Brain Pickings

Author Archive

24 MARCH, 2009

Meta-Vinyl Creativity

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Clocks, wine, and what Frank Sinatra has to do with couch cushions.

We love vinyl. And we love people who channel their love for vinyl into something tremendously creative. Here are 3 such vinyl visionaries we just can’t get enough of.

THE GRATEFUL THREAD

Jami and Nicholas Worth, a.k.a. The Grateful Thread, are an American 3D animator and French architect living in London.

Their strong design background and love for all things music result in such wonderful goodies as recycled vinyl wall clocks, LP-inspired couch cushions, and recycled vinyl jewelry.

If SXSW had a gift shop, we think it would be full of The Grateful Thread‘s quirky, delightful little gems. So get your hands on some and go a-braggin’.

via Inhabitat

VINE-YL

VINE-YL is the self-admitted bastard love-child of a wine geek and a record freak. And we think the kid is a wunderkind.

It’s simple. They pair a record and a wine that go together beautifully, film a video that tells you just why the two are such an exceptional match, and give you a review of both that’s as professionally sophisticated as it is unpretentious and relatable.

They update every Thursday, so check back often.

VINYL ART

We’ve featured mixed media artist Daniel Edlen‘s brilliantly inspired work before. But his Vinyl Art deserves all the credit it can get — it’s a truly unique message-meets-medium portraiture technique, using the physical canvas of artists’ talent — their records — to paint portraits of them in white acrylic. The result is simply stunning.

Daniel has painted some of the most iconic performers of our time, from Armstrong to Zeppelin, but bur favorite has to be Sinatra — captured in his mischievous youthfulness, Old Blue Eyes peeks at you from behind a record label the color of his legendary nickname.

It also doesn’t hurt that Daniel is one of the brightest people we’ve met on the Interwebs — and there’s something about respecting the artist beyond the merit of their art that makes the art experience itself all the more gratifying. So do check out his phenomenal work, and follow him on Twitter for a glimpse into the mind of incredible talent.

23 MARCH, 2009

Monday Music Muse: Lisa Hannigan

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Dodging SXSW mediocrity, or what a floating head has to do with the BBC.

As we’re slowly digesting the usual mix of the good, the bad and the unfortunately mediocre from this year’s SXSW, we’ll spare you the latter two by focusing on the former: One of our favorite SXSW performers was actually an old indie favorite of ours.

Lisa Hannigan‘s brand of vocal delight and instrumental perfection is part Emiliana Torrini‘s charmingly off-quilter vibe, part Ingrid Michaelson‘s soft intensity, part the haunted harmonies of Fleet Foxes. In other words, Damien Rice and Vampire Weekend rolled into one big Y chromosome.

The Damien Rice comparison isn’t at all groundless. Lisa made her name accompanying Damien — they’ve recorded a number of fantastic duets, most notably the brilliant Cold Water. They even have a surprisingly well-directed video to their credit.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, the two parted ways nearly two years ago when Lisa left the band due to creative differences. But her first post-Damien solo album, Sea Sew, is superb — so we won’t go writing her off as a has-been piggybacker just yet.

Lisa’s SXSW performance of Lille was breathtaking — luckily for you, the track is a free download on Amazon, so do take advantage. And, while you’re at it, consider the Sea Sew album in its entirety — it’s excellent from start to finish, a rarity with album releases these days.

20 MARCH, 2009

Animation Gem: Brothers Grimm Meet Röyksopp

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What Grandma’s nutrition facts have to do with the aerodynamics of a retro Volkswagen van.

For a quick treat, here is a brilliant interpretation of the Brothers Grimm classic Little Red Riding Hood, reimagining the beloved tale as an animated infographic inspired by Röyksopp’s Remind Me.


Courtesy of Swedish animator Tomas Nilsson.

via Coudal

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19 MARCH, 2009

The Creative (Re)Touch

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Aliens, the real Iron Man, and what an orangutan has to say about your electric bill.

A common booby trap that befalls design rookies is the tendency to get all giddy and excited over the various tools and filters of visual editing software, spitting out visual atrocities each more garish and over-the-top Photoshoppy than the next. But, like Spiderman’s aunt likes to say, with great power comes great responsibility — the mark of an exceptional designer is the gift of conceptual vision, the mastery of technical skill, and the wisdom of restraint.

Here are three such creative visionaries, who use the tools of image manipulation to craft sophisticated visuals that capture compelling concepts  or, at the very least, tickle our curiosity and our visceral appetite.

