Sunday, August 31, 2014

Inspiration Sunday

Well, it is the Sunday of a long weekend and the beginning of a short week.  I hope you are enjoying your weekend, as I am mine.

I have 10 inspirational quotes from the Artist to Artist book today.  I hope you find them as inspiring as I do!

'Amagansett Oct 2002 J Bartlett'
oil pastel and pastel on paper
But it's the physical properties that are paramount - the marks that a person has put down.  And those marks have been throughout our history incredibly powerful things....It's that very inappropriateness of art, that it's a shock, that it's something made by human beings and it's not natural, that makes it interesting.  ~Jennifer Bartlett 1941-
Creation is the artist's true function; where there is no creation there is not art.  ~Henri Matisse 1869-1954
If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost mothering.  ~Marc Chagall 1889-1985
I have never been able to carry out any work coolly.  On the contrary it is done, so to speak, with my own blood.  Anyone who looks at my works must be able to sense that.  ~Kathe Kollwitz 1867-1945
The real artist's work is a surprise to himself.  ~Robert Henri 1865-1929
The artist has only to remain true to his dream and it will possess his work in such a manner that it will resemble the work of no other man.  ~Albert Pinkham Ryder 1847-1917
Imagination makes you see all sorts of things.  ~Georgia O'Keefee 1887-1986
Between beauty of expression and power of expression there is a difference of function.  The first aims at pleasing the senses, the second has a spiritual vitality which for me is more moving and goes deeper than the sense.  ~Henry Moore 1898-1986
I go to my studio every day.  Some days the work comes easily.  Other days nothing happens.  Yet on the good days the inspiration is only an accumulation of all the other days, the non-productive ones.  ~Beverly Pepper 1924-
Inspiration is indispensable to my work, but it is hard to come by.  It is there or it is not - it is a gift of the gods.  ~Louise Bourgeois 1911-2010

'Til tomorrow - may the gods gift you with creative ideas and the energy it takes to manifest them today (and every day).

~Alex



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Farm Girl Saturday Morning

Yes, it's true.  My husband has prevailed upon me to help him finish fencing the south pasture this morning.  As of today, we have no real horses, although this was the intention of moving away from the burbs.  As fate would have it, my horse sculptures turned out to be more popular with the world at large than I would have ever thought possible.

Mark loading up the flatbed with the equipment we need to make fences

I'm not complaining.  I was up at 5:30 this morning specifically so I could get a package ready for a collector in Indiana.  Her Certificate of Authenticity for the sculpture she bought at Sculpture in the Park was long over due.  But I wanted to send her other things too.  A personal note and some photos of us taken together at the show.  Create a nice presentation...it takes time...a rare commodity in my life... but I cherish my collectors - whether I meet them and know them personally or not - as much as they cherish my sculpture.

So, I don't have enough time in my life to devote to the care and attention a real horse would require.  As luck would have it, we are surrounded by horses owned by our neighbors and they are happy for me to visit with them any time I wish.  Sometimes, if they go out of town, I even get to spend some time taking care of them.  I love that.

So, what are the fences for?  You may be wondering.  We have cows :).  Mostly Dexters.

Well.  I have to go - farm girl morning - sculpting girl afternoon.  That's my day.
Hope your Saturday is productive and fun.  Tomorrow is Inspiration Sunday!

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Friday, August 29, 2014

AAHHhhhhhUGggg! Image Compression !!

So, maybe you knew this - maybe you didn't.  But, if you have a website for your art business and you DON'T know this...you may want to pay attention.

Google makes the speed at which a website loads part of their ranking algorithm.  So what?  ...you may ask.  Well.  If you were intrepid enough to put your own JPEG images into your website, as I was...chances are they are pretty big files so that you could keep your image quality high.

Problem:  you are taking up a LOT of bandwidth if you do this and it makes your website load slower.  With internet speeds the way they are these days, and 3G and 4G phone connections so very nice...the slower website load is not as much of an issue as it once was...but the bandwidth thing causing Google to rank your page lower?...not useful.

This is probably not new news to you younger artists out there; or those of you who have hired someone to create and maintain your website - I'm sure you have other things you are spending your time doing - that don't include working this aspect of your art career.

But I'm the one doing this...emerging new artist that I am.  And, since I'm not QUITE as old as dirt... but was alive before the advent of personal computers...ah, and cell phones..., maybe even electricity...(kidding).  Well.  The point is...I'm not as computer savvy and I wish I was or probably should be...so I'm always learning something new.  Aren't you glad you're here so you can learn with me?  :)

Today I have learned the difference between JPEG images compressed and PNG (Portable Network Graphic - invented to replace GIF format) images compressed.

