12/22/2012

The Great King

 All things came to be through him,
    and without him nothing made had being. 
John 1:3 (Complete Jewish Bible)

In conclusion to my posts on 3 Kings I wanted to make sure that you understand my motivation.

 

Behind all of this is the Great King, Jesus.
 
He has ordained and been involved in the creation of all things. 

12/14/2012

The Bad King

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.  Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:                                             
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”
Matt. 2:16-18 NIV

When do you know that you have done something wrong?

12/11/2012

The Good King

In the Christmas season I want to do something fun this year and consider 3 kings as their examples pertain to the upcoming holiday in light of creativity. 


11/30/2012

Being Teachable: Art


Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. -Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

11/23/2012

11/16/2012

Being Teachable: Life


Many times we get what we ask for in life. Most of us are not aware of it when it happens.

11/09/2012

Being Teachable: Imagination



After God has provoked us to see things differently, whether through hard times or severe introspection we become open to new ideas. 

With the vulnerability to God and His commands a renewed faith in His work becomes available to us.

This is fuel for our imaginations. 

The reward of enduring hardship is that we have a renewed mind. This means that new possibilities become apparent. 

But how do we curb our imaginations in the aftermath of trials? How do we learn to be productive in the wake of difficult times with our whole beings shaken?

I have found some comfort in the practices below. I hope you will, too.

  • Allow life to change pace naturally
  • Try on the new lenses given to you by the experience...don't interpret, just partake
  • Pick up your creative work again
  • Stay the course on your goals
  • Record your experiences
  • Share your experiences
  • Expect that the experience is a learning time, not personal judgment
  • Expect that you will see new opportunities
  • Be open to the changes
  • Create art in spite of the hard times
It's your turn. Will you allow your imagination to be stymied by hard times? What will you do with this gift? 

Feel free to let me know how you endure or have endured hard times.

11/03/2012

Being Teachable: God


Preaching is not necessary on this point. If we want to be more like God, we have to learn to weather the trials of life that God sends us.

You can work your whole life toward some supposed level of perfection and never achieve it. We are not that good. 

But when we set our eyes on being righteous (separate in our minds and attitudes) then we move toward being more like God.

For any creative person this lets us be more in touch with the reality of which we interpret. When we offer ourselves up to be more like God we will have our vision changed.

The ways this change of vision helps us as creatives are this:

  • Connection with the suffering people around us
  • The challenge of starting over brand new
  • New opportunities realized
  • Humility beyond belief
  • Working with what is available
  • Depending on God for what we do not have
Do you see a connection between your creativity and being taught by God? What is your story?
 
   

10/27/2012

Is Higher Learning Enough?

You know as well as I do that we are confronted with many contradictory circumstances throughout our lives. Many of which we have no prior experience in. 

Our struggles handling these circumstances after we graduate from formal education merit this question almost always: Is higher learning enough?



Is higher learning enough?

I started my college education my junior year of high school through a credits-in-escrow program through my college, which was 15 minutes away from home.


I envied those who got ahead in life. 


Truly college education should be desired.  It meant a thorough career in your area of study. It meant that my creative dreams would come true. But I did not see the danger in this way of thinking until later. I simply bought what society sold without questions. Now I am learning the other side.


My dreams of accomplishment in art had little to do with a college education, but some of the experiences could not have happened anywhere else.



Within the academic system

Here you will see some brief observations of the best of what academia has to offer. Most of my examples come from college, but could also come from primary and secondary education. There is often little difference in format these days.


  1. Teachers who are knowledgeable about the subject/topic that they teach
  2. Students from a variety of backgrounds
  3. Potential for one-on-one tutoring as a part of the system
  4. Liberal arts help you have a broader scope of learning
  5. Isolated learning experience
  6. Great social melting pot
  7. Higher potential for achievement
  8. Ability to work with other students and be exposed to their learning styles and experiences

Workforce training

Post graduation from high school or college you have to learn a lot of things. 


Most of which you cannot learn under your parents or even independently in a college experience. A majority of these can be learned inside of the academic system, but I would argue that it is neither encouraged nor ideal to do so during that time. Some people get both worlds at once, but many still do not.


  1. Interviewing skills
  2. Money management
  3. Networking
  4. How to adjust to demands of different jobs
  5. Empowerment to pursue your great dreams
  6. How to quit in the right context
  7. How to plan for the future
  8. Change and growth is inevitable
  9. Personal habits can cause conflicts
  10. Quality of life matters more than quantity of experiences
  11. Relationships are often the difference between success or failure
  12. Control over certain variables in life makes life easier
  13. You cannot control everything
By following these links: Quitter by Jon Acuff and The Dip by Seth Godin, you will learn about alternative ways of thinking about your career. Both of these books provide a framework for personal challenges in pursuing a different careers. 

10/14/2012

Important Formation

Rock Formation, detail
At the end of the summer of 2005 I considered my dreams smashed and my life more or less a failure. I had to scramble to find somewhere to live and look for a job, again. Life was spelled RISK.

For months I walked to my new job in a call center dreaming of the country air and the mysterious forests. I dreamed of autonomy, trust, and creativity. All of which seemed to be robbed from me after the end of my summer camp job. I wanted to go back every day for almost 2 full years. Then the dreaming started to fade.

