Saturday, June 30, 2018

180520 Are Emeralda and IPCI the same? 

Daily I visit the ten glass beads on my personal website and choose one of the “islands-of-domains-of-expertise” to see where I left off on the design of Emeralda Region. Emeralda was going to be my ticket to fame. Emeralda was supposed to restore my place in the education world. It was supposed to prove my hypothesis that printmaking is a portal to understanding art and technology.
Extracting from the success stories of my former students and focusing not only on their art. In addition to their innate skills, I focused also on what I observed were their skills in ten domains-of-expertise. It took some doing, but I managed to twist their bonus talents and perceived interlocking pretzels of domains. Finally I made up islands where these domains were pre-eminent features of cultural assets.
There are ten imaginary islands. What remained for me, for the rest of my life, was travel among these islands. I made a schedule. To give myself time to reflect about printmaking and its place in higher education, I fabricated a prize, the Gates Prize for Exemplary Teaching, Research, Practice and Service.
The Gates Prize (named for Elmer Gates, a neuroscientist born in the 19th Century who practiced this branch of medicine before there was a name for it) was what I imagined I might have won if my career had not been cut short in 1984. Readers may be reminded of Orwell’s world, and it was a fact in my time at the UW.
Peter Bloom, in his book, Closing the American Mind, wrote about that period. It was the mid-1980s when higher education entered a depression; I lived it, and my development died then. From a distance I watched as my former teaching province was deconstructed and I was erased from its history by one who replaced me. I escaped from a dire situation; not so the rest of the American education institutions. For three decades and counting, I have lived as castaway.
However, my life raft is well-equipped, thanks to the lessons I learned from my college teachers students at the UW. For example, in one of my experiments I proposed that video could serve artists and I established a video art course. In the class we practiced teamwork, free exchange of ideas and performance art. A casual remark about Herman Hesse’s novel, Magister Ludi: The glass bead game, led me to the idea of using glass beads as playing-pieces in a table-top version of Emeralda.
Trivial things like this is what I believe higher education was all about. If my career had not been cut short by the internecine politics at the UW School Of Art, Washington State would have, today, something like my vision of the International Print Center and Incubators, IPCI, a Seattle asset.
On the other hand, the fact that the students didn’t realize that those trivial things were the acorns from which might oaks could grow underscores the fact that, in a perfect studio, where teaching, research, practice and service were happening all at the same time, all under one roof, it isn’t clear what good can come from the interaction of teachers and students. Not until there is proof.
Instead, what occurred was proof that mediocrity at high levels trickles down. Cynicism takes the place of contemplation and testing of hypothesis, narrow-mindedness and fear prevail. Therefore, better that IPCI not be part of a corrupted institution.
If the UW had kept me and allowed my plan to re-define printmaking along the lines of its root in other technologies, eventually the culture of university politics would have resulted in an IPCI with UW ties so intertwined that the inevitable rigidity and ignorance would have made the oak tree rot at its core.
To wit, the model I called the Granger Clay Products Campus in Central Washington was inspired by Dale Chihuly’s Pilchuck Glass School and The Evergreen State College’ founding. Where I thought a skunkworks media arts center would be state-supported, Dale’s idea was privately-supported. Pilchuck (and Dale) succeeded because of business acumen in its sponsors’ attunement to the creative economy and, consciously or not, the principle of the wealth of nations.
What does this teach me? An IPCI must be a business, a corporation designed to make a profit. Its parts must enable its participants to realize their dreams in the same way that I accidentally helped my students realize theirs. The architecture I drew up for Emeralda is morphing into a basket of eggs, each egg representing a hypothetical business in which artistically-inclined people can succeed.
In this sense, my Emeralda has become the International Print Center and Incubators, so named as a marketing device but an Artrepreneurial school, a training center for franchises which monetizes printmaking in ways beyond making prints. It teaches a hybrid of the creative economy and the experience economy about which has been written by authors John Howkins (The creative economy is a powerful engine of growth and community vitality. Together, artists, cultural nonprofits, and creative businesses produce and distribute cultural goods and services that generate jobs, revenue, and quality of life. A thriving cultural sector leads to thriving communities”) and Pine & Gilmore (consumers unquestionably desire experiences, and more and more businesses are responding by explicitly designing and promoting them).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

