Slowing students down = better ideas faster

For the last four weeks, students at Colfe’s school have been integrating the MyIdeas process into their project. They have selected which GCSE exam question they are working on for a mock project and are developing their ideas.

I have been in a few times now to assess their development and advise on how they might proceed, analysing which elements of the development stages require more work and helping them find solutions if they are ‘stuck’ . It is clear that you are able to effectively and instantly help a student who has created good quality MyIdeasBooks and done their research. This is necessary as time constraints in the classroom are tight.

MyIdeasBook development harnesses the Slow Movement educational philosophy ‘It is about enabling students to learn how to learn.’

Here is a student sharing her research on MyIdeasBook in class and talking about her ideas. We can quickly see where her passion and interest lies and help her move forward in her work in a focused way because she is developing what she is enjoying and cares about. The main issue was needing to develop her own imagery by taking photos and creating her own personal reference material.

MIB in class

My role as a visiting artist using MyIdeasBook to develop projects is to support and work in harmony with the teachers and adding a layer of process and learning to the students development.

The process of image selection, collection and adding imagery to MyIdeasBook encourages carefulness and thoughtfulness. The way social media and online tools work can encourage a dumping of images, speediness of reactions and distraction from the core idea which discourages due care and attention. We use the Slow Movement process which encourages students to take care with what they select and develop.

MyIdeas training also provides students with a guide in project development so they are able to self assess. More reports will follow as we progress the project.

How to create ‘wow’ project for homework

It should be ‘how to train a 9 year old without them realising that they are being trained.’ I felt this was a great way to test the MyIdeas creative development theory I am using in my schools work on a younger age group.

For the school holidays my son was given the task to research an inspiring person for Black History Month and create an artwork or presentation about that person that would be shown to the class or displayed in school. The Brief.

I thought this would be a brilliant way to put all the idea development training I am working on with MyIdeasBook for schools into practice. The Method.

We began a week before the due date by looking up who to choose and my son found George Washington Carver really inspiring, a man who brought the peanut into agriculture in the USA. We obviously started with Wikipedia but found other interesting sites and pictures too. The Research. Every day we for a week we researched a little more about him and talked about Carver’s work, I asked my son to make notes and think about the questions in the brief.

photo2

The year before we had made an A1 sheet with a picture centrally placed and so this must have inspired his thought processes too. Inspiration.

I had booked my son onto a high quality art workshop called ‘Da Vinci’s machines’ locally run by a lovely artist and thought that after two days of that he would probably be quite inspired. Lateral Thought.

The homework was due in on Monday and we had Friday afternoon, Saturday morning and a few hours on Sunday to complete it but (unlike my husband!) I was holding my nerve believing that it would come good and we could manage to do something special in that time frame with all the papers and tools we had at hand.

On Friday I sat him down in my art studio and said – ‘so what are you going to do?’ after about 5 minutes he said ‘I want to print his face out big and have thought bubbles coming out from his head’ I said sketch it out. We brainstormed together, but I was careful to let him lead and he isn’t shy in telling me when he doesn’t want something done in a particular way.  I try to teach him by asking pertinent questions. The Development.

He has a sense of humour and I love the way he is confident to incorporate this into his work… what to do with Peanuts next? Exactly!

photo

From this beginning, with constant referral to the brief and the subject matter we collaborated to create this piece of work. Delivery. (collaborated meaning: I helped him realise his ideas with the materials I had knew we had to hand and encouraged his problem solving)

malli GWC homework

Thinking out of the box occurred because I had set the scene and he felt he could do anything he could think of. If we had more time and resources I could have pushed him farther but this piece was executed really well and fulfilled the brief completely.

The success and ease with which we created this was down to the process of MyIdeas project management drawing out the creativity and dealing with the practical aspects of delivery and timings, things I excel at in my art practice.

Some good things came out of this project, the whole family learned so much about this amazing man and my son achieved more confidence that he can create and deliver his homework in style.

I am back into the schools this week and I am now really ready to brainstorm with the students.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Rachel plays with shadows.

