whoa… Did I just come across a gold mine to building a community that I want on Instagram?” All of my hand lettering work now has come straight from His Word.. I just want to continuously build on that relationship and use my hand lettering to serve and be my way of worship.
Yeah, I was just sitting in church, and I should have probably been listening to the message that day. [laughs] But I just had this idea to create this. And I wanted to because those lyrics just hit me really strongly, and it meant a lot to me, not realizing the effect it would have on others. Before then I looked at posting on Instagram selfishly.. but after that post it totally changed how I viewed how I want to use Instagram. If I can get people closer to Jesus in a cool way.. I think that’s awesome.
I never looked at it that way but that’s exactly what it is. As I go through, it’s just verses that jump at me.. and I’m looking for stuff that is going to speak boldly on pieces of paper, but the Bible is a pretty bold and inspiring book.
Something that I’ve done recently after joining the Jeremy Hess Team.. I’ve made a strong commitment to leave work at work.. That includes my 365 project as well. Every day I leave here, the work stays here. It forces me to go home and be at rest and give time and attention to my wife. That is difficult.. And sometimes I find that uneasiness that I can just chill out.. I don’t always have to be working, and making, and doing. By creating that separation, I’m doing it for my mental health so when it is time for my family to grow, I’m well prepared to focus my energy on my family. I know that if my art and resources are at home then those are probably outlets that I would jump to just to keep myself busy.. Work is always going to be there, it will never go away for the rest of our lives.
When your work station is right by you you can get sucked in because you might be totally into a project, but really you should probably call it quits for that day because you’ve done enough work. And God would say “You’ve done good today, call it quits, go do something fun with your wife.” And I don’t bring these things up and say “I’m doing so well at this,” because I’m still working on it. But it’s these boundaries I’ve set so I can be a better husband and a great father.
I don’t know where the idea came from but one day I was like “What if I just started from the beginning of the Bible and went all the way to the end of the Bible?” I was like “What would I call that? I would definitely need a hashtag… Well it’s from Genesis to Revelation.. Yep! That sounds good!”
The main inspiration is for me to keep being creative and keep creating so I can fine tune my talents but also at the same time be able to inspire people on a daily basis.
Based on what the verse is saying, like if it’s a powerful one, I’ll make it bold with caps. The inspiration comes just from the feeling I get when I read that verse. Literally I have a little baggie of tons of different markers and I’ll go “This verse makes me feel like I want to use this pen.”
With one of my recent ones, “He is the rock,” I’ll probably write “He is” like six times until I hit one. Sometimes I’ll write it once and say “Yep! That’s the one.”
It can be anywhere from five minutes to.. two hours. That was the “heart, soul and strength” one. I did it in a ribbon style and then I had to do a lot of shading so that took me quite a bit of time. Then there’s that one “Like a lioness” and I knew I got those words done in one try.. It totally just varies on where my heart is taking me that day. They really don’t take that long, which is nice and allows me to make them in bulk so I can queue them up if I have actual work to get done to make a living. So most of the time I’m ahead of the game.
I’m just doing it for fun. It’s not for someone, there’s no criticism that needs to come my way.. if it’s taking two hours, it’s because I want to take two hours on it. I didn’t have to do that extra shading on that one piece, I could have just left it simple and been done in ten minutes.
It literally has gotten me to go right into the Bible and that is awesome. What I’m really excited about is to get into the books that I’ve never opened up, like Ruth. Maybe at the end of the year I’ll enter one of those Bible challenge shows.. I don’t know what kind of prizes they give.. what kind of prizes would you give for a Bible challenge? Like a new Bible? [laughs]
You can’t compare your first step to someone’s hundredth step. If you are feeling stuck in a rut of comparison, eliminate that comparison. Pour out that poison and don’t be overwhelmed with what you don’t have because you probably have more than enough to create. Practice makes perfect; just keep going, don’t stop, keep creating. Because if you stop then nothing is being made and you can’t go anywhere that way.
I have my website which is http://www.jefffrandsen.com, I have my twitter and Instagram which is @jefffrandsen
The project itself has the hashtag #FromGtoR