Category Archives: Inspiration Friday

Inspiration Friday: Observation

starlings images

In biology, there is the practice of systematic observation. You draw a square on the ground, and learn about everything that happens inside this one meter/one foot/one inch square of earth and sky. It is the practice of knowing the names of every creature the walks through the soil, flies over it, or craws through it. It is the practice of knowing the names of the plants and fungi that grow there, of knowing the migration patterns of creatures and plants through it.

One spring, I spent a series of very early Friday mornings walking through the damp grass of one corner of one park, and taking stock of all the birds I could hear and see within. Two robins that way, one pine siskin in the tree, six crows, about a million starlings under the tree. Each time you look, you see the same thing in a new light, and new things that you didn’t notice at all before.

Pay attention to how your vision changes over time. Suddenly, the difference between one snail and the next is completely obvious. The shadow under the juniper is dark purple, not brown. That one crow seems to be in charge of the other crows. To observe, whether for art or science, is to hone one’s mind, to see with new eyes, and to be simply be amazed.

Photo via the RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch.

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Inspiration Friday: Crowdsourced Creativity


There’s something to be said for art emerging from the masses, from a group of people making something beautiful together. So sayeth the solo artist, anyhow. I’ve been intrigued by this for a while, and wanted to share a few big projects that came off really well.

Virtual Choir – Most people like to sing, even if it’s in the shower. but most of us don’t have a chance to sing in public – we don’t have time to join a choir, or we’re embarrassed that we can’t stay in tune. Virtual Choir brings together individual people to sing, by patching together clips of hundreds of people singing into their webcam.

Birdsong remix – The other option is to release the same source material to a big group of artists and see what grows out of it. Studio 360  had a show introducing a database of bird songs collected and archived by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology  and released to the public. Everyone was invited to download the clips and remix them to create new music. Check them out – and maybe you can make your own remix.

Book by tattoo – On the other end of the spectrum, there is the idea of including lots of people into a project who won’t ever see the finished product. Author Shelley Jackson wrote a book, “Ineradicable Stain,” and published it by tattoo.  People signed up for the project, and were given one word of the book to be tattooed onto their skin. Members of the project never saw the final book, unless they could find each other and assemble them in the right order.

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Inspiration Friday: Strawberry Season


At the market this week, I was sitting next to the berry farmer’s booth. I ended up buying a box of their local, organic strawberries and eating them for the better part of the morning. The berries were small, deep red, almost purple. Most had deep folds and puckers, definitely more homely looking than the bigger California berries at the grocery store.

As it turned out, this was the last week of strawberries – blueberries and blackberries were just getting started, but the strawberries were almost done in the fields. The strawberries are at their best, right now, and would never be as good until next summer. You could eat them today, and feel the red juice drip all over your fingers, and not taste another that is as delicious for months and months.

I think this is my lesson for this week. I’m learning how to follow the rhythms of what is most present, right now, and to enjoy it deeply, instead of pushing for what I’d planned. To pause. To enjoy what I am doing, right now. To taste the sweetness of this bite, this moment, and love it for what it is, not for what I wanted it to be.

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Inspiration Friday: “Superabundant Atmosphere” by Jacob Hashimoto


Check out Jacob Hashimoto’s 2005 installation, “Superabundant Atmosphere“, an amazing installation of thousands of white paper kites hung from the ceiling. I ran across this one via fubiz, and I’m in love.  After a week of being stuck in the static world of paper art, when nothing really moves, it’s a beautiful thing to see the same material set to motion.  In my mind, I’m lying on the floor, looking up, watching the kites move with the air currents.

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Illustration Friday

Ever been in a rut with your work? I’m tired of making the same old thing, I know I need something new, but I can’t come up with anything. I start fishing for new ideas, nothing seems to work.

Creative constipation.

If you haven’t found it already, one of the best resources for getting unstuck is a project called Illustration Friday. Every Friday, they release a new topic for artists all over the world to work on for the week and submit on the website. One word, any interpretation counts, any medium, any size. The work is beautiful, and there’s nothing like a topic and a deadline to really get things rolling again.

Check it out, or better, submit some work, and see what happens. Sometimes, it just takes one good idea to get things started.

*The lovely work above was for the topic, “Liquid.” By Clyo Parecchini, check out the rest of her work. Beautiful stuff.

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Inspiration Friday: Andi Rharharha “Hopscotch”

In the art gallery in my mind, people could come up, touch the art, hold it, whisper to it, listen to it, and then walk on the next piece.  No museum alarms blaring when you cross a line on the floor, just a space to interact with the art in the way that the artists did.

Andi Rharharha  of Jakarta takes this to the next level.  I ran across the video of his tape installation in downtown Jakarta via the Wooster Collective, and I think I’m in love.  His playful designs and shapes invite everyone to stop, interact, jump, and dance before continuing on with their work. I’ve had some ideas brewing for interactive art projects, and seeing Rharharha’s work just feeds the fire.

Beautiful stuff, folks.

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Inspiration Friday: Wasteland

I struggle between two directions – first, to make art that stirs the viewer, that makes them see the beauty that is already around them.  Second, to change how we see each other, to change the horror and injustice in the world.  This week, I wanted to share the work of an artist who seems to do both.

Lucy Walker’s 2010 documentary, “Wasteland,” follows Vik Muniz, Brazilian artist living and working in New York, in his project to work with the recyclable materials pickers at the Jardin Gramacho landfill.  The pickers spend their days finding recyclable materials out of the garbage at the dump and hauling it in barrels to pickup trucks, which take the materials to be sold to wholesalers.  They live in crowded, improvised favelas in the shadow of the largest landfill on the planet outside Rio de Janiero.  His work was to make portraits of the pickers out of garbage, with their help to assemble all the materials and place the items in the final work, and then to sell the work at auction to support the pickers’ union.

Watching the film (available on Netflix, doncha know), I was struck by both how simple it is to create positive change, yet how important it is to unwind the tangled threads of the ethical, artistic, and financial aspects of the project and its participants. “Wasteland” is well worth a watch for all of us working in the arts, it’s a beautifully told story about a collaborative approach to making art and making change.


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