virtualDavis

ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.
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A Clarion Call to Take Creative Risks

What an important reminder! This morning I’d like to introduce you to the man behind that video, John Spencer (spencerauthor.com, @spencerideas). Force of nature. Sketchy video animator. Professor. Author. Inspiration. In his own words:

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both. ~ John Spencer

And in my words — and with another excellent animation — earlier this morning after stumbling upon the video above (and subsequently bingeing on about a dozen more):

Risk, Fail, Risk, Succeed

John Spencer asks us to consider failure as a legitimate and acceptable possibility whenever we take creative risks. Taking risks always involves the chance that we will fail. But taking risks is a process, a commitment to ongoing experimentation, and failures are simply iterations on the journey to success. Rather than embracing failure as defeatism, it is liberating and empowering. Embracing the possibility, even the inevitability, of intermittent failure enables us to replace comfort, security, restraint, predictability, fear, and cowardice with permission and confidence to take creative risks. Permission to fail. Confidence to succeed.

This could fail. I know it sounds negative and maybe even pessimistic. But, actually, it’s the opposite… a reminder that every single creative act is an experiment. It might work. It might fail… [but] every failure is another step closer to success. ~ John Spencer

Risk Getting Unstuck

This is precisely the choice and the process I’ve been exploring at 40×41.com for the last few years. Getting unstuck from midlife malaise involves risk (and inevitably plenty of failure), but we shouldn’t eschew risk or failure simply because middle age brings heightened responsibility and stakes. Nor, of course, should we abandon our wits altogether and jump into the seat of an overpriced, lipstick red sports car. Or worse.

Balance decades of experience with the sort of creative risks that will rekindle passion and curiosity and wonder and hope. I’m no guru, but it’s certainly been a rewarding adventure for me so far!

Sure, I could take the safe route. But I’d rather take a plunge into the creative unknown. I’d rather do things that are challenging. Because ultimately that’s where the creative life is found. ~ John Spencer

More from John Spencer

If you’ve made it this far I’m guessing you might be curious where you can tap into more of John Spencer’s motivational bounty. Here are a few links to help launch your adventure.

The World is Calling

Rita Dove and David Guinn (Source: Virginia.edu)

Rita Dove and David Guinn (Source: Virginia.edu)

This morning, while walking my dog near the University of Virginia Grounds, I happened upon these welcome words from former U.S. Poet Laureate and UVA English professor Rita Dove.

“Back when everything was still to come,
luck leaked out everywhere.
I gave my promise to the world,
and the world followed me here.”
~ Rita Dove

It’s the final stanza of her poem, “Testimonial,” which originally appeared in her book, On the Bus with Rosa Parks. Today it’s part of an exuberant mural created by David Guinn and crowned with Dove’s line, “the world called, and I answered.”

Thank you for answering the call, Rita Dove. And thank you for the riotous reminder, David Guinn..

David Guinn (Source: Virginia.edu)

David Guinn (Source: Virginia.edu)

Gentle Reminder

Sometimes I (we all?) need a gentle reminder to unblinder and untether. This morning I needed a reminder…

“We walk along in our normal lives, being irritated by the stuff we are normally irritated by, and then a mural – or poetry – can stop us in our tracks and remind us of the here and now, of both the intimacy of the human spirit and the expansiveness of the world… Murals do that even without words. When you add words, that effect intensifies.” ~ Rita Dove (Source: Virginia.edu)

Spot on! Am I living out someone else’s script? Perfectly articulated, totally accurate, and 100% timely.

“The world is going to call you. Are you going to be ready to answer? Will you be ready to answer?” ~ Rita Dove (Source: Virginia.edu)

Rita Dove and David Guinn (Source: Virginia.edu)

Rita Dove and David Guinn (Source: Virginia.edu)

My Cartoon Crush on Ximena Maier

Ximena Maier (Source ximenamaier.com)

Ximena Maier (Source ximenamaier.com)

Ximena Maier () is a madrileña (but Scotland-based) illustrator, and she is — sin duda — my newest cartoon crush. My latest doodle dalliance. Right up there with Elizabeth Graeber, Oliver Hoeller (aka the visual flâneur), Mike Lowery, Hallie Bateman, and Keri Smith.

Ximena Maier… has been working as a full time freelance illustrator since 1999, mainly with Spanish newspapers and magazines. She also illustrates cookbooks, travel guides and children’s books. (Source: Ximena Maier)

I discovered Ximena Maier’s whimsical artwork when an Essex friend (and printer) shared a sumptuous letterpressed illustration of a scene from Anna Tasca Lanza‘s Sicilian cooking school. A delicate and doodle-y (not precious) black and white line drawing sumptuously sunken into paper nearly 1/8″ thick… Bliss.