Here's the visual that helped me get it:
 
So, let's say that you have professional photographs of your work made and the photographer saves them for you in TIFF format - I hope... (if your photographer doesn't do this, you should ask that it be done). 
 
A TIFF file can be opened with most every image program as it's an extremely common format.  It can save 16 bits per channel scans, store all the metadata, hold all the color and for all you Photoshop folks out there, store layers and most importantly, it can be saved compressed or uncompressed.
 
What then is a JPEG?  Well.  For one thing, it is most likely what you save all you photos as, what your camera maybe saves your photos as, and maybe what all your digital photos already are
 
I have learned today to be sad about that.  Why?  Because a JPEG is a compressed file.  Okay.  A PNG is also a compressed file.  The difference between the two lies in the difference in the type of compression.  One type, the JPEG is compressed with a Lossy compression.  The PNG is compressed with a Lossless compression. 
 
Both compression types mean your image is being compressed using mathematical algorithms...but JPEG is (unless you are very careful and don't compress it too much) a much more severe type of image loss than PNG because it's just removed image information...and once that detail is gone.  It stays gone.  Re-save it again as a JPEG and you loose even MORE image information!  YIKES!
 
Now if you have a very precious photo taken long ago and you want to compress it...scan it as a 600 DPI TIFF file First and then save it as a very high quality JPEG.  This will make it somewhat smaller than the TIFF and the image information it looses will be pretty much imperceptible to the human eye.  You don't want to put this high quality (big file) image on your website though...
 
You want to save bandwidth on your website, remember?...at least if you care how the Google Gods rank your page!  Throw that TIFF image into a compression utility software program like the one I will be trying today -  PNGOUTWin - (free 30-day trial !) 
 
It will transform that TIFF image file into a PNG file.  Lossless compression...tada!  I hope it works as well as I have been reading it does...we shall see :)
 
Okay.  I've got to get back to work!  Hope you enjoy your Friday and have some time to create today!  I'm going to go out to the studio myself after I let the computer pickle my brain for awhile.
 
'Til tomorrow!
 
~Alex

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Importance of Arts Orgainizations to Artist's Careers

I think there is a lot of positive energy that comes to the artist from joining and supporting artists organizations.  Since artists and the creating they do can suffer from the natural isolation we must create for ourselves - if we surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe about creating art and why we do it and that we want our business to be successful - even if it is another artist writing a blog, or listening to a podcast such as Artists Helping Artists while you're working in your studio - joining forces with like minded individuals somehow will help you.

If you follow me on Facebook, then maybe you know that one of my sculptures won an award from the American Women Artists Association.  The Award of Recognition for 3-D. 
Yes, I got a ribbon and a check and some great prizes.  But the biggest award I received is something that cannot be seen.  Validation from my peers that why I do what I do and how I do that...is recognized by others...and these others are such very talented artists in their own right.

This is an opinion about my work from other people that I trust.  And why do I trust them?  Because they are talented woman artists and we share a common purpose, shared values and beliefs about art, they are part of my community, they formed this organization to help me.  Me.  And maybe you too.
An effective organization has a purpose that is shared by all its members and to which they will willingly commit their efforts.  People working together can do almost anything.    ~James Hayes 
Even if, while thinking about organizations that may be important to you, you find that there is no one local that can meet your needs, you can always start your own organization.  You don't just have to have other artists join - invite people from other professions to become supporting members; marketing professionals, legal professionals, design professionals - all could contribute their knowledge and experience in very important ways.

Today I am back to working on that submission.  I received tremendous support from my own little organization yesterday...my husband took all the words I worked so hard to craft into artist statements and project proposals...and without changing my ideas or my intent - condensed them into that 1000 character minimum with such care, respect, and skill that I was left with nothing but gratitude. 

As artists, we all need people like that in our lives.  If you are not blessed with a supportive and talented spouse and business partner - or even if you are - join an organization, make some friends, find your mentors.  You will find them invaluable to your sanity and your career.

Wishing you an empowered and creative day!

'Til tomorrow!
~Alex

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Concentrating Deeply Today

Today, I need all the alpha waves I can muster to figure out the best way I can to present an idea I have for a public art project.  I cannot say much about the idea...I don't want to jinx it...

Of course I have to figure out how to best do this in 1000 words or less...oh - heck - no problem for me...brevity is my middle name...yep...
 
