Monday, 21 January 2013

C is for... Cultivating Creativity

I watched this TED talk the other day, and I completely agree with everything said. Here's the blurb from the TED site:

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.
Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

This talk, along with a blog post I wrote a while back called Schools Out sum up why I have absolutely no nostalgia for my high school and why I wasn't sad, or indeed surprised, when it closed.

I vividly remember a chalk drawing that I did, that I was so proud of. In art class one afternoon we had to find something from the still life shelves to draw. I think this was where all the junk in the school came to die. I was one of the last to get there and ended up with slim pickings. The best option was this really freaky looking clown doll - that is how slim the pickings were. I took it back, plonked it on my desk and stared at it gloomily for a couple of minutes before I attempted anything. I'm glad I did. I had the idea that I would go and get some black sugar paper and chalks and try something different. Having just done a still life class the week before we had learnt about lights and darks, shadings and lightening, I thought this was going to be a real brownie points for Squarah moment. I only drew the lightest parts. The bits that lay in heavy shadow I left blank, letting the black paper come through. As it was a really colourful clown doll with a shiny porcelain face it worked really well. I could make the parts of his face that the light was hitting really stand out on the black with white chalk. All the colours of his costume looked so vivid in comparison. I was so proud of what I had done.

Before we could move on to something new we had to show our teacher our work. She came over and told me I wasn't finished. I hadn't done the shading. I explained my thoughts on the black paper and that I had done everything I had been intending to. My idea was done as far as I was concerned; I couldn't understand why she didn't get it. Then she did the unforgivable. She picked up the chalk. She drew on it. She started shading it all in. She did part of it, then put the chalk down and gave me the instruction that I was to finish it the way she had.

I sat there not doing anything for the rest of the class. When the bell went I got up, put all my things away, and on my way out to the door put my clown drawing in the bin. Right in front of her. Her only response was "That's a shame. It showed real promise, if you had only finished it properly." What could have ended with such joy, which is after all what art is for the most part there for, ended instead with frustration and a blood boiling anger that I carried the rest of the day. The worst of it was that I knew she had failed me. I was so angry at her because it was my first taste of my time at school not actually having anything to do with me. Me as a person, me as a talent, me as an exact combination that has never been before. From then on I did what the art teachers wanted me to, and I drew for my own enjoyment at home. Doing precisely as instructed I got straight A's in all my art exams, which were so regimented it was like painting in an army labour camp. I got points deducted once for lending the girl beside me a pencil sharpener. NEIN! Das ist verboten!

So here, after my rambling tale of sorrow, is the video. It is worth watching, so don't look at it and think 'twenty minutes, pah!' Also, if you enjoy it and have some time to spare there are plenty more great talks on the TED website.


Friday, 18 January 2013

B is for... Builders, Boyfriends and Bookshops.

Just a short post today containing three very separate thoughts.

The first is that we have builders at Bishops House just now doing the extension, and they are behaving most unbuilder-like (certainly in comparison to the first lot of builders we had). When they accidentally get mud on the carpets they go and get the hoover and clean it up. They went and found the cleaning supplies and cleaned the bathrooms they had been using last week. They are walking the long way round - as in down the path, out the gate, in the other gate and down their make-shift driveway - so that they don't ruin the garden surrounding the building site. I know it seems quite uncharitable of me to be surprised by them doing these things... but we're so pleased to have them! In my past experiences with builders, particularly on Iona where they have to stay overnight, everything they touch or go near they leave minging. But these guys have been trying really hard and we're certainly grateful for that!

Ok, now here's your frightening thought for the day. While down with my family at Christmas, I learnt that my little cousin is the only one in her class without a boyfriend. She is seven. This along with 12 year olds changing their relationship status on facebook to "It's complicated" has left me a bit weirded-out.

After that I feel the need to restore some faith in humanity, and luckily I have quite a gem tucked away. HMV has gone into administration, which is unfortunate. So has Blockbuster Video. Sad news for both of those companies, which have been around for yonks. However I have found a little pocket of joy for myself in this... Waterstone's bookshops are still going strong! (Watch this, now I've said that they'll close their doors tomorrow.) People are still reading! People are still buying books! I admit that Waterstone's is probably being funded single-handed by my dad and the many people who buy him vouchers for Christmas, but it still counts.

Hooray for book nerds everywhere!

Friday, 11 January 2013

A is for ... Apocalypse, Attitude and A Good Kick Up The Backside

First off, happy new year! I hope you had a great Christmas and new year and everything in between. Glad tidings, good wishes and a' that.

Well, that was a jolly little apocalypse we had there wasn't it? I can only hope they will all be like that. If those Mayans are watching us I think they must have had a right laugh. But here we are in 2013 whether we like it or not. And that means continuing with life as we know it, or starting new things - projects, jobs, courses... whatever.

While I've been reading everyone's updates on returning back and starting fresh I've noticed a trend, and not a good one. The common link is moaning. I've been aware of it for sometime, particularly on facebook and twitter (twitter being far, far worse for some reason) but it seems I have finally gotten to the 'I'm so done with this' stage with all the new years grumblings.

I have to admit my main reason for being done with it is that I flat out don't believe most of it. When people who I know to adore their jobs post regularly about how boring/irritating/stressful they find it I find it hard to see their point. Or people who are studying something they find incredibly interesting complaining about coursework they couldn't wait to get to three weeks ago... I just don't believe you.

There is of course a mentality that fits with that; look at how busy and important I am. I think some feel the need to moan about their workload or good deeds because they crave praise. Interesting how it is easier to condemn your hard, hard life publicly rather than share your own self-pride. Or perhaps it gets better results. Either way, interesting.

My next confession is my own reaction to these mini-rants. I tend to care less and less about what these people do. I see a post by someone who moans a lot and I skip over it. My brain switches itself off to the particular person and their little corner of drama.

There comes a time in life when you have to let go of all the pointless drama and the people who create it and surround yourself with people who make you laugh so hard that you forget the bad and focus solely on the good. After all, life is too short to be anything but happy.
Unknown author

If I do by some miracle read a post by a regular moaner I can't help but think "Oh my, your life is so hard. You are surrounded by people that love you and support you and only want the best for you. You have a job you like and are good at. You can pay the bills and afford to buy yourself a brand new phone when yours breaks. You are studying something you love. But by all means tell us all about your horrendous experience writing a thousand word essay about something you are passionate about."

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
Abraham Lincoln 

You are lucky. You can't forget that. If you woke up tomorrow with only that for which you were thankful for today, what you have?

A candle is a protest at midnight. It is a non-conformist. It says to the darkness, "I beg to differ."
Samuel Rayan

Here I am to be the candle at midnight - to protest. I look at people's lives and compare them to the moanings and requests for pity and I think "I beg to differ." I truly believe that living your life with that view is to live in darkness. Where is your happiness? Where is your unashamed joy that brings you leaping into every activity you enjoy? Why does everything you choose to do come with a grunt and a rant? Why do you choose to do it if that's how you feel? As my mum would say, "If you don't like it, change it."

I leave you with a quote containing the hope I have for everyone this year.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
Neil Gaiman