Many of us will remember the devastating and senseless murder of two men from Oakland, California, last September. Belal Esa and Asam Al-Awjri were both killed by a man with a gun who opened fire as they left their local Mosque. It was the end of evening prayers and the whole local Muslim community were making their way home. To express violence and mindless murder in a place of sanctuary where congregants have a close relationship to God causes deep trauma and upset in everyone. Even non-Muslim people were shocked by the depravity of what happened as the news travelled around the world. How do we go on from here? What happened next is an insight and an inspiration for us all.
A collection of institutions including the Muslim Writers’ Collective, Gathering All Muslim Artists (GAMA), and ARTogether all contributed to a local arts event. All proceeds from the event were marked for honouring the two men who will live on in everyone’s hearts. This wasn’t just an open-mic night. The guests were all those affected, and each were given the opportunity to voice their thoughts and feelings about what happened. The expression of community trauma was given a safe space and a valued home for the night which created therapy for everyone who attended.
The event took place within a larger exhibit that honours the fallen. A fully immersive and multimedia exhibition called Khamsa aims to totalify the trauma for those who contributed. Visual and musical creators had the chance to put something real into the exhibit in order to build the larger picture of the group feeling. A collage of emotions from individual minds, the network of grief helps to build a larger human picture.
As the show went out, the social scene became even more relevant. Sadly, there were two school shootings in the same area in the following weeks and Iran became a global stage for Woman Life and Freedom. These two disparate settings seem so invariably connected through the use of force in unconscionable ways. Through all the sadness and unfair treatment, selfishness and hurt, there is a continuous stream of resistance. There are many who actively work to push back against this thread of darkness that touches everywhere. Indeed, with $1500 raised for the victims’ families, this one idea has done more good than anyone could have realised.
New Zealand’s Canterbury Museum is about to undergo a huge renovation. Over $200 Million have been tagged for the building in order to modernise and reinvent the wide-open indoor space. Museums generally need updating once or twice per generation as we learn more and society changes. As the exhibits are being removed and the walls left spartan, the venue is being prepared for a once in a lifetime street art experience. Before the entire building is regenerated and made to look brand new, the New Zealand artists of the urban environment are being asked to go inside and decorate the space.
The 90s and 50s built sections of the museum are going to be opened to the army of artists, using spray cans and markers, brushes and bottles. The inventive and clever creations we all admire will be placed where they have never been before. By giving an open contract to the artists, they will be totally free to explore their talents in line with the unique architecture offered within. Even spaces that were previously off-limits to visitors will be unlocked and made welcoming for the temporary decorators.
The work is due to be carried out in January which will give a few months of display time before the museum is permanently changed. For a small fee, visitors can explore and wander around the urbanised venue and maybe catch the street art bug for themselves. We can only guess as to what kinds of things will end up on the walls, perhaps political and social issues will make an appearance. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity on something transient so making strong statements and creating beautiful images will surely be on the agenda.
Entitled SHIFT: Urban Art Takeover and curated by street art expert Reuben Woods, a whole list of local and international street artists have been enlisted to work on this unprecedented opportunity. With plenty of empty buildings in most cities around the world, it seems like this idea might catch on. If they can be made into places of interest, then the benefits to the community can be quantified.
The reasons why some things seem to be a perfect fit is because they have been designed to a precise regimen. Often when we create something new, we just go with the flow and create what ever takes our fancy. This is a wonderful way of expressing ourselves and for having fun. It helps us to practice our skills and gives us something at the end someone might like. What if we could tweak that last bit to mean something that a lot of people might like? How about everybody? If we can apply design thinking to our process the outcome will naturally be more user friendly and accessible. This can be the difference between a one hit wonder and an established career in the field.
Thinking Like A Designer
Design in its very nature implies creativity. To design is to make a plan or a set of instructions that result in something new. When we apply these blueprints to the manufacturing process, we can be sure that what we get out is what we wanted. The world is either a rulebook to be read or a pantry to be explored. When we see things in the world, we can either look at them at rigid things in their rightful place or as an ingredient to something completely up to us. A truly inventive mind can make use of things never intended for that purpose. Design is the process of adapting known rules and principles to fit new situations. On occasion we need to create new rules and norms that feed into the general acceptance of bigger concepts. People want to feel good about the things they do and the things that use to express themselves. Design thinking is about making sure our creations fit the bill.