It turns out that most/all of the illustrations at their website, annatascalanza.com, were created by Ximena Maier. If you like what you find, you may also want to visit Ximena Maier’s food blog, Lobstersquad, and her art blog, Ximenita dibuja.. Enjoy!

Artists and Illustrators

Artists and Illustrators, by Hallie Bateman

Artists and Illustrators, by Hallie Bateman (Source: aniaasks8questions.tumblr.com)

Perhaps you’re already familiar with Hallie Bateman (@hallithbates)? She’s a cartoonist and illustrator, and she will make you smile. And laugh. And think. While chuckling. At yourself…

This cartoon answers the inevitable and perennial question:

“What is the difference between art and illustration?” ~ Hallie Bateman

Smile. Laugh. Think. Chuckle. On with the adventure!

Greenfields & Graytones

Cancel your conference call. Skip lunch. Toggle your status settings to “Do not disturb.” On everything. Switch your phone to vibrate. Better, turn it off.

Now click the play button (bottom left). Then click the full screen option (bottom rightish).

Greenfields comes to you courtesy of Luis Betancourt, Benjamin Vedrenne, Joseph Coury, Michel Durin and Charly Nzekwu. The graytones are courtesy of your own imagination. Or memory? Saturate the color and invent your escape!

3D Chalk Art Revisited

3D Chalk Art by Leon Keer (via streetpainting3d.com)

3D Chalk Art by Leon Keer (via buzzfeed.com)

A recent trip to Paris rekindled my fascination with 3D chalk art. Half performance art, half epic mural… Witnessing a completed image is amazing, but watching the process of creating something like that snake charmer scene above is spellbinding. Before diving in, here’s a micro-intro for newbies:

3d Street Art, often known as 3d chalk art is 2-dimensional artwork drawn on the street itself that gives you a 3-dimensional optical illusion from a certain perspective. (hongkiat.com)

Sidewalk Art Flashback

I first posted about 3D chalk art that will blow your mind a few years ago. I saw it as a form of street art, or street performance art since observing the creation of 3D sidewalk art can be so enthralling. I even acknowledged the crossover with another form of public art that is often decried.

3D sidewalk art makes the best graffiti ever! ~ virtualDavis

I even wondered if a great gaping 3D chalk art chasm or some similar dramatic scene sprawling across the road in front of our house might slow speeding cars and trucks. Maybe an arresting scene of a police barricade with armored swat team? Or Champ, the friendly Lake Champlain monster, rearing up and pretending to be super unfriendly. Am I pushing too far? Yes. But I’m not being flip. I’m trying to remember that there’s an exciting alternative on the flip side of most coins.

In a subsequent post I revisited the graffiti question but inevitably slipped into a reflection the 3D chalk art as a form of storytelling. Not that I’m obsessed with storytelling or anything… ;-)

[3D chalk art] transcends mere graffiti and many other art forms in its capacity for interactive storytelling. 3D art on sidewalks introduces a narrative possibility that engages viewers. Pedestrians and drivers stop and look. Perhaps they reorient themselves to better appreciate the optical illusion. They pause and let their eyes wander over the mural, actively suspending disbelief in order to engage with the image. In many cases the audience/viewer even choose to step into the image, playing along with the illusion, often posing for friends with cameras to memorialize the encounter. ~ virtualDavis

Maybe you’ve had the is experience. If not, make time for it the next time you come across 3D chalk art. It could very well change your day. (Your mileage may vary.)

3D Chalk Art Goes Mainstream

While I’m not yet able to report that street chalk artists and law enforcement have partnered up, it’s fair to say that 3d chalk art has entered the mainstream. I mean, any time advertising adopts a new art form, you know that it must be on its way into the mainstream. If you feed the Google monster a search string related to three dimensional chalk art, you’ll discover millions of hits, and a surprisingly high number of them are directly or indirectly related to advertising.

For example, the team at We Talk Chalk can transform your marketing campaign into crowd-stopping marketing.

Creative Visual Solutions for your event or marketing needs through the innovative use of 3D Street Painting and 3D Chalk Art. (wetalkchalk.com)

Many of the most successful street chalk artists like Manfred Stader now have slick promotional websites touting their work. And scan any of the top articles (i.e. 33 Brain-Melting Works Of 3-D Sidewalk Chalk Art), videos, etc. celebrating three dimensional sidewalk and street artwork many of the biggest dazzlers are actually promoting a product or brand. Johnnie Walker scotch and Coca Cola were among the early adopters.

