The Why

hand

I was watching this video today, the Simon Sinek TED talk, Start with why.  I’ve seen it before and I think it’s very powerful. These were some thoughts I wrote down while watching it:

Why am I here? What is my why?

I believe in connection, that everyone has worth, that everyone is interesting and beautiful within.

I believe that Art, that the act of creation, the making of things, is a spark of divinity within humanity.

What can I do today that improves someone else’s life?

The goal is to do business with people who believe what we do.

But it’s not not just business, it’s also friendship and love.  I want a life where all that is intertwined.  That the worth of my time, as evidenced by my income, is inextricably linked with my why, with the reason that I’m here, with the people I push love out to.

I believe in freedom to pursue life on my own principles.

I believe in loyalty to ideals, not necessarily people.  Ideals trump individual people. I believe in integrity to my values.

What I do simply provides the proof of what I believe, my why.

This is my cat, telling you to vote.

kinoko

This is my cat, telling you to vote.

So these days, I only have the one cat.  When my co-parent and I divorced, we split the cats.  I wanted the whiny, middle one – Kinoko – and my ex was only too happy to part with her.  He’s a light sleeper, and she likes to caterwaul in the night.  For some reason, I never noticed, I slept through it all.  She is black, with these beautiful variegated chartreuse eyes.  (the green kind of Chartreuse, not the yellow kind).  I want to capture her eyes, and her ears.  Her ears have this weird squiggle at the base – the ear edge doesn’t just end at the base, at her skull.  It goes down, then goes up and follows a subtle flap, then up again, and then finally connects to the skull.

The thing about drawing is that when you start out, you realize how little you actually observe.  Humans are very, very good at filling in the blanks.  We see patterns – we see faces! – in random noise.  Some of the studies I’ve read suggest that this is because we take in so much information through all our senses that we have to throw away what we believe to be insignificant.  Otherwise, we would drown in information and it would all become meaningless.

Because we are cutting to the chase and looking for significance, we tend to zero out sameness, looking for change and anomalies.  Then we pay attention.  So cartoons, even ones like xkcd, can be minimalist and yet we still understand.

When I pick up a pencil and sketch something, I realize how little I actually see the world around me.  Want to know your lover?  Your child?  Draw them.  The difficulty and the frustration will lead to the realization that we fill in the patterns and story with only a few data points.  We don’t actually see.  When drawing and taking in the details, it looks wrong when in process.  You have to have faith that it will make sense in the end.  That the drawing will have a semblance of familiarity – but only at the end.  Likes threads in the back of a tapestry, it appears to be chaos at first.  Patience reveals the beauty and order that was always there.

Drawing

Years ago, I used to be a math and chemistry tutor and really enjoyed it.  For a long time I planned to be a professor, until I found out that it’s not about the teaching, it’s about the research and the funds you can generate.  Even at my last job, I got to do some corporate training, which I really enjoyed.

Today, I got to try my hand at teaching something totally different – I taught drawing to my kid’s Girl Scout troop.  Wow, was that interesting.  One was really offended that I brought in real animal skulls.  Georgia O’Keefe, anyone??  Most girls drew the fake fruit or something from their minds.  Rowan, who had been looking forward to me teaching her drawing, was disappointed when it didn’t just magically happen.  I’ve never taught drawing before, so it went okay, but it I had to do it again, I would do it totally differently.

My personal belief about art is that it is a triumvirate of desire, skill, and spirit.  Granted, skill is probably the most debatable – Picasso and Pollock do not have great realism in their famous works.  But it feels very satisfying if you can draw something somewhat realistically.  Then you have to want to do it, and have something to say.  Something that resonates.

But the first step is unseeing what you think you see.  This is the part I neglected with the girls today.  Every day, every minute, our brains take in an enormous amount of information and the way we get through it all is triage.  What is important?  What should be saved?  Not everything can be saved.  Some new studies on memory show it to be more like a play being reenacted in our heads, rather than a tape recorder–so every time you replay a memory, it is slightly different.

Especially if you try portraiture (which I’ve done with mixed success) the difficulty is that you already know what you’re looking for.  You’ve already rendered that person in your head and as soon as you start drawing, you mess yourself up because you don’t recognize all the weird bits that go into a person’s face.  You, in fact, do not really know what they look like.  Not completely.  If I’m trying to draw realistically, I often try to cross my eyes a little or unfocus them, to distance myself from the subject and turn it into impersonal blocks of light and dark.

Look at when kids draw a person’s face – they always put the eyes towards the top, and larger than they should be.  That’s because we focus on eyes.  Barbies and manga draw upon this all the time.  But the eyes should be in the middle of head–which looks weird until you add hair.  Because a skull is three-dimensional, and the face only goes to the hairline.

Rowan still wants me to teach her more drawing–we’ll see how it goes.  The skill part is all practice, practice, practice.  And first attempts are often very sucky.  It’s the nature of learning anything, you have to put the time in.

Gallery Night

Last night we dropped Rowan off at her grandma’s and went out to Gallery Night.  I haven’t been to one in ages.  The main place we went was Winnebago Studios, which was pretty neat as a bunch a different artists are set up in there.  It was refreshing to see people just doing their thing, whatever it happened to be.

Lately I’ve been so into steampunk.  I just love it!  It’s another project on my long list, make steampunk jewelry.  Here’s one of my favorite artists on Etsy that I’ve been watching, Jewels by Nature.  That, and I still need to learn how to crochet to make little lace wristlets.  My life is not complete without a collection of armwarmers.

Yeah, I’m a little hyper today.  I went to bootcamp this morning and I feel so great!  Next week is the last Saturday one for the season.  😦  Oh well, that’s why I brought my Billy Blanks Taebo workouts out of retirement.  And maybe I’ll add some Bollywood in there for good measure.  🙂