My life became a navel staring contest with those just as depressed as myself who longed for more than what a stable 9-5 job meant. The loss of confidence in what I was capable of was deteriorated by what I thought I could be based on my circumstances.

This was true in regard to my career, but God started a new work on me shortly thereafter. He gave me a comic project that has almost directly coincided with leadership in the arts ministry. The important formation began at that time and has continued to grow my hope and smash my fears.


This weekend my new found hope in my calling was changed by a self-initiated trip to Hock Hills in Southern Ohio. There, I explored and found a new site and a picture of my future. RISK now gives way to ADVENTURE. Out of this trip I saw the possibility of what life can become. I am not always directed by the winds of other people's choices. Rather I have freedom to pursue the adventures that I deem worthy. And out of this freedom will I venture into new mistories and experience life as God intends.

Click here to see the full sized image: Rock Formation

10/05/2012

The Anxiety Machine

We do not always get what we choose. We do not always get an actual choice. Contrary to what many people believe, others often will choose for us without our permission.

The Anxiety Machine was built as a way to solve that problem. Rube Goldberg had a little to do with it, but so did motivational speakers and pastors.


What do we do when someone chooses for us?
Old Tree By The River
(+)
1. Move on
2. Be productive in some way we choose
3. Choose to forgive
4. Rest
5. Pray
6. Learn how to be constructive in spite of the situation
7. Live
8. Refuse to make the same choice if in a similar situation
9. Be compassionate

(-)
1. Slander the other party
2. Get revenge
3. Hold a grudge
4. Fight
5. Try to forget that it ever happened
6. Destroy something
7. Hurt someone

The choice is yours. 
Which way will you pull the lever?

9/25/2012

Just A Little Crooked

What will this guy get away with next, after he's shammed some poor little old ladies?

This gentleman must be bonkers, especially going after these ladies after one has fallen madly in love with him.

This is my off-the-wall post for Illustration Friday.

9/15/2012

Short Hand Of Truth


I have heard it said that in order for there to be the most truth in a piece of art, you have to extract the most details.  That is why fairytales, Bible stories, classic art, political cartoons, pop songs, dance moves, plays, and mainstream movies hold such sway over the culture. That is not to say that all of the above always maintain the integrity of their message, but that they are a superior form to delivering one in some form or fashion.

Sure the above piece is a ridiculous scenario. Most editorial or political or op-ed comics are. Whether it's Obama as a mere stick figure or Bush as a monkey, it is a short hand for getting the point across. Whenever necessary the artist must practice this short hand.

Some of the basic components of a visual short hand that I have discovered are as follows:
1. On objects and products leave out as many unnecessary details as possible
2. Choose recognizable objects
3. Create easy repeatable characters (made of simple shapes)
4. If you're working with text, make it short and to the point as much as possible
5. Compose, so that your eye follows the action
6. Keep your style secondary to the message
7. Focus on rendering accurate human expressions on your characters

As always, I encourage my readers to explore and find more ways to deliver the message with simplicity and directness. Let me know if you have some things that work for you. I will be glad to talk about it here.

9/07/2012

I'm In The Band

I took a brief respite last week to have some fun with Illustration Friday...which I always do! It is an aside, but it keeps things interesting for me as a blogger and artist.

On Labor Day I visited a local arts festival, The Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival. Long name, but fun festival. After I had finished my pulled pork sandwich, I sat under the tent in front of the main stage and sat down to draw. What was I interested in most at that time? The band.


All The Members In The Band.
James and the Jamerson's, a 60's Motown cover band had the chops. They had great musical harmony and rawness. They demonstrated musical authority in horns, vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, and a mix of black and white performers with shared male and female leads. What we don't see often in bands these days are the honest interpretation of the music live. That means that aside from radio formulated orchestration, most groups are too proud or maybe too poor to have the same expression live. Which is a shame. Both because it seems to be a let down for the audience and it dishonestly represents who they are.

I knew this first hand when I got out of college and moved twice in the same summer. I did not find the harmony with other artists when I first moved to Cincinnati, but I also did not find it at first when I moved to Columbus.

Credibility Gap.
We are individuals and we create as filters of the culture that we are surrounded by. Some artists will not admit that they are filters of culture. They think that if they claim there accomplishments as 100% their own that they will be more credible. This is a lie and it is also not necessary.

It is not necessary to claim your accomplishments as yours and only yours. No doubt we all have influences great and small. I often forget some of the minor influences in my life. Sometimes I discover them anew. But credibility comes after accomplishment not because of the rigorous journey done in isolation. I found this to be true time and again after I failed making quality projects on my own.

Dynamic Works.
The dynamic works like this: We conceive an idea from life experience. Which is always based in culture. Then, we begin to execute it if it is a passion. After that we must test it. When we test it, the project cannot be seen by our eyes only. Fellow artists we trust, close friends and relatives must speak in to it to make it great. Then, if the piece is deemed worthy, the culture receives it.

Conclusion.
In this process collaboration, insight, experience, and interactions of all kinds criss-cross the making of the art. In reality if the art sings, chances are that it was not done by just one person alone on an island. It was done in a band.


8/30/2012

Tall!

Illustration Friday Entry


The little bird sat back on it's haunches in awe. The neck of this wonderful oddity reached to the sky as if it was a sky scraper. Then it spoke.

"Hey bub! You like cherries?"