MyIdeasBook member and featured artist Rachel Welford is based in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in the UK. She designs and makes glass for architectural settings creating artworks that respond to the nature of a space, interact with the varying light of day and are constantly changing, allowing new detail and discoveries each time they are viewed.

Originally trained in fine art (painting and printmaking), the sensibilities developed during these early years are still evident within her current work. Gradually gravitating towards glass through a lifetime fascination with all things transparent, translucent and reflective, in 2009 she completed a Masters Degree in Glass at the University of Sunderland.

We asked Rachel about her inspirations, motivations and how she develops ideas. You can also see what inspires her in MyIdeasBook Community.
Where do you seek your inspiration?

I seek inspiration from the world around me – from anywhere. Wherever I go or whatever I do I keep my eyes and my mind open and I find that there are sources of inspiration everywhere, the world is full of them. Usually it’s something visual but not always. I then start to notice patterns that I’m inspired by in certain types of things. I examine the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, and that’s when ideas start to form. Sometimes this happens immediately, sometimes those sources of inspiration wait for ages, until some sort of tipping point moves things on to the next step.

What really excites you and gets your ideas flowing at the moment?

Shadows are a source of inspiration currently in the ‘gestation’ phase. I’m keeping an eye out for situations where very blurry shadows from things far away are combined with sharper ones from nearer objects. I’m also excited by the idea of combining moving shadows with frosted glass –shadows from nearby trees in the wind for instance, combined with film footage of shadows, and maybe layering again with sandblasted imagery on the glass surface.

The underlying inspiration, however, is light and how it interacts with objects and surfaces to create intriguing and complex two dimensional images.

Do you still use paper sketchbooks and notebooks?

I have several! I always have two paper sketchbooks on the go, one A4 and a small A6 one, although I use them less for art and more for writing notes, drawing diagrams to work out how something might be made, or making lists – things to research; germs of ideas; planning etc. My sketchbooks help me organise what I do and work things out. I also have a separate lined notebook for daily ‘to do’ lists. I do feel an urge to use sketchbooks more visually though so am thinking about that and may start drawing in them.

Why does MyIdeasBook help the development of your work?

I’m finding MyIdeasBook very useful in that it organises collections of images and notes by project or idea. In this digital age it’s useful to do this as a series of ‘books’ that can all be added to at any time. It offers an alternative to the linear chronological nature of paper sketchbooks, where notes or drawings for different projects are mixed up together but in date order, and can be hard to find at a later date. The think tool is really helping to get ideas moving and organise thoughts in a productive way towards plans and action!

How has the internet changed the way you work? Has it opened possibilities and how do you embrace these?

The internet has opened possibilities on lots of levels. It’s had a huge impact on speed of admin and communication – instant emails, internet banking etc. Of course it’s amazing as a low cost marketing tool – getting yourself out there and accessible. The internet is always my first port of call for research too – for keeping up with what’s happening in my field; market research; materials; techniques; services; finding opportunities and of course buying specialist supplies is easy online. I get nervous about a wholly cyber based life though so I still like to get out there and meet people face to face.

Do you intend to use the internet to market and sell your work?

I already use the internet to market my work. I have a website and use social media i.e. Facebook and twitter, I’ve had conversations with people on twitter who I can’t imagine making contact with any other way. I don’t see these solely for marketing to customers though, I like making contact with other creatives too. My next internet marketing project is starting an email newsletter that interested folk can subscribe to. When I get chance I’d also like to set up an online purchasing facility, but I’m not sure of the best approach as yet.

Why did you choose to use MyIdeasBook?

I thought MyIdeasBook would be useful in several ways. Collecting thoughts and developing ideas in a different manner to the chronological way of keeping sketchbooks was one. I’m interested to see if this leads to better ideas or being able to bring more of them to fruition – developing them in a more efficient way. The Think Tool was also attractive – anything to help get ideas over the rocky road to actually become something! I was also interested in the community – getting to see things by other artists, making new contacts and links. And it’s a marketing opportunity too!

