Voting Open! Collaborate On a Video Poetry Project

Voting is open on the video poetry creative invite at! To recap, I have a creative invite running on Talenthouse, where the winner will have the opportunity to work together with me on a video poetry series of short films. I wrote about the contest previously, and now this wonderful experiment in online collaboration and general creativity awesomeness is coming to an end. Well, the first part, then will come the video poetry series. For the contest, I provided some images of inspiration, including images of Bratz and War, and the participants then needed to create a music track to submit to the contest. The highest voted songs will get the first listens from me, and I’ll then work with the winner (whoever created the best mix in my mind) if they’re interested. For the video poetry part, I’ll create some poetry concepts and shoot the needed video, and the winner can have their music featured as a component of the final videos.  It’s all very non-linear and experimental, but when you challenge people, excellent things always happen. The voting is open here on Talenthouse:

Voting Open: Collaborate with American Peyote on a poetry short film series

The Gods Envy Us

lazy art number 3Editor’s note:

Please excuse the logic from the following piece. The tortured author was locked in his apartment for a rainy Sunday afternoon and took to watching the great classics, Troy, Clash of the Titans, Basquiat, and began pondering a simple philosophy of art as ancient religion, and if artists are Gods giving birth to their creations, will it kill the creator when it grows up?

“The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” (Troy: Achilles)

I just want everything to be clear, uncluttered and obvious without reproach when I get it all wrong. The fear is to get it all wrong in the end – to drop the bomb to stop the war and end up in a toxic arms race for the next 30 years. You don’t know in the conception stage if the creation will turn out evil and rebel against you like a the son of a Greek king. Will it kill you in your sleep and renounce the love you thought existed. We are masters of ourselves, and the watchful beings above are there to make sure we don’t get out of hand.

What do mortals do when the creativity Gods continually fuck with our minds? Do you turn to drink and drugs like a cliche creative sob-story ready for a TV docudrama regurgitation of a plotline? Is it acceptable to sit back and let it all play out as they like? Let the images from our paintings and photographs bully us into self-loathing and despair. The abstract painting demands red instead of blue so I sit there in front of the canvas and do as it commands. Then when I try to sleep the demon beast invades my thoughts and dreams, taunting me with shapes and colors I can’t translate into reality.

“We can do it,” says reason, we can renounce the Gods and bring them to their knees. We can destroy the Mona Lisa and set fire to every painting we did, crush the statues and delete all the images. I close my eyes and almost feel the Nirvana of an Art free, madness-not world. Then faith opens a doorway to fear and we kneel before the darkness, praying for protection and salvation. Save every picture and each stupid sketch. Nothing can be lost – for it means that nothing ever mattered.

The Gods need us, they need us because we enable their existence. Because without us to imagine their lips and lungs, they would have no breath to take. A symbiosis is always existing, one feeding the other and taking life somewhere else. Hope, fear, and faith. Love, philosophy and hate. I’m going g places in my heads. The painting doesn’t exist without the painter, the picture needs the person to exist.

Images suggest stories and colors with shapes, and they demand a symphony of understanding – creating a clear flow between each other and giving the viewer a sense of intuitive understanding. No thinking is required for faith in art. No emphathy is need to kill the creation.

Even the creator doesn’t understand it
No need to look for a deeper meaning, for none exists
I was just fucking around, there is no genius here
The creation and the conception are not the same

The Gods envy us. They envy us because they can not create, but only observe the creator of their beings. The painting hangs on the wall and wonders what it would be like to build a human from DNA fragments and bits of bio-paint.

lazy art number one

The Creative Space

Creative_Space.jpgEnvironment plays a huge roll in creativity and creation. Physically this happens inside a relative thing we call “space.” Call it a room, a studio, your office, a play-pen, a workshop, a bathroom, baby crib, whatever – the place you work and where you do your creative stuff. It’s where you do your photography, Photoshop, writing, painting, videos, finger painting, claymation, whatever. The point is you have to have somewhere to work and create cool stuff, and the design of that space, of that environment will greatly influence how well you can translate the vision in your head into a “creation.” So how does one design an effective “creative space?”

