Tag art

“I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open” – Our Interview With RAE, Artist …*

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Art & Photograph by RAE

 

Chances are you’ve likely come across prolific Brooklyn based artist RAE‘s work before. If you’ve spent any time in NYC, it is almost a certainty that you’ve seen some of his stickers, installations or murals. RAE’s art is vibrant, colorful, dynamic and enigmatic and never fails to make me stop and smile when I chance upon it. I have often wondered about the person behind the art and reached out to RAE to ask him my nine questions about his heart, his fears and his notion of the good life. I am delighted that he agreed to participate in our interview series. His responses, as you’ll see below, are full of the same poetic whimsy, depth and energy as his artwork. You can connect with RAE on Twitter @RAE_BK or follow him on Instagram @rae_bk.

WHAT WAS THE LAST EXPERIMENT YOU RAN?

I have a cat that speaks to me. She told me she doesn’t want to lead such a nocturnal, lazy and mundane existence. So I made a hole in the bottom of my fence so she can go out and explore the neighborhood. I may take her to see Europe one of these days. In the beginning she was just going out for short trips but now she’s gone for days. I am about to outfit her with a small camera to see where she winds up and what she does in a day. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?

I fear that more and more people will make decisions on social and/or political issues based on what their group or party affiliation supports rather than look at issues on a case by case basis.

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Talk Talk Mural & Photograph by RAE

WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEART? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO?

I was in Ethiopia in 2014 and noticed there was pretty much no public spaces for kids to play. In Addis, the capital city, I finally spotted a playground but only one kid was inside playing while others watched from behind a small fence. The fence was one they could have easily climbed over and joined in but they chose not to. Instead they stared longingly at the one kid inside who was laughing and enjoying the zip-line ride and swings all to herself. Next to the entrance of the park was a security guard who told me that the playground belonged to the large hotel behind it and they only allowed guests staying there to use it. It was bitter sweet to see one child enjoying themselves so much while the others couldn’t even get a sniff of what it felt like to soar through the air just for the fun of it.

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Art & Photograph by RAE

WHAT IS THE MOST PROVOCATIVE IDEA YOU’VE COME ACROSS IN THE PAST DECADE?

Allow yourself extra time and you can do the work of many alone.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

In high school I was a delivery boy at a butcher shop in Brooklyn then later became a deli counter person and then sort of an unofficial manager. I worked there for about 5 years. One day a lady who often shopped there asked me for help and after I assisted her she turned to me and said, “You’re really good at your job. Keep going the way you are and one day you’ll be manager of this place.” For the rest of the work day I kept staring through this large glass window into the back of the store where all the older butchers and meat packers worked. I kept thinking about how each one told me at one time or another of the big dreams they had. Some claimed they still planned on following through with them. I quit the next day.

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Art & Photograph by RAE

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

When I was younger I used to think a “good life” meant having what “you,” as an individual, wanted. Money, success, fame, etc, but as soon as I got a small taste of that I realized it feels very hollow if the people around you don’t have the means to at least make ends meet. So many hardworking people can’t pay the bills no matter how many hours they work in a week. Having the good life means being able to uplift others that want to do for themselves. I like it when someone gets an opportunity and makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there and pry that shit open.

COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THE ART OF BEING HUMAN? 

Never hold people to the high standards you set for yourself. You’ll be disappointed more often than not. And when you do find those that operate on the same level take note and appreciate rather than be jealous.

WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?

I have several….

How big is the universe?
Will time travel ever be possible?
Will I ever get out of this life alive?
Would I trade in my life up to this point to start over again?

ANY BOOKS OR MOVIES YOU RECOMMEND? 

Books: “The Measure of a Man” by Martin Luther King Jr.
            “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt
Movies: Amores Perros, Dead Man, Little Odessa, Rocks With Wings (the documentary film)

. . . *

THANK YOU, RAE!

