Art Manifesto

Art is contradictory

Art is rare. Art is everywhere.

Art is in every part of life. Art is present in the design of consumer products, the color choices in fabrics, and the fonts on road signage. It exists in the symbolic imagery of advertising and user interface design. Yet, art is also special and unique. Art is something that cannot be captured by science, something that has an ethereal, mysterious quality.

Art is subjective. Art is objective.

Art has meaning, art has purpose; art is meaningless, art has no aim. The same work can be understood in both ways and shows that art defies dichotomy. Art is many things to many people and can challenge consensus. Art proves the binary false; not everything is clearly segregated into neat groups.

Art is honest. Art is deceitful.

A painter can paint something in vivid and striking realism like the great masters, yet, a still life is still carefully set up by the artist. A photographer captures a certain perspective for a fraction of a second. Every chisel of sculpture is decided upon by the artist. Art presents the world through the lens of an individual, however warped that lens may be. Sometimes an artist has enough self-awareness to turn this deceit into conceit: telling truth through lies.

Art is transformative

Art comments on culture. Culture adapts to commentary.

Artists have the latitude to show disdain for social norms. The culture reacts with shock and disgust by such revelatory commentary about art and society, yet slowly the culture adapts to the new ideas. Artists push the boundaries forward.

Art heals wounds. Wounds become art.

Art allows the artist to free themselves of thoughts, feelings, or emotions that prove too difficult to express in other ways, providing a pathway for the therapeutic release of trauma.

Art changes minds. Minds change art.

Art that challenges the social paradigm jars the mind in a way words cannot. Like the culture at large, individuals adopt a new perspective because of art, as imagery is our most powerful mode of thinking. People who challenge the art world itself enrich and enhance it. By developing a new response to an old style, artists change art from within and from the outside.

Art is the artist

The artist should be free of limitations, but not from profit.

Far too often the artist is seen as starving. That is unacceptable. Art should not be free, and artists should be appropriately compensated for their work. The art economy should be more representative of time and effort. Some art is priceless, but that is not to say the artist should not be compensated for her work.

Unlike many careers, Artist is something that brings joy in retirement.

Art provides the unique gift of being a career and a retirement lifestyle. Many professionals will reach the end of their careers having spent their time and energy invested in something that is no longer present in their daily lives, creating a large vacuum. Art is the opposite.

Art is flexible, adaptable, and evolves with life.

The best media for the time will present itself. . Our bodies are fragile, and eventually we all will lose ability. Should the artist somehow become limited, there is surely another art waiting to be mastered Art is accessible, allowing for modifications in style or technique in a way many other activities are not.

Brainstorming solves everything

Get it all out at the beginning.

Most people don’t take the time to plan. What ends up happening is the scope of the project they started gets way out of hand and requires extensive resources, doesn’t get completed, or turns up way past deadlines.

Brainstorming eliminates some of that. By jotting out ideas, evaluating their probable success neutrally, and deciding which to incorporate into the final design, one is able to ascertain the scope of a project before it starts.

Don’t judge. Jot it down!

Get all of the ideas about a project on the table — even the bad ones. Perhaps especially the bad ones. Upon secondary review, you’ll find that you can eliminate mediocre ideas and find the true focus. We can learn as much from our bad ideas as our good ones.

eLearning Application

Try to map out branching scenarios

When designing eLearning, consider drawing out your scenarios. It’ll get messy and maybe confusing, but that’s half the fun. By the time you have the basic structure of the branching architecture, you’ll be able to build a framework for the scripting process.

Instead of being surprised by the volume of the script needed after you’ve already dived into a project, plan ahead!

Draw out rough sketches layouts before starting to design

This applies not only to interface design, but to the layout of print materials. It allows you to build the document from the basics using templates, rather than constantly adjusting content to adapt to the material.

Home Application

Dining room design brainstorm

Since Mike moved in, painting the dining room a more dramatic color was something he wanted. Of course, it was pushed down the list of priorities as more important tasks came up. Finally, memorial day weekend came, and we were able to complete the dining room.

