Monday, May 31, 2010

A Celebration of Things Made

The inner workings of a pinball machine--wow!

I attended Maker Faire last weekend. It's a weekend getaway put together by the creators of MAKE Magazine, which focuses on the do-it-yourself community. Both the magazine and the fair bring together a community of artists, engineers, and designers who love working with their hands, and who wish to spread the value of hand-made goods to others. 

They replaced the typical casing of a pinball machine with clear acrylic plastic.

The fair is a gigantic arts and crafts festival, involving anything made. Since "being made" is a pretty broad criterion, you can expect to see anything from robot duels to fire displays to knitting corners. Much of the fair is dedicated to technology, art, and exploration. 

What's so cool about making things? You can learn a whole lot by deconstructing and then reconstructing an object. Using your hands to figure things out is a key skill in life that is, unfortunately, no longer as emphasized in the classroom anymore. Attenders of Maker Faire value the hands-on experience, our innate curiosity, and the importance of fostering burgeoning creativity. 

This guy pictured above made the most amazing puppet. It's a humanoid skeleton worn on the hand, whose arms, legs, and head can be mechanically controlled by the guy simply moving his fingers. Each body part could be manipulated independently when the fingers pulled on various combinations of wires and string. The skeleton could even hold up its arm, move its fingers, and grab a piece of paper! 

People not only sold knit, crochet, and sewn goods, but also brought materials to teach anyone interested in learning. 

Steampunk enthusiasts display highly ornate creations that replicate the retro-futuristic style, including two fully-functioning mini cannons.

One thing that I love about Maker Faire is walking around and seeing the unique uses of various materials. Inspirational makers make you think about where materials come from, how things are assembled, and why hand-made goods have a much more positive impact on the community. One common theme that makers address is the huge amount of waste generated by society today. Most attendees are much more supportive of locally-made and quality goods that have a lower environmental impact than cheap, mass-produced items. 

An outdoor fire sculpture.

A giant human-powered tricycle.

Broken iPhone? Don't just throw it away! will show you how to fix your belongings.

The most memorable display goes to ArcAttack, a band that performs music using Tesla coils. The coils are connected to a computer or DJ pad that controlled its frequencies, and created lightening arcs of different intensities and pitches. The high beat trance-like music was exciting...

Lightening is so much more intense in person because you can actually see the 3-D space they occupy.

The man isn't hurt by the electricity because he is wearing a Faraday suit.

...until a guy in a Faraday suit jumped in!! Then it got way crazy. This guy was dancing between arcs of lightening. He wore a full-body suit made of chain-mail (ie, a Faraday cage), which deflects the electricity around his body. When we talked to him after the performance, we learned that although he doesn't feel anything from the lightening itself, he feels pressure from the heat that's generated. The sparks were quite loud from about 30 feet away; I can only imagine what it must be like when the lightening hits him in the face! 

I attended Maker Faire to man the Ambidextrous Magazine booth. Ambidextrous is a high-quality publication centered around design produced by students and alumni affiliated with the at Stanford. The magazine just launched its most recent issue, "Cheap," which tackles issues such as the value of the dollar store and repurposing recycled materials. If you are interested in the broad vision of "design," what it means, and connecting with those in the community, Ambidextrous is a fantastic magazine to check out. 

A display of issues, past and present. 

Booth babes are imperative for sales.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Alice and the Psychedelic Trip

Tea Party by Jing Wei

Curiouser and Curiouser at Gallery Nucleus currently exhibits various artwork inspired by "Alice in Wonderland." Here are ten pictures from the show of artists' interpretations of Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel. The show runs until March 29, 2010, so if you live near the L.A. area, be sure to check it out! 

Alice in the Rain by Lorelay Bove

Tea Party Rising by Annie Koelle

I especially like "Tea Party Rising," above. There are no characters depicted and yet the themes of "Wonderland" are all symbolically illustrated, which makes the subject easily recognizable. I also love how all of the elements in this picture meld together in a simple composition. 

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" has inspired many artists to explore the fantasy genre within the realms of its settings and characters. It has also influenced pop culture and our use of metaphors. For example, did you know that "Down the Rabbit-Hole," the title of the book's first chapter, references hallucinogenic drug trips?

Alice and Mushrooms by Adolie Day

Eat Me/Drink Me by Vera Brosgol

I first learned about the Gallery Nucleus show from Vera's sketchblog. I really love the awkward cramped feeling of Alice's expansion in the small confined frame. She posted a great set of photos that explain the steps and tools she used to create the picture above. You can take a peek into her work process here.

Make A Remark by SEILER

Eat ME! by Alina Chau

La Petite Porte by Marguerite Sauvage

Did you know that the first film version of the novel came out back in 1903? That's 107 years ago! It was a silent film with a running time of just 12 minutes, which, at the time, was the longest film produced in England. Unfortunately, the film was poorly damaged and only 8 of the original 12 minutes survive. The BFI National Archive has restored the film's original tinted colors for the first time and you can now view it online. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sketch Sunday 15

I love alliums. :)

In the picture above, I wanted to draw a caricature/chibi-like cartoon of a garlic girl. I was inspired by this sketch my friend Alex (aka o_8) posted a few months back (check out his DA gallery—really great character design work). I added a few more alliums behind her (which look more like onions than garlic) to suggest that garlic lovers love the company of other garlic lovers, and that one must never be the only eater of garlics. ;)

When I first began traditional drawing lessons, my instructor always emphasized copying what you see exactly as you see it. Later, I understood that this not only trains the drawing hand, but it also helps you learn about the object you are drawing.

I recently read this great article by Mark Kennedy (storyboard artist on Hercules and Tarzan) that emphasizes the importance for aspiring artists to carry a sketchbook around. His main point is this: you don't carry a sketchbook around to draw pretty pictures in it. You will end up with drawings you won't like.