But despite the migration of 3D chalk art from the margin to the mainstream, I remain intrigued. No, more than intrigued. A little obsessed. One benefit of the widespread popularity is more artists creating more inspiring projects, and celebration/recognition of top street artists. Result? 3D chalk art is improving in leaps and bounds.

Creating 3D Chalk Art

The increasingly massive, intricate, sometimes beautiful (though often grotesque) murals are often magnificent once completed. No doubt about it. But for me, the most appealing aspect is observing the process of creating the 3D chalk art murals. In public. Often under considerably less than ideal conditions. With the threat of rain, snow, wind, pedestrians, and even police or other authorities who consider the art form graffiti, etc. From soiled ground to transcendent illusion. With chalk, a straight edge or two and an unshackled imagination.

Rather than than blathering on, I’ll finish with two examples. Enjoy!

Illustrator Eric Maruscak creates a chalk mural at the 2013 Utica Music and Arts Festival, September 14th, 2013. The mural was 10 feet square and took approximately 8 hours to complete over the course of the Festival. The art is known as an anamorphic drawing, where a distorted perspective is used to create the illusion of a 3D image when viewed from the proper angle. For more illustrations, cartooning, chalk art and time lapse photography visit Eric’s site at www.pepperink.com. (YouTube)

Chalk Urban Art Festival, Sydney 2014 – Australia’s largest 3D Street Art ‘Wasting Time’ designed by Artists Jenny McCracken and Leon Keer. Support artists Rudy Kistler, Bernardo von Hessberg, Mealie Batchelor, Dom Intelisano, Brian Tisdall, Mike Walton. Creative Producer Andi Mether. (YouTube)

Keri Smith on Creativity (and Book Midwifery)

Who is Keri Smith?

Who is Keri Smith?

I’m long overdue with a post about Keri Smith (kerismith.com), and what better way to make up for that then by sharing some of her awesome advice on creativity. Both of the pointers I’m quoting below actually come from a post called, Seven Steps to Getting Published, but as far as I’m concerned they’re all about creativity, creativity, creativity. And maybe even more than “publishing” they read like wise tips for successful book “midwifery”!

But first, by way of introduction it’s time to meet one of the most innovative book artists currently in the game, Keri Smith. It’s not too far a stretch to say that she is reinventing the concept of bookness, silly-putty-ing it into one of the most unconventional vehicles for creativity and adventure bound up between covers.

Here’s a more official blurb from her website:

Keri Smith is a Canadian conceptual artist and author of several bestselling books and apps about creativity including Wreck This Journal (Penguin) [check out her readers’ cool creations here: @WreckThisBook], This is Not a Book (Penguin), How to be an Explorer of the World -the Portable Life/Art Museum,(Penguin), Mess: A Manual of Accidents and Mistakes (Penguin), The Guerrilla Art Kit (Princeton Architectural Press), Finish This Book (Penguin), and The Pocket Scavenger (Penguin). (KeriSmith.com)

Keri Smith on the Carpet

Keri Smith on the Carpet

I’m a little obsessed. For the last year I’ve been pouring over her work, each time feeling like I’m come across a co-conspirator. In fact, some of her books feel like they were born out of my own head. Only they weren’t. And her head’s done it better.

That said, I feel like these two creativity tips might have been borrowed from my head. They sound so familiar I could have written them myself. Only, I didn’t. She did. Again. So I’ll defer to Keri Smith.

Keri Smith on the Shelf

Keri Smith on the Shelf

1. Let your idea have it’s own life. This sounds a little strange but what I mean by this is once you have the idea in your head don’t try to control it too much. Let it tell you what form it should take. It really helps at this point to go for a long walk and just LISTEN it may be several long walks. Let the words and images evolve. With my most recent book it took over a year for me to know what form it would take. I had ideas for content and had begun writing but no overall format to tie it all together. I didn’t worry about it too much but just let it “be” for a while. One day while reading a book on “intuition in business”, a concept popped into my head. This concept was “play”, and it tied the whole book together and became my focus from that moment on.

2. Really enjoy yourself and the process of creating, the best work will flow out of you. People will respond the most to things you did with passion, as opposed to things you forced. Don’t worry about whether it would sell, or what’s hot in the moment your target market, or what a family member recommends. Be honest with yourself and the process. (KeriSmith.com)

See why I think that they’re both really more about book midwifery? They address the creative process from first flickering vision through generations of revising and refocusing and wrong turns and Ah-ha moments. They are all about the creative flow state that I’ve been discovering/pursuing over the last couple of years.

Listen. Play. Be honest. The rest will take care of itself.