Our concept started out pretty simple. A line would divide the wall, approximately at chair rail height, with the existing color on the top half and a new color on the bottom half. Simple enough, right?

The ideas start flowing.

Fifteen color samples taped to the wall later, we end up picking the colors. We decide to get two shades from the same sample grid. A medium tone at the top, a darker color at the bottom. One would go in Mike’s closet, the other on the dining room wall.

Then, I got this brilliant inspiration from Patapon. Brilliant, yes, and terrifying when you consider I intended for us to hand paint 18 linear feet of characters.

I was thinking maybe a mountain scene at one point. Or some kind of ridiculous urban-suburban-rural mural or something. When Mike wanted to do an exact replica (I’m exaggerating) of the Portland skyline that was when things started to fall apart.

At one point, it seemed likely that we were going to go buy a $400 projector.

That was about 45 minutes before I decided to practice what I preach and actually brainstorm.

We decide to brainstorm.

“Nothing is off limits. Do as many designs in 15 minutes as you can. When time is up, we’ll review.”

At the end of fifteen minutes, we each had about ten solid designs to share. They ranged from pixelated treasures, flying unicorns, time travel, and more cityscapes. When we got to my prismatic triangle concept though, Mike was already sold.

Triangles-concept

We had the two paint colors from earlier in the morning, and a few random gallons of oops paint I had purchased at some point. After we talked about it a bit more, we decided we just needed to get at it.

Tape the outer edges, fill in from there.

We started by taping out the the edges of the triangle. After that, we just continued to make smaller and smaller triangles. We were conscious of how many edges we were creating, to avoid repetition in the tones.

We started by outlining the edges of the triangles.
1. We started by outlining the edges of the triangles. We painted the outside of the triangle a single color for dramatic effect.
Dining room wall taped in triangular pattern in preparation for painting.
2. We taped off the interior of the main triangle to create the effect. We painted each triangle with a different tone. We tried not to have two in a row, so we had about 5 colors in total.
The Final Product
3. The final result is beautiful, and didn’t take that long to create. If you’re looking for an alternative to wallpaper, this sort of design works great.

A corgi on training

Smart dogs are like smart humans: they value autonomy.

How can you not adore that smile?
Martha

Corgis are the eleventh smartest breed, according to Coren, at least. (Here’s a link if you don’t believe me: http://bit.ly/1kSEtGE)

What was I thinking getting a dog smarter than me? She’s a sweet girl and she really surprises me by how quickly she picks things up. It’s important to note, however, that’s she’s a bit bossy. It’s only when it’s on her terms. “Don’t bore me with that right now. I don’t feel like it.”

This was an attitude that always frustrated me as a course facilitator. My course participants would express this sentiment on the daily. It’s because as animals we value autonomy. We want to do what we want to do when we want to do it. So does Martha. It’s all about capitalizing on the moment she’s most receptive and adapting to the mood that she’s in. The same thing is true as a facilitator. One has to learn how to be prepared for all sorts of activities throughout the day to keep participants engaged.

Creating autonomy as a designer.

As a designer, consider the I don’t wanna mindset and encourage yourself to consider different approaches for the same module. Give the trainer or learner a few different options for learning, instead of a singular approach.  Certainly, variety should already exist in a training curriculum, as cognitive load really sets a limit on the type of learning a participant can perform. What is much less common, is a variety of options for deploying the same module, giving a trainer the ultimate freedom in delivery choice. Trust the trainer. They’re in front of the class and they know what they’re doing. They value autonomy as much as the participants!

Ideas for creating autonomy:

  • Design materials as smaller modules in different modalities

  • Create on-the-job scenarios that simulate the full range of abilities

  • Prepare additional simulations for accelerated students

  • Provide alternative delivery methods for the same content

Maintaining focus.

The reality is that Martha can’t seem to focus on learning new tricks when she’s distracted by everything else going on in her world. Whether it’s another animal getting attention, the door slamming next door, the food in your hand, there’s always something in the way. It’s the same for classroom participants.

Resist it if you must, but new technology is here to stay, and that means interruptions.

