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Scribble Artist Interview with Kelly Blake!

Big Eyed Cat by Kelly Blake

Big Eyed Cat by Kelly Blake

Scribble Town (ST): We are so very happy to have the talented Kelly Blake with us! When I came across her artwork I could see how sensitive this person is to the world around us. From that, I just had to know more about her. What are you up to Kelly?

Kelly Blake (KB): Hi Scribble Town! I’m Kelly Blake and I live in the creative city of Bristol, United Kingdom. I’ve spent a long time studying throughout my life but I now feel I’m at the point where I have learned everything I felt necessary and I now feel confident enough to pursue the dream of producing my own art. I actually moved to London several years ago to complete a Masters in Production Design (movie art direction for anyone who is unsure) but after finishing and eventually moving back home I realised my true passion lies with illustration and creating my own individual artwork. So that’s what I’ve begun.

Normally when I produce some artwork there’s a reason why I’m producing it. The main factor behind all of my work is that I absolutely adore animals; it’s the common thread behind all art I create and I have a large array of artwork under my belt which (I hope) shows just how much I love all things fuzzy. At the moment I am focusing on publishing my very first adult colouring book called ‘Into the Wild’ and I’m working to raise the funds necessary to complete the project by producing my own Kickstarter campaign. If anyone is unsure of what Kickstarter is, it’s basically a crowd funding website where you launch a campaign and ask for the public to fund you. Imagine Dragon’s Den but will a billion different dragons! It’s going rather well at the moment so I’m doing everything possible to ensure I raise all the funds and so I’m able to complete the project successfully.

Please take a look at my Kickstarter campaign here so you can get a feel of the project.

ST: The concept is wonderful!  Is Into the Wild: A Coloring Book About Nature just for adults?  I think many people of all ages would enjoy seeing the pictures come to life.

KB: Thank you! I’ve initially created Into the Wild as a colouring book ideally for adults, but of course all ages are welcome to join in. The reason it’s for adults specifically is because the images are a little more detailed than perhaps some of the colouring books on the market today –even more detailed than most of the adult ones too! Each illustration is comprised of lots of different angular shapes/blocks and it’s only as you begin to colour each section that it reveals a hidden design within the image. Think of it as a slightly abstract and more challenging version of paint by numbers, but with the freedom to choose your own colour coding. It’s rather quite complicated when you get down to it so perhaps it might become a little too confusing for the younger audience; but of course they’re completely welcome to have a go!

Surreal 'Goddess' Illustration by Kelly Blake

Surreal ‘Goddess’ Illustration by Kelly Blake

I originally came up with the idea because I know a lot of people who are very artistic but are not able to draw even the simple stick figures. I have received a lot of compliments for my artwork in the past (especially my abstract pieces) and it led me to think about creating something that enables other enthusiasts to produce something that they’re also proud of without feeling like they’re lacking the talent to do so. It’s also been a proven fact that adult colouring books are being used as a way to de-stress and calm your mind so why not hit two birds with one stone!

ST: That is so thoughtful of you to create something that includes all ages! When and how did you start illustrating and drawing?  Is there a piece of art that always inspires you to create?

KB: When I think back to when I actually began drawing I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t being creative. I’ll always remember at my earliest of ages in Primary School one of my paintings was framed and featured on the wall inside reception as an example of a ‘good piece of art’. Of course, when I look back at it now all I can see are the dodgy eyes and weird shape of Henry VIII’s head, but I feel like I wouldn’t have come so far without all the support and positivity of the people around me. It’s the constant reassurance of ‘that’s great’ or ‘wow!’ that really drives me to produce more and more art and to get better and better. Granted, there’s always a few pieces that make people think ‘hmm, how odd’ but as long as I create something that I feel I’m proud of, then that’s what pushes me to continue with my work. Who cares if 90% of the population dislike it, what’s important is that the other 10% can appreciate it.

Eagle Woodcut by Kelly Blake

Eagle Woodcut by Kelly Blake

There will always come a time when I think to myself ‘I want to do an illustration!’ and the ideas just start flowing, but for those times when I can’t get myself into the mood or I can’t feel any inspiration coming then I start to check out illustrations online to get some creativity flowing. Even things such as typing phrases or keywords into google can help immensely. It’s amazing how much variety of different artwork there is out there and it’s surprising how much inspiration you can get from looking at other people’s work. Pieces that I personally love to flick through include modern and quirky works by artists such as Michael Godard and Fabio Napoleoni, but someone who I look up to as a huge inspiration for my work itself is the work by Canadian artist Nicholas Di Genova. I love the way he mixes processes such as freehand illustration and digitally enhanced methods to create something rather surreal and unique; but very, very special. It’s him who’s helped me develop a signature style myself and I do feel that a lot of my work has a thread of ‘Nicholas’ running through it.

