Pattern Minded

My happy place is an art studio where all of the items have their own section.

I love to draw. Ever since I can remember I’ve created doodles, pictures, paintings, and other kinds of art. And it generally comes naturally to me – the kind of skill that other people call “artistic” and that I call “just drawing” – until it doesn’t.

I’m not sure what this gap feels like to people who don’t draw, so I’ll try to describe it in terms most people find easy to understand: imposter syndrome. When I don’t “feel” like drawing, I come up with every excuse to avoid that practice. I stay away from art materials and all of those wonderful colors. I stop drawing because there’s no chance of messing up.

That’s really not fun. Sometimes it has lasted for years. I am not sure of the first time I had this feeling but I would guess it happened when I enrolled in a Ph.D program in History instead of renting an Art Studio and drawing for a living. Maybe not drawing was a good thing, though.

If I hadn’t taken a break from drawing I would have spent much less time with computers. I might have missed out on learning to program. I might also have not engaged with new technologies like mobile and social and local commerce.

I am drawing again.

 It doesn’t take much to get started again on drawing. Just a little bit of time.
The hack that got me going again? Repetition. Small pictures. Doodling. Pretending “this drawing doesn’t matter.” Because the real benefit to creating and writing about it is a pattern itself – the self-reinforcing loop that happens when you make stuff, and look back later to see whether it’s good – and its absence is an anti-pattern.

So if you see me stop drawing, ask me to draw you something. Give me a commission. It doesn’t need to be paid, and it can be just enough to give me an idea. Making art pays off for me in many more areas of my life than the artwork I create. That process of making is a pattern that leads me to a place where I build amazing things. 

Is It Linking, Copying, or Stealing? (Or Just Commentary)

Yesterday’s article “Color This Area of the Law Gray” by Daniel Grant, discusses the current state of avant-garde infringement. “Appropriationists”, Grant writes, are artists who publicly state that they are copying are and reusing it in the service of art for the public good. This is not a new idea — artists have been stealing from each other in good and bad faith for hundreds of years — but the internet and digital copying methods make the law a bit hazy here.

Lawyer John Koegel states in the article, “…the use of a copyrighted image is transformative based on the ordinary lay observer’s sense of if the new work is different and how different it is.” Is linking to a WSJ article merely stealing? Or is it an extension of the need to tell stories?

I believe the point of blogging, among other things, is to inform people of things they might not otherwise know. The sheer overload of information that we face — from screens we view from morning until night — leaves us searching for ways to organize the world.

And the way that we organize that world is different for each and every brain (see John Medina’s Brain Rules for more…). This raises an interesting philosophical point whether “copying is in the eye of the beholder” is in fact a physiological reflection of the different ways in which different people “see” the world.

Obviously there is a bright line between physically copying and republishing an article from the WSJ and linking to it as I discuss what I think it means. But at the margins that’s a pretty hazy difference. Keep on sharing and publishing (and give credit where credit is due) and you will make new connections, inform your friends, and maybe learn something new every day.

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