What Made Me Cry This Week – Abstract

Abstract - the Art of DesignI’ve watched three episodes of it. Each one has made me cry, in a different way.

It’s a documentary called Abstract. It’s on Netflix. The documentary explores “The Art of Design.”

The first episode is about an illustrator, Christoph Niemman, who has had several New Yorker covers, and does crazy illustrations – they have depth of content. It was fun having a couple of friends come up to me saying that they saw myself in him. Because, honestly, if I can be like him my life is set.

The third (I accidentally skipped the second one somehow) one is the designer for Nike shoes and Air Jordans, Tinker Hatfield. I wasn’t so interested in him, I don’t care that much about footwear – especially athletic – but it was still incredible seeing his drive, his creativity for something as “normal” as shoes.

And the last one I’ve seen so far has been Es Devlin’s episode. She’s a stage designer for theater and pop shows. Beyoncé and Kanye are just a couple people she’s designed stages for. She is incredible. Her pieces are so elaborate: they’re all about light, space, darkness, and time. I was surprised by how visually powerful they are.

With each episode the series expresses well the visuals,the audio, the editing, the thought process, the elaboration, the abstraction of ideas. They’re able to basically strip naked the thoughts of the artist, and it’s like you get to swim inside their heads and taste a little bit of what it’s like to come up with their incredible ideas.

In the end, the documentary is about abstraction; it’s about transforming an idea into something tangible. It’s about understanding your media and how to get ideas into that media. How do you work with just the flat visual image? How do you work with a shoe? With space and light? How do you create ideas, narratives, emotion, concepts, within whatever form or shape it takes in the world? How do you express what can’t be expressed?

I recommend Abstract – The Art of Design to anyone who wants to marvel at how things are created or for anyone seeking inspiration. You’ll finish an episode ready to conquer the next set of ideas that you carry in your own head.

 

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Pineapples! They’re the key!

“This pineapple is ripe. I should eat it.”

Pineapple

You know. You can find inspiration for art and for growing in your art anywhere. Even in a pineapple. But you may be asking why. Why is he choosing a pineapple? Well because there’s one in front of me right now. And because that’s what I want to do. My desires are frequently unreasonable.

But so how can a pineapple inspire you, and help you grow in your art? Well here’s a list of how.

 

Blog_Numbers1You can sketch it, draw it, paint it. Represent it in some way. Just by doing this, at least once you’ll be better than you were before. At least that’s what they say: “Practice makes perfect.”

 

 

Blog_Numbers2Eat it. Savor it. Enjoy it full-heartedly. Maybe even find a cool recipe through our friend Google. – Enjoying life is just essential for art. While there are great artists that I’m sure didn’t quite enjoy life, that doesn’t mean that you can’t! And after you’ve enjoyed the pineapple you can go back to your sullen self if you so desire. It’s up to you.

 

Blog_Numbers3Make a pineapple character! Or a pineapple world! Or a pineapple house! (uuuh.. Sponge Bob?) Come up with anything new that you can from a pineapple. Maybe a dress, or a blouse that has it stamped on it. Or maybe fuse it with a different fruit, to come up with a Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen? Oops. It feels like my ideas have already been used everywhere! Oh wells. Maybe choose a different fruit, or just think of something even newer. If you can.

 

Blog_Numbers4Write on, and about, the pineapple. I mean seriously. You’re an artist. You’re in the business of creativity. Anything new, anything imaginative is good. Even if you don’t see yourself as a writer, this can be great to break your shell! Get creative. Go crazy. With a pineapple. (In case you didn’t notice… that’s what I’m doing right now!)

 

Blog_Numbers5Slam it against a wall, floor or sidewalk. Draw that! Paint that! Seriously. I mean. Aren’t you curious to see what a smashed pineapple looks? And how will you draw that? You could even make a whole comic telling the whole story of how you read this awesome blog post and decided to smash a pineapple, that you ended up drawing, that made you super-crazy internet famous.

 

Blog_Numbers6Balance it on your head. Count how many seconds. Keep a track of your record. You don’t know why you should do this? Well. If you can’t figure it out on your own, I’m not sure we can be friends.