I know what I'll talk about today....I will share with you a different idea I have for a public art project (it isn't something created for a specific call like the one I have to concentrate on today). 

One day - back in 2002 or so - a very funny thought for a sculpture occurred.,.you know - it came from where ever inspiration comes from...and I just happened to be listening.  I sculpted this thought then and saved the clay sculpture all these years.

In the last year, I re-sculpted it as a maquette for a public art sculpture.  I altered the original sculpture to be more the in style I have today for horse sculpture...but it is similar in title and thought.

It's called Horse-In-A-Round ©

Just as an aside, and you may already know this about my work, but - one of the things about horses (and especially my horses - wild and barefoot and carefree) is, they are the metaphor - to me - of a joyful human spirit!  

You who are collectors of my work maybe feel that about them too, as many of you have never had a real horse or even have much of an interest in horses. 
 
Anyway....so - here is this crazy sculpture of a horse in the middle of a summersault (something a horse really couldn't do - but something a happy human could do!) and his body is circular (in a round...yes?)  The day I imagined this sculpture - the thought of it was so fun... I laughed out loud!  :)  Good thing no one else was in the room...

I apologize about these photos I took.  They do illustrate beautifully WHY I have professional photos taken of my work most of the time.  

Remember now, these are photos of the maquette...a small version or model of what a large sculpture might look like.  The finished large sculpture would not be white or made from paper clay...the finished public art sculpture would be bronze or aluminum and would have one of the beautiful patinas my work has.... 


Ta-Da!   Horse-In-A-Round...get it?? 


hahahahaha!

Around the base are the words:  Horse•In•A•Round - and the letters are constructed so humans can walk up the letters and get on the base with the sculpture - and interact with it if they wish.



 How fun for a piece of public art!  It could be anywhere!  
Also on the base is a right-side-up horseshoe (for good luck of course) where, inside the horse shoe, can be the image of a symbol or logo for a city or place. 


Walking up to the letters, people would walk over these handprints and signatures of everyone who contributed to the funding of the project.  (I think that it's a nice thing to do...thank the funders of public art this way.  It is something that will always be part of the work and something that their children and grandchildren can see.) 

So the letters and city or place logo would say:  Horse•In•A•Round in (for example) Las Vegas ...or Horse•In•A•Round at Churchill Downs

'Course - the proposal for the upcoming public art project I am currently pondering won't be for Horse-In-A-Round...because, somehow, the description of the project sounds a bit more low key...although - I could be wrong about that. 

What I am thinking to propose for the public art for the call I'm pondering today is Okaga, the South Wind !  He is a beautiful sculpture at 19 inches high...and I think he would be even more beautiful 10 to 12  -FEET- high! 

Can you just imagine it???  He is just so dignified and proud and there's just so much action in him with his upraised foot and his mane and tail blowing in the wind!  I look at him and see:  G - l - o - r - ious !  What a wonderful wild boy he is.

Okaga - the South Wind from the Lakota Winds series
Anyway...for the next few days or so, if you have a moment to - send me some help or email me any advice you might have - or just send any spare energy of your persuasive powers? your supportive thoughts? prayers for miracles?   Heck, I know there are a LOT of things more important than my little public art proposal - but if you feel so inclined? just send any positive waves my way? 

I sure would appreciate that huge!   Thank you  :)

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Setting Yourself Up for Creativity - End

Yes.  We have come to The Light at the End of the Tunnel...or at least the end of the John Cleese Creativity Lecture transcript (and the end of the light bulb jokes...alas). 

If you have just landed on this page and want to read the transcript on this blog from the beginning just click here and that will bring you to that page.  If you wish to listen to John Cleese's lecture you can find it on You Tube here. 