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Subway Sculpture & Photograph by RAE

 

Paola Antonelli: “Design Is A Way To Enter the World. It’s the Interface Between Whatever Idea You Might Have—Scientific, Technological, or Even Artistic—& Real Life”

Paola Antonelli: "Design Is A Way To Enter the World. It’s the Interface Between Whatever Idea You Might Have—Scientific, Technological, or Even Artistic—& Real Life" | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

One of the aspects of life post-academia that I most enjoy is the increased exposure to a wide range of phenomenal, interesting, creative and courageous women. Remember this image? I wasn’t much aware of it at the time, but since graduating from university, I’ve noticed a shift in my heroes. Whereas my teenage years and early twenties were spent looking up to mainly dead, or terribly old, white men, I’ve now discovered a whole tribe of contemporary, dynamic and tremendously inspiring women. One of them is MOMA curator, Paola Antonelli. I just came across this great interview which she recently gave to The Great Discontent’s Tina Essmaker. It’s definitely worth a read in its entirety, but here are three topics that Antonelli explores that I thought would be of particular interest to rethinkers.

discover & rethink …*

{ O N   C R E A T I V I T Y

I cannot believe that anyone would ever tell you that creativity was not part of their upbringing. I think there’s creativity everywhere. In some parts of the world, there are much more urgent matters of survival, so maybe creativity takes a backseat or gets channeled towards basic needs—we have to be honest about reality. But, frankly, I believe creativity exists everywhere and manifests itself in different ways. For instance, I was always quite stunned by the ease and comfort that New York has with contemporary art, which was definitely not the case in Italy. I grew up in a place where the comfort was with design, food, and ancient art. Here, it’s contemporary art.

{ O N   D E S I G N,   I D E A S   &   R E A L   L I F E 

I find it absolutely limiting that people think of design as cute chairs and cars and posters—it’s so crazy. To me, it’s amazing that some parts of our cultural establishment move away from design when the most established artists look to design as a way to make their ideas become a part of life. Design is a way to enter the world. It’s the interface between whatever idea you might have—scientific, technological, or even artistic—and real life.

[ … ]

I’m dangerously distant from an esthetically-pleasing, more formal kind of design. I say dangerously because I don’t want to burn my bridges with that kind of design, but I feel compelled to deal with real life—and real life is not about being able to afford a $10,000 chair.

[ … ]

I always find a way to realize at least some of the ideas that come to mind. I like to say that ideas are a dollar a pound, but it’s the ones you decide to make happen that really count. It’s tough, but there’s always a way to make them happen.

{ A D V I C E   T O   A   Y O U N G   P E R S O N  S T A R T I N G   O U T }

If you really believe in it, go for it. The thing I like about this moment is that you don’t have to immediately define yourself as an artist or designer; you can try different avenues. I really love it because ambivalence, ambiguity, and these in-between states are so conducive and perfect for creative people. I had the luck of being able to test different waters, and I think that’s the best thing that can happen to someone creative. It’s not for everybody; some people need a more defined path. But if you have a curiosity to see where you can really shine, I think this is a wonderful moment.

Source: Paola Antonelli Interviewed by Tina Essmaker April 28, 2015 via The Great Discontent

{ Delightful Visual Resource To Engage More Deeply With Ancient History } Panoply: Animating the Ancient World …*

Shout out to the ever fantastic Open Culture, where I discovered the delightful Panoply project which focuses on animating ancient pottery.

Panoply is run by Steve K. Simons and Sonya Nevin, combining Steve’s animation skills with Sonya’s expertise in ancient Greek culture.

We make animations from real ancient Greek vases. This site puts them together with a wealth of resources that give you reliable info on ancient culture and fresh ideas for teaching sessions on classical civilisation, art, and creative writing.

Panoply, like all good chance encounters aims to help us take another, deeper look at that which we might all too easily overlook. By creating stunning animations, Panoply gives us an opportunity to stop and really look and engage with fragments of ancient vases that we might have otherwise missed in the endless treasures of large museums. They have an entire page on their website dedicated to ideas for how you can use the animations to liven up discussions about ancient Greece and as a springboard into creative activities:

You can use these animations to spark all sorts of teaching and learning activities. They’re particularly good for sessions on classical civilisation, art, and creative writing. They can be used with learners of all ages and levels, from primary through to higher education as well as community, home-school, and lifelong learning. If you don’t have a group to teach, do the activities yourself or with your friends.  