Big Eyed Lemur by Kelly Blake

Big Eyed Lemur by Kelly Blake

ST: What is the artistic process of your paintings?  For example, how did your Kinderschema series come about? Do you usually sketch first your idea?

KB: My Kinderschema Collection was originally inspired from an article which I read about cats. It basically went on to say that the reason we find cats big eyes and overly big features so adorable is because of what is genetically programmed into our heads at birth. This led me to research into the science of why the human brain naturally reacts to these traits and I came across a German term called Kinderschema. Kinderschema defines the 5 basic traits that lead us to believe an animal is adorable and these can include; a large head, a large forehead, large eyes, rounded cheeks, and soft body surfaces.  I then decided I wanted to explore some of these factors in my own work and I created an art collection of digital paintings showing us just how much we love all things cute.

When I have a rough idea in my mind of the art I want to produce, I normally go about creating a really quick drawing trying to communicate what’s inside my head. Sometimes this will turn out to be a really crude or basic sketch but I can normally see if the idea is going to work on paper. I’ll also look online and check out other artist’s work to see if this takes me into a different or more creative direction to ensure my idea will definitely look good on the page. I have found that with the majority of my illustrative art, I tend to keep working on a piece until I am 100% happy with it. My motto normally states, “the more ink on the page, the better” but there’s still a fine line between finishing and overworking a piece of art.

Lion Woodcut by Kelly Blake

Lion Woodcut by Kelly Blake

ST: What mediums and techniques do you work with?  Is there a method that speaks to you more than the others?  Why do you think that is?

KB: It’s funny because throughout all my growing years I’ve never been able to pinpoint exactly which field of the creative world I wanted to merge into. This means I’ve studied everything ranging from photography to sculpture, and illustration to video editing and I’ve spent a very, very long time working hard to develop some extremely valuable skills. Due to engaging fully in many of these different fields I now feel that I can make a strong decision as to which route to progress into further. This has meant that my artwork created in the past includes a huge range of different styles but I believe this does make me stronger as an artist. It means I’m capable of merging materials and thinking outside the box. If in the future I decide to create a half illustration-half sculpture, then I know that I require the necessary skills to do so. This means that despite my love for illustrative art, I’m not tied down to producing everything in 2D.

For example, I have recently finished a collection of woodcut prints which involve intricately cutting away small sections from a wooden block. This block is then rolled with ink and printed onto a paper surface. This gives a beautifully rustic alternative to simply using paint brushed onto paper.  This method contrasts nicely to the hand drawn illustrations from some of my previous collections, or to the bold look of the lighting installations that I have formerly produced from recycled materials.

At the moment I am concentrating purely on producing this range of surrealist animal illustrations to publish into my first adult colouring book; but I love that if I choose to, I am able to stop and produce something completely different at any given time. How I feel is that if you don’t have to tie yourself down, then why do it.

ST: When you are not creating, what do you like to do?

Big Eyed Owl by Kelly Blake

Big Eyed Owl by Kelly Blake

KB: Well, it’s actually funny that you ask this because I was thinking about this myself the other day. I’m currently working from my own studio at home and so I find myself working on projects throughout the majority of each day; quite often from morning through to late into the evening. I’m very dedicated to my artwork and it’s lucky that I really love what I do otherwise I don’t think I could stay so dedicated to working this hard. All I strive for is being able to maintain a well-balanced and happy life whilst spending a career doing what I love. When I actually do decide to take time off I quite like to get away from home and stay somewhere peaceful as it gives me an excuse to stop working and to clear my head. I normally spend a few days down at the sea or in the countryside with good company, and I find the calm atmosphere refreshes myself and sets me back up for busy days when I return back home. Also, archery, who doesn’t love a bit of archery? I fancy myself the Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games when nobody is looking!

ST: From a person who seems to appreciate their surroundings, I wonder who encouraged you to be artistic when you were a child?  Do you think being raised in the creative town of Bristol had an effect on you?

Cat Woodcut by Kelly Blake

Cat Woodcut by Kelly Blake

KB: To be honest, whilst growing up I’ve always considered myself a bit of a nerd. While there’s nothing wrong with being a nerd, it meant I perhaps didn’t get out as much as I should. Instead, I spent a lot of time studying and working hard throughout school and I always made sure I put everything into getting my grades as high as possible. Whilst this is obviously extremely important, it does mean I probably didn’t get as much creative influence from the city as I should have. Bristol is known as a hugely influential artistic city and I live amongst some huge pioneers of the art world. This means I was very self-dependant whilst studying and I would love to say that a certain someone was the reason for me producing art today but I don’t believe anyone really was. Sure, I had people who supported me and pushed me along but I feel confident in saying that I was the one in the driving seat of my own artistic career and hopefully this will continue for a long, long time.