8/25/2012

The Art Blog For Non-Artists

There are many non-artists out there who have probably read my blog. I want you to know that first I understand your frustration with us, the artists. We are generally unconventional, a little crazy, and nonconformists. Second, that you may apply a lot of the same principles as artists only in different venues.

The Non-Artists Unanswered Questions.
So, what is in my blog for the non-artist? Why should you care if you do not ever want to be a serious artist?

Applicable Skills.
When job searching I have learned that what an employer wants to see is not so much that I worked for XYZ Company, but that I learned some applicable skills at XYZ Company that they can use. Consider Exempla Vitae as the Art Blog For Non-Artists. You can use what you learned about creativity here in your day to day life or your job. With exception to the most specific information on creating art, there is very little that you will not eventually apply. In the list below I have created brief descriptions of the gathered seed and how you might apply it in less artistic ways. In doing so I have contributed an experimental piece called Bowl And Cylinder In Color to make an example of.



Creative Indifference.
Inspiration
Every time you see a piece of art or art process you may see a color, form, image, story, concept or approach that when applied to a life situation you can think about things differently.
Example: In the piece above you that the yellow and magenta go well together, so you decide that you can use this combination in the colors of your child's toy room.
Imagination
When observing a piece of art you may realize that the colors, forms, images, stories, or concepts don't quite match reality. Determine why that works and you will be able to apply the same unconventional thinking to a life situation.
Example: You see that the color of the bowl and cylinder have a slight silver tint to them. You reason that if the unconventional use of values work in that situation than you do not have to get stuck in a traffic jam. You can find odd side streets to get around it.
New Perspectives
Art is not created in a box. Even if someone claims that they were not influenced by anyone or anything. It is not true. Artists more than anything know how to communicate their point of view through imagery. We all need to see another person's point of view from time to time. It makes us human.
Example: I used what I had on hand, an old bowl and an empty Cheetos cylinder. If I used those to create my art, then you decide that you can use cinder blocks around your house to put your car up to look under it instead of buying lifts.
New Processes
The craft with which a project was completed helped communicate that message. Seeing that there is a different way to do something may translate into a new approach in your personal goals.
Example: In experimenting with this piece I used a slick computer paper to print on. Acrylic paint is water based and could quickly erode the paper. You discover that even though books are not ideal for weights in your home workout routine they stretch different muscles, so you find new ways to use them.
Spiritual Encouragement
Art is also not scientific. Science may play a role in executing the art, but it has it's roots in the spiritual. Consider that what the artist saw from their perspective revealed something about reality that had not been opened up since long before the modern world. It charged you with a new understanding of God and His goodness.
Example: I was having a bad day when I painted this. Instead of getting frustrated with myself and doing nothing I painted. It was therapeutic and put me in better spirits. Because I let the painting take a less restricted path it shows a dimension of immediacy and dependency on God to create. You are encouraged by this transparency and go try a sewing class for the first time in your life, because you saw that even artists doubt in themselves and your doubts should not get in the way of your fulfillment spiritually.
Resources
Websites, blogs, podcasts, books, names, materials, other people's art, and training will always come up when someone talks about their art. Not only should you consider buying what is recommended but by tracing it to the source you can apply that knowledge to problems you have to solve.
Example: In the process of my struggle this week I was looking at one of my favorite illustration blogs: Gurney Journey. You go to his blog to see how he creates and find that he is good at creating dinosaur related art. You love dinosaurs and follow his recommendations to more studies on dinosaurs.
History
When perspective, processes, and resources come together they tell the story of the art. The art that you see from that creative did not start with that creative. Rather, it had its roots in some event in the past. That is why they created it. When you find out "how" then you can apply the knowledge to something you are going through. Empathy is a very strong connection.
Example: This piece was not created this week, but no less than 12 years ago. My art training started full force with a book by Nicolaides. Though you do not see the underdrawing you can imagine that the form was loosely rendered in a process called blind drawing. I painted over it to create solidarity. You research Nicolaides and find out how he came up with his creative theories. At that time you apply this new understanding to solving problems in your biology career.

Conclusion.
As you can see these aspects of creativity do apply across the board. If you read about something that you do not understand, I encourage you to follow up with a question. I pared down my language in the realms of Christianese (words used specifically in the Christian community) and Artese (words used specifically by artists and those like-minded) as much as possible, but some words don't always translate. Let me know what your questions are on the Comment board and I will answer them to the best of my ability. So what do you want to know about art?

8/19/2012

Your Infinite Database On The Moon

Each day when I sit down to do art I have a specific structure in place to keep me on task. It goes something like this: 1. 15 minutes of sketching 2. Draw the comic page 3. Ink the comic page 4. Composite page on the computer. This daily regimen keeps me on task so long as I do not lose focus.

But alas, my mind does not quit working 100% of the time. Narrowing in is not always easy. Here are some factors that are prone to intrude: tiredness, curiosity about something, my bad day at work, other life problems, ministry work, relationships, and other creative ideas brewing in the back of my mind. In a prior post I tackled how I deal with distractions. Click here to read it: Road Work Ahead. Today I want to take a jab at explaining what can be done with those creative ideas that pop up.

Before I finish a piece of art, story, or project I usually begin to see new opportunities. What does a creative person do with these opportunities while other projects take priority?

