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Creativity

GIgapixel ArtZoom: Focusing on the Seattle Art Scene

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 11, 2014

In October 2013, Microsoft teamed up with Seattle artists to create Gigapixel ArtZoom, an online panorama that shows off Seattle’s stunning vistas and vibrant art scene. Gigapixel ArtZoom was built on technology first demonstrated in 2006, when Johannes Kopf, Matt Uyttendaele, Oliver Deussen, and Michael Cohen at Microsoft Research improved upon existing gigapixel imaging. They figured out how to capture images of billions of pixels, and developed smoother panning and zooming technology that would permit viewers to properly explore the images.

The original image was beautiful, but stark in that the cityscape appeared to be sparsely populated. So in 2013, the team developed the Gigapixel ArtZoom, working with prominent people in the local Seattle artist scene. A plan was developed to create the panoramic shot of Seattle, and populate it with painters, fashion and costume designers, performance artists, dancers, and acrobats. On a beautiful day in October, from the top of a condominium tower in downtown Seattle, a team of photographers shot two panoramas using a Canon digital SLR camera, a professional 400 mm lens, and a Gigapan robotic tripod head. Since no single spot on the roof could yield a full panorama of Seattle, two shots were required and were later stitched together using Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor software.

During the next two weeks, the artists were posed in situ, photographed from the rooftop, and composited into the final image. Video crews also photographed and filmed the artists. The result is a stunning vista of Seattle, which viewers can pan and zoom in on from any computer or mobile device. The experience is a wonderful “Where’s Waldo” adventure; as an artist is centered in the screen, a pop-up window provides information and links to a video. The range depicts the diversity of Seattle’s art scene. Participants include landscape painter Tamara Stephas, filmmaker Wes Hurley, diva Sari Breznau, and the Kelly Lyles Art Cars, participants in the uniquely Seattle Art Car Blowout.

Gigiapixel Art is also memorable for the poignant scenes of everyday Seattle life that have been captured in the panorama. Panning across the image reveals a skateboarder mid-air, a father strolling with his infant, couples nestling by the river, and the crumpled sheets of an unmade bed, spied through a sunlit window.

Top right – GigaPixel artists from top left (going clockwise): landscape painter Tamara Stephas, actors in filmaker Wes Hurley's performance piece, opera diva Sari Breznau, and Kelly Lyles Art Cars.

Photos © Microsoft.
 

An Invitation: Intensive with Bob Gill, June 9-13

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 31, 2014

Self portrait, © Bob GillAn invitation to the first six intrepid souls to spend an intensive week with Bob Gill in his New York City studio, June 9-13. The workshop will consist of the following:

  1. A comprehensive evaluation of each designer's portfolio.
  2. A discussion of each designer's goals (attainable and unattainable).
  3. A complete description of Gill's process of changing ordinary design and illustration problems into exciting, original solutions that really work.
  4. A series of one-day assignments tailored to each designer's needs.
  5. Frank criticism of each assignment.
  6. Bagels and coffee.

Fee: $850.

Gill is in the New York Art Directors Hall of Fame and is one of the founders of Pentagram Design. His latest book is Bob Gill, So Far.

www.bobgilletc.com   |   bobgilletc@nyc.rr.com   |   (212) 460-0950

Doodle Alley: Sustain Your Creativity

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 26, 2013

Illustrator Stephen McCranie has published a wonderfully illustrated treatise on nourishing your creativity. Brick by Brick, appearing on McCranie's blog Doodle Alley, is a cartoon of advice on developing habits and practices to sustain a creative life. The publication was borne of McCranie’s desire to catalog what he had learned during his first couple years as an illustrator. He soon realized that what he was writing “… wasn’t a book about how to create, it was a book about how to be a creator.” Rather than cover the nuts and bolts of being an illustrator – practical advice on getting published, for example – Brick by Brick seeks to give artists the emotional tools they need to thrive in a difficult career.

Some of the advice is heart-warming and postive. In “Be Friends with Failure,” McCranie cautions artists against becoming harsh self critics, and encourages them to embrace failure as part of the learning process. Other advice is extremely wise: in “You Are Not Your Art,” McCranie warns the artist against deciding “…your life is your art,” cautioning that result could be “You treat the master of your craft like gods…but you could care less about people who aren’t as skilled as you.”

