Category Archives: Principles / Concepts

Some of the concepts and principles, the theory, so to speak, of creativity.

Beautiful Food: a project for Visual Thinking classes

In order to get my students to understand that visual composition matters in everything from architecture to army uniforms to advertising and art, I’ve added a new assignment, called Beautiful Food.

Beautiful Food Composition Project PDF

Junk Food made Fancy
Tartar of hand-cut Hot Rod, egg yolk, and “intense pickle” Doritos, by Jacque LeMerde

And here are the excellent results from the students of Art 350 / Visual Thinking…


trusting the ebb and flow of your creativity…

With regard to creative energy, respect that it comes and goes. In a way, I think it is good to not try to be to disciplined. In times when we need peace, or have a lot going on in other parts of life, it is important to have faith the urges to make / write things will always return. (Once in my 20’s I got a Fortune Cookie that read, “Art is your Fate; don’t Debate.”)

It’s like these floating Kelp leaves, the sea washes them this way, and that way, but they remained anchored to the floor of the sea, with their poetically named “Holdfast.” The base keeps them stable, but the plant grows. In prime conditions they can grow an astonishing two feet per day.

Flowing Kelp

Experimental Travel

We just finished a project in the Visual Thinking classes in which students first have a visceral experience of The Night, then make an artwork or presentation that might evoke the emotions of the experience in others. That got me thinking about Experimental Travel. The book and site propose some strategies give priority to chance discovery over comfort and predictability.

Here is a big list of options for travel experiments.

I think I’ve done this intuitively, and once, on the most luxurious tours I will ever take, or coach got lost in a Vineyard which nearly gave the driver a heart attack, but which made me laugh more than anything else on the swanky trip from Barcelona to Paris.

A book on fresh travel strategies embracing the idea of welcoming chance intrusions.
A book on fresh travel strategies embracing the idea of welcoming chance intrusions.


Freedom + Flow

Famous for the treadmill choreography in one of their earlier videos, Ok Go take things to new heights in this music video filmed in zero gravity. I’ve only looked at his once, but it seems almost impossible this could have been created in one take.

Certainly it epitomizes a crazy sense of freedom. I love the interlocked flight attendants rotating down the aisle, the suitcases releases colorful balls though out the cabin, and then literal flow when they start smashing paint filled balloons in the cabin.


Creativity & Freedom

I have no idea what the source was, but somewhere I once read that despite the stereotype of Buddhism being about a peaceful acceptance of what is happening, this believer said at its core, the Buddha focused on Freedom + Surprise.
Hmm. I’ll have the to research that a bit, since it sounds a bit like something I might have invented.
If this was never said in the name of the Buddha, it certainly fits the life of an artist. No one wants a negative surprise, but since adventurous travel is to me a great parallel of what it feels like to make art, and both involve occasional disasters somehow mingled with feels of joy, surprise and invention.
I use the element of surprise in my course structure. Not to be in control (I hope), but because breaking routines (lecture, reading assignment, quiz, most of which seldom happen in my Visual Thinking classes) I can maintain a higher energy level for my students. They are uncertain about where we may be headed. Again, there are the nice boring trips which can be really relaxing, the luxury tour, with a night spent at something like a Ritz Carlton, and then there is the sort of travel that keeps us on our toes.

As travel writer, Paul Theroux said, “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they are going.”

Read this chapter before you invest in an MFA…

Provocative ideas from Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), in her recent book, Creative Magic.

“Creative Living Beyond Fear” is relevant to anyone. Whether you already feel creatively confident, or are struggling to find your path as a painter, writer, entrepreneur, or anything else, the book transcends stereotypes about the creative life.

Is it really a good idea to seek a graduate degree in the arts? Ms. Gilbert appears to (mostly) think not. Fine if you are rich, or given a free ride, but she has deep reservations about anyone in the arts taking on massive debt.

I was able to get two graduate degrees (Sculpture, Therapy), and a five year professional degree in Architecture on the cheap in the late 70’s / early 80’s, but I probably wouldn’t spend 12 years in college at today’s prices.

If you are thinking of applying to a graduate program for Creative Writing, Art, etc., read this Chapter from Big Magic, and see if it changes your mind. The one thing an MFA can do, in my opinion is connect you with Your Tribe, of fellow creators. But Elizabeth seems to say, work very hard on your art, and then get out there and meet people, send letters and images as broadly as you can, and prepare for a lot of rejection, until something breaks through.

Fresh perspectives on getting over fears that interrupt out creativity.
Fresh perspectives on getting over fears that interrupt out creativity.

I’m thinking about how one learns to be an entrepreneur…


Art Center, Krystina, Invention Innovation:

The ‘D’ School at Stanford
David Kelly of the ‘D’ School, and Ideo

Continue reading I’m thinking about how one learns to be an entrepreneur…