I've long been a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. He was prolific. More than 500 buildings completed in his lifespan. Some of them the most admired structures in the world (not always the case when they were first completed).
Like any great story Mr Wright's had a number of acts. Phillip Johnson, the critic-turned architect, said Wright was the finest architect of the 19th Century and would sleight Wright's organic designs as inferior or less relevant than the modernism that he espoused. Far from being a spent, irrelevant force Wright responded with the design of Falling Water - the Kaufman residence in rural Pennsylvania - a tour de force of design and engineering and a paean to its natural environment. Aged 90 he was supervising the building of The Solomon R Guggenheim Memorial Museum, another utterly original and iconic structure that was and is unlike any other. He died just months before its completion.
Then of course, there is the man himself. Wright believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture. His ideas and ideals preempted the contemporary urge towards sustainable architecture. He was an iconoclastic polymath - engineer, draughtsman, architect, furniture and lighting designer, author and philosopher - and he defied the idea that a person's contribution is spent by their middle years.
I made these little clips to experiment with lo-fi video.
See also Iris Apfel
This ThinkingCat comes from left field. I watched a documentary (BBC Culture Show) about the issues surrounding painting a queen. Fascinating. How do you show them aging - can you be a woman and a monarch and be seen to be becoming weak or frail? Hard enough for a man - huge burden for a women (and no Dove 'real beauty' campaigns). Then photography came alone and after Victoria the oi polloi wanted to see their ruler and imagine they were just like them. If only it was that easy.
I have made a far more elaborate picture than most other ThinkingCats. It was an interesting exercise but it takes too long and frankly It lacks the spirit of some of the other ones I have done. I'll print one off to see how it looks up large.
That's part of the creative process - having a bit of a play - see what works and what doesn't.
Have got a bit behind uploading new stories. Will have to get cracking.
I rather like Leonard Cohen. Years ago I saw a film about him as a young poet in Canada. I thought maybe being a poet might be something worth becoming - mainly because I can't play an instrument and it might be a way to excite the media…and possibly some groupies. Mr Cohen has always had that - he still does at a time when most are contemplating mobility scooters and grandpa nappies.
I was asked by a friend to make a picture of Cohen. So I did.
I quite like the almost op-art effect of Bowie's costume in this picture. When Bowie's alter ego Ziggy's band the Spiders From Mars first appeared they were dressed in jump suits made from Liberty curtain fabric. Bowie was influenced by his early mentor and lover Lindsay Kemp whose performance art drew on Japanese kabuki themes - you can see that in the full image.
You'll have to excuse me if I change around the layouts of the images…not very keen on Germanic systemisation of design…which reminds me - must research the Vignellis for a future ThinkingCats story - possibly in tandem with Milton Glaser - a contemporary of theirs but with a rather more pot-modern approach. Glaser is eclectic, brilliantly drawing on genres and styles while the Vignellis, equally brilliant in their restraint are characterised by extreme restraint - Massimo Vignelli believes that only eight or so typefaces are even worth using in graphic design. He may be right…he'd hate my font.
Visit Mr Bowie.
I've been thinking a lot about about Machiavelli. I am divided about whether to include him in the main part of the ThinkingCats™ site because some of his ideas are frankly, repulsive. To be 'machiavellian' is synonymous with being conniving and ruthless in getting what you want. The interesting thing about Machiavelli is that his ideas were theoretical - he wrote them in the book that has become known as 'The Prince' as instruction for ruling and wielding power in an era of jostling between small states and principalities - with dynasties in what is now known as Italy and France (including families like the infamous Borgias and the Medicis of Venice). He wrote it to curry favour from 'Lozeno The Magnificent' while he was under house arrest having been accused of a seditious act. In a way it was a kind of job application - though it wasn't published until five years after his death - and Lorenzo never actually got round to reading it. It was banned by the papacy - as were all of Nicollo Machiavelli's works - including his poems - but The Prince found its way to Britain and was widely read. Hitler, Stalin and Tony Blair all read it and its unblinking instructions on how to gain and manipulate power are seen as guide for soldiers, politicians and corporate climbers alike.
It's hard to separate ideas from the consequences they have. I'm interested in the life and ideas of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple. Some would say he was Machiavellian in his approach to business - and he certainly was ruthless when it came to getting what he wanted - though the expression 'The ends justifiy the means.' is attributed to Machiavelli it doesn't actually appear in The Prince - though the idea is a theme of the book. If Jobs wasn't so steely in his resolve would the world have benefited from the contributions his corporation have made to society (I am writing this on a Mac and I make my paintings on an iPad).
So - I've added a sketch of Machiavelli and am considering his inclusion - probably without the floating orb.
