All posts by kc wilkerson

Artist. Designer. Photographer. Dreamer. Doer.
2016-summer-firefly-selects-spoon-and-tamago-1
Photo by Yu Hashimoto

For the first few years of my life, I lived on the east coast. On almost every summer night, you could count on two things: humidity and fireflies (or, as they were called in Virginia – “lightnin’ bugs”). I’d forgotten just how beautiful those twinkling sparks of light can be in the night air, until I saw this photo series from Japan. Enjoy!

 

 

Advertisements

!nsp!re – Walking Away From Your Dream

I wanted to share this article from Allison Ford on The Gloss. In it, she details her decision to “give up on her dream” of becoming an actress. Her words and perspective resonated with me; and I think anyone who has struggled with career choices could benefit from reading her story.

Here’s the thing: You can have more than one dream. So many who pursue a career in the arts become obsessed with the one thing they THINK they want that they become blind to all the other possibilities that are out there waiting to be explored.

This situation is exacerbated by parents and teachers who encourage students to “follow their dream” and “pursue their passion” despite being able to (sometimes) see that the student is poorly suited for the path they are choosing.

When I was young, I wanted more than anything else in the world to be an architect. It took a while for me to understand that unless I could muster some interest in math, my career as an architect was an empty, pointless pursuit. As it turns out, I loved the IDEA of being an architect; but not enough to put in the hard work it would take to become one.

That situation repeated itself with music. Again, I had a huge passion for music, living and breathing records, tapes, and going to see concerts. My parents bought me a guitar and after two years of practice, I had gotten to be… atrocious at playing guitar. I was unable to parse that musical dream into distinguishing between loving music and playing music.

And then, finally, there was art. Always art; since early in elementary school. I dove deep into sketching, painting, sculpture, oils, watercolors, graphics, batik, etc. I was going to be a great artist. Except for the fact that I wasn’t a great artist. I was fine but far from exceptional. That was a hard pill to swallow.

Once I got into theatre, I fell in love with scenery design. I had a teacher who encouraged that love and I made up my mind to be a set designer. My reasoning was that it was sort of like architecture and relied on my art training as well. But again, that dream died.

It died when I saw The Police on the Synchronicity tour in 1983 at the Houston Summit. That night, I saw moving lights for the first time (they were in their infancy). I didn’t know what THAT was – but I knew I wanted to do it. So on my way to becoming a lighting designer, I left at least four dead dreams in my wake; and I regret it not one single bit.

As it turns out, my chosen career combines elements of many of those discarded dreams into one pretty sweet package. Had I known that could happen 30 years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble starting down paths I then abandoned.

But each of those paths added to what I ultimately became, so they were worthwhile after all. I still engage my passion and love for architecture, music, and art; in my career and in my life. So, ultimately, they don’t feel like discarded dreams – they’re just elements that added to the whole.

Pursuing your dreams has to be done with diligence, care, and thoughtful self-examination. Note that I said dreamS. You can have more than one!

!nsp!re – A Trip to the Getty

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Getty Museum with friends. Oddly enough this was my first trip; and it certainly won’t be my last. A brisk winter day welcomed us with a cool breeze and slightly overcast skies. Sadly, it had rained earlier in the day and the gardens were closed so we concentrated our time indoors.

The Getty

We spent some time in an excellent exhibit entitled, “The Art of Alchemy”; a wonderfully curated space exploring alchemy and its relation to art and the everyday.

“The Microcosm and the Macrocosm”, Matthaus Merian the Elder, 1678

The Getty collection contains a number of stunning religious paintings, one of which I had never seen before – El Greco’s “Christ On The Cross”, an incredible, almost monochromatic take on the subject.

“Christ on the Cross” by El Greco, About 1600

I was really taken with a painting called “Entrance To The Jardin Turc” by French painter Louis-Leopold Boilly. Though my knowledge of French painters is fairly good, this one had escaped me. The light in this piece is what struck me.

