Monday, August 31, 2015

Right Brain Redux: Day 10 of 30-day Creativity Challenge

Right Brain Redux:  Day 10
Today's assignments were for Kev to write about a time he learned from failure, and Jess to write a 1-page story based on a random word from the dictionary. This is also Day 3 of the Stomach Virus Challenge.
Kevin: Out of every challenge we listed out and put in our jars, I think that this was the one I felt the least prepared to do. I sort of hoped I might dodge it, since we have more than 30 in the jars. I'm not always the best at looking at failures. I tend to concentrate of the successes. So examining my failures and looking for one that I learned from wasn't really easy or comfortable. But I think I found something I could share that helped me grow as an artist, and is still working on me. Really, the core lesson can apply to much more in life than just art.
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In the Spring Semester of 1995, I was in my second semester of art school (3rd year of college). One of my classes that semester was a sculpture class/ 3 dimensional design. Now, right off the bat, everyone starts off with clay, because hey, it's sculpture, right? So I picked up my blob of clay and went to work.
It wasn't nearly as easy as some of the other guys made it look. To put it simply, I struggled on that first piece. I saw other pieces taking shape that made what I was doing look like I was in grade school working with play dough. So I went silly. What I sculpted was deliberately cartoonish so that I could, I thought, finish that first assignment without showcasing just how hopeless I felt I was at this. It ended up being more obvious than I thought.
The instructor told me I would have to step it up for my second piece, and that one of our minimum three pieces would have to be displayed in the art show at the end of the semester. I figured out real fast that I wasn't going to be able to phone this class in. My second piece took a little while to take shape. What I worked on for the next month just didn't measure up and the instructor let me know that it wasn't going to cut it unless I really buckled down and applied the techniques he was teaching.
Up to this point, I was sort of skating through the class, showing up enough not to affect my grade, or at least I thought so. I would make it there a little late most days and miss the demos and just spend the lab time working. So I got serious about the class and got some of my friends to show me some of what I'd missed. The instructor also gave me a little catch-up once he saw I was being serious. I ended up working on two pieces at once (to fulfill the minimum three requirement). One was a figure of a superhero I had created. The second was a corner of a rooftop that was to serve as a base for the figure. I worked on these two from about the midpoint of the semester all the way up until a week or two before the art show and end of the semester.
Then disaster struck. The drying racks for the clay work were on the walls over the kiln in the kiln room. Both of my pieces were spending the week drying so they could be glazed and fired in time for the show. Now, if you have a hollow void in a clay piece, you have to have a vent hole or something to let the air out during firing. Someone missed that class I guess. A Large piece that was being fired in the kiln exploded due to the air and moisture expanding inside of it. It blew the top clean off the kiln and collapsed the drying racks directly over the kiln. Both of my pieces were shattered.
I was devastated. I had really poured myself into those pieces after sort of brushing the class off as an easy pass early on. The instructor told me he'd give me credit for those pieces for my grade, but that I still had time to make something for the show. He was still going to hold me to that for part of my grade, and he was NOT going to accept my first piece. I panicked. It had taken me almost two months to create what had been destroyed. How was I going to do something else in less than two weeks?
Then he pointed out to me that the class was "Sculpture/ 3-Dimensonal Design", not "Clay". He asked if I worked in any other 3-dimensonal medium. I replied that the only thing I had ever done besides that was to make robots out of scrap vcrs when I was in the electronics program before art school.
He said, "Well, believe it or not, that's sculpture."
A light went on inside my head. I had been confining myself to my predetermined idea of what sculpture was.  Clay, or failing that, carving something out of rock. With that statement, my mind opened to the realization that taking anything and shaping space to create an image fit the definition of sculpture. Ok, not that articulate at that time. But I did figure out that I needed to look beyond my preconceived notions about art. It's so much more than just painting pictures and carving clay. More than just literal interpretations of things. I'd had no formal art training before starting art school. Just what I'd seen on TV shows on PBS or read in books. I thought I knew everything.
And memories of that lesson are still teaching me. Just a couple of years ago, I had the chance to go to the High Museum in Atlanta and come face to face with some of the art that I understood the least. I had read about many of these artists, and of course studied them in school. Pictures in books or on screens can only convey so much of the true spirit inherent in these works. Being present with the full sized originals, being able to see every mark and line. Seeing videos of the process of some of the creators. Reading journals.
I will admit, some of them I still just didn't get. But there were artists I had never understood or even kind of made fun of that suddenly became much more clear what they were trying to say. It didn't happen all at once, not just "Oh, ok, I see it for myself and it makes sense." But as I looked and absorbed, I thought back to the lesson I learned almost twenty years earlier. And call me crazy, but suddenly I saw how a shovel could be a piece of art.
Suddenly I realized that it wasn't that this guy had just bought a shovel and signed it. He wasn't saying the shovel was his artwork. The full three-dimensional space that was marked off for the piece was the sculpture and by placing the shovel in the space, he had transformed it. It's still not my thing, but I won't make fun of it anymore. Sometimes, failures and disasters can continue to teach us long after the dust has settled in the kiln room.

