Amanda Palmer’s – The Art of Asking

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I was supposed to be getting on with organizing my life this weekend. Instead I inhaled Amanda Palmer‘s new book ‘The Art of Asking‘. It’s a compelling read for any ‘maker’, anyone who’s interested in connecting and making a difference with what they do.

I was vaguely aware of The Dresden Dolls, Palmers early 2000’s band but it wasn’t until I heard Seth Godin’s Domino Project speak about her enormously successful Kickstarter campaign that I started paying attention. The kickstarter campaign let to a TED talk which led to the book. The TED talk is a good place to start – check it out below and let’s talk some more.

The book covers the story in the video and so much more. It charts Palmer’s career arc, her intersection with Neil Gaiman and then life beyond. From the 8 foot bride in Harvard Square to Kickstarter sensation. Through it all you get the sense that she hasn’t really changed much, grown and matured most certainly, but the thread of wanting to connect at a deep level seems to be a constant.

I’m looking forward to rereading the book to see what I get out of it on a second run through but from the first reading what stuck with me were a couple of things. First it’s amazing to me how someone who appears to be really extroverted can be so wracked with insecurity. Perhaps everyone creating things that are important to them and putting them out in the world have these doubts, but I was shocked.

Of course the big theme for the book is asking, the exchange that occurs between artist and community or audience. Why is it so difficult for some of us to ask for things – help, money etc. and equally why is it so hard for some to accept help, money etc. when it’s offered? If you follow Palmer’s career she’s spent almost her entire professional life participating in this exchange – asking, giving and receiving. Putting herself out there, being vulnerable and trusting. By doing this time and time again, being authentic and showing up, she’s built an enormous following.

A role model for anyone who wants to develop a supportive community who could sustain their creative work? I think so.

Get the book here and follow Amanda and Neil on twitter they are very active and there’s always something interesting in their twitter fields. Finally check out the interview of Amanda by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings below. It’s excellent.

Friday Inspiration: Doug Eng

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One of the things that I continue to struggle with is ‘why do I photograph’?

There are of course many reasons to photograph, having your photography being in service of something larger is awesome, being able to tell stories with your images and to capture a moment in history is clearly important.  Doug Eng is someone who does this incredibly well.

Doug is a Florida native with a background in structural engineering and software programming who works in both the natural and urban landscape. In fact some of his projects have involved bringing the natural landscape into the urban environment.

For an example of this work check out the ‘Beyond the Facade’ project where Doug installed huge prints on the east facade of the old Barnett Bank building. The behind the scenes section (click here) gives a fascinating look at how art on this scale is created and handled.

I was fortunate to recently hear Doug present his project ‘On Fertile Ground’ which captured images of the last property of his family’s truck farm providing a record of his family’s successes for future generations. I was profoundly impacted by these photographs, they made me really feel that the farm stopped while the world moved on.

I came out of Doug’s presentation thinking that everyone with a camera, which means almost all of us now, should spend some time documenting their family history.

‘On Fertile Ground’ is currently on show until December 5 th, 2014 at the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery. Check out the video of Doug describing this project below.

Crates and Barrels

How Building Daily Routines Can Help You Create More

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“Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work”

Chuck Close

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how small changes in habits can have a profound impact in what we are able to achieve across all aspects of our lives.

Mason Currey‘s book ‘Daily Rituals‘ is an interesting collection of observations of the daily routines of many of the great creators and provides an interesting insight into the lives of people who need to develop a body of work. What is apparent across almost all of these examples is commitment to showing up and getting to work. Not too much lolling around waiting for the muse to visit, just simply a matter of putting in the time whether they feel like it or not.

This attitude of ‘show up and do the work’ makes me realize that doing something every day, regardless of how small it is will could eventually yield substantial results. The simple act of writing 500 words everyday will mean that you will have written over 25,000 words for the year. Not too shabby.

A photo a day projects were very popular a year or two ago and seem to be unsustainable to me but doable for a month or one photo shoot a week for a year would both result in a body of work that you could do something useful with.

Changes in other parts of your life would also mean potentially useful changes. 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up had a big impact on my weight loss. Meditating before your day gets going or journaling at the end of the day could lead to more positive changes in your outlook and getting more done.

What small change could you incorporate on a daily basis that would move you in the direction of your goals?