“Entrance To The Jardin Turc” by Louis-Leopold Boilly, 1812

Another piece I was unfamiliar with was “Saint Sebastien Tended By An Angel” (Anthony Van Dyck). I love the use of umber and gray in this sketch for the painting.

“Saint Sebastian Tended by an Angel” by Anthony Van Dyck, About 1630

The museum was incredibly busy and it was great to see families and groups of friends enjoying the collections and learning about art, deepening their appreciation. I left inspired by new visuals; and am excited to return and explore even more.

 

Go. Do. PRESENTING (Part IV)

In Part I of this post, I talked about some of the practical issues to be aware of when preparing a presentation. In Part II, I offered some ideas on structure, theme, connection, and research. Part III covered building and rehearsing your talk. So now what? Final preparations!

Being prepared lowers your stress level and centers your mind; so I recommend..

The night before: Save your talk to your computer/laptop in Keynote. Save it also as a PDF. It’s not a bad idea to save it in Powerpoint as well. Grab all three of those files and copy them to a thumb drive (along with any custom fonts you may have used in your presentation). Load up your bag with your laptop and thumb drive (don’t forget your laptop’s power supply). Put fresh batteries in your wireless presenter and place it, along with a spare battery, in your bag. It’s also a great idea to carry adapters to VGA and DVI (the most common input for projectors) as well as a 1/8″ stereo audio cable. Finally, make sure you bring a stack of business cards.

Check to make sure you have your client’s name and number in your phone, print directions to the venue (or better yet, program it into an app like Waze) and gather all your gear in one place.

Think about your wardrobe. Dressy? Casual? Consider the client, the attendees, and the venue and choose accordingly. Pay attention to the details as you select what you’ll be wearing, along with all the accessories.  Now get some sleep!

The next day, leave plenty of time for traffic. Use the time in your car to review your talk, mentally; listen to music, or take the opportunity to just be silent.  When you arrive at the venue, meet up with your contact and go through the technical details.

Lecterns: Many people use a lectern as a crutch; something to lean on or hide behind. The more your audience sees of you, the more they will trust you. If at all possible, don’t use a lectern. If you’re participating in a panel discussion, use directors chairs instead of sitting behind a table (obviously, this needs to be requested in advance) as a table acts as barrier between you and your audience.

Microphones: You may have a choice between a lapel mic or a wireless handheld mic. A handheld gives you something to occupy your hands, but a mic in one hand and a wireless presenter in the other can get clunky.  A lapel mic leaves your hands free to gesture. This comes down to whatever you’re most comfortable using. Get wired up and talk for a bit while the audio tech sets a level. Remember that from this point on, you are wearing a microphone that is ON; even if it’s not being fed to the speakers. Be careful about what you say.

Laptop/Keynote: Once your laptop is connected (or your Keynote is loaded onto the venue’s computer), grab your wireless presenter and click through the slides. If you have audio or video built into the Keynote, make sure it works and is at a good level.

If you’re using your own laptop, turn your screensaver off, and exit your email & messaging apps. The last thing you need during your talk is for it to be interrupted by the sound of an email or text arriving.

Just before your talk: Prepare your body by stretching a little, prepare your mouth with a few vocal exercises, use the restroom, and grab a bottle of water to drink during your presentation. Turn off your phone before going onstage (unless you’re using it as your wireless presenter, then silence all apps).

Hit the stage: Once you’re on stage, all of this preparation and rehearsal should pay off in a polished performance. Pace yourself, pay attention to the audience’s responses, and R E L A X.

After the talk: Gather your stuff and thank your host and any of the folks who assisted in making your talk successful. You did it!

Go Do: ARTS ADVOCACY DAY TOOLKIT

Today, the first day of spring, is also Arts Advocacy Day. In case you’ve missed it, the arts and humanities are on the chopping block in the proposed federal budget.

It comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that I’m a huge advocate for the arts. I found this link incredibly useful in that it offers a variety of ways to reach out, respectfully and thoughtfully, to your representatives. Your reps (remember, they work for US) need to hear from you regarding your opinion on matters that important to you.