I wish the easy answer was always to store it in an infinitely secure database on the moon, but it doesn't work that way. Creative ideas are often untamed beasts that like to appear like the Loch Ness Monster. They are ever elusive and prone to disappear as quickly and suddenly as they appear. Unlike people who do not value creativity, the artistic person considers these as precious as gold. Even if we find them to be fools gold in the near future, we don't know how much they are worth until some future time when we can invest in exploring it.

The potential locked away in these ideas come and go. They often do so in the midst of mundane tasks. Some are even prone to pop up during normal work times. This precious commodity often disappears because we are occupied with something that has to take priority in the name of responsibility. Artists generally hate this, but we find ways to manage.

Taking down these ideas come in a number of forms some are not great, but necessary others are ideal so I made a short list of each and you can determine if they are valid for your purposes. Ideal methods are generally more secure and not easily disposed. Less than ideal methods are easily disposable or can be mistaken for something unimportant.

Ideal Idea Capturing Methods:
1. Laptop, PC, or Phone app
2. Sketchbook/journal on hand
3. Filing system
4. Dry erase/Chalk board
5. An e-mail

Less Than Ideal Idea Capturing Methods:
1. Napkin from a restaurant
2. Receipt or random piece of paper on your person
3. Back of a bill or envelope around the house
4. Text message to yourself
5. Digital photo on your phone or camera
6. On the back of a project you are selling or being paid to do
7. Any method from the other 11 listed on someonelse's property

These lists are not a hard and fast rules. What do you think? Do you agree with my categories? What do you do with your ideas in a pinch? Let me know, I would like to do a post about your feedback.


8/11/2012

Mystery Beyond Mysteries

As I explore with any number of media or concepts I can only tackle one or two problems at a time. I create problems to be resolved by limiting myself. So the process is not always straightforward. The results are almost always different. There is always an element of uncertainty. If I settled for less of the process, life would be boring and creativity sucked dry.* I would lose heart and probably hate myself for not pursuing excellence or for giving up too soon.

Before I finish a piece of art, story, or project I usually begin to see new opportunities. They open up and sometimes I get to dive in and sometimes I have to wait. This is why it is art and not math. After every new revelation there are opportunities. I called them doors in my last post. They abound in the minute and in the universe as a whole.

An Exploration Of Whimsy, sample**


































When paint is applied to paper even the seems in the paper of the same brand can lead you down new paths and open up new opportunities. It is a mystery and it is true. It is the most exciting part about being an artist. It is always dangerous if you are trying to sell exactly the same thing to everybody, but it is a given. I won't rant here about the foibles of commercial art, but I will say that you don't know what you are missing if perfect replication is your highest standard.

So artists should seek to let their mess be a mess and loose their passion in whatever way God directs them to. It is a mystery beyond mysteries as to how this works toward a design, but He did put the boundaries between the sky and the oceans. Why not embrace it?




*I have settled for less, the results are not fun.
** Click here for the full version: Deviantart

8/02/2012

Destinations Unlimited

On the path to discovery I have found that questions accumulate more than answers. With God in charge there is rarely a dull moment. There is frequently a new adventure around the next corner. There will always be mysteries and growth that come with the territory.

I wish I could say that after 4 years studying illustration plus 9 more of life experience, that I have it figured out. I wish I could say that everything in my life is perfectly in sync and that the answers are just ahead. Rarely does one door lead to a comfortable room, but rather a big room with many other doors. Some are eternally locked, thank God, and some are for opening. Knowing which ones I should pass through always give me a difficult time.


When it comes to creativity I have learned that every little limitation has its perks. Every eventual problem has an insightful unique answer. The more that I accept it and use it, the more of an advantage I find. So the next step is always being willing to try the next door. 


Our destinations are unlimited. The best way to see the opportunities is to trust an immeasurably wise God who knows where each door leads and which ones lead to a places that are better left untouched. And beyond that limitation know that every other choice is a mystery worth adventuring in to. So, our mission is always to trust God or succumb to stagnation? Which one would you choose?

7/14/2012

Resetting The Trajectory

Over 2 months ago my roommates and I had a dispute with our landlords about their new surprise policy which was presented at the time wished to consider renewing our lease. A red flag rose when they were unwilling or unable to explain this policy, which had very severe consequences for us if we complied. We were dumbfounded as five year renters. In a sudden trump of our bargaining ability they decided that they should kick us out. They gave us the month of May.

This was the studio space set-up at the townhouse.
On the very same day that their surprise decision to kick us out happened, God vindicated us. He provided another residence to rent. Surprising me that it was through someone I know and had built a friendship with. God also worked out all of the moving logistics almost as quickly. Needless to say we are still unpacking and adjusting.

I had goals and plans and thought that the transition would be much easier. The thing is about moving, whether its 2 miles away or 200 miles away you still have to adjust. You have to relearn how to move about in your new space. You may have to formulate new ways to get things done. If you are closer to work or further away, you have to reset travel time, food arrangements and so on. Your life is one big reset and it is exciting. But it is also hard.

My new creative space is in our basement. Suprising, we have more space and will set up library soon.



The one lesson that I have learned is that moving is an opportunity. It simplifies life for a while. It also makes you think and act differently. New behaviors can be good. The new behaviors can be directed and serve a purpose. I learned a lot about forethought and clutter reduction. All things necessary to being a more productive and profitable artist.

For the time, while I'm resetting the trajectory of my life blog posts may be sparse. My new posting schedule will be unhatched soon, but for now I have got to shake out my priorities and prepare for the next big shift in my life...Business!

