Tag Archives: art

!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.

!nsp!re – An Evening at MorYork

Text Tile Art
Text Tile Art

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend the evening at MorYork. It’s tempting to call it an art gallery (which it is) or a studio (true also) but a better description might be what Los Angeles magazine describes as a “modern day cabinet of curiosities” in this article from March, 2015.

Lighthouse Mirror
Lighthouse Mirror

Located at 4959 York Blvd in Highland Park, in a building that formerly housed a Safeway and a roller rink before falling into dereliction in the mid-80’s when it was purchased by artist Clare Graham, it serves as gallery, studio, incubation, and event space.

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The building, with high ceilings and wonderfully creaky original wood floors, is packed to the rafters with Clare’s work and collections of ephemera.

Floor Detail
Floor Detail

 

Furniture made from soda can pop-tops sits next to a display case filled with primitive carved sex toys. A whole series of art features stuffed animals sealed in plastic and bound together with twine.

An armoire inlaid with teeth
An armoire inlaid with teeth

Still other corners reveal furniture inlaid with human teeth, woodblock art, armoires covered in scrabble tiles, and display cases filled with animal skeletons and doll heads.

Skeleton and Vials
Skeleton and Vials
Caged Doll Head
Caged Doll Head

One enormous section of shelves near the entrance is filled with vintage carnival knock-down dolls while the opposite end of the space is dominated by a stunningly gorgeous lighthouse mirror.

Carnival Doll
Carnival Doll

It’s a mind-boggling, fascinating, and intoxicating environment. Added to the mix is Clare’s recent decision to invite music artists in to perform at MorYork. Alma Sangre (a trio with flamenco) and Edith Crash (LA-based French singer-songwriter) provided a lively evening during our visit, interspersed with drinks and munchies, all surrounded by this incredible collection.

Edith Crash
Edith Crash
Alma Sangre
Alma Sangre

The mix of art and music works, especially because neither is held up as being particularly “precious”. Clare’s work (which has often used recycled materials) is as much about craftsmanship as it is about anything. He’s an approachable artist who has a tremendous respect for, and love of, craft. That’s evident by his work on display at MorYork, and in the musicians that are selected to perform there.

If you’re looking for a deliciously surreal place to spend some time, I’d suggest taking a trip down the rabbit hole that is MorYork.

 

!nsp!re – Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters @ LACMA

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Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the member preview for a new exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) – GUILLERMO DEL TORO: AT HOME WITH MONSTERS. The exhibit focuses on the artistic life and influences of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak, Pan’s Labyrinth).

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Costume detail from "Crimson Peak"
Costume detail from “Crimson Peak”

For those who have read his book, “Cabinet of Curiosities“, this exhibit is especially thrilling. In the book, readers get a view inside Del Toro’s suburban Los Angeles home (named “Bleak House”). The home is packed with all manner of unusual oddities, props, artwork, and collections.

Satan and Death with Sin Intervening by Henry Fuseli
Satan and Death with Sin Intervening by Henry Fuseli

 

Arm of Hosts by Dave Cooper
Arm of Hosts by Dave Cooper
Illustration from "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"
Illustration from “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”

In this exhibit, those collections have been placed on view for the public; and it is horribly magnificent. The show is not a retrospective of Del Toro’s work; but a look at his influences and inspirations. In keeping with that idea, the exhibit is laid out thematically. Paintings, drawings, maquettes, full size sculptures, and more bring Del Toro’s unique visions into full relief in this exhibit that surrounds and immerses you into one mans fever dream.

A Life-sized sculpture of Schlitzie and Johnny Eck, both by Thomas Kuebler.
A Life-sized sculpture of Schlitzie and Johnny Eck, both by Thomas Kuebler.
Life-size sculpture of Ray Harryhausen by Mike Hill.
Life-size sculpture of Ray Harryhausen by Mike Hill.

The work of many artists is on display, and its easy to see where Del Toro derives his inspiration.

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Sculptures by Mike Hill
Sculptures by Mike Hill

Taking its inspiration from the tone and architecture of Bleak House, the exhibit is housed in an architectural shell, with long hallways that twist and turn, opening into room after room. The walls and other elements are in muted tones of black, gray, and blood red. The use of rafters overhead is enhanced by lighting that casts shadows onto the ceiling and surrounding walls.