If being in band shaped you into a better math student (and it probably did – they’re closely related); if being in theatre helped you overcome a fear of speaking in public; if sculpting helped you decide to become a mechanical engineer – then you benefited from an arts education.

If a play made you think, or a dance made you feel, or a painting made you question, or a symphony made you weep – then you have been touched by the arts.

If those things are important to you, your family, your children, your community, our culture and society, I urge you to connect with your elected representatives and explain specifically WHY it’s important that the arts remain a part of the federal budget.

There are a variety of links on the page that explain in greater detail what I’m talking about. Click on each one to gain a greater understanding of how the federal money is distributed, used, and matched.

Click here for the Arts Advocacy Toolkit.

Click here for Americans For The Arts.

!nsp!re: Rules of A Creators Life

I’m still figuring out what I want to say on the proposed elimination of the NEA and the NEH. So far everything I’ve tried to write has come out as a string of expletives; which doesn’t really further the conversation. So while I sort out my thoughts on that, I thought I’d just share a quick simple post from Creative Something.

Now, I realize few people get truly inspired by lists; and the quick format often favors somewhat cliche phrases – but every now and then a quick shot of inspiration is needed, so things like this can come in handy.

My faves on this list are:

2. MAKE YOUR OWN INSPIRATION.

Totally agree. Don’t wait to get inspired!

7. SHARE WHAT YOU LEARN

This may just be one of the most important lessons in art AND life. Share your knowledge. Share your inspiration. Share your passion. Use your talents and gifts to bring out the best in others.

8. IGNORE THE CRITICS.

With this one, I disagree. You can learn from critical commentary or analysis of your work from a qualified, thoughtful individual. A better entry might be IGNORE YOUR DETRACTORS.

You can see (and download) the whole list here.

!nsp!re: Read These Books

I get asked, pretty frequently, to recommend reading resources for my line of work (entertainment live show design). Here you will find a constantly updated list of the books and I have found useful, across a variety of related subjects. They are grouped by category.  Enjoy!

Creativity

The Accidental Creative – Todd Henry

Art Before Breakfast – Danny Gregory

The Artist Within: A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit – Whitney Ferre

Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self – Don Hahn

The Collaborative Habit: Life lessons for Working Together – Twyla Tharp

The Creative Fight – Chris Orwig

The Creative Habit – Twyla Tharp

Drive – Daniel H. Pink

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – Sir Ken Robinson

One Little Spark – Marty Sklar

Start With Why – Simon Sinek

Steal Like An Artist – Austin Kleon

Taking The Leap – Cay Lang

 

General

Backstage Handbook – Paul Carter

The Business of Theatrical Design – James L. Moody

Careers in Technical Theatre – Mike Lawler

Digital Technical Theater Simplified – Drew Campbell

Stagecraft Fundamentals – Rita Kogler Carver

Starting Your Career as a Theatrical Designer – Michael J. Riha

 

Audio

Live Sound Mixing – Duncan R. Fry

Sound Check: The Basics of Sound and Sound Systems – Tony Moscal

Sound Systems: Design and Optimization – Bob McCarthy

 

Automation

Automation in the Entertainment Industry – Mark Ager & John Hastie

Mechanical Design for the Stage – Alan Hendrickson

Theatre Engineering and Stage Machinery – Toshiro Ogawa

 

Concert/Touring/Event

Access All Areas: A Real World Guide to Gigging and Touring – Trev Wilkins

Concert Lighting: Techniques, Art, and Business (third edition) – James L. Moody

Freelancer’s Guide to Corporate Event Design – Troy Halsey

 

Control/Data

Control Freak: A Real World Guide to DMX512 and Remote Device Management – Wayne Howell

Lighting Control: Technology and Applications – Robert S. Simpson

Practical DMX – Nick Mobsby

Show Networks and Control Systems – John Huntington

Rock Solid Ethernet – Wayne Howell

 