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Jessica: Write a 1-page story about the top right word on a random dictionary page.
(Kev) Our dictionary is packed up still. Jess found a random word generator site instead and used the word on the far right of the list of generated words. I feel that good writing manipulates your emotions whether it be a song or a story. It can lift you up, make you feel happy, melancholy, angry, uneasy, romantic. To tell a complete story within a single page and leave the reader with that new emotional state shows great skill. Before writing this, she told me she didn't feel like she was a good writer. I knew better, and here is proof.

“I’ve driven off a bridge many times. That’s how I generally do it.”
“Why a bridge you think?”
“I guess of all the times you probably didn’t need to lose control, that would be it… I never thought about why a bridge before. I’ve lost control of and veered off the shoulder too, you know, right before a bridge, but mostly it’s been bridges. I guess you have farther to fall that way.”
“Tell me what happened.”
“Mostly it’s been at night. The darkness and fear envelopes me. It hasn’t even finished happening, but I can’t breathe at all.”
“How many times has this happened?”
“All my life. As long as I can remember. Even when I was child, I knew what it felt like. Every detail of what it looked like to do it, to feel it. I knew the violence of the crash, the glass, the water, the intense panic.”
“Did you ever tell anyone?”
“No… wait, yes. Once.”
“Why are you laughing?”
“I’m remembering a day in elementary school.”
“You know those forms you fill out… What’s your favorite food? What do you want to be when you grow up? What scares you?”
“Ah, yes. What about them?”
“I knew exactly what to put for what scared me. I was very detailed in my explanation. It must have freaked her out, what I said. My teacher called me to her desk right before recess to discuss it. She said, ‘Is there anything you want to talk to me about? Is there anything bothering you?’”
“What did you say?”
“I said, ‘I drowned.’”

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Right Brain Redux: Day 9 of 30-day Creativity Challenge

Right Brain Redux: Day 9

Coincidences do happen, I guess. One way or another, Jessica and I both have the same challenge today:
"Write a Haiku about something you can see right now".
Jessica drew hers in the living room late in the day, while I drew mine early in the morning in our bedroom/ office. This gave us a very different range of subjects to choose from.
Jess: When I pulled my challenge out and saw it, the first thing I saw was the living room itself. I had the indelible stamp of Little on it. All over it, in fact. Every time I looked back at the room to try and choose a subject, the only thing I could see was the room itself. It got cleaned up at least three times today. (Yeah, he didn't feel well today, so he was a little off his game.)

Epic Destruction
Home Lays In Ruins Today
We Have A Toddler

Kevin: I actually had a time picking my subject for the Haiku. What I can see from my desk chair gives me a lot of possibilities. Too many, actually. So I narrowed it down to my desktop itself. (Single letters are words)

Nine S D Cards Here
Fifteen G B Of Treasures?
Yep Mostly My Kids


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Right Brain Redux: Day 8 of 30-day Creativity Challenge

Right Brain Redux: Day Ate

Eighth day of the challenge. Gone all day long for Dr appointments. But that's life. So today, Jess pulled "Recreate a childhood art project" while I drew "Create a piece of art inspired/ based on an everyday object".
Jessica told me that when she was a kid, she'd take a ruler or an object, place it on the paper, and draw around it to fill the paper with geometric shapes. Then, she'd take out the crayon box and her self-imposed design parameter was to use every single color to fill in the shapes she'd made.
Tonight's project is a recreation of this using circles and restraint (hey, it's supposed to be a challenge, right?).  Four different sizes of circles were overlapped to create a series of curves. Color was applied with watercolor pencils and brushed smooth. Some arcs were left white for negative space effects. Personally, I love the end result she came out with. I want to keep it.

Now, for myself (Kev), I actually had an idea for what I would do for this project when Jess drew it a few days back. I would have preferred to create this digitally, but Photoshop isn't a current option. So I went with gouache and pencil. I haven't worked with gouache much, but I think I like it. I laid down my shapes in pencil, then painted over and tightened back up with watercolor pencils. I actually agonized over my color choices for a while, knowing that once I put it to the paper there was no going back. Digital doesn't have that sort of commitment. It was sort of fun to just go with it, knowing that there was no turning back. Kind of like jumping off the bridge into the river (don't tell my mom I did that when I was 12... 30 years ago and I'd still catch it for that).