For a participant in the classroom, it’s just a different kind distraction. It could be a combination of the interruptions from people surrounding them, situations from their personal life, or even the fear of failure. For those coming back into the classroom for up-training, the work outside the classroom is just piling up. For newbies, it’s more the expectation to pick up everything or be canned. Additionally, many participants are being constantly bombarded by notifications, on personal devices outside of the designers control and other reminders of the real world outside the classroom setting.

Eliminating some of those distractions helps break down the barrier to learning. And that’s ultimately a designers job. Adult learning theory has long suggested the idea of chunking. This fits really well with these problems. Chunk the material and give participants lots of breaks. In the end, the results will be much better. It goes great with Stephen Covey’s seventh habit, and my personal favorite: Sharpen the Saw. You have a few minutes every hour to renew your energy. You just aren’t taking that time for yourself.

Consistent practice is key

This is one of the biggest lessons: use it or lose it. It’s a common phrase, I know. But it’s so true. One of our dogs suffered this fate a bit. He had forgotten some of the tricks that he’d learned in the past. But after a little practice, they’re all back. Sure, Mike had to “re-train” him, but he picked it back up quickly. But what would happen if he didn’t keep practicing? You can guess based on past results. Use it or lose it, right?

It seems that training is seen as a one time event. But, that can’t be possible or realistic. Ideally, training should be ongoing. Just like Martha and Big Boy, employees need to practice some tricks frequently to keep the skills alive. Engage the managers, support staff, and peer employee groups to ensure consistent reinforcement is occurring.

Building a discovery new hire orientation program

Create a training program that’s designed for discovery. Teach the foundations, company values, business unit goals and send new hires out to experience the field first hand. This isn’t a “throw them to the wolves” situation. Quite the opposite. For a new employee, it allows them to assess what they truly already know, what they feel intimidated by, and how they feel training should go.

Then, bring them back to the classroom and begin the real “training.” The course will be much better guided by participants motivation to learn, because they’ll already have an immediate application.

FU: A new approach to free time (June 2015)

I don’t mean to lie to myself or my readers, but I clearly did.

More than a year ago, I romanticized about spending my time differently. I was no longer going to be lazy, dammit! I wanted to revitalize my life, and while I had good intentions, they were just that, intentions. The follow-through never really happened. Why? Well, because I just don’t feel like being on 100% of the time. And that’s okay.

I only adhered to this philosophy for 10 weeks. I decided to take all of my remaining classes at once, in one semester. Fifteen college credits, forty hours of work a week, and one four-month old collie kept me busy during that final term. My life pretty much mirrored the schedule I designed in my prior post. It totally sucked.

Perhaps it was because it wasn’t things I wanted to do rather than something I had to do that made the experience so miserable, but I think it was as much the rigid structure of it. Or maybe too much of one subject made me miserable.

Either way, spending that much time toiling away at anything doesn’t bring me pleasure, so I’m not going to pretend that I follow such a rigid structure.

Overall, I learned that all of those things bring me joy (as do Netflix and PlayStation). So just do them. But I won’t berate myself for watching a few episodes of Lady Dynamite. It’s not hurting anyone.

 

 

Konmari

I’m a Konvert. Before you go crazy, I want to tell you that yes, I’m probably a classist, privileged person with an uptight view about consumerism. And yes, I think Marie Kondo’s methods are extreme. But a week after earning my Tidying Complete merit badge, my life feels completely fresh and new.

Enough has been written about the method, but let me share some personal insights.

Konmari as a religious experience

As an apatheist, religion doesn’t exactly come easy to me. After listening to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up on a recent road trip, I felt like this was maybe my first chance.

I see some parallels in Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. You live in what you believe is richness, but by giving up your material goods, you achieve a higher state of being.

Now, throwing out two truck-loads full of garbage didn’t enlighten me on the meaning of life, but it certainly has changed my perspective.

We all have garbage in our lives, and clearing it out is truly meaningful. I looked forward to the experience because I feel like I had a lot of garbage left in my life. I held a certain defensiveness about my things. An automatic reflex to guard and preserve everything I owned, without giving anything a second thought. I had blind faith in my material possessions.