180627 Escape Rembrandt’s Press 

I wrote Rembrandt’s Ghost in the New Machine as one asset to add to funding the International Print Center & Incubators – IPCI, Inc. – an S-corp, or Benefit Corporation. Writing it was partly a response to my older idea of the teacher in a box. PressGhost was the incarnation of that concept. It’s all about education, after all.
But education is not a good business. It’s not that the U.S. marketplace is big on education now. Peter Bloom wrote Closing of the American Mind about the time I was being pressed out of my teaching job at the University of Washington.
A good teacher, however, will not roll over dead just because the establishment kicks him out of their club lounge. A good art teacher, too, will not go along with the herd if he or she has dug deep into the meaning of the cultural arts. I teach creativity, and by inventing ways to connect an art tool (or instrument) to the cultural arts, I walk my talk.
I put my mind to designing the Mini Halfwood Press, then I put my mind in it, i.e., the PressGhost.
My research in printmaking (and this does not apply to its cousins, painting, drawing and sculpture) showed the stronger side of its value: technology. Its cousins in photography, film, video and digital-based systems are more important to education.
Thus, I built on a base of artists’ relationship to people through media such as photographs (of art), cinema, video and digital art. Add to this performance skill and it sums up to what I do, which is gaming.
It is not consumer-type games I do, however, but e-games, which are educational games in the guise of entertainment.
As I write this I am practicing my playing of the game I named, Emeralda: Games for the Gifts of Life. I call it practice, but I’m also producing an essay, words for the culture I learned in college, the life of the mind.
Having exceeded my allotment in years, three-score and ten—I move toward the end of my life in the cultural arts. Its highest level of attainment in education is through the channels of media, and the interface is business exchange—commerce being the oldest form of valuation.
I can think of no better means to teach than by commerce, and this includes the incorporation of buyers and sellers into a mutually beneficial relationship. Corporations have provided the structural means to make the relationship happen. It begins with shareholders in the enterprise and includes the consumers who prove and sustain the value of the enterprise. It’s a recursive relationship that works.
An etching press with a brain, or a teacher in a box, can be a product to sustain interaction and mutual benefits but not if its purchase stops at the old frame of reference, i.e., making prints for consumption. That’s because on that level, prints are the same as paintings and drawing but cheaper.
Continuous interaction between maker and consumer is where printmaking trumps its cousins, painting and drawing because printmaking has cousins in technology, too, and this makes all the difference.
Therefore, IPCI is a corporation; but because IPCI is a cultural arts corporation, it may fall under the S-corp or B-corp mantel—Service and Benefit. My only means to finance the startup is my name to those who know my name is as a teacher and artist. It’s likely I’m better at teaching than I will ever be as an artist; time will tell, and we don’t have any more of it.
What is apparent immediately is that I have a thousand unsold works of art in our storage – works of art which will be disposed of as trash soon after I die. But it doesn’t have to be that way. These thousand works can be used for shares in IPCI, Inc., sold as scrip to finance the incubators (the second “I” in IPCI for which IPCI is unique in all the world).
For it is not only for making prints as consumer products that I have spent my life, but also for the benefit of the Earth’s human life sustainability and that, in turn, is educational benefit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