5/20/2012

The First Mile

As the sun rises, you check off your first two items in preparation for your big race: 1. Appropriate gear: running shoes and a light-weight tank top and short shorts 2. Stretches. Then, you start to mentally prepare for the race ahead. In the 5K race (3.1 miles) which is a typical cross-country course, you begin to think about your tactics for competing in the race. With your art job or assignment you begin to think about the stages it will take to complete your project. What are the tactics of runners that will help you win/finish your art project successfully?

Frame Of Mind.
There are always good ways to run your race and bad ways to run it. You want to consider your options before you put your foot on the start line. I was always a slow runner. I am naturally contemplative. I like to think a lot. I was never the fast one, but I always finished the race running. I won a couple of ribbons in competitions, but mostly I just ran. That was because I could focus on the finish line.



Run In Stretches.
What I recommend is what I learned from those cross country days--consider the race as a whole. You need to keep your legs moving and your mind on the race. You need to consider each mile completed as a separate achievement. Gradually increase your speed as you go. Do not become stagnant in your competition. Eventually push yourself to your top speed at the end.

The Long-Distance Commitment.
What I do not recommend is darting off the start line at 100 yard dash speed. I know runners from my cross country years in high school who completely missed the point of running a race. They completely overlooked the fact that foot races are a long-distance commitment. When the gun goes off they would sprint off the line for the first mile. Often these guys were more fit than me. They were often taller and thinner. In my opinion, better equipped than myself to run these long distances. These "jack rabbits" as we called them may have put a good scare on the competition, initially, but then they burned out quick. What good is that in a long distance race?

Conclusion.
Consider your art project as a long-distance race. Some may in fact be very short term in the scope of your life, but art is a discipline like any other sport. I am recommending that you look at your project in stages or in stretches. Think through and prioritize your process in a plan (a later post). You want to keep your project moving. Consider the pace that you need to keep to be strong in every stretch of the race. There will be times that you can relax your pace, but there will also be times to surge ahead. The best tact that I have learned is to pick short goals and to seek to surpass them quickly. You are in a race, so you can't slow down. Keep this in mind as you figure out how to win your prize for finishing your art project.

5/13/2012

Stretch

I can't emphasize the importance of stretching enough. In a road race you know the race won't go well if you start to cramp up or if your muscles start hurting. When you take that extra time to prepare it makes all the difference in how you run the race.


Prepare To Create Your Best Work.
Creating art is not any different than a sport in this respect. Without the right tools you may never make the best art you could. Not everyone is right for that tool. But then there is the comfort level with that tool or process. You have to use it to be good at it.

Stretching Is Learning.
That tool and process is ink and inking. I have practiced it for more than 10 years. It obviously did not come naturally. My initial understanding of inking was with a ball point pen. Some of the stretching that had to be done was to figure out what the tool was used for. I had to figure out which tools work best for different kinds of looks. I have to practice using that skill every chance I get. As I stretch myself I learn more potential and learn more of what I don't know about it.



Conclusion.
Take at least 15 minutes a day before you start your serious project to stretch your ability. With inking I start with blue line pencil drawings of all different kinds of objects, people, different lighting situations, and compositions. Then, I practice all the different techniques and styles I like. Some pieces come out exquisitely, most do not. Think of skills that you want to learn and for it. I know you will improve if you just stretch!

5/05/2012

Short Shorts

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? 
Run in such a way as to get the prize. -I Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)

Creating art is like running a race. Like all sports running requires practise, practise, practise! You also have to have the right gear (running shoes, shorts, light shirt, etc...), stretch, think tactically, prepare for your competitors and the course, know when to refresh, think about your finish, and fueling your imagination to win.

Skimpies.
In high school cross country we had to wear the most embarrassing uniforms of all the sports teams. They had to be a couple of decades out of date by the time my class got to wear this badge of honor. As a low profile sport, my high school felt little need to invest in any new trendy uniforms. We wore what we called skimpies. You can guess why they got that name.

Flying.
We all hated these uniforms, but you know what? There came a time when I would not trade those shorts in for anything else. After several years of running during the hot hot summers in Indiana, I was grateful for this less restricting apparel. And their came a time that I longed for the school year so that I could once again feel as if I were flying. Any dedicated runner would know what I am talking about.

Dedicated.
Try as you might, without the right gear making visual art can be hard. If you paint in oil, cheap paint may make it difficult create the atmosphere that you long for. If you are a photographer, the wrong lighting in your studio could mess with your photos and your exposure will come out wrong. Or if your a cartoonist like myself, your inking brushes could cause difficulty in creating the sharp yet varied line you want to make.The truth is that dedicated people will do what it takes to become excellent at their skills or profession.

Conclusion.
Do your best work! Don't skimp on the supplies. You may go through a practise period that you can justify cheaper material, but eventually you will want to reach for a higher level and improve your skill.  You're a creative person after all and if you can't justify the extra dollars and cents to prove to yourself and everybody else that you're worth it, then you might want to consider a new profession or hobby. So, consider the gear that will make your art soar and hone your craft with that. I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed.

4/30/2012

A Big Forest


To reinforce my last post about detours and distractions I have story to tell about being lost in the forest, click here if you missed it: Road Work Ahead. Enjoy!

