TO-FU’s 29 Ways to Stay Creative

Despite this stylish illustrated video being online for about 8 months, being fantastic, and already earning a lot of praise from like minded people I had not seen it before.

I’m pleased to report that I already do most of these things. Even so, I shall be more diligent about ensuring I practice them and cross them off my list. The following three from the list of 29 are definitely the outliers in terms of my lack of adoption.

7 – Sing in the shower

I’m pretty noisy in the shower… it may be possible to classify it as some sort of gregorian chant but that might be pushing the boundaries a little… I must do better.

21 – Break the rules

I tend to be a rule follower most of the time. However I did do that video mashup of Sabrina and Lord of the Rings… maybe that counts?

23 – Read a Page of the Dictionary

This is an excellent idea. I’m going to read one page of the dictionary every night before bed.

Are you doing any of these things? Any ones you are not currently doing that you are brave enough to try?

This is a fantastic video, thank you TO-FU.

Creative Challenge: Create a Playlist

The days of mixed tapes and burnt CDs seem like ancient history. They surface in pop culture like bubbles of ironic reference through vehicles like Bored to Death or Nick and Norah’s.

Today we’re more likely to just tell our phone to “play more like this” than we are to set aside the time to sit, listen, curate, construct, review, re-listen and repeat. Because who has the time? And why when there’s a trillion pre-made channels and pre-made playlists would you bother to make your own? Why would you? When instead you can just channel surf through near infinity. Why create when you can just consume?

Well I’m glad you asked… you create because in creation it is the journey and not the destination. You pause the stream of consciousness that would beg the question what’s next just to embrace, revel in, and enjoy the now. Listen to that song, listen to that beat and repeat. Everything else is paused when you’re in the creative flow. It’s beautiful.

To reflect the tone of the blog lately, I’ve crafted “Moderne Melancholy & Optimistic Overtures” (iTunes Link). The playlist features some of my favourite artists channelling everything from folk, choral and synth. As much as creation is about the journey and not the destination, I must say I’m really enjoying this playlist.

Create a playlist and post it here! This is your weekly creative challenge.

Creative Challenge: SMART – New Year’s Resolutions

In love, life and work it seems to me that it is often the simple things that carry the most truth and capacity for change. Take SMART Goals for instance, a relatively simple management principle that has been talked about ad nauseum, has had many iterations, and yet really works as a framework for setting meaningful goals. A meaningful goal can be defined as a goal that is likely to be achieved. So what’s SMART?

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed To
  • Realistic
  • Time Dependant

With this management 101 proverb dusted off let’s talk New Year’s resolutions. Like Christmas wish lists, and blogs in general, New Year’s resolutions are often looked down upon as frivolous – But I say this is not so! Having a list of things you want to accomplish, cast using the SMART Goals principle, might just help you be more accomplished, and what’s frivolous about that? Here’s mine for the new year – what’s yours?

  • Join the Victoria Writers society in January
  • Attend Word Camp in January
  • Distribute 100 Exploring-Art.com business cards before the end of the year
  • Starting immediately personalize every Exploring-Art.com “publicize” tweet
  • Rewrite and resubmit my Fine Arts Diploma Program (FADP) learning plan by Monday (tomorrow, gasp!)
  • Complete my 4th course in my Fine Arts Diploma Program by April
  • Complete my 5th course in my Fine Arts Diploma Program by December
  • Complete a writing portfolio submission for the UVic MFA in creative writing by December
  • Get published somewhere other than Exploring-Art.com this year
  • Get my taxes up to date by April
  • Buy my wife a romantic gift every month (flowers, champagne etc.)
  • And the obligatory – lose 10 pounds!… by… September
  • Lastly report out on my resolutions progress at year end.

What are your resolutions? Create a list of SMART resolutions and share them here!

Creative Challenge: Create a four season Vignette

Christmas time is a time of vignettes, and I don’t just mean nativity scenes. There are also Christmas Trees, stockings on the mantle, wreaths and many more Christmas staples. However this Creative Challenge is about kicking it up a notch and creating a vignette that will last all year… Here are a few of my favourite things.