180626 Publishing PDF on SendOwl 

We are living in the digital age of the feuilleton described in the back story of Hermann Hesse’s book, The Glass Bead Game. I got stuck in college, like a dinosaur in a tar pit. I’m unable to get out of the habits I learned in college – teaching, doing research, practicing and producing and doing service to communities-of-practice. Like those creatures trapped 38,000 years ago, I am trapped in habits of thought I learned in college.
The habits of teaching, research, practice and service I learned from my teachers led to experiments (research) with video as a teaching instrument and an art instrument. The significance for an arts professional and his or her students would be clear from the 1930’s on, when several scientific discoveries and engineering developments converged, changing the course of human history and pointing to either the specie’s further development or the specie’s destruction both of itself and multitudes of other living species.
Earth’s sustainability of human life, then, became my focus. The present age which resembles Hesse’s view of feuilleton, and mine, too, only updated. He responded with literature. I respond with digital works designed for the Web.
Feuilleton in Wikipedia: In the novel The Glass Bead Game (1943), by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Hermann Hesse, the current era is characterized and described as "The Age of the Feuilleton".[3] In Hesse's novel, this so-called age of the feuilleton, viewed retrospectively from a future scholarly society called Castalia, is generally but not simply portrayed as having an overweening, trivializing or obfuscating character such as is associated with the arbitrary and primitive nature of social production prior to the historical denouement that resulted in the creation of Castalia. The bourgeois feuilleton of the Belle Époque, especially in France during the period of the Dreyfus affair, as well as those of Fascist Germany, served to effect Kulturpolitik; they established norms and tastes, contributed to the formation of social identity, and often expressed an underlying antisemitism. Glasperlenspiel was written during World War II, and Hesse would have been reacting in part to these real historical developments.[citation needed] In Maxim Gorky's novel "Foma Gordeev" the character Ezhóff is described as a feuilleton writer.
Like the fantasy Hesse created a region Castalia, a scholar’s haven where mastery of the arts and sciences counts, I created Emeralda. Where invented the Glass Bead Game, I invented Games for the gifts of life. In this imaginary space – played out in the media of its origination - I practice like a musician practices on an instrument. Sometimes it is an etching press—but seldom these days. Most often it is on a multimedia computer system with software only, my hands touching on keyboards, microphones and digital imaging devices such as cameras.
Most of what I produce are pages for the World Wide Web pages. However, like that dinosaur (or wolf or other species whose bones you see in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles), I cannot escape into the ordinary world in this age of the feuilleton.
I had in mind valuation of my art when I began writing my memoir. In particular, as a way to finance the IPCI feasibility study, selling my art would raise the money. Anyone reading my life story may find my story justifying my big idea of IPCI. My story may validate my idea(s).

Saturday, June 23, 2018

ap180623 Escape Emeralda Revisited  

Staring at the RIISMA screen for PRODUCTS (after clicking on the glass bead of my homepage, I wondered how a game called Escape Emeralda would work for college credit in a MOOC connected to an art course. I have thought of printmaking for so long that getting credit and achieving printmaking skill mastery to be important that “knowing prints, printmakers and printmaking” seems important.
Maybe it isn’t. Maybe the importance of such things is part of the error in my thinking, the error of thinking latest problems can be solved in the framework of their causes.
Is it true? Think of a problem whose solution is so important that colleges can charge high tuitions to train students in their solutions’ methods. Think of a medical student pays a lot in time and money to solve problems that matter, life-and-death situations. There is nothing close to such important things in knowing about prints, printmakers and printmaking.
Chatting with a neighbor yesterday he commented how the entertainment industry is no in trouble, economically. His daughter is a stage-hand, and reports her firsthand experiences in seeing the outlay of resources that go into major entertainment attractions at the Seattle Center.
“On a day when an event is setting up, there will be up to 20 trucks line up, off-loading for it!” Think about the outlay of resources for that!
The problem, in my opinion, is that entertainment can exacerbate the problems we face as a society and as a species living on a planet with a growing human population and dwindling resources. My game, and my teaching, were supposed to help solve problems by growing creativity, and the creativity of people was supposed to lead to creative solutions to problems.
The medical student planning to be a neurosurgeon is the recipient of tens of thousands of other surgeons who came before. I took the teaching hospital as the model for my art studio—teaching, research and practice going on simultaneously under one roof. I added service to my vision. I call it TRPS, a principle which can be applied to any endeavor for Earth’s human life sustainability.
Staring at my RIISMA screen on my vintage homepage, clicking on PRODUCTS, I tried to imagine an escape game. If I choose one of the three “rooms” I can access – currently there are only three: ARTIST STAMPS, ARTIST TRADING CARDS, and SOFTWARE. Only the first one is linked to another page.

I tried to imagine a CLUE or PHRASE, something to suggest which to choose. I tried to forecast which choice was likely to get me what I want – which is to escape. If I choose ARTIST STAMPS, its link takes me to a window where I can print my own stamps.