Bookbinders-1405.jpgWhy Design a Creative Space?

Like many other things in life, you start out with what you have, and figure out how to fit in what you need to accomplish your desires in life. When I moved into my new place I knew it was the perfect time to design my “space,” so I picked a new apartment with an open design, almost modular. The place is split into two sections, with a kitchen area in the middle. I sleep on a small bed near my computer just adjacent to the living area on one side of the apartment. This lounging area is setup with bookcases and a couch with a cool Oriental carpet (perfect for yoga). Then beyond the kitchen I use the open space as my Laboratory, containing all manner of lights, cameras, and random paints and canvases. There was a method, and flow-design to this creative space madness. The design revolves around ideas and their creation. Think of ideas, how and where they are created? Then let it all flow into a place where ideas can be translated to a creative product. Ideas are developed on one side of my apartment (the left brain), and carried out on the opposite side (the practical right side). In between is the door leading back to my perception of reality (you know, the front door, the one I walk through most days when I have to go to work).

R0011015.jpgMy Creative Space Design

I set up my place this way so that all the thinking and idea creation is done in the small context of my sleeping and lounging area, while the “work” (play) is handled in the larger open space of the studio beyond the kitchen. I have essentially two rooms in the laboratory, with large glass doors separating the two, which can be opened to combine the two spaces. In the larger area I set up lights and a background. The smaller area is usually lined with plastic for painting. This enables me total freedom to jump between photography and painting, which is important because photography is just light painting, and everything I know about painting with liquid on canvas I learned from Photoshop. So, it makes sense to put the two (photography and painting) next to one another in some context. I like having a separation between the creation and lounging spaces because I’m a complicated and occasionally chaotic-thinking person, and by separating the two I keep the clutter of my life away from the photography and painting, away from the work-creation areas. This makes it easier to concentrate on shooting when desired, and not worry about flinging paint on my computer screen when the madness takes hold and I set upon a new canvas.

Lazy_Art_IIIn the painting room (called my “winter garden”) I can open up or close the doors, creating separation from the main space as needed, when needed. This allows me to pen or modify that space as desired. So, for full length portraits with a 50mm lens on an APS body, I can open the doors and have enough room for a full-length shot of a model. Later I can easily close-off the painting room and line the inside with plastic to protect the walls. The painting area is now fully closed off and I can throw paint around as needed when I set about translating some abstract madness into reality on the canvas.

My Creative Space Philosophy

My creative space design also focuses on the important separation between idea and execution, between brain-storming and action. It’s easy for me to come up with ideas, and more often than not I’ll start branching off into fifty different directions. But it’s hard to follow through on 50 different ideas, so it’s important for me to focus on one or two things and complete them before moving on to something else. I like to think up and organize things, put it all in place (ironic since I’m a filthy person), and then do whatever is needed to bring those ideas from my head into reality. That’s why my sketch books, journals, pens, and Manga markers stay in the lounge area while my lights, paints and camera gear stay in the studio area. I sketch up ideas on one side of my place (or in a cafe), and then walk over to the other side and “execute” the idea. In between the kitchen and studio is my storage room with a shelf full of climbing and outdoor adventure gear. When I need a break I pack up some climbing gear and tour up a mountain for a bit of clarity.