There’s Only Forward
Competition is a real aspect in life, and it will always be a factor in everything we do. It’s not just up to you, other people will see themselves as your rival despite your best efforts to help them in the process. We must get used to this and not let ourselves feel put off. We will not always be successful or as successful as we had wanted. Sometimes we might fall flat on our faces and need to scrape ourselves up from the floor. Failure is such a potent word that can sometimes hide the fact we are learning. A lesson learned is a wisdom no one can take away again. It might feel bad and that’s okay, the thing to take home is that you know what doesn’t work. You either need to add something else or change something already there. Given enough time and a keen, active interest, anything can be learned verbatim or intuitively.
Know What Not To Do
We either learn it for ourselves or are given the facts and decide it’s a bad idea independently, the limits and boundaries that are in place help us navigate the road. If the destination is a place where people accept our design and want to use it, the well-marked road will get us there a lot better than the rough and open terrain. Which way do we go? The infrastructure of reality and social trends can be a perfect roadmap for how to best reach our destination and know where it is.
New Ideas Are Unpolished Gems
A typical meeting might have an agenda and a rigid structure. Everyone present may have already rehearsed their part and no one really has anything new to say. This approach will not help ingenuity and will not help the designer. Creative processes require an input of new ideas to work with. When designers meet, they will not only talk about their progress, they will also talk about their aspirations and mental images. With good social anchors as to why something is relevant such as trends or previous successes a designer can adapt the known principles to meet new and interesting ideas. A good designer-based network can help to gravitate the best concepts and ideas through debate and decision making to form a wholly better result.
Who And What Is This Ultimately For
Different strokes for different folks, a widely used concept that uses a swimming or cricket metaphor to describe something about life. We’re all different and have various preferences and tastes. Beneath the mechanical psychology and chemical biology of our working bodies, the things that make us unique are more subtle and based on so many influences. We ascribe positive and negative views to things we see around us based on a variety of factors and then make personal choices based on this inner landscape. Designers do their best to create something that makes people say yes. To do this they have to appeal to things that people want. The emotional and practical reasons that things appeal to us are plentiful however when we can understand which ones we are working towards, we can design our creativity to match.
Want to take this concept further? Now's a good time to enrol on this online course: Design Thinking Masterclass - A Complete Guide for You
Notebooks are always useful. An ideal gift at any time of year. Sometimes we just need somewhere to write little pieces of information. Phone numbers, dates, maybe even names! For those of us who are creative or at least having a go at it, a notebook is much more than a personal shorthand library. It's a portal to the amazing potential of our imagination. What we can think up can go into words and when it's in words the mental landscape has been communicated to the real world. As if by magic our thoughts become real and in this first step we stand the best chance of continuing with our journey. Who knows what kinds of things are just waiting to be dreamt of by some like-minded free-thinking individual? What would you create if given the opportunity?
Take a look at some of these gorgeous notebooks that I found while browsing on Amazon.
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Of course, there are many more of these available. These are just a few favourites that stood out at the time. Why not comment with your links to any others you find just as insipring?
Ricardo Dominguez said taking part in the Art from the Inside program while he was formerly in Stillwater prison “saved his life.” His art was displayed during the opening night of the project’s latest exhibition at Creators Space on E. 7th Street in St. Paul on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (Kristi Belcamino / Pioneer Press)
Art builds confidence nurtures the senses and nourishes the human side of our minds. It helps to connect our physical world with our inner one with a direct avenue of expression. Unlike the spoken word, with rigid structure limited vocabulary and abstract rules, art has none of these inhibitors. How many times have you had a feeling you can’t describe or a series of thoughts you can’t find the words for? It happens to all of us so by using art as a means of expression and communication we all benefit from the medium.
From learning art therapy in my spare-time from Udemy, I have discovered that art is great for your mental health and well-being. By taking time to slow down and take diligent care in a simple activity such as colouring in, the outcome is a relaxed and almost zen state of mind. It makes it much easier to begin to think clearly and address our inner world. So, when people in prison do art, it’s easy to make the connection to mental wellness. Imagine being in prison, I would expect you’d feel all kinds of things from denial to contrition and anger to self-reduction. Any such coping mechanism might help pass the time without too much stress, but the prison of the mind has bars much tighter than those on the outside.
Prisoners often turn to art as a means of passing the time productively, learning new skills, demonstrating character building to their parole board, and as a real source of personal betterment. St Paul in Minnesota has recently unveiled an art exhibition made by over fifty inmates at their two local prisons. Called the Identity Exhibition and sponsored by Art from the Inside, the mission is to give incarcerated people a voice that people will hear. Devoid of judgement and full of personal character, the artists are free to express themselves in ways that speak to everyone.
