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Color is Overrated – People Have Forgotten Their Values! Or Have They?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

You may be used to the new “3-D” look of the latest Disney films, but what happened to the old line art that you can see in older Pixar movies, such as ‘Mulan’ and ‘Cinderella’? Well, Pixar is bringing back that look with their new animated short, ‘Paperman’, which is scheduled to be run before their new feature film, ‘Wreck-it Ralph’, in November. It’s not unusual for a short to be attached to another film; Disney and Pixar have been doing the same thing with movies such as ‘Brave’ and ‘Monsters, Inc.’.

The line art look that is going to be used in ‘Paperman’ will combine both the “old” and “new” Disney visual art, using shading to make some things look like forms, but still using traditional hand-drawn animation that will be transferred to their art software. They will also use only values of black and white, so color will not be used at all in this short! This makes value a very important feature, and the animators have to pay close attention to how dark they make the shadows. If one area is too light, it might clash with where the light source is coming from, making it look unrealistic. The irony in the color scheme is that the title of the short is ‘Paperman’ – usually we associate paper with being black and white. Since Disney and Pixar are going back to the basics; maybe you can draw some inspiration from them and get some ideas for artwork! Try using only shades of black and white to draw something; make sure you add in some shadows and shades of grey, not just black and white.

The Heady Thrill Of Having Nothing To Do

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Is constant stimulation Hurting our creativity and the economy?
Scott Adams pays tribute to tedium.

Scott Adams      All fans of Scott Adams, Dilbert devotees, parents, and a friend/colleague of anyone continuously hooked to an electronic device will love this attack on our current state of information overload.

      Without giving away our ages, most of us can admit that our children are growing up with electronic gadgets we never dreamed possible. However, Adams is clear on the downside of these time fillers – of life without boredom- and their effect on the development of creativity. In his sarcastically amusing style, Adams reminds us that imagination is not the result of  being constantly entertained. Individuality is not developed by playing ‘Angry Birds’. Most critically, he recounts that he attributes his creative success to the somewhat excessive boredom he withstood during both his childhood and his corporate years. The genius behind Dilbert was simple tedium, not an iPad.

      Is America lacking innovation? Here’s a test : ask your children to unplug for a week and find out how much they know how to do on their own, or want to try. Hint – pick up some earplugs first, as you’ll hear more than a few screams along the way. The bonus is finding out what genuinely interests them, without devices giving them ideas.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903454504576486412642177904.html

Enjoy!

Newsweek Reports on the "Creativity Crisis" in America

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Affecting a generation of Americans, both children and adults,
"For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong – and how we can fix it."

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html

If you have school-age children this comes as no surprise. Children are spending more time in front of televisions and computers, and spending days in school being tested rather that taught. The long term effects are now being felt by a society that needs innovation more than ever to solve long-term problems.

What can you do? Read the article, learn, and reach out to the schools and children around you. Stay involved, and use books instead of television. Force your children outside (weather permitting) without electronics. Let them fail so that they understand how to creatively find solutions on their own. Encourage individuality.

Furnace recommends picking up a paintbrush and finding out where your imagination can take you! It’s a great way to spend a summer day. Just try to find a brush your own size…

Creativity Express selected as a winner of the 2009 FAMILY CHOICE AWARD

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

fca_logo_2007

The Family Choice Awards was founded by the Family Magazine Group, America’s largest free parenting publication,    and is recognized as the premier resource for the very best in children’s and parenting products and services.

Time for an Altered State of Play/Work!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Recently, I watched a short video from Stuart Brown on the importance of play, not just for children, but also for adults. It made me start thinking about how we get so hung up on the tensions of work and play, and how they might benefit from becoming more integrated in our lives. As Stuart Brown attests, playing is good for us — good for our minds, our bodies, our spirits and our relationships and communities. So how can we become more play-full in our work in these difficult times?

It’s easy to get depressed as the economy continues its slide, times get tough around our families and communities, as well as our schools. Everyone is asked to more with less, and while we could all say that we have some ‘clutter’ in our lives that we need to rid ourselves of, there are also those who live close to the line where necessity is indeed, the mother of invention, as we all devise new ways of coming to grips with new realities.