Costuming

Costume Design – Barbara Anderson & Cletus R. Anderson

Costume Design: Techniques of Modern Masters – Lynn Pecktal

Costume Designer’s Handbook – Rosemary Ingham & Liz Covey

Costume Craftwork On A Budget – Tan Huaixiang

Character Costume Figure Drawing – Tan Huaixiang

 

Design/Drafting

Autocad: A Handbook for Theatre Users – David Ripley

Computer Visualization for the Theatre – Gavin Carver & Christine White

Designer Drafting for the Entertainment World – Patricia Woodbridge & Hal Tine

Drawing and Rendering for the Theatre – Clare P. Rowe

From Page to Stage: How Theatre Designers Make Connections Between Scripts and Images – Rosemary Ingham

Fundamentals of Theatrical Design – Karen Brewster & Melissa Shafer

Scenic Design and Lighting Techniques: A Basic Guide For Theatre – Chuck Gloman and Rob Napoli

Showcase: Developing, Maintaining, & Presenting A Design-Tech Portfolio for Theatre and Allied Fields – Rafael Jaen

The Handbook of Techniques for Theatre Designers – Colin Winslow

Scene Painting Projects for Theatre – Stephen Shirwin

 

Electricity

Electricity for the Entertainment Electrician and Technician – Richard Cadena

Ugly’s Electrical References – George V. Hart

Wiring Simplified – HP Richter and WC Shawn

 

Lighting

Automated Lighting: The Art and Science of Moving Light – Richard Cadena

The Automated Lighting Programmers Handbook – Brad Schiller

Basics: A Beginner’s Guide to Stage Lighting – Peter Coleman

A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting (Second Edition) – Steven Louis Shelley

Stage Lighting Design: The Art, The Craft, The Life – Richard Pilbrow

Media Servers for Lighting Programmers – Vickie Claiborne

The Assistant Lighting Designer’s Toolkit – Anne McMills

 

Makeup

The Makeup Artist Handbook – Gretchen Davis & Mindy Hall

Special Makeup Effects for Stage and Screen – Todd Debreceni

Wig Making and Styling – Martha Ruskai & Allison Lowery

 

Rigging

Entertainment Rigging: A Practical Guide for Riggers and Designers – Harry Donovan

An Introduction to Rigging in the Entertainment Industry – Chris Higgs

Stage Rigging Handbook – Jay O. Glerum

 

Scenery

Stock Scenery Construction Handbook – Bill Raoul

Scenic Art for the Theatre – Susan Crabtree & Peter Beudert

Structural Design for the Stage – Alys Holden & Ben Sammler

 

Special Effects

Basics: A Beginners Guide to Special Effects – Peter Coleman

Sharing: “How Creative Achievement Eases Your Fear of Dying”

Quick share of an interesting article  on “symbolic immortality”, which refers to an individual’s creation of a lasting figurative relationship with life that shapes culture. It’s based on a study published in the Journal of Creative Behavior.

The article, “How Creative Achievement Eases Your Fear of Dying” helps explain why some people create; driven by a fear of death which is then somewhat assuaged by the art they produce.

The Stories Behind Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the morning I stood on the balcony of the Maka’ala and saw a glorious rainbow emerge above Waikolohe Valley. In Hawaiian, rainbows suggest transformation and that’s certainly an accurate word to describe my experience here.

The first guests were welcomed to Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, located in Ko Olina on the island of O’ahu five years ago today. In that time, the resort has quickly become one of the most popular family vacation destinations in the world. What happens when Disney, a company of storytellers, comes to Hawaii, which is full of storytellers?

Magic. That’s what happens.