From storyboarding, to writing, to film and animations studies, Panoply provides a wealth of resources to help you and your students engage with ancient civilizations and the craft of animation. Head over to their website to explore all their resources and blog which features discussions of vases and iconography as well as interviews with leading academics, and of course to watch their brilliant animations.

Watch the interview below to hear Dr. Sonya Nevin talk about how the project started and how it has been used as a teaching aid in schools.

. . . *

On a somewhat related note, I just read a fascinating origin legend about the beginnings of art related to Ancient Greece as told by Victoria Finlay in her book, Color: A Natural History of the Palette (which I previously mentioned in a post about cultivating a craftsman mindset). As recorded by Pliny the Elder in Natural History, the origins of painting came from a young Corinthian woman, who while embracing her lover good-bye before he set out on a long voyage, saw his shadow cast on the wall and decided to outline it in charcoal to hold on to his image while he was away:

According to one Western classical legend, the first paint was black and the first artist female. When Pliny the Elder was writing his Natural History–a summary of everything available in the Roman Marketplace and quite a few other things besides–he told a story of how the origin of art was found in epic love. After all, what better inspiration for art is there than passion? According to Pliny one of the first artists was a young woman in the town of Corinth in Greece who one evening was weepily saying good-bye to her lover before he set out on a long journey. Suddenly, between impassioned embraces, she noticed his shadow on the wall, cast by the light of a candle. So, spontaneously, she reached out for a piece of charcoal from the fire and filled in the pattern. 

I loved this little story and thought you might too.

look, create & rethink …*

Rethinking How We Define Passion & Why We Should Cultivate A Craftsman’s Mindset …*

Rethinking How We Define Passion & Why We Should Cultivate A Craftsman’s Mindset ...* | rethinked.org

I am reading a fascinating book on the history of the color palette and one of the chapters I was just reading addresses the historical shift of the perception of painting as a “craft profession to an art one.” This shift was accelerated in the mid-seventeenth century with the nascent field of ‘colormen,’ professionals who mixed raw materials into paints, something artists had mostly done themselves until that point.

“For “craftspeople” the ability to manage one’s material was all important; for “artists” the dirty jobs of mixing and grinding were simply time consuming obstacles to the main business of creation.”

[ . . . ]

“What was the good of painting a masterpiece if its constituent elements would spend the next few years fighting together chemically on the canvas, and ultimately turn black? The early seventeenth-centuy painter Anthony Van Dyck knew how to employ varnish so that colors that would otherwise react with each other would be safe from ruin; Victorian artists, however, did not, and this was, Holman Hunt predicted, to be their downfall. Part of the issue was that he–and his teachers, and his teachers’ teachers–had rarely had to mix paint from basic materials. He had never had to grind a rock, or powder a root, or burn a twig, or crush a dried insect. Nor, more importantly, had he observed the chemical reactions involved in paint-making and seen how colors changed over the years.”

Source: Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

This reminded me of advice I read from Cal Newport about shifting from a ‘passion’ mindset, which has been a dominant cultural trope these past few decades–“what do I love to do and how do I do only that?”–to a “crafstman’s” mindset, a relentless focus on activating one’s unique potential by continually pushing to develop one’s skills and acquire new ones.

My advice is to abandon the passion mindset which asks “What does this job offer me? Am I happy with this job? Is it giving me everything I want?” Shift from that mindset to Steve Martin’s mindset, which is “What am I offering the world? How valuable am I? Am I really not that valuable? If I’m not that valuable, then I shouldn’t expect things in my working life. How can I get better?“ Like a craftsman, you find satisfaction in the development of your skill and then you leverage that skill once you have it to take control of your working life and build something that’s more long-term and meaningful… When I talk about the habits of the craftsman mindset, it’s really the habits of deliberate practice. So someone who has the craftsman mindset is trying to systematically build up valuable skills because that’s going to be their leverage, their capital for taking control of their career and they share the same habits you would see with violin players or athletes or chess players.