Sure, I can print these stamps in color or black and white depending on if I have the kind of printer for it, but why? They are not for use as legitimate postage. They are artistamps. Cool enough? Perhaps. People do, after all, take notice of them in the gallery. If they are physically in the Mini Art Gallery, they can see the stamps in a drawer, and they often want to buy them, and I have, indeed sold them.

The shop is not set up like a store, currently, to make purchases easy. I’m not even set up to sell things; it’s awkward for me. I’m not a shopkeeper, although I could use the money! I have PayPal and PayPalHere, but I don’t take time to practice with it to be efficient.
Not a shopkeeper nor am I a cashier. I am a professor, through-and-through, simple as that. A professor does research besides teach and produce (through practice, practice and more practice).
But what am I researching? What am I practicing? Initially, in the 1980’s, my research was to discover and apply the justification for teaching printmaking in a university. The premise that art should be taught in a university had already been justified. But printmaking within its walls had not.
My hypothesis was that printmaking was being taught incorrectly as an extension of painting. Printmaking is the ancestor of technology—not the poor cousin of fine art painting; therefore, students should be taught printmaking as such, not merely to reproduce drawing and painting canon. This has important social and economic meaning and the main thing is the reliance on teamwork and interaction with Nature, i.e., Earth science.
So, as I begin my day, my screen awaits me. Where do I go from here to, “Escape Emeralda?”

Thursday, June 21, 2018

vi180621 They sell tiles, don’t they? 

I was at the Pike Place Market and I saw that, in addition to the tiles and little bronze pig-hoof-prints, the organization has added metal charms that hang down in the openings of fencing, each charm stamped with a donor’s name. As this is a long-standing method to raise money for nonprofits, would it not work also for artiscripophily in a B-corp?
I still maintain that for-profit is better in the long run for printmaking organizations because print is in-between the fine arts and commercial printing. It is a hybrid art. After reading David Mendoza’s memoir recently, I understood the economic and political aspect of the fine arts better. I saw how the politics of government policies and wealthy patrons, not to mention the politics of sexual orientation and gender, race and ethics are intermingled in the fine arts.
Where money and political power are concerned, the fine arts of the high-ticket kind—artworks that are bought and sold for huge sums—so many factors enter in which may not be in the best interest of Earth’s human life sustainability.
As an example, mention of David’s friends, “Dressed in furs,” reminds me of the animal rights peoples’ protests about the luxury fur industry, not much different than poaching elephants and rhinos. I doubt that you’d have to dig very deeply into the skin of the wealthy women with David to find their true feelings toward the rights of animals—and human kind, for that matter.
I believe Walter Benjamin was correct in his observation, that when reproduction became cheap and accurate, the image of an iconic work of art conferred more political power to the owners of the art than had existed before. He said the cult of art shifted to the practice, the culture, of politics. Art so reproduced conferred power to the owners, the same as a fur coat makes a person appear wealthier and, hence, more powerful, politically.
Given the generations of this reality to take effect on society, entire populations fall under the mercy of a few. Their power shows, as they buy works of art for soaring prices and then donate them to art museums. Government follows the same route—allocating what appear to be handsome sums of money to arts programs and thus garnering the art and members of the culture groups’ favor.
Therefore, proposing nonprofit status for the International Print Center Incubators is wrong-headed, just as it would be for SURF (the tech startup group) to be a nonprofit. You don’t have an incubator which claims to help its entrants learn profitable businesses while under the umbrella of a tax-deductible organization, exempt from the rules of taxable C-corps, B-corps and S-corps.
I think the supporters of IPCI will be more likely to help me get it established if it is a blend, a hybrid, of for-profit and benefit-corporations, just as printmaking is a hybrid of fine art and printing for profit.
As for tiles, charms and bronze-hoofprints set in stone like the benefits given to supporters of the Pike Place Market, IPCI is not only a tourist destination feature for the City of Seattle, it’s also functional as an educational feature for both the stakeholders and the visitors. It also has a prominent Internet presence, reaching far beyond its geographic place.
A tourist at the PPM doesn’t learn a thing by noticing the mementos, but when the tourist reads a printed brochure or Website about the PPM which explains those mementos, something clicks. The donors are recognized. Fair enough. But what is missed is the fact that money and politics saved the market against the onslaught of the developer’s wrecking ball—the donation are not enough to sustain the PPM over the long term. My experience of working with an arts person at the stalls taught me there is a limit on what it does for its vendors.
The IPCI concept is more complicated than saving the historic flavor of the public market. Printmaking has a different meaning, not at all related to farm and garden, fishing or the meat industry. Arts and crafts come close and are a main attraction at the PPM, but under strong limitations.
Printmaking is the ancestor of the technologies that currently account for the Pacific Northwest’s economic success story, yet its descendants—computer aided image making and reproduction—serve education far more effectively than the PPM. Technologies shape the world and will determine Earth’s human life sustainability. That’s a scientific fact, and art helps—but only in reproductions.
In one area particularly, STREAM-based education, there is much work to be done, and I have begun. If the Pike Place Market Foundation can sell tiles, tracks and charms to augment the PPM, then can art scripophily start up the IPCI? I think so.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