BarbieHunterSetup-00828.jpgFree the Mind – Reduce Flexible Clutter

This creative space design is ideal for me because I can setup more or less however I want to. I didn’t put in a kitchen table or armoire, (much to the disgust of my mother) so I’m not constrained by existing clutter (this is a new concept in my life) when, for example I want to setup a photo shoot. In the photo studio I put a 2.7 meter paper background system to use for most of my shots. There’s ample room to move, setup lights, and even get a small softbox or beauty dish directly over a model. I chose a location background system instead of one screwed into the wall so I’d have the freedom to move it around if desired (but I leave it where it is).

cover_pocket_front.jpgIt’s Not Rocket Science

Designing your creative space just means that you have the space to create and to easily access those tools required to do your creations. You need somewhere to work, so take the time to include your creative space in your environment. If you’re a mom writing a novel, you might need a quiet place to write, well-insulated from the chaos of your kids, so do it. Design for the creative space as you would for a new kitchen or recreation room. If creating is an important part of your life, it makes no sense to exclude it from your living area. It’s the things we do in life to express our desires and ideas which makes us all interesting and beautiful people. Don’t deny your inner artist, everyone around you will lead a less-interesting life if you ignore your creative ambitions. The vision starts in the head, and all you’re doing is translating it to the real world in a form for other people to experience. Simple, easy, not complex in any sense of the word. This can happen in a place you design yourself, a cramped dorm room in Tokyo, or the vast expanse of the Swiss Alps. Find ways to make the space your own and you will never be constrained by walls, and your mind will always be free.


Artcast Experiment – Lazy Art II

Lazy_Art_III love photography, I love Photoshop, I love the freedom to create and define a vision from my head. But there’s always that separation, that feeling of disconnection between the tool (cameras, lenses, lights, computers) and the vision (the one from my head). So it was logical step to say, screw it one day. At a shop in Zurich I found 1 x 1 meter square canvases and at the home improvement store I found latex paint for less than 7 CHF per 500 ml. I few more franks went to brushes and plastic to cover a room of my Winterthur apartment and protect my security deposit. I traded my Wacom tablet and Photoshop for the ability to splatter paint as I pleased without the “undo” button.

Music stopped in the background and I realized why artists go mad…because, what’s more frustrating than painting a black stroke when in your head you know it should’ve been green? NOTHING! Nothing compares to the idea that you start with a pure white nothingness and from nothing, without barely a forethought or premonition comes, something. That something is undefined and unknowable and abstract and everything that a fool can hope for when the mind is empty.

I documented the evolution of my Lazy Art with my Minolta 7D and a Sony 50mm macro lens. Lighting provided via a Sunpak 383 in a small Alzo softbox. The result is an Artcast, an experiment in communicating and showing the evolution of the vision from the first to last color addition. Music brings the madness, and this addition seemed appropriate.

Concept to Photo – Urban Dry Tooling Video Tutorial

Concept to Photo Urban Dry ToolingPhotography and text-based web publishing are fantastic tools for communicating ideas across the world. However, they have their limitations. I think in a 3D moving picture mindset, and therefore, it made sense to start communicating using moving pictures and spoken words. Concept to Photo – Urban Dry Tooling is a video tutorial about starting with a concept, and then translating that inspiration into a final photo.

This isn’t a new idea, there are many photography related video tutorials on the web. However, I rarely find one I want to watch for more than 30 seconds, because they’re either boring, or filled with the least relevant information possible. Another problem is that in many ways the photography tutorial video genre has become a dumping ground for marketing videos from photographers trying to emulate Chase Jarvis – the famous commercial photographer from Seattle who is often credited with starting the photo-video marketing movement. However, he’s a unique gem in the chaotic video landscape of the internet, and his videos have yet to be matched for style or content. I’m not a photographer posting a video to show off my equipment and pretend like I have a cutting edge production studio. I’m a guy in an apartment with an old G4 Macintosh and an old Minolta 7D DSLR who likes to think up concepts and express them.

The concept behind this video is simple, compress my creative and photo production process into the upper attention span limit of an average internet video viewer.

This video tutorial was created to fulfill three functions: first, as an exercise for me in producing a video I would want to watch (but I’m weird so this probably doesn’t apply to the average internet viewer). Second to help me understand my creative workflow by packaging it in a video form (teaching to others is the best way to learn). And Third to give other photographers, creatives, and anyone else interested in a new (or old) perspective on the creative process as applied to photography.