The craftsmen out there are not the guys checking their social media feeds every five minutes. They’re not looking for the easy win or the flow-state. They’re the guys that are out there three hours, pushing the skill. “This is hard but I’m going to master this new piece of software. I’m going to master this new mathematical framework.” That’s the mindset, the habit of the craftsman.

Source: Cal Newport on how you can be an expert and why you should *not* follow your passion

I think there is something about the craftsman’s mindset that is particularly important in our age of instant gratification and seemingly constant technological innovation. The abundant research on flow states is just one potent reminder of the joys and rewards to be found in taking the long road when creating something, whether it is a painting, a life or a career. Working through challenges is not a guarantee for reaching a flow state, but without an appropriate degree of difficulty relative to one’s skill level, without stretching past what we know, flow is impossible.

We need a collective rethink in how we define passion. Passion is not easy nor instantaneously gratifying and it is certainly not always joyful. When we ignore the painful aspects of passion, we lose out on the chance to ferociously pursue the possibility of living meaningful and fulfilling lives where we have the potential to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. 

“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.” – Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves 

learn, practice, create & rethink …* 

{ Wondrous Wednesdays } Using Painting to Keep Zoo Animals Happy & Healthy …*

{ Wondrous Wednesdays } Using Painting to Keep Zoo Animals Happy & Healthy ...* | rethinked.org

Artist: Jack, Western Lowland Gorilla | Source: BioParkSociety.org

The abstract masterpieces of such unlikely artists as Prehensile Tail Porcupines, goats, hissing cockroaches and vinegaroons (had to Google that one) are sure to infuse your Wednesday with a hefty dose of wonder and delight. This budding art collective is the result of an enrichment program from the ABQ BioPark Zoo. The therapeutic and enriching benefits of painting, it would seem, extend to animals. “Getting them to use their brains and to figure things out keeps them happier and healthier,” says zoo manager, Lynn Tupa.

The animals at the ABQ BioPark Zoo have learned to paint as an enrichment activity, purely for their own pleasure and mental stimulation. To ensure that painting remains enjoyable for the animals, the opportunity to paint is an occasional treat, not part of their daily routine.

From primate Picassos to buggy Botticellis, our stable of talented animal artists has increased this year to provide an even greater variety of original masterpieces that will thrill collectors and animal enthusiasts alike. Choose from a number of genres and styles that include (but not limited to) elephants, gorillas, parrots, marsupials, alligators, insects and more!

Head over to the Bio Park Society website to view (and perhaps purchase) the paintings (all done with non-toxic tempera paint) by this unlikely band of artists. All proceeds from the paintings directly support that animal’s program at the ABQ BioPark. You can also ‘meet’ some of the artists through their endearing online bios. From Shona the Warthog, who has found the activity “very therapeutic since her mate, Chip, recently passed away,” to Sarah the Orangutan who, “reserves her favorite colors, like silver, to paint her hands and feet and uses her least favorite colors on the canvas,” (a girl’s gotta have her favorite things), you’ll learn about the unique manner in which each artist approaches his or her craft and some intriguing facts about their species. Some of the animals, like Crocket the Raccoon, have instantly taken to the activity while others, like Tonka the Orangutan, are more reticent. “His appearance is very important to him. He will pick up his very long hair as he tries to avoid mud puddles. This is why we are still working on his painting. He goes to great lengths to avoid getting his hands dirty and will continuously wipe the paint off them.”

delight, wonder & rethink …* 

calloway_untitled_11x14

Artist: Calloway – Banded Armadillo | Source: BioParkSociety.org

Alberto Giacometti on Being In the World As A Rethinker …*

Alberto Giacometti on Being In the World As A Rethinker ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

Naples, 2014 – Artist Unknown …*

 

I’ve been trying to get up earlier recently and to motivate myself to get out of bed before sunrise, I have made the first hour of my day all about play and reflection. I read books that are just for pleasure, I journal, I drink my coffee unhurriedly, I look out into the darkness and listen to the birds begin to stir while my cat purrs besides me. It’s splendid.

