January 9, 2015

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Mr. Walters’ Nerfect

What are you working on—on the side?

As a full-time working artist, I personally don’t see any particular project being on the side. At one time in the past, when I worked as a graphic designer for various agencies, I guess I could’ve considered any creative enterprise, personal and such, a side project.

These days, either by intent or luck, I create work in a variety of disciplines, and what naturally comes out of me, what I’m interested in, is what I exhibit in gallery shows, and the items I mass-produce are those I sell at various events, venues, and via retail relationships.

I guess, based on where we first came into contact, we could say that my brand of artistic novelties, Nerfect, might be considered a side project of sorts, and at one time, when I had regular jobs, it was. In this brand, I developed a variety of wares featuring my artwork and characters, including t-shirts, stickers, buttons, toys, etc.

Many artists might see such an enterprise as a side project, a necessary part of funding their major projects, but I see it as an equal avenue to explore ideas. It’s an affordable and accessible way for people to bring some of my artwork home.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually explain that I work on a handful of different jobs just to make ends meet, and this is the truth. I usually have a lot of projects that I’m working on for my own enterprises or for a client, and they tend to overlap time-wise. I gave up the luxury of actual free time ages ago, when I decided to strike out on my own, so I’m pretty much on the clock all the time.

I keep a pretty detailed calendar at home, and am a huge fan of being able to jot things down as they come to mind, or if I discover something outside. I’m never without a Field Notes book, which I use to sketch out ideas, note take, and to recreationally draw in.

I also keep a couple Word files on my desktop of my ideas and goals. Every couple days, I’ll add to them, review and reorganize things. It helps me keep myself organized, to know what I need to get done for the week, and sometimes the process helps me revaluate if that brilliant idea I had a couple weeks ago, still is strong, or if it can be put on hold.

At the end of the day, I’m not one of those creative types that has a ritualized schedule that yields creativity. It’s the variety of personal experiences and unexpected discoveries which helps get that part of my brain working. Being able to document and organize your ideas is the key to keeping everything working for me.

Why have side projects?

As a creative person, it is just in my nature to be working on things. The creative process, and the happiness that comes from completing a successful project, is what I love. I don’t understand how people go through life without something like this.

The act of making things and taking up personal projects on the side can also transform you. You learn things about yourself and find alternatives to the journey you take through life. Very few people come across that thing that changes their life, playing it safe and doing simply what is expected of them.

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Diptych courtesy of Mr. Walters. Photo taken during Show of Hands 2014 of his Field Notes spread.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.

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