Olivander the Owl

Antique Suit Case for the Contemporary Gentleman

Why is All the Wine Gone?

Create one, photograph it, and share it with us!

The Element: A Dance, and A Book Review

The Dance

The Element and I have a dogged past. A year or so ago I was surveying the books in my local book store. I wandered through the store deep in thought. I had been struggling to keep the stress of my day job from encroaching on other parts of my life. I looked down and saw The Element by Ken Robinson, and I expressed an internal scoff… The cover read: “How finding your passion changes everything”… I thought to myself “Thanks Ken, that’s helpful… Basically the old adage: “Do something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”… Not sure I need to read a book to get that.” Instead of leaving with a book I somehow left with the idea of enrolling in some form of continuing education. This led me to enrol in the Fine Arts Diploma program at Uvic. I had many reasons for enrolling, one of which was just to give my brain something compelling to think about other than work.

The Element showed up again not long after that initial encounter. I had helped facilitate a 100 person conference, and as recognition facilitators and organizers were  asked to pick a book from a selection that had been prepared at the front of the room. The Element was among them, I didn’t pick it.

In Fine Arts 101 I was introduced to Sir Ken Robinson via his inaugural video recorded TED Talk. At the time I didn’t make the connection with the book I had seen prior to enrolling at UVic. Close to a year later in a moment of frustration related to my return to academia I created the Sir Ken Robinson Video Marathon post, and it was only then that I started to grasp the connection… I returned to my local bookstore and bought The Element as well the only other in stock book authored by Ken Robinson.

The Review

After this dance, which transpired over nearly a year, I read The Element in a day and a half and I loved it. It made me laugh and it also brought me to tears. Only time will tell if it will have meaningful consequences in my life, but I am hopeful that it will. Obviously your mileage may vary, but for me it was brilliant. My wife asked me why it was so wonderful, and it was hard to describe at first, but here’s my thoughts on the subject. Using four related themes this is why The Element sings.

Motivational

The Element is motivational. Motivational has become something of a dirty word, with cheesy motivational posters and their parodies becoming a cultural phenomena. But alas I cannot think of a better descriptor. It makes you want to sit up and do more, be more, achieve more, contribute more; it is motivational in a profound way that is hard to find the words to describe; it doesn’t just lift your spirits as might be the case with something inspirational… It really makes you want to take action, to do something, to act.

Relatable

It is relatable. You get it right away, including all the many facets of what is detailed such as; the stories of  the super successful, what the element is, and how do you know when you have found it. It is all very accessible, the obviousness hinted at on the cover, which I originally scoffed at, is actually a huge asset to this book.

Balanced

Sir Ken Robinson’s advice is balanced. It’s not all black or white. It’s not quit your job and join an Ashram. It’s not think positive and love your slavery. It’s not here’s the one answer. It’s balanced and therefore more realistic, more practical and more motivational than I could have imagined. It opens many doors not just one.

Hopeful

It is one of the most hopeful books I have ever read. It promises hope for the individual and convincingly thereby for humanity as well. It makes a cogent case that we can all contribute at our optimal level: It is not something that is restricted to celebrities, superstars, or a lucky few. It also compellingly makes the case that each individual contributing at their peak is the best chance we as a species have to surmount the critical challenges we are facing today as well as the ones we will face in the not so distant future.

I very much look forward to reading the other Sir Ken Robinson book I purchased, Out of Our Minds. However,  before starting down that path, I’m now re-motivated to finish Richard Rhodes’ How to Write

Retrospective Epiphany and The Perils of Judgement in Education

Last week’s academic frustrations and the subsequent scouring of all Ken Robinson internet videos led to a number of events. First it culminated in the Sir Ken Robinson Video Marathon post. It also led me to purchase his books The Element and Out of Our Minds from my local book store. Since these impromptu purchases I have been utterly consumed by The Element and have breezed through the first 97 pages (more than one third)… and finally this journey led me to the following retrospective epiphany.