This morning I was reading some interviews with Alberto Giacometti, and found the following passage to express splendidly so many aspects of what it means to be in the world as a rethinker …* From being able to live comfortably with the unknown (and the unknowable); being willing to reconstruct anew one’s understanding each day; questioning one’s assumptions daily without letting ego or fear get in the way; not letting one’s ideas and work become too precious; to being able to appreciate the intrinsic joy and inherent rewards of the process. Hope you will be as inspired by this glimpse into Giacometti’s experience as I am 

I do not work to create beautiful paintings or sculpture. Art is only a means of seeing. No matter what I look at, it all surprises and eludes me, and I’m not too sure of what I see. It is too complex. So, we must try to copy simply in order to begin to realize what we are seeing. It’s as if reality were continually behind curtains that one tears away… but there is always another …always one more. But I have the feeling, or the hope, that I am making progress each day. That is what makes me work, compelled to understand the core of life. And to carry on, knowing that the closer one gets to the goal, the further it retreats. The distance between the model and myself tends to increase continually; the closer I get, the further away it moves. It’s an endless search. Every time I work I am prepared to undo without the slightest hesitation the work done the day before, as each day I feel I am seeing further. Basically I now only work for the sensation I get during the process. And if I am then able to see better, if as I leave I see reality slightly differently, deep down, even if the picture doesn’t make much sense or is ruined, in any event I have won. I have won a new sensation, a sensation I had never experienced before. 

Source: Why Am I A Sculptor? – An Interview with André Parinaud

. . . *

what we can learn about learning from { synesthesia } …*

Synesthesia: Hearing Colors, Tasting Sounds.

I have always been fascinated with synesthesia – a neurological condition present in 2-4% of the population (with a 6:1 female to male ratio) where one perceives information coming in through one sensory modality in an additional sensory modality. For example, when one type of synesthete hears auditory tones, she perceives vivid colors, specifically corresponding to each tone. One of my friends from college is a grapheme-color synesthete. For these types of synesthetes, numbers and letters evoke colors. While she goes by “Emily” in spoken tongue, she prefers “Temily” in written text because the color is more pleasing.

gallery_deardish-synesthesia-gallery

For my neuroscience course, I read a paper about the potential evolutionary benefits to synesthesia called Survival of the Synesthesia Gene: Why Do People Hear Colors and Taste Words? by David Brang and V.S. Ramachandran. The authors proposed that synesthesia is caused by an excess of neural connections in the brain. Furthermore, measures of brain activity suggest that individuals are truly experiencing the sensation of a color connected to a grapheme at the bottom-up processing level, rather than applying colors with our higher level cognition.

Synesthesia and creativity…*

Currently, a number of different avenues of research suggest that, yes, there are clear evolutionary benefits to being a synesthete. An interesting hypothesis is that synesthesia enhances creativity, particularly because the cross-activation of different sensory modalities may facilitate greater ability related to metaphor.

Research has confirmed that there is an increased incidence of synesthesia among artists and synesthetes have reported that these abilities are facilitative of creative endeavors. From a layman’s perspective, this makes sense. If you have heightened and more nuanced sensory perceptions of your world, you will be able to perceive things that others cannot, and is art not the act of seeing things in a different, unique way? As Oscar Wilde once said, No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist. The authors presented research showing enhanced sensory processing abilities specific to synesthetic modality. Individuals who experience colors have heightened color perception, those who experience tactile sensations have increase tactile acuity, and so forth.

MHG_175_Synesthesia_thumb

Synesthesia and Memory …*

Another potential benefit of synesthesia involves memory. Synesthetes have better memories than the average person, likely due to the aiding of their synesthetic experience. As a learning scientist, this is fascinating because it matches with research related to multimodal learning, whereby we are better at learning things when we experience them in more than one mode because it provides multiple memory traces to the information in our brains.

 …*

I love studying abnormal psychology, because by looking at unique conditions, we are able to better understand how the average brain works. Research on synesthesia demonstrates the importance of experiencing the world in as many sensory ways as you can, and brings more credence to work on using multiple modalities in education.

