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Posts Tagged ‘focus’

Synthesis and ‘Right Work’

05 Sep

SYNTHESIS (noun) \ˈsin(t)-thə-səs\ the combining of often diverse conceptions into a coherent whole

I have been able to distill from my many experiments and projects the ones that may actually ‘stick’ in the long run. I’m not blindly grinding away at the ‘wrong work.’

It’s been a wild summer ride around here at Drawing Down the Vision.  Adam and Amy have seen a rapid rate of change both professionally and personally in recent months and as we head into the more pensive autumn season, we are sifting through our experiences and new opportunities to see how it all fleshes out.

While Adam was busy moving to a new geographical location for work, I, Amy, took a few months off from blogging, teaching and art-making to go on what can only be described as a rather radical sabbatical.  Professional and personal travels took me to the desert of the southwest, the windswept coast of New England, across The Pond to Ireland, and many, many wonderful spots in between.  All the while, I had my trusty sketchbook close at hand to collect my seemingly random thoughts, drawings and experiences.

It’s important to get out of the usual routine that ties us to the day to day.  Sometimes we are only afforded the odd ten minutes to hit the reset button. Occasionally, we get the opportunity for more. Stefan Sagmeister’s year off dramatically changed how he approached his design business and my summer sabbatical has been the same for me.  Stepping back from the workaday treadmill can bring into full relief what is and what isn’t working in the studio.

I have been able to distill from my many experiments and projects the ones that may actually ‘stick’ in the long run. I’m not blindly grinding away at the ‘wrong work.’ I have been thinking a lot about where to put my limited time and energy to avoid feeling so scattered, which I did before this summer’s travels.

Author/ blogger Michael Knobbs writes about this phenomenon in his blog Sustainably Creative.  While I am not limited by any chronic conditions, I do have a full plate between familial commitments, hourly work (which pays routinely), art work (which pays only sporadically) and a whole host of personal, feed-the-soul kind of stuff.  What to trim and what to keep are more identifiable now.

Another important thing I re-learned over this summer’s travels was the importance of alone-time.  It is so easy to get trapped into responding to every last vie for my attention. Then, suddenly, I realize I haven’t spent time in my own company for days or even weeks!  Jacqueline Smith at Smart Solitude has some wonderful blog entries with gentle reminders as to how important time alone can be, especially for those following a creative path.

Synthesizing these lessons from time spent out of my element has created a bit of a sea change for me in life and work. We are interested in hearing about others’ adventures and how they affect one’s overall approach to the day to day.  Look forward to some guest posts!!!

Popularity: 41% [?]

 

Working wellness.

25 Oct

There are times in work and life when things are going so well. It seems we’ve got everything under control… nothing could be better. And there are times when that is not the case. Our frenetic, demanding work environments cause a great deal of stress. This stress limits our ability to experience and enjoy life and work, to be creative in the process, to create things and solve problems others.

How can we have more of these days when things are ‘going so well?’

Well, here are a few scenarios elicited by designer Stefan Sagmeister in which he finds himself most satisfied in work and life:

  • Thinking about ideas and content freely – with the deadline far away.
  • Working without interruption on a single project.
  • Using a wide variety of tools and techniques.
  • Traveling to new places.
  • Working on projects that matter to me.
  • Having things come back from the printer done well. (think manufacturer, employee, contractor…)

A simple technique of my own is, ‘Do more of what I love, and less of what I don’t.’ It sounds simple, but to truly put it in practice involves using the word, ‘No,’ more often than were accustomed.

‘No’ is tough for many people who don’t want to hurt or annoy others, we want to be seen as effective citizens of the world. But the reality is that making a choice to do less of something and more of something else is a short-term sting, a necessary evil to allow you to focus on doing bigger and better things that really matter.

Let go of a few things, and be comfortable with it. Some things may fall apart, and some people may get angry, but that’s life. Take some time to think through what you’d really love to accomplish, and do it.

What other techniques have you applied to live and work more creatively?

via TED, Stefan Sagmeister shares happy design.

Popularity: 19% [?]

 

How changing your perspective changes your results.

10 Jun

Drawing is all about relationships, as is business. In order to succeed in either, we need to see the big picture while also seeing the details which comprise it. Unless we spend time working from multiple perspectives, we’ll always see the same picture, and jump to the same conclusions, and deliver the same results.

Practicing drawing allows us to permanently change the way we think in business scenarios. This is our brains’ neuroplasticity reacting to our intellectual needs. “[Drawing] requires that one confronts and deals with paradoxes. For example, we can know that a ceiling is flat and the corner is a right angle. But on the picture plane, the edges of the ceiling are not horizontal and the corner angles are not right angles at all.” – Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Through drawing, we are forced to practice whole brain thinking… comparing what we know and what we see to deliver a defined result. Let’s get started with an example.

Here is my original sketch. I was doing a mental sketch of a horse and elephant, pretty basic. Analyzing my sketch, you can see that I understand:

  • that a horse is smaller than an elephant,
  • both have four legs, and
  • elephants have a funny little tuft at the end, well suited for swatting flies in Disney movies.

