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How do you bring your ideas to life?

As a creative person I come up with a lot of ideas, some are simple and some are just out there crazy. When I'm coming up with ideas I never let things like how I'll do it get in the way of the idea, there's time to worry about that later. After the initial concept comes the point of this blog, how do you take your idea and bring it to life?

When I create anything I tend to work to a similar process, regardless of the medium, it's really just the tools and specific techniques that change. My other blogs have been about digital images but this time it was time to move into a physical medium. See if you can work out the process that I follow below - don't worry if you can't I'll break it down at the end as well.

One of my recent ideas was to make a new cabinet but I didn't want to go to the shops and buy a standard, everyday cabinet. I wanted it to look like an old school petrol pump with a very weathered, rusty patina exterior. So after I thought about it for a while, I had an idea of what I thought I wanted it to look like, did some research online looking at original petrol pumps and different images, then I came up with an original sketch of what I liked the most.

When I'm sketching a physical object I tend to always start with an oblique image so I can get a sense of what it will look like in 3D space, and look at the proportions, weight etc. Then I'll draw the different angles (front, side, top) to give me a better idea of the specific shapes and then I apply measurements to those drawings, which helps with the planning phase.

With my sketch done, I had to calculate what I was going to need to complete the project so I started with the obvious things like what would it be made from, how much would I need and what tools I'd need. Luckily I got to go shopping for a couple of new tools to help out with the project too, 'cause I love buying tools. As an aside, you can never have too many tools, especially power tools!

So with the list of supplies I needed to start the project, I headed down to my local hardware store and looked at what they had. I chose MDF as the main body for the cabinet as it is easy to work with, cost effective and I liked the smooth finish of the wood. With the wood, hinges, screws and other assorted bits sorted I took them home and began the long process of construction and painting.

First thing was to cut out the main structure. I started with the outside edges as these were the narrower pieces and quick to construct. I then had to design a template for the top panel, as it had rounded corners and I needed this laid out before I could cut the door. With the overall shape done I measured the door and cut it out. I then added the back board to the cabinet to stop it twisting and set the hinges for the door, matching the angles and curves to match. As I wanted the cabinet to not look square edged I used a router on all the edges to round them out and the way the overlap on the door is designed, it added a double stepped effect to the front of the cabinet. To complete the top I used some spare wood that I had from a previous job, rounded the edges to match the shape of the cutout panel and then built another thick panel on the top to give even more dimension to the design.

Basic cabinet shape

With the basic structure completed it was time to start on some other details. As a way of saving some weight and adding more depth I routered out the front panels where the gas gauge and signage was going to go. It was at this stage that the project really started to take shape and I could see my idea coming to life slowly. An initial coat of paint on the whole cabinet, in this case it was a base coat of white, then I started to add the rusty patina effect where I knew I wanted it to show through. A second coat of white on the front and red on the sides and top was then added and blended into the patina. Some 3D texture was added to certain parts to really make it feel like the paint was flaking in some areas and then I started adding the signage.

Halfway through

Adding the final touches and paint can take some time, just like when you are working on a digital composite and trying to finish the lighting. It is also the most exciting time as you see the fruits of your hard work coming together.

The cabinet has an internal light, two hidden chambers for storing things you don't want out in the open and looks exactly how I pictured it in my head originally - which is great because it doesn't always happen on the first try.

Hand-painted rusty patina custom cabinet

concept to completion

So did you figure out my process? Let me break it down for you...

1) Concept - what is it, what is its function and any key factors to the design

2) Specific design - break down what it will look like when it's finished

3) Planning - exactly what do you need to complete it

4) Starting - start building the basic shape of your idea (in this case it was the cabinet structure but in a digital image it is laying out the elements)

5) Refining - getting to the specific parts of the design

6) Finishing - adding those final touches that complete your project

For most people step four is where everything falls down because starting a big project can be very daunting. One of the ways to get over this is to break steps four, five and six into smaller sub-processes. What I mean by this is to set out smaller steps to complete that break the big project into more manageable chunks. As an example it was cut out the panels on the door, then router the edges of the cabinet, etc. This means you can focus on each small part and check them off as you go. Imagine you were going to write a story, you could use the same process. What is your story about, what will it look like at the end, plan what you need to cover off to get your readers to the end, start writing, refine and edit and all of a sudden you have finished that story you always wanted to write.

You can actually apply this simple process above to pretty much any design or art project, regardless of what your chosen medium is. This way, you can bring your ideas to life, instead of letting them languish in a forgotten notebook or sketch pad.

I'd love to hear about your projects that you've brought to life, especially if you were inspired by this blog, so leave a comment below or email me with the details.

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