Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

04 APRIL, 2011

Ball of Light: How Light Painting Saved a Man’s Life

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We love a good creativity-saves-lives story, and it hardly gets any better than Australian photographer Denis Smith‘s: Two years ago, Smith was suffering from depression, cracking under the pressure of a demanding job, struggling with money, and living on the verge of alcoholism. One day, he discovered photography and light painting, and eventually developed his unique, otherworldly “ball of light” style, the product of a remarkably simple — and absolutely brilliant in its simplicity — technique.

It all takes place at night. I can’t tell you exactly how I find them, and I’m still not exactly sure what they mean. But what I do know is that taking these photographs has changed my life.” ~ Denis Smith

In this microdocumentary by photographer Sam Collins, Smith shares his fascinating life story and his unusual creative process:

With normal photography, the shutter opens and closes in a photograph, and you get a snapshot of what’s there in front of the camera. And with light painting, what you do is the shutter stays open for a long period of time, so when it’s a dark environment, it brings more light in, and if you move a light around in front of the camera, it stays embedded in the picture.”

Smith’s art embodies the saving grace that is creative restlessness, and his life experience is a living testament to its duality — the same restlessness that may drive us to addiction and depression can also drive us to invent, to innovate, to create. The challenge, of course, is choosing the creative over the destructive edge, and resting in it.

via PetaPixel via @kirstinbutler

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30 MARCH, 2011

Underwater Sculptures Help Corals Thrive

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What metal sculptures have to do with your DNA and the future of the world’s oceans.

In 2009, underwater sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor — whom we had the pleasure of profiling for Wired UK a long, long time ago — founded MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), the world’s first underwater museum and an inspired intersection of art and environmental science. These artworks, admired by over 750,000 visitors every year, are designed to become artificial reefs that provide a unique habitat for the ocean’s most fragile and remarkable creatures: Corals, and their many marine companions.

This year, artist and TED fellow Colleen Flanigan was invited to join the project with some of her Biorock designs. As the temperature and acidity of the world’s oceans continue to rise under the effects of global warming, these new sculptures offer corals a vital alkaline environment: Using a low-voltage electrical current, the installations raise the pH of seawater to attract limestone minerals, which adhere to the metal matrix and help corals get the calcium carbonate they need to build their exoskeletons. So Colleen is gathering the necessary arsenal — welding equipment, metal, supplies, power sources, boat rentals, SCUBA tanks — and hiring a professional filmmaker to capture the incredible journey. And she’s funding it on Kickstarter, our favorite platform for microfunding creative projects.

Corals are near the root of the family tree of all living animals. Humans have put these ancestors on the evolutionary tree in peril. We want to give coral back its color through life-supporting underwater Biorock formations.” ~ Colleen Flanigan

The project embodies our highest ideals, a beautiful cross-pollination of art, science and moral imagination, so please join us in supporting it — it’s the best-intentioned $10 (or $100, or $1000) you’ll spend today, we promise.

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29 MARCH, 2011

Noma Bar’s Negative Space Illustrations

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What hippies have to do with Wall Street, Iraq and the Little Red Riding Hood.

We’ve been longtime fans of Israeli illustrator Noma Bar, whose mastery of negative space — the space between and around the subjects of an image, which can frame another subject in and of itself — never ceases to amaze, adding a new layer of thoughtfulness to the classic figure-ground illusion of perception. As he recently redesigned a handful of Don DeLillo classics for Picador Books, we were reminded of our favorite Noma Bar classic: Negative Space — an anthology of Bar’s most compelling work from various high-profile magazines, commenting on some of today’s most pressing sociopolitical issues with the artist’s signature provocative subtlety.

A sneak peek of the book follows, but we highly recommend you indulge in its entirety — it’s a rare tapas bar of brain food and eye candy.

Beware The Wolves: Artwork for an article on older men who pursue younger women

Fat Cat: Artwork for an article on how CEOs invest their personal wealth

The Big Squeeze: Artwork for an article on the oil politics behind the Iraq war

Artwork for a piece on gun crime and violence

When Doves Cry: Mourning the loss of the hippy dream with white doves and a VW van

Thought-provoking and visually stunning, Negative Space is the kind of blend of aesthetics and ethics we’d like to see more of in the world.

Images courtesy of Creative Review

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28 MARCH, 2011

Michael Wolff on the Three Muscles of Creativity

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Earlier this year, we featured a beautifully filmed, intimately narrated short documentary about Scott Schuman, better known as The Sartorialist, part of Intel’s Visual Life series. This month, the series is back with a fantastic episode about iconic designer Michael Wolff of Wolff Olins fame, whose insights on curiosity and appreciation as a central gateway to creativity resonate deeply with our own mission.

I have three muscles, without which I couldn’t do my work. The first is curiosity. (You can call it inquisitiveness, you can call it questioning.) The second muscle [is] the muscle of appreciation. It’s not questioning so much as it is noticing… how joyful things can be, how colorful things can be, what already exists as an inspiration. The muscle of curiosity and the muscle of appreciation enable the muscle of imagination.

Everybody knows that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. What few people realize it is only through the parts that the whole gets delivered. I see seeing as a muscular exercise, like I see curiosity. It’s a kind of being open, really: If you walk around with a head full of preoccupation, you’re not going to notice anything in your visual life.” ~ Michael Wolff

A brand is really a way of remembering what something is like for future reference — something you value, something you feel attracted to. The job of a brand identity, how you package all of that — the purpose, the vision, what it does, what it brings — how you make that so that people can take it and receive it and value it and treasure it and choose it, that’s the whole process of branding. That’s what it is.” ~ Michael Wolff

The film comes from the fine folks at m ss ng p eces, the same team who took us behind the scenes of a TED talk in January.

There’s a certain packaging of human beings that takes place in order to reveal ourselves authentically, or in order to pretend to be something other than what we are.” ~ Michael Wolff

Wolff’s wisdom on branding and identity is encapsulated in the 1995 classic, The New Guide to Identity: How to Create and Sustain Change Through Managing Identity — a thoughtful blueprint for design-driven adaptation in a world of impermanence and inevitable change.

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