(I also want to include thinkers whose Ideas I personally disagree with as well as those I do hold to be 'true' - because agreeing isn't thinking).
This documentary about Machiavelli is worth setting some time aside for if you are interested in a snapshot of of his life and the context of his contribution to contemporary thought.
I am on a short vacation to recharge my creative batteries. Where better than to be over-stimulated in New York City? Still - long flights are perfect for Thinking Cats. Here's one I made between Sydney and Los Angeles. I feel a little ambivalent about Churchill - he was a poor commander in World War 1 and cost New Zealand and Australian Expeditionery forces terrible slaughter at Gallipoli. But later he was the right leader to confront Hitler and rallied not only the troops but also the population in time of near catastrophic defeat. A reminder that no one is ever all-good all the time. We have our ups and downs.
It was a marathon to get the basic site up and running last night. But I miscalculated one thing in my excitement to share the idea of ThinkingCats with you…the site looked fine on computer screen and on iPad…but to my horror it looked really terrible on a mobile phone. These days that's unacceptable - but, as I said yesterday - always in beta.
I am pulling everything together myself - so I don't have the luxury of having a developer that sill say - "David, that will really suck.". I'm learning as I go. But that's ok. ThinkingCats never stop learning.
Keen to get through this phase and to start working on the bios. I realise it is a little hard to understand what I am trying to do without more material. But it's taking shape. Keep coming back to see how things are progressing - it's a bit like a slow opening in a restaurant.
I'm getting feedback from friends, but I can always take more suggestions on board. If you want to nominate someone for ThinkingCats treatment - please go right ahead. I'm offering a limited edition print if your nomination is done (if more than one person nominates - it will be a random draw). They look really great as big graphics. To the people who have already asked about buying prints - just working on getting the best prices for you.
ThinkingCats started out as something completely different to the idea that it is today. That's the thing about ideas - they grow and mutate. The more contacts and interactions there are the more ideas you have.
I've been drawing and scribbling ideas all my life. Along the way I stopped doing it so much as I did when I was younger. More and more ideas relied on sketching out ideas on the computer. Much as I love the Macintosh (it was the one most important piece of technology to come along in my lifetime that transformed everything. It got to the point where I hardly drew at all. I'd fitfully go through the process of buying Moleskin notebooks and drawing in them. But their 'specialness' is intimidating - they are expensive and if you make a bad picture there's no digital trash can…it kind of takes the simple pleasure out of it for me. To all the artists and people who love their sketchbooks - don't get me wrong - I enjoy looking at the work you share online…don't stop. It's just me.
By chance I saw a RCA presentation on YouTube that illustrated a talk about the future of education by Ken Robinson - one of those shows where a hand draws the ideas while the speaker does their thing. 'I could do that' I thought. But I had to figure out how. I found an application that does the animation but I despaired at the thought of having to learn Adobe Illustrator to make the vector graphics needed for the app. I found some drawing apps that run on the iPad. I bought an iPad Mini and a stylus and started to play. The pic of George Carlin was my first effort that actually looked anything like a 'result'. I let rip freehand - the scribble of Stanley Kubrick in the middle was made on a legal pad with a ballpoint pen years ago. In the mean-time I had got stuck in photoshop making odd pastiches of the work of Julian Opie - lifeless and dull.
Then there was the influence of the late, great Al Hirschfeld - I saw a video about him called The Line King and boom, some lights came on. Marry that to the work of Maira Kalman (links to TED Talk) - simple, charming and evocative and I was inspired just to draw.
The ThinkingCats web site had been sitting dormant for years…a sing page with a solitary image I had made (believe it or not people paid good money for these on Trademe…dip pen and art paper. The same drawing, over and again…maybe I would change the day of the week from time to time.
So anyway…ThinkingCats is taking shape. I had to finally commit to making the website as some where to share my output. I have a kind of scheme in my mind about what I want to do with it. So - be kind - it's a prototype - or, as we say in the techy business - it's in beta. It may stay there - evolving constantly. It has been a enjoyable start. The drawings are building up. I've sold a couple of the beautiful art quality prints - they look amazing. (I was like a kid at Christmas when the samples arrived from my printer - a real craftsman - haven't been so excited for a while).
I hope you'll come along for the ride - nominate your ThinkingCat (please don't ask me to rationalise the name too much - it's existential - ok?) - participate in the comments here, on Facebook and where ever else in this mad, media-everywhere world. (Links Below).
I never did get around to making the animated presentation. Here is the video that inspired me (links to YouTube)
Do you have a favorite ThinkingCat? Let me know - someone from the arts, sciences or just iconoclastic people who represent an idea or ideal. Click here to nominate.
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