by Ric Dragon
Big Doubt, Little Doubt
Beginnings are typically joyous, euphoric occasions. Whether itâ€™s a software project, a barn-raising, a romance, or a painting, the earliest stages are exciting, not yet informed by the difficulties that lie ahead.
The art of making paintings is remarkable. It doesnâ€™t matter if the painter is portraying mountains and streams, or is creating an abstraction. Taking the three-dimensional world and portraying it on a flat surface is abstraction, and creating shapes and color is quite concrete and real. So it follows that a lot of the distinctions that are made about painting â€“ whether itâ€™s realism, abstraction, or some other genre â€“ are somewhat moot. But what all painting shares is that there is no guidebook. Each painter is on their own in trying to figure out what it is all about.
Over the years, Iâ€™ve noticed that I look forward to starting paintings. The canvas, newly tacked over the stretcher bars, presents a vast area of whiteness. A brush loaded with paint is picked up â€“ and that first mark is made. Itâ€™s exhilarating.
I also know what to expect about a third of the way into the painting: frustration. In those early years, it was unnerving: Iâ€™d be wracked with feelings of doubt and inability. Like an arctic explorer without a compass, Iâ€™d look around and realize that I didnâ€™t have a clue as to where I was or why I was there. These arenâ€™t the little niggling doubts that sometimes come to haunt us, but the big doubts. What does my existence mean?
For hundreds of years, practitioners of Zen Buddhism have been using doubt as a key to their practice. In the various approaches to Zen, the feeling of doubt is considered to be critical to finding awareness. In fact, koans, those baffling stories used in zen, seem designed to help bring about that total frustration. As one teacher exhorted, â€œlet all of you become one mass of doubt and questioning.â€ Without this doubt, you canâ€™t have breakthrough.
Self-doubt can be totally debilitating, too. If you understand, though, the importance of doubt in the creative process, you can more easily say to yourself, â€œheh, this is all part of the process â€“ letâ€™s just go with it.â€
Image: John-Morgan, Flickr Creative Commons License.
Mihaela Lica Butler
Street Smarts: The Police Get Grafetee
That the police are testing a location-based app called Grafetee may not necessarily have criminals fleeing in fear, but the idea of a countryâ€™s national police turning to mobile tools is noted. The Poliisi, as Finlandâ€™s top law enforcement arm is called there, intend on making neighborhoods safer via smart device usage, social media engagement and interactive maps.
Finland. Most of you, readers, will probably identify this Scandinavian country as way up in the far frozen North and a bit too far away to consider public safety moves as relevant. But, given the spread of good news and useful things that make life better, it may not be long before your local public servants tune in on using geo-location tools like Grafetee.
For those unfamiliar with the Helsinki startup, and their engaging little social tool, Grafetee makes use of smart technology, via either iOS or Android operating systems, along with map-centric services like Foursquare, Wikipedia, and even Yelp of late. What does the PoPo up there in Finland want with such a tool, you ask? They are trying to make Finland safer than it already is. Petri
Marjamaa from the National Police Board commented about the adaptation:
â€œWe are adopting Grafetee to test how a social media service is applicable to make the neighborhood safer and to help residents to influence their own neighborhoodâ€™s safety.”
Grafetee’s Watching You … Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide
Grafetee being used by law enforcement in Finland is not the first time a mobile or social tool has been adopted to improve things, but the App does have some unique features which make this story more interesting. The Poliisi can use Grafeteeâ€™s characteristic location-based interactive map, and particularly the notification and bookmarking aspects, for getting information about crime, traffic hazards, and especially for being there when urgency and accuracy of detail counts. Short story here being, Grafeteeâ€™s interactive map operates in â€œreal timeâ€ â€“ and users (citizens) can add images to the locations, describe what happens, share with others anonymously if desired, and so much more.
That’s because anyone can use Grafetee anonymously – no need to sign up or connect a Facebook account. A few taps of the screen and a crime can be reported, or the Police can input data the public needs to know in real time too. Think of all the uses Grafetee users on both ends can squeeze out of a little Finnish smart app.
Thereâ€™s a mobile version, Android or iOS, and a web version on, lahivinkki.com, for anyone interested in testing the latest version. Also, another aspect of Grafeteeâ€™s individuality is the ability for businesses to add their places, events, and even web locations via a browser bookmarklet. On top of the Foursquare, Wikipedia, and Yelp pins you can already use on the map, there are also now many local businesses and even websites tied into the Grafetee way of smart things.
Grafetee, or should that be â€œGraffitiâ€, seems like one of those simple little tools that ends up being widely accepted. Just like street artists express themselves via murals, now everyone can put a name on just about anything, even a potential crime. Letâ€™s see how fast other government agencies and businesses hop on board with special uses. Interesting stuff, huh?
The Games Artists Play
In his earlier days, the artist Chuck Close was a painter of gestural abstractions. After a personal crisis, he decided to take photographs, and square inch by square inch, make a large painting of the photograph. The process, to Close, was a game of sorts. If you get the opportunity to see one of his large scale paintings in a museum, the results are quite staggering.
Artists like to play games within their work. After all, there is no rule book on how to make a piece of art. Instead, you have total and absolute freedom. You can do anything you want â€“ a freedom which can actually be paralyzing. Thus, by creating little games, the artist has a self-imposed framework in which to work.
My own game is to paint alla prima â€“ which means at first attempt, and to paint all wet-into-wet; never onto dry paint. While Iâ€™ve found a way to keep my own paintings wet for weeks, and thus to sustain the game over a longer period of time, the historical idea of an alla prima painting, like those of the impressionists, was to create a painting in one sitting.
This is hardly a constraint taken on by all painters. In fact, Monet said something to the effect that youâ€™re not worth your salt as a painter if you couldnâ€™t put a painting away for a couple of months, come back to it, and not see what it needed. Bonnard was said to sneak into museums with a brush and colors under his coat to touch up his own paintings.
How Artists’ Games Can Help Our Work
Reworking a piece over a long period of time can certainly bring richness to any work. Itâ€™s over time that we are able to reinforce subtle patterns, or refine smaller ideas within the larger piece. But sometimes, itâ€™s difficult to let go of a piece. Our anxiety about getting it right takes over.
The idea, though, of saying that a painting, or even a piece of writing, is going to be done in one period of time â€“ that Iâ€™ll do the best I can NOW, and that Iâ€™ll do this and move on to the next â€“ can mitigate compulsiveness. We can bring this idea to writing too â€“ Iâ€™ll write a piece â€“ but after Iâ€™m done, Iâ€™m done. No going back and improving. Blogging is ideal for this â€“ after all, changing a post after itâ€™s been published, and after people have participated in the piece by commenting just doesnâ€™t feel right.
If you find yourself stuck in your endeavors, and unable to break through some invisible barrier, try creating your own parameters and games. After all, itâ€™s your game, and thereâ€™s not a person in the world who can say that itâ€™s wrong.