In this August edition of Align Center, we have writings on personal progress, gender in comics, an interview with an engineer-turned-artist who coined the term ‘conservation photographer’, and a long read about the crowd-funding platform, Patreon. Then listen in to a podcast the cultural conditions we’ve created that have created a screen-addicted generation, and check out four things I’m digging lately.
◦ selected words
In the endless striving for ‘productivity’, it’s easy to fall into the busy trap of email and social media, leading to a feeling of overwhelm. It feels good when we are making progress in meaningful work, but in the Age of Distraction, these days are often too few. But strategies as simple as checking things off a to-do list are the types of “small wins” author Jocelyn K. Glei recommends to make personal progress. We can compensate for our human tendencies by slowing down to define our own metrics and milestones, allowing us to bask in the momentum of building towards something meaningful.
jkglei.com (8min read)
The most popular post this month on our Facebook page is both a critique and drawing manual from Eisner-nominated artist (the comic industry’s Oscars) Renae de Liz. She lists seven common “tricks” artists use when drawing female characters, explaining how, with a slight adjustment, focus can be shifted away from sex and towards character. One of her humorous observations on the gender differences in depicting superheroes: “would you perk out Batman’s butt and twist him to see BOTH his pecs?”. Didn’t think so.
heroicgirls.com (3min read)
Contributing photographer and speaker for National Geographic, Cristina Mittermeier coined the term “conservation photographer”. Born in Mexico City, she graduated with a degree in biomechanical engineering, but over 20 years, would evolve to found the International League of Conservation Photographers, a non-profit whose mission is to further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography. And in 2014, she helped found SeaLegacy, a non-profit collective of some of the most experienced and renowned photographers, filmmakers, and storytellers working to protect our seas by changing the narrative through creative media. An inspiring example of making a difference through art.
mymodernmet.com (9min read)
If you’re lucky enough to have access to see wildlife on nature hikes, you might have felt the urge to take photos of the animals you’ve seen along the way. But what do you do when you can’t identify what you’ve just photographed? Now there’s an app for that. What started as a master’s project, iNaturalist uses a combination of A.I. and contributions from experts to identify photos — 5.3 million to date. The app has helped identify creatures not seen in centuries, and has even resulted in the discovery of new species. We’re not too far from Star Trek’s tricorder, though I’m still waiting for the app that can identify plants on my forest hikes as well.
www.theatlantic.com (6min read)
◦ listen in
Have you ever wondered, not who founded the internet, but who found the Internet? This episode of On Being examines the ways in which we blame our screen-addicted generation for the cultural conditions we sowed in the 80’s and 90’s. Who gave them the Internet and smartphones in the first place? It’s as if we created the sandbox and now we’re mad at them for building castles and getting sand in their shoes. Danah Boyd, Principal researcher at Microsoft Research, brings a wise perspective on a changing culture where tech is in the very fabric of being. She takes us back to a time when strangers weren’t dangerous, to the present day where the Internet amplifies the most divisive parts of our culture, while suggesting how a less prescriptive, more conversational approach can lead to breakthroughs — and real change.
On Being with Krista Tippett (52min podcast)
◦ eat well
I still remember my first avocado when I was twelve, and it wasn’t until last year that I tried cooking lentils. I’m still oddly intimidated by new foods, vegan foods especially, so much so that I find myself avoiding them. This is the main reason I have this section of the newsletter — to try new foods at least every two weeks. And tempeh was a big one on the list. Unlike tofu, tempeh is made from whole fermented soy beans, is much less processed and has a meaty texture as a bonus. Check out these preparation tips — the steamed method has worked for me.
thekitchn.com – Five Tips for Preparing Tempeh
◦ read slow
“Ten years from now, we want kids growing up and graduating college and high school to know that being a professional creator is possible. We’re shooting for this cultural sea change.” This is the dream of Patreon CEO and co-founder Jack Conte. With 50,000 active creators and over a million active patrons since launching in 2013, the subscription crowd-funding platform is well on its way. It’s fun browsing Patreon to see what is getting funded — often comics, instructional videos, and even surprise sensory feasts in nature (only in the Northwest!). With several creators earning over $30,000US per month, the platform has recently triggered a controversy after shutting down the account of a conservative journalist, leading popular podcaster Sam Harris (with 10,000 monthly subscribers) to announce that he will leave the platform at the end of this month.
theverge.com (19min read)
◦ current read
Since being published in 1979, art professor Dr. Betty Edwards has lectured around the world on the subjects of drawing, creativity, and creative problem-solving, teaching thousands of students how to draw. Ever wondered why children’s drawings, especially of people, all look similar? In her book, Edwards gives us the tools and techniques in order to see the world differently. Though neuroscience has rendered the left-brain right-brain argument outdated, the exercises in her book will level up your sketching ability in a few hours. My drawing has improved significantly, and I’m only half way through.
The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (291p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- Seat Assignment – Hilarious art experiment using common items while in-flight. My favorite are the Flemish lavoratory self-portraits.
- Map of Languages and Where They’re Spoken – Where are languages spoken? And after English, what’s the most popular language being learned? A superb infographic.
- Allan Rayman – CBC Unplugged – Little is known about this rising musician from Ontario. He doesn’t do interviews. His jazzy R&B style is influenced by Amy Winehouse. Released July 26 and also on Spotify.
- Winners of the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year – Eye candy in the form of a volcano, a new city, a library, fireflies, and a Whirling Dervish.
◦ humble thought
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically — to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.” – Stephen Covey
It’s been a little over two weeks since this self-imposed challenge to sketch for 30 days straight began, and in this time, I’ve crossed borders, slept in a van and flown across the country. I admit, I’ve missed two days, but am conscious not to be too hard on myself because I know I’ll make up for it by drawing the next morning and again later in the day. Still the pinge of guilt hits, but I feel relief knowing the point of this exercise was to incrementally improve a skill, which I definitely feel.
Does a more routine life mean less resistance? After all, the Internet seems obsessed with rituals — from daily rituals as written in Mason Currey’s blog-turned-book, to the headlines about morning rituals of the most / successful / inspirational / creative / healthy people. I even read half of Curry’s book, as I went through a period of studying the process of famous artists, not knowing at the time this was another form of procrastination. After all, creators don’t spend so much time studying when people wake up, eat and drink (and boy, artists back in the day seemed to turn to the bottle in a way that would seem like a drinking problem today). Instead, they’re busy creating.
I love living a mostly unstructured life, intentionally avoiding getting stuck in routines and allowing for last minute possibilities. The nature of short, project-based work almost requires this kind of flexibility. From small decisions like taking a different route to the market to not knowing what I’m doing tomorrow or this weekend, I find myself free to choose and adaptable to whatever comes next. But on the other hand, I believe in the importance of having an organized place to get work done, and that your best work is done only a few hours per day (the mornings for me). But I still find myself asking, does consistent creation demand structure? I will continue to experiment to see what works for me, and in the meantime, will continue to create.