180619 More heroes 

I’ve always had heroes. I’ve never outgrown heroism, that sense there are people greater in stature, intellect, courage and given dumb luck than I. Bill Ritchie in Alexandria, Virginia, is one of them, and evidently, so is his wife, Andrea Barthello. The year of my downfall – 1985 – on the other side of the country, they started designing and selling games for kids. These games had a serious play side, which may owe partly to Bill’s brother, Dennis, who invented C and co-created Unix OS.
Because my goal is to blend a learning game with printmaking to spice up STEM, and do it by making printmaking fit the needed R (for reading) and A (for art) to get STREAM. I want to do for education what “the other Bill Ritchie” did for the good of children and not a few adults like me.
Having read Anne Focke’s entry to her blog, my mind returns to her dilemma, that is, she wonders what a person can do in these times of trouble. She writes about Pollyanna-ism and Panglossian-ism and positions herself outside of both optimism and pessimism because she will do something.
Anne is another one of my heroes. I have many. My autobiography, its first “vomit draft” complete, probably show this from accounts of my elementary school teachers to the most recent – like Bill and Andrea in the article I copied below..
Thus begins my day, a little hero worship (reading a ten-year old Post interview) and it’s back to work on my game-of-life, Emeralda, the games for the gifts of life.
Makers of Mind-Bending Games (from the Washington Post)
By Karen Hart
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Bill Ritchie and Andrea Barthello took the old adage about "all work and no play" literally when they started their game company, ThinkFun (, then called Binary Arts, in 1985. Fleeing the world of real estate investment finance, the Alexandria husband-and-wife team found refuge in an opportunity to develop mind-challenging games for kids.
We recently sat down with the two co-founders, both 52, to play some Rush Hour and Cover Your Tracks, two of their biggest hits, and hear how their toy story began.
What was your first game concept?
Bill: Our first game concept was called the Hexadecimal Puzzle, and the tag line for it was "an advanced mathematical puzzle with 16 variations."
Was there much of a market for it?
Bill:[Laughs.] There was almost no market. [But] that's ancient history.
When you come up with an idea, how do you turn it into reality?
Andrea: Rush Hour is a good example of that. It came to us as a one-dimensional just flat thing on wood . . . it was like that type of puzzle where you slide things around. So Bill really innovated on it and said we need something that has multi-levels of challenges so that the thing gets harder as it goes along.
Bill: Rush Hour was 10 years [after Hexadecimal Puzzle], and by that time we had become quite sophisticated. We knew an awful lot about taking an idea and turning it into something that was colorful and well designed and well presented.
So you don't necessarily come up with an idea -- someone may come to you, and you purchase it from them or license it?
Andrea: And we evolve it. But the simple answer is yes.
What made you think you could compete with the Hasbros of the world? Or do you feel as though you compete with them?
Andrea: I think you compete with them because you compete for shelf space, but what we've done, which I think is almost a more difficult thing to do, is created a different category. . . . Everything we've been doing has brought us to now, which is owning the category of mind-challenging games, which is different than a board game.
Did you play games as a kid?
Bill: Yeah. My favorite game is Risk.
Did you ever cheat at games when you were a kid?
Bill: Of course you cheated at games! With Risk, though, it was less about cheating but more about trying to convince the kids that you were playing against that they should be defending things that had nothing to do with what you were planning on attacking.
Some of your games' rules seem kind of intricate. How long does it take you to come up with them?
Bill: From the point of view of a 10-year-old kid, this [Rush Hour] is not an intricate game if you compare it to Monopoly or Risk. Even though solving it is tough, understanding what you are supposed to do is not at the same level of difficulty. An awful lot of work goes in by the challenge inventors to make the challenges as clever as possible.
Do you use your family as guinea pigs to test your games or take prototypes to schools for feedback?
Bill: Oh, yeah. Brick by Brick is a wonderful game, but we tried it with first-graders and it was like giving them spinach. Third- and fourth-graders really enjoy it.
I read that one of your sons invented Math Dice as a school project. Did he get a bigger allowance?
Andrea: He owns the patent and gets royalties!
Have you ever seen a game on the market and thought, "We should have done that"?
Andrea: I have. When Cranium came out, I called them. We were in Starbucks, and I called them to see who had done it and see if we should license it. It turns out that I know them now -- these two great guys from Microsoft who had light-years on us in terms of marketing.
What do you think is going to be big during the holiday season? Are games going to be hot this year?
Andrea: I was just at the Fall Toy Show, which is actually for next year, but people are talking about, in the trades, that nothing is emerging as a big hit. . . . For us, the Rush Hour Ultimate Edition at Barnes & Noble -- it is exclusive to them -- is going to do really well.
Do you play computer or online games?
Bill: I went through a brief bout early in our company history and started going down the path where I was addicted, so I don't play any computer games, with one exception: I just now bought Guitar Hero, and I'm planning on getting good at it.
Play Time
To try three ThinkFun games online -- Rush Hour, River Crossing and TipOver -- go to and click "play."