As Edutopia reports, our schools, notoriously underfunded for the most part, face especially tough times as funds for materials continue to dwindle and more and more teachers are forced to buy supplies for our children out of their own meagre pockets. Teachers have always been more than willing to spend their own cash to help out families who can’t afford supplies but recently K-12 teachers have reported spending more than $1000 a year just for classroom supplies! In the face of this crisis, teachers are getting creative, playing with the nature of their work as in selling advertising space at the bottom of quizzes and exams, using organizations such as Freecycle where people give away lots of things they no longer need (but you might – you need to be quick though!), still others set up a listserv in their community posting requests for donations of supplies they need. Then there are those who organize school supply fundraisers and still others (like the Construction Management program at my own university) have organizations adopt classrooms! Not only is creativity alive in these endeavors but the playful perspective taken by these teachers is leading to some serious sustainability practice!

Teachers aren’t the only ones getting creative around education resources. In a recent report from the UK, more than 500 11-19 year olds completed and presented their Manifesto for a Creative Britain to the Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham. These young people reflected on what they feel they need in order to learn, think and act creatively. They imagined how schools might be different, what people in the creative industries could do to help and how they could develop the best environment possible for creative decisions and forming ideas. Students worked and talked together using online discussions, face to face conversations, group debates and video interviews to canvas their peers. Can you imagine what would happen if you engaged in such a project in your community?

These are indeed serious times for serious work and yet, simultaneously, what we may need is some serious play, by both adults and children to become more creative in our daily lives. I never cease to be amazed by the wonderful imagination of my children and the ways in which they question the world in which they live through their play. Perhaps Stuart Brown is onto something in releasing adults to play!

With thanks to laurel fan, dalydose and kelseyohhgee for their images!

Developing the creative spirit in all of us!

A Child's Imagination Meets Spring

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” – Edward Hopper

Being on the edge of the transition between winter and spring can be a recipe for cabin fever. With opportunities for play and learning, a child’s imagination can convert cabin fever into a search for a rare piece of art, engineering mysterious inventions, a ride on a high wave in a pirate’s ship, or an expedition into a jungle. In a learning context, children’s imaginative antics can moderate cabin fever for both children and adults.

How does cabin fever give way to spring excitement? As green blades of grass or bobbing plants begin to show through the white melting snow, a child wants to know what is happening. Why does this flower bloom first? What is its name? What color will it be? If I pick it now, will it grow in a vase? What if I had a garden of my own? Yes, what if?

Why not have a small indoor or outdoor box garden in a sunny spot so that the children can identify the growth phases and be delighted by the emerging color of flowers in “their” garden? Observing, learning about, and cultivating (planting, watering, fertilizing, weeding) a garden can give children ownership of a process (gardening), and in so doing they can become stewards of it. Stewardship can bring them knowledge, pride, and experience. Two plants that are easily seen and easily grown are the delightful multicolored spring poppy flowers and crocuses.

Another early-growing flower, but one seen less frequently in the Rocky Mountain region is the poppy. In March, these begin to grow in the Colorado front range and, as I write this, our five poppy plants on the south side of our home are now eight inches tall. Children can plant these perennials one year and watch these hardy plants grow tall the next year. Orange red, shell pink, coral, and white are just a few of the poppy colors that can bring satisfaction to young gardeners. Why not spend a few dollars and buy a poppy seed kit and the children can plant them in their garden?

Or, how about planting a plot with only xeric plants? For example, the Colorado Front Range is high desert, with much less snowfall than the mountains just west of it. One way to determine which xeric plants are available so that you can select your favorites for your or your child’s garden would be to check with the experts.

Then again, perhaps it is time for an afternoon fieldtrip? From such a trip, children could learn to identify Colorado’s high desert native prickly pear cactus, several varieties of barrel cactus, and yucca plants.

What were, and are, some of the uses of these plants that we have learned from Native Americans? Prickly-pear cactus can be pickled and eaten. Yucca thread can be used to sew things together and the roots can be eaten. The name “yucca” is derived from “yuca,” a Carib Indian name for the cassava or tapioca plant and is cross-fertilized by a moth.

 Perhaps create a project by having the children take a photo of or sketch the yucca without its flowers as a “Spring-to-Summer Project.” Then, once the yucca begins flowering, have them photo/sketch it at this stage. When a yucca flowers, it’s very delicate flower is exciting to watch unfold. Once dried in late summer, these tall flowers can be picked and put in the classroom or home classroom in a vase. These can last, quite literally, for years.

Spring gardens can bring curiosity to the surface and joy to a child’s face as he or she learns something new about nearby surroundings. They allow us to experience both creation and creativity at the same time and provide a ton of inspiration in terms of projects. You might even be tempted to make a small fairy garden, for example, with a little grass seed, potting soil, random things the kids find in the garden and then some hand-fashioned housing, and so forth! So, time to have some spring fun; feel free to send any projects you have completed our way!