 

 

Wait…You’re still reading this? What are you waiting for? Go make some art with pineapples!

P.S.: The pineapple was eaten, leaving no space for me to try out all my tips. But I did get myself pumped up enough to come up with this dorky pineapple-inspired character.

Pineapple Character

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Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

 

 

What Made Me Cry This Week – Habibi

Habibi CoverCan I just say that I love this new “job” of mine? I get to read stories that I love. Stories that move me, and enchant my small heart. Stories that actually make this heart bigger, opening it up to new experiences, worlds, and ideas. And Craig Thompson, in Habibi, did just that.

Thompson has already moved me through his graphic novel Blankets; Habibi only increased my admiration for his ability to convey emotion in creative ways.

So, the main plot:

A girl named Dodola is made a slave. She runs away with a younger slave that she has taken in, almost as her own child. She renames him Zam. They grow up together on the boat, yes a boat, they found shipwrecked in the desert – their safe haven.

Thrown into the mix of it all are questions of sexuality. Dodola to provide food prostitutes her body. As Zam enters puberty he becomes enraptured by Dodola’s body. The story focuses on the redemption of their own sins, as they try and survive in a world dominated by the evil of humankind. But as we are shown they’ve been separated – with Dodola ending up in a Sultan’s harem. Zam’s search for Dodola begins as she tries to survive the harem.

Thompson has a magical ability to mix poetry, narrative, and visuals. He jumps from place to place, leaves us curious, intrigued, always wanting more. If I didn’t have work the next day I would have stayed up all night reading it. Oh, responsibilities – always getting in the way.

I also really liked the book for the way Thompson incorporates Arabic language, Islamic religion, and poetry. He gives breath to faith that so often seems intangible. Faith, as in Blankets, becomes a lens through which to look at the world. It becomes a means for survival to the lost ones.

Habibi shows. No, it doesn’t show. Habibi makes us live with what is wrong in our world. It makes us experience that which we often try to ignore: a world where the sex-trade still runs rampant and poverty is one of it’s major drivers.

While the world is dark, Thompson is still able to deliver some brushstrokes of hope. At the end, I cried: I mourned for the many lives that have suffered under the cruelty of this world, but also for the glimpse of hope given.

The hope Thompson gives never once felt like the stuff of fairy-tales. It felt real, like I could run into it around the block from my house.

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

 

Do Something New Every Day

Do Something New - Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Ok. I exaggerate, it doesn’t have to be something new every day. It can just be every week. Or maybe every month? I don’t know. Just try and do something new, is all I’m saying.

Today (as in 2 weeks ago, when I wrote this) I went to Dinderbeck Studios, here in Grand Rapids (GR), and took a 4 hour long workshop on screenprinting. Before the workshop, I had never heard of screenprinting, or any other forms of printing besides digital, to be honest. And it was so much fun learning something new.

Screenprinting is a fairly simple process. You just make the image, transfer it to the screen, then apply paint and transfer it to your paper, canvas or cloth of choice. Some people do t-shirts through this process.

It’s great for making hand-made prints. It offers you the chance to make several copies of that one print, but each print somewhat unique – or you can make it be. It will always have, at least when I’m doing it, mistakes or small flaws.

I think that’s part of the beauty of it. It’s not perfect, it’s not the same, each one is unique. Hand-crafted. It allows for the artist to be a part of the reproduction process – Marx would appreciate the ability it gives the artist to be closer in touch with the “means of reproduction.” Bye bye alienation.

The workshop was also just great to get to know some people from GR. There were 5 of us. We each worked on our own prints, but at the end we exchanged ours with each other! So I ended up getting some free art for my room.

Below you can check out the prints I worked on. They allowed us to come for another week after, during their open hours, for free.

But the reason I’m sharing this: it’s because it’s one of those “new experiences” that has helped me get pumped up for art again. New experiences change the pacing that you make art and your thought process opens up to new pathways. However, it doesn’t have to be a new art form that does this – although new art forms can be great – but really just about anything new does it. Open up your brain pores to creativity.