ST: Any tips, advice, or ways of encouraging our scribblers? 

KB: My greatest piece of advice would be to create art that YOU love and do it for yourself and for nobody else. There’s been quite a few times in my life that I’ve produced something that the masses don’t like but the minority do. I could have succumbed to produce what most people out there would deem as ‘good art’ but then what’s the point in creating it if it’s not for yourself; then you become one of those people who have their passion turned into a chore and may become quite resentful. If I were given a penny each time someone called my work too-weird, odd, or simply had a lack of faith that it would be well received then I’d have a pretty full bank account by now. Don’t ever let someone tell you that something isn’t good enough because simply put, art is perspective and if you feel that something is to be proud of, then wave that proudness-flag up high and display your work for others to see! I guarantee you there are people out there who will absolutely adore it. Don’t give up and show those people just how creatively talented you are. 

If you wanted to check out some of my work that’s available on the market at the moment, please take a look at my website here at: dustlesssoul.wix.com/dustlesssoul

You can also purchase any artwork from my Etsy shop at: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DustlessSoulCreation

ST: Thank you, Kelly, for sharing so much valuable creative information with us! I’m sure your Kickstarter campaign will go great and your artwork will continue to inspire us!

Wolf Woodcut by Kelly Blake

Wolf Woodcut by Kelly Blake

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Frida and Flowers for You

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954; Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón) was a Mexican painter, born in Coyoacán. Known for her self-portraits, which symbolically express her own pain and sexuality, these images extend beyond herself allowing us, the viewer, to ponder, reflect and raise inquiry.  Her vibrant colors were painted in a style influenced by indigenous cultures of Mexico as well as by European influences that include Realism, Symbolism, and Surrealism.

The New York Botanical Garden has curated an exhibition highlighting Kahlo’s love of nature.  Catch the show between May 16 — November 1, 2015. Read more about the exhibition here.

We have made a coloring page for you, Scribblers, based on Frida Kahlo’s great work titled Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.  Feel free to download and print. Watch the picture come to life as you fill in the spaces!

Scribble your own version of Frida Kahlo's elf-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

Scribble your own version of Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

For teachers and art lovers I recommend you watch one of MoMA’s art education video, which delves into how to critically look at and discuss one of Frida Kahlo’s portraits. Enjoy!

A Lee Hodges Activity!

Make some characters from old toilet rolls, give each roll a white coat base first and then sketch out the shape, then fill it in with colour, this could be acrylic or poster paint. They could be animals or maybe a group of characters from a circus (imagine an acrobat troupe all on top of each other) or a jazz band. I’m going to make a Mariachi band!

Lee Hodges is full of amazing ideas!  Check out his website at http://www.leeho.co.uk!

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Published by Andi Thea, on April 5th, 2015 at 9:06 am. Filled under: Arts & Crafts,classroom,Collage,Design,Drawing,Featured,Illustration,kids,Music Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

Henri Matisse moves me with colors

Henri Matisse, The Snail, 1953.  This is an example of Henri Matisse's cutout technique.

Henri Matisse, The Snail, 1953. This is an example of Henri Matisse’s cutout technique.

Color and shapes play together in Henri Matisse’s artworks.  Matisse comes from a merchant family in the northern part of France.  He studied law and passed the bar in 1888, which led him to his job as a law clerk.  When Henri got sick with appendicitis in 1889, his mother brought some art supplies to company him as he recovered.  She encouraged him to experiment and try new art techniques.  This opened a window for a new passion and lifestyle.  From that moment onwards, Henri was an artist!

In 1897, Matisse met painter John Peter Russell.  Russell introduced him to impressionism and to the work of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.  Eyes widened and intrigue grew as he received inspiration from Paul Cézanne, J.M.W. Turner and Georges Seurat’s pointillism.

Matisse’s artistic explorations has earned him titles as painter, draughtsman, sculptor, printmaker, designer and writer.  His reputation came from being one of the founding fathers of Fauvism, one of the first avant-garde movements in 20th-century art.  Matisse’s decoupage or cutout pieces abstracted the essence of objects in a way never seen at that time.

Henri Matisse, Landscape at Collioure, 1905. Here is one of Matisse's Fauvist paintings.

Henri Matisse, Landscape at Collioure, 1905. Here is one of Matisse’s Fauvist paintings.