One room in particular is modeled after Del Toro’s writing room, in which a perpetual rainstorm falls outside the “windows” of the room.

007The exhibit is truly wondrous. It’s a through and detailed examination of artistic inspiration and process. A good example is that there are several of his notebooks on display. Since they could easily be damaged by the public, all the pages have been scanned and patrons can flip through them virtually on a touch-screen adjacent to the actual notebook. It’s a great way of revealing the artist while preserving the work.

El Velo Negro by Pedro Meyer
El Velo Negro by Pedro Meyer

I have only two small quibbles with the overall exhibit. The first is that it appears to have been put together quickly. The finishes on the display vitrines are somewhat slap-dash, with visible paint brush marks and drips. One would think that an exhibit with this sort of “draw” in the marketplace would have warranted a greater attention to detail. My other minor negative comment is that I would have loved to seen LACMA embrace a greater degree of theatricality through lighting and video. The black costume from “Crimson Peak” is especially poorly lit, diminishing its detail and beauty.

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003Finally, there’s also a great book/catalogue that has been published in conjunction with the exhibit (Guillermo Del Toro: At Home With Monsters: Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections). The book goes into even more detail about Del Toro’s process, journals, and inspirations.

The exhibit is on view through November 27, 2016. Admission is free to members (which I highly recommend by joining here) or with regular admission ($15) to the museum.

!nsp!re – theatre students hitting their marks

Students perform a song from "Newsies"
Students perform a song from “Newsies”
Every summer, thousands of high school Thespians bring their love of all things theatre to the Thespian Festival, a celebration of student achievement in the arts. Organized by the Educational Theatre Association and hosted by the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, the Festival is a one-of-a-kind, weeklong immersion experience in singing, dancing, acting, designing, directing, creating, writing, and memory-making. Festival features workshops presented by theatre professionals, individual and group performances, programs for technical theatre students, and opportunities to audition for college admission and scholarship. It’s an incredible experience for teachers and students and I’m proud to have been involved for the second year.

The week begins with a performance of “An Evening With…”. This year, the show centered around the theatrical work of 8-time Tony-winning composer Alan Menken. Alan couldn’t be with us in person, but a video crew had been dispatched to his home to capture his thoughts.

The show is unique because of how quickly it’s assembled. A cast of 20 student performers is pulled together through remote auditions along with 15 student technicians. They all converge on Lincoln and meet, for the first time, on Saturday night. While the performers attend a vocal rehearsal (conducted by Jason Yarcho, Musical Director of Wicked), the tech students meet and create a plan for each of their respective departments.

The crew for "An Evening With..." meeting for the first time.
The crew for “An Evening With…” meeting for the first time.
On Sunday, the performers have 9 hours of rehearsal, which includes learning the choreography and blocking, cleaning it, then running it in a rehearsal space, all while running lines and attending costume fittings. While they do that, the tech students are devising cue sheets, coordinating microphone plans, and mapping out backstage traffic and activities. In the afternoon, the techs get three hours in the venue to load in and test their respective gear. Platforms are placed, show files are loaded, and other tech elements are set.

The crew for "An Evening With" loading in staging and lighting.
The crew for “An Evening With…” loading in staging and lighting.
On Monday morning, cast and crew meet in the Lied Center for the Performing Arts where they meet the 10-piece band. As they work through the show, the audio crew sets levels, the lighting crew creates cues, the projection crew runs their piece, and the dressers set up their backstage quick-change areas.

The crew for "An Evening With" loading in staging and lighting.
The crew for “An Evening With…” loading in staging and lighting.
After lunch, the cast and crew have one dress rehearsal, then doors open for two back-to-back shows. It’s a somewhat unique experience in that it materializes so quickly, then vaporizes less than 24 hours later. The students run everything backstage – lights, sound, followspots, projection, costumes; under the direction of industry pros. Like last year, I had a great crew with top-notch talent.

Running the show
Running the show
For the remainder of the week, I conducted lighting and projection workshops for a total of about 500 students. This is a rewarding experience because it’s where you see the lightbulbs start going off; as students realize that the soft and hard skills they learn in theatre are suitable to all areas of the entertainment industry and that they can work in concerts, clubs, television, cruise ships and many other areas.

