Abstract

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-7-35-43-pm

To abstract something is to break it down into it’s simplest form.  

Abstract: The Art of Design is a new Netflix series that showcases designers and artists in different fields. The first episode, which features illustrator Christoph Niemann, talks about the essence of creative work and abstraction – the ability to look at an object in a completely new way that helps connect the artist to the viewer.

It felt really refreshing to see a documentary that talks about the creative process. The finished piece is often not the result of some pixie dust but of just getting to your desk, sitting down and giving yourself time to explore the right solution.

I highly recommend it to all designers and artists – regardless of what field you’re in. Below (and above) are some of Christoph’s artwork:

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 7.39.09 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-02-19 at 7.38.15 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-02-19 at 7.37.58 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-02-19 at 7.37.20 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-02-19 at 7.36.50 PM.png

Humans through Satellite Imagery

Google Earth’s satellite imagery has recently gotten a lot better. As you get a more complete view of the world, you can start to uncover the world in new ways. I found myself deeply immersed in it one day – first by zooming to Cairo, then to Dubai, then to the rest of the world, gravitating towards geometric shapes that we’ve built and repeated, among the rectangular tiles of green and yellow that we’ve designed through agriculture. Humans are crazy. We’ve changed our world in a massive way  – we’ve changed its mountains, forests, grasslands and even rivers. Below is a sample of what I’ve found.

Man-made circles

More strange things

 

Words you can read from space (anyone here good at reading Chinese?)

img_9267

Repeating grids

Shapes in agriculture

Quality of Life: What Matters

I was looking at Numbeo’s quality of life index this weekend. They have different things that factor into their overall index, like climate and safety. I thought: “hey, why not see who – Boston or SF – would win if I looked at all of these objective factors (through my very subjective lens).

Full-size >> 01

artboard

Turns out, Boston does pretty well on everything except climate.

Then I decided to make my own chart with more employment-focused factors that contribute to “quality of life” for me, as a UX designer, in the bay area.

Full-size >> 02

Artboard Copy.png

Ok – so I’m a little biased, but I didn’t just do this to remind myself of why I moved out to San Francisco.

I did this to understand that quality of life is important. All those things that Boston wins at – those are real and I feel the difference daily when I go into the grocery store and a dozen eggs are selling for $6.99. It hurts when I pay rent every month. It’s half my take-home paycheck.

But quality of life is also dependent on many things, and most of the time the things that aren’t captured in these charts are actually the most important ones – the people we care about or choose to love and the career we choose to take.

A thought about art museums

IMG_8193.JPG

While admiring the many works of Rembrandt and Vermeer today at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I thought to myself “this is so great, being able to see the original works of art from these masters of painting.” Rembrandt is able to light portraits up by focusing on a few focal points with a painting and layering light paint on dark. Vermeer’s subjects are so peculiar and interesting that I can stare at them for hours.

My personal experience of wandering around art galleries and museums is great – if I’m wandering around by myself. I went to art school and learned about many of the artists whose name I read on plaques. I was also personally trained for a few years under a master oil painter, from whom I learned about temperature, color, light and shadow. When I visit museums with friends who want to rush through all the exhibits, I try to explain as much as I can about a piece if I previously learned about its context, history and ideas.

I do this, because most museums will tell you about the piece and what it is (rather literally, sometimes metaphorically), but they won’t necessarily tell you about the evolution of that artist, unless the entire exhibition is specifically about that. They won’t tell you what makes the painting incredibly special.

They’ll tell you that it’s a lady with a child, painted in a style that mimics 18th-century London art. When they show a one-off painting that Picasso created late in his cubism phase, museums will tell you about the style, but they won’t always explain the progression of his work that led to this piece. Have you been to a modern art museum lately? How many people end up taking a photo of something that looks cool but is entirely meaningless to them?

Art museums have a tendency to reflect history and movements. They document thoughts, ideas and views from many centuries and artistic periods. I wish, however, that they would help the average person understand art more clearly. More than the “what,” we need the “why” and the “how” of art.

Science museums often have interactive components that help you understand the concepts behind each exhibition. What if you had an art museum with a section that allowed you to paint in the style of an artist or a design museum that lets you actually sit on different Eames or Jacobsen chairs or try out different types of tea kettles instead of displaying them?

Rather than making art an exclusive thing that we stare at on museum walls, we should make it more accessible. Then perhaps, more people will understand its value and purpose in everyday life.