Interview with Gavin Strange

Our video team sat down with director and designer, Gavin Strange, to talk all things creative!

Gavin Strange is an experienced and enthusiastic creative who has worked at Aardman Animations for more than thirteen years. For his day-job as a director and designer, he has worked on award-winning projects such as Shaun the Sheep, Turtle Journey, his own music project called Project Toy, and is the author of the bestselling self-help book, Do Fly. 

To hear some advice about just getting on with projects and reaching out to people you admire, our team sat down with Gavin for a conversation.

We really enjoyed your talk, ‘Don’t Make It Perfect, Make It Now’. It runs parallel to Cahootify’s ethos, ‘Just Make It’. What does ‘Just Make It’ mean to you and why is it important?

Gavin: You know, on a weekly basis, I hate everything I’ve ever done and I’m just frustrated that I’m not better, and it comes down to me siting grumpily and thinking to myself: “Well, the only thing you can do is get better, then.” That’s it! All you’ve got to do is get better – and for me, the only way to get better is to make more stuff, and get into that cycle of trying to do stuff.

Then, of course, we get back into the complications: when are you going to find the time to do it? How are you going to find the energy? But you’ve got to be kind to yourself, one step at a time. I think, take solace in the fact that, those people you look up to – unless they’re not human – are definitely going through the same frustrations. I’m sure they look up to other people and go, “Man, why didn’t I do that?”

“You’ve got to be in the game to try and win it.”

That’s so bizarre to think about, isn’t it? The people we look up to and celebrate, they’re like gods. They are just these beings that have created these things we love… but someone has to do it. Someone in the world has to write that script you love, someone in the world has to design that typeface you adore using – it might as well be you! You can only try! You can only be a part of the game, there’s no point sitting on the sidelines. It might be you, it might not be you… but it also might be!

What advice do you have for creatives who are exploring their own distinctive voice across different mediums?

Gavin: I’ve always loved music production and have always thought, “Agh, well, I’m not good enough so I’m never going to try,” but I’ve actually found it a really fun and creative process. I enjoy it because it’s very different to what I do for a day-job, and it’s also sort of easier because a lot of the devices I use don’t need a screen. If my daughter’s asleep on me at night, I can have one hand and I can make stuff, so it’s a way to be creative without changing my scenario.

I’m really not very good and just don’t simply understand music theory, but there’s still in something in me that goes, “Well, it doesn’t matter about that. Try. Just try!” You know, I don’t need anyone to like it – I’d love someone to like it – but I don’t need anyone to like it to stop me trying. The worst that can happen in the digital age is no-one will hear it to read or care or click the link, and that’s fine. You just move on the next thing and try and do something else.

So, yeah, it’s just constant push-and-pull, isn’t it? This emotional rollercoaster! But you’ve just got to try it. Make wonky music, make wonky stuff.

Don’t make it perfect, make it now.

How can creatives take inspiration from around them and use this to inform and develop their work?

Gavin: My inspirations kind of come from everywhere, and I really want to be a cheerleader for creativity and people in general. There are so many different people who do so many different roles. You know, I love film directors like Spike Jonze and Edgar Wright, but I love visual 3D artists like Ash Thorp; I love this artist called KAWS who makes beautiful, big, amazing sculptures and paintings and graffiti; mainly because they all do lots of different things, and I guess, again, they have a distinctive voice. They might all do things differently visually, but they still have a strong authenticity to their art.

I’m always reaching out to different people. I’ve done it since I was younger and I still continue to do so. When I first joined Aardman, I seeked out Nick Park because I’m a huge fan – now I’m very proud to say that we’re mates – because he was so kind and welcoming to me when I first joined the company thirteen years ago. It really showed me that you can take that risk and reach to the people who really inspire you, because generally, A, it’s flattering to hear from someone who likes what you do (that’s always a wonderful thing to be told!), but also, creatively, it’s really nice to talk about that stuff, so you might as well take the punt.

I’m forever e-mailing people or sending little messages. I just think being an active participant in that world has obviously been reduced so much in the last few years, because it’s dead easy to see what that person’s up to – send them a message, send them a tweet – so I think it’s really nice to be an active member of that community.

“Take that risk and reach out to the people who inspire you.”

I take inspiration maybe not from the individual pieces of work, because when I do, I just get really sad that I didn’t do it! (laughs) You know, I get really sad looking at what they’ve done and going, “Oh my days, you’re incredible.” Instagram is both a blessing and a curse, because you see it and think, “Wow, look at that, that’s a really awesome thing,” and that fades really quickly and your brain goes, “But what are you doing?” “I… I’m just scrolling on Instagram.”

(laughs) You know, you use this tool to be inspired, but then you realise you’re using a tool but you’re not creating. You’ve got be fluid in taking the inspiration, but not the negative associations of your own brain telling you, “You didn’t do that, you’re not good enough to do that, and why aren’t you doing that?” You have to keep at arm’s length and go, “They did an awesome thing… maybe I too could do an awesome thing?” I think that comes down to a positive mindset and you’ve got to be in the game to try and win it.

Watch the full interview videos with Gavin on our YouTube channel here

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