Let’s see how you color Scribble Town’s coloring sheet of Matisse’s The Dancer coloring sheet.  Print and enjoy!

Henri Matisse, The Dance, Scribble Art Coloring Page. Print then color!

Henri Matisse, Dance, Scribble Art Coloring Page

Published by Andi Thea, on July 11th, 2014 at 10:01 am. Filled under: adults,Arts & Crafts,classroom,kids,Painting,Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , No Comments

Mix-n-Match Metal Robots

Have you ever wanted your very own robot? With a few recycled objects, you can create a whole group of new robot friends. Not only are they really cute, but their facial features are magnetized and can be rearranged, just like a Mr. Potato Head! These mix-n-match machines are just as fun to create as they are to play with. Take a look at how it’s done.

 Tin Robots

Image via Spoonful (originally in FamilyFun Magazine)

 

 

You’ll need tin cans (pop-off lids tend to have safer edges, you but you can also cover sharp edges in electrical tape), strong disk magnets, and hot glue. As for the decorating, you can use colorful cardstock, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, buttons, and extra hardware and metal bits—brackets, bolts, hinges, washers, knobs, old keys, bottle caps, etc. A note about these: avoid anything sharp, such as nails, and be aware that this craft involves small parts, so it requires supervision and may not be suited for young children.

 

Once you have everything gathered, start creating facial features by gluing your collected items to the magnets. Make eyes, mouths, arms, and don’t forget special robot parts like antennae, wires, propulsion devices, and microcontrollers (make some up!).

 

Now you can start mixing and matching parts to create fun robot characters! Move them around, swap features… take your robots on an adventure! And guess what. When you’re done playing, you can store all the loose parts inside the tin can (or robot’s belly).

 

 Tin Robots

Image via Real Purdy

 

If you could create a fully functioning robot, what kind would you create? What skill would you give it or tasks would you program it to complete?

Published by Andi Thea, on November 8th, 2013 at 12:30 am. Filled under: adults,Arts & Crafts,classroom,kids Tags: , , , , No Comments

Colored Pencil Jewelry

Colored pencils aren’t just for drawing anymore! In fact, they make some pretty adorable jewelry. Showcase your love of art and color with these fun colored pencil pieces. Usually, colored pencils are used to create something pretty, but here the pencils get to take center stage. By cutting them into beads, you can make bright and unique necklaces, bracelets, brooches, and earrings.

 

To make the beads, you will need some basic tools: a junior hacksaw, fine sandpaper, a drill and small drill bit. Then of course you’ll need colored pencils and thread. For specific directions and necessary materials, check out Kate’s fabulous tutorial on Design Mom.

 

Grown-ups will definitely need to help prepare the beads (there’s a bit of sawing, sanding, and drilling involved), but kids will love stringing the beads and creating their own jewelry. It’s also a great way to play with color; pick a specific scheme, build a pattern, or make a rainbow!

 Colored Pencil Jewelry

Image (and tutorial) via Design Mom

 Colored Pencil Jewelry

Images via Etsy  one and two

 

This would make a great activity for a birthday party, class project, or just a rainy day.  It would also be a perfect homemade gift (the holidays are right around the corner… hint, hint). Artists, art enthusiasts, crafters, teachers, and kids would all appreciate this simple, yet impressive jewelry!

 

What other art inspired jewelry would you create?

 

Published by Andi Thea, on November 6th, 2013 at 1:09 am. Filled under: adults,Arts & Crafts,classroom,kids Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

Spooky Pretzels

One of my favorite snack foods has got to be the pretzel. It’s crunchy and salty, it’s tasty on its own, and it pairs well with both sweet and savory ingredients. You can dip it in chocolate or cheese and both will be delicious (just not at the same time… unless you’re really adventurous).

 

Sometimes it’s fun to pick a favorite snack and then create variations on a theme with it. Here are a few different ideas for bringing Halloween flair to some yummy pretzel treats.

 

These pumpkin pretzels from Make Bake Celebrate are too cute for words! Chocolate-covered and dipped in sprinkles, they’re the perfect salty-sweet combination. Add leaves and stems with some piped chocolate for added detail.

 Chocolate Pumpkin Pretzels

Photo via Make Bake Celebrate

 

 

You can never have enough chocolate covered pretzels! For a fun variation on the same flavors, you must try these Frankenstein pretzels! Grab pretzel rods, green melting chocolate, black gel icing, chocolate kisses, and shredded coconut. With some simple assembly, you can make the perfect creepy cuties to compliment your bright pumpkin pretzels.