You can explore a part of your city you’ve never dared to go to. Or it could be going to a new city or country. It can be going to a new café, or starting a new type of project – like a blog! It can be to go to a new event. Or even to try and recreate one of your old pieces, under a new light. It can be to go be a reading mentor at middle school. Or to help at a homeless shelter.

Anything that gets you thinking in new ways. Step out of your comfort zone. I know. It’s cozy there. But just do it. It’s fun. Sometimes.

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM every Tuesdays and Thursdays.

What Made Me Cry This Week – Boxers and Saints

Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen YangBoxers - by Gene Luen Yang\

For me as a Christian, reading Boxers and Saints was hard. The story highlights mistakes Christians have made through history, especially in their association with politics, power, and wars.

But it does it in a simple and beautiful way. The story arch is simple and direct.

In the first volume, the story of the leader “Little Bao”* from the Boxer Rebellion, in China, is told. It shows the struggle of his town and family under the oppression of Saints - by Gene Luen Yang“foreign devils:” westerners and Christians. And so we follow Little Bao’s rise to military power against the oppressors; he learns Kung Fu and how to “harness” powers from the Chinese gods.

Mixing mythology and day-to-day happenings, the book took me alongside the rise and downfall of the revolution. I cheered for them to some degree, I understood their suffering and pain, but soon began to see the inevitable end approaching under Bao’s leadership.

The art is clean with a consistent style and adds to that simplicity of the narrative. Bold lines, blocked in colors and simple shadows. The art can be celebrated for its ability to convey so much through so little. It enables the reader to tread quickly through the story, never losing sight of the plot.

Once Boxer ends, one cannot feel the sadness sinking in, was anything actually accomplished?

In Saints we follow a parallel story to Boxers, the story of Four.* Four is a girl with whom Bao has a brief encounter in Boxers. She is an outcast within her and family, who wants to become a Christian to get free food and to become a “devil” – or a Christian. She eventually also starts having visions of Joan D’Arc, whom she begins to look up to as source of inspiration and strength.

As her story is told we sympathize with her, and even with her wrong childish motives. We already know the end of her story, for it appears in Boxers. But we’re still curious: how will she change and become the character we saw in Boxers? And I’ll add, there was a minor surprise I didn’t see coming at the end of Saints.

As everything goes, I couldn’t help but feel deep sorrow for all the deaths and suffering on both sides. The two stories together drive in us a sense of empathy – that neither side was truly right nor wrong, that our world is just…broken. Yang’s writing breaks the notion of us vs. them. It felt like a story needed in today’s political scenario. For that reason, I hope many people will yet read it.

* Little Bao and Four as far as I understand do not represent real historical figures.

You can buy the two graphic novels through my affiliate links! Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang. That’ll help me keep the blog going, and keep me motivated! Plus I just really recommend these books. They’re great!

Another book I’ve read, some time ago, was Gene L. Yang’s book American Born Chinese. I read Boxers and Saints in the first place because of this graphic novel. Another awesome recommendation!

How To Avoid Interruptions

Why I Work at Night

I was in Brazil for a week this summer. Much of our extended family had gathered in one house down there for my sister’s Brazilian equivalent of a quinceñera. But I still needed to make art. And, while I think artists need to be able to show their art to others, solitude is a necessary ingredient for the creative process. With all the family back together I just needed to find the right time to get the least amount of interruptions.

That’s where the Night comes in, and by Night, I mean whenever everyone in your house is already asleep. The Night is very special because it offers you time to work on your art piece without any interruptions. This has become crucial to my creative process. And that’s because during the day interruptions seem to lurk around every corner.

Interruptions can be anything. People asking about your day, what you’re working on; or the need to pick up your little sister from downtown, or getting groceries. And one of the easiest ways I’ve found to avoid these is to either: find a place where you can’t be interrupted, i.e. a studio, or do it at Night in your house office, kitchen table, or basement.

But why even bother? At least for me, I’ve found that interruptions really hinder my speed. They don’t allow me to get in Flow, to reference ideas exposed in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book. And Flow makes for good art.

The creation and development of art takes a lot of focus. The more focused you are, the more space you have in your brain to come up with ideas. Art takes a lot of thought and ingenuity – the free association of ideas – to be well made.