What struck me most is the level of super-engagement of these students. Their passion, dedication, and commitment are extraordinary. One wonders why that is; until you meet their teachers. These theatre teachers are deeply engaged with their art and their students; forming a bridge that carries the students from knowing about theatre to creating theatre. They inspire these students to commit, to create, to embrace, to BE their art. It’s thrilling to watch; and I’m already looking forward to next year.

!nsp!re – Getting The Details Right (or It’s Okay To Be A Crazy Control Freak)

One of the most unique films I saw last year was Grand Budapest Hotel. It was filled with all the oddity and quirkiness you’d expect from a Wes Anderson film. Wes truly embraces that film is a director’s medium; and his specific perspective and style permeates every frame. What I love most about his films is the borderline-obsessive attention to detail. From how the shots are composed to the music choices to the color of the teapot far off in the background, Wes treats each decision about each detail as an important one. I respect and admire that sort of attention to craft that many artists possess.

That tireless pursuit of getting the smallest detail right is something I strive for (and sadly, don’t quite achieve many times) in my creative life. I’m of the mind-set that it’s okay (indeed, necessary) to sweat the small stuff. Now, mind you, I’m not talking about breaking a nail or spilling your morning coffee; of course, those things happen and we have to let them go (and quickly). What I’m talking about is how we create.

Finishing The Hat by Stephen Sondheim
Finishing The Hat by Stephen Sondheim

Broadway and film composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim states in his book, Finishing The Hat, “God is in the details”. And he’s right. Every single musical note of every single musical instrument has to be selected; then paired with every single word and note that is to be sung. Every decision you make informs and effects every single decision downstream of it; so caring about the details enough to get them right can seem like a monumental task. But when you care deeply enough to make each small detail correct, it can bring a you sense of peace.

Taking care of the details in my own creative life allows me to see when the work is “finished”. There have been numerous times I’ve endlessly fiddled with a show I’m lighting. Often, it’s in the pursuit of narrowing down the list of details that have yet to be addressed. In my work, those notes often come from others (a director or producer, perhaps), but I always have a running list of details I need to complete before I can walk away from the work with a sense of satisfaction. Sometimes it never gets there, and I walk away unhappy with the piece. It’s in those times that I try to figure out what didn’t work.

To be clear, I’m talking about constructive self-examination; not beating yourself up. Putting yourself through the wringer is an unnecessary and unproductive diversion in which far too many artists indulge.

On those occasions when I do have the opportunity to truly get the details right, the sense of accomplishment and the feeling of “completeness” is truly fulfilling. So if you’re one of those insufferable goobers that annoys your friends and co-workers with your relentless attention to detail, just know you have lots of company and that it’s okay to sweat those small details; just like Wes.

If you’d like to see some of Wes Anderson’s attention to detail, check out the book, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Book) by Matt Zoller Seitz
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Book) by Matt Zoller Seitz

And then checkout this tumblr site that collects color palettes from many Wes Anderson films and puts them together in one place.

Tumblr Site - Wes Anderson Palletes
Tumblr Site – Wes Anderson Palletes

!NSP!RE – 8 pieces of advice for thriving in a world of constant change

Just a quick share of a great post.

Many of the thoughts shared by Joi Ito resonate with me, and I really responded to the the thought that “linear thinking is becoming less useful as a model than complex, intuitive thinking. The most important things that we do in the world today are about orchestrating complexity.”

So much truth in that statement.

ideas.ted.com

On a trip to the Bahamas in 2012, I got the chance to feed a group of grey reef sharks. Now, feeding sharks is not an activity to be taken lightly. It’s a complex challenge that essentially requires you to coordinate a group of wild animals; you want them excited enough that they stick around. But you can’t just dump lots of food in the water, because that will whip them into a frenzy, with potentially disastrous consequences.

You spend a lot of time training for a dive like this. And the most important thing is for all of that training to be second nature. If you’re present and aware in the moment, the action just happens intuitively. The sharks, in all honesty, feel almost like dogs. They have personalities — you see which ones are a little bit more aggressive and which ones have a personality that borders on…

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