When we walk through park or woods, we secretly imagine how we would surive there if we had to. What kind of shelter would we devise with what is there? It’s kid thinking, really: of forts and snug secret places, combined with our love of shelters of all kinds. Artist Elle Davies made that fantasy real in The Dwellings, a series of photographs of structures created “using a variety of traditional and improvised building techniques… from materials gathered from the forest floor.”
Our friend John Wellington is an artist whose controversial work has been called “classical, claustrophobic, fetishistic, beautiful, vulgar, architectural, humorous, morbid, decorative, and sexual.” He renders deeply personal imagery using Old Master techniques in unique ways and teaches his methods at the New York Academy of Art where he is an Adjunct Professor, and at his Manhattan studio.
For more than thirty years John created, copied, ruminated, lamented, critiqued, elucidated, explored and most importantly, drawn in sketchbooks. Recently, he created IDOLS DEMONS SAINTS, an iBook for iPads based on his sketchbooks. It is a kind of visual journal and art manual that offers insight into John’s creative process and the complex Old Master techniques he uses, from sketch to finished work.
IDOLS DEMONS SAINTS interests us for many reasons. First, we’ve learned a great deal from being able to see John’s process of painting; even though we are not painters, understanding his thinking helps us in our own work. The first page of the sketchbook, for example, lists principles useful in any creative endeavor.
Second, read more…
Bill and Julie got married on Valentine’s Day in 1943, 70 years ago today. He was a GI who had managed to wangle a weekend pass to marry his childhood sweetheart. From the get-go,their marriage was an improv.
“We didn’t have a minyan, the minimum of ten people required for a Jewish wedding,” Julie recalls. ”So his brother went to the local movie theater and rousted ten guys out of the balcony and promised them dinner if they’d come. For years afterward, perfect strangers would come up to us on the street and say,‘Hey, I was at your wedding!’”
Today, Bill is 95, Julie will be 90, and they’re still in love. read more…
Autoprogettazione, roughly translated “self design,” was a project and book by the modernist artist and designer Enzo Mari that gives instructions for building easy-to-assemble furniture — tables, chairs, bookshelves, wardrobe – using rough boards and nails. Originally published in 1974, it has been reprinted many times. Mari created the project because he thought
…if people were encouraged to build a table with their own hands…they would be able to understand the thinking behind it.
And if they understand the thinking behind it, just imagine what they could do…
Just leafing through Autoprogettazione makes us feel empowered to pick up a hammer. And we can’t help but think the rough boards Mari envisioned his readers using resemble – indeed could be culled from — the wood from shipping pallets.
Taking Mari’s basic approach and inspiration, many artist’s and designers have made their own iterations. We love Justin Beal‘s bed with a fab hot pink mattress, above. And we WANT Kueng Caputo’s Lampada lamp: read more…
This sketch made by Henri Matisse January 7, 1940 is the first of thirteen he did in preparation for a wondrous painting The Dream completed in September 1940. Scroll down to see great artist’s process…as the painting emerges… read more…
Having an increasingly difficult time remembering things (and SO much to remember), we were very interested to read the Guardian’s How I learned a language in 22 hours about Joshua Foer‘s successfully learning an obscure language using a learning website called Memrise. Memrise bases their language courses on three essential principles, excerpted here from the very long and interesing piece:
The first is what’s known as elaborative encoding. The more context and meaning you can attach to a piece of information, the likelier it is that you’ll be able to fish it out of your memory at some point in the future. And the more effort you put into creating the memory, the more durable it will be. One of the best ways to elaborate a memory is to try visually to imagine it in your mind’s eye. If you can link the sound of a word to a picture representing its meaning, it’ll be far more memorable than simply learning the word by rote.
One of the best-demonstrated principles of memory read more…
“Rules are there to be broken” is one of our favorite operating principles. We’ve learned a HUGE amount from seeing what would happen if we “broke the rules” and did things differently from the norm. It’s a practice: questioning the rules with a big “WHY?” and then, when we have an idea, asking “Why not?” and trying it out.
