With all of the changes personal and professional in my life, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and brainstorming. What do I want for my creative life? What do I want to become my professional life?
I’m obsessive about journaling as a means to document my thoughts and reflect. And I usually handwrite my mindmaps and create lists to put some order to my scattered, hyperactive thought process. But recently I discovered Mind Meister and Coggle.
I really find both programs easy to use and they offer me some planning permanence. (It’s easy to misplace a piece of paper or forget to bring your journal.) They are both cloud based, so wherever I have internet I have access. Of course if you do carry around a notepad, you can have access with or without internet. They key difference for me has been my ability to maneuver and manipulate the branches of my map or the names of categories I create. Essentially, it streamlines the process for me and cleans it up (anyone surprised this fact appeals to me?). I really like Mind Meister, but its a monthly fee to have full use of their program so I’ve started using Coggle and I have to say I’m pleased.
Another tool I’ve been making better use of as of late is Evernote. I feel pretty strongly about not using the phone while driving. Yet sometimes my best ideas come while I’m waiting in the crazy traffic that can fill Dubai. I love that with Evernote I can quickly label a note and then orally record my ideas. (I wonder how many times people have seen me talking to myself at stoplights?!) It’s quick and easy and boom, I have a compilation of notes, again in the cloud, that sync easily to my office space when I have more focused, dedicated time to a project.
Lastly, I’d have to say Google Drive has become an indispensable resource for me personally and professionally. For blogging, it has cut down on my emails and allowed for easier collaboration with guest authors. I easily created a private document where i placed all of my interview questions for my last Creative Spirit Interview. I shared it with my interviewee and we had a shared creative space to edit, comment and refine the interview. For most blog posts I now write them in Drive first so I keep a history and backup of my articles, free from the world of blogging. Honestly, the reason I started working in my Drive is it is visually quiet and streamlined; I’m easily distracted in WordPress to check out bloggers I follow or to scope out my statistics. It helps me focus and channel my energy.
Artist Think Action: Have you discovered any tools, online or offline, that streamline and support your creative process?
About one year ago I was blessed two times over with a job opportunity and a marriage proposal from the man I love. Doors were opening left and right and my life was about abundance. I felt so empowered and charged with this feeling of innate responsibility and purpose. Moments like that are rare and wonderful, so I did my best to savor it, take it in, and let it slowly move from opportunity to practice.
The professional change was scary and empowering. I place a LOT of responsibility upon myself to do well and I felt called to help my community, which is why I decided to take the job. In the interview, all parties were well aware of my creative endeavors and need for expression. They asked me how I would navigate that need and interest while also dedicating the time I need to my new position. I shrugged it off and admitted it was a concern but that I knew once I developed a routine and established myself in the position I would find it easier to make time for my creativity. At home, I shared fears with loved ones about finding that balance but that I was determined to realize it.
It’s now present day and somehow I am blessed yet again with that feeling of abundance. I have worked my @ss off at my new job and I believe have helped move the community to positive change and a slightly new direction. And yet again, opportunity has knocked on my door. And as quickly as I have accepted this new role, I have also left it behind.
This entire year I have struggled and fought to make time for my art. It has been exhausting, emotionally and physically, to make time for my art. And yes, I have done so. I have continued blogging, writing, painting and drawing and taking photographs. Despite this drive and commitment to keep this integrated, I knew I was placing all of this on a shelf for a time-out, for a small hiatus, as I worked in this new professional setting because I only have so much time and energy in my day. And despite knowing this, and still making art, I have felt spiritually void. Art was so much a priority and focus in my previous role that it naturally integrated into my everyday, in a way it does not in my current role.
Do you ever feel like life throws you curve balls that are actually blessings? Come the end of July, I will be completing my job in this new role and taking a year off. A year off! I have never imagined doing so in my entire life. I’ve been in an education system either as a student or teacher/administrator since I started preschool at the age of 4. And beginning in August, I will have no bells, no timetables, no classrooms, and no one to hold me accountable for how I use my time (my then husband might beg to differ!). And not only that I will be moving countries to Oman: a beautiful, friendly country that I can’t wait to further explore; my camera is ready!
