Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

28 MARCH, 2011

Michael Wolff on the Three Muscles of Creativity


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.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

25 MARCH, 2011

The Word Project: Obscure Words in Bricolage


What avian resemblance has to do with the study of soil and the irresistible urge to dance.

We love words and language, especially artful intersections of lingolove and design. Earlier this week, we spotlighted illustrator Veronika Heckova’s lovely Words Without Words project and, thanks to reader Cassandra Marketos, we discovered the utterly wonderful work of artist Polly M. Law. The Word Project is a compendium of 100 odd and obscure words, illustrated in Law’s signature bricolage paper-dolls style.

Strigiform: (adj) resembling an owl; Struthiform (adj) resembling an ostrich

Image courtesy of Polly M. Law

Dinomania: (n) irresistible urge to dance

Image courtesy of Polly M. Law

Godwottery: (n) an overly ornate garden

Image courtesy of Polly M. Law

Pedology: (n) the study of soils

Image courtesy of Polly M. Law

Lucubrate: (v) to work by artificial light

Image courtesy of Polly M. Law

Bibliotaph: (n) a person who hides books

Image courtesy of Polly M. Law

Empyreal: (adj) celestial, elevated

Image courtesy of Polly M. Law

At once whimsical and illuminating, The Word Project is a playful and inspired gateway into grown-up vocabulary, approaching the intellectual with the kind of childlike curiosity we so encourage.

Thanks, Cass

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:

You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

22 MARCH, 2011

Stencil 101 for Kids & the Eternal Kid


Last week, we spotlighted 5 coloring books for the eternal kid, exploring grown-up subjects like indie music, sneaker culture and gansta rap through a medium indended for children. Today, we’re turning the tables and looking at something that does the opposite. Ed Roth’s Stencil 101: Make Your Mark with 25 Reusable Stencils and Step-by-Step Instructions takes the grown-up medium of graffiti stencils and brings it to kids — or, depending on your disposition, your inner kid — with a collection of wonderful portfolio-format stencils to customize anything from your wall to your pillowcase.

Bearing the charm of analog art in an overly digital world, Roth’s stencils blend playful pastime with the kind of ultra-personalized, custom-designed touch we’ve come to expect of just about everything.

To complement Stencil 101, take a peek at the how-to videos on Roth’s site, as well as his extensive gallery of application ideas.

Thanks, Sharon

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

17 MARCH, 2011

PICKED: Escape Vehicle No. 6


As much as it provides a zeitgeist of “how society is now,” modern art also has the capacity to inspire us by combining media, objects, environments and concepts in ways which challenge our understanding or simply make us sit back and go, “Now that’s cool.”

Simon Faithfull was commissioned by Artscatalyst to produce his piece Escape Vehicle no. 6 — a generic office chair attached to a balloon and filmed, live, as it rises 30 kilometers into the edge space before hurtling back to earth. The video itself is haunting: You follow the chair rising through clouds, and watch the sky get darker before the chair floats, almost silent, in an environment with temperatures of -60º, where humans could simply not exist.

Part of the fascination of art like this comes from its ability to scale our perspective — to change how we look at endeavours. We typically associate a journey to space with multimillion budgets, enormous engineering and rousing soundtracks. With Escape Vehicle No. 6, your eyes remain transfixed on this incredibly mundane (or, as Simon calls it, “pathetic”) object undergoing an extraordinary journey — a proxy for own dreams, aspirations and sense of adventure as human beings.

Vikas Shah writes Thought Economics, where he interviews some of the world’s most influential thinkers, from CEO’s to astronauts to artists and more. By day, Vikas is founder and CEO of strategy consultancy Thought Strategy. You can follow him on Twitter.

We’ve got a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays, offers the week’s main articles, and features short-form interestingness from our PICKED series. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.