Thank you to Chris Runoff for your photo of children, to JustABigGeek for your crocus photo, to kretyen for your cactus photo, to Fool On The Hill for your yucca fruits photo!

Art: An Artifact with Many Purposes

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Early universities established what faculty considered the four major areas of study: arts, law, medicine, and theology.

Over time, the “arts” evolved to mean more of some things (storytelling, finger-painting) and less of others (stained glass work, cathedral wood carvings), the Latin root for the word “art,” ars, is a base meaning “put together, join, fit.” In any case, the arts are here to stay.

Art can turn the routine of daily life into refreshing adventures in many ways, but three of them are by expressing art as immersion through the imagination or fantasy, art as therapy for healing, and art as community-building engagement in social change. Art can teach us lessons, provoke questions, and help us experience cultures through the lenses of artful eyes.

From the Hogwart Express of Rowling’s Harry Potter to the science fiction of StarTrek to the hobbits’ adventures of J. R. R. Tolkein, it is clear to children (and to the adult’s inner child) that art and fantasy easily partner. In these cases, a continuous thread of stories provided an imersive “reality” that captured millions’ imaginations. However, a child can express one great little story into a singular work of art as well.

Sometimes art is most helpful as a way to heal. Remember the thousands of drawings posted on fences and on Web sites after 9/11? Or children’s drawings from around the world after Princess Diana passed away? Art—storytelling, poetry, music, dance, visual arts, painting, sculpture or other forms of creativity—can serve to help us transform from a difficult experience to a more peaceful one. How? Scientists tell us that art can reduce the experience of stress to one of relaxation. Especially when guided, it can help transform pain into acceptance, sometimes into a work of art.

Art can also be used to build community and, in so doing, help socialize us. As with events around 9/11 or those around Princess Diana, communities came together to share stories, remembrances, and to share their common experience of loss. The art created around these events served as powerful reminders not only of the lost ones but also of possible futures for the surviving ones.

Art can represent evolutionary social issues also.  An example would be the emergence

of art communities around a new social issue—that of  “going green”.

In this case, green art can serve to inspire us about a cleaner future, remind us to

conserve resources, and allow us to understand that we are not alone, that we are one

of many concerned and committed to bring children a cleaner future.

Whether art serves purposes of delightful fantasy, healing, or community engagement,

or just fun, it is one of the elements of a core curriculum that exhibits

individuals’ humanity and talents.  In what way will you use art to move you through

the day today?

Sustaining a Creative Spirit

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

“Art has been the means of keeping alive the sense of purposes that outrun evidence and of meanings that transcend indurated habit.” John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934).

An artistic or arts based education is well known to have wide reaching impacts on the development of character not to mention physical coordination and mental agility. While it can also be very challenging to integrate such a perspective and commitment in the classroom, the importance of developing a creative spirit and intelligence enables us, as Dewey says to sustain our purpose and meaning when evidence evades us. So how can we keep this spirit alive?

Sometimes it is about building creativity into the very environment and everyday life you inhabit through art on the walls, sculptures, photos, fabrics, and creative tools close at hand so when someone asks to work creatively, there is something for them to work with, be it crayons, clay, paint, feathers, dirt etc. Other times it is about visiting with artists in their studios, taking art lessons with others, going on art walks or visiting museums where you can be exposed to works of art and can engage in some yourself. There are also times to explore the arts alongside other lessons; for example, my students in intercultural communication may focus on a culture and the kinds of art or creative expression that culture uses to communicate its values. In Kenya, for example, the beads women make and wear communicate social status, age, community etc.

But nourishing the creative spirit doesn’t always have to focus on work. Studies now show that recess or play times for children in and out of school prove valuable as this is their time to experiment with creativity and imagination in social interaction with others. Then there are the ‘toys’ or any objects with which we play — and the simpler they are, the more creativity is used in constructing them in multiple forms! Building blocks made of old pieces of off cast wood (even better if the kids have painted them or worked the wood and oiled them up); felt toys sewn by small hands or even handmade felt where kids can see just how wool, soap and hot water do their magic then craft their own special something for someone; or how about creating your own musical instruments, with pots, pans, strings, cardboard and don’t forget the plastic comb wrapped in paper? Chances are good that if you cast your mind back to your own childhood, you will find some very imaginative ways to keep your own creative spirit alive. If you run out of ideas, check out the Invention Playhouse. It’s a true treasure trove for curious and creative minds!