I really like this last part almost better than all the rest...although.  All the rest is pretty darn good too.  Enjoy!
And now, in the two minutes left, I can come to the important part.  And that is; How to Stop Your Subordinates from Becoming Creative Too - which is the real threat.
Because, believe me - no one appreciates better than I do - what trouble creative people are.  And how they stop decisive, hard-nosed bastards like us from running businesses efficiently.
I mean - we all know...if we encourage someone to be creative - the next thing is - they're rocking the boat...coming up with ideas...and asking us questions!
Now!  If we don't nip this kind of thing in the bud - we'll have to start justifying our decisions by reasoned argument...and sharing information...the concealment of which gives us considerable advantages in our power struggles.
So!  Here's how to stamp out creativity in the rest of the organization and get a bit of respect going:
One.  Allow subordinates no humor!  It threatens your self-importance - especially your omniscience.  Treat all humor as frivolous or subversive.
Because subversive - is of course - what humor will be in your setup.  As it's the only way that people can express their opposition, since - if they express it openly - you're down on them like a ton of bricks!
So let's get this clear!  Blame humor for the resistance that your way of working creates. Then you don't have to blame your way of working. This is important. And I mean that solemnly. Your dignity is no laughing matter...
Second.  Keeping ourselves feeling irreplaceable involves cutting everybody else down to size.  So!  Don't miss an opportunity to undermine your employees' confidence.
A perfect opportunity comes when you're reviewing work that they've done. Use your authority to zero in immediately on all the things you can find wrong. Never never balance the negatives with the positives; only criticize - just as your school teachers did.
Always remember!  Praise Makes People Uppity!
Third.  Demand that people should always be actively doing things. If you catch anyone pondering - accuse them of laziness and/or indecision.  This is to starve employees of thinking time...because that leads to creativity and insurrection.
So demand urgency at all times - use lots of fighting talk and war analogies - and establish a permanent atmosphere of stress...of breathless anxiety...and crisis!
In a phrase - Keep That Mode Closed!
In this way - we no-nonsense types can be sure that the tiny, tiny, microscopic quantity of creativity in our organization will all be ours!
But! Let your vigilance slip for one moment, and you could find yourself surrounded by happy, enthusiastic, and creative people whom you might never be able completely to control - ever again!
So be careful!
Thank you.  And....good night.

Ah....ain't it the truth?  I think that is why so many people want to be their own boss.  Why not if you work for someone, or worse...a whole organization - where practically everyone in charge is keeping everyone else in Closed Mode only?  Unless the organization keeps hiring from outside...thereby giving it a breath of fresh air from time to time (until the new person becomes closed down as well)...I cannot see how it would be able to thrive after a time.

As artists - at least we can spend parts (or all) of our days playing in Open Mode and executing our visions (which we discovered in Open Mode) in Closed Mode...(so we actually will finish our projects...).  If the people around us are able to strike a balance between Open Mode and Closed Mode too - I have to think we could accomplish a great deal of creative good.

Today, (and every day) I wish for you the accomplishment of a great deal of creative good.

Tomorrow we will get started on another subject...although.  It hasn't occurred to me yet what that will be.

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Monday, August 25, 2014

Setting Yourself Up for Creativity - Pt. 8


Question - How many existentialists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Answer -  Two: One to screw it in and one to observe how the light bulb itself symbolizes a single incandescent beacon of subjective reality in a netherworld of endless absurdity reaching out toward a maudlin cosmos of nothingness.
Question - How many big black monoliths does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer - Sorry, light bulbs are an evolutionary dead end.
Question - How many light bulbs does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer -  One, if it knows its own Goedel number.
Question - How many dadaists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Answer -  To get to the other side.
Question - How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Answer - If k mathematicians can change a light bulb, and if one more simply watches them do it, then k+1 mathematicians will have changed the light bulb. Therefore, by induction, for all n in the positive integers, n mathematicians can change a light bulb.
Question - How many consultants does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer -  We don’t know. They never get past the feasibility study.
Question - How many dull people does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer -  one.
Ha Ha!  I like the last one best. 
Happy Monday to you.  I hope you had a really fabulous weekend.  I had time to sculpt and we went to a neighbor's house for dinner last night.  We had a wonderful time. 
Thought it would be best to start out with jokes since it is Monday and all.
Light bulbs...oh...I mean - the week always seems biggest on Monday.
Today and tomorrow and we will be at the end of our transcript of John Cleese's lecture on Creativity.  I think the end of his talk is the best - so come back tomorrow and read it here.  Or, if you are totally on the edge of your seat about it, you can listen to his whole lecture on You Tube here.
So here is today's excerpt:
Four minutes left…
Ah!  How many Irish-- sorry, sorry
Well, look, the very last thing that I can say about creativity is this: it's like humor. In a joke - the laugh comes at a moment when you connect two different frameworks of reference in a new way.
Example.  There's the old story about a woman doing a survey into sexual attitudes who stops an airline pilot and asks him - amongst other things - when he last had sexual intercourse.
He replies "Nineteen fifty eight." Now, knowing airline pilots, the researcher is surprised, and queries this. "Well," says the pilot, "it's only twenty-one ten now."
We laugh -eventually - at the moment of contact between two frameworks of reference: the way we express what year it is and the 24-hour clock.
Now, having an idea - a new idea - is exactly the same thing. It's connecting two hitherto separate ideas in a way that generates new meaning.
Now.  Connecting different ideas isn't difficult.  You can connect cheese with motorcycles or moral courage with light green, or bananas with international co-operation. You can get any computer to make a billion random connections for you, but these new connections or juxtapositions are significant only if they generate new meaning.
So as you play, you can deliberately try inventing these random juxtapositions, and then use your intuition to tell you whether any of them seem to have significance for you.
That's the bit the computer can't do. It can produce millions of new connections, but it can't tell which one of them smells interesting.
And, of course, you'll produce some juxtapositions which are absolutely ridiculous, absurd. Good for you!
Because Edward de Bono (who invented the notion of lateral thinking) specifically suggests in his book PO: Beyond Yes and No that you can try loosening up your assumptions by playing with deliberately crazy connections. He calls such absurd ideas "Intermediate Impossibles."
And he points out the use of an "Intermediate Impossible" is completely contrary to ordinary logical thinking in which you have to be right at each stage.
It doesn't matter if the "Intermediate Impossible" is right or absurd, it can nevertheless be used as a stepping stone to another idea that is right.
Another example of how, when you're playing, nothing is wrong.
So, to summarize.  If you really don't know how to start - or if you got stuck - start generating random connections and allow your intuition to tell you if one might lead somewhere interesting.
Well, that really is all I can tell you that won't help you to be creative.
 Everything.
It isn't of course everything, but with the 2 minutes he has left after this...let's just say he spends the time well. 