CHRIS SCARBOROUGH

Chris Scarborough makes photographic caricatures, in a good way. He takes ordinary subjects’ existing features and exaggerates them to a dehumanized extent, creating an air of unearthly eeriness about the images.

In some, the manipulation is so subtle you can barely detect it, yet you can’t help feeling the haunting alienness oozing from the image.

ERIC JOHANSSON

23-year-old Swedish interaction designer Eric Johansson has a rare eye for capturing that elusive quantum intersection of reality and the surreal. He takes ordinary landscapes and subjects, transforming them into sometimes slightly creep, often amusing, and always fascinating what-if’s.

Johansson’s work is part Alice in Wonderland, part Tim Burton, part the slapstick visual puns we all make in the privacy of our own creatively restless minds.

Explore the rest of Johansson’s portfolio for a whimsical journey to all the places your mind has always dreamt of going.

CHRISTOPHE HUET

Professional photo whiz Christophe Huet, a.k.a. “The French (Re)Touch,” is a modern-day illusionist. He works with the world’s best creative teams to craft an alternate reality of delightfully surreal images.

His work is an elaborate production that involves entire armies of art directors, makeup artists, actors, extras, creative directors, photographers, fashion stylists, set directors, assistants — you get the picture. And the picture happens to be exceptionally striking, both visually and conceptually — like the brilliant campaign Huet created for French anti-AIDS organization AIDES.

What we find most compelling about Christophe’s brand of creativity is that it is vocally visceral, but it does more than to merely amuse — it uses that visceral element to create visual metaphors that illuminate culturally relevant and socially important issues.

Like this brilliantly simple yet brilliantly powerful illustration of the link between our daily habits and the living beings they affect — a crisp reminder that “the environment” isn’t just some abstract concept we donate to at the Whole Foods checkout aisle.

See Huet’s entire portfolio for images that make your eyes pop while drawing them a little bit closer to your brain.

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18 MARCH, 2009

How Happiness Happens

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What a 102-year-old Spanish man has to do with motion typography and the secret of happiness.

We’re going constitutional today — Brain Pickings is after the pursuit of happiness. And we’ve uncovered three gems that attempt to unravel the quintessential human mystery: What is happiness, and how the hell do we get our little hands on it?

COCA-COLA “ENCOUNTER”

Generally — and perhaps cynically — speaking, the goal of marketing is to show us all the ways in which we fall short, stealing happiness away from us only to sell it back to us at the price of the product. So when it comes to branding, there’s no greater feat of identity than owning the construct of happiness itself. Which is exactly the branding platform Coke has been building for the past decade.

But cynicism aside, Encounter, Coke’s latest spot from Madrid agency McCann-Erickson and director Andy Fogwill, is a delightful bag of mush, the kind that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside despite your every instinct to cringe at the underlying marketing ploy.

You may not be any more inclined to drink Coke now, but maybe you’re just a little bit more likely to, you know, go live the happy life. And isn’t that daily little bit all it comes down to?

via Creativity Online

AUTHENTIC HAPPINESS

Back in 2006, we were fortunate enough to study under Dr. Martin Seligman, not only a renowned TEDster but also former chairman of the American Psychological Association elected by the largest margin in history. More importantly, Dr. Seligman is the founder of the Positive Psychology movement, a nascent branch of psychology concerned with the empirical study of positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.

The Authentic Happiness program is Dr. Seligman’s primary brainchild, a research-driven cluster of positive interventions aimed at increasing our level of happiness — our ability to feel more satisfied, to find more meaning in life, to be more engaged and present in the moment — regardless of our circumstances.

We couldn’t recommend the program enough — it’s free to join and easily the best thing you’ll do for yourself all year or, perhaps, ever. So go ahead and head over to the Questionnaires Center for an accurate assessment of where you fall on the happiness spectrum right now, what your greatest psychological strengths are, what you need to work on and how.

There may not be a blueprint for happiness, but these are the most powerful drawing tools and the widest canvas you’ll ever find.

TED ON HAPPINESS

What’s a Wednesday without some shameless chest-beating? Yep, we have a new episode on TEDify, a TED-based quest for the most sought-after piece of existential human truth, that most fundamental question: What makes us happy?

See the full list of speakers and catch up on the TED talks sampled here — take it from a cynic, happiness can be synthesized, but it requires that you unearth all the right elements to ignite the reaction. And we happen to think TED is the proverbial periodic table.

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