 Chocolate Pretzel Frankensteins

Photo via Simply Designing with Ashley

 

Finally, let’s finish up with a savory pretzel dish. With some pretzel sticks, string cheese, and chives for garnish, you can create the most adorable witches’ brooms. Cut up the string cheese to act as bristles, stick in a pretzel to be the handle, and tie on a chive if you like (you can skip this last part if you’re not a chive fan).

 Pretzel and Cheese Brooms

Photo via Babble

 

Yum! These make perfect Halloween treats, but are also great festive snacks for any time—be it in the classroom, after school, or for a sleepover.

 

Which of these variations is your favorite? Do you have any other spooky snack ideas?

Scribble Picks Vincent van Gogh!

The painting titled Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh is at the top of many artistic achievements! Even though Van Gogh sold only one painting in his life, the mark he has made on this world is priceless.  Starry Night is one of the most well known images in modern culture.  How does it speak to you?

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Abstract from Vincent van Gogh museum:

Energy and inspiration
From early on Vincent van Gogh was fascinated by the mood conjured up by the evening and the night. Van Gogh regarded the evening and night as a time for self-reflection and creativity, particularly for looking back over the day’s events. As such he loved to work during this hours of twilight and darkness, drawing from them energy and inspiration. When he decided in 1880 to become an artist, twilight and the night gained a fixed place in his oeuvre.

Arranged around the themes Landscapes at twilight, Peasant life at evening – ‘Les Paysans chez eux’, The voice of the wheat and Poetry of the night, the exhibition shows how Van Gogh immortalized the twilight and the night on paper and on canvas.

From painterly tradition to modern art
Van Gogh particularly associated the nighttime hours with a feeling of security, solace and the poetic. At the same time he was not immune to night’s darker side, when one can be overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness and despair. But Van Gogh was above all attracted by the landscape at twilight, thereby linking up with a longstanding painterly tradition. Evening and nighttime landscapes have for centuries been a well-loved theme, and were also strongly represented within the Barbizon School that Van Gogh so admired and initially imitated. After a number of years, however, Van Gogh began updating the genre through his striking use of colour and rhythmic brushstrokes. With his distinctive style he blazed the trail for modern art.

Read the rest of the article about Vincent van Gogh here: http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp?page=150362&lang=en#.  If you can go to Amsterdam to visit it in real life then this is your next best chance.

Now go ahead and scribble your own Starry Night! Print out the image below and color in how you see the night to be with it’s stars shining so brightly.  Send in your drawing and we’ll post it for everybody to see.  Email it to info@scribbletown.com.

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh. 1889.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by Andi Thea, on September 22nd, 2013 at 10:42 pm. Filled under: adults,classroom,Featured,Scribble Picks,Uncategorized Tags: , , , No Comments

Scribble Artist Interview with ShaoLan Hseuh!

Shaolan Hsueh, Chineasy, Kickstarter@Robert Leslie 2013

Shaolan Hsueh, Chineasy, Kickstarter@Robert Leslie 2013

Scribble Town (ST): Here with us on the Scribble Blog is ShaoLan Hseuh! ShaoLan’s creativity and energy to build Chineasy is extraordinary.  Let’s hear her story!

ShaoLan Hseuh (SH): Hi, my name is ShaoLan Hseuh and I am an entrepreneur, investor, writer, traveler and dreamer! I am also the creator and founder of Chineasy, a Chinese language methodology that will help you learn to read what many consider to be one of the hardest languages in the world to learn! Chinese!

ST: Where are you and what are you up to these days?  What does a day with ShaoLan look like?

SH: At the moment every living breathing moment is spent either working on Chineasy or with my family. With Chineasy’s Kickstarter campaign now over (having successfully raised nearly £200,000) I am now working on the hard part – fulfilling the delivery of all of the gifts I promised!

A day with me: I am a very early riser (you have to be or there just isn’t enough time in the day!), I am very into exercise and eating well and if I am not weight lifting or drinking chilled green tea then I am either with the members of my Chineasy team of my children – when they aren’t at school of course!

Chineasy Mountain

Chineasy Mountain

ST: What is Chineasy?  How did the idea for this new endeavor begin, which is so different from your past experiences?

SH: The Chinese language has long been considered the most difficult major language to learn, largely on account of the vast number and complexity of its characters. Being a Taiwanese native now living in London, this is a fact I am acutely aware of. When I began to teach my British born children Chinese, I realized just how difficult Chinese characters are for a native English speaker to learn. It was like torture for my kids! So I spent many years looking for a fun and easy way to teach them how to read Chinese. After years of searching, I realized that none of the methods out there were engaging or efficient enough. So I created my own!

Chineasy’s goal is to allow people to learn to read Chinese easily by recognizing characters through simple illustrations, but also to bridge the gap between East and West. As the best way to understand a culture is to start with its language.