So go ahead, take some time out to create a creative environment to sustain your creative spirit and play…….!

With thanks as always to our artists — Today is a good day, and spinnerin

How Artists See

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Colleen Carroll knows the value of visual literacy. The mother of three girls and an educator found herself creating the art book that didn’t exist. Actually a series of them.

How Artists See, a popular 12-volume series of art books, was written and designed to teach children about art. But not at all like the boring dusty volumes filled with dates and facts.  Each of these simple books take children through a familiar subject, animals, heroes, feelings, weather, etc. Young readers are encouraged to come up with their own ideas and responses, prompted by everything from cave paintings to contemporary art. The open-ended questions in the book stress individuality, and encourage one’s own. Children relate to various artists, empathize with their feelings, culture, tools, times.  Through this lens, they see how the work came to be.

Carroll, who started college as a photography major, soonwent on to Art History.  She eventually taught sixth-graders in Southern California, and found no visual arts instruction (or music, dance, and drama). That led her to develop an art appreciation curriculum that dovetailed with the world cultures social studies curriculum. The kids loved it.

 But how did all this start?

“One of my earliest memories of art is looking through a monograph on the Italian master, Leonardo da Vinci. The book was a tome: it was absolutely huge and must have weighed 20 pounds. Every so often my father would hoist it off the shelf and let me flip through the pages. While I was too young to read the text, the plates captivated and mesmerized me. The power of the artwork spoke to me and touched my spirit. Even though I didn’t know who made the beautiful pictures, somewhere deep down I knew I was communicating with a genius.”

By creating the series Carroll makes Da Vinci, and other geniuses accessible to the young. As an art educator, Carroll knows firsthand, the importance of the arts.

“Great art is a powerful visual tool that stretches across many barriers: language, class, race, and literacy, to name a few particularly wide ones. Exposing young children to art sparks the imagination, and when shared with a parent, teacher, caregiver or even a peer, promotes dialogue, vocabulary growth, and critical thinking. Introducing young children to art from a broad range of cultures and time periods builds background knowledge and teaches them that there is a bigger world beyond the one that they know. Interacting with art can help young children grasp abstract concepts, such as hope, justice, and courage. In an increasingly visual world, early experiences with looking and talking about art build visual literacy and analytical skills: skills that are becoming more and more important to possess.”

 Sharing art with children is so simple, yet rich. Carroll lives her life like she teaches it.

“When I was completing the research for my new book series, How Artists See, Jr., the time had come to choose the final images for the volume which looks at dogs in art. I had already done the first cut, but was having difficulty selecting from the fifty or so images left on my list. My kindergarten daughter happened to be home from school with a tummy ache, so I asked her to help me. Spreading the prints out on the living room floor I said, ‘Honey, come on down here and pick out your favorite pictures.’ Within minutes she had the prints in a neat stack, her favorites at the top and least favorites at the bottom. Without prompting, she began to tell me why she liked some dogs better than others, and what certain ones looked like to her (critical thinking and evaluation, expressive language). I share this anecdote to illustrate how fun, educational, and easy it is to share art with young children. Their innate curiosity and imagination, paired with rich imagery is, indeed, a potent learning tonic.”

Lucky girls, Carroll’s three.

 “That Leonardo book? It’s now on my bookshelf within arm’s reach of my own children.”

Maybe this holiday is a good time to gift your own family with a special art book. Visit the art section of a local bookstore and let your children explore. See what they find interesting. You might just be surprised.

Design is Everywhere

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Check out that monitor you’re looking at? Ever wonder who designed it? Or how about that mouse you’re clicking? The pen sitting on your desk. The desk itself. The clothes you’re wearing, the car you’re driving. Or even still—the seats in your car, all the way down to the springs, in the seat, in the car you’re driving. All designed by someone.

Design is everywhere—we just tend to take it for granted. We really don’t notice how everything is designed, but we’re drawn to the design—either consciously, or subconsciously. We don’t really know why we want the cool new cell phone, or the latest fashions. We just do. It’s all about the design.

Try this test. Take a minute out of your day to pick an object—could be anything, a radio, tv, shampoo bottle, coffee cup, a spoon, a fork—anything. Then consider the design. The shape/contour/materials/color, etc. Then, think about how design ties into that object on multiple levels.

Example: a designer designed the plastic earpiece from the phone on my desk, which required a mold (which required a designer), made by a machine (which required a designer), which has a bunch of crazy parts (which required a designer)…. you get my point. The links become nearly infinite.

