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Art (60 posts)
Q: I have an idea, and even some talent or training, but every time I sit down to do something about it, all I can hear is a sniveling, critical, who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are voice in my head. How can I get past that?
A: Freezing when you sit down to work by yourself is the same thing as freezing in front of an audience. In both cases, you're stymied by the fear of what people will think of you. The only difference is that here, the audience is in your head--a hypothetical group of people who will judge your output in the future. How can an imaginary audience have such a paralyzing effect? The answer is that deep down you feel you have to be perfect to win their validation. That's impossible. In fact, there's a strange truth about human creativity: The most creative part of you is also the most imperfect. This imperfect part of you is what we call the Shadow; and you shouldn't freeze it out of the creative process, you should invite it back in. This requires you to accept the worst--in whatever form it comes out: Write the worst sentence, paint the worst portrait, play as off-key as you can. Once you do this, the Shadow feels accepted--and creativity will then take over. For most people, this is pretty counterintuitive, but here's the truth: A real creative process isn't immediately gratifying. It's frustrating, mysterious, and uncertain.
Good new: all of us smile-hungry humans have been invited to be part of a worldwide interactive art work: just upload this app and smile and, well, the whole world will smile with you. Pretty much, anyway. Yoko Ono (yes, that Yoko Ono) has been thinking about this project since 1967, when she said, "My ultimate goal in film-making is to make a film which includes a smiling face snap of every single human being in the world.” She just had to wait a few decades for the world of social media to catch up. Now she's launching this #smilesfilm app, with the ambitious, crazy, and awesome goal of collecting every smile in the world. Happily, the smilesfilm website shows everyone who's uploaded a smile (and you can see where they're from on the interactive world map). It's like a trip around the world and an instant pick-me-up all in one. Convenient. Smile.
The Smile That Can't Be Stolen
6 Reasons to Smile Right Now
Here, a moment of pure strangeness from the master of wackiness, Jim Henson. This short film, which according to boing boing was nominated for an Academy Award, is an off-kilter meditation on time -- time as a running Abraham Lincoln, time as a painted elephant -- but I think what I love most about it is that it's also so off-brand, Jim Henson-wise. No puppets. Not for kids.
In our creative and work lives, we're always getting the message to, well, stay on message. To consider each public showing, each event or idea or tweet, as a part of our persona, to build the brand of self. So it's good to have a reminder, now and then, that you do best is being yourself. We can watch this odd film and figure out how it fits into the brand of Jim Henson -- he just had to concern himself with making the things he wanted to make. Like this. Which is totally weird. (via boing boing)
Whimsical Japanese Animations
The Whole-Body Way to Tell Time
Apparently every one besides me already knew about the weird, wonderful world of sidewalk chalk illusions, but I just discovered them and have the same feeling as when I first learned about the existence of those enormous sand sculptures -- kind of mystified and vaguely excited and happy that such things happen in the world. At first blush, I think, how wonderful that this art form usually relegated to children has such gorgeous, grand applications. And then the more I study these images of Edgar Müller's chalk art from the addictive site Mighty Optical Illusions, the more I have this visceral urge to walk across this icy abyss. Don't you just want to do a jig on that ominous crevasse? Perhaps it is this that makes the chalk illusions so delightful -- the way the darkness tricks your brain into feeling scared, releases in your body the shaky feeling of a near-miss, allows you to do the daring and impossible... all from your completely safe vantage point on solid ground.
For more amazing chalk-art, take a behind-the-scenes look at the O Magazine chalk art cover.
Chalk Murals For Releasing Fear
Imagining MC Escher's Workplace
Latte Art Contests
The other day I was suffering a mid-afternoon slump that resisted even a stroll, even a peek at Pinterest, even an ill-conceived 4:30 iced coffee. Whither this abyss of slumpitude? Then I happened to hear, mysteriously wafting through my building's courtyard, a song I love. How could I have forgotten music?
I believe this is what's happening in this surreal animation by Japanese artist Masanobu Hiraoka. The blah-ed out figure, slumped over the table. The iPod. The figures that leap from the iPod and expand into an abstractly unfolding explosion of imagery. There's something so evocative about this artist's animations, and I love the gorgeous, colorful manifestation of music. Watch, listen, and feel your slump dissolve.
The Healing Power of Song
A Life Worth Remembering
The Fine Art of Folding Air
But what about life block? I think many of us suffer from this affliction too. Its symptoms are the same -- feeling like you have no new ideas, feeling like you don't know how to communicate the ones you do have. It's that potent sense that nothing can change. You have no new ideas for dinner; no energy to get exercising though you know it will make you feel better. You just noticed no one has worn or sold the cut of pants you've currently got on for the past five years or so. You're sick of the downer coworker you always eat lunch with but never manage to meet a friend instead. You'd like to cut bangs but you're too afraid.