McCranie is working on a print edition of the book. His successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $39,000 – $30,000 more than his stated goal. The book will be a 200-page, full color comic about sustainable creativity, and will feature the cartoons on Doodle Alley. The printed publication will include three additional essays that don’t appear online: “Name it to Wield it,” “Divide and Conquer,” and “Work to Work.”

Artwork courtesy of the artist. © Stephen McCranie


Be Friends with Failure, © Stephen McCranie

Seven Years of Brain Pickings — Immeasurable Wisdom

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 26, 2013

Brain Pickings logoIn late October of 2006, Maria Popova, a college student and freelancer at an advertising agency, started sending out a periodic inspirational email. The email included links to an eclectic mix of mind teasing articles, from biomedical research to poetry. The email evolved into a blog which Popova dubbed Brain Pickings. Since then, Brain Pickings has grown to be a creative wellspring, with over 500,000 visitors per month, 150,000 subscribers to its newsletter, and over 395,000 followers of Popova's Twitter feed. Brain Pickings has also been included in the Library of Congress’ digital archive of historically relevant materials. On the seventh anniversary of Brain Pickings, Popova published an article of what she has learned from the experience. The list amply reflects the wisdom behind Brain Pickings, and provides a framework for building a relevant and productive life. We recommend reading the article in full, but to synopsize:

1) Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.
2) Do nothing for prestige or status or money alone.
3) Be generous.
4) Build pockets of stillness into your life.
5) When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
6) Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.
7) “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” – Debbie Millman

Brain Pickings is ad-free, and Popova derives her primary income from voluntary subscriptions and donations to the site. A “donating = loving” link on the site recommends a subscription level of $7.00 per month. Considering the hundreds of hours of labor every month behind the blog, supporting Popova’s work is worthwhile. Consider it an investment in a creative infusion.

A Year with the ADAA, Part 2: Mentoring an ADAA Finalist

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 30, 2017

Over the past year, Guild member and designer Theresa Whitehill has had an unusual relationship with software giant Adobe: that of both judge and mentor in their student Adobe Design Achievement Awards (ADAA). A few months after judging the ADAA winners, her experience was extended when she was asked to mentor one of the student finalists. While the time commitment has posed a challenge, it’s one from which Whitehill has derived satisfaction and growth.


Q: Knowing how busy you are, how did you get roped into the free mentorship?

Late last year, a few months after the ADAA awards ceremony, ico-D (the International Council of Design, which collaborates with Adobe on the ADAA) contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in mentoring one of the ADAA finalists. I had a gut reaction that I’d do it, but I had to really think twice, since so many personal and professional projects have had to be postponed due to my busy schedule. But I was shaken by the election result, and I realized that the best thing I could do was to pass on my knowledge, even at the cost of burning the candle at both ends.

Q: How were you paired with photography student Martin Hoang as your mentee?

As it turns out, Martin Hoang had asked for me. That surprised me. Martin’s been through schooling for design, and has gotten a lot of recognition from being an ADAA finalist, whereas I didn’t even graduate from college — I’m a bootstrap kind of learner. I wondered why such an educated designer would ask for me, and ico-D responded that it’s probably because I have a unique perspective.

Q: Did you remember Martin’s work? 

While I was judging, I tended to not look at students’ profiles so as not to be influenced. But some student work really stood out, including Martin’s. Ironically, we didn’t award a first place in the photography category in which he had entries, since we felt none of the submissions quite warranted it. 

Martin submitted two projects to ADAA. One was a photojournalism essay about the welding artist who created the Bay Bridge Troll [an 18-inch steel sculpture which was welded to a section of the Bay Bridge when it was repaired after the earthquake of 1989]. The troll didn’t end up being part of the photo essay, and without that strong storyline, the judges felt that although it was well-executed and compelling photojournalism, it lacked the backstory to be able to understand the connection. 

Martin’s second project was promotional photography for men’s clothing. He photographed himself leaping in mid-air dressed in various incredible men’s fashion ensembles, and photoshopped himself out of the images, so that the clothing appeared to be animated. I was amazed by it, but some of the judges had seen similar work, so to them it wasn’t as original as it was to me — a good example of how the breadth of experience among judges was helpful when judging in such a compressed time range. While both projects were beautifully executed, neither had the original conceptual edge that the judges felt would overall warrant a first place prize. Martin was designated a finalist for the Bay Bridge Troll project, so that satisfied me because it was well-deserved.


