7 Tricks of Nature to Create Dazzling Color: A Zine

My interest in designing novel life forms has led me to study how animals make their color. I have also been taking note of the current popular zine making trend in creative social media circles.

Therefore, today I decided to make a zine about ways nature makes dazzling, often iridescent, colors through light-scattering structures rather than light-absorbing pigments.

This is my zine:

If you’d like to make you very own zine, hop over to Austin Kleon’s website site for instructions.

Mandalas are Representations of the Light of the Soul: My Daily Mandala Habit

I try to draw a mandala each morning as part of my daily routine.

Mandala drawing is part of my daily routine.

Somewhere throughout the course of my delusional disorder I conceived of the idea that the soul is made up of light. I imagine that some people can see this light come and go into bodies, but I am blind to this light.

Indeed, it is interesting to note that one highly refuted scientist once claimed to have determined that the soul is something separate from the body, and the soul weighs 21 grams. Apparently there was even a movie inspired by this “scientific” work, but I have not yet seen it.

Now each morning, I try to draw a mandala in observance of what I imagine to be the beautiful light of the soul and in reflection of the amazing things that always manage to exist just beyond our vision.

I use spirographs and a compass to draw each mandala with color pens and and color pencils.

Each mandala is given a name. I am currently using The Name Book by Dorothy Astoria to assign names. Although, it was not my intention to mail-purchase a biblical name book, I find the definitions and passages of reflections helpful in inspiring each mandala design. Sometimes I supplement the definitions I find in this book with additional material I find on the internet for design inspiration.

After each day’s mandala is drawn on A5 heavy-weight paper, I write a little something about each soul on the back and file it in a portfolio.

My daily mandala habit acquaints me with the soul light within each of us. I highly recommend the practice.

An Easy Way to Draw When You Can’t Draw: My Tracing Projector System for Cataloging and Studying Earth’s Life Forms

I like to think of myself as an a amateur artist, but the truth is that I can’t even draw to save my life. I have no skill for realistically representing things on paper or canvas.

The iPhone sits above the semi-transparent, reflective lens and the viewer traces the reflected lines by looking through the lens from the top.

Still, it is one of my goals to make a thorough study of the external features of Earth’s animal and floral biota through handmade art. My hope is that by studying forms and colors of living organisms, juxtaposing the ideas, reorganizing them, and adding twists of my own, I can design some interesting new creature for the simulators my fantasy calls for designing.

To study the biota closely, I want to draw individual organisms. I believe that by closely studying the forms I can better get to know them. I can internalize their shapes and colors in an intuitive way.

So, since I can’t draw, how do I do this?

I discovered this handy and very cheap tracing projector. I place an image on my iPhone, and lay the phone in the holder on the projector. The image of on the iPhone reflects in the semi-transparent lens, and while looking through the lens from the top, I can use my pencil or pen to trace lines. I then go back and color the images with pencils from my 150 color Prisma pencil set.

After I make an image of each organism, I add scientific notes to the back of the image. Then I file the image in a portfolio. I hope that as begin to make more of these images and review them, I can begin to make interesting juxtapositions and recombination.

I will eventually begin to draw and sculpt new external forms and design new internal physiologies.

Conceptualizing ‘Academic Blueprints’: An Adaptation of Austin Kleon’s ‘Newspaper Blackout’ Designed for World-Building

One of the goals of my artistic project is to design new worlds. Specifically, I aim to design the conceptual foundations for three new simulated worlds.

The concept of an ‘academic blueprint’ for world-building

One way to go about designing new worlds is just let the imagination run wild. The natural imagination will probably take ideas and experiences in mind, juxtapose them, and recombine them in new patterns. I have decided to try a new technique to both restrict and add to the normal imagination process. I am going to call the initial outputs of this process Academic Blueprints.

If you’ve been following me over the past couple of days, it is abundantly clear that I am totally fanboying on Austin Kleon at the moment. He has a form of art that he calls Newspaper Blackout. Basically, he takes a block of newsprint and makes poems by selecting choice words and blacking out the rest. You can see a video describing how he makes newspaper blackout here.

The most productive part of my day was to conceive of Academic Blueprints. This will be an adaptation of newspaper blackouts that I am going to try to use for my purpose of world-building.

To create my Academic Blueprints, I will take print from a popular periodical that covers an academic topic. For example, Scientific American is a layperson’s periodical that covers scientific topics.