Jump to minute 19:00 of the video below to hear Mason Currey talking about his book ‘Daily Rituals’

Defining Your Day

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I was excited to see my copy of Norman Ackroyd‘s book The Stratton Street Series and my day planner arrive from the UK on the same day last week. Always good to get new books of images and tools to help me figure out where I’m going to find time to look at them.

Squeezing everything in is an on-going battle and forgoing sleep is becoming a less and less attractive option given what I’m finding out about sleep deprivation.

Being intentional then about how I spend my time seems like the next best alternative. While I bridle at the thought of having every moment of my day scheduled it’s one way, and really the only way I can think of at the moment, to ensure that I have the time to work on everything that I want to move forward.

I found the Day Ticket planner from Half Three when I was poking around on the Kickstarter website – Lauren and Andy Clark explain why they put this together in the video below.

Half Three – Day Ticket Kickstarter Film from Andy Clark on Vimeo.

Here’s a shot of a page from the planner

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I love paper so I’m all in for notebooks and paper planners. While you obviously don’t need to buy this planner the general thrust behind it is perfect. It provides a framework to help you chunk out your day to schedule all the things you want to get done. This may lead you to the realization that you need to cut out some things like watching TV in the evening or getting up a little earlier being conscious and intentional about these decisions will allow you to get more done in your day.

Try this out and let me know how it goes.

Friday Inspiration: Andy Goldsworthy

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I dimly remember Andy Goldsworthy from when I lived in the UK, perhaps through that veritable institution Blue Peter, but his work didn’t connect with me at the time. I recently rediscovered Goldsworthy through his book, Time, that I found when I was browsing in a bookstore – remember those?

Andy Goldsworthy is a ‘land artist‘, a sculptor who uses the elements of nature as the materials for his sculptures. There seems to be a balance between the permanent works done with stone and the more ephemeral sculptures made with fallen branches, leaves, and ice. Thinking about his more transitory work made me think harder about why I photograph, I’m not sure that I would be happy to see my constructions disappear as the weather changed or the tide changed. Perhaps the change that ensues is part of the process and that seeing how the work develops with time is as satisfying as it was to make in the first place.

It was interesting to see Goldsworthy working in the field and to realize how close to the edge he operates. Many times it seems as though he could be 2/3rds of the way into making a work and it collapses, not once but over and over again. I hardly think that I would have maintained my composure in the face of such frustrations as Goldsworthy manages. Persistence clearly wins the day. Check out the videos below to see what I mean.

Friday Inspiration: Lisa Congdon

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In many ways I feel as though Lisa Congdon is the heir apparent to Maira Kalman‘s throne. I’ve followed Lisa’s development as an artist for the last few years. I was late coming to the two projects that have fueled her career momentum, the first of which was ‘a collection a day‘ and then more recently ‘365 days of hand lettering‘. Lisa has a new book out ‘Art, Inc.‘ which describes the practical aspects of making a living from your art. Peppered with examples from her own transition from teacher to working artist as well as interviews with a number of other artists this is a great resource for any visual artist thinking about making the leap. What I realized from working through Art Inc. is that Lisa Congdon’s success hasn’t been a matter of luck but rather a result of showing up and doing the work everyday and most importantly sharing what she’s been doing with the world.

Check out the recent interview that Lisa had with Dane Sanders here, discussing her new book on creative live here and some additional videos of her describing her work below.

Friday Inspiration: Lisa M. Robinson

KCGlmrsurgeI’m at the beach this week, one of my favorite places to spend time, taking the opportunity to revisit the work of photographers, painters and printers that I particularly like.

Lisa M Robinson is one photographer whose work that I come back to from time to time. The project that I came to know her by was ‘Snowbound’. This was a five year project that had her photographing snowy landscapes from New York to Colorado, but not just snowy landscapes, landscapes that hint at a human presence. Almost a post-apocalyptic world. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to work out how to embed the videos that showcase Lisa’s work but click here to see them. Snowbound Epilogue gives you a behind the scenes look at the approach taken for the snowbound project. A book is of the work is also available on amazon.com.

Oceana, from which the image at the top of the page is taken, was the project that followed Snowbound. In this series the photographer is the human element, playing with how light and time can be incorporated into the image to give a sense of the unpredictable nature of water. Check out more of this work at Lisa’s website here.