You can expect some big changes in the coming months to Artist Think. I plan to write more and post more, I plan to redesign my site, and I plan to reflect on the transition to full time artist/writer and the journey that entails. How will I manage my time and navigate goals? I was just reading a great blog post by Patrick Ross that speaks to how once people leave structure of environments such as a masters program it becomes difficult for some to create. The openness and freedom that many hope for becomes stifling with no external deadlines and accountability. I hope you, my readers, will become my accountability and my venue to celebrate the trials and opportunities of becoming a full time artist.
Artist Think Action: Are you ready for change? Are you willing to embrace the change as opportunity in your life?
Today on Artist Think we welcome Tony Deprato. While his professional expertise is in technology, which many may not associate with the arts (but I think more and more are beginning to see wonderful connections, through tools of technology or means of collaboration), I think he is a perfect example of how creativity and the arts can permeate any and all disciplines! Thank you Tony for taking time to speak with Artist Think.
AT:What is your book about?
Tony: My book is about BYOD, Bring Your Own Device. This is a trend in education, and in the corporate world, where people/students are encouraged to bring their own devices- with software and services supported by the organization.
AT: What inspired your desire to write this book?
Tony: Going through the BYOD process was a two year journey. I was taking notes and writing about events as they occurred. When the dust had settled, I realized that if I collected all my notes and writings, I could help other people setup their BYOD program and avoid the mistakes I had made. It seemed like a really good way to give back to the Educational Technology community.
AT:Where can I obtain your book if I want a copy?
Tony: Right now, you need to email me. Go to byodplaybook.com, and send a request. It will be in the iTunes Store very soon, I am just waiting for the semester to end to finalize all the things I need to do to be compliant.
AT:What made you decide to write an ebook?
Tony: I am pushing people to work paperless whenever possible. My book is mostly designed as a guide. It has various sections with steps to follow. Most of these steps require someone to create something and share it. So I was thinking, “The book needs to be open on the screen at the same time they are creating so they can copy and paste.”
In this case, an e-book is easier and more practical. Also, you can search an e-book by topic. I figured most people will not need to follow all the steps, so having a searchable medium was a core design feature.
AT:Were there any major obstacles to writing your ebook? What were they? How did you overcome them?
Tony: The major obstacle is time. I could not write during normal work hours. Then of course, the editing. I leveraged the power of Google Drive though. I was able to write and have 2 editors working on the manuscript at the same time. Using the advanced commenting features in Google Drive this is very efficient, yet, not obtrusive.
Another challenge, I am really bad at using commas.
AT:What is your advice to people who want to write about a topic they have expertise in?
Tony: Start blogging. You need a space to write down the seemingly unrelated ideas, that are actually going to eventually make sense when put together. Blogging is fast, easy, and you can do it from almost any web-enabled device. Also, your ideas get put out into the world, and come back to you with comments. This helps focus and adjust them before you commit them to a manuscript.
AT: What other ways do you communicate on this topic and technology in schools?
Tony: I have a website, a blog with people collaboratively on http://itbabble.com/, and I write for online publications sometimes, like TIE ONLINE.
AT:Would you describe yourself as an author? Why or why not?
Tony: Not really. If anything, I am more of a historian/documentarian. I just want to report what happened and analyze it so it is useful to people. I do not care about characters, story arcs, or commas (but apparently I have to care about commas or people will think I am an idiot ~ from my editor).
AT:What are other ways you express your creativity?
Tony: I like video editing, I have been doing it since 1997. I also enjoy graphic design and creating web-layouts and templates.
AT: How does an idea develop for you? (Do they come to you spontaneously, for example?)
Tony: I formulate and work ideas out while playing sports or through physical activity. I will be working out on the punching bag, and then all of a sudden my brain will kick out and idea. Or I will be attempting to improve my 3-point percentage from 15% to 17% and as the ball drops my brain will be like – HEY WHY DONT YOU DO THIS. It always communicates in block letters, no punctuation, and never even the thought of a comma.
AT: Who or what inspires you?