Roughly twenty years ago, I can’t remember in which grade, either in six or seven, my father presented me with this plea (yes my rebellious stage had already started to emerge)…

“Choose one subject you really like in school and just excel in that, really apply yourself to that one subject and see how it goes…”

Out of love and admiration for my father I committed to doing this, and the subject I chose was English. Creative writing was the primary focus of that elementary English year. I poured myself into the next two assignments. I wrote a short story about an escaped high fantasy hero with a last stand by a wooded river bank. Where, along the river shore, our hero with an un-described past barely bests all the kings men in mortal combat. The other short story was a modern car chase scene, with gangsta rap of the era, “Damn it feels good to be a gangsta” on the Porsche stereo. Here too a bloody end, this time involving police brutality in the snow.

As a reward for this effort and my father’s timely intervention my teacher wrongly accused me of plagiarism. Her “proof” was two fold. One, I’d never produced any work of this quality before, and second her sons had video games and she “knew” my inaugural writing efforts were “plagiarizing” their motifs. I’m not sure under what circumstance this terrible standard of proof (not to mention definition of plagiarism) would be worthy of anything. Yet, under the judgement of my elementary school principal (If I recall correctly ironically named Sunny) this was sufficient grounds for many parent teacher conferences, me being sent to the psychologist for testing, and having to write my next assignment, not at home, but in a detention like setting at school. This new setting clearly being a great environment for tapping into a spring of creativity. The immediate deliberations were inconclusive of course… other than I had an exceptional vocabulary for someone of my age, and my next assignment was predictably uninspired and unmemorable. Unbeknownst to me, my parents were also urged to realize I was the next “Jeremy”, as enshrined in Pearl Jam’s famous epic. I am thankful to report that 20 years later I’m still proving them wrong by living a violence free life!

My “retrospective epiphany” is this… this whole educational debacle had many longer term effects. It prolonged my rebellious period, with me breaking out of it barely in-time to gain entrance into University, and it left me profoundly untrustworthy of authority. Especially in circumstances where the “right answer” or the desired behavior is subjective or unclearly defined. Which is incredibly unfortunate because my passions have always been more in the arts than in the maths or sciences, but since this incident I have shied away form them, until very recently. This false accusation, which was leveled at me at a vulnerable time when I was making a first attempt to really apply myself, set back my emerging academic commitment for years. It also crushed my artistic aspirations, the residue of which lasted even longer. My angst with the education system and the grades assigned to my visual art (ART 150) writing efforts this semester have also been amplified by this ancient wound… astounding!

Having expressed this epiphany I feel relieved to have rooted out this piece of shrapnel, and revisited its ramifications… I’m also left pondering the significance and serendipitous nature of a chorus line in a song, which lately I have been listening to constantly: “And judgement is just like a cup that we share” – Iron & Wine, Rabbit Will Run.

Sir Ken Robinson Video Marathon

As the third class (ART 150) in my Fine Arts Diploma Program sunsets I can’t help but feel; that though the subject mater is less industrial than my Bachelor of Commerce degree the overall educational paradigm is the same. It feels a bit disheartening as well as misplaced… an area of study with an identity crisis perhaps?

This feeling got me thinking of a TED talk I was exposed to, in the first course of my program FA 101 (which was fantastic), by Sir Ken Robinson… some googling and hours later, I present the Sir Ken Robinson Video Marathon! The best internet videos I could find from the knight calling for an educational revolution. Fight on Ken, your revolution is not complete!

The Inaugural

The Animated 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U]

The Element 

1 Hour Talk on the Element

No apparent way to embed this one but it’s worth the jump and the time, a lengthy talk covering a wide range of topics associated with the Element one of Sir Ken Robinson’s books.

The Latest

Quotes and Truisms

So I have to concede Art 150 one thing…  It does expose the students to a wide array of artists and artist’s practices.

For instance I didn’t know anything about Jenny Holzer and her work with truisms when I offered up the creative challenge of create a quote.  And the two things are clearly similar… so here’s another one:

“People in places of power are commonly contemptuous.”

I have been remiss with my proposed schedule here at Exploring-Art.com. I was desperately trying to meet my own grade expectations with ART 150, which in hindsight may have been a futile endeavour – Alas! The good news is that the last assignment is due December 1st, so I’ll be able to get back into my regular cadence soon.