Flow, the Creative Process, and Interruptions

Also without interruptions you can better focus on each individual tiny leaf, each one of the eyelashes, the variations of shadow and color. Once you’re done you’ll realize how much time has passed. How much better the piece has turned out. Fewer interruptions equals better art.

So, I found out that doing art at Night worked for me because there was no one to stop me. No one to interrupt or distract. It has worked for me most of the time – like when I don’t need to get up the next day at 6AM for an extra work shift (these are joy-killers let me tell you).

But what works for you? How do you avoid interruptions?

What Made Me Cry This Week – How Dante Can Save Your Life II

I Can Be An Artist (Quote From Text)

Cover of How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod DreherI thought I should fill you guys in to how the book How Dante Can Save Your Life, by Rod Dreher, ends. I wrote the previous What Made Me Cry This Week post before finishing it, but now I can give you the full picture.

After the ecstasy of the first chapters, I slowed down. I needed to let everything sink in. Dreher puts a lot of content into the book. It’s filled with great advice, and the book makes you question yourself. It invites you to do some self-analysis: what are my motives for my actions? Am I making an idol of family, money, friendship, sex? Have I been too harsh with friends? Have I judged them, even though I share in their same faults?

“When family and place and a way of life centered around them become ends in themselves rather the means to the good, they turn into idols.”

And that can be said of anything – as Dreher does throughout the book.

I Can Be An Artist (Quote From Text)One of the chapters that touched me the most was the one that dealt with the creation of art. It felt like Dreher was grabbing my heart and twisting it the way you may twist a towel to get the excess water out.

In recent times my mind has been focused on monetizing my art. I wanted to prove to my parents, friends, and everyone who’s there to see, that I can be an artist. That I can survive in this world through my creativity. I wanted to show them: “I have talent!”

The easiest way I could think of: to make money. The easiest way to make money? Get a following, an audience, grow a platform. Get people talking about you. Post on social media as constantly as you can. Create as much as you can. Self-market. Promote.

Basically: be famous and gain fortune and glory (or recognition). But Dreher’s prose pierced through.

“How much happier would young people be if they began their careers thinking not of the fame, fortune, and glory they will receive from professional accomplishment but rather of the good they can do for others.”

Ouch. It hurt. But he is right. And throughout the whole book that’s what I felt. I kept saying to myself as I read:

Ouch! That hurts.

But…

You’re right, Dreher.

Dreher, you couldn’t have said that better.

His beautiful prose never leaves the book, and he masterfully deals with every topic he touches on, piercing our hardened hearts.

If you’re considering buying this book, why not buy it from amazon through my affiliated link? That way I’ll get a tiny commission if you decide to buy the book! You’ll also be encouraging me to keep writing awesome reviews!

Last words: if you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon so we can cry together.

I’ve Done Enough

Seeking for Help and Motivation

It’s one of those days where I just don’t want to do anything. Just lie in bed and rest. Relax. I did a lot yesterday; I deserve it right? Well, it’s just Tuesday. Work still needs to get done.

Another pit. Another excuse.
When making art, it feels like there’s never an end to those. Everything seems to be an excuse to just not work that day.

I mean. I’m sitting right now in front of my computer trying to find motivation to do something. Just anything, really. To lift my pencil and make a mark. To open Photoshop and let it out. Whoever said being an artist was easy, didn’t try being one.

I’d like to leave a word of encouragement. I don’t know. Some nugget of positivism. Something that makes it worth your while reading this. But I feel like admitting the truth is sometimes the only thing we can do.BlogQuote05_A

I don’t always want to do art. A lot of times it just feels like another job, another task to get done. Another routine, another cycle.

How do you break that? How do you see art with new eyes, when art is all you see? Maybe go look at some engineering equations, or at the periodic table and memorize a couple elements. Maybe that will do it.

Here it is. A post, a tribute, to that wicked lazy side of life – the one that wants to hold you in your bed and never lift you out of there.

But now I’m off to make some art. Even if it’s horrible. Or repetitive. Or the same and unoriginal. I don’t have any motivation, but I’mma go do it.

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