Tony: People with problems inspire me. I notice negative patterns all the time, and inefficiency. It annoys me so much, I want to help. Mostly to stop being annoyed, but eventually I start to care about the big picture.
AT:How do you define creativity?
Tony: Being original and not copying from others. In whatever you do, you should learn to do it in your own way. Make something, and say, “I may not be the first, but I did this on my own.”
His story is simultaneously inspiring and horrifying. After ten years in the rat-race of London, James Rhodes returned to his true passion, the piano. He dedicated himself to achieving the mastery he had dreamed of as a youth. And now, after years of dedication and hard work, James is a concert pianist. In his essay in The Guardian, he writes that as hard as his new life is--and it is very hard indeed--he has no regrets.
This week I’ve been thrown back into the world of IB Art. I’m an examiner for the IBO, which means come April I’m given artwork from all over the world created by 17 year olds (generally speaking). This year I was given the task of moderating workbook pages.
IB Art has a large emphasis on process. Students are expected to describe, analyze, and connect their artworks to contemporary society and culture, to other disciplines, to history, as well as consider its relationship to other artists and artwork.
I love looking through strong workbooks. They become a beautiful artwork in themselves, reflective of sometimes 100s of hours of work. Some students end up with one workbook after two years of endeavor, their pages so dense with analysis and visual exploration that it takes 30 minutes to read a single page. Other students run through workbooks as if they are racing, risk-taking and exploring new media, which fills 4 workbooks! In the end, students choose a selection of pages as evidence of meeting all criteria and examiners have access to this snapshot.
As much as I love the workbook sometimes I struggle to justify its expectation of students. Many artists we ask them to research actively avoid self-reflection and analysis and leave it to the critics. Yet, I’m sure those same artists do reflect and self-assess, just not in the public eye. And that is the part we need to remind our students of! Good artists will take the time to critique work, evaluate and then use that information to refine it. This is exactly what the IB workbooks can do for students.
In fact, I now use some of the skills I’ve historically encouraged in my students for my own artist practice and would encourage you to do the same. Here are a few skills I would encourage you all to work with. Start your own workbook!
- Mind Mapping. I use mind mapping for idea development, refinement, goal-setting and even research! It allows me to think laterally about ideas and try to stretch my concept.
- Contextual research. It’s important to take time and reflect on your work or as you develop it. Why are you making this? Has some event promoted this motivation? How does it relate to your other work? How can you use this information to inform your artistic production?
- Vocabulary. Practicing formal art analysis and using art terminology is important for any kind of artist. How serious will people take you if you don’t know the terminology specific to your trade? It suggests a lack of education.
- Media exploration and risk taking. A workbook space is a safe space to trial new ideas and new materials, free from judgement (keep yours at bay until you need to reflect and refine!).
- Evidence of Process. I try my best to take pictures as I progress through an idea or project. Clients really enjoy seeing process and its a great means of dialogue for social media publicity.
ARTIST THINK ACTION: Select one of the five skills/strategies listed and incorporate it into your artist practice.
Today on Artist Think I’m finally taking the time I should to review some of the interesting artists I observed on my Art Bus tour during Art Dubai in March.
First off, if you haven’t heard of the Art Bus and you live in Dubai its time to join the 21st century. It is an easy, relaxing and fun way to tour Dubai’s art scene. I can tell you I drive all over town but know I could go all over town and not worry myself about the traffic or crazy drivers, it was a huge relief and allowed me to focus on all of the art I was observing. Additionally, volunteer tour guides are trained and help you get around and learn about the artists you are viewing. Art in The City is a great website that you can sign up for that keeps you up to date about Art happenings in Dubai, including the Art Bus.
I rarely motivate to go out to the DIFC despite the one stop shop for art in Dubai. So, that was the route I opted for.
One of the stops of note was at the Pavillion, en route to DIFC. The Pavillion is in Downtown Dubai. I was proud to see an American being exhibited there. She had two exhibits ongoing, which are running from 6 February to 6 May, 2013. One exhibit was entitled An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar. Taryn Simon toured the United States and photographed the hidden or lesser known qualities of American culture. One photograph I found especially interesting was of a news anchor for an American TV Station called Alhurra TV. It’s a TV station conducted entirely in Arabic, funded by the USA to broadcast news in the Middle East and North Africa. this station is forbidden from being broadcast in the US.