Chineasy works on a simple building block principal. When you know a few key base characters (or building blocks) you can start combining them to create more complex words (compounds) which, when combined, allow you to create simple phrases and stories. It’s that easy!

Chineasy Mouth

Chineasy Mouth

ST: From what I have read online, you wear many hats and have accomplished so much across many fields.  Please let us know about this adventure you are on. How did you go from Taiwan to London?

SH: It was a very long adventure and it is one I still haven’t finished! As I child I was raised by two very artistic parents and, like most children, chose to study something as far removed from my parent’s interests as possible! As an MBA student in Taiwan I published a series of best selling software books, which were awarded ‘book of the year’. Using the royalties earned from their sale I founded my first software venture pAsia in 1995, which I grew from a team of 2 to a team of 250 by 2001. After moving to London in 2002, I began investing in and advising young technology companies through Caravel Capital, which I founded whilst studying at the University of Cambridge. Following a sabbatical in which I traveled the world I came back to London and decided to try my hand at something new. Today, I am still highly active in assisting young businesses, but I have also expanded to the mentoring and support of education, arts and culture (I am on the Business Advisory Council of Business School in Oxford University and Development Advisory Board of Victoria and Albert Museum). As a social venture, Chineasy is the culmination of both my entrepreneurial experience and my artistic childhood.

Chineasy Fire

Chineasy Fire

ST: Was there somebody that encouraged you to be creative and business savvy?  Also, how do you collaborate with the designers of Chineasy?

SH: Although everyone could be creative, having right environment is crucial. Everyone could be ‘trained’ being a savvy business person, but having good intuitive and constructive environment certainly helps. I happened to grow up in an artist family and loving arts throughout my life. I was also lucky enough to work with world class business leaders and global thought leaders. I am inspired by many people through out my journey. Many of them became my life long friends and consistently encouraged me to be ‘myself’. Being yourself and knowing what your ‘calling’ is helps you to have the vision beyond what people normally see in their ‘career’.

Originally I planed for Chineasy to be a purely personal project for my children and friends, but when I was invited to talk at TED, I started asking several illustrators to implement my creation. One day I chatted my friend Crispin Jameson, who is the director of an agency in London called Brave New World [BNW] and he recommended Noma Bar. This was how I started working with various parties in addition to Chineasy team.

ST: When you develop an illustration what is your creative process like?  What is your process for getting work out of your head and what are some favorite tools you like to use to create?  I especially love your color choices and the relationship between the image and character is so clear!  I wish I had these when I was learning Mandarin!

Chineasy Tree

Chineasy Tree

SH: The truth is it is a long and thought out process, these illustrations are much more than pretty pictures – as our three designers will tell you! Each character we create has to follow the same three guidelines: 
they have to look stunning, be stylistically consistent with what we 
have produced before and, most importantly, they have to be 
educationally effective.

Traditionally ancient Chinese was mainly Pictographic (the symbols were drawings of what they represented) yet over the past thousands of years, many of those pictographs have morphed into very different shapes from their original forms. Instead of trying to reproduce all of the historical links I use a totally refreshing approach to interoperate pictographs, as our illustrations have to be something westerners can associate therefore easier for them to remember.

Chineasy Character Development

Chineasy Character Development

Before we even start designing our team (which is made up primarily of myself, my two in-house designers, my project manager & research assistant) researches the definition, 
origin and history of the character. We then move on to the applications (for example, how to build more characters and phrases) and finally 
we consider how to make stories out of them. After this research our designers create their different interpretations 
of the character. We always have several versions and numerous drawings for each. Between us we then discuss, debate and bounce 
ideas back and forth. When we come across a challenge (which happens with nearly all of them), we discuss, sleep on it and play around with different combinations of colours, or designs.

Chineasy Sun

Chineasy Sun

Finally, whenever a new illustration is created, I show them to my children. If they can guess the answer immediately, I know we’ve got it right. If they struggle, we go back to the studio and do it all over again

ST: When you create a new Chineasy illustration do you take into consideration not only symbolic representations in Chinese characters, but also tonal sounds?

SH: Chineasy was started as a tool to teach my children how to read Chinese, not to speak, and so the illustrations are meant to act as a memory tool in literature not for sound. I am plotting a new method to teach people how to speak, which will be my primary project next Watch this space, soon I will be able to teach you to speak as well as write.

ST: What are some other hobbies or interests you like?