A Most Delightful Response to Life’s Nagging Questions: “Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility”

A Most Delightful Response to Life's Nagging Questions: "Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility" | rethinked.org

Artist Unknown

This week, I found myself puzzling about life–puzzling more than usual that is. I lost myself in questions about passion, purpose, action, fear, choices, growing up, courage, art and pain. No need for alarm, this happens every year about a month before my birthday comes around. I find myself undergoing a tiny annual existential crisis, where I question everything, worry that the gap between my actual self (my behaviors, patterns and habits?) and my “ideal” self is widening rather than shrinking and neurotically overthink the connections between thinking, doing and becoming.

The good news about all this mental time travel I undergo each year is that recent studies have found self-projection to be correlated with a greater sense of meaning. What’s a little annual mental anguish over all of one’s life choices in exchange for a meaningful life?

Several lines of work seem to converge on the idea that self-projection is a valuable exercise. Mentally traveling in time, imagining other places, and stepping into other people’s minds can give people a sense of meaning in life. Researchers have found that engaging in nostalgia, the process of sentimentally reflecting on past events, produces reports of greater meaning in life. Projecting oneself forward into the future—whether through hopeful thinking or considering one’s legacy after death—has also been associated with elevated reports of meaning in life.

[ . . . ]

In five additional studies, we found that having people project themselves forward or backward in time or into other geographic locations—compared with having people think about the present—boosted their subsequent reports of meaning in life. The reason for this link turned out to be deceptively simple. When our research participants considered life beyond the present moment, they often conjured up events and places that were more profound, meaningful, and awe-inspiring than the current moment. – Step Outside Yourself: Meditation says to focus on the present. But life may be more meaningful if you don’t.

…*

When I start to become overwhelmed by questions, I generally turn to the artists for insight and guidance. I’ve written a lot about the creative process on rethinked …* and shared countless insights from various artists. That’s because an artist, by definition–at least by my definition–is someone who owns, cultivates and deploys his or her own distinctive voice. At the end of the day, I don’t believe someone without a particular point of view and the ability and desire to express said point of view can be considered an artist. So I was excited to see this short video featuring French high-wire artist and general creative “outlaw,” Philippe Petit on what it means to live as an artist:

“Anyone that embarks into the arts, and even if you’re not an artist or a performer, in the art of living as an extension, will have the most difficult life because it’s the opposite of lethargy and laziness and dragging your feet and dying as you live. So if you want your life to be exciting, if you find the motor necessary for a great life, which is passion, you will have a difficult life and at the same time your life will be very easy in a sense that you will not have to struggle to find ways, it is in you, it devours you, you have to do it–using your intuition and your passion. So, for example, well people sometimes ask me, “how can I be creative?” Or. “I am a young artist and I want to develop my art.” And right there, I build a big wall between two concepts that to me are very opposite: the concept of a career and the concept of life. So, if somebody says, “You know, I am starting a career as an actor, do you have any advice?” I say, “Yes, drop the word career from your vocabulary—LIVE as an actor, you know? Don’t try to do things in a strategic way, do things as your heart tells you. If you feel you are a comic character, do not accept any drama, go into the comic and start developing it. The work of art is a perpetual trampoline; it is ephemeral; it is fragile; it is mysterious. There is no rule to describe what an artistic way of life is. So if you want to go in an artistic way of life and you carry the luggage of money and time and strategy and politics, well you will never be an artist. You know? But it’s fine, many false artists are doing that. But the true artist, in my opinion, should not think of a career, you should think of your life.

 . . . *

When the questions become overwhelming, or when one cannot find an entry way into living one’s life as one wants, Van Gogh has the perfect remedy:

Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility.

You don’t know how paralyzing it is, that stare from a blank canvas that says to the painter you can’t do anything. The canvas has an idiotic stare, and mesmerizes some painters so that they turn into idiots themselves.

Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas IS AFRAID of the truly passionate painter who dares—and who has once broken the spell of ‘you can’t.’

Life itself likewise always turns towards one an infinitely meaningless, discouraging, dispiriting blank side on which there is nothing, any more than on a blank canvas.

But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that, in short, breaks, ‘violates’—they say.

Let them talk, those cold theologians.