Oh yeah, my inspiration was a fork and plate. I had the thought of them so close up, they were just curves. This is another project I'd like to revisit later on. Maybe in a medium I am more experienced/ familiar with.
22 more projects to go. Ain't this fun? (Big grin goes here)

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Right Brain Redux: Day 7 of 30-day Creativity Challenge

Right Brain Redux
Episode 7: Revenge of the Sick

Great day for creativity. Every last one of us woke up sick this morning. Even Little slept till after 9, and he's usually up with the chickens. It's a challenge, right? Every day is a challenge of its own, and we keep on getting reminded of that. That very thing has a lot to do with the creative doldrums we are breaking out of here. Accountability and a structure keeps us rolling.

Kevin: Draw something left-handed

Jess: Cook something you've never cooked before

Jess // "Cook something you've never cooked before"

Honestly, it's been a rough day. I (Jess) know I'm sick because I'm sitting here in a long-sleeved shirt and socks. I DON'T wear socks in the summer... I rarely wear anything beyond flip flops/ sandals. Growing up in Georgia, it's easy to push that no-socks rule clear into October. 

Anyway, I slept while our Little One took a nap, and then had to go back to bed again after dinner. I did end up making something I've never cooked before and learned something to boot. Anything in our lives can be seen through a filter of creativity... think "how can I do this different/ creatively"? 

I had some leftover beef and broth from cooking a roast in the slow cooker. It was marinated in Soy Vay Teriyaki, soy, ketchup, onions, and some water. I mostly had stock and just a little meat, so I thought "how can I stretch this?" (Thanks, Mom, for that lesson of many.) Soup seemed a perfect solution, especially since we were all feeling puny today.

Tossed some stir-fry veggies (baby corn, peppers, peas, carrots, sugar snaps, broccoli, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots) with lo mein noodles, and that leftover stock in a large pot. Let it boil then simmer for about 15 minutes. Done. Something I've never cooked before, Teriyaki Vegetable Beef Soup. 

Kevin // 
My (Kev) challenge for today was the same one Jess had yesterday: Draw something left-handed. She set the bar pretty high on that one, but lucky for me we aren't competing. I wasn't quite sure what to draw, and put it off till later in the evening because I just didn't feel like drawing (see accountability above). A gunfighter and a dragon were both rattling around in my head, so I decided to try both, despite being warned that I was being overly ambitious. The results are below for you to see.
This one really was a challenge. One of the biggest difficulties I encountered was my hand wanted to move in the exact mirror image of what I wanted it to. Up and down were fine, but left-right was reversed. I did not finish. But I did write a story in my head while I drew it.
11x17 on Canson Bristol

Doc walked up on the porch and sat down next to the Marshall. The huge corpse in the street was already drawing scavengers both human and animal. Lots of meat and leather to be had.
"Hated to see that happen, Doc. Ol' Joe been a fixture around these parts as long as I can remember."
"Hated to have to do it, Marshall," came the sad reply, "Joe's the third one I've had to put down in the last month. Had to deal with that big finback out on the McKeever place just last week. Half their herd is gone."
"Doc, I ain't never seen anything like this. They're usually pretty even tempered critters, long as you give 'em wide berth. What you think's goin on?"
Doc leaned his chair back and took a long pull on his freshly-lit pipe, "I tell you this much, Marshall; No one's safe in these parts until we figure out what's got the dragons riled up."

What we're listening to // Music to create by

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Right Brain Redux: Day 6 of 30-Day Creativity Challenge

Right Brain Redux: Day 6
Today's Challenges were for Jess to draw something left handed and for myself to create a timeline of significant events in my life.
For my challenge, I decided to jot down a quick list of events that stand out in my mind. Things that happened to me, not historical events. I eliminated a few items from the timeline as being too personal to share online, but the ones that I left are memories that, I feel, helped shape who I m now.
Just writing out a list was a little clinical, so I decided to represent it with a cartoon infographic. It's just a quick ink and marker doodle timeline due to today being crammed again. I am going to list out each event on the timeline just in case you can't read what it says.
First, Here's the whole thing:

1973: Issue #1, First appearance and Origin of ME!

1976: Broke arm, got first sister
1977: Watched a massive flood from my bedroom window. We lived up on the hill. I watched trailers go down the river.
1979: Started school. Principal's office on first day of kindergarten
1982: Got saved
1984: Transformers! Life would never be the same.

1988: Pawpaw Bill died
1989: 2nd sister, 1st car
1992: Graduate HS (Valedictorian)
1994: Bad wreck, wrecked truck
1996: Started Working first full time job
1998: Grandmaw died
2003: Appendix ruptured, died, came back (am I a zombie, then?)

