Birth Of An App, Part 6

The Ipad Experience

My first experience with the app on an iPad was amazing! The vision I had months earlier was actually a living, breathing, application. The diagrams, sketches and words on paper had changed into animations and transitions I could touch. I could actually play with the app and see what the experience was going to be for the users.

Now it was crunch time. Five yet-unnamed categories were needed with around 20 images and stories each. I had completed one story to date… I had a bunch of ideas scattered across scraps of paper, emails, my iPad and my laptop but they were often incomplete thoughts and in need of illustration. (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!


Look where others aren’t

The fun part of creating art is seeing what no one else sees and sharing your unique perspective. Much like the Wall Street adage of “when folks are buying, see who’s selling” – when others are looking up, you should be looking down.

The Pantheon in Rome is one of my favorite buildings ever. Beyond the sheer concrete engineering feat that was accomplished nearly 2000 years ago, it’s simply a captivating building. As one walks into the vast rotunda (as tall as it is wide), one can’t help but gaze skyward at the oculus, an opening in the center of the dome. Rain and snow come in through this 30-foot diameter hole in the roof.

And sunlight.

Only light from the entryway and the oculus illuminate this temple. Given its vast interior and the role the oculus plays, one’s eye is naturally drawn upward toward the opening and the sunlight streaming in through it

Once, as I followed the light from the opening to the floor, I wondered where it went afterwards. The answer came in the image here. The light bounces off of the floor and illuminates the wall opposite creating a whole new experience in this wonderful building.

Are you looking where others are and if so, why?


Half of photography is luck, the other half is looking

Which half do you want to rely on?

Photography is naturally about seeing. Looking for the right moment – the right angle, the right light, composition, everything – is critical so when that moment presents itself, you’re ready.

You’re present in that moment.

One doesn’t need to walk about all day long with camera pressed to face, finger on the shutter release, but one does need to be looking at all times. Have his/her eyes truly open to notice that certain something that makes a moment an image.

Looking doesn’t require any special skills or special training. It’s just about being aware of where you are and what’s around you. Sorting through the clutter to find the essence. Thinking in terms of borders – what’s included in an image and what’s not. Being this aware takes some conscious practice, but it’s doable without being an intrusion on one’s life. Rather, it becomes the way one normally sees the world. Being in the moment at all times.

Being in the moment is about consciously using one’s senses – all of them, to absorb that point in time. A five-senses test so to speak: How does where you are right this minute look, sound smell, taste and feel – and how can that be captured in an image?

Being aware ensures that one is ready when life presents “the decisive moment” as Cartier-Bresson taught us. The difference between capturing golden light or grey. A telling expression or just another face. Being ready to
capture exactly the image that needed to be caught.

Then the other half – luck – takes its turn by helping you be in the right place at the right time. Or is it luck?

Looking sideways

I was in LA last week for some meetings and had time one
morning to walk around before my other activities began. Without hesitation I
set out to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall – the Frank Gehry work of art that
doubles as a concert facility.

I’d seen the building in countless images, movies and
magazines but never in the flesh. Or steel, rather. I spent the better part of
an hour just walking around the outside of the building, wonderfully
constructed to be appreciated from all sides. There’s no back alley with dumpsters
and it’s not backed up against some other building. Instead, it’s a
three-dimensional sculpture with gardens that allows one to touch the building
at all times. What a concept!

About three-quarters into my journey around the building a
staircase appeared, inviting me to take the “skywalk”. Why not? The building
had me captivated in its approachability and accessibility, so I had to climb
further up and further in.

Music - three layers
 One thing I’ve learned in photography is always to look up,
look down, look sideways and look behind. Looking ahead is natural and once one
is behind the viewfinder, the world shrinks to what the lens offers. It’s too
easy to neglect what’s around you when you’re looking ahead through the lens of
a camera. The human eye has a field of vision of about 120 degrees, which
shrinks when looking through a lens, leaving at least 2/3 of what’s around us
out of sight.

As I climbed the stairs to the skywalk, I paused and turned
around. There, behind me, down to my left was the image I have here. On my
first run through the photos from that day, this is one that jumped out at me.
It may well be the best image I got that day out of the several hundred I shot.

My nature was to continue to climb, to get to the platform
of the skywalk and see what was there. My experience told me to pause, turn
around and see what was behind me. Being one who tends to look forward rather
than backward (as a life practice and philosophy), this move did not come
naturally. Yet, because I went against my nature and listened to the voice of
experience, I caught this slice of music.

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