Stephanie and Danielle’s Words

In Interview on September 10, 2013 at 2:12 am


Stephanie Clark and Danielle McKinney are a pair of friends I met at Tampa Free School’s Tampa Zine Fest at the end of June 2013. They had beautiful paper journals they’d made, which I traded some of my zines for. Here they are reading Vessel’s interview compilation zine soon after I met them.

steph and danny

Juxtaposing their words and goals together will show you a fantastic friendship, a map to moving through your doubts and towards great creative work, and both their similarities and their differences, which I think you’ll enjoy. Here are their words.

Screen shot 2013-09-09 at 10.26.09 PM


What’s something Danielle has taught you?

That I need to work on my drawing. She has a way with a ball point pen that I never will. Also, if I need my face photoshopped on Jesus, I should just call her instead of doing it myself.



What’s something she has a hard time remembering about herself?

She forgets she needs to sleep.

What do you think her strength is?

Her ability to go with the flow. It makes her very versatile and easy to work with.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A mermaid. Or in love.


What do you think is going to be the most difficult aspect of building your career and working on your creative endeavors?

Overcoming my anxiety.

[Click below for the full interview]

What do you think your weakness is? Do you have a remedy for when you feel it kicking in?

My self-doubt as a “designer”. When I feel myself getting insecure over my work, I simply work harder. I read more, I research more, and I seek out those who believe in me. Or I watch Netflix.

What do you tell yourself when things get difficult?

I tell myself things would not be as hard if I had prepared better or worked harder. But if the situation is out of my hands completely, I give myself a break because after all, I’m only human.

What would you like the accomplish in the next year?

I would like to grow as a person and as a designer at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts), or at least finalize my thesis topic and feel comfortable about it. Maybe knit a sweater.

When was the last time you felt very inspired?

When I visited Studio Lust a while back in Den Haag. I was especially taken aback by their digital poster wall. Still am.


Finish these sentences:
I love to: shake my butt to some good classic tunes while creating. Sitting silently at my computer is just the worst.
I hate: when people ask you what your favorite movies are. It’s such a personal question!!
I’m always looking for: abandoned buildings to trespass in. I’m becoming more interested in how to utilize the space differently than it’s original intention, and then how to bring other people to it.
I’ll never: go to the library and check out only one book. It’s at least 10 books every time.

Stephanie’s Portfolio.
Screen shot 2013-09-09 at 10.25.13 PM


What’s something Stephanie has taught you?

Not to be so hard on myself. She was always a huge confidence boost whenever I was in a rut with a concept or project. She’d offer different ways to look at the problem, or just provide some ridiculous distraction so I could get all that anxiety out of my system and really get to making strong work. She’s always been the lighthearted balance that keeps me from living too far inside my own head.

What’s something she has a hard time remembering about herself?

I think Stephanie has a hard time remembering how truly unique she is. To be honest, her brain doesn’t work in the same way as most other designers I know, and this fascinates me. Though we’ve always considered our work and thought processes to be similar, the way she views the world is entirely different from me, and from most people in general. She’s able to find beauty in the most peculiar places. Photo shoots have always been a hobby of ours. We’ll switch back and forth between model and art director, but mainly she has me wearing odd clothes, sitting in strange light, or photographing me through a kaleidoscope. I never understand what she sees at first, but when the results come out, I’m always amazed. Her quirky, bizarre methods just make her a better designer (Not to mention a very interesting friend to hangout with).


What do you think her strength is?

Visual representation of highly conceptual ideas. (A mouthful, I know) For example, her senior design thesis was on cloning. To reiterate, a design thesis. We’re not scientists. But she used that basic concept to create an amazing body of work, giving more than a straight-forward, surface-level look into the parts that design and mass production play in our culture. At least that’s what I took away from it, you’d have to ask her to be certain. 

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

This one’s a shocker: an artist. I wanted to be an artist since the time I could pick up a pencil. It seems like a cheesy response, but as a small awkward kid who couldn’t play a sport to save her life, I managed to weasel my way into the art room in any of my spare time, pretty much from elementary until I graduated high school. Although, I will admit my early childhood reading about famous artists had me convinced that if I chose this profession, I’d live a sad, destitute life, my work only to be praised long after my death. Thankfully graphic design is not so macabre.


