Birth of an App, Part 7

Birth Of An App

Pictures chosen and edited – check.
Stories written and edited – check.
Categories (finally) decided and named – check.
Music composed and optimized for the iPad – check.
App optimizing and troubleshooting completed – check. (Although there were some pesky crashes on the iPad 1 that needed some serious analysis and work. All stable now, thankfully.) (more…)

Right-brained thinking in a left-brained world

I just attended a four-day “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” workshop and am exhausted. I never expected to be so fatigued – after all it was a drawing class! I feel like I ran four marathons.

The premise is interesting: that we lose our right-brained view of the world by about the time we become teenagers, once the language skills and quantitative training we receive in school really start to kick in. That’s why most of us (myself clearly included) as adults continue to draw as if we’re in about the fourth grade.

This training was based on the book of the same name, originally written in 1979 and still available as a book as well as a workshop. Interestingly, I purchased this book some three years ago but had not cracked the cover until a week before the class started. I read it as the class I was taking was taught in Hungarian and I wasn’t confident I’d understand all of the subtleties of the lesson, although I did fare rather well!

The class centered on looking at the world anew, suppressing the left-dominant logic when it comes to looking at shadows, faces and perspectives. Over the four days we learned how to look at objects leveraging our right brain hemisphere. I have to tell you it didn’t come easy for me and I consider myself to be pretty right-brained.

Beyond the overall lesson in drawing learned – and the vast improvement in my drawing in just a few days of practice – I also took away some more subtle lessons:

Use all the tools you have available. We were given six pencils – H, HB, H2, H4, H6 and H8 – that ranged in hardness and functionality. I found myself choosing a “favorite” many times versus leveraging the range of options available, and my drawings reflected this closed-mindedness. Several times I had too much graphite on an image and had I chosen another, better suited pencil, I would have fared better. We were also given three erasers: a basic one good for massive erasing, an eraser “pen” for more detailed corrections and a kneaded eraser for final touch-ups. All three had their role and I used them all extensively!

Look for what’s not there versus what is there. The left-brain tells you what is there and what’s logical. The right brain shows you what isn’t there – the negative spaces in an image that make an image an image. Really searching for what isn’t there was huge in helping render images as they really are as you learned the true spatial relationships between various objects. I observed one classmate (who happens to be in IT – serious left brain dominance) struggle with the assignments, even arguing with the teacher at one point about what he needed to do. He struggled with suppressing the left hemisphere more than some in the class and was extremely frustrated most of the time. We had to trust the teacher in looking for what was not there versus grabbing onto what was obvious in front of our eyes.

Have patience and persistence – and believe in yourself – and the image emerges. Many times I questioned myself about how I was shading part of a picture or what highlights I was leaving on the paper. It seemed counter intuitive at times, yet when I would step back from the image just a foot or two, the logic became clear and image would indeed appear as it was supposed to. Being patient and persistent were key and, coupled with choosing my tools well, made the difference between realizing an acceptable image (I’m no Vermeer mind you) and one that needed a big eraser or, better yet, a new sheet of paper.
I’m sharing here the before and after images I drew – click on the image to see it larger. Each of us was given a photo to draw as our first assignment on day one. On day four, we redrew the image and, well, the difference a couple of days of training makes is obvious. Everyone showed marked improvement in their drawing skills no matter where they started from, just by learning how to use the right side of their brains.

P.S. Also, welcome to the new home of my blog! Better name, better design, better focus (pun intended) and more functionality with this site. Please feel free to join the conversation!


Every. Single. Day.

I have a goal to feed this internal creative hunger; to expand my mind and eye and grow my craft; to make my photography the best it can be.

To that end, I devote time to photography every single day. Certainly, some days have a greater emphasis or get more time than others, but it is a conscious decision to do something photo-related at some time during the day – every day.

Maybe it’s shooting. Or developing. Or printing, transferring, scanning. Reading, studying another’s work, learning a new technique, listening to others, talking with someone. Or writing. In every case, something meaningful related to photography.

I have a desire to be the best I can be at what I do. To be that, I need to constantly learn and grow and move my art forward.

Richard Avedon once said, “If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up.”

Every. Single. Day.


Cultivating the other you

What do you do when you’re not working? I mean outside of family obligations – what do you do for you. If the answer is “not much”, it’s time for a change and what better time than at the beginning of a New Year.

A real-life illustration: A colleague’s father retired a few years ago. This man had been a professor and his work was his life. Spent virtually all of his waking hours on campus in the company of students, teaching them, working with them, learning from them. When the time came for him to retire, he was absolutely lost. His entire life had been work – no outside interests, no hobbies, no passions beyond the classroom. He went from a life of focus to one adrift. He literally almost died; severe depression set in from his isolation and nearly killed him. Only through the diligence of his son were remedial steps taken to get him help and reestablish a sense of purpose in him. It was nearly too late and it had taken only a couple of months for him to sink so low.

Another colleague of mine believed that work was an “8-hour interruption” of his personal time. He had many diverse interests outside the walls of his office hence work was a means to an end. I’ve always appreciated his perspective on life and find I have to remind myself of his mantra from time to time.

Allow yourself time every week for something that’s devoted to you. That absorbs you. That you can’t wait to get back to the next time. Reading, gardening, writing, painting, traveling, quilting, fishing, photography, woodworking, cooking, singing, working with youth/seniors, playing a sport – something that trips your trigger. My mantra: a day a week for “my” things. It may not be exactly a single devoted day (although sometimes it is), but throughout the week I try to carve out eight hours to pursue my interests versus things related to work or other family members.

Don’t have such an interest? Dig back to your deep past as a child and the interests you had then. Somewhere, covered by years and layers of work, is an interest, a long-forgotten hobby. Still nothing? Browse the shelves of your local bookstore or library. Give it a few hours, checking out various topics. Something is there waiting for you to discover, waiting for you to crack the cover and begin.

Take time to develop your interests now, give yourself permission to enjoy them and do it! Beyond the benefit of addressing future needs you will find you have greater energy and a better perspective on life overall today. And besides, it’s fun.


“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Move your art forward every day

Patricia Moran once said, “Discipline is admired in opera
singers, engineers, dancers, pianists or brain surgeons but, for some peculiar
reason, when a painter is undisciplined, it is considered creative, new and
innovative, or even genius. Usually, it is just bad painting.”

The same applies to any visual art, including photography. I
try to move my art forward every single day. I don’t always make it, but five
out of seven days in the week I do something
to improve my art –
shoot, print, retouch, study, visit a gallery/exhibit, work on a portfolio,
write, take a class, read, visit with others, plan, organize – something
related to photography with the eternal goal of advancing my art. It sounds disciplined and it is, although it is pleasurable versus painful. Instead of being an obligation, it’s an aspiration – and inspiration.

I do not want to remain where I am with my photography. I
like what I’ve done in the past and I like what I’m doing presently, but I
continually want to learn something new – a new technique (maybe an old one,
but new to me), test a new perspective, learn something unique from another
artist from any visual or performing art – whatever is possible to push my
limits, push me out of my comfort zone, make me try something different in order to move me ahead in developing who I am
as an artist.

Ms Moran said discipline is admired
for many artistic areas and discipline must be a key part of a photographer’s
life. Constant study and focus (pun intended) are necessary
in order for a photographer to refine and grow his or her craft.

Gotta go. It’s late in the day and I still need to move my
art forward today…

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