The Path To Uncertainty.
I am not sure of my reasoning. It was obviously flawed at that point. In  the summer of 2005, I had been navigating the camp's property  as a counselor and teacher for several months. Though, navigating and knowing your way true are two different things. I had been a poor navigator even up to then. I was notorious for getting my campers lost. Familiarity with landmarks and general direction were my only working tools. When I discovered my error it was too late! My daylight was running short. So, I fumbled along an unfamiliar ridge for a period of time. The crazy thing about dark forests in Southern Ohio is the indefinite altitudes and the rocky death at the bottom. Even a survivalist familiar with the area can be caught off guard by a random drop into a gorge if they lose their way. The supposed path I thought I was on had dissipated into the ambiguous forest floor. I could be heading further toward central camp or away from it. At that time I had to make decisive choices or end up using my night time survival techniques. I feared the worst, so I kept moving. What do you do when you miss a turn? I thought back to where the bad decisions started.

Disaster Was Imminent.

The trouble started when I realized I couldn't cool off until it got real late at night, so I acquired permission from the camp director to rest in the group cabin. The trouble compounded when my mind was still racing with worry and anxiety about my duties as a camp counselor. Guilt plus shame and being sick do not work together. I chose to deliver supplies to my campers out near one of the caves in the big camp forest. I knew the trails to the spot where the campers were at. That much was clear. But I reasoned that I could take a quicker way back. Thinking that I knew where I was going,  I took a turn in the wrong direction just after I left the campers. My confidence in spite of my condition was amazing. Disaster was imminent.

Unfamiliar Territory.
Shortly after leaving the campers the forest ran out. I hit a large grassy hill. It had numerous ruts that I found as I descended the steep hill. The going was difficult. If I didn't fall down the hill altogether, I was sure to sprain my ankle. These ruts were ingeniously cloaked in shoulder high grass. The new realization of being lost hit me: Where was I? Was it familiar? Knowing the general parameters of the grounds led me to this conclusion: The property I had stumbled upon was perhaps nearer to the Eastern corner. Finishing the grassy hill, I found that it was next to a road. As I came to the road I couldn't remember passing this way for sure in past camp trips. Most of the houses along any given road in the Southern hills of  Ohio looked the same. Even so, I continued on the road and came to the conclusion that I couldn't know for sure which direction was the right direction.

Getting Back To Camp.
Obviously, I was weary. I was lost and had no means of communication. So I did what I had to do. I figured that if I could get information from one of the locals I could get home alright before the sun had set. This was problematic, because you did not know if anyone would be home or if they would trust you or worse if they would cause you harm. I chanced it, because I had no choice in the matter. I knocked on the door of what looked like a trailer displaced from its park. A child answered the door. I asked to speak with an adult. As I expected that they were stand-offish, I explained what camp I was from and that I was lost. The father did oblige in telling me the roads that might get me back. So I was on my way in said direction.  After walking in the recommended direction, dehydrated, doubts clouded my mind. I trekked up steep hills and around sharp turns, until I finally found the cross road mentioned. This road was familiar and I knew where to go from there. As I arrived back at the camp I figured that maybe others had missed me, but I was wrong. My joy was in the arrival. I was so glad to get back and be in my bed. My anxiety had done little, but get me in trouble.

Conclusion.
Anxiety is a poor guide and illness is a poor excuse. It was a miracle that I made it out of that forest alive and relatively intact. It was an adventure, but it remains as a story that reminds me of how my bad judgment can get me in trouble. We often don't want to admit when we are wrong. And we often don't want to admit that we got ourselves into our own messes. Detours created by other people are difficult, but ones set up by our own stubbornness can be deadly. So it is important that we always remember that there is a way out of the forest.

4/22/2012

Road Work Ahead

The other night I tried desperately to escape from downtown. It seemed that every exit was blocked. Every effort proved fruitless because of road work, an accident, or the normal insecure/inattentive driver.



On the road as in life, we are not alone. We sometimes make it difficult for one another. The sight of neon orange cones or flashing lights even stun some people like deer in headlights. What do we do with these distractions and unplanned detours?

Considering the rabbit trails in my life, I have compiled a short list of how to deal with this road work. I have used these from time-to-time to deal with my own problem areas. I believe they have made my life more productive. After reading this you will probably have some to add this list. I would like to hear what you have to say on the matter.

Rest Up For Trials Ahead.
You will experience curve balls. The best preparation is a sharp mind and a soft heart. This is only possible if you are whole and rested. You can refer back to my post on rest to read more on what I have to say about the topic, click here: Rest: The Secret Ingredient For Success.

Put Blame To Death.
Throwing people under the bus purposefully or accidentally, because life isn't going well solves no one's problems. Test your heart for your motivations. However, if someone is at fault for problems in your life, demand justice. But remember that more important than justice is mercy. Allow justice to take its proper course and then move on. This is a way of putting blame to death as well.



Keep Your Eyes On The Road.
Sometimes fear on our part can cause unintended accidents. As I see others fall behind or get hit, I defer to God's will through prayer. I pray for those who were unfortunate enough to participate in the accident. Then I look ahead, because there is nothing that I can do. Usually, the medics and police have already arrived. With exception to rare moments, where this is not the case, I'd recommend keeping our eyes on the goal ahead.

 Detours Often Mean Discovery.
I have a tendency to get mad when I am rerouted. Nothing is as painful as this random inconvenience. I have goals of my own after all. Who has the right to throw my day off?