The Art on the Inside project was started when a guard was killed by an inmate during an incident at Stillwater Prison back in 2018. It was the idea of colleague Antonio Espinoza to begin building bridges and forming trust by championing art in the prison system. By giving to inmates with alternative behaviour and goals to accomplish through art, the rehabilitation and betterment of life-quality element of the project is making genuine progress.
Huddersfield based Mr. Rave has been waiting for years to get it on behind the DJ decks since the lockdown forced everyone to stay at home. Everyone’s mental health suffered during this time and with the cost-of-living crisis the issue has gotten a lot worse for many. Men’s mental health is often overlooked, with the typical man perhaps being less vocal about his feelings and sometimes more protective of his vulnerability. Clearly, we are all only human and testosterone or not, the fact is life can be difficult for even the mightiest of warriors. If you’re more of an emotionally sensitive man things can be hard for other reasons. Rather than being taken seriously or respected for having inner feelings, the replies we receive can be cruel and heartless.
Mr. Rave is clearly a man of action because as soon as he was able to, he billed not one but two awesome nights out in his hometown to raise money for Andy’s Man Club. Giving money to charity is always healthy and right and so catching two birds with one stone by getting a premium evening on the town as well, it’s always win-win. This guy is doing what he can with the talents he has to provide a genuine response to a real-life issue that we can all relate to.
By blending modern and vintage sounds from the good old days of the rave, a double headline of Rave and Bassline fits snugly over the weekend through 25th-26th November. You can book tickets in advance or pay on the door. The events are being held at Bassment Studios in the city centre from 10-4 at night. The acts on offer over this party include Mr Rave himself and some keynote names from the local area and beyond. It’s going to be a brilliant night as the venue is highly experienced in this kind of outing and the professional acts have their performances nailed down over the years.
Are you going? Or are you going to do something similar where you live?
Creative output is always good but when it enters the big world, we will begin creating a public narrative. Branding is about making sure this public narrative fits your genuine intentions. Our brand is a platform that our work sits on, and the more powerful this image the higher placed our new work will be. People see brands as symbolic. The things a brand represents build a mental picture of the product and the people who make it, and people identify with these concepts. When we have a strong brand we can already know which areas we want to work in, what messages we want to communicate, and what kind of person we are aiming to reach with our work. To be successful in creativity its important that other people like what we do. Working to please someone else other than you is where the professional is separated from everyone else. Art is always up for personal interpretation and any of our creative output can be seen any number of ways so by establishing a strong brand image we can ensure that other people are given the right idea as a foundation to build on in their own experience of your work.
Recommended read: Identity Designed: The Definitive Guide to Visual Branding
When we see some new art or listen to some new music, we can ask ourselves what it seems to be inspired by. We can ask ourselves what it reminds us of, and we can decide if the image fits in with our own. What else does this work make you think of? These answers can include your own work and your own brand if people have a strong idea about what you are. When people have a connection to your work that incorporates sensibilities and thought patterns, we can stand in good light to become the influence and become the similarity that causes others to think of us more often. Therefore, branding is important for artists and creators who want to establish themselves with customers and fire-spreaders in the communities they operate in.
Recommended read: Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists
To establish a strong brand image and generate a healthy rapport with the customer or fan we must be able to fill in the blanks when building the big picture. With the following steps we can cross many bridges and establish lots of networks that all feed into our personal image. It is this mental map of connection and influence that creates the holistic image that carries us forward.
Create Your Work
You will find your flavour and your flow when you begin creating. Before we design what we can be, we have to find out what the raw ingredients are. Our passions and interests can guide our talents through training and experience when we apply ourselves to producing things for other people. Identifying our strengths and weaknesses can provide us a pre-drawn destination that feels the most appropriate for us.
Decide On Placement
The possibility is endless, your work can fit into so many boxes and when you create without a specific direction in mind it might not be a perfect fit for any. We need to decide what our work is and how it should be presented. The presentation of art can be a big difference, do you remember the banana that sold for thousands of dollars? You can buy them in any grocery shop for pennies. The difference is that the expensive one was positioned just so and in doing this the artist won the heart of one lucky buyer. Where we place our work and who we place it with can say a lot about who we are and what we should think about our creativity.