Audio was recorded using my Zoom H4, screen capture video was obtained using Snapz Pro X, music was obtained from Kevin Mcleod’s music collection, and the rest is just still images and titles. Some say that soon cameras and camcorders will be one and the same, and they’re right. But in transitioning to the video world I wanted to start simple, and that meant using primarily still images.

Ulysses Awesome Writing Program Review

The thing I hate about the software world is that so many products fall back on their “Legacy”. So, a writing program like MS Word was developed on a certain philosophy, which at the time was constrained by the fact that the operating system and user interface was very limited. Now we have limitless User Interface (UI) capabilities, but programs like Office and Word are as archaic as ever.?

The traditional word processor is basically a listing application. You list your thoughts down, and organize everything in your head while doing it. The program does nothing to aid you. If anything, a writing program like MS Word exudes Computer Inhibited Creativity (CIC), or can be characterized as a Creativity Killer. My first choice for a Computer Aided Creativity (CAC) writing program is Ulysses.

My brain doesn’t work like a listing program, it works like a movie making program. So I searched for a writing program which would work with me instead of me working around the limitations of the program. I looked for a writing program which was actually developed for writing, that allows one to move ideas around and jump between different project documents.

I started using Ulysses about three years ago, and have never stopped loving it.

Ulysses was developed around the idea of making content and writing the main focus of the writing process, and specifically not focusing on formatting. The program is straight forward, you write in the main window, on the right-hand side is a Notes window, on the left are all the individual documents in your project, along with their Notes window. Naturally, the user interface can be customized.

With Ulysses you can easily develop an idea in one document, and then transfer to another. What’s really cool is that you can select a document and display it on the left-hand side of the program. You can select text from there and copy it to the main window. This is where it really excels compared with Word, since it aides you in forming and reforming ideas so quickly, it really accelerates the writing and creativity process.?

How exactly does Ulysses enable CAC?

Well, if you have an idea in your head, then you intuitively understand it. The problem is communicating it to others. The most common form is writing. But once you write something down, you will naturally try to modify it, as opposed to writing down a completely new thought. This is where Ulysses kicks ass.

Since text can be moved between documents so easily, and documents can be displayed so quickly, the program actually helps you organize ideas, as opposed to simply being a processor for words.

I use Ulysses for many different projects including webpages, blog posts, technical papers, a PhD dissertation, letters, the list is endless. Projects and documents can be exported as simple text, MS Word, even in LaTex.

If Ulysses could be better, it would be the ability display the documents in a mindmap layout similar to MyMind. This would allow the user to visually organize ideas, but keep all of the actually writing within that visual representation. I highly recommend Ulysses if you’re looking for a writing program, it can change the way you work and think for the better.

MyMind Mindmapping Software Review

When I started doing research I wanted a computer program to develop ideas and projects.  I also wanted something that would reduce the energy and time needed to translate the ideas in my head into a form which other people could understand.  After searching the net I found MyMind, by Sebastian Krauß.  It’s for the Mac, only for the Mac, and it’s Donation Supported.  It’s simple, fast, and one of the essential tools I use in developing projects.

The concept of mind mapping is simple: create an interconnected visual representation of your ideas.  It’s like combining a text outline and a sketch.  The essential element is that you can visually see how different ideas connect together.  There’s limitless applications for the mind-mapping technique in every work place and profession.

I start my mindmaps by drawing a map on paper, putting all my ideas down and connecting them.  The problem is that words on paper can’t be moved around.  That’s where Computer Aided Creativity (CAC) becomes essential.  So next I transfer my collection of ideas to MyMind, and start moving things around.  In MyMind you list topics in an outline form in one window, and then create a map in a separate window.  You can modify the list or the map, collapsing or expanding different parts of the map and add notes.

