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Creative South Changed My Life

Last week I was lucky enough to attend Creative South and I can safely say that it changed my life. I’ve been hit with a dump truck full of inspiration and motivation. I got meet so many “internet friends” and made even more. The Creative South experience exceeded my expectations over 100x.

It would be impossible for me to sum every aspect of the conference up, but I’ll hit the 3 biggest points for me.

Ink Wars

Participating in Ink Wars was one of the most intense things I’ve ever done.

Participants are all given the same set of drawing tools, an 8’ x 4’ canvas, and a theme to draw about.

I was given the theme, “Faster than a speeding bullet,” a 60 minute timer started, and all hell broke loose.

Once the timer started, I had only a brief moment of, “Oh God, what the hell am I going to draw?” before settling down and getting to work. I quickly settled on the obvious choice, Superman, but decided to get weird with it and have him throwing up a “Suh, Dude.” My little gang at Creative South had been saying it to each other all day, so it stuck out in my mind. (Thanks, Scotty!)

Every once in a while, I’d turn around and look out into the sea of people behind me and think, “Wow, are all these people really here just watching us draw? This is so cool.”

Everyone who participated’s work was so amazing, I can’t even be mad about not winning. It was an absolute blast and was a great way to kick off a conference where I knew so few people there.

Meeting Heroes

Nothing was more surreal to me than getting to meet so many people I’ve looked up to for such a long time. It took a lot of inner strength and willpower to not start immediately gushing about how much I love and admire all of their work. (I failed several times.)

I got to meet Aaron Draplin, one of my biggest inspirations, and he was as funny, intense, and kind in person as I imagined from watching his talks online.

I got to talk to Dan Kuhlken and Nate Goldman of DKNG, whose process videos are where I learned how to use illustrator back in college.

I got to bump into people like Derrick Castle and Nick Slater then get to have conversations with them. I was on cloud nine the whole time.

Come as friends, leave as Family

I went into this conference having only met one person out of 800 there in real life before. I knew quite a few people from twitter and other online places, but I was still kinda nervous about the whole thing.

That nervousness washed away as soon as I arrived.

I’ve never been to camp, but I imagine this is what camp feels like. You go in knowing no one, and leave with dozens of new best friends.

I had so many awesome conversations about design, our goals, and our struggles. These small conversations in coffee shops or out on the sidewalk were what really made Creative South special to me.

If this experience has taught me one thing, it’s this:

Get out there and meet new people.

You don’t have to drive all the way to Georgia to do it. Go to a local meetup. Start your own. Go to a conference near where you live. Making connections in person is one of the strongest and most satisfying things you can do. (Even if you’re an introvert like me and it scares you a bit.)

I will be going back to Creative South next year, and the next year, and the next. I can’t imagine ever missing out on an amazing event like this.

Though, maybe next year I’ll skip the 30+ hours of driving…


Not long before this post was scheduled to go up, Aaron Draplin posted an almost identical design to my homage to him (but for Louisiana) on his instagram. I thought about scraping it, but I thought it was pretty funny we came up with the same exact concept at the same exact time. Hopefully I won’t end up on his T.U.R.D. list.

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