SH: Unsurprisingly, for someone who has done so many different things, I have a lot of hobbies! I like to keep busy and I believe that health is incredibly important! I spend a lot of time doing sports: skiing, swimming, weights, rock climbing. I love music and performing arts. This summer I did some painting class with my children. I would also love to teach them how to do calligraphy one day, just like the way my mother taught me. Everything. I am also very interested in Eastern medicine and spent some times studying acupuncture (that’s when you use needles to cure ailments, you can end up looking like a pin cushion). I am also a very big traveller and believe that you should experience the world through your own eyes if you can – not through foreign press

Chineasy Moon

Chineasy Moon

ST: How can we start using Chineasy?

SH: Its easy to become a Chineasy user. At the moment I update a Chineasy facebook page daily and already have a thriving community who seem to pick up every character I teach – it is very heartening!  I also have a website (chineasy.org) which anyone can access free of charge, as well as my newsletter which goes out to the community once a week! Now that our Kickstarter campaign has been successful I am also happy to announce that I will be having a beautiful, and educational, book published in Janurary 2014. This book will be available in both e and print formats. We are also going to produce loads of learning tools, such as flashcards and computer screensavers!

Chineasy is a gateway into the language, it is meant to help people who wish to learn, but who have always been thrown by the languages complexity. My children have learned at least 300 characters using this method and that is without vigorous lessons.

ST: I’m ready to start learning Chinese with Chineasy! Thanks ShaoLan! http://www.chineasy.org

Chineasy Person

Chineasy Person

Chineasy Door

Chineasy Door

 

Scribble Artist Interview with Jerry Belich!

Scribble Town (ST): Watch the above video and you’ll see why with an introduction like that we all think that Jerry Belich is a talented artist with a great sense of humor! Jerry, where are you and what are you up to these days?

Jerry Belich (JB): Spatially, I live and work in Northeast Minneapolis. I’m native to MN, but have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit, including five weeks in London this past winter where the Choosatron was a big hit. I’m the senior mobile developer at Clockwork Active Media, I’m finishing up a movie swede of David Lynch’s Dune, and have been doing a few improv shows in the theatre community! I keep myself busy.

ST: Wow! On top of it all, I’m sure very busy trying to raise funds for Choosatron: Interactive Fiction Arcade Machine.  I first stumbled upon Choosatron on Kickstarter and your idea sounds great.  Please let us know what the Choosatron is and what you are raising funds for.  We’d like to help you!

JB: Put simply, the Choosatron is small device that prints and plays Choose Your Own Adventure inspired stories. I was trying to think of something I wanted to build, and I thought back to the interactive books I read as a child, along with trips to the arcade. Since I built the first Choosatron, the excitement from both adults and kids has been incredibly motivating. I realized how fun it would be to use, not just as a toy, but a creative platform. It’s a lot of fun to play, but I’m excited to raise the funding for building the writing platform to go along with the device itself. In the broadest sense, I want to raise funding to build a bridge between the technological and creative, with storytelling at the center.

The Choosatron in action at Saint Paul Maker Fair

Choosatron in action at Saint Paul Maker Fair

ST: When did you start creating interactive toys/games/play/amazing machines?!  The thing is that you do so much! You are playful renaissance man. Was there somebody that encouraged you?

JB: I started creating my own interactive stories as a kid. I’d gather friends around, make up a beginning to a story, and give them each a turn to describe what they wanted their character to do in the world. It was my earliest form of roleplaying, though I never participated as a player, only as the game master. From there, making interactive stories and adventures on grid paper, to writing games in basic on an ancient computer. Game design and storytelling have always been lingering in my mind. More recently, it was a client working on the creative for a big installation project in Las Vegas that mailed me an Arduino after I mentioned my interest on a call. I’ve developed software for over a decade, but hadn’t done much tinkering with electronics. I’ve always worked to create more than I’ve been willing to advertise it, so many of my projects get completed, and then a spot on the shelf. It’s due to the encouragement of others that I’ve been more forthcoming. Not out of shyness, but honestly not expecting anyone to find any of it interesting.

ST: What inspired you to make Choosatron? How did the idea develop- conceptually and design wise?  What made you choose text as the source of communication rather than images?

The Choosatron Prototypes by Jerry Belich

Choosatron Prototypes by Jerry Belich

JB: Arcade machine and interactive stories. Specifically choice based, where narrative still has a stronghold over each step in the story. Sandbox games are endless fun, but for very different reasons, and I prefer to get lost in the story. Text is what I’m used to working with. I can’t draw to save my life, so there wasn’t much of a choice. That being the case, I did work on an interactive story using only pictures for the Little Printer by BERG at their second hack day in London. It was called “Ways to Die”. Once a day you’d get an image, starting with you washing up on the shore of an island. It would print a few QR codes, and the one to scanned first would determine the path for the next day. It might take a week, or even two, but one way or another you’d meet a terrible end on the island. I thought it was hilarious.