Now, consider the power of design, how it influences your life and how it ties in to creativity. Design is everywhere.

Chris Stevenson
Madcap Logic Graphic Designer

Meet the Players….Randy Parker

Thursday, November 13th, 2008


Randy Parker, Founder Madcap Logic

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after growing up.”
Pablo Picasso

How many of us start out as creative little beans, slapping colors around, mucking with clay, paste, crayons? Happy. Yet at some point, we start to feel inadequate. Maybe someone said something unkind. Maybe no one said anything at all.

This is one of the reasons Parker created Creativity Express.

“My main goal was to open that back up. Kids are wild, fearless at a young age. Yet at some point, that shuts down.” By using the animated software, kids get to learn about artists, their techniques, their tools, and become artists themselves.
“I contend that everyone has artistic abilities.”

The whole idea started as a museum guide for kids. Parker wanted to create a bridge between museums and schools, he worked with the staff at The National Gallery of Art to develop the program. . Kids would learn about the art in advance, then walk the great halls with enhanced perspective and information. However, the teachers noted the value of the software, in and of itself.  Nothing like it existed, so the project grew into a more structured tool, with a full curriculum. Parker and team brought in the Institute for Learning Innovation. Full on art 101.”I didn’t even know what the word pedagogy meant.” says Parker.
Together they built a fun tool that teaches kids everything art, from Anasazi culture to wax resist technique.
The program also encourages creativity through games and activities.
Everyone should express their inner artist, we are now finding important links between expression and the brain. Yet kids either don’t have opportunities to be creative, or feel like they have to excel, in this go go age.

“We stigmatize ourselves,” says Parker.  “Yet we all have the capability to be creative.”
Parker knows creative. At the helm of Disney’s famed computer animation department, he worked with teams of gifted graphic artists for twelve years. Although his own background was film study, he was immersed in a world of visual literacy.
The studio is known for intense preparation, each film undergoes a 3-4 year process of detailed research. For the film, Mulan, several dozen artists went to China to absorb firsthand, cultural traditions, the landscape, color palettes, quality of light. This depth of experience informs Creativity Express. Parker seeks to hone a child’s senses of observation and context through the software program. One theme running throughout is artists observing other artists, techniques, cultures and emotional states.

The current trend towards arts integrative learning is being welcome by many champions of the whole brain.
“Our education system doesn’t encourage right brain thinking, and that’s a shame.,” says Parker. Think Pink.
“However, I do think there is a wave picking up here,”says Parker, who has witnessed the teachers’ enthusiasm for early creativity.
“I have heard teachers say ‘If we don’t teach kids art in second grade, we’re going to have a really hard time teaching them physics in eleventh grade.’”
Parker agrees –our brains work holistically – the challenge for parents and teachers is how to bring these two capacities back together.
“They are both important, the left brain holds the factoids, the right brain tells it what to do with all that.” says Parker.  “Imagination, it’s more important than knowledge.”

Art Smart

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

One thing on everyone’s minds these days is the role of arts, and children, and are they getting enough. Or in the crunch to meet standards, do we just focus on the old R and R (reading/’rithmetic). Which would be a shame. Research tells us that children exposed early, and often to the arts fare better in tests, careers and life. But sometimes we see arts getting booted pretty low on the priority list. Or off the list.

Some people understand the need for a meaningful arts education.

  • Neuroscientists get it. Training in the arts improves cognition.
  • Teachers get it. Students who participate in the arts have higher test scores and lower drop-out rates.
  • Corporate leaders get it. Terry Semel, past chairman of Warner Bros., said, “Art is central to a civilized society. Kids who create don’t destroy.”

Thinker/writer, Daniel Pink notes that we are at the end of a binary-only thinking era. Students who can think imaginatively, creatively, or “outside the box” will become the most attractive workers for global corporations. Arts education prepares young minds for non-linear thinking.

As the oft-quoted Elizabeth Murfee writes in her 1995, Making a Case for Culture, “Drawing helps writing. Song and poetry make facts memorable. Drama makes history more vivid and real. Creative movement makes processes understandable.”

Socially, arts have proven to be an effective outreach tool to engage youth. Self esteem, cooperation, resilience improves when students have been exposed to the arts.
And lastly, what of the joy and wonder the arts offer the mind and spirit? Arts play a key role in the life of a child.

With thanks for a great image to Nicole Marti

Running Group
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