Exploration and Observation = Discovery

Exploration and Observation = Discovery

exploration-feb-2017

Did you hear? Scientists discovered a new solar system 40 light years away. While I heard conversations about the ‘what if’ of getting there; I was more impressed with the exploration and observation the scientists had achieved.

Exploration and observation are the first two tenants of creative thinking. This is the foundation of my workshops, ArchiSketch Chicago. Get OUTSIDE to wander and see your environment, not stuck inside some conference room in a brainstorming session.

Launched last summer, ArchiSketch is about exploration and cultivating one’s own observation and artistic talent. History is my muse and is the backdrop for story combined with easy drawing instruction tailored for each stop.

Join me as we move our exploration and observation outdoors into areas of the city that you may or may not be familiar.

“Joann has a way of presenting information and story to get me to STOP and LOOK. Even though I may cross this intersection on a regular basis.”

One of the greatest compliments I could received–a lasting impression to spark creative thinking in others.

Upcoming ArchiSketch Schedule:

  • March 9th Sketching Sullivan. A three-hour hunt for Louis H. Sullivan’s iconic designs, dissecting his organic & geometric design.
  • March 22nd 3 Plazas on Dearborn. 360˚ views from each plaza, skyscrapers, grand-sized sculpture and opportunities for sketching people.
  • April 8th Lincoln Park Zoo & Garden, this is preview of the Urban Sketchers 10×10 workshop lineup.

Visit the ArchiSketch Chicago website for more information.

In addition to the ongoing Toastmasters projects, I also tap into other resources to expand my story development and storytelling skills:

Storyiz, Stanford d.school’s storytelling & visual communication studio is packed full of content and activities to create compelling & visual communication.

The Art of Storytelling by the masters at Pixar. This six-part class is free from the studio that behind Monsters Inc., Up and Inside Out. FREE.

Illuminate by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez. A new book from the leaders in presentation development, design and public speaking to help leaders communication more effectively.

PS: The Willis Tower (fka Sears Tower) will be undergoing a $500MIL renovation and the kinetic sculpture “Universe” by Alexander Calder will me removed, and is not part of the new plans.

Drawing is Thinking

Drawing is Thinking

When you were in school, did you get caught doodling?

Have you ever got the evil eye from a co-worker for doodling during a meeting?

You were on right page!

A study, sighted by the Journal of Cognitive Psychology, found that doodlers could easily recall ‘dull’ information 30 percent more than non-doodlers. Break out your pen or pencils and notepad…doodling is greatly encouraged.

Like writing, there are benefits of doodling and sketching:

  1. Cognitive development and increased memory
  2. Improved concentration
  3. Creative confidence

Drawing is essential for the brain development in children; as a learning process and technique for making observations or problem solving. While at the same time improving their memory skills. This combination leads to achievement in other subjects, particularly math and science.

It is our own translation, the imagery from our mind, which we create the visual references (aka details) that we’ll draw upon in the future.

Have you been to a conference or meeting with a live sketch artist? One of the pioneers in this industry, Sunni Brown, believes that she and her team develop concepts through pictures that words alone cannot describe. The pictures are not about aesthetic quality, but rather the quality of the learned and learning experience; developing a visual language.

Milton Glaser’s iconic logo

Drawing (sketching or doodling), like meditation, is a self-exploration that connects us with our ‘self’ on an intimate level. The adroit action stimulates us to a comfort level–enough to keep us awake, focused and engaged. Researcher believe that we reach deeper levels of concentration and this is where we develop richer concepts.

“When you draw an object, the mind become deeply, intensively attentive. Drawing is thinking.” Milton Glaser, acclaimed graphic designer continues, “It is that act of attention that allows you to really grasp something to become fully conscious of it.”

Here’s John Hendrix, author (Drawing is Magic) and illustrator, “As adults we often stop having fun. Drawing when we were kids was fun. Finding enjoyment is the essential first step to finding good ideas.”

When we ‘draw out’ our ideas, we’re releasing our imagination.

John Hendrix’ book “Drawing is Magic”

Every heard the phrase, “conceived on a napkin”? What tools do you need to facilitate thinking? PENCIL AND PAPER. No need for a computer, tablet or special app for you smartphone.

When we externalize our ideas on paper it makes it easier to re-constuct them, transforming the “spark” into a good idea, great idea… a gift to mankind idea.

Drawing is more than thinking: it’s MAGIC.

 

References:

The Atlantic, Cognitive Benefits of Doodling

Sunni Brown, TED Talk, “Doodlers, Unite”

Write It Down!

UPDATE 1/14/16:

I’ll be delivering this speech at Ignite Chicago on January 31, 2017, held at the Catalyst Ranch.

5 Minutes / 20 Slides / 1 Passion


I’ve attended this several times and it is always a fun night.

Your cheers and claps would be greatly appreciated, register via EventBrite using the promo code SPEAKERFRIEND

See you then!

 


This is the speech I needed to complete my Toastmasters’ Advanced Communicator Bronze level in my quest to improve my communication skills.

What if…

  • There was a process that could improve your ability to learn and recall information?
  • That same process, and its simple tool, could help increase your concentration?
  • And, spark your creativity?

Benefit #1: Learning and Memory

Writing by hand, has been proven to stimulate parts of our brain, called the reticular activating system (RAS), which filters all the ‘stuff’ our brain needs to process everyday.

When we write it down, we give importance to that which we’re focusing on at the moment. I’ll repeat that in case you’d like to write it down, we give importance to that item at that moment.

A name. A date. An address. The morning to-do list. Weekly shopping list. Your bucket list.

The physical process of writing, placing pen (or pencil) to paper, brings that item to the forefront.

There are several research studies available that examined {college} students who took handwritten notes versus students who used a device (notebook or tablet). Which group do you believe performed better overall? The students who took handwritten notes.

It is the physical process of writing–placing pen to paper–that brings that item to the forefront. Writing it down improves our ability to learn and recall information.

Interesting observation about the students who used a devices; the researchers concluded that they were essentially scribing the professor’s lecture; an important skill when we need to transcribe something verbatim.

Writing, either cursive or print, (my own–an awkward combination) is very important to brain development. Do you have kids in school? Ask them about their method of notetaking during class.

Benefit #2: Focus

We are confronted with barrage of information from ALL directions EVERYDAY! Let’s face it… most if it is a distraction.

Did you know the adult brain processes 60,000-70,000 thoughts per day. (There’s a joke in there, I’ll set that aside for another speech.)

The deliberate ACTION to process a thought slows down our brain; thus requiring more mental energy. We are engaging our motor skills when while writing.

Research is suggesting that writing (reading and drawing) are droplets in the ‘Fountain of Youth’ to ward off the detrimental effects of Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia. Not protect, but lessen the effects while keeping our brains active as we age. 

Write the letters. Break out the journal. Send the postcards.

During an interview, acclaimed author, Truman Capote, said that he wrote the outline and first draft of “In Cold Blood” before he sat in front of the typewriter. Joyce Carol Oates uses hand-written notes and drafts beforehand, too.

Benefit #3: Spark Your Creativity

A pathway for our thoughts, ideas and emotions, writing, as well as sketching, is a channel from your head outward. I personally believe that the heightened creativity is really the result of benefits #1 and #2. Bringing an item to the forefront and concentration.

One of the simplest and beneficial gifts you can give, in my opinion, is a sketchbook (or journal) and pencils to anyone. Enable an individual to cultivate his/her own creativity through the expression of ideas, thoughts and emotions.

Now, some of you might be thinking, pen and paper… that’s sooo old school! You’re not the only one.

While doing the research for this speech, I ran across an article on the Harvard Business Review entitled “Dear Colleague, Put the Notebook Down.” The author states, if you are invited to a meeting with her that you ‘should leave your hipster journal and pens at home’ insisting that taking notes by hand is a waste of time. She wants to be able to ping you digital references, assets and links for your immediate consumption. She went further, after you get back to your cubicle and transcribe your handwritten notes into a project management application, approximately 10-25 minutes, that is a WASTE OF TIME. This time adds up over the course of a fiscal year at a cost to the company.

Coincidentally, the same day I read this article, I received an email from my favorite hipster journal company announcing its latest product the “Smart Writing Set.” The three-part system consists of a newly designed Moleskine paper tablet, a stylus and smartphone app. The notes and drawings made in the paper tablet are digitized via the mobile app, available for iOS and Android. Moleskine is not the only company with similar technologies.

Recap, the benefits of writing:

  • Stimulates our brain for learning and memory.
  • Helps us concentrate by filtering distractions.
  • Heightens our creativity by providing a channel from our head to paper.

Writing is a mental workout. Keeping our brains SHARP!

History of Pencil (sidebar)

In the 16th century, a dark grey almost black substance was discovered in England, it became the first marking element when the herders where marking their sheep.

Woodworkers in the 17th century were producing graphite as marking tool. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the graphite was encased in wood.

Cross the pond to New England, during the mid-19th century, in Joseph Dixon’s woodworking plant, he mechanized the production and patented the machine that planed the wood for pencils. His machine could produce 132 pencils per minute. Dixon marketed his pencil as “American Made.” The Dixon Ticonderoga is a staple and one of our most enduring products, ~ 1/2 billion Ticonderoga pencils are manufactured yearly.

References:

Wall Street Journal, “Can Handwriting Make You Smarter?” (April 2016)

Mashable, “7 Ways Writing by Hand Can Save Your Brain” (January 2015)

New York Times, “The Story Behind a Nonfiction Novel” (1966) George Plimpton

BuzzFeed, “Joyce Carol Oates Has The Most Inspiring Writing Advice For Authors” (July 2015)

 

Longing for the Dog Days of Summer

I need a break… a long weekend at my favorite beach somewhere along the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Sipping a cold drink. Listening to the waves leisurely lap at the shore. Tip-toeing into Lake Michigan.
Since Memorial Day my schedule has been a bevy of activity:

  1. Niece’s wedding and visiting with my siblings
  2. My youngest daughter’s high school graduation
  3. Funeral of a sweet friend
  4. Moved* into new apartment
  5. Urban Sketchers Chicago 2016 Seminar (teaching 2 workshops)
  6. Bon voyage party for a couple returning to Salt Lake City

My summer-to-date.In a very short time, there have been a lot of changes, excitement, tears, laughter, sore muscles and vino. Despite the exhaustion and schedule I’ve retained my sanity. (Contrary to my husband and daughters.)


Wait, I’m not done yet:

  1. 50th anniversary celebration of friends
  2. Moving my youngest daughter into her freshman dorm at University of San Francisco

Guest what I’m doing Labor Day weekend… not a damn thing!

No to party invitations. No more boxes to open or pictures to be hung. I plan on enjoying some R&R. Taking a book and beach chair to Chicago’s lakefront.

I mentioned a move, *please note my new address:
Creative Aces Corp.
553 W Wellington 1 South
Chicago, IL 60657
direct: 773-327-4538
mobile: 231-633-0945

Projects underway include workshop preparations for the launch of ArchiSketch Chicago in August, finishing my Toastmaster Advanced Bronze, reprising a mastermind group for creative entrepreneurs (I did this when I lived in Traverse City, MI) and illustrations collection for fall/winter products.

Most of all, providing you with creative support to you; helping you (your clients) communicated with their audiences.

I will be gone a few Fridays during July and August, but give me a call or drop me an email; I’m confident we’ll agree on a schedule.

Joann

 

 

Lilacs Are Blooming! (May2016)

Mother’s Day was this past weekend, best wishes and fond memories everywhere.

My girls kept asking me what I wanted… nothing. No flowers. No brunches.

Instead, the opportunity to enjoy the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibit at Art Institute of Chicago, with each of my daughters (went through this exhibit several times). Time spent talking about art, life of an artist, career, college and much more with my girls.

This is the only gift that matters, to me.joannsondy-lilacs-wh-tn

Springtime is my favorite season. I think it was also my mom’s, too. It hadn’t occurred to me that she’s been deceased for sixteen years. Memories springing into my head compounded by the vibrancy of the spring blossoms.

Cecelia, my mother, enjoyed being outside gardening. She was pretty good, the front and back yards of our suburban Detroit home were colorful and well-planned on her meager budget. She planted a variety of flowers and foliage for spring, summer and fall.  Mom’s fertilizer choices were very creative too, sometimes offending the olfactory with fish heads and manure. The end results were the envy of the neighborhood.

Among her best, the lilac shrubs with its dark green leaves and exploding blooms–from white to deep purple–gently drifting sweet perfume joannsondy-lilacs-dk-tnthroughout the neighborhood. Imagine, waking up on a warm spring morning, the windows open and the aroma from the lilacs more potent than the brewing black coffee. Lilac season is too short, only a couple of weeks.

I revisited my lilacs-inspired silk scarf design, “Cecelia’s Lilacs”, adding more blooms to the design and added border. A colorful spring accessory for any occasion. There are two variations, a white and dark lilac background. Available from my Etsy shop.

 

Available in two sizes: 36″ x 36″ for $120.00 USD and 26″ x 26″ for $65.00 USD. Made to order, allow up to 10-14 days for delivery.

 

Clutter, Chaos & Creativity

Look at my desk! Every day I attempt to keep the stacks organized. Thoughts of my arm sweeping all of it into the garbage pale are enticing. I don’t. Why? Because I’m developing several (big) projects right now and I’m in a mode of creation.

photoMy organized chaos consists of:

  • Work-in-progress
  • Family archival scans-current batch
  • Sketches and artwork for my textile designs
  • Speeches in the queue
  • Monthly planning
  • Prototypes
  • Reference materials

Let’s Get Messy

Throughout my readings and research about the creative process, there is one phase that is regarded as necessary: CHAOS.

Variety, I do a lot of things, not well, it avoids boredom.
-Isaac Mizrahi

It is the initial stage of generating multiple ideas, tagging research/examples, scribbles, sketches, picking ingredients, playing random notes, etc.

Ever observe a young child at play? It’s messy. That’s a good thing!

CURIOSITY or Open Mindedness is the child-like perspective to exploration and experimentation. We’re having fun and uninhibited.

Typically, this is when most of us give up. I have, many times. Why? I couldn’t truly tap into my playful and less-purposeful mind. I was after all, an ADULT.

Circle of Creativity

creative-flowWriter and humorist, John Cleese, has a theory about the circular process of creativity as we move from “open” and “closed” mind states.

  • Open mindedness: we’re relaxed and playful.
  • Closed mindedness: we’re impatient and tense.

Each state contributing to the overall creative process. How can you do this?

Conditions for Open Mode are space and time. Sequestering yourself away (space) from external demands and distractions. Give yourself time to focus, this is a necessity–not a luxury. Be specific if you must, set a timer for 2 hours or 30 minutes for uninterrupted time.

A discipline that can be developed over time. Be gentle with yourself. Your mind will want to check email and text messages…RESIST. Stat focused within the oasis of quiet time to be with your own ideas and thoughts.  Strengthening over time.

Closed Mode is a phase for implementation or executing on your ideas. Taking pages of notes & research and scripting a new speech. Reviewing quick sketches for larger and long-term potential.

Cycle through the Open/Closed modes as you move through your projects. Giggling and inspiring our inner child to keep moving forward; regardless of opinion.

Ideas are worthless if you can’t make them happen.
-Scott Belsky

My daughter’s room is messy, I do wish she’d tidy up a bit. I don’t nag about it as much as I used to (only if it gets too bad). Why? I don’t want her to lose the ability to use her child-like mind as she prepares to depart for college to begin a new phase of her life.

Go play!

References:

John Cleese “How To Be Creative”

Isaac Mizrahi TED Talk “Fashion and Creativity”

Scott Belsky “Make Ideas Happen”