2004: Met Jess online
2008: Broke leg, Met Jess for real, Married Jess, my Mini-Me called me "daddy", Move to GA
2013 Little arrives! (Name loosely translates to "Peaceful Builder"... answers to "Hurricane")
2014 Moved back to WV
2015 Children's' Pastor FWC Kid's Church "Spark Kids"!

Good start, eh?

Jessica selected a very detailed close-up of a dandelion scattering its seeds as her left handed art project. It's done on plain copier paper with a #2 mechanical pencil. Totally freehand and done completely with her left hand. She felt it was unfinished, but her hand was cramping too badly to continue (carpal tunnel). I think it is beautiful. Art is often like raising a child; you may not feel you are done shaping them, but there is a time they are mature enough to stand on their own. And this piece definitely is. She has set the bar quite high for me when it comes my turn to do this challenge.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Right Brain Redux: Day 5 of 30-Day Creativity Challenge

Right Brain Redux: Day 5
#1: We love you Aunt Dorothy. Rest easy in His arms.
#2: What we're listening to tonight:
Short day for projects today. Had to go say "See you in a little while" to a precious family member.
(Kev) My challenge for today was to cook something I had never cooked before. Everything I could think of I had the stuff to make, I've done before. I elected to make something in a way that I never had before. We have no working oven at the moment, so I decided to try making cookies in a waffle iron.

I took balls of dough and placed them in the iron and squished them down with the iron on high. It took about 5-6 cookies worth of dough to make an even waffle. Too much dough is messy. Found that out the hard way. 

I timed the cooking at 4-5 minutes. The cookie had good color but was too soft to lift out so I had to flip the waffle iron over to get the cookie to drop out on the plate. This is NOT SAFE.  I only made two so I haven't come up with an alternative yet.

After letting the cookie sit for a few minutes, it hardened up to a crisp cookie. I prefer them softer myself. I served the cookie topped with vanilla ice-cream. I would think servings would be best at 1/4 waffle with a scoop of ice-cream. I plan to try it again at some point with a lower temp to get a softer cookie. Jess found the final consistency to be perfect.

Jess' challenge for today is to write a Haiku based on the last thing she watched on TV. Well, the last thing she watched before making her draw was the Dr. Who Christmas Special "The Christmas Invasion" (2005). We've already watched through the end of Season 8 of new Dr. Who, and now we're re-watching with Kev's Mini-Me (our oldest son/ Whovian.) 

Haiku Doctor Who

Christmas Sycorax
You know the Doctor saves us
It's a Fightin' Hand!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Right Brain Redux: Day 4 of 30-day Creativity Challenge

First off, we want to tell Aunt Dorothy: Say hey to Pawpaw Bill for us. We love you. You got your healing when you crossed the river.

Monday. All day. So today gifted us with the challenges of Kev creating a set of inkblots (like an inkblot test) and describing what he saw in them. Jess drew out "Draw a friendly robot". Which immediately caused her to ask "Is there truly such a thing as a friendly robot? They all have ulterior motives." I submit to you Transformers G1 Bumblebee (cartoon version). So friendly you might get diabetes if you hang around him too long...

For my (Kev) challenge, I created about a dozen inkblots using plain printer paper with India ink and some of Little's finger paints.  I pre-folded the papers then opened them back up and applied drops of black ink and in some case some blobs of colored paint. Then I folded the paper and smoothed it out to spread the pigments and unfolded it to dry. A couple of them ended up so full of paint they were almost useless, but I came out with ten really nice ones. Some of them I think made such nice patterns they are practically art and I may explore this as a method/ medium in the future.
That much said, I selected  6 blots to describe. I have numbered them 1-6 and will flip through them and give my immediate first impression of what I see. I will not spend time studying them or seeking patterns, just what jumps out at me.

 #1. Alien woman in a black lace collar and a blue dress with pink ruffles and black shoes.

#2. Hammer-headed lobster

#3. Wolf's head

#4. Pelvis with a vertebra above it

#5. Mothra flying over islands

#6. Blue man with warthog/ elephant head

I give no analysis. Take what you will from what I see.

When I (Jess) pulled out "Draw a friendly robot", my initial thought was cutesy robot. But then I gave it a second thought and mulled over the idea of a robot that was friendly/ helpful but didn't necessarily look friendly. My first thought after that was of the terminator in T2. But even that character, though he was a father figure, wasn't really friendly. Picture an endoskeleton holding a balloon. Then I thought of Handles. Yes, we watch Dr Who. A lot. Cybermen are very very bad. But handles started out useful and even though we didn't get to see but the beginning and end of his story, he spent a long time with the doctor. At the end, he was clearly counted a friend and not just a tool. So without further ado, I give you "Handles." Well done, Mate.

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