Tag Archives: creativity

!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: 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.

!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.

go do: PRESENTING (Part II)

In Part I of this post, I covered some of the practical issues in preparing for a presentation. Now that you know when and where you’re speaking AND what you’re speaking about, it’s time to begin collecting your thoughts, words, and images.

Consider theme. Most of the talks I give are meant to be inspirational, as opposed to informational so I tend to start by thinking thematically. Recently, I was asked to speak to high school students about the importance of arts in education. I knew I wanted to include a personal story, given that I have received the benefits of arts programs; and I knew I wanted to include a few statistical examples that reinforced the overall point of arts education. After some thought, I landed on a theme of creativity since that is common to all arts classes. My story and my data both spoke to the importance of arts education to those who pursue and (perhaps more importantly) do not pursue the arts; and how it improves their overall education (and aptitude in non-arts subjects). Having an overarching theme allows you to connect seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive presentation. You don’t have to put your theme in the title; in fact, no one even has to know you have one. It’s simply a tool to help guide you in assessing whether or not all of your points fit under one “big idea”.

Along with theme, consider your point of view. Audiences respond to speakers who know their subject and, perhaps more importantly, are passionate about their subject. Infuse your presentation with words and thoughts that originate in your core. If your words are rooted in conviction and reinforce your points, you will deliver them in a more genuine, honest way. Otherwise, your audience may sense you’re being disingenuous which will cause them to disengage.

Create structure. People are story-based. We crave a beginning, middle, and end. You can insure that you deliver on this by carefully considering your presentation in the context of your theme. Typically this involves presenting a point, providing illustrative information that reinforces the point, then referencing it back to your larger theme before moving onto your next point.

There are several ways to create your structure. Analytical, logical types may want to start with an outline in a word program. Others might choose to create mind maps. I actually prefer to work in Keynote. Many presenters believe this is a bad idea, because it can place too much emphasis on “snazzy visuals” instead of content (and it can, so beware). My work, however, inherently relies on relaying concepts in a visual way so I find “thinking” in Keynote to be very helpful. I usually start with a theme/title page, then create pages for each of my points and fill in some preliminary information. This forces me to stick to my point when I’m putting info on the page. I can instantly see whether or not it fits on that page or should move to another. It’s essentially an outline built in Keynote, but it works for me. Your approach can also depend on the style of presentation. Experiment with a few different approaches and use what works best for your style.

Create connection. People also crave connection. Anyone can stand up and read stats from a slide. Make your presentation personal by sharing a story that illustrates your point (bonus points if its humorous and allows people to see themselves in a similar situation). Take a look at this video on TED. In it, Sir Ken Robinson establishes his points, but then goes further by telling several compelling stories that illustrate his ideas; some are about other people, some are about him or his family. What stories do is open a window between the audience and speaker, allowing the audience to see themselves  (or someone they know) in these stories; creating a connection. This brings the audience closer to the storyteller and makes it easier for them to digest the ideas the speaker is presenting.

Collect your visuals. Eventually, you’ll need to start gathering all of your images. I’m primarily motivated and moved by visuals; so I allow a lot of time to browse for images and video that support my subject.

You’ll create a folder for your talk. In it, create a subfolder for notes, another for images, and another for video. Then search through your own files and the internet, remembering that this exercise is all about volume. It’s okay to harvest a LOT of images. You’ll edit later (more on that in part II).

Go for striking, uncluttered, high-contrast images because those tend to read best from far away AND can be seen clearly even when the projector is dim or low-quality. Steer clear of the banal and the literal. You want the visual to support your idea, not bludgeon the audience with its obviousness.  To that end, don’t be afraid to be abstract or whimsical.

Collect high-resolution images (aim for 1920×1080 minimum). Crop out any extraneous or distracting details. Rename the file to something that is easy for you to remember or locate quickly; and place all of the files in your respective folders.

One last point on visuals. Someone went to the effort to create the visuals that you find so wonderful. Be an awesome human and give them credit. The easiest way to remember the creator is to put the credit info in the file name; but the best way is to right-click on the image and fill out the meta-data (using Properties on PC or Get Info on Mac). Both platforms provide editable fields, allowing you to enter the creators name and other info, along with tags to make it searchable.

So now you have your thoughts together, an outline made, and a collection of images and video. What’s next? Part III will cover creating your visual presentation and rehearsing. Part IV will cover presentation day.