Friday, June 15, 2018

es180614 Anniversary and the empty seat 

Today is June 14, 2018, the 54th anniversary of our wedding day in 1964. At 76 am writing my memoir, and the marriage to Lynda marks the first major turning point in my life. From what she has said to me, I believe it was the same for her, so we’re on the same page! If I had known then what I know now, I would not have done anything differently.
The craft of writing requires some finesse, and to learn that finesse I have had to read several books about autobiography and fiction because they are interdependent. Mainly it is to the reader that a writer is obliged. After all, there are many things people can do for themselves and reading is only one of them. In the of digital reproduction, the reading population may be in decline.
Reading takes effort. The reader must direct the monkey mind to attention. That’s why books about memoir and creative writing exist—to suggest ways capture and hold the reader’ attention. It is the same for the playwright and the screenplay writer. The poet, too, may be advised to think how the reader takes in the lines of the poem, and come back to read them again.
In my memoir, our 1964 wedding takes place part way into the third volume of my eight-volume project. This morning, while I’m doting over our anniversary before going to the gallery to write, my monkey mind (more like a sloth-mind) thinks about an empty seat in a theater. I’m fascinated by a play-auction I dreamed up about a dozen years ago.
It’s a staging of a printmaking scene in which a ghost of some memorable person comes on stage where a printer is working. The printer, too, is memorable for a legacy of prints. A huge press, a replica of a 17th Century printing press like the one Rembrandt probably used, is on the stage, and the printmaker looks a lot like self-portraits of the Old Master.
The ghost addresses the printer, making a request or asking a question such as, “Are you a printer?” Dumb question, and it’s here where humor may come in and set the tone for the audience.
The theater seat is empty. The question I am asking myself, “Can you fill that empty seat? Can you convince the person to buy the ticket for that seat? Can you fill all the seats in this theater? What theater is it?” In Seattle, the one theater that comes to mind is the Cornish Playhouse, which has four potential spaces to accommodate 70 – 500 people, ranging from intimate settings for private auctions to dramatic stage settings.
My time is up for doting on our anniversary and this, what it has led to: This freedom of mind to allow the creative process into the theater of my mind, the freedom to contemplate my stage-play idea. For this freedom I’m grateful to Lynda. I have read accounts of artists’ lives, and few of them have been as happy stories as mine, thanks to the wife of my life.

