Lessons Learned from a Monster Artist

Posted by Dan Lawyer on November 19, 2014 in Inside our Offices

Yes, we made monsters out of clay.


If you happened to be in Midway, Utah at the very end of September you might have bumped into the Ancestry product team holding our annual product summit. About 80 of us gathered for an action packed two-day event filled with team building, strategic conversations, and a few non-conventional outside-of-the-box squeeze-your-mind kind of activities aimed at keeping creativity top of mind in our work. It was thrilling to see the passion for our users and our business in the hearts and minds of this talented group.

monster 2

One of the unique and memorable activities was a session led by Howard Lyon, a professional artist. We were lucky enough to have him come in and share some thoughts on how process aids creativity. On the surface many people believe the words process and creativity are not compatible. Howard made a great case for how process is critical to creating works of art. He walked us through some fascinating insights into the processes the masters use and then shared his own process accompanied by visuals of every stage from inception to finished masterpiece.

Things got real for the team when Howard paired us up in twos, passed out modeling clay, and gave us a simplified process for how to build a monster. First we answered a series of questions like “What is the name of my monster?” “Where does my monster live?” “Is it a monster for kids or adults?” “What does it eat?”  Then we drew a small sketch of the monster based on the answers to our questions. After we each had a sketch we paired up with another team member, got our hands dirty (literally) and created some of the masterpieces below. Once we finished our monsters we experimented with the effects of lighting by taking photos of our models from different angles against a green backdrop. We then submitted our photos to our designers to add in some final effects.

At the end of our summit we took home our cool monsters plus and a renewed determination to build excellent experiences for our amazing users.

Monster 3


Monster 4



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