Brain Pickings

Author Archive

18 NOVEMBER, 2011

Jerry’s Map: 2,000 Panels of Cartographic Imagination

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Inside the mind of a musser, or what crude maps of the imagination have to do with the seven of diamonds.

Last week, in a comment on BBC’s fantastic The Beauty of Maps program, a reader reminded me of a wonderful short film I remember seeing a couple of years ago, peeling the curtain on obsessive map-maker Jerry Gretzinger‘s never-ending project. (The reader, it turns out, was Jerry himself.) It’s about art and storytelling and imagination, and all those things we’ve come to cherish as the highest gifts of creativity. It’s precisely the kind of evergreen goodness that the web’s penchant for newsiness tends to bury and waste, and curators should seek to preserve and resurface. Hence, Jerry’s Map, a living treasure:

It’s alive, it changes. My hand puts the paint on the paper, and then I step back and say, ‘Wow, look at that!,’ as though I was not the perpetrator. I… I’m just the observer.”

For more obsessive hand-painted maps, don’t miss Paula Scher’s typographic treasures, a fine recent addition to my favorite books on maps.

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18 NOVEMBER, 2011

How to Get Unstuck in 30 Seconds

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From squiggle to masterpiece in 30 seconds, or how to refill your annual bucket of creative mojo.

“Getting stuck is not a problem. Staying stuck is. Good learners practice getting unstuck,” said education provocateur Alistair Smith in his fantastic recent DoLecture. After last month’s omnibus of creativity-catalyzing activity books for grown-ups, which became an instant hit, here comes a fine new addition from Noah Scalin: Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio is a handy guide to exactly what it says on the tin, featuring 52 simple creativity-sparking projects for any lifestyle, arranged in order of time commitment (from 30 seconds to several hours) and doable either choose-your-own-adventure style or one per week for a year’s worth of creativity. (Not to be confused with Stuck, the characteristically delightful new Oliver Jeffers children’s book.)

Alongside the activities are 12 profiles of real-life creators, including artist Matt Lively and ImprovEverywhere’s Charlie Todd, who share what they do to stay inspired, productive, and fresh. A series of 30-second videos complement each of the profiles.

Unstuck is a follow-up to Scalin’s 365: A Daily Creativity Journal, based on the “365 method” behind his Skull-A-Day project.

For more on the mechanisms and secrets of creativity, give the Brain Pickings creativity archive a whirl.

via BoingBoing; images courtesy of Noah Scalin

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17 NOVEMBER, 2011

Inside the Creative Process of Cut-Paper Storyteller Béatrice Coron

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Slicing the different layers we’re made of, or what an 18th-century French statesman has to do with the MTA.

Béatrice Coron has been a shepherdess, a truck driver, a factory worker, a cleaning lady, and a tour guide. But today, Coron is one of the world’s most remarkable cut-paper artists. I first encountered her astounding artwork on New York’s F train last year and was thrilled to see her take the TED stage this past spring. In her fantastic TED talk, Coron — whose beautiful visual storytelling is a living testament to combinatorial creativity, borrowing inspiration from wildly diverse fields and subjects — takes you through her exceptional creative process and how her stories come to life. (Bonus points for the factoid on the etymology of the word “silhouette” which, as we know, comes from French minister of finance Étienne de Silhouette, famous for slashing so many budgets that people said they could no longer afford paintings and would instead have their portraits as “silhouettes.”)

In life, and in paper-cutting, everything is connected — one story leads to another.” ~ Béatrice Coron

My inspirations are very eclectic. I’m influenced by everything I read, everything I see.” ~ Béatrice Coron

The stories, they have a lot of possibilities, they have a lot of scenarios. I don’t know the stories — I take image from our global imagination, from cliche, from things we are thinking about, from history. And everybody is a narrator, because everybody has a story to tell, but more important is everybody has to make a story to make sense of the world.” ~ Béatrice Coron

Charming, thoughtful, and relentlessly inventive, Coron, with her blend of indiscriminate curiosity and focused creative voice, is a true inspiration. Her work can be found in the beautiful Paper Cutting Book, which features 25 more masterful paper artists and a preface by Brain Pickings favorite Rob Ryan.

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