Monday, June 4, 2018

es180604 My last wish 

If I were dying tomorrow, what would be my last wish? In twenty-four hours, I could be dead. In the U.S. today, it happens with growing frequency. They shoot kids in schools. People run red lights at intersections. People get killed without warning. When you’re 76, there’s an increasing chance of a fatal stroke or heart attack, even when you seem healthy.
Then there is the certainty of death – it happens to us all, eventually. If a genie appeared and offered me one last wish, one thing I want to see come true before I die, is to see the printmaking teaching method online that I tinkered with for the past thirty-some years. In 1980 I had the vision of teaching printmaking at a distance using the Washington Educational Network – WETNET. It worked for the UW Hospital; why not the art school?
The reason why not came fast and clear – it was a threat to the faculty. When I presented it to the art department, a plan to teach woodcut to small classes in three rural towns on the WETNET system they said I could not. They would not provide the necessary validation of the course. They refused not because I was not qualified. It was simply that the art department chairman, Richard Arnold, didn’t want to go into using learning technologies that threatened job security.
It happened when I started using videotapes to supplement teaching printmaking. “You will be putting yourself out of a job,” the art faculty said. Although I made dozens of printmaking teaching tapes and those tapes hadn’t put me out of a job. If they had effect it was to enhance my ability to teach.
It didn’t matter that I didn’t get to use WETNET to teach printmaking. I was all right without it. I didn’t fight for it. Now, I wish I had been more of a fighter; but I was born to teach, not fight. After all, did not teaching keep me from being drafted in the military to fight in Vietnam?
I have to ask: “Should I fight to have the printmaking teaching method for distance learning go into effect? Have I been too soft on the subject? Weak? I’ve worked on it for three decades – am I not trying hard enough?”
My one last wish would be to see signs that printmaking experiences can be shared online, that teaching printmaking online can be done. This morning I reviewed a sample of an online Q & A game I thought of using. It dates from 15 years ago, based on trivia questions. It’s a vocabulary game, but it can be extended to include portals to real lessons.
That old sample is not bad. Looking at it I thought of a Hungarian friend, and how she wants to learn intaglio printing. I wonder, among all the gifts I’ve received, all the people whom I’ve met along the path of my life’s journey, is she one who can make my wish come true before I die?
I am trying to help her come to Seattle on an internship so she can work with me to learn intaglio. Am I trying hard enough? Her plan is to get her PhD, partly by this extension of her thesis – intaglio. Is there a chance she can learn printmaking online, or as a hybrid MOOC? That would be a step to being granted my last wish.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

ps180529 What I learned from Leonardo da Vinci 

At the end of his biography of Leonardo Da Vinci, Walter Isaacson gave a list of twenty things to learn from Leonardo. I added one at the end. If I add to this list an abridged version of Isaacson’s details, it would be to create Ingenuity Cards, a deck of 21 cards based on Isaacson’s lessons. It would then be possible to make these into the card game, Rembrandt’s Ghost, where these represent Rembrandt’s secrets, the notes he hid under the tiles of his printing room.
Isaacson prefaced this section: “The fact that Leonardo was not only a genius but also very human – quirky and obsessive and playful and easily distracted – makes him more accessible. He was not graced with the type of brilliance that is completely unfathomable to us. Instead, he was self – taught and willed his way to his genius. So even though we may never be able to match his talents, we can learn from him and try to be more like him. His life offers a wealth of lessons.

1.   Be curious, relentlessly curious.

“I have no special talents,” Einstein once wrote to a friend. “I am just passionately curious.” Leonardo actually did have special talents, as did Einstein, but his distinguishing and most inspiring trait was his intense curiosity. He wanted to know what causes people to yawn, how they walk on ice in Flanders, methods for squaring the circle, what makes the aortic valve close, how light is processed in the eye and what that means for perspective in a painting. He instructed himself to learn about the placenta of a calf, the jaw of a crocodile, the tongue of a woodpecker, the muscles of a face, the light of the moon, and the edges of shadows. Being relentlessly and randomly curious about everything around us is something that each of us can push ourselves to do, every waking hour, just as he did.

