Working in Secret

processIn case you haven’t heard, Sony Picture’s computer system has been hacked due to the imminent no longer imminent release of the new movie “The Interview,” which features a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

With the hack attack, Snapchat’s emails were leaked, revealing strategic business maneuvers the company was making. Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel was upset about the release of this sensitive information and he released a letter regarding how he felt.

What’s great about the letter, other than giving the public a peek into how a company responds internally to events of significant impact, is what Spiegel says about keeping secrets, specifically, the benefits of a company keeping secrets regarding its work.

“We keep secrets because we get to do our work free from judgment – until we’re ready to share it. We keep secrets because keeping secrets gives you space to change your mind until you’re really sure that you’re right.

“We care about taking the time to get things right. Secrets help us do that.

“Secrets keep the space between our community and the public – space that we need to feel safe in our expression and creativity.” (Evan Spiegel’s letter on Twitter.)

Yes! Exactly! As a writer, I keep quiet about what I’m working on for a couple of reasons. One, until I get to a point where a piece feels finished, it’s still nebulous to me. I don’t know where it’s going until I reach the end and I’ve done an initial polish or two. I will not share a work-in-progress because I don’t want the opinions of other people mid-way through the process. What do they know about what’s in my creative heart? As Spiegel says, I need space to change my mind, but I sure as heck don’t need outside judgment that could fog up my thoughts on a piece.

Two, I find that talking too much about my writing causes me to lose interest in the topic. I’ve read about this in books that give writing advice and it’s true. Too much blabbing makes it feel as though I’ve already written a piece and the passion heads straight out of my mouth only to be lost in the air.

The one person I implicitly trust with work-in-progress is my husband. He listens while I try to talk through the sticky parts, but he doesn’t interject his opinions about where a piece should go. He knows that I mostly need a sounding board so I can work things out myself. He’s also willing to hear me blather on about exciting stuff I find while doing research. And, my husband doesn’t tell others about what I’m working on. He, unlike the Sony hackers, knows how to keep a secret.

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Reading Textbooks for Fun

readingYou know you’re long out of college when you read textbooks for fun. It helps when you can choose your own textbooks and when they are particularly attractive.

I’m currently reading “Designing Brand Identity” by Alina Wheeler. It discusses the ins and outs of what it takes to brand and re-brand organizations. What’s great about the book is the spare amount of writing to convey what brand designers need to know. The cover and layout are beautiful. The end sheets are a deep hot pink. The book contains plenty of real-world examples of branding projects.

The other book I’m reading is “100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design” by Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne. Any book about graphic design that isn’t packed with pictures and a wonder to behold ought to be illegal. “100 Ideas” is well within the law in terms of its design. And I’m learning a ton about various graphic design techniques that were so revolutionary when introduced that they’ve become standard for designers today.

If these books aren’t technically textbooks, they certainly should be.

Designing Brand Identity, Fourth Edition, by Alina Wheeler.
Designing Brand Identity, Fourth Edition, by Alina Wheeler.
100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, by Steven Heller & Veronique Vienne.
100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, by Steven Heller & Veronique Vienne.

A New Bone Study

art_designAs I was posting photos of drawings on my portfolio page, it dawned on me that I haven’t done a bone study since college. I love bone studies and rock studies, anything that has me really working with chiaroscuro. So, I printed a few pictures of bones from the internet yesterday and sat down to draw this:

Skull study, pencil, Mary Warner, 12/14/2014.
Skull study, pencil, Mary Warner, 12/14/2014.

If you want to see the pic I used to draw the skull, visit this page.

I think the forehead on mine is a bit short, but considering I drew this in about an hour after having not done a bone study in over two decades, I’d say it’s passable. The teeth were a challenge. Mine look a touch more happy than the original.

World Discovery: The Macro Setting

tipsMy lovin’ spouseful Erik spent some time watching a video today on how to take photos for posting items for sale online. The single most useful piece of information he took away from the video was truly a major world discovery for both of us. If you want to take close-up photos, check to see if your camera has a Macro setting.

We have owned our digital camera for 7 or 8 years and have struggled to take decent close-up photos the entire time. Guess what? It has a Macro setting. Erik tried it and found that he could take a clear photo of small text from about an inch away.

Who knew? Now we do, and you do too. Check your camera for a Macro setting.

I’m a Fence-Sitter

Wooden fenceDo you ever get so taken with a song that you have to listen to it ad nauseum until you burn it into your brain? That’s the way I feel about Tim Minchin’s “The Fence”. Minchin is a musical comedian or comedic musician (one of those Creative Hyphenates that belong to the World Creative Hyphenate Club … and if there isn’t such a club, there ought to be). He’s smart as a whip. I kinda think you have to be smart as a whip if you can write comedic songs that are complex and make a point. And that’s just what he does.

