Category Archives: Work

Work as subject, work as occupation, work to earn, work as play and pleasure, posture of work, depth of work, personal and professional work, work as effort.

Vision Up Vision Down

 

Two summers ago I walked into a plate-glass window in midtown Manhattan. The glass was so clear and clean, the brass frame so polished, I walked straight up to it thinking it was a door. I hit it hard, face first. The impact was like hitting a black marble wall. I was knocked to my knees. Blood began to run into my right eye.

After two weeks something weird began to happen. Manhattan provides strings of verticals, lines, signs, poles, towers of glass, stone and steel and every vertical line I looked at appeared wavy, as if reflected in a pool of moving water. With a history of eye trouble going back to childhood, I took this in with a low range of calm, and after a few days was examined by my cornea surgeon. Doctors can be opaque. I’m describing this really strange visual phenomena I’m experiencing, and he’s just watching me and listening and I know he knows exactly what’s going on, but he will hold back on saying anything, because I need to be examined, in this case, fast.  A retina specialist was in the next room at the hospital, and after a few minutes I was repeating my story, when he interrupted me to take a look.  An optical scan clearly showed the inside of the retina required a vitrectomy, microscopic surgery where membrane is peeled from the inner surface of the back of the eye.

I’m told the condition has nothing to do with the collision with plate glass. I find it hard to believe.

Making artwork became an obsession almost in an instant when, at age thirteen, I lay on the floor in a tall dark hotel room in Zurich, my nose pressed to a huge sheet of paper, a thick stub of charcoal blackening my fingers. Ten percent vision was enough to distinguish black on white, but that wasn’t the thrill. The action was getting immediate feedback from drawing on paper.

After six months of waiting, my left eye was ready for a corneal transplant.

Over the forty years that were to follow, I did well at art school and have enjoyed a winding career. My eyes have needed multiple surgeries—five corneal transplants, cataract removal, and most recently, peeling of the retina. Life is vision up, vision down. I’m habituated to shape and color. The boundaries blur but then, life is porous.

It’s been said that luck plays a part but nothing is an accident. I was lucky. I lay on a carpet with a sheet of paper and my life opened on to that canvas. Some of that is here to see.

Below — Pattern Design using magnolias for a dinner plate. This, and the tens of thousands of images and designs I have made draw on my experiences with vision problems and moving past them into clarity, developing a visual language in which images appear new.

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The Fox and The Hedgehog

Why are so many experts so wrong, yet people keep listening to them? Who really is worth listening to about the future? Philip Tetlock, the author of Expert Political Judgement builds on Isaiah Berlin’s characterization of judgment modes into Hedgehogs (who know one big thing) and Foxes (who know many things). Hedgehogs don’t notice and don’t care when they’re wrong; that’s why they’re so compelling. Foxes learn.

Hedgehogs believe in Big Ideas – in governing principles about the world that behave as though they were physical laws and undergird virtually every interaction in society. Foxes, on the other hand, are scrappy creatures who believe in a plethora of little ideas and in taking a multitude of approaches toward a problem. Hedgehogs are more easily seduced by clear narratives. Foxes are more data-driven, less willing to stake out strong positions.

Hedgehogs: “relate everything to a single central vision …in terms of which all that they say has significance.” They over simplify, don’t use diverse data sources.

Foxes: “pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory….entertain ideas that are centrifugal rather than centripetal;…..without seeking to fit them into, or exclude them from, any one all-embracing inner vision.”

One should be able to consider two sides of the argument, think in terms of probabilities rather than certainties, and be able to hold conflicting thoughts.

Foxes believe in a plethora of little ideas and in taking multitude of approaches toward a problem. They tend to be more tolerant of nuance, uncertainty, complexity, and dissenting opinion. Most innovations and new ideas are found in tiny places where others fail to look. Ignoring the hedgehogs and generally accepted thinking will afford opportunities to see familiar problems in new ways. ~ Nate Silver

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Shooting Cataracts

I’m ten days out of my second cataract surgery. My eye scratches, wells with tears.

 “Oh, don’t worry, “ said the non-medical world I encountered. ‘My sister was at the movies the same afternoon.” “My uncle went out for lunch straight from the hospital.”

Not me

Eight months before we were satisfied the left eye had settled, the cataract was removed from the right I’ve had a life of eyes.  

I want to talk about photography and design, taking photographs daily,

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Art is Not About Communication

Art is not about communication.  Art is not a way of conveying information. It’s a way of understanding information. That is, creating a work of art is a means we have of making sense of the world, focusing to make it clearer, not a way of communicating some understanding of the world that we already hold.’  — James Kochalka

 

 

A Word On Templates and Custom Design

I HAD THE OCCASION TO SEE SOME WEB DESIGN WORK clients of mine had commissioned by another designer. The clients appeared quite proud of the work delivered. Until I pointed out that web design templates had been used, that these templates were widely available on the web for free, and that there were thousands from which to choose, using a simple two-word Google search.
This revelation caused some dismay and distress. The clients were certain the work done was original,  created from the ground up. I felt quite badly for them paying for custom work in good faith, but they were clearly getting ripped off and I felt a responsibility to provide some insight into what I saw. Why did I not just let it go? Because such improper practice by designers damages the design profession. Templates require simple modifications. Some added content, changes to text style and colors. It’s working with a kit of parts. Custom work, by contrast, takes time, some depth of humanistic thought, as well as technical expertise. A high bar.

Custom design works hard to be compelling, to solve problems — templates do not care. Original custom design can be reconfigured to offer new solutions — templates have no such ambition. Templates have no intention. Custom design marries itself to brand positioning—templates choke the branding program before it draws first breath.  It’s like branding behind bars. This is  problematic on several fronts. It undermines professional standards designers like myself must maintain, and as importantly, I don’t like seeing people getting ripped off by professionals in any field, whether by lawyers, mechanics, dentists, or designers. We put our trust in a mechanic, that the replaced part has not already done fifty thousand miles in two cars. The free template website is one of those parts. You might be able to drive it for a while, but pretty soon something breaks down. Will your designer be able to make seamless additions building parts indistinguishable from the template? If so, why not build from the beginning? Because one can skip over the hard part and miraculously present something born fully formed. That’s your clue as a client: The first iterations are too polished. There is no evidence of early stylistic struggle, the blind alleys, the rough starts. The best designers have all of these.

Template sites will show their weakness when new content must be added, or a change is needed in function. A part is needed and it is missing from the kit. Our designer is now stuck. He actually has to make a part that fits. He makes an element out of spit and glue and what usually happens is it just doesn’t match perfectly with the template.  Should the client find the fix unacceptable,  the cost or logistics of replacement could be prohibitive. When you employ a designer, I urge you to ask whether the work you will receive will be original work, if that is what has been promised. Original work means someone is not, at this very moment, looking at a version of it on a screen somewhere. Ask whether it can scale, be flexible enough to serve the changes companies inevitably encounter? Modified templates do not mean the work is now an original design. Templates mean your “custom” work is actually all over the web. If you are OK with that, ask yourself why.