The mindmap can be color-coded, font size and thickness of the line connectors can decrease per level and images can be imported. Basically, there’s a lot of customization that one can perform to improve the organization of the mindmap.  I like to use two monitors with MyMind, this gives me the room to develop the organization of ideas and watch project plans evolve.  This allows me to develop a clear representation of a project, research article, dissertation, webpage design, book content, photo project, anything that I need.

There are other professional mind-mapping products such as ConceptDraw, which is for the PC or Mac.  I might switch to ConceptDraw in the future, as this software family also includes variations for project management and web design in addition to basic mind-mapping.  A lot of software is hyped and over-priced, but packages like MyMind and ConceptDraw are no doubt worth every penny and could revolutionize the way you work – both professionally and in your personal projects.

There are amazing possibilities using a touch screen and mind mapping for real hands-on CAC.  Some day I’d like to see a program on a tablet laptop which allows the user to create and modify a mindmap in real time.  This would be a very useful combination of computer aided creativity, technology which really works for the user.  Even better would be the fusion between a mind mapper and word processor.  The writing program Ulysses is going in the right direction.

Writing Work Flow – VVCTFR – CAC

Management and having a process is important in many endeavors in life, and I find such a construct essential when writing.  Computer Aided Creativity (CAC) has made the difference between writing random notes to myself and producing actual written content.  My writing workflow is like this:

Visualize – Vomiting – Reduce Chaos – Form – Refine

This is not a purely linear workflow, sometimes the steps overlap, combine, separate, they’re always in flux.  Chaotic vomiting might form a refined visualization, or you might have to refine chaos in order to start verbally vomiting.  The gist is that an idea in my head is translated and organized into words on a screen or piece of paper.  I like to call this:

VVCTFR (Writing Cluster Fuck for short)

Visualize – I get an idea in my mind, and a bunch of visual attributes are present, the challenge is getting those elements recorded and developed into a final form.

Vomiting – I take a piece of paper and put down ideas in the form of writing, pictures, and arrows connecting one to another.  Things are chaotic, but recorded.

Reduce Chaos – From an outline or mindmap, I arrange ideas in a certain way so they’re flowing well and playing together.  Then I expand on those ideas, making them more than just jumbled craziness.

Transcribe – I transcribe the main ideas and fragments to Ulysses, my favorite writing program.  Small paragraphs go in the main window, words, things to remember go in the notes section.  There will be many spelling mistakes, the idea is that the written form of the idea is taking shape.

Form – Here I’m working exclusively in Ulysses (or another writing program), moving between documents and adding specifics to what I’m writing.  This is the most critical part, it’s here where I create the final form (more or less) and get ready to export for publishing and formatting.

Refine – At this point everything has been exported into Word or uploaded to my WordPress blog, in the final form for formatting.

I follow this process (more or less) for everything from blog articles to technical papers and dissertations.  When I talk with other people I’m floored to hear that they start papers, publications, and dissertations from scratch, without little plan or workflow.

A writer might purpose that too much structure in the writing process reduces creativity.  A novelist, for example, might use the act of writing as a way to get to know their characters.  The writing process might be seen as a way to develop the story, and hence some writers might advise one against outlining.  A writer who doesn’t use outlines is Timothy Hallinan, who seems to take the view that an outline must be a static prelude to writing.  He notes that he wants to see how his characters develop,

"I don’t want to know how the story will end until it does."

I’ve found the opposite.  I’m a visual thinker, I create stories in a movie form in my head, the challenge is putting those ideas on paper.  For myself outlining and mind mapping increases creativity because visual markers in my head (ideas) are easily recorded and rearranged in reality, thus enabling a final form that is done quickly, is original, and as creative as all Hell.  I use mind mapping as a dynamic entity, not a stagnant thing that needs to be fully complete before I start writing.

Whatever your view, using a workflow which efficiently translates ideas to text helps in everything from writing a long email, a letter, a PhD, a job application, a business plan, movie script, book, anything the creative author can imagine. 