Wishing you a day of juxtapositions and intuitive connections...what fun! 
It may help the week go along very nicely too.

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Inspiration Sunday

Welcome to another Inspiration Sunday.  I woke up truly inspired this morning and I know I will be going out into the studio to sculpt again today.  I have been listening to a new book these last few days and I love it.  It is called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (who wrote The Gates of Fire and The Legend of Bagger Vance among other works of historical fiction).  Warning:  this is not your average "self-help" book...which is a good thing :).
 
This morning, I am going to share quotes with you from my Artist to Artist book from the section:  Fear and Doubt - enjoy and know you are not alone when you go out there and create...there are legions of artists who had no idea of the wonder they would share with the world...and thank God they created anyway.  Imagine what we would never had known if any one of these people had decided to drive a taxi instead?

Atmosphere&EnvironmentX-Louise Nevelson
 I felt so insufficiently equipped, so unprepared, so weak, and at the same time it seemed to me that my reflections on art were correct.  I quarreled with all the world and with myself.  ~Edgar Degas 1834-1917
Even at the late date, I go into my studio, and I think 'Is this going to be it?  Is it the end?'  You see, nearly everything terrorizes me.  I think that when an artist loses that terror, he's through.  ~Robert Rauschenberg 1925-2008
I was discouraged about life, discouraged about people being blind, but I don't think I had a day that I ever questioned creativity.  There has never been a day like that~Louise Nevelson 1900-1988
I come into the studio very fearfully.  I creep in to see what happened the night before.  And the feeling is one of, 'My God, did I do that?'                          ~Philip Guston 1913-1980
The only sensible way to regard the art life is that it is a privilege you are willing to pay for....You may cite honors and attentions and even money paid, but I would have you note that these were paid a long time after the creator had gone through his struggles.  ~Robert Henri 1855-1929
The difficulties in drawing the figure-that is, manipulating and using the figure in a composition - are enormous.  ~Martha Mayer Erlebacher  1948-2013
The attacks of which I have been the object have broken the spring of life in me....People don't realize what it feels like to be constantly insulted.      ~Edouard Manet 1832-1883
I assumed that everything would lead to complete failure, but I decided that didn't matter - that would be my life.  ~Jasper Johns 1930-
You see in the past, my needs were very great and my fears were very great and my defenses looked like torture.  Well I have come to terms with a lot of things, because, when all's said and done, there's really very little one can do about a lot of things.  You just accept them.  The point is you just have to keep on working and you just have to keep on living.  That's the ball game.               ~Jim Dine 1935- 
So.  I hope you have a very acceptable Sunday and that you make some time today to get into your studio and create.  We have two more John Cleese excerpts this coming week to wrap up his lecture on creativity.  It's not to be missed.  He saves the best for last :).