Sketching your surroundings is a great way to learn because you are forced to slow down and analyze your subject extensively. The act of copying a shape or structure helps commit it to memory, and you learn about its spatial relationships, functions, and movements. Our lives move so fast these days that we rarely slow down to appreciate the little details. Spending a few hours sketching is a great way to do that. 

A lot of people shy away from copying things—especially other people's drawings—because they believe that sketches from the imagination are more "valid." While this is true of most major finished pieces that are intended for galleries and such, nothing could be further from the truth if you are still in the learning phase. 

If you are burgeoning in your art career (or hobby!) and have the resources for it, I highly recommend finding a mentor. Their insights can guide you away from mistakes and challenge your talents. Most artists are more than happy to share their bits of wisdom, so go search the 'net for blog posts and articles. 

If I could offer one piece of advice on learning to draw, it would be: Learn by copying. Imitate pictures and styles that inspire you, and try to understand why you find them so attractive. If you are a beginner, start by copying shapes, then move on to shades, then colors. Once you have a firm grip on the basics, you can then try to explore with different styles of expression. 

At the end of Mark Kennedy's blog post, he brings up silhouettes, which reminded me of this article about the importance of silhouettes in logo design. In short, great logo design, like great character design, excels when recognized simply as a shape without any details. Naturally, I was curious as to how my little garlic fared as an outline. 

Does she still look like a garlic girl? Can you still recognize her? I'll let you decide... 

(By the way, if you are interested in a great online digital drawing community, check out our sister site, 2draw.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Natural Hearts

Parakeet love

Valentine's Day, like Christmas and every other major holiday, has become super commercialized by corporations like gift card and candy companies. To paraphrase Michael Pollan from The Botany of Desire, modern mass-production of sugar has diminished our complex desire for sweetness from a powerful divine experience to a cheap prosaic fix.

At the same time, holidays like these give us an opportunity to reflect back on and be grateful for what we have, and to step out of our mundane schedules and do something fun. Here is a collection of photos that depict "natural" hearts. I don't have sources for every photo, so if you know of any, please let me know! Thanks and enjoy! :) 

Strawberry heart by Lisz

Lightning by Andre Nantel

An ox born with a heart on his head

Heart-kun, the puppy with a heart-shaped fur patch

Heart of a Fern by David Manzi

Swans by Laminariya

Heart Fern by Chisme Cait

Flamingo Love by Kjunstorm 

Heart cloud

Forehead Heart

Bleeding Heart flowers

Anthurium flower

Heart book lens

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Reverse Graffiti Project

Stencils by Moose in San Francisco's Broadway tunnel.

I have always been a fan of street art. The creativity artists display, adapting to different urban environments, never ceases to amaze me. However, in recent years, I have become much more conscious of the environmental impact people have on the earth, and my love for street art developed into this kind of love-hate relationship—love the art or hate the toxic chemicals?

Lucky for me, the street artist Moose pioneered the Reverse Graffiti Project, a new street art concept based on cleaning.

Details of the wall at the Broadway tunnel.

The idea is this—instead of using paint to deface existing structures, street artists wash away years of dirt and grime on a surface to create their installations. High pressure water hoses, sponges, stencils and biodegradable soap are used. The intent is primarily environmental: using drawings, artists show glimpses of what preexisting structures look like under their black sooty veils, and what the public could be experiencing instead. These clean spots starkly contrast the darker dirty walls and remind us how much the pollution from cars, factories, and people affect our neighborhoods.

Doug Pray documents the process by which Moose creates art in the San Francisco Broadway tunnel.

The project was powered by Green Works cleaners.

Alexandre Orion used only water and a cloth to etch skulls in a grime-encrusted tunnel to remind commuters how harmful the exhaust from their vehicles are.

Artist Alexandre Orion works on an underpass in São Paolo, Brazil.

When the police showed up, they could not charge Orion with any crime since he was not defacing any structure. As Inhabitat aptly puts it: When is cleaning the sidewalks a crime? When you’re doing it to create art. Obviously. So naturally, the fire crew hosed down the entire section of the tunnel where Orion drew. When he later simply picked up on the other side of the tunnel, the officials were so enraged they decided to not only clean the whole tunnel, but every other tunnel in São Paolo.

Reverse graffiti encompasses all types of graffiti that does not use harmful chemicals the way traditional graffiti does, and often embodies an eco-friendly message. Other examples include Edina Tokodi's green graffiti made by moss and Scott Wade's dirty car art.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sketch Sunday 14

Inspiration comes in many forms. The etymology of the word comes from Latin for "to breathe" and many inspirational things can be said to "take your breath away." Inspiration arouses the mind and cultivates passions for interesting or beautiful things. It transforms us from dull vapid beings into spirited creative thinkers.

Drawing is one of my passions. In today's Sketch Sunday, I showcase three sketches I did around New Year's. The female body is my favorite subject, and with every drawing, I try to learn or do something new. Here, I set a different mood for each picture. By playing with various expressions of the eyes, lips, and posture, I create looks that can say cute or sultry, shy or demanding. While drawing, for me, is the primary component of my creative outlet, I also try to brush up on other aspects of art to be well-rounded.

Inspirimint is the garden where these new ideas can be cultivated, for both myself and everybody else. I like the idea of this virtual garden because, like gardening, creativity is also built on a lot of research and hard work, and needs to be nurtured before ideas form and blossom into a satisfying product.

Inspirimint is not a product. It's a work in process by which new ideas and projects excite people to pursue their interests, try something different, or learn about wonders from all aspects of life.

We are finally coming out of our winter hibernation. Happy 2010! :) What inspires you?