Despite my practice drawing, my results continue to be the same when I don’t truly examine the object I’m drawing, and how all its components relate.

Luckily… I found a horse who was very eager to be my subject matter. (It may be more of a mule or colt, judging the size.)

Once I had a specimen which I could observe to evaluate the relationships of all the components (hooves, tail, mane, body)… my sketches became a bit better. You can see that I included additional details my original sketch didn’t, such as the defined muscles. However, I was still having a hard time breaking from the mental model in my head, an animal with a mane, tail, and four legs which was facing to the right. In order to change my results, I needed to change my perspective and challenge those paradoxes.

Luckily, I found an elephant. I couldn’t fit them both in my sketch easily, a happy accident, so I decided to change up the perspective, and sketch them straight on. A fearsome duo for sure.

Here you can see horses #4 and #5, before I changed my perspective. Notice however, the dramatic difference between the new horse and elephant (below the line) and the earlier sketches. From this new perspective, I had no Disney summary stuck in my head of what a true horse sketch should look like. I had no assumptions to fall back on. I had to really see my subject and analyze the relationships of all the components to create the final drawing.

I was astounded by the changes, so I figured I’d try it again. This time from the backside.

Again, I was very surprised with the turnout. Much better than when I first began sketching a horse 15 minutes earlier. It was my first horse sketching experience, and I’ll try again on a real horse sometime.

In business, we are forced to move fast and race onto the next project. Problem, Solution, Check, Done!

Einstein has a fantastic quote: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Spend that extra 20% of time on a project. Think it through, especially once you think you’ve got it figured out. Try to draw and redraw your conclusions. Visualize your business problem, and ask others what they think. You’ll learn that the relationships you initially define of people, places and things in your work may be a bit off, and you’ll be glad you learned sooner rather than later.

Also, try drawing an object from memory, and then from sight. Change the perspective.

Share your thoughts below!

Popularity: 62% [?]

 

Pay attention to what you pay attention to.

27 May

My journal offered me a phenomenal breakthrough today. I’d like to share how it all precipitated.

I went through my sketchpad the other day and tried to pull a theme out of what’s been going through my head and my life lately. The answer wasn’t immediately obvious. I realized there was no theme because… there was no theme. I was doing too much.

We call this retrospective process ‘paying attention to what you pay attention to.’

Knowing I was spreading myself too thin, like too little butter on too much bread, I decided I should make some serious choices in my life, and focus my energies. Here is how I represented my thinking on what I needed to do:

I was thinking about focus all wrong.

I thought I had figured it out. I would slowly cut out the diffusion in my life. In the end, I would be laser focused on what I really needed to accomplish in my life. Wrong.

After creating the original representation of focus… everyone around me was suddenly talking about focus! I was paying attention to how people focus, and pulling lessons out of this.*

In hearing so much more about focus, and pulling a few life stories from friends, I realized there was a hidden crutch buried in my original sketch: a need for comfort, security, and a fear of making tough life choices.

While reviewing my original drawing, I realized making a choice to focus your life is more like what I represented below. You need to make the tough choices you’ve been putting off, and commit to follow through on those choices.

The most successful people I know made difficult decisions and focused their effort on their top priority.

For example, John Traynor, made a commitment to follow classical painting when he was growing up in New Jersey, against the advice of many educators. He could have gotten a business and art degree at Skidmore College, with something to fall back on if art didn’t work out. He realized that lack of focus was setting himself up for failure. Instead he committed and persisted at the Paier College of Art. Today he is phenomenally successful.

The process of creative journaling offers me an opportunity to dissect my own thinking, and how focused it is.** The journal serves as a nest of ideas. It proves to be a very valuable tool as we all search for ways to live our life to the fullest and make our business a success. I’d love to hear how journaling and creative work fits into your life!

* We call this ‘The New Car Phenomenon.’ When you buy a new car, magically, you notice hundreds more on the rode than you ever noticed before!
**
We call this Diversity of Thought… words, text, and graphics all help you analyze your life and business from multiple angles, multiple forms of logic. You become your own critic, your personal sounding board.

Popularity: 18% [?]

 

Crosstown Bus

15 May

Let’s take a moment to talk about tangents.  You know, those often annoying, ever present detours we find ourselves taking in meetings, conversations, or even within our own activities, be they mental or physical.  I have a friend who calls these little detours “the crosstown bus” when we attend meetings together.  In some meetings, heading out on unnecessary tangents is a waste of time.  In other situations though, these journeys down the unbeaten path can spell new creative solutions to current problems.  These paths can lead to new ideas to which you wouldn’t have arrived without a wrong turn or two.

When generating new innovations, in a group setting or solo in your sketchbook, allow yourself some freedom to follow an unexpected notion down an unfamiliar road.  Chances are you may find unexpected treasures where you least expected them.  Take an occasional ride on the Crosstown Bus… you may just like where you end up.

Popularity: 3% [?]

 
 



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