It was in that blind faith that I identified with the religious nature of this experience. I was challenging my deeply held beliefs head on. I was shedding the material for a more pure existence. I’m never going to be an ascetic, but somehow, the act of shedding all of these things helped me value what I had a bit more.

I feel more content with my belongings than ever before. I no longer have a running list of wants, waiting for the next paycheck to be purchased. It’s only been a week, so I’ll make sure to report back.

Konmari as a method

Konmari works because of the categories Kondo has created. She asks you to go through your items, all your items, in particular categories, and do them all together. I had always approached cleaning up room by room, so this was a huge game changer for me.

The process becomes easier after each category. All of the items in your home start to have greater visibility as you work down the list. It’s one of those instantly gratifying experiences that constantly reinforces the behavior.

It’s harsh to have to get rid of mementos, photos, and other personal treasures. Kondo has designed an order that hones your skills as your practice. It’s the stair-step method that works so well for skill building.

Positive intent leads to positive results

My guess is that most people focus on what they’re getting rid of. The deal with Konmari is that you end up choosing what stays, not what goes. You start to realize the things that truly mean something to you.

That defensiveness I mentioned before? At the beginning of this process, I kept saying things like “oh, well, not the owl. I love that owl.” Mike would just say “does it spark joy?” and I was at ease. Of course it does, so it gets to stay.

You end up caring more for the things you have as a result of this. I established an emotional connection to my things that I have never experienced before.

Stop looking past the bad stuff

Literally and physically, I was looking past the bad stuff to see the good. Scattered throughout the house were decorations I was no longer fond of, but seemed to have a perpetual place in my home’s décor. I was looking past all of those tired things to see the stuff I truly cared about.

Anyone who has been to my house knows of its museum-like qualities. Artifacts filled most of the shelves, and you’d be lucky to find space for a new item. The house basically looks the same. I reduced to about one fifth of my prior belongings, but my house looks no different. I feel like prior to the clean-out I mentally edited out parts of my displays to only see the items I truly appreciated.

During the process, I also unearthed journals filled with self-loathing, regrets, mistakes, bad boyfriends, and bad bosses. Why was I holding on to these times? Was I subconsciously keeping them to remind myself how good I have it? To write some awful memoir? I don’t need to dip back into the past. It made me who I am today, and that’s enough. All I have now is the present and the future. It’s malleable. I’d rather focus on what’s ahead than what’s behind me.

Out with the old and in the with New Year!

I’ve used (and likely subliminally plagiarized) that particular title twice this week. It’s cute enough. Why not reuse it? I’m a pragmatist after all. I decided to redesign my site because it was looking stale. It was also looking like a worse and worse idea. I also reorganized all of the other things in my life around the end of the year, it was mighty nice. At work, I spent a week cleaning out cabinets and reorganizing supplies. I didn’t quite finish all of it, but damn it felt nice!

At home, I finished all of the cabinets, and organized all of the non-kitchen drawers. A place for everything, and mostly everything in its place. In my financial world, I reevaluated my spending for the year and created a new spreadsheet of my finances for the year. A new budget that doesn’t punish me. A friendly budget! I like that much better than what I’m used to.

I started school today. Except, I started that early. I wanted to get a head start. School takes a lot of focus and concentration, and remembering due dates and all of that.  So, I programmed it all in and got to it.

CSA & the Bad Parts of Trying to be Good

Hippy-crunchy-granola feel-good choices

Mike and I decided to be “good people” this year. We wanted to eat better, pay a fair price for our food, buy local, and support our farming community all in one go. So, we signed up for a CSA.

If you’re not familiar, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a great concept—we paid up front for 26 weeks of variety boxes of several pounds of organic fruits and vegetables each week. It’s advertised as good for you, the farmer, the earth and feels like such a great choice.

The best tasting rotten vegetables you’ve ever had. I swear!

It is a great choice until you’re arms deep in Romano pole beans that you have to throw away because they went bad. The produce from the farm is a lot less shelf stable than what you would buy from the grocery store. Three days for carrots. Maybe two days for strawberries. There’s no waiting. Use it or lose it.