2.   Seek knowledge for its own sake.

Not all knowledge needs to be useful. Sometimes it should be pursued for pure pleasure. Leonardo did not need to know how heart valves work to paint the Mona Lisa, nor did he need to figure out how fossils got to the top of mountains to produce Virgin of the Rocks. By allowing himself to be driven by pure curiosity, he got to explore more horizons and see more connections than anyone else of his era.

3.   Retain a childlike sense of wonder.

At a certain point in life, most of us quit puzzling over every day phenomena. We might savor the beauty of a blue sky, but we no longer bother to wonder why it is that color. Leonardo did. So did Einstein, who wrote to another friend, “You and I never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” We should be careful to never outgrow our wonder years, or to let our children do so.

4.   Observe.

Leonardo’s greatest skill was his acute ability to observe things. It was the talent that empowered his curiosity, and vice versa. It was not some magical gift but a product of his own effort. When he visited the moats surroundings Svorza Castle, he looked at the four-wing dragonflies and noticed how the wing pairs alternate in motion. When he walked around town, he observed how the facial expressions of people relate to their emotions, and he discerned how light bounces off differing surfaces. He saw which birds move their wings faster on the upswing than on the downswing, and which do the opposite. This, too, we can emulate. Water flowing into a bowl? Look, as he did, at exactly how the eddies swirl. Then wonder why.

5.   Start with the details.

In his notebook, Leonardo shared a trick for observing something carefully: Do it in steps, starting with each detail. A page of the book, he noted, cannot be absorbed in one stare; you need to go word-by-word. “If you wish to have a sound knowledge of the forms of objects, begin with the details of them, and do not go on to the second step until you have the first well fixed in memory.”

6.   See things unseen.

Leonardo’s primary activity in many of his formative years was conjuring up pageants, performances, and plays. He mixed theatrical ingenuity with fantasy. This gave him a combinatory creativity. He could see birds in flight and also angels, lions roaring and also dragons.

7.   Go down rabbit holes.

He filled the opening pages of one of his notebooks with 169 attempts to square the circle. In eight pages of his Codex Leicester, he recorded 730 findings about the flow of water; in another notebook, he listed 67 words that describe different types of moving water. He measured every segment of the human body, calculated their proportional relationships, and then did the same for a horse. He drilled down for the pure joy of geeking out.

8.   Get distracted.

The greatest rap on Leonardo was that these passionate pursuits cause him to wander off on tangents, literally in the case of his math inquiries. It “has left posterity the poorer,” Kenneth Clark lamented. But in fact, Leonardo’s willingness to pursue whatever shiny object caught his eye made his mind richer and filled with more connections.

9.   Respect facts.

Leonardo was a forerunner of the age of observational experiments and critical thinking. When he came up with an idea, he devised an experiment to test it. And when his experience showed that a theory was flawed – such as his belief that the springs within the earth were replenished the same way as blood vessels in humans – he abandoned his theory and sought a new one. This practice became common a century later, during the age of Galileo and Bacon. It has, however, become a bit less prevalent these days. If we want to be more like Leonardo, we have to be fearless about changing our minds based on new information.

10.               Procrastinate.

While painting the last supper, Leonardo would sometimes stare at the work for an hour, finally make one small stroke, and then leave. He told Duke Ludovico that creativity requires time for ideas to marinate and intuitions to gel. “Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work least,” he explained, “for their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give form.” Most of us don’t need advice to procrastinate; we do it naturally. But procrastinating like Leonardo requires work: it involves gathering all the possible facts and ideas, and only after that allowing the collection to simmer.

11.               Let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

When Leonardo could not make the perspective in The Battle of Anghiari or the interaction in the Adoration of the Magi work perfectly, he abandoned them rather than producing work that was merely good enough. He carried around masterpieces like his Saint Anne and the Mona Lisa to the end, knowing there would always be a new stroke he could add. Likewise, Steve Jobs was such a perfectionist that he held up shipping the original Macintosh until his team could make the circuit boards inside look beautiful, even though no one would ever see them. Both he and Leonardo new that real artists care about the beauty even of the parts unseen. Eventually, Jobs embraced a countermaxim, “Real artists ship