But yet, when I am sent on a detour I break from my comfort zone. I am open to discovering new ways to accomplish my goals. When you understand what the barriers are there for, you can joyfully work in a limited palette. A little while back I posted about how that process is used through watercolor, click here for that post: Royal Colors.

The Destination Won't Change.
After you have gone out of your way because your plans were smashed by a situation you can't control there is a tendency to feel completely defeated. But I have learned this lesson over the long haul. My personal comic book project that has been detoured, sidetracked, and put in limbo for reasons I can't explain or remember now over 5 years many times. Every time I get a chance I pick it up again and go at it. The goal never changed. It was still waiting for me at the end of my distraction period. Foremost, I learned how readily and easily I get distracted. Then, I started learning how to curb and commercialize on those distractions (another post in the future).

My advice: Keep your goal in mind as you navigate your new circumstances. Unless you feel as if you should stop or pursue a different goal during this time, you should move forward even if it seems as if you are going in the opposite direction.

Conclusion.
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy on the road to our goals. Sometimes things happen to us and we can't explain it. The best we can do most of the time is to move forward as often as possible. Be optimistic that you will finish what was started. As long as it is a path that honors God, I'd encourage you to continue on. Chances are God wants you to finish and finish well, too.

4/16/2012

Puzzled

I have a weakness for good science fiction and fantasy illustration. You could say it is a driving force that keeps me creating. Seeing fantastic things that never existed or imagining things that may someday exist is very compelling.This blog entry is connected to IllustrationFriday.com.



This is your introduction into my love for illustration. Occasionally I have shown you my quick sketches or sketch book entries. This is actually the first time I have brought up my illustration background in this blog. It is really no different than a watercolor painting, a comic strip, or even a one panel humor bit. All employ my creativity, but engage me in different ways. I will share with you some brief insights into what illustration is about. Perhaps you can use this knowledge when you create as well.

Illustration Is Art.
Much to my dismay many people want to compare the proper fine art to that of commercial art. Both have the same agenda, to make money for the creator. The only difference is the way they are sold. Sometimes the "fine artist" has less freedom than the illustrator. It all depends on intent.

Illustration Is About The Story.
Illustration on its own may or may not communicate the message it is intended to share with the world. With the back story, illustration will thrive. It is about the narrative.

Illustration Is Found Outside of Commercial Art.
You could say that classic art, especially oil paintings and sculpture, are examples of illustration. They fit the narrative mold. Many folk artists who only created art because it was an itch they had to scratch also narrated stories through their art.

Illustration Has a Decipherable Message.
Unlike conceptual art of the modern and post-modern era, illustration has one purpose alone--the message. If it is not communicated clearly, it may still be art, but it is not an illustration.  

Illustration Has a Diversity of Styles.
There is no set style to illustration. It has changed and grown over the years. Materials have changed along with technology that allows you to make sleeker art, but the media was never the focus. The message was central.

Illustration Has a Diversity of Applications.
Illustration as I said above can be found outside of commercial art. It is also applied to everything from movie animatics to comic strips to how-to books and even toys. As an artform illustration is very flexible.

Conclusion.
Though far from exhaustive, this list above represents the major points on what illustration is about. Perhaps when you look at a book cover or Greek statue or any other message baring image you will think differently about what the story is behind it.


4/08/2012

Because Of Resurrection

Growing up in the Christian church there are many words or sayings that become part of your day-to-day language early on. You say them and you move on. Everyone you talk to understands them. You often don't even understand what you are talking about, because this language of Christianity is pressed into you. I am not saying this is wrong. I am not saying that it is harmful. What I am saying is that the weight of words is often misunderstood. If you had been compartmentalized into a subculture growing up, whatever that is, you too, will understand what I am saying. Resurrection was definitely one of those words. That is what I am going to talk about.

Why would an art blogger choose to talk about resurrection? Well it has personal significance for me. As I follow Jesus, I see that there is much mystery in this faith. Much more than any other faith I know about. Resurrection is one of those mysteries. I wish for people to understand why this concept is important. I chose to speak of it specifically to you because destruction and recreation is a part the creative process. Its in nature and its part of creating art. I have used a rather non-academic form of presenting my case. Follow along and see what you can learn.

Resurrection Was Not A New Idea 2000 Years Ago.
The ancient Israelites were not the only ones to talk about the possibility of resurrection. Many ancient cultures told myths in which their gods were resurrected. This idea often referred to the seasonal cycles. The stories often included macabre deaths and fantastic resurrections. The lines blurred on the issue of reincarnation.

 "The cult of Baal celebrated annually his death and resurrection as a part of the Canaanite fertility rituals." -by Alan G. Hefner, Pantheon.org

"One of the most important myths associated with Isis was the story of Osiris's death and resurrection... Isis searched for and found the box and then brought it back to Egypt, where she concealed it. However, Set discovered the hiding place and cut Osiris's body into many pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. After recovering the pieces, Isis used her magical powers to restore life to Osiris, who then went to live in the underworld." -Myth Encyclopedia
Where Are The Others?
Even though, other myths told of their gods or heroes coming back from the dead, none of them produced a real, certifiable case. They turned into gods or part of nature, etc... Mostly, those characters remained in the realm of myth. They did not have historical precedence. Jesus is the only one.