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Setting Yourself Up for Creativity - Pt. 7

Hope you are enjoying your weekend so far.  I know I am and will continue to do so having carved out some Saturday studio time...always a boon to get an extra day in the week to play :)...oh!
I mean work ;)

But first - I thought a mom light bulb joke would be fun:

 
 
And here's the next part of John Cleese's creativity talk.  If you wish to listen to all of it on You Tube just click here:
Humor is an essential part of spontaneity, an essential part of playfulness, an essential part of the creativity that we need to solve problems, no matter how 'serious' they may be.
So when you set up a space/time oasis, giggle all you want.
And there, ladies and gentlemen, are the five factors which you can arrange to make your lives more creative:
Space, Time, Time, Confidence, and Lord Jeffrey Archer.
So, now you know how to get into the Open Mode. 
The only other requirement is that you keep mind gently 'round the subject you're pondering.
You'll daydream, of course.  But, you just keep bringing your mind back, just like with meditation. Because - and this is the extraordinary thing about creativity - if you just keep your mind resting against the subject - in a friendly but persistent way - sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious...probably in the shower later....or at breakfast the next morning.  
But suddenly you are rewarded.  Out of the blue - a new thought mysteriously appears.  If you've put in the pondering time first.
So, how many Cecil Parkinsons does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: two, one to screw it in, one to screw it up.
How many account executives does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Can I get back to you on that?
How many Norwei--- Oh, sorry, how many Yugoslav--- how many Malt-- how many Dutch--- I'm out of jokes.
Oh! One thing!
Looking at you all reminds me.  I think it's easy to be creative if you've got other people to play with.
I always find that if two (or more) of us throw ideas backwards and forwards - I get to more interesting and original places than I could have ever have gotten to on my own.
But there is a danger, a real danger!
If there's one person around you who makes you feel defensive - you lose the confidence to play, and it's goodbye creativity!
So.  Always make sure your play friends are people that you like and trust.
And never say anything to squash them either!
Never say "no" or "wrong" or "I don't like that."  Always be positive, and build on what is being said:
"Would it be even better if…"
"I don't quite understand that, can you just explain it again?"
"Go on…"
"What if…?"
"Let's pretend…"
Try to establish as free an atmosphere as possible.
Sometimes I wonder if the success of the Japanese isn't partly due to their instinctive understanding of how to use groups creatively.
Westerners are often amazed at the unstructured nature of Japanese meetings but maybe it's just that very lack of structure, that absence of time pressure, that frees them to solve problems so creatively.
And how clever of the Japanese sometimes to plan that un-structured-ness by, for example, insisting that the first people to give their views are the most junior, so that they can speak freely without the possibility of contradicting what's already been said by somebody more important.
This is so important.  I know I enjoy positive brain storming sessions with my husband.  
And I love visiting with other friends too.  Anyone you know is creative in their own way - even if many of them don't think so themselves!  It really does feed my spirit to spend time with other people I trust to be positive...and it will feed yours too, I promise!

Tomorrow we get a break from the John Cleese Creativity talk and we will have our Inspiration Sunday.   I hope that today (and every day) you find someone to play and be creative with.

'Til tomoorow!

~Alex 


Friday, August 22, 2014

Setting Yourself Up for Creativity - Pt.5

While Baby Girl and Two Socks could hear How Many Dogs Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb? jokes for the rest of their lives...

 
I am glad to be coming to the end of it all.  Phoebe Mae Kittenhead Alvis actually put a stop to it by ending it with The Cat's Answer which you will see after the last punch line...
 
 
 
 
 
 

Okay - enough fun and on to the serious business of ART :)  and more of the John Cleese creativity lecture. HooRay!

Now the next factor, number four - is Confidence.
When you are in your space/time oasis, getting into the Open Mode - nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.
Now if you think about play, you'll see why. To play is to experiment - "What happens if I do this? What would happen if we did that? What if…?"
The very essence of playfulness is an openness to anything that may happen. The feeling that whatever happens, it's ok. So you cannot be playful if you're frightened that moving in some direction will be "wrong" -- something you "shouldn't have done."
Well, you're either free to play, or you're not.
As Alan Watts puts it, you can't be spontaneous within reason.
So you've got risk saying things that are silly and illogical and wrong, and the best way to get the confidence to do that is to know that while you're being creative, nothing is wrong. There's no such thing as a mistake, and any drivel may lead to the break-through.
And now, the last factor.  The fifth - Humor.
Well, I happen to think the main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.
I think we all know that laughter brings relaxation, and that humor makes us playful, yet how many times have important discussions been held where really original and creative ideas were desperately needed to solve important problems?...but where humor was taboo because the subject being discussed was "so serious"?
This attitude seems to me to stem from a very basic misunderstanding of the difference between 'serious' and 'solemn'.
Now I suggest to you that a group of us could be sitting around after dinner, discussing matters that were extremely serious like the education of our children, or our marriages, or the meaning of life (and I'm not talking about the film), and we could be laughing, and that would not make what we were discussing one bit less serious.
Solemnity, on the other hand… I don't know what it's for. I mean, what is the point of it?
The two most beautiful memorial services that I've ever attended both had a lot of humor, and it somehow freed us all, and made the services inspiring and cathartic.
But solemnity? It serves pomposity, and the self-important always know at some level of their consciousness that their egotism is going to be punctured by humor -- that's why they see it as a threat. And so dishonestly pretend that their deficiency makes their views more substantial, when it only makes them feel bigger.
And there you go.  I - for one - am grateful that John Cleese created a world for us full of humor.  Maybe we'll watch some Monty Python this weekend...that would be fun!