Sometimes, we just weren’t in the mood. Pole beans are great, but I can’t eat them three nights in a row (and Mike won’t eat them at all!).

It’s true that I got to try a bunch of great food. The best produce I’ve ever had, actually. But for two people, the quantities of some items were overwhelming. I ended up neglecting a fair amount of some items. Into the trash they went! It makes me think:

“Does liking chianti and fava beans make me Hannibal Lecter?”

“No, but the amount of garbage you throw away makes you at least a monster.”

At least, that’s what my conscience keeps telling me. I’ve always wasted food. I don’t think I’m really that abnormal, I just never thought about food waste this way. Before Mike and I were together, I was a horrible eater. I bought convenience foods, stuff that didn’t really expire for too long (except that I shopped at Grocery Outlet, and they were likely already expired), and frozen food.

I would throw stuff away because it was garbage. It was never, “awh man! Why didn’t I ever eat this!” But I do feel that way when I’m throwing away the items from my CSA. “What a shame,” I think to myself every time I toss it into the trash.

Saving for the wrong reasons

I promise this won’t turn into an article about dumpster diving. More power to those who make the most of the massive amount of food waste that permeates our culture, but I’m not going to go that far. I’m more concerned with why it goes in the garbage in the first place.

I think it has more to do with:

  • Saving things “for the right moment”
    • This could be the right guest, meal, time, event–whatever. I would always avoid using my best ingredients thinking I would come back to them.
  • The randomness of the box makes meal planning difficult
    • Having to wait until the middle of the week to know what to buy at the grocery store is really challenging.
    • The items in the box don’t necessarily complement each other.
  • Not having cooking skills
    • I’m learning to cook, but it’s hard to figure out complex instructions just to use the food you get in the box.

Next year

I’m starting my own garden (for real this time) next spring. It’s a greater time investment, but I have a feeling it will be less wasteful if I only grow what we know how to cook and love to eat. I enjoyed the variety, but it often led to waste, which spoils the whole experience. In between, I’m going to visit a farmer’s market and get the rest. I can still support the farmer, just less directly.

 

Community Supported Agriculture Key Learnings

I learned a few things in the process of participating in a CSA.

  1. The produce at the grocery store is hardly worth the money. Even the organic (or perhaps, especially the organic) produce can be purchased for about the same price. (Farm) fresh really is that much better. It’s a much better value.
  2. I never thought about my food waste until it was delicious.
  3. I’m going to use food when I have it. Live in the now.
  4. Grow your own! I’m going to put a lot of thought into the process this year.

 

 

 

A new approach to free time

I’m not exactly lazy.

It’s not that I waste an evening, or a weekend.I think most people would call me “productive.” My idea of fun is usually most people idea of chores. I just have a tendency to lumber around occasionally and waste a bit more time than I should doing wasteful activities.

I’ve been feeling a little edgy lately. I’ve been overdoing and overthinking everything, overextending myself, and stressing a bit too much about things outside of my control. Some of it’s serious, some it’s stupid, but all of it’s sad. And that’s not me. So, I had to figure out a way to do something about it.

I’ve tried to directly address everything that is within my control. What’s been more challenging is dealing with things outside of my control. I know myself pretty well, and I think I’ve come up with what I really need:  to create, learn, and dream. While it may sound silly, it makes sense for me.

My personal approach to self-care.

I need to feel the sense of accomplishment of creativity. I need to expand my mind. I need to imagine the possibilities.

That sounds even cheesier, but check it out:

Create Learn Dream
  • Stencils
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Gardening
  • Writing
  • Decorating/Design
  • Website
  • Training Martha
  • Building stuff
  • Music
  • Lynda
  • Web Development
  • Programming
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Planning
  • Preparing
  • Meditating
  • Beauty Routine

Spending an hour in each category every weeknight gives me 15 hours of reinvestment in myself each week. Of course, I’ll still spend a couple hours cooking, cleaning, and eating with Mike.

None of those tasks are wastes of time, and all of them energize me.

Gone are two other loves.

Netflix and PlayStation are sort of out of the picture, but it’s fine. There’s always Saturday morning, after all. All bets are off on the weekend.