One tried-and-true way to skirt writer's block is the prompt, which is why the writerly online community Figment.com offers Figment Daily Themes: daily exercises, often suggested by beloved writers like Judy Blume, Susan Orlean, and Nell Fruedenberger. The prompts offer great ideas for anyone looking to shake off a slump, whether it's a writer's block or a more general sense of blah. For example, acclaimed novelist Jennifer Gilmore offered a great exercise in perspective: "Using the same POV–first person, third person, whatever you choose–write a piece that centers around a single moment from three different perspectives. Each perspective offers new information...Each perspective sheds more light on the moment while also revealing more." A great way to unstick an inert scene in a piece of writing, but also, a great idea for untangling a stuck personal situation. What if you actually saw that argument from your friend's perspective?
I would write more but guess what? Blogger's block. To the Fig!
3 Ways to Break Through a Block
How to Get Unstuck
Okay, maybe it's not actually true that the right tools can make a person more creative, but I know I'm not the only one who suspects that the perfect combination of things will make any project easier, and maybe even make working a bit more fun. Which is what makes this site The Set Up so very appealing. Creative types from all different fields share the tools of their trades: SNL writer Paula Pell swears by Apple products, sharp No. 2 pencils, and Hersheys bars with almonds; music producer Chris Zane favors high-tech gadgets with mystical sounding names like "The Nocturne;" illustrator Amy Jean Porter is addicted to gouache; vegan cook Isa Chandra Moskowitz loves Canon cameras, her Nintendo DS, and Le Creuset cookware. It is fascinating to scroll through the diverse list of interviews, and everyone from the techie to the luddite can find some inspiration here. What do you use to do your work? How could your own set up be working better? How could YOU be working better?
Apes Love iPads Too
Your Internet Passwords, Daily Affirmations?
Artist Bartholomäus Traubeck has created an auditory experience that's also a powerful antidote: an antidote to the digital-everything world; an antidote to alienation from nature; an antidote to the life of constant earbuds. Here is his record player that plays pieces of wood. I love how he's taken two growingly-obsolete objects, paired them, and created something we never knew was there: the song a tree sings.
Kinda makes you want to listen to, well, everything, doesn't it?
Flemish Portraits in Airplane Bathrooms
A New Old Way to Make a Portrait
The Fine Art of Folding Air
Admit it. You've yelled at the television before. "Don't marry her!" or "Don't go into the BASEMENT!" or "How could you do this?!" -- getting a wee bit more emotionally involved than a glowing screen probably deserves. And you've probably cried at a novel, knowing the characters were fictional. And you've certainly heard a song and passionately sang along and felt inexplicably moved, even though it was telling a love story not your own, recounting drama you hadn't yet encountered, because, well, you're in kindergarten.
Enter: these kids, rocking out in the backseat to Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know." I could watch this video eighty-thousand times. They are FEELING this song, they really are. And as Lauren Yapalater points out over at BuzzFeed, they run the gamut of emotions, from ferocity to indifference to heartbreak:
I love that these six-year-olds are feeling this song so intensely, full as it is of raw emotion that they have, surely, not yet experienced for themselves. But isn't that what art is to kids (and maybe to us adults too, really) -- emotional practice? I think this must be why toddlers insist on hearing the same scary story over and over from the safety of a parental cuddle, why kids love the parts of picture books where everyone cries, why tweens rock out to endless love songs: they know on some level that these are experiences they are destined to have, and that the pop-song-version is an easy, safe tutorial for how to deal when the trouble comes. From the looks of things, these ferocious, passionate, hilarious kids will be just fine.
The Song Guaranteed to Make You Sleep
The Empty Coca-Cola Bottle Way to Multitask
I live in one of those pockets of the city where old people reign. Couples who have come to look like siblings stroll down the parkway, arms linked, feet shuffling. White-haired ladies hold up the grocery store lines with their old-school coupons, clipped from paper circulars. It makes me wonder how I will age. Will I be a glamorous Nora Ephron-esque type, reading the Times in a cafe? Or, probably more likely, one of those potato-shaped women in a housecoat, walking a cat on a leash?
Isa Leshko was thinking about aging when she began her Elderly Animals project. After spending a year caring for her elderly parents, Leshko found herself taking lush, black-and-white photographs of, well, elderly animals, like Handsome One, the 33-year-old horse pictured above. According to her artist's statement, the photographs have allowed her to "take an honest and an unflinching look at my fears relating to my own mortality...." It's not often that we see unvarnished imagery of aging. It's also not often that farm animals like these actually are allowed to age. All of which makes these photographs both beautiful and sad, and impossible to look away from.
Visit Leshko's site to see more of these photographs, which will change the way you look at both aging and animals. (The noble, knowing look on the elderly rooster's face is truly remarkable.) There's also a short film, created by Walley Films, that reveals the circumstances in Leshko's life that led her to these animals -- plus, information on upcoming shows of Leshko's work in Houston and Pittsburgh.
What Nobody Tells You About Aging
The Agony and Ecstasy of Getting Older
Caring for Your Elderly Parents