Coming up next in this series, Ulysses – the Kick Ass writing program and Mind Mapping software.

Going Pro – The Road to Artistic Suicide

may_portrait_1.jpgSpend five seconds on any photography forum and the topic of Going Pro eventually comes up. The premise is rather simple: someone takes up photography as a hobby, decides they like taking photos, realize that they can produce images similar to those of professional photographers, and want to become a professional themselves.

Ah, but now the question is:

Why? Will Going Pro really get you to where you want to be in life? Will such a move fulfill your need to create and exercise your artistic ambitions? I’ve harbored the thoughts of going Pro and, developed the following analysis. In general, I’m of the opinion that people who want to become professional photographers have done little in the way of thinking out any sort of plan to succeed – and as such, set themselves up for failure and under-achievement. If you look at the question from a business perspective, the initial realistic answer is to not do it unless you really, really, mean it, and really want to make money from it. The classic response to such a critique is something along the lines of, “Well – you know, it’s about artistic expression, not just the money.”

Right – but, if it’s not just about the money, then there’s no logical reason for becoming a professional photographer in the first place. By remaining an amateur you maintain your flexibility and avenues for creative direction without putting yourself in a position for bankruptcy. One classic reason for going Pro is to be able to be creatively expressive and get paid for it. But if that’s the argument, it’s far easier to learn some creativity on your own and integrate it into your normal life.? Such concepts are very well explained in the book Sparks of Genius. Going Pro and starting a business to fulfill such a need for creative integration in you life is absurd. And if you think about it, going Pro might actually imply that your avenues of creative expression will be reduced from day to day. To such a statement, some might say,

“But photography is about art and instant creativity, so professional photographers are getting paid to be creative, and I’m creative – so I should be a Pro.”

There’s generally a simple relationship between profit and product.? The market dictates what makes money and what doesn’t. Therefore, if you connect your economic worth to your photography hobby, you will have to produce images which the market wishes to pay money for. As I, like most people, don’t produce images with much uniqueness or character from a marketing standpoint, what would be the reason for going Pro? If you’re going to do something, you should do it right. For photography that means a business plan and a way to flourish in a market which is increasingly easy to enter and therefore chaotic.

Probably the biggest reason for not going Pro is “imitation protection.” In the marketplace, you have almost no protection against imitation. Lighting poses and strategies can be easily imitated, the only protectable element is your drive to succeed. This is important in any business, and in the case of someone like Michael Grecco or Annie Leibovitz, the technical abilities of the photographer is seen as secondary to the their visions and ability to interact with their clients.

As an engineer, reproduction is rather difficult. For someone to do my job they’d have to go through something like 10 years of training and maturation covering topics like writing, photography, biomedical, materials, and mechanical engineering. However, if I want to duplicate the look of Michael Grecco, reading his book and a few days of heavy experimentation with the right equipment will give me a very good feeling for imitating his style.

may_portrait_2.jpgHowever, without his client list, reputation, and inter-personal skills, my ability to do his job is severely reduced. As a photographer, this doesn’t really mean much to me, as I’m more interested in developing my own look, just like I developed my own writing voice and interpretation on project management techniques and problem solving. This is not to say that amateurs shouldn’t be making money off of photography, but start small – and begin with a plan for profits. Figure out what you want to do and form an economically feasible strategy around it. If you have a thousand images, don’t just blindly sent them off to, figure out a stock photo niche and build around it. I think that integrating economic principles into creative fields and a hobby like photography is overall a good thing. The world runs on economic systems, and trying to imply that they don’t exist and that creativity and art and photography are pure forms of expression untainted by the complications of money is in some ways a tad short-sighted. Life is a crazy adventure, be fresh, explore new ideas and possibilities, but if you’re primarily interested in fulfilling your life via the integration of creativity, don’t blindly buy into the rumor that becoming a professional in the field of photography will solve anything or actually be a good idea.