In the effort of producing art and sharing it with the world with appropriate titles and placements we will meet other people with similar ideas. If you’re not confident in your talents and skills, then these people seem like competition but if you can own your ability, they are your ecosystem. Everyone around you is an opportunity to learn from and grow alongside. What matters is getting the right connections that improve your service and productivity as well as provide professional and useful avenues if you need them. We need to be friendly with everyone but nurture the connections that work for you, either on a personal level or a professional one.
Recommended article: Your Network Is Your Team — Here’s How To Play With And Not Against Them
Take Part In Wider Initiatives
The world is a big place and lots of people are doing things like you. Once we have made sufficient networks, we will find ourselves among wider initiatives and institutions. Various groups exist that have loose to rigid frameworks that support and promote specific ideas and activities. We can find the ones that we fit in with and start to take part. This helps us to get noticed more and it helps us to make more connections. We learn a lot when working as part of a wider group and when exposed to the processes they take and the methods they use we are provided with the tools that can further establish our own brand. We all learn from one another and it's probable that our presence will be influential to others in the groups we take part in, too.
Recommended article: A Force For Good — Fitting Your Business In The Bigger Picture
Discover What Makes You Unique
Your unique selling points are the things you do slightly differently or simply better than others. When we can define our uniqueness and work to make it a strong factor in what we do, the quality of our work will stand out more. The things that make you get up in the morning and the passions that drive your desire to create and speak messages are what makes your brand unique. If we can communicate our qualities and intentions in such a way that motivates people to pay attention, our brand will be memorable for the reasons we have given. We have to be able to follow through with our work, however, and if we say we are something and never produce the result then people quickly realise there’s no substance to what we say.
Recommended article: How Using Precise Communication Can Boost All Aspects Of Your Progress
We've been making machines that perform automatic art for centuries. The earliest known example of a clockwork device is from the first century BC in which a Greek produced astronomical chart depicts the heavens by the time of year. In China, the famous engineer Yan Shi is written to have produced an automatic clockwork human being in the 3rd century BC. This item however is lost to time. In the 14th century, clockwork became widespread and many devices were produced there-after. This included music boxes and theatrical devices, bringing art to machine in a proper way. Self-playing pianos and kaleidoscopes appeared soon after this with mechanical art generation becoming something we grew to expect from certain devices.
In this modern era, the computer is the power machine that has overtaken the engine in modern productivity. With the digital electronic circuit we can calculate numbers at phenomenal speeds and when we allow the numbers to represent other things, we can program the computer to calculate real world or imaginary situations. When looking at the world with a quantitative mind, and we assign numerical values to everything, how can we translate this into art? Even paint by numbers has been designed by a human and the instructions are given by an artist.
There has been a sudden growth of AI art generation in recent years. Many tech companies are investing serious energy into creating futuristic software that produces art at the push of button or two. The main differing factor on the user side is growing into two distinctive factions. One is dependent on user interaction and one is not. The art we interact with in order to create can ask us for input such as style, influence, colour choices, and any other variable we can think of. Our input directly affects what is produced. The other kind of AI art generation is the kind that works on its own merit. The program is allowed to run itself and produce whatever output the code informs. When AI generates intelligent art, it must draw upon known principles and ideas that it has learned from the input of others. It either learns these itself with a process called machine learning or it is taught by programmers who choose what to put in themselves. In either case, the source material for the machine's art generating code is chosen by human hands at some point. Perhaps when several AI generated databases exist, we can ask AI to teach AI to further distance the human influence.
Artists have been in two minds about the benefit of AI art generation. Clearly, as an artist myself, I can understand that it is a little emasculating to be told a machine can do your job. Perhaps it can do it better than me? You can be the judge of that. But we know a machine or a computer has no ability to feel. Not just a hungry stomach or a cut knee but they can't feel hope and despair, love and disgust, positive or negative. How can we relate empathically to a device that is simply doing what it has been told to do?
For centuries we have admired the clouds and the stars. The images created by the forces of nature playing out in random and governed ways have given us cause for stories, celebration, and song. The mythology of the night sky and the endless shapes we envisage in the movements of billowing clouds have been timeless sources of joy for all of us. No human hand produced these things, and even if we believe that the laws of nature are somehow programmed or allowed to be how they are by a presence like our own, the end result is as mechanical as clockwork. Only at the quantum level, beyond the proton, can we begin to say truly random events occur. Our minds may be some kind of quantum computer but AI programs so far all work on strict and rigid instructions. In this way, the art of AI systems can be likened to clouds or star formation, in that the results look beautiful even if we know they weren't made on purpose.
Do you want to learn about making your own AI art? Here's a great online course that'll put you aeons ahead of your time.
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