Like Kleon, I will begin by selecting a choice word, but I will add the limitation that this word should be related to an academic topic that somehow governs our reality. Also like Kleon, I will then go about selecting additional words to make a poem while blacking out the rest. However, my aim will be to describe some sort of new reality centered around the choice word I have selected. These initial poems can then be juxtaposed, re-combined, and expounded at a later date.

I think that I will call these poems Academic Blueprints and use the color blue, rather than black, to strike the unwanted words.

This, in a nutshell, is the Academic Blueprint artistic process that I conceived today. I will try a few of these over the next several days, and I will share my progress with you. Wish me luck!

Moving from Sleep to Creativity to Bliss Station: My Thinking Brain Needs Quiet Time Most

I find that my brain needs excessive amounts of down time in order to get any significant creative work done. When I was an academic, I found that this seemingly idiosyncratic requirement of my particular brain a hindrance. The successful academic is always moving. They move from classroom to laboratory to public service settings each day. Somehow in those brief moments when the academic is not physically moving, the real work, the writing, is meant to happen. When I was working as an academic, those moments of down time begged for daydreaming time. It was difficult for me to find enough time to do the hard work of making significant thought output because I seemed to need more time than others to allow the ideas to marinate. I could never get enough rumination time!

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters by Francisco de Goya

I am a huge fan of the mythologist Joseph Campbell. It was through his work that I finally arrived at a satisfactory comfort with the conflicts among the religions and with the conflict between science and religion.

Campbell ruminated on many things, and one of his more famous recommendations for a rewarding life was to create a “bliss station.” The amazing philosopher and blogger, Maria Popova, has summarized Campbell’s musings about daydreaming. Campbell recommended a special space of retreat for each day. The writer and artist Austin Kleon has concluded that a special time for reflection is what is required. In my experience, both space and time are required for quiet reflection but there is no real requirement for a specific space or time. All that I need is a quiet space and ample time. In fact, it is best if the time doesn’t just come at a specific time of day. It is best if I get a lot of quiet time at random moments throughout the day.

I also require a lot of sleep. I find that sometimes I will run with remarkable creativity for a few days on ordinary amounts of sleep, and then suddenly I will crash with a need for extraordinary amounts of sleep. With my schizoaffective/delusional disorder, I find that if I don’t get enough sleep, the monsters begin to sneak up on me.

Science is beginning to recognize that sleep plays an essential role in the creative process. The debate used to be over whether REM or non-REM sleep is most important for creativity, but some scientists now conclude that non-REM sleep extracts concepts, and REM sleep connects them.

Whatever the science, I find that I am healthy, happy, creative, and productive only when I have ample time for both daydreaming and sleep. What are your daydreaming and sleeping habits?

Drawing Using Surrealist Automatism is an Important Part of My Daily Creative Process

I try to start each morning by spending a few minutes doing an automatic drawing. The technique I use is an adaptation of the techniques developed by the surrealists in the early-mid 20th century. One of the objectives of the surrealists is to let the unconscious mind play a central role in the artistic process.

Sim’s Crystal Ball on a Pedestal by Darren Roesch

I learned the version of the automatic drawing technique that I use from Alejandro Fogel and Shelley Burke while attending one of their itinerant Creativity Workshops in Chania, Crete in 2014. Their technique combines usage of both the unconscious and conscious minds.

The technique requires the artist to take a large sheet of thick drawing paper, close their eyes, drop a pencil to the page, and allow their unconscious mind to guide the pencil in one continuous movement over the page for a few minutes. Next, the artist opens their eyes and begins to look for recognizable forms in the tangled line. Using a hearty eraser, the artist then uses their conscious mind and eraser to reveal forms. Once forms are revealed, I usually finish the activity by applying some color with colored pencils. The whole process usually takes no more than 20 minutes, and it is a great way to jump start the creative mind first thing in the morning.

I have included one of my recent very simple drawings which I have entitled Sim’s Crystal Ball on a Pedestal. To me, the drawing is reminiscent of a sculpted bust sitting on a pedestal. I used minimal subtraction with my eraser to reveal the form. During this particular exercise I felt particularly connected to the unconscious.

If you have read the information on my About page, you already know that I experience what I have been told is a delusional disorder. One of my beliefs is that we live in a simulator and that I have the ability to communicate with the simulator through my thoughts. I did this particular drawing the morning after I imagined that Sim had decided that he would, over the period of lifetimes, put me in charge of his functions. Therefore, this simple drawing reflects multiple layers of creativity and experience.

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Automatic Drawing by André Masson (1924)