ST: When you develop software what is your creative process like?  Would you call yourself a software developer?  Your talents run all over the place!  What are some other hobbies or interests you like?

JB: I tend to design as much in my head as possible, and then create the skeleton for the software I’m going to write. It’s all generally quite practical in that sense. What language, what platform, what are the constraints…you have to be pretty organized and have a process in order to work on a lot of projects at once. I’m already scatterbrained enough as it is. Software, and now hardware, is my career. I spend the rest of my time writing stories, putting together or taking part in improv shows, playing the theremin, and making videos or animation. I love hobbies and variety, so will just pick something up for a while and see if it comes in handy, like knitting or building puppets.

ST: Where do you find yourself feeling really inspired to create?  In other words, is there a time of day that better suits these bubbles of creativity?

Picture of Jerry Belich

Picture of Jerry Belich

JB: I’m an extrovert, so being around people gives me energy. I also find the white noise of public places soothing, and have an easier time getting tasks done. I’ve carefully crafted my spaces at home to reduce how easy it is to get distract or too ‘comfortable’, but ultimately I can only get so much done at home. It used to be late at night was my most productive time, but I discovered that it was just being uninterrupted that helped. Actually, even just KNOWING I won’t get disturbed gets me into the right frame of mind quickly. The other element that helps is having access to the minds of whoever I know can help me with a creative problem since I work things out best by trying to explain them to someone. I really have these terribly opposed needs to get through my creative cycle which gets maddening sometimes.

ST: What is your process for getting your work out of your head? Do you sketch with pencil, paint, computer graphics, talk with certain friends for some good dialogue etc. ?

JB: Ah, well just was I was saying above! It’s talking and dialogue. I feel a strange disconnect between what I see in my head and what I’m able to jot down. I hate it because it makes capturing certain ideas much more difficult. I use a combination of a notepad that is always in my back pocket, a small pressurized pen in my front (I hate pens that stop working the moment you need them), and talking everything out with friends and professionals.

Choosatron and Spark Core (https://www.sparkdevices.com)

Choosatron and Spark Core (https://www.sparkdevices.com)

ST: What is your studio environment like? This is where the magic happens!

JB: Organized, at least usually. I get very anxious when I’m in big time crunches that don’t allow me to keep my work (and sometimes not work) spaces clear. I like large tables where I can spread out, and see everything at once, which is helpful for my absent mindedness. There are usually post-it notes with various types of todo lists, and a specific balance of comfort and utility. I want to want to be in my work space, but not want to take a nap.

ST: Since I haven’t yet played with the Choosatron, the idea led me to Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies game.  Your game brings the player to the next level of the story all and Oblique Strategies helps the player break creative blocks by moving progressively forward, like a story does.  What games do you like to play?  Also, any game theorists you often looks towards for inspiration?

JB: Oblique Strategies is an interesting example. They created something for themselves in order to inspire themselves. In that fashion, the Choosatron is similar. I’ve created a tool that gives me a framework to write and design in a completely fresh way. The content of the cards themselves don’t do much for me though. I’m particularly fond of cooperative games, especially when players are not forced to cooperate with each other, or when one of you isn’t who they seem. I’m fascinated by the influences that cause people to band together and turn on each other. I love Betrayal at the House on the Hill and Red November quite a bit. Munchkin is a fantastic game. My new favorite is Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards. I don’t know that I have specific game theorists that I look to, but I love exploring well known theories such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma within different mediums, and seeing how storytelling can affect the perception of the players. I’ll stop there as I could probably go on endlessly if you let me!

ST: Yes! You’ve given us, Scribblers, all whole lot to think about and plenty of inspiration to get started on making our own inventions, stories, and games.

JB: I think the scariest moments in life, especially creatively, are taking the first step to starting something new. You don’t know if you’re doing it right, or well (and in fact probably aren’t), but you have to push through that in order to find the really great work you are capable of. You need to make the mistakes, gain the confidence, and practice. Trust yourself, and you’ll be rewarded for it!

ST: Thanks Jerry! That’s perfect advice! Just make your idea come true and let’s see where that shall take us. For more information on Jerry Belich and his artwork, please visit his Choosatron website and Monkey with a Mustache Entertainment.

Logo of Jerry Belich's 'Monkey with a Mustache Entertainment' Check out all of Jerry's projects at http://monkeytheater.com

Logo of Jerry Belich’s ‘Monkey with a Mustache Entertainment’ Check out more of Jerry’s projects at http://monkeytheater.com and http://choosatron.com

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