About the time we found this great sign from Popular Lies About Graphic Design, we heard that our friend Tom Ashcraft’s artwork was chosen to be in the illustrious Outsider Art Fair in New York City, which was recently covered by The Wall Street Journal:
Free from the weight of academic study and art history, so-called “outsider artists” operate with a certain cachet: they create in whatever form and with whatever method that moves them. Trained artists may claim to do the same, but they can become jet-setting sensations by breaking rules. When outsiders break rules, they do it without knowing that rules exist.
His skin is like leather as he normally flies with his shirt off. He is deaf, so when he flies people hold their hands up and wave them for applause. He flies 2 with his hands and the 3rd one is attached to his waist. He performs at the Washington State International Kite Festival every year.
Our friends Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton, creators of the wonderful Canal House cookbook series, have a friend in the appliance business who keeps offering to get them a big new stove for their kitchen studio. NO, they keep saying, We love our little side-by-side stoves!
Every great dish Melissa and Christopher come up with is cooked on their two vin-ordinaire gas stoves, which makes for eight burners and two ovens. And those very same plain little stoves appear in photographs of their unselfconsciously stylish, comfortable kitchen.
Which begs the question: What kind of stove will really help you to cook happily and easily? The answer, we’ve found, is read more…
I recently undertook a Sedaris readathon and plowed through all his books in one fell swoop.To avoid the usual, well-thumbed celebrity-smut at my manicure salon, I introduced the notion of reading several Sedaris stories aloud to Amber, my young manicurist, while she whittles and sands. The whole salon falls silent in rapt attention, and everyone falls down laughing (or weeping) as the stories build to their irreverent and often melancholy climaxes.In truth, this is secretly self-serving, for I learn a huge amount about timing, dialogue, and structure from the process.
Video link here.) We loved Adam Green’s recent New Yorker profile of famed pickpocket Apollo Robbins (whose website is I Steal Stuff), and all it has to say about what we think we’re seeing at any given time, and how easy it is for certain savvy people to decode it. In this mesmerizing video, Robbin reveals his favorite sleight-of-hand — watch your wallet! cellphone! watch!— and tells us exactly how they work. And even knowing how they work, the tricks remain astonishing for their effortless precision. He’s made a study of how we see so he can manipulate our awareness.
Robbins’ entree into his unique profession was in part due to disabilities he had as a child:
My half brothers were involved with crime. But I was too young to participate. I also had certain disabilities that prevented me [from joining in]: like braces on my legs. When I became a teen, I ran into a friend at a magic shop who took me under his wing. I started reading up on magical theory and immediately blended that with what my brothers had shown me.
Being friends with several magicians, we know that acute precision and ability to suss-the-moment takes thousands of hours honing skills, practicing in front of a mirror, observing behavior, making mistakes, practicing and practicing and practicing some more to gain mastery. THAT’s what you’re really seeing in this video.
Right after we read the New Yorker piece, which elevates pickpocket to rigorous neuroscientist and artist, we heard David Sedaris on NPR’s This American Life, telling the story of a subway ride he took in Paris. Two American tourists mistook him for a Frenchman and eventually a pickpocket. He starts off hating their cliched stereotyping him as a “smelly, thieving frog”, but eventually comes to enjoy being seen as a…ROGUE. Listen here when you need a laugh. It’s from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.
Related posts: unexpected shift of view (look around!)
houdini’s mantra: “my brain is the key that sets me free”
xthe role of magic in the creative process
xwhat happens if you throw with your other hand?
xmental health break: riding teahupo’o waves in slo-mo
(Video link here.) We find this stop-motion video by an energizing and heartening view to start or refresh your day. It was made as a music video for Japanese singer-songwriter Shugo Tokumaru to accompany his new song ”Katachi”, which means “shape”. We’ve watched it with the sound and without, and would retitle its one-thing-always-comes-from-another imagery as ’possibility’!
Related posts: (de)creation (rhino origami rewind)
new daily dance: staging possibility to shift your life
perfect 9.5 minute ted talk: janet echelman
‘the world sends us garbage, we send back music.’
louis c.k. car dances ‘who are you?’ + rants on boredom