So, while much has been written in the travel press about the resort and it’s amenities, I want to give you an artists look at Aulani, and share some of the ideas and concepts behind it. In other words, it’s time to “talk story”…

Ahupua’a

Ahupua'a
Ahupua’a

Central to Aulani was the concept of “ahupua’a“, a complex system of land division dating back to when the islands were ruled by chiefs. An island would have multiple ahupua’a – wedge shaped plots of land that stretched from the mountains to the sea. Within each ahupua’a were most of the necessities to sustain a community – water from mountain streams, koa and other trees in the upslopes for building structures and canoes, farmland in the valley for animals and crops of taro, the lowland and beaches for living, and the sea for fishing. Whatever could not be found in one ahupua’a might be traded for something of value from another; enabling trade and commerce. While this certainly seems a practical approach, it’s actually rooted in Hawaiian spirituality. The Hawaiians believed in the interrelationship of humans and the elements. The ahupua’a infused all of the elements of nature into the activities of daily and seasonal life. Not only were all of the elements necessary and important but so was each person and their contribution to the community. You hunted, or built, or gathered, or cooked, or fished. Each person had value. Each contribution to the community had value.

Waianae Tower
Waianae Tower

If you look at Aulani, you’ll see that the hotel towers begin far from the beach. They represent the mountains, and just like the mountains, decrease in height as they approach the water. Large timber elements grace the facades of the towers, representing trees in the upper reaches of the mountains.

Waikolohe Stream
Waikolohe Stream

In the Waikolohe Valley below, multiple sources of water meander through areas thick with lush, overgrown foliage; spanned by “old” bridges. Dark-colored textures and stones appear within this area of the valley.

As you get closer to the beach, the landscaping thins and the stonework becomes more arid, similar to the Ewa plain upon which the resort is built; and as you get closer the beach, small structures begin to appear as they would have in the lowlands of old Hawaii.

DUALITY

Another element underlying Aulani is that of gender duality; acknowledging that everything has a masculine and a feminine side. This is expressed primarily in two areas. First, on either side of the Maka’ala as you enter through the front doors of the resort, there appear two streams. The one on the left (the Ewa side) is tranquil and calm (feminine). The one on the right (the Waianae side) is lively and boisterous (masculine). Further representation of this concept can be found on the towers themselves. The Ewa tower features rounder, softer graphic elements. The Waianae tower’s graphic elements are sharper.

Waianae Tower Detail
Waianae Tower Detail

Additionally, the sides of each tower capture, in magnificently oversized bas relief, key Hawaiian legends

Maui Bas Relief
Maui Bas Relief

LOOK TWICE

Aulani is suffused with the Hawaiian concept of “look twice, see three times”. This is perhaps most evident in Pu’u Kilo. At first glance it appears to be a caldera. Upon closer inspection, there appear to be discernible shapes. An even closer look reveals silhouettes of island animals carved into the face of the caldera.

Do you see the whale?
Do you see the whale?

A HALE (or home) FOR ART

Guests are welcomed to Aulani through Maka’ala. Maka’ala is distinguished on the exterior by three large arches, echoing the inverted hull of a canoe (which is how the first polynesian settlers arrived). The interior of the lobby features a wraparound mural telling the story of the islands, from its pre-contact days through the present. The mural, along with the rest of the art on the property, was created by Hawaiian artists. The resort houses the single largest collection of original Hawaiian art (outside of a museum) in the world.

Maka'ala
Maka’ala

SMALL TOUCHES

Hundreds of details abound across the property. Instead of tiki torches, the resort has custom designed torches inspired by one of the Hawaiians first sources of artificial light – the Kukui nut. At the entrance, you aren’t greeted by tiki figures (tiki is not Hawaiian) but by Hawaiian Ki’i figures). The guest room carpet features sculpted Taro leaves, one of Hawaii’s original food sources. Everywhere you look, graphics and design elements rooted in Hawaiian history tell a story.

Kukui Nut-inspired fixtures
Kukui Nut-inspired fixtures

CULTURAL SENSITIVITY

None of this would have happened without a concerted effort and outreach to local leaders, artisans, elders, Auntys, and Hawaiian historians and scholars. They shared their history, their knowledge, their stories, and their hearts with the Imagineers who were tasked with designing and building Aulani. That desire to honor Hawaii and its people is abundantly clear; and the resort delivers on its original intent which was to be authentically Hawaiian, yet distinctly Disney.