Other than the catchy tune, what draws me to “The Fence” is its message, urging people to stop looking at the world in black-and-white, or binary, terms. One of the lyrics in the song says that it’s “An anthem to ambivalence.” Yes! That’s how I feel about life. I know how easy it is to fall into binary thinking, but I continually make the effort to drag myself back to a state of ambivalence. It’s through ambivalence that we give ourselves room to see others not as “Evil Others,” but as “Others Trying to Make Their Way in the World Just Like We Are”.

Have a listen (or ten).

 

Psalm for the Artist

art_designMy sister-in-law Jill Warner has been working feverishly over the past few months to fulfill a dream. She wanted to record an album of music for use in progressive Christian churches. By day, Jill is the minister at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Aberdeen, South Dakota. By day, night, and every other time, she is a musician. For years, she has been writing new music in order to update hymnals for those who don’t connect with the older songs. Her dream to create an album of her songs has come true this past week with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, a bunch of talented musicians, and her church, along with her own hard work and talent. To assist her in her goal, I agreed to design the CD cover for her (and learned a lot about working with Pixlr and PDF templates in Photoshop in the process).

I’m proud to announce that Jill’s album, “Psalm for the Artist,” has been released. A sampler from the album can be found at Nate Poeppel’s website. (Sampler embedded below.) Nate is the musician who recorded, mixed, and mastered the album. Along with Jill and Ron Parker, he also produced it. Lyrics for the songs can be found on Jill’s Tributaries of Faith website.

When the album is available, which should be by the end of the year, I’ll let you know where to get it.

Congratulations, Jill, for your grand accomplishment!

 

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=2401262604/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/transparent=true/

My son Ian, the artist

inspiration2This week, my husband Erik, son Sebastian, Erik’s sister Jill, and I made a trip to North Dakota State University in Fargo to see my son Ian’s final senior art show. He exhibited his work along with several other students in what is known as the Baccalaureate exhibit.

We got a sneak peek of Ian’s work some months ago during a smaller exhibit, so we knew that the project he was attempting was ambitious. The final result was so overwhelming that upon seeing it, I promptly burst into tears.

I knew how much work Ian had put into it, but it was more than that. Ian is one of those rare people who find their strong calling early in life and just keep working at it, getting so good that they blow people away with their skill. While he has always had a natural talent for art, he has also earned his expertise. My mother’s (and artist’s) pride burst right from me when I saw “Saga” in its full 10-feet high by 18-feet wide glory. Ian is truly an inspiration to me.

Let me show you Ian’s work.

Ian Warner with his piece "Saga," November 25, 2014, Memorial Union Gallery, NDSU. "Saga" is a blend of Norse mythology with the culture of North Dakota.
Ian Warner with his piece “Saga,” November 25, 2014, Memorial Union Gallery, NDSU. “Saga” is a blend of Norse mythology with the culture of North Dakota.
"Saga" by Ian Warner, November 25, 2014, Memorial Union Gallery, NDSU.
“Saga” by Ian Warner, November 25, 2014, Memorial Union Gallery, NDSU.
Ian (on the left) and the rest of the students showing their senior art work at their Baccalaureate exhibit, NDSU, November 25, 2014.
Ian (on the left) and the rest of the students showing their senior art work at their Baccalaureate exhibit, NDSU, November 25, 2014. (The professor introducing the group is on the right.)
It's official. Ian has his name on a wall.
It’s official. Ian has his name on a wall.
In Norse mythology, Thor stands in for the common man. In Ian Warner's "Saga," he also doubles as the common laborer of the Midwest.
In Norse mythology, Thor stands in for the common man. In Ian Warner’s “Saga,” he also doubles as the common laborer of the Midwest.
The face of Jörmungandr in Ian Warner's "Saga." Jörmungandr is symbolic of the Red River in this work.
The face of Jörmungandr in Ian Warner’s “Saga.” Jörmungandr is symbolic of the Red River in this work.
In Norse mythology, it was a cow licking an iceberg that gave birth to all that is.
In Norse mythology, it was a cow licking an iceberg that gave birth to all that is.
The sun with a candle, part of Norse mythology that Ian explained but that I've promptly forgotten.
The sun with a candle, part of Norse mythology that Ian explained but that I’ve promptly forgotten.
Curves of the serpent that mimic a section of the Red River in Fargo, ND.
Curves of the serpent that mimic a section of the Red River in Fargo, ND.
I love the detail of Thor's boot and how Ian chose to leave some sections of "Saga" unfinished.
I love the detail of Thor’s boot and how Ian chose to leave some sections of “Saga” unfinished.
This tiny oil derrick is only a few inches high in "Saga." To see it, you have to get very close to the piece. Ian wanted to work the North Dakota oil fields into his piece and this is how he did it. There is an even tinier derrick on the horizon that's maybe a quarter of an inch in height.
This tiny oil derrick is only a few inches high in “Saga.” To see it, you have to get very close to the piece. Ian wanted to work the North Dakota oil fields into his piece and this is how he did it. There is an even tinier derrick on the horizon that’s maybe a quarter of an inch in height.