Advice from Van Gogh: Just Slap Something on It

. . . *  

Finally, I think I’ve shared this before, but when I am anxious or puzzled or just generally blue I go straight to the bookstore. Earlier this week, while browsing the children’s books–which I love as I truly believe most children understand very deeply and intuitively a lot of things we forget and unlearn and complicate terribly as we grow older–I discovered Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (who also coauthored the sublime Duck Rabbit book). It’s the charming story of an exclamation mark who feels out of place amongst the other punctuation marks until he meets a question mark who, through her endless questions, helps him discover his voice!! Enjoy …* 

“The Etymology of Courage Relates to Wholeheartedness” …*

Here’s another lovely short interview with Debbie Millman (whom I’ve previously featured on rethinked * here, here and here). I love how honest and open she is about some of the deepest darkest fears that we often wrestle with in the solitude of private moments. I think it takes an admirable degree of courage, perhaps not coincidentally one of Debbie’s favorite themes, to open up publicly about one’s fears and insecurities, which she always seems to do with great insight and generosity.

In the video below, Debbie shares her views on design; branding; aspiring to overcome her fear of failure; and her admiration of Maira Kalman. Yet, what really caught my attention is an intriguing point about the difference between aiming to cultivate courage versus confidence, which Debbie makes while answering what living a good life means to her:

“Well, I’m going to spew all sorts of things now that are things that I aspire to, they’re not necessarily things that I can tell you, with my whole heart, I do. I just know that I’d like to do them more. And that is, to try to live without fear of failure. And so I like to think, I like to aspire to a place in my life where I wasn’t acting out of fear, I was only acting out of personal power. But that’s an aspiration, I am by far not doing that. I’d like to be able to live without feeling that it’s the last time I’m ever going to get an opportunity, because then that also creates a lot more insecurity—and you have to do this and you have to do that, and you have to do that because it’s never going to come your way again. I would have said a couple of months ago, I’d like to live with more confidence but I was talking to dani Shapiro, a great great writer; and Danni said that she actually doesn’t really think confidence is the key, that overly confident people or people with a lot of confidence tend to be really obnoxious and annoying. And that what’s more important is courage. So I’m sort of saying that, that I’d like to live with a sense of courage as opposed to fear. So those are the big things that I think about when I think about leading a full life.” – Debbie Millman

At this point in the conversation, one of the people at the table interjects, “Yeah, I was going to say that the etymology of courage it relates to wholeheartedness, so doing things wholeheartedly.” 

I loved this notion of courage and wholeheartedness stemming from the same root. I did a quick Google search to see for myself and one of the top results was this quote from Brene Brown, published in her bookI Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”:

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”

 . . . *

Debbie Millman on why design matters from Dumbo Feather on Vimeo.

[hat tip: Maira Kalman Lives From Courage via Explore]

Austin Kleon: Creativity Is Not the Lone Genius Myth—It Is Actually the Result of Connectedness …*

Right in time for the weekend, here is a little inspiration from Austin Kleon to spend time creating, sharing and enjoying art and ideas with members of your community.

“One of the reasons I wrote Show Your Work is because something I tried to emphasize in Steal Like an Artist is that we’re brought to creative work by other artists. We fall in love with art because we’re given a box of crayons or we see a movie that changes our lives and then we want to be filmmakers. The whole concept of Steal Like an Artist is to honor our influencers by taking what they have done and turning it into something else that we can then add to. If we think of culture as a big gumbo, then we take a little gumbo and add something to the mix. It goes further than just stealing. Creativity is not the lone genius myth—it is actually the result of connectedness.

I became interested in Brian Eno’s idea of “scenius” versus genius wherein scenius is a communal form of genius. Many great ideas in history weren’t the result of one person; they were the result of a whole scene of people. That was a mind-blowing concept to me, and I wanted to write a book about it by taking the ickiness of self-promotion and reframing it as sharing. Switching your notion of creativity from the genius model to the scenius model means that instead of thinking, “What do I have to give to the world?” you ask, “What does the world need from me?” Sometimes that’s an easier way to get started. Usually, when we talk about creativity, it’s about self-expression, which is great, but for work to be art or design, there has to be someone on the other end. The audience makes the work come alive. Margaret Atwood said something along the lines of, “A book is sheet music that a reader sits down to play.”

Austin Kleon in an interview with The Great Discontent

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