Thanks, Keri Smith!

You Are an Artist

You Are an Artist: digital collage

You Are an Artist: digital collage

Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. ~ Rumi

Some days, like today days, it’s easy to forget, easy to slump downward, shoulders and spirit drifting grave-ward. The artist within cowers behind to-do lists and do too lists, hides his eyes beneath furrowed brows, and rolls his toes under in apology for being at all.

But it’s especially these days, these gloomy, confidence wilting lump in your throat days that you need to remember, need to affirm in guttural grunts or soaring anthem – shoulders back, chest extended, forehead stretched upward – that you are an artist. From that first wailing, ass smacking moment until your last triumphant gasp you are an artist. Always. Until you’re not. At all.

You are born an artist or you are not. And you stay an artist, dear, even if your voice is less of a fireworks. The artist is always there. ~ Maria Callas

Let there be fireworks. Or drifting smoke, fading booms and gunpowder perfume. Let there but art in your flash and in your fizzle. Let there be art.

Everything you do is art.

From the moment you wake up until the moment you sleep, you’re creating art…

Every single thing you do is art.

You cannot escape it…

You’re an artist. Life is your canvas…

What are you doing with your canvas? ~ Raam Dev

You are an artist. Always.

Fortune Favors the Bold

“Audaces fortuna iuvat.”
(Fortune favors the bold.)
~ Virgil

Thanks to Jose L. Torres-Padilla (author of The Accidental Native) and Cerise Oberman (Distinguished Librarian) for inviting me to read poems from 40×41 to students and faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh last week as part of the Word Thursdays series held in Feinberg Library. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and especially appreciated the opportunity to meet with students after the reading.

Fortune Favors the Bold

Fortune favors the bold… (Virgil & virtualDavis)

In an effort to contextualize poems focused on midlife – probably not the most accessible theme for college students – I recounted a story from my undergraduate years at Georgetown University. I had become involved with The Georgetown Journal, an undergraduate literary and art magazine, and in my infinite wisdom/ignorance/hubris I organized a grand gala with a classmate to celebrate our spring issue. We planned a formal reading and art exhibition in the Intercultural Center followed by a banquet hosted by about a dozen Washington, DC restaurants. We invited writers and artists to participate. We convinced restaurants to donate their delicacies. We sent out press releases and printed elegant invitations with lofty fundraising aspirations. And then we went to the Georgetown University “media board” to ensure seamless cash flow until donations arrived.

No chance. The administrators and faculty on the committee were not happy that we have moved forward without first seeking permission. It hadn’t crossed our minds. Financial assistance was withheld and we were chastised for using the Georgetown University seal on our invitation without permission, but ultimately they let us go ahead.

Underpinning their total lack of support were two problems:

  1. We had proceeded without getting permission.
  2. Sports, not arts, drew crowds at Georgetown.

We were genuinely sorry to have made the first mistake. An act of omission, not commission. Or something. We were young. Eager. Hasty.

But the second problem, effectively the committee’s prophecy that we would fail because our classmates would not be interested in attending an arts and literature gala, rubbed us wrong. We were certain that they underestimated our peers, so we set out to prove them wrong. And we did. The gala was a huge success. For three years we surprised the committee, each year outperforming the previous year. After the first year, they backed us, and by my graduation many members of the committee personally applauded our efforts and offered to write recommendations for us.

That was a long time ago. But the lesson stuck with me. Fortune favors the bold. And this is what I hope the undergraduates too home with them.

Here’s a tidier anecdote that orders the same lesson in a 21st century context that the SUNY Plattsburgh students might relate to better.

Daniel Arnold had $90.03 in his bank account on Thursday when he had a clever idea: Why not sell some photos on Instagram? […] On the eve of his 34th birthday, Arnold didn’t have a clue how he was going to make rent for the following month, so, at midnight, he posted this message on Instagram:

“Hello, I just turned 34 this second. For one day only I am selling 4×6 prints of whatever you want from my Instagram archive for $150 each. I swear I will never sell anything this cheap again. If you’re interested, send a screenshot of the photo(s) of your choice to arnoldaniel@gmail.com (one d) and I will send a paypal invoice, followed by a signed print. Easy peasy. Happy my birthday. I love you”

The response overwhelmed him. Orders poured in. A day later, he’d received nearly $15,000 worth of requests, and collected some $5,000… (Forbes)

Bravo, Daniel Arnold. Fortune favors the bold. Be bold!

Embrace Transparency

Watch Morgan Spurlock’s TED Talk, “Embrace Transparency” (aka “The greatest TED Talk ever sold”). No editorial needed… Enjoy!

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