I just don’t think I should watch quite as much TV as I have been lately. I never feel more energized after watching TV, that’s for sure.

So, there you have it. I’ve been doing it a couple nights, and I already feel more refreshed every morning, more efficient and patient at work, and enjoying my evenings with Mike even more than usual.

I’ll give an update later and let you know how it goes.

Beach Trip!

The Southern Oregon Coast

Our journey began in Salem, Oregon. From there we ventured south until we cut over to the coast in Cottage Grove. After winding through the mountains, we ended up outside of Coos Bay. We continued on to Bullard’s Beach State Park, which would serve as our home base for the trip.

Oregon’s many beautiful parks

The coast is full of beautiful parks. In fact, most of the parks in Oregon are at the coast. (Which frankly is my biggest complaint about Oregon State Parks, but I’ll save that for the Soap Box.)

Here are a few of my favorite images from our travels.

Glamping at its best!

Say what you will, sleeping under a glass dome, heated by electricity is still sleeping under the stars. In Oregon, it’s a practical choice this time of year to get a yurt for another reason–cloudy skies. Try to see the stars when it’s pouring down raining!

If you’ve never tried a yurt, it’s a great way to experience the outdoors with a bit more of the modern conveniences. In fact, at Umpqua State Lighthouse Park, they even have yurts with bathrooms and kitchens! The State Park is a great place to take the family. Plenty of fun, learning and fresh air!

Consider your audience

A painting for a new baby

The project started so innocently. I planned to paint a picture as a gift for a friend’s granddaughter’s birth. My concept was a whimsical and cutesy butterfly. I knew my friend loved purple hues. I tend to draw a basic outline of my concept in pencil, and then slowly layer paints on top of it.

An abnormally sized butterfly in pinks on a green background.
This is the beginning. My intention was to create a whimsical, graceful appearance.

 

Shortly after, I discovered I was plagiarizing the logo for a local Thai restaurant in town. It’s delicious! Some of my friends commented that the wings reminded them of other things, but I won’t get into that. It’s not a subject about which I have much expertise.

I drew inspiration from the Muppets when designing the face for the butterfly. I ended up with a nightmarish creature. What little girl wants that face looking down at her at night?

A creepy butterfly face.
Muppets should be left to Henson.

I worked to recover the piece by adding more detail in the background. The flowers are really pretty. The image below is just the base coat, and I think with more detail they could have been gorgeous. I also had to work on the wings. I’ve always loved painting eyes. Since they’re often present in butterfly wings, I went with it.

A giant purple human eyeball appears on the wings of a butterfly.
Probably not “crib appropriate.”

The result is a beautiful eye and a beautiful background, but an incredibly disturbing image overall. While removing the muppet face was a good solution, the painting was just not working for me. I couldn’t go on any longer. In the end, the initial concept was scrapped and changed entirely. It’s beautiful and certainly more accessible. I incorporated what the recipient actually liked, instead of what I “wanted” to paint.

Ultimately, I change the color scheme a bit and enhanced the outlines a bit. I’m really pleased with the final product. I hope she still has it!

The Final Product

I lost a lot of time because I started over, but I think this is a much more tasteful painting, and I’m pretty pleased with it. Having the deadline of a party to attend does help speed things along, but it leaves some of the shadowing and details to be desired. Ultimately, this is an excellent learning lesson about painting.

Blue hummingbird with butterflies, roses and lilies.
I finalized the painting by increasing the contrast of the lines, and changing the color scheme of the hummingbird.

Lessons learned

Don’t get attached, start over if needed

At a certain point, it might be best to just start over. Paint a fresh coat and start from scratch. Your audience is likely to appreciate it much more. Plus, when you work becomes famous and they x ray it to find out your secrets, it will delight art historians!

Think about your audience ahead of time

I think if I had thought about my friend a bit more in the first place, I probably would have started closer to the finished product. Image how beautiful the painting would have been if half the worked wasn’t scrapped!

Ask your friends their perspective

Especially for important projects, ask your friends what they think when they see your work. It’s important to get an outside point of view to refresh your creative energy.