Her other exhibit was entitled Contraband. Taryn Simon spent some time at JFK airport in NYC photographing everything that was confiscated in customs. She arranged photographs by categories and printed them on a small scale, framing and boxing them behind plexiglass boxes.
Another gallery of interest was Art Sawa. I was impressed by the exhibit by Zena Assi called Bug Soldiers. It closed one week ago. Her artwork portrays disenchanted male figures, disconnected and confused in response to the violence they face and stand up to, with reference to the Arab Spring.
Zena Assi’s skill is entirely apparent. I was impressed by her ability to lay color and be selective and purposeful with color. In some of her works she collages, but even her paintings have a bit of the collage-like quality to them, with areas of the painting made flat even though its part of a figure. She had a series of small paintings also on exhibit that portrayed dense, busy cities that were set up as a grid. I most admired these densely packed images.
Afshin Perhashemi in Ayyam Gallery was another person who impressed me with his skill. His work looks like B/W photographs yet there is still a painterly quality to them. He makes constant use of foreshortening in his paintings to encourage the viewers to feel affronted by the violent and angry women in his images. The work considers the role of Iranian women in society. Part of me wants to begin an entirely different dialogue here (as a man reflecting on the role of women, does this make his work even more sexual or voyeuristic?). I love when work can generate this kind of dialogue.
A work by Bokja at Cuadro Gallery has a much lighter manner of addressing a serious topic. The work: And Then There Were None, references a famous poem many know from the eponymous book by Agatha Christie. Giant balls are covered in assorted materials and placed in the corner of a room with variable distances from one another, almost as if some giant had dropped them from the ceiling and let them fall to the ground and left them there. A large poem that plays on the famous one aforementioned tells a tale of all the Arab leaders who have fallen from power. It was so childlike and playful in some respects, but the topic was serious. It made me laugh out loud. I think few can utilize humor well and its a great skill I wish I had!
ARTIST THINK ACTION: Put Art Dubai dates in your March calendar of next year! The ArtBus is worth it.
Today I just had a wonderful conversation with a dear friend that reminded me how important connection is. She is writing this amazing, fun, interesting book that she has been working on for quite some time and has come back to it after I connected her with an editor. We talked about how we put our creativity on the backburner when other things happen and how it creates this ebb and flow, despite the fact that being creative sustains our spirit.
Clearly, we all need to make our creativity a greater, more valued, priority. Why don’t we? I think sometimes it happens because we don’t have a specific plan of action. If we create a plan and timeline of goals, we have something to work toward and remind us of our passion and interest. When I first started this blog two years ago I talked about SMART goals, and how creating specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals can help you reach your creative dreams.
There are many ways to set goals or help direct yourself. I also am a big fan of mind-mapping (link to another article on mind-mapping). Included here I am showing you my 6 month Mind Map. I won’t judge myself (working on it anyway) if I don’t reach all of these goals but I have it in my journal/sketchbook space to remind me of what I am working towards, and it helps keep the big picture fresh in my mind.
Another way to help you plan your creative success is to use a business plan as a model. Google Search free business plans and you will see you have all kinds of templates you can modify and build off of as a template for creative reflection.
An important consideration is what I first mentioned in the start of this post: the importance of connection. It is because of meaningful friendships who help inspire me and encourage me through my dry times and offer me feedback and support that I manage to create. The right people in your mental creative space is extremely important. Your friends can be a rock to help you build towards your goals!
Yes, all of these strategies take time away from the actual creative process, but the time you spend on your artwork will be more meaningful and directed if you do some planning and reflection before creation. I guarantee you will be closer to your hoped for creative goals if you take one of these steps. A reminder of what you hope to accomplish and what makes your heart happy is something worth prioritizing, and reminding yourself about, don’t you think?
ARTIST THINK ACTION: Pick one strategy I mentioned today and give yourself 15 minutes to reflect on your creative project using that strategy. What have you now learned or aim to do?