I understand how to learn a new skill that is required for a job; I’m an on-the-job learner and always have been. You break it down and you find the resources that you need to do the next step; if the software doesn’t do what you need it to do, you find a way to get in through the back door. It’s learning how to learn, which you can apply to almost anything.


Q: So what is Martin’s mentorship project?

His idea is to take a tin for holding tea and re-imagine it so that it looks like the staff of the Monkey King, a Buddhist deity—Sun Wukong—from the Hindu pantheon. The Monkey King is a misunderstood trickster turned demi-god, and the subject of a lot of anime films – sort of like Hercules and his ascension to Godhood. At first I questioned the scale of the tea tin, asking Martin whether such a long staff would be satisfying to him in a shorter proportion. Martin explained to me that the Monkey King’s staff can collapse down to a small size, so the tea tin made sense as part of the story. Martin’s idea is to wrap the tin in leather and create bronze filigrees so that it matches the look and design of the Monkey King’s staff. That means he has had to learn or push his knowledge of a lot of technical and craft skills, such as wrapping and sewing leather, and metal casting, in order to complete the project to his satisfaction, so it’s quite ambitious.

Q: That seems to be a big stretch from photography; does that come into play?

Photography is not his only area of study and experience; he has great design skills and was familiar with metal casting from his education. It’s a great project for a mentorship, because it’s much riskier and out of the box. The concept is wonderful and imaginative, and it’s forcing him to learn new skills. He’ll photograph the final product, and that’s where those skills will come to bear.

Q: This also falls outside of your area of expertise. What kind of technical advice have you been able to give him?

Like Martin, I understand how to learn a new skill that is required for a job; I’m an on-the-job learner and always have been. You break it down and you find the resources that you need to do the next step; if the software doesn’t do what you need it to do, you find a way to get in through the back door. It’s learning how to learn, which you can apply to almost anything. So I’ve had Martin explain to me how he plans to approach the several crafts he needs to learn to be successful at this and played devil’s advocate to help him refine his approach. Initially, he planned to do just one bronze casting, and I was able to advise him to use an initial bronze pour at his school as a trial run so that he could troubleshoot any issues and revise in time for the final pour. 

As it turns out, some real technical challenges came up. He found that he couldn’t get the detail he wants for the filigree using the bronze-casting facilities at this school. For that, he needs a goldsmith’s foundry, which will permit him to pour the molten metal while the mold is spinning; this allows much finer, thinner details. He’s now looking for a goldsmith who would be interested in helping him with his project.


I’ve found my conversations with Martin have fed my own creativity. Explaining my creative process has been really helpful and has helped clarify my thinking. For a while I had dropped a lot of projects that weren’t “billable” simply because I couldn’t justify fitting them in, but found that recently I have said “Yes” to many of these again.


Q: What are the terms of the internship?

The internship goes for six months, and we were asked to make a minimum commitment to a one-hour conversation per month. We also email between sessions. Other than that, there are no expectations on the scope or type of project.

Q: What do you think is the biggest contribution you can make to Martin’s development?

Through the ADAA program, Martin got a job at Adobe. It’s a great opportunity, but it can be a super stressful environment due to the high level of work expected. So I started checking in with him between our monthly sessions. I see stress like an ocean wave — you either get dumped, or you get up on that wave and ride it in to shore. How you deal with stress will determine your longevity in the business—how far you’re able to go, what great projects you get to work on. I want him to learn to not be afraid of stress, but attack it and learn how to ride it. When I check in with him, it’s often with “How’s the surf?” and he might answer, “Surf’s up!”

Martin is very used to achieving through hard work, but there is a part of him that needs to be psychologically prepared for failures now and again; they are an inevitable byproduct if you are seeking to achieve. Martin is ambitious and wants to be in a position where he’s driving a concept; he still needs experience working with other people. But he’ll get there if he pays attention.

Q: Have you gotten anything for yourself out of this mentorship?

I’ve found my conversations with Martin have fed my own creativity. Explaining my creative process has been really helpful and has helped clarify my thinking. For a while I had dropped a lot of projects that weren’t “billable” simply because I couldn’t justify fitting them in, but found that recently I have said “Yes” to many of these again. I’ve realized that these projects that might be seen as more peripheral were actually feeding my core reason for designing, and, amazingly, everything is going very well in spite of this “over-commitment.” I’m more jazzed; I have more energy.

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