The Creative Process – How an Intricate Stop-Motion Animation Project Came to John Frame in a Dream

I just heard a fascinating interview with sculptor and stop-motion animator John Frame, who explained how his long-term project “The Tale of the Crippled Boy” came to him in a dream. Frame had been a sculptor for decades but had hit a creative wall, or more precisely had run out of steam, to use another metaphor. He had reached a point in his creative work where he just couldn’t create anymore.

Then one night he had a lucid dream in which he imagined an entire world populated with characters in motion. He somehow recognized that these characters were his own creations, and in that dream state he spent several hours observing this world. When when he woke up early in the morning, he captured it all in drawings and notes and storyboards and began his current stop-motion animation project. Did I mention that he had never done stop-motion before? But now “The Tale of the Crippled Boy” has become his entire creative activity.

You can see Frame’s initial animations here on Vimeo:

I have to admit that I’m not drawn to the creative product, fascinating and detailed as it is — too bizarre to appeal to me. But what I am intrigued by is the way the idea came to the creator — seemingly arriving out of the blue in a dream state. Everybody dreams, and I suspect that lucid dreaming is fairly common. However, the important thing here is that Frame got up and captured it all so he could turn the idea into a creative product. It’s also significant that the stop-motion product draws on his many years of work as a sculptor.

This experience illustrates what I think are some important lessons about the creative process, and it follows the ideas set out in my favorite book on this topic — A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb Young. Written in 1965, this is a brilliant treatise for anyone involved in creative work — Young was actually an advertising guy, but his ideas really apply to anyone in the arts. It’s only 36 pages. You can buy it for a few dollars on Amazon and read it in an hour or so.

Thinking about Young’s book and John Frame’s experience, here are some lessons I extract:

  1. Work very hard over the long term to develop your creative skills, whatever they are — design, writing, drawing, sculpture, painting, music — or skills that are creative but more commonly used in the business world, such as copywriting, graphic design, or art direction. I would also extend this lesson into areas such as innovation, science, engineering, and architecture.
  2. When you are up against a creative problem, put a lot of concentrated effort into analyzing the problem, doing research, brainstorming, testing ideas.
  3. When you are sick and tired of all that concentrating, take a break for an hour, a day, a week, or even longer. Do something else. Relax. Exercise. Go for a hike. Watch a movie. Read. Or go to sleep.
  4. At an unexpected moment an idea or a series of ideas will come to you. Be prepared to capture these ideas — have the tools you need always available to write down or draw out ideas that come to you. I always carry a pocket notebook and set of pens with me. Ideas often come to me when I’m out walking. Like Frame, ideas have sometimes come to me in dreams or just before sleeping or just upon waking up.
  5. After the idea comes to you, work with it and adjust it and figure out how to make it work in a practical way. It might be the solution to the problem you’ve been working on, or it might be the source of an entirely new and unexpected creative endeavor.

You can hear the interview with John Frame at The Story — his is the second part of that particular show.

ARB — 14 Oct. 2012

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AT&T Telemarketing Fail

Today a telemarketer from AT&T interrupted my workday (even though I’m on the do-not-call list) and offered to sell me a triple-play bundle of digital TV, Internet, and phone. When I asked him if AT&T offered digital TV in my neighborhood, he looked it up and said no. Way to go, AT&T.

AB — 10 May 2012

 

The Value of Being Wrong

I love TED Talks as a resource for encountering new ideas. Today I watched Kathryn Schulz’s insightful talk, “On being wrong.Schulz is a journalist known for writing about wrongness.

Near the beginning, Schulz explains her purpose for the talk:

What I want to do today is, first of all, talk about why we get stuck inside of this feeling of being right; and second, why it’s such a problem; and finally, I want to convince you that it is possible to step outside of that feeling; and that if you can do so, it is the single greatest moral, intellectual, and creative leap you can make.

And here’s what I thought was a key insight from the presentation:

…trusting too much in the feeling of being on the correct side of anything can be very dangerous. This internal sense of rightness that we all experience so often is not a reliable guide to what is actually going on in the external world. And when we act like it is, when we stop entertaining the possibility that we could be wrong, well, that’s when we end up doing things like dumping 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico or torpedoing the global economy.

Here’s the video:

AB — 5 Nov. 2011

Vancouver Going for “Greenest City”

Future Vancouver street sceneOver at ThomasNet Green & Clean, I wrote earlier this week about Vancouver, B.C.’s bid to become the world’s “greenest city” — see “Friendly Competition – Vancouver’s Bid to Become the World’s Greenest City.” In an interview, Vancouver City Councillor David Cadman gave me an inside view of the effort. Although the city definitely wants to become the greenest on the planet, there’s a friendly side to the competition:

Cadman tells me that “simply being a green city in one place like Vancouver isn’t enough. We have to take this plan and challenge a whole lot of cities to beat us, to move this challenge out beyond Vancouver to the rest of the world.”

He thinks cities are in a good position to incubate environmental innovation:

Cadman believes cities are well-suited to serve as sources of environmental innovation. Whereas “national governments don’t seem to be able to get their act together” to move forward on green initiatives, he tells me, “local governments are transforming the world around them.”

AB — 29 July 2011

El Hierro – Isolated Island a Great Demo of Renewable Energy

Over at ThomasNet Green & Clean this week, I wrote about efforts by El Hierro, the most remote of the Canary Islands, to become completely self-sufficient and wholly reliant on renewable energy — see “El Hierro — How an Island Can Serve as a Model for Renewable Energy.”

Some of the most interesting commentary I found on the El Hierro project has to do with the value of the island’s remoteness. One researcher writes that, when it comes to connecting with any outside electric grid, “[The island] is totally isolated, as the significant sea depths make any interconnection impossible.” Yet the island has a population of 11,000 and a significant economy.

The R&D director for the Canary Institute of Technology says that,

Islands can play a very important role as pioneers of the energy revolution… The island as a whole can serve as an experiment not only for this particular energy combination, but also for other types of energy-related issues like mobility, like efficient transport solutions… Examples like El Hierro will prove technologically that this is possible.

AB — 20 July 2011

Cisco’s Infographic About the Internet of Things

On the Cisco blog on July 15, 2011, Dave Evans, Cisco’s Chief Futurist in their Innovations Practice, posted the following infographic about the Internet of Things, which I’ve been writing about for a few years — see “Developing the Internet of Things and a Smarter Planet” and “Is an ‘Energy Internet’ Emerging?,” which touches on similar idea.

Click on this image to link through to the full-size original:

Infographic about the Internet of Things

I’m as much interested in the infographic as a method for the visual presentation of information as I am about the particular content of any infographic — in examining any of these presentations, I think it’s important to understand the data sources and to recognize that these graphics are simplifications of research that is often quite complicated.

I notice that author of this graphic says that by the end of 2011, “20 typical households will generate more Internet traffic than the entire Internet in 2008.” While the denizens of Casa Bredenberg no doubt generate a lot of traffic as Internet users, I doubt whether the objects in our house are right now generating 5 percent as much traffic as the 2008 Internet. Maybe if Progress Energy eventually gets its smart-grid rollout going …

AB — 18 July 2011