On this Friday - I wish you some serious humor in your day and we'll have some more of the John Cleese talk tomorrow too. But no....


NO MORE dog light bulb jokes!

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Setting Yourself Up for Creativity - Pt. 4

Once again today we are continuing with our transcript of the John Cleese talk...while also still figuring out how many Dogs does it take to change a light bulb.  It does depend upon the dog breed doing the changing - as you will see:

 



 


And now without any further doggie to do (or perhaps I should say do-do)...the next installment of Setting Yourself Up for Creativity:
So when I say, create an oasis of quiet, know that when you have - your mind will pretty soon start racing again!
But you're not going to take that very seriously.  You just sit there for a bit tolerating the racing and the slight anxiety that comes with that...and after a time your mind will quiet down again.
Now.  Because it takes some time for your mind to quiet down it's absolutely no use arranging a space/time oasis lasting 30 minutes - because just as you're getting quieter and getting into the Open Mode you have to stop and that is very deeply frustrating.
So you must allow yourself a good chunk of time. I'd suggest about an hour and a half. Then after you've gotten to the Open Mode - you'll have about an hour left for something to happen.  IF you're lucky.
But.  Don't put a whole morning aside. My experience is that after about an hour-and-a-half you need a break.
So it's far better to do an hour-and-a-half now and then an hour-and-a-half next Thursday and maybe an hour-and-a-half the week after that - than to fix one four-and-a-half hour session now.
There's another reason for that.  And that's factor number three - Time!
Yes, I know we've just done time.  But that was HALF of creating our oasis.
Now I'm going to tell you about how to use the oasis that you've created.
Why do you still need time?
Well, let me tell you a story. I was always intrigued that one of my Monty Python colleagues who seemed to be - to me - more talented than I was - did never produce scripts as original as mine.
And I watched for some time and then I began to see why. If he was faced with a problem - and fairly soon saw a solution - he was inclined to take it. Even though, I think, he knew the solution was not very original.
Whereas if I was in the same situation - although I was sorely tempted to take the easy way out and finish by 5 o'clock - I just couldn't. I'd sit there with the problem for another hour-and-a-quarter, and by sticking at it would, in the end, almost always come up with something more original.
It was that simple.  My work was more creative than his simply because I was prepared to stick with the problem longer.
So imagine my excitement when I found that this was exactly what MacKinnon found in his research!
He discovered that the most creative professionals always played with a problem for much longer before they tried to resolve it - because they were prepared to tolerate that slight discomfort ...this anxiety ....that we all experience when we haven't solved a problem.
You know - I mean - if we have a problem and we need to solve it...until we do we feel -inside us - a kind of internal agitation.  A tension - or an uncertainty - that makes us just plain uncomfortable.
And we want to get rid of that discomfort. So, in order to do so, we take a decision. Not because we're sure it's the best decision - but because taking it will make us feel better.
Well.  The most creative people have learned to tolerate that discomfort for much longer. And so - just because they put in more pondering time - their solutions are more creative.
Now the people I find it hardest to be creative with are people who need all the time to project an image of themselves as decisive.  And who feel that to create this image they need to decide everything very quickly and with a great show of confidence.
Well.  This behavior I suggest sincerely - is the most effective way of strangling creativity at birth.
But please note; I'm not arguing against real decisiveness. I'm a hundred percent in favor of taking a decision when it has to be taken - and then sticking to it while it is being implemented.
What I'm suggesting to you is that, before you take a decision, you should always ask yourself the question; "When does this decision have to be taken?"
And having answered that - you defer the decision until then - in order to give yourself maximum pondering time...which will lead you to the most creative solution.
And IF - while you're pondering - somebody accuses you of indecision say, "Look, Babycakes! I don't have to decide 'til Tuesday, and I'm not chickening out of my creative discomfort by taking a snap decision before then.  That's too easy."
So, to summarize: the third factor that facilitates creativity is time, giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original.
Time is so hard to come by - isn't it?  But I like his approach.  Don't settle for a solution until you have given it some time.  I have some very important things figured out just by sleeping on them sometimes.  In fact any project that I have pressed on rather than continued to play with has not turned out as well as I had hoped.