Coming Back From The Dead Ain't Easy. 
If you have ever had a sickness for an extended period of time or some sort of fatal accident and survived, you know what I am talking about. When our body's natural functions start to shut down, it is a miracle to have them revived, whether science or supernatural.

Death Is Not A Joke. 
In our culture we are encumbered by fictional depictions of the undead. Whether its ghosts, vampires, or zombies. When you die it is final. It is not casually, passively, or accidentally overcome.



Death Can Be Merciful.
I am not insinuating that Jack Kevorkian was right, that we should love death and promote assisted suicide and mass murder as a gift to humanity. No, this life is precious for as long as we have it. Life is a gift and a miracle. We should do nothing to undermine that fact. Passing from the difficulties and horrors of this world can take you to be with God who is love. It is better than what we often experience here. What would be the point of coming back to a worse option?

Where's The Formula?
Aside from the immediate use of the tools of science on the deathbed, no one knows how non-scientific resurrection works. There is no formula. If scientific resurrection won't work much beyond a couple of hours following proven death, how could it work after 3 days?

Hope Is A Rare Commodity, Indeed.
If you saw someone die and return to life, would that bring depression or hope? Wouldn't you believe there is more to the world than what you can see or experience in the material sense?

Your Worldview Is Important.
If you believed that resurrection was possible wouldn't it change your whole worldview? Not only would immaterial things be possible, but other amazing acts would be as well. In fact, it would make it easier to believe in the power of love, true justice, mercy, genuine people, healing of the sick, and many other common and uncommon things. If death has been overcome, then what else is possible?

Miracles Fuel Your Imagination.
If you believed in the resurrection of the body it would open up creative options that would transcend the stars. Miracles become a common part of your life. You look for the exceptional things in the midst of your day-to-day routine. Bricks become spaceships. A paper towel tube becomes a sword. You can fly when you look at the sky. There are no colors that cannot go together. You can have tea with unicorns and marry royalty. It fuels your imagination.

Conclusion.
We can take too lightly the meaning of resurrection and the ramifications of such a mistake undermine the daily activities we take for granted. Perhaps, you still disagree with the possibility of bodily resurrection after Jesus of Nazareth, but let me assure you that using this article as a starting point for research will bring about questions of your own. I encourage you to dig deeper and see where it takes you. Try it on for size and you will be surprised. God Bless your journey!

4/01/2012

Dreads


I was pretty sure on Monday that something was wrong with me. I took a nap and I still felt tired. Even more tired than before I laid down. The next day proved it. My bones ached and I felt exhausted no matter what I did or what I ate. The dreads had begun.

Unbelievable Weather.
This year in Ohio we had a surprisingly temperate winter. We had 60 degree weather starting in December and going all the way through February. It peaked at 80 degrees by mid-March. We all thought it was going to last. We were wrong.

Over the past couple of weeks it seems as if late fall and mid-summer are duking it out. One day starts out winterish and by the end it is summerish. Ugh! What a predicament to feel sick under.


Creative Dreads.
My creativity and energy have been zapped all week. I'd rather sleep than do anything. It puts a damper on everything that helps me thrive. I thought forward in time to all of the projects that I was putting off, all the people I have to contact, and all the other things in my life that demanded my attention. I dreaded the future. I've heard of other creative people (who are paid to be creative) say they just power through illness and get the project done. I have been questioning the wisdom of this. How does it really help you in the end? All that time you continue to work you're extending your dread of being sick. We don't recover so quickly as we get older. And what good is that overall? It is easy enough to throw out discipline, but what about wellness?

What Do You Think?
So, what do you do when you are sick? Do you press in and power through or do you stop everything? Do you get help or do it on your own? How do you know when to slow down or take a break?

Let me know what you think.

3/25/2012

Stuck In Time

There is so much that needs to be done. Lord help me to build new disciplines into my life. Help me win the battles against the sins in my life...


This was my journal entry from Friday. This is a hard prayer to pray. Often I look to earthly systems to solve my time management problems. Often times they fail to address the problem accurately. Being candid about this is hard. Even harder on the internet where everyone can see it.

You Are Not Alone.
I know I am not alone in trying to find time for everything. Its just not possible. I have many dreams and goals. Many you won't hear about for a long time. It's just not time. But really I want my friends, family, co-workers, and fellow artists all over the world to take solace in this: Priorities are hard to figure out. Because we just don't work, eat, drink, and die there is no straight path on this route.






Consider These Ways To Manage Your Time.
This list is what I have figured out so far. Hopefully these lessons will help you evaluate your situation.

  1. Journal daily if possible as a record of accomplishments and failures.
  2. Don't put off today what needs to be done today.
  3. Ask for help as often as possible.
  4. Don't overburden yourself with creative goals that are well beyond your reach at this time. Write them down, draw them, and come back if God allows.
  5. You won't always know your limits, but you can tell at the end of the day if you overdid it or not. Try not to go back on that road if possible.
  6. Stick to your plan. Refuse to let others distract you if you have a goal in mind. Take criticism of your plan with a grain of salt.
  7. Try time management tools, but don't sell out to just one. They all have their benefits and setbacks.
  8. Pray and ask God for help.
Conclusion.
You are a unique individual. Let your life form organically. No one can really understand all that you are trying to accomplish. Keep getting back on the time management horse as often as you fall off. In the end you will find time working to your benefit instead of against you.