What do you think is going to be the most difficult aspect of building your career and working on your creative endeavors?

Balance. Working in design in a professional capacity often requires you to flip a switch between structure and complete creative freedom. Which can feel stifling at times. On top of all that, balancing the relationships in my life with those of work, I expect will be the most difficult. I tend to get scatterbrained, making balance and moderation the hardest things to achieve. I love what I do, and I want to make as much work as possible, just without losing my mind. That’s where family, friends, and my church community come in to give me that much needed slap upside the head to keep me grounded. Sometimes the slap is metaphorical, sometimes it isn’t.

What do you think your weakness is? Do you have a remedy for when you feel it kicking in?

Anxiety, for certain. I love the work I do, but when it comes to putting yourself out in the open, especially in such a competitive industry, it’s easy to feel that your work isn’t up to par and you’re in over your head. I’d consider this to be a pretty common problem for designers, especially those who start out as traditional visual artists. You become accustomed to your work being praised by family, friends and peers, but the second you walk into an agency or a firm, it’s an entirely different world. You’re given a very short amount of time to prove to someone that’s never met you that you’re talented, educated, innovative, etc. And it’s daunting. I’ll be honest, I’ve completely blown at least one interview just because of how nervous I was.

The only remedy I know for this is first, to be confident in your work. Second, realize you don’t know everything, and don’t try to act as if you do. Confidence is attractive, and arrogance unappealing. Unfortunately the line between the two can be thin. In a nutshell, never feel complacent with your skill set. If I constantly try to improve upon my weaknesses, the easier it becomes to walk into an interview and knock their socks off, so to speak.

What do you tell yourself when things get difficult?

1. Odds are, I’ve made it through worse. 2. Pray. 3. Don’t be too stubborn to ask for help. I try to view difficult situations as seasons or patterns; over a long enough time span, things improve at some point. If I’m a having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year, ultimately the odds are in my favor. Things improve over time. They also degrade over time, but if you look at every difficult situation as a season, you’ll always know that it will eventually pass. But to state that in a slightly less esoteric manner, I have family and amazing friends who are there to remind me that things can’t stay tough forever, no matter how immersed in them I feel.

What would you like the accomplish in the next year?

By this time next year I’d like to have a solid body of work with an agency in the Tampa/St. Pete area, and then possibly see if opportunities take me to a new city. But that’s a ways away. For now, I’d just like to continue working with local artists, bands, businesses, friends, etc. making work I’m proud of. Also, I’ve been working with fellow Vessel interviewee, Trey Penton on the art label, The Two Keys Press. We’re at an exciting point getting all sorts of local (and non-local) creative types together to release music, art, poetry and all things awesome.

When was the last time you felt very inspired?

Like most graphic designers, my computer is practically attached to my hip. I don’t often leave the house without it, and usually prefer to also have a terabyte external hard drive with me, you know, just in case. But to get to the point, just recently I’ve been working on album art for local band and all around great people, Oliver and Company. After listening to their new album and getting ready to start my work, I closed my laptop and picked up a brush. Which, sad to say, is something I haven’t done in ages. It was so inspiring to get back to my first love, watercolors, and turn my eyes away from the screen I stare at for 8 hours a day sometimes. It was a much needed break from technology and gave me an inspirational reboot for the fall.


Finish these sentences:
I love to: abuse the power of photoshop. Usually in the interests of ironic narcissism. You can find my face photoshopped into Renaissance paintings, pictures of my friends, etc.
I hate: the smell of freshly cut grass. It’s just the worst.
I’m always looking for: someone who can beat my high score in Tetris. Challengers welcome.
I’ll never: finish reading Infinite Jest. I’ve been at it for at least a year now.

Danielle’s Portfolio.

  1. Just remember when you were just a little tyke, as I did I feel this way every time I come to a crossroad. You can do whatever u wanna do if you put your mind to it, so I took that to heart. Every time I feel like thing are not going my way, I think of what my third grade teacher said, and it always warms me up, and I crush whatever is in my way.

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