I hope today you give yourself all the time you need.  You and your ideas sometimes need and always deserve that.

Tomorrow's excerpt - John Cleese addresses the importance of Confidence and introduces the role Humor plays in the creative process.  I hope you will enjoy the next part even more than this part...oh and yes...some more doggie light bulb jokes...but I cannot stand more than one more day of them - truly!  :)

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Setting Yourself Up for Creativity - Pt.3

Today is Wednesday and Baby Girl and Two Socks suggested that we should pose the question:


Since they themselves are large mutt type dogs, they thought it would be amusing to pick on the purebred dogs for this very funny joke...(and don't you worry...I'm not really imagining that our dogs did, in fact, have this discussion with me...I am simply playing in a pretend sort of way...).


Oh, that was fun!...and there are more - but they will have to wait until tomorrow.  For now, we have some more of the John Cleese creativity lecture. Yay!

...and that's it.
Well…
20 minutes to go…
....So, how many women's libbers does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer - 37, one to screw it in - and 36 to make a documentary about it.
....How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? The answer - only one, but the lightbulb has really got to want to change....
Oh, there is one - just one - other thing that I can say about creativity.
There are certain conditions which do make it more likely that you'll get into the Open Mode, and that something creative will occur.
More likely… you can't guarantee anything will occur...you might sit around for hours as I did last Tuesday, and ...nothing.
Zilch...bupkis....Not a sausage.
Nevertheless, I can at least tell you how to get yourselves into the Open Mode. You need five things:
One - Space
Two - Time
Three - Time
Four - Confidence
and Five  - a 22 inch waist!
Sorry.  My mind was wondering...I'm getting into the open mode too quickly...
Instead of a 22 inch waist, we need Humor. I do beg your pardon.
Okay, so let's take Space first. 
You can't become playful and therefore creative if you're under your usual pressures, because to cope with them you've got to be in the Closed Mode, right?  So you have to create some space for yourself away from those demands. And that means sealing yourself off.
You must make a quiet space for yourself where you will be undisturbed.
Next - Time. It's not enough to create space, you have to create your space for a specific period of time. You have to know that your space will last until exactly  -say - 3:30 ...and that - at that moment - your normal life will start again.
And it's only by having a specific moment when your space starts, and an equally specific moment when your space stops, that you can seal yourself off from the everyday closed mode in which we all habitually operate.
And I'd never realized how vital this was until I read a historical study of play by a Dutch historian called Johan Huizinga and in it he says "Play is distinct from ordinary life, both as to locality and duration. This is its main characteristic: its secludedness, its limitedness. Play begins and then (at a certain moment) it is over. Otherwise, it's not play."
So.  Combining the first two factors we create an oasis of quiet for ourselves by setting boundaries of space and of time.
Now creativity can happen, because play is possible when we are separate from everyday life.
So, you've arranged to take no calls, you've closed your door, you've sat down somewhere comfortable, you take a couple of deep breaths ...and if you're anything like me, after you've pondered some problem that you want to turn into an opportunity for about 90 seconds...you find yourself thinking:
 "Oh I forgot I've got to call Jim… oh!  And I must tell Tina that I need the report on Wednesday and not Thursday...which means I must move my lunch with Joe...
And Damn! I haven't called St. Paul's about getting Joe's daughter an interview...and I must pop out this afternoon to get Will's birthday present... 
...and those plants need watering and none of my pencils are sharpened and Right! I've got too much to do!
So!  I'm going to start by sorting out my paper clips and then I shall make 27 phone calls and I'll do some thinking tomorrow when I've got everything out of the way."
Because, as we all know, it's easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking.
And it's also easier to do little things we know we can do, than to start on big things that we're not so sure about.
I put that last part in bold because it's worthy of thinking about.  It resonates HUGE with me.  How about with you? 

Tomorrow I will have for you the part of John Cleese's talk when he discusses why #2 and #3 are both TIME.  Wishing you a day filled with doing the big things we're not so sure about...it's much more satisfying, I promise you.

'Til tomorrow!

~Alex