I don’t count cooking or dining out as one of my art forms, but I do understand that many people find artistic inspiration and expression there. But I do read voraciously, and I can never tell where I am going to find a new idea or an affirmation of something I’m already exploring.
And that’s what happened when I came upon a review of a restaurant called Mas (La Grillade) in The New York Times on December 28, 2011. Read these sentences by Eric Asimov and with a couple of word substitutions, they describe what I try to do with my watercolors and my pastels:
“Yet, simple is neither easy nor predictable. Simplicity in cooking (painting) requires skill, precision and taste. More than that, it demands discipline and courage to let great ingredients (colors) shine without imprinting them with ego. Imagination and a joyous sense of experimentation help, too, if one hopes to apply techniques as old as humanity in novel, intriguing ways.”
“The way I work is to try to get the idea out of my head. I’ll be daydreaming in a taxi or in front of the TV, sometimes just staring into space, being quiet, but in my head I’m building something. Ideally I have the finished object in my head.”
From “‘The Future Isn’t Futuristic Anymore,’” a profile by Chip Brown of industrial designer Marc Newson in the January 29, 2012 issue of The New York Times Magazine (quoting Mr. Newson on his method — the author later notes that for Mr. Newson “coming up with ideas was comparatively easy; the hard parts were the esoteric technical aspects of realizing the drawings he’d roughed out in his yellow-leather sketchbook”).
I didn’t — and I guess I can’t be blamed for that! — until I read about Zdenek Miler, the Czech animator responsible for this iconoclastic creature popular throughout the world — but who “never caught on in the United States.”
According to Dennis Hevesi’s obituary of Mr. Miler in The New York Times on December 13, 2011, Krtek began as a cartoon character but developed into a universal and powerful anti-government-bureaucracy symbol. Almost by accident.
“Mr. Miler literally stumbled on his central character. In 1954 … (Czech Communist) bosses commissioned a cartoon to teach children about how trousers are made. The concept was boring, and Mr. Miler did not want to mimic Disney images. Walking in the woods one night, he tripped over a mole’s burrow. ’I said, “Here’s a good idea,’ he recalled.”
Amd thus Krtek was born. The little drawn animal became known in 80 countries (other than the US!) and “more than five million copies of Krtek books, translated into 20 languages, have been sold, as well as toys, book bags, puzzles and pillowcases,” said the obituary. A stuffed toy version of Krtek was aboard NASA’s final shuttle mission, and “in 1998, an asteroid orbiting the Sun in the belt between Jupiter and Mars was named afer him.”
And all from a stumble by an artist who didn’t want to be told what to do or how to do it.
“I have so many ideas and not enough time to get them out, which is so much better than time and no ideas. The art poses the questions and I keep trying to find the answers.”
From a profile of craft artist Erika Schmitt in the Winter 2011 issue of Sonoma (quoting the artist).
“I encourage them to go to the circus and tell me about an experience they had … Whatever is working at the circus to entertain consumers would probably, even if you tweak it a little bit, work in what we’re doing.”
From “Creative Connection,” a recap of a creativity roundtable discussion among public relations professionals, in the January 2012 issue of PRWeek (quoting Nielson’s Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, whose department specializes in event management).
Say you’re a mechanical engineer training for a cross-country ski competition by running. Add in the fact that you’re also an inventor, and then consider that you’re training in Minnesota in the winter and keep slipping on the ice. Well, you’d think up a way to bring your training indoors, wouldn’t you?
That’s basically the story of “Ed Pauls, whose frustration at running on ice-slick Minnesota roads led him to develop the cross-country skiing simulator known as the NordicTrack,” according to Bruce Weber’s obituary of Mr. Pauls in the November 12, 2011 issue of The New York Times.
He built his new invention in his garage in the early ’70s and intended it only for himself and his family, not to sell it, but one thing led to another and “it found its true niche among up-scale exercise enthusiasts as the fitness movement became a national trend and the home exercise equipment market boomed.” The company his invention spawned grew to employ 400 people in Excelsior, Minnesota, and turned out a half-million NordicTrack machines before being sold out of the family’s hands in 1986.