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Posts Tagged ‘sketch

I’ve been Doodlewashed.

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Doodlewash-07312015

http://doodlewash.com/2015/07/31/guest-doodlewash-the-baptized/

Thanks, Charlie!

Written by kirkistan

July 31, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Posted in curiosities

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Find Work Where You Can Draw Your Own Lines (Shop Talk #10)

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Color inside your own lines

I’ve had several conversations lately with people looking for ways to bring writing into the rest of their lives. Some want to make a living as writers. Others want to flesh out a particular passion that been dormant behind the demands of their day job.

BridgeFragment-2-06012015

In each case I suggest drawing their own lines.

What I mean is to look for opportunities where you can define the problem yourself (or in collaboration with a few). When you define a problem yourself, you set the focus and you begin to take ownership. Then your brainpan starts spinning in a fresh orbit that lets you locate resources to help solve that problem. Defining the problem is a way of looking at the topic of your passion and finding what about it that excites you and where that might be a problem/solution for others. Inevitably you want to send your topic out so others can begin to care as well—or perhaps you send it out to find those other few who care.

Writing something is a way of drawing your own lines.

I know this from (literally) drawing lines of definition: over at Dumb Sketch Daily (currently at dumb sketch #152) I’ve been trying to learn to draw. I’ve found that an ink pen does a kind of definition work that my eye longs for. Sometimes I wonder if ink is a crutch: outlining before filling in detail with color or graphite. Do I really need those lines? But then I think

I don’t care.

BrusselsSprouts-05302015

I’ve got your precious Brussels Sprouts right here.

Because there is something about the crisp line that yields a bit of loony joy. Yes, it is true, that line does not exist on the edge of my Brussels Sprouts. Not really.

Still.

Seeing something clearly feels worth that particular fiction.

What definition work will you do today?

Where will you draw lines?

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

See also: “Can 78 bad sketches change your life?”

Written by kirkistan

June 1, 2015 at 9:41 am

Where Can I Buy a Fine-Art Mode?

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The Beauty of Knowing Nothing

I don’t have a fine-tuning mode that tinkers with physical detail. I draw and it is mostly crude. I cut plywood and pine shelves and they are rough enough to make my craftsman-father scoff into his hand. I make dinner and it is mostly broad-stroke stuff that requires very little finessing. I will confess my popcorn is a work of art, combining yellow and white kernels, salted and buttered and mixed to a sensuous, savory smack of flavor. And I am learning how words interact on a page—though it is slow going.

WeGrewUp-03102015

How does someone get to the point of crafting from rough cuts to fine finished detail? It is possible that in this age of ordering clothes, pizza and romance from a button on our mobile devices, that some things still take time. Some things require beginning at the beginning. The question for each of us: do I have the courage to begin at the beginning? To know nothing for a time and do things badly?

The beauty about not having been taught drawing is that you are in a position of the acquirer: the process of figuring it out might take a while, and you will most likely continue to figure stuff out as you go, but that process is yours. There are no shortcuts and no tricks. Just the plain practice of drawing, screwing up, and drawing some more.

–France Belleville-Van Stone in Sketch! (NY: Watson-Guptill, 2014)

You cannot buy personal processes. Not really. You have to make them from scratch—those processes that help you make meaning in the world. And you have to begin at the beginning.

Mistake will be made.

You will make those mistakes.

And that’s OK.

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Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Seeing Past Childish Symbols

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Step 1: See the Template You’re Working from

I’ve been trying to learn to draw and Betty Edwards’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain has been particularly helpful. Edwards looked at why it is so many adults say they can’t draw, which is especially odd since nearly every child loves to draw. How did we move from love to incompetence? Edwards answers that by tracing our development as artists, and here is one milestone:

By around age five or six, children have developed a set of symbols to create a landscape. Again, by a process of trial and error, children usually settle on a single version of a symbolic landscape, which is endlessly repeated. (73)

As we age we become dissatisfied with those symbols but we have not worked out new ways to put on paper what we see. And so we give up, and our drawing gets stuck in that old symbolic system. Edwards provides a much richer discussion, but at least one result is that we must set aside our childish system of symbols to begin to see.

Which is not so simple.

BadlyDrawn02162015

I still start with a circle.

Not so simple because of the confusion that sets in as we try to translate real world scenes into a two-dimensional representations. To set aside the sun as a happy face in the upper right corner means I must look at how the sun reflects off, well, everything. To look at a face and see that—no, there is no outline—is off-putting. How to draw a face without starting with an oval?

This is why Edwards starts with learning to see as a precursor to learning to draw. In my 70+ days of drawing daily, learning to set aside my childish symbolic language has proved difficult. But the answer to seeing better and especially to seeing past the old symbols is to do things badly. And maybe do them badly for a long time. To do things so bad they are cringe-worthy. But that is the price one pays to learn.

I cannot help but think this life lesson and applies across the board. Learning to see and hear, and learning to form your own opinion and make your own representation applies universally. Growth from child to adult means you find new ways to interact with parents, so you set aside some (not all) the old relational cues. The ways we interact with colleagues and bosses must change as we take ownership for our work. Even the childhood symbols that directed our understanding of life purpose and how one knows God must be rejiggered. There is a template for romance we would do well to look at again. Nearly every part of life is helped by reexamination.

"Cutie Pie" + "Let's Read" seems like a good place to land.

“Cutie Pie” + “Let’s Read” seems like a good place to land.

But make a deal with yourself : be patient and give yourself time to move beyond the immediate confusion.

 

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Image credits, including dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

February 16, 2015 at 9:27 am

Give Your People Presence

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Is Drawing a Spiritual Discipline?

Betty Edwards, in her Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999) calls for a different way of seeing as a beginning point for drawing. In my 60+ days of producing a dumb sketch daily I can say with certainty that my seeing has been altered. I’m open to and actively looking for much more detail in ordinary life. In particular, in the back of my mind I spend my days looking for scenes or objects or people I can reproduce (badly) on paper. And I see far more detail in buildings and structures and postures and faces than I did two months ago.

Starting to see differently feels like a small victory.

Can a dumb sketch help you be present?

Can a dumb sketch help you be present?

Edwards has a long section on brain functionality, how the left brain works versus the right brain. I have a growing skepticism about the neatness of those two categories. I think there is some truth in the distinction. And the distinction works well for release from our typical analytical state into a more meditative zone of creativity. I’ve long depended on that zone for more creative writing assignments. But the research citations feel a bit dated and frankly I’m always a bit skeptical of forced black and white interpretations of complex physiology.

But this notion of sitting with stillness before a scene to observe, capture and (potentially) understand—it feels like a life skill that could and should translate into all sorts of different settings. Slowing to see and hear has begun to awaken all sorts of new thoughts in my brainpan. I find the practice encroaching on normal conversations, on meetings, on writing, on driving and even as I pray.

Especially as I pray.

I cannot help but wonder if learning how to observe, capture and (potentially) understand is a step toward being more present with all the beings in our lives.

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Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

February 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

When I form my own country, this will be my first water tower.

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Honest: those were arrows, not a hammer and sickle.

Don’t “comrade” me, brother.

Don’t “comrade” me, brother.

Then again: Maybe I won’t install myself as supreme leader right away. I’ll start as the Minister of Agitprop.

After I release Iowa from the tyrants who were “voted in,” we’ll kick it up a notch and groove into that glorious, collective future.

Who’s in?

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Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston, Minister of Agitprop

Written by kirkistan

February 6, 2015 at 9:16 am

When Truth Sounds Like a Lie

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And the lie that turns out true

Let’s make up a new term: the “aspirational lie.”

The aspirational lie is that thing that falls from your mouth before you can stop it.

  • It is not quite true—that’s why you almost didn’t say it.
  • But it is not quite false—something about it is true. Which is why you did say it.

That happened to me when talking to a writing class of business students. My professor friend let me come in and chat about freelance copywriting. She wanted her MBA students to see some different shades to how work gets done. In the course of our discussion we talked about how one prepares to write and about how one does the work.

I told one truth that sounded like a lie.

And I told a lie that turned out to be true.

Arrows-01302015

The Truth That Sounded Like a Lie

The truth that sounded like a lie was that I make a bunch of stuff up for my clients. “How so?” wondered the class. It’s like this: the writer’s work is to think forward and then tell the story of how all the parts fit together. Whether writing a white paper, a journal article, an advertising campaign or refreshing a brand, writers do what writers have always done: make stuff up. They grab bits and pieces of facts and directions and fit them into a coherent whole. As they move forward, they gradually replace false with true and so learn as they go.

That is the creative process.

You fill up your head with facts and premonitions and assumptions. Many are true, some are false. But the process itself—and the subsequent reviews reveal what it is true. Writing is very much a process of trying things on for size and then using them or discarding them. And sometimes we used facts “for position only,” as a stand-in for the real, true fact on our way to building the honest, coherent whole.

 

The Aspirational Lie

We also talked about backgrounds and how one prepares to write. I explained how degrees in philosophy and theology are an asset to business writing. Yes: I was making that up on the spot. But not really, because I have believed that for some time, though had never quite put it in those words. Pulling from disparate backgrounds is a way out of the narrow ruts we find ourselves in. Those divergent backgrounds help to connect the dots in new and occasionally excellent ways. Which is also why we do ourselves a favor when we break from our homogeneous clubs from time to time.

Comedy writers do this all the time. I just finished Mike Sacks excellent Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers (NY: Penguin Books, 2014), and was amazed all over again at the widely different life experiences comedy writers bought to their work.

The more I’ve thought about the aspirational lie that philosophy and theology contribute to story-telling, the more convinced I am it is true. That’s because I find myself lining up facts and story bits and characters and timelines according the rhythms and disciplines I was steeped in during school. In philosophy it was the standing back and observing with a disinterested eye. In theology it was the finding and unraveling and rethreading of complicated arguments—plus a “this-is-part-of-a-much-larger-story” component.

Our studies, our reading, our life experience—all these help line up the ways we hear things and the ways we connect the dots. Our best stories are unified and coherent because of this.

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Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

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