2013 is over.

2013 Insights

School:

My 3rd calendar year of courses at Uvic is now complete. This year I successfully transitioned from a Fine Arts Diploma student to a Creative Writing Undergraduate student (2nd Degree program). In total I’ve engaged in seven semester equivalent classes, 4 of which were in Writing, and I’ve learned that:

  • I’m energized by creative writing
  • despite my enthusiasm, creative writing is harder than it looks
  • 2 classes every semester, on-top of everything else, is ambitious
  • I quickly grasp concepts – but always require more practice
  • (Critique) Workshops are essential to improve as a writer

Blog:

In an ode to irony, while my interest in writing has skyrocketed, my posts on exploring-art.com have plummeted. Only six posts in 2013, but I’ve learned that people like:

  • Pictures (select, not too many)
  • Cocktails (or maybe that’s just me)
  • Concise observations on writing (and life)

Looking Ahead:

2014 is going to be great! I’m registered in two classes next semester, I’m committing to at least one exploring-art.com post a month (including either a picture, cocktail, or concise observation), and I’m going to play more squash this year (this shouldn’t be hard I’m pretty sure I didn’t play any squash last year).

Happy new year’s – here’s to the year ahead, and turning over new leaves. Cheers!

 

Review: Finding Your Element

Sir Ken Robinson is back with a sequel and companion to The Element, read on for a full review.

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Disclaimer: I’m a Sir Ken Robinson fan. Since I shelved my scepticism in 2011, I’ve been enthusiastic in every respect. From the video marathon to the retrospective epiphany, and my final review of The Element, my take has been persistently positive – this post will be no different in that regard!

Finding Your Element – How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life is, as the title suggests, a how to guide on launching your “personal quest” to discover your Element. In that respect, perhaps, I’m not the primary target audience for Sir Ken Robinson’s newest creation. My personal quest is already well underway, hence this blog, my enrolment in UVic’s Fine Arts Diploma program, and my pending application to once more join the ranks of undergraduate students, this time in UVic’s Creative Writing program. My quest was launched by an outward scoff and an internal dialogue sparked by the cover of The Element – How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. I thought to myself:

“Thanks Ken – helpful. As if I didn’t already know that… Do something you love and never have to work a day in your life… check… I can’t believe people pay for and read books, just to be told that…”

“Well, what are you doing about finding your passion?”

“Uhmm, nothing… apparently I’m looking for it in the self-help section of my local book store, and scoffing at what I see…”

“Well, what are you going to do about it?”

“Uhhmm…”

“Well what are you passionate about?”

“Uhhmmm… I like architecture and design…”

“And how are you pursuing those passions?”

“Erhh I’m not… really”

“Because…?”

“Uhh… Look I’m really busy! I say I’m passionate about these things but I can’t ever find the time. It’s hopeless, for me, without a schedule… an enforced schedule with structure and deadlines, otherwise all my best intentions get blown away in the exhale from daily life.”

“So…?”

“I… I guess I need that structure… “

“Mhhmm?”

“I guess I could get it by enrolling in a course… Okay – I’ll start by looking for courses available in town!”

And so my quest had begun. The first and most essential step taken without actually picking up Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element – my conversion to fan of the book and the man came later.

Fast forward – what does Finding Your Element offer to would be readers?

It offers the same motivational, relatable, balanced and hopeful package as The Element. It’s offered in the same humorous, easy to read prose – but this time it’s more personal. It’s about the reader and their personal quest and is full of exercises, suggestions and tools to help readers plan and commit to that essential first step.

The stories of people inside seem more focused on every-day people and less focused on people who became rock star savants, though of course there is some of that. The book also contains a more robust conversation on how a person can have more than one Element, and how it can change over time. Besides the laughter and the motivation to continue my quest, the most useful thing for me inside Finding Your Element was the recognition that for most of us who are just starting to cultivate our Element, it takes sustained effort, which can feel like work. But it’s work you enjoy doing, it’s work you’d do even if you weren’t getting paid,  and as you hone your raw “aptitude” into a bonafide “ability,” you enjoy the journey, you see your progress, you “get it,” and you continue to push forward hoping to achieve more regularly the nirvana of being in your Element.

As I aspire to write a great Canadian novel, these messages are timely. It’s work, it takes time, but I do enjoy it; When I’m in the flow I do lose track of time, and I do believe my writing ability is getting better week by week. I’m doing it without getting paid, in-fact I’m actively investing in honing the “ability,” an investment that’s likely never to make a financial return. Yet, taking pleasure in getting better at something creative, productive, and moving towards spending a larger portion of my life immersed in that – I think it’s worth any price.

The Happiness Project

Irony is everywhere. When I started my continuing education Fine Arts Diploma Program (FADP), and this blog, it was in a mini rebellion against the self help industry. The Element with its tagline “How finding your passion changes everything” was the major culprit that made me look down my nose at this entire section of books and enrol in FADP instead. Of course as you know from my review of The Element, which I wrote immediately after reading the book an entire year after my initial shun; I loved it.

I stumbled upon another self help book that I devoured this weekend entitled The Happiness Project and I loved it too. This book is probably old news for anyone who is into these types of books but it resonated with me and I feel inclined to reflect on it and its implications for Exploring-Art.com, which in some light could be looked at as the brand for my own Happiness Project. The output of this rumination will be the subject of the next few rapid fire blog posts. I am splitting it up to keep the outpouring of ideas digestible. It is interesting that I had alluded to some change ideas brewing from Wordcamp Victoria and which now, post weekend read, have been significantly altered.

First we will start with why I loved the The Happiness Project, then in later posts we will talk about what it means for me and our adventures exploring art.

It’s personal

The author Gretchen Rubin bares her soul. She shares graphic details of her temper, her husband’s illness and also profound glimpses into her inner conflicts. It is really inspirational to see someone open themselves up to complete strangers in this very rare way.

It’s relatable

Her personal stories resonated with me so much because I found the material so relatable. I had struggled with these challenges and came to many of the same conclusions. Her advice was often it depends – your situation may be different, you may have different needs. All of our journeys are unique.

It’s practical

The books is brimming with practical advice of little things you can incorporate into your own Happiness Project without having to travel to an Ashram.

The Happiness Project was wonderful. If you’re at all interested in promoting happiness in yourself and thereby in others as well, go get this book! More coming soon on its implications for me and Exploring-Art.com.

WordCamp Victoria and An Architectural Muse

I spent today at WordCamp Victoria. It was a good conference and I was pleasantly surprised by the broad diversity of attendees at the conference. The sessions were by and large very good. Of the sessions I attended, and I skipped both keynotes, my favourites were by the folks behind these blogs:

I also found something else that caught my interest. Check out these photos depicting another gorgeous day in Victoria BC, and an edifice of a beautiful world as well as human ingenuity. Yes I realize this is a drain for dealing with rain run off but it’s also architectural poetry. Happy Saturday.

A Sparkling Review for New Year’s

The last couple of posts here at Exploring-Art.com having been awfully philosophical and perhaps not very uplifting. Fear not! We have not thrown the baby out with the bath water. This is still the place for feel good posts, heart felt recommendations and creative encouragement.

With New Year’s eve nearly upon us I feel the need to make a sparkling wine recommendation. Champagne is one of my favourite things, but it is expensive and a lovely Cremant can be equally as good for a fraction of the price. Here’s this year’s Cremant recommendation for a New Year’s not to be forgotten!

Louis Bouillot, Rose, Cremant de Bourgogne is a delicious concoction based on the pinot noir grape. It’s well balanced, with not too much sweetness or acidity, and a gorgeous lingering creme. More importantly it will leave you wanting more, a lot more. It’s a bargain for $25 at your local Canadian liquor store. Have a happy New Year!

Review: And Slowly Beauty…

Being late to the party, as our season tickets are in the later half of the second week, I won’t belabour the point… And Slowly Beauty…, now playing at the Belfry Theater is terrific.

It is the layers that are so poetic. It is not just the play within a play, it is thoughts within thoughts, lines within lines, it is hypnotic. This layering makes the play feel a little like life I suppose. The play is also self referential without being tedious or obvious, you are left with no explicit answers only insinuations about the nature of life…

The performances and production values were top notch for a small independent theater. The script, acting, set, choreographing and music (no it is not a musical) were all outstanding. I hope the rest of the season is as good.

If you’re in Victoria, BC or a version of this play comes to your local theatre go see it!

Book Review: Bing Thom Works

Let’s open with this axiom, art and more specifically architecture is culturally specific. The art and by extension the architecture that resonates most strongly with you is likely created by someone with a similar perspective or cultural background to you. This opening is a pre-emptive defence for my next statement, which is Arthur Erickson (deceased) is my favourite Architect. Why? His pioneering of indoor – outdoor, green roofs, commitment to multi-use, and commitment to his art for the purpose of social change… I know very northwest coast, which is at least in part why I look at his body of work and sigh a heartfelt sigh of creative ecstasy… it is a poetic response to the living conditions that have emerged in our corner of the shared, little, pale blue dot.

But this post isn’t about Erickson, it’s about Bing Thom and more specifically Bing Thom Works a gorgeous new coffee table book published by Douglas & McIntyre regarding the work of Bing Thom Architects.

Of course there is a relationship between Bing Thom and Arthur Erickson. Thom worked for Erickson for many years and might be referred to as Erickson’s protege, which is in no way intended to insinuate he doesn’t or didn’t have considerable talents unto himself before or after working for my favourite Architect.

The book is beautiful, itself being a piece of art. The plates featuring the architecture of Thom and his associate Architects are breathtaking. The cover is curiously a soft cover, hard cover hybrid with only a sliver of a photo taking up a quarter of the front and back and the spine… perhaps symbolizing that the book is only a glimpse into the works of his firm and that for any architecture to be truly understood, it must be experienced.

In addition to the beautiful photos the book also includes engrossing site plans, elevations and floor plans.The weakest point of the book is the actual text; however, there are still gems to be found here. The essay on being a “Master Builder”, the motifs on the client relationship and inspiring pieces on using architecture to literally improve the living and social conditions of neighbourhoods all jump out and resonate with this reader, despite not being written with the same flourish as, say, Seven Stones by Edith Iglauer.

All together, Bing Thom Works is a beautiful coffee table book, ready to inspire anyone with an interest in the built environment. It will both help a reader to better understand the limitless capacity of human creativity to shape the human consciousness, spirit, and sense of community as well as engender an appetite to learn more on this critical subject.