The Power of Crunch Time

In conversation with projection mapping artist Craig Winslow

There’s a world of augmented reality that needs no glasses, goggles, or smartphones. All it takes is being present, experiencing a space in real life. That’s the world that Portland, Oregon-based designer Craig Winslow plays in. Craig is a projection mapping artist who augments real-world spaces with light and animated imagery shone upon it. His work simultaneously evokes the past, present, and future. Most recently, with his series Light Capsules—an idea he came up with during an especially stress-filled time and more fully developed during his year as a creative resident with Adobe—he’s been inspired to recreate ghost signs—old, abandoned hand-painted letter signs on buildings and billboards—in spaces across the globe.

In the latest episode of Making Ways podcast, Craig talks all about the ambitious Kickstarter campaign he launched that transformed his cross-country move from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, into a 15-day moving art installation. Each day, Craig and his friend Mike Ackerman delivered new projections and video documentation to Kickstarter backers. This daily grind forced Craig to find interesting solutions to the problem of “what should we make today.” The answers, it turned out, were right in front of his face.

Imbue your project with constraints

There’s something to be said for taking your time, planning out your work, and being methodical about establishing your process. Then there’s the strength of intense constraint, which will likely push you into creative corners that you must imaginatively scrape and claw your way out of—just the kind of thing Craig and Mike experienced during their Kickstarter-funded series Projecting West, which documented a cross-country move away from friends and family for career. Projecting West was meant to communicate the feelings of questioning, hope, and loss. Every day Craig and Mike made new artwork that represented their journey and shared it with backers. Craig said, “For 15 days, every single day, we drove, we found a location, we made content, projected it, filmed it, edited it, and then shared it with our backers. Every single day. It was really ambitious.”

How panic can drive creativity

Panic isn’t something I would wish upon you, but for some creative people or entrepreneurs of any stripe, being trapped in a narrow space, gasping for air, and hoping to pull out something brilliant can be a productive experience. For Craig and Mike, a challenging moment on a short timeline led to an epiphany that set Craig’s next creative adventure, Light Capsules, in motion. As he describes it, “We were in Omaha, Nebraska, and with the limitation of not knowing exactly what to do next, we turned and saw one of these big black-and-white wall ads, this old ghost sign. I saw it, and immediately I was like, ‘Oh, I could vectorize that really quickly, and I could animate it, and that could be part of this installation somehow.’” It was that tight spot that evoked the fastest solution, but also the most imaginative one. “I think if I had more time to plan different things, I would have just overlooked that, but needing some sort of solution to actually project something that night––all these different things clicked because we had the ticking clock counting down.”

Pressure makes a great partner

By starting off with an overly ambitious goal, setting daily constraints, and keeping a countdown clock on hand at all times, Craig and Mike pushed themselves beyond the limits of what they thought possible. And although they did stumble and miss a day during their road trip project, they learned a great deal about their production process and the power of pressure. Craig explained, “Putting that pressure on forces you to think in a weird, creative way that inspired something completely different than if I had two weeks to come up with an installation.”

He went on to describe that innate feeling that comes upon anyone with a deadline looming, just as if there was an axe swinging overhead or a bear lumbering into your cave––in those situations, there’s flight and then there’s fight. Craig’s creative MO is always to choose the latter. He said, “It feels almost like an animal attack in a primal sense, like you are being held down, and you have that one defense mechanism to lash out. . . .To solve a creative problem, I’ll just try and do something completely different or add another project to my list. But sometimes that random moment of stress to create another project can become the basis for a whole new series or avenue to explore creatively.” It’s that crunch time that brought clarity to Craig and inspired his yearlong creative residency project with Adobe, Light Capsules. Craig recommends, “At some point you have to burst out of that moment. . .and get to something incredible.” So whether you are pursuing a business venture or a creative project, crank up the heat and make pressure your partner in productivity.

To learn all about Craig’s journey from imaginative kid growing up in Maine to projection light artist working with some of today’s most amazing brands, listen to the full episode of Making Ways. And check out Craig’s site, his Instagram account, and the Adobe Creative Residency page to explore his work.

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