You can more of Rachel’s work

www.rachelwelford.co.uk

http://rachelwelford.blogspot.com/

http://twitter.com/rachelwelford

 'Surface' 2011. Drawing of tree branch silhouettes. Black powdered pigment and graphite powder on paper. 1m x 1m Detail showing how the reflective surface of the powdered graphite catches the light, in comparison to the black powdered pigment and white of the paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pandora’s 7 Secrets to Creative Harmony

I became intrigued by Pandora’s work after seeing her embroidering while at a conference! Her work is richly diverse and a great example of how an artist can develop their practice over time and by using different materials for expression and collaborating.

I wanted to interview her to find out a bit more about her process as inspiration for my new project collaboration, as well as inspire those of you interested in diversifying and expanding how you make work in the new economy. What Pandora has managed to do is combine a quality of life as a thinking, ideas based artist who makes work that generates an income. She continues to explore her fascination with dark and difficult issues and this manifests as evocative embroideries, sculptures and works on paper.

Pandora Vaughan was born in London 1970 and is a UK/Canadian artist combining a studio art practice with public commissions and landscape design. Her work is focused on spatial experience and social history, often with themes of imposed confinement. Trained in metalwork and painting, she flips between two dimensional and three dimensional regularly. She is particularly interested in the social significance attached to different media and will use whatever suits a project.

Pandora studied in Nova Scotia and London, gaining a BA in Fine Art, MA Art in Architecture and MA Landscape Architecture. She regularly exhibits in the UK and has built installations extending from Snowdonia to Devon. For the past ten years she has also collaborated with the Welsh architect Huw Meredydd Owen under the name V&O – working across an area encompassing art and architecture, buildings and landscape, ideas and action, and between the community and its potential.

Where do you seek your inspiration?

– looking at crumbled abandoned places

– standing in the woods

– painting exhibitions

– flicking through sculpture books

Nova Scotian architecture

– in conversation with Huw when we are melding our thoughts on a project and something starts to make sense

What really excites you and gets your ideas flowing at the moment?

– Two different strands really.

The first is re-inventing a space which is neglected and how to bring other people into a community project around that which is not patronising but fun. I’m working with Huw and Ellis Williams Architects on the design for a sailing centre in Pwllheli right now. The site is a rough industrial seascape with lovely dunes, lousy soil and too much parking. Our (Huw & I) task is to help create a sustainable and interesting landscape and to involve the local community in a creative way, the challenge is very exciting and the attitude towards inventiveness on this project makes a nice change.

The second thing is a much more personal, visual art related pre-occupation which is the notion of how to interpret beauty and creative expression which is confined or hidden by our inhibitions or fears. I’m looking at this in a sculptural way now after trying with two dimensions for awhile.

Do you still use paper sketchbooks and notebooks? 

– yes, lots. For sketches of ideas and lists of all the things I want to make something out of and why. Also for scanning and adding to proposals. It is much more immediate than opening a program, typing and trying to draw freely with a trackpad badly. I do use ‘notes’ on my phone though, for ideas which catch me without a book. I love looking at old sketch books and finding a beautiful sketch of an idea, it reminds me that I had one, or that some things have stayed with me for 20 yrs and not yet found a form.

Why does MyIdeasBook help the development of your work?

– particularly the storage of images and being able to come back to them and see the connections between them and evaluate why they mean something to me or what they have in common. Then the categorisation of them. It is comforting to know that this method of sorting out inspiration is a creative tool that others use also and not a flattener of ideas.

How has the internet changed the way you work? Has it opened possibilities and how do you embrace these?

– exposure to other projects and exhibitions which I would not have heard about or sought out mainly. I don’t use social media very much because I don’t have time and I want to be in contact with the world physically as much as possible. I am on an un-manageable number of mailing lists so I do a lot of deleting and rarely visit even the interesting ones. The whole system is just too overwhelming. No one has that much free time.

Do you intend to use the internet to market and sell your work?

– most of my work is project based and there are several places where opportunities are posted so I do use those. In terms of saleable work, no. Past experience has had people find old work online, want to purchase it only to have to tell them its long gone, or else scams from fake buyers. I welcome enquiries but I don’t have a place set up for selling individual works. I might like to have a website of my own for doing that rather than relying on management by others.

Why did you choose to use MyIdeasBook?

– I think it is really helpful. Its a place separate from my laptop storage system which I have to seek out when I am in the mood and I make it a part of my studio practice to review it and add things and see a continuum. I also wanted to help Binita get the project seen by more people because I think it was brave of her to set it up.

Where can we see or read about your work online? 

Axis The Online Resource for Contemporary Art

www.vaughan-owen.org

 This embroidery is a plan of Brixton prison in London. 

How Darwin’s commonplacing got him celebrity status.

Charles Darwin was an ideas management superstar. It took years and even made him ill but he persisted and using the Commonplace Book system developed his BIG ideas slowly. They arguably had more time in those days but how Darwin did it wasn’t magic – it was systematic and controlled.

I found myself re-reading the exceptional and inspiring book ‘Where good Ideas Come From’ by Steven Johnson again and wanted to share a passage about the benefits of rigorous note making in idea development:

‘We can track the evolution of Darwin’s ideas with such precision because he adhered to a rigorous practice of maintaining notebooks where he quoted other sources, improvised new ideas, interrogated and dismissed false leads, drew diagrams, and generally let his mind roam the page.

We can see Darwin’s ideas evolve because on some basic level the notebook platform creates a cultivating space for his hunches; it is not that the notebook is a mere transcription of the ideas, which are happening offstage somewhere in Darwin’s mind.

Darwin was constantly rereading his notes, discovering new implications. His ideas emerge as a kind of duet between the present-tense thinking of his brain and all those past observations recorded on paper.

Darwin’s notebooks lie at the tail end of a long and fruitful tradition that peaked in Enlightenment-era Europe, particularly in England: the practice of maintaining a “commonplace” book.  Scholars, amateur scientists, aspiring men of letters – just about anyone with intellectual ambition in the seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries was likely to keep a commonplace book. The great minds of the period – Milton, Bacon, Locke – were zealous believers in the memory-enhancing powers of the commonplace book.  In its most customary form, “commonplacing” as it was called, involved transcribing interesting or inspirational passages from ones reading, assembling a personalized encyclopedia of quotations. ‘

We often laugh off and dismiss thoughts and ideas when we are in different contexts thinking they are rubbish or irrelevant. But somehow every thought can lead to a new thought and could later be re-worked to be a better thought. Improving how we manage hunches as creatives is a key to being better at making better, more relevant work. We now have access to visual information more readily too, snapping pics and having an immense array of visual imagery available at our fingertips online.

How does a modern artist and creative mastermind great ideas and then work out how to monetize them? It’s a matter of process. Firstly do not worry at all about monetizing your work. The priority plan is  to get new and diverse ideas progressing to a stage where real projects start to form into a more cohesive concept that you are really excited about.

Gather your research, look at what others are doing and collect what inspires you carefully. making notes about why. Constantly refer back and forth to all these thoughts and writings. it will take a long time and you will go back and forth but slowly ideas will form, and you can then push these initial ideas further by employing some creative thinking.

Creative people naturally (excuse pun) build ideas like Darwin did, by gathering and building inspiration from what we see around that fascinates us and what we read.  Innovation is valuable and how we innovate depends on how well we are harnessing our thoughts and connecting them up to build a potential project idea.

Once you have the project idea I have found the best thing to do is talk about it to professionals. Who do you know that is a commissioner, consultant or curator that you can safely disclose your thoughts to? Share the idea. Share all of it and see what comes back. There are people out there far more qualified to work out how to earn money from your work than you!

MyIdeasBook was inspired by the commonplace book system but tweaked to be an online tool for visually creative people. How creatives manage ideas is crucial to how they evolve. The reason we need to evolve the way we develop our creative work is because the world around us has changed. The way we created before the internet age may not be as effective as it once was.so By linking up what we are working through on paper to online images and websites and text in a systematic  ‘thinking zone’ is a key to moving our creativity to a new height of innovation.

Have you got a system like the commonplace book or do you use a sketchbook still?

Do you write a lot down and then never read it again or do you continually refer to it?

Does the way Darwin and co. kept commonplace books inspire you?

If you like the sound of getting more strategic in your ideas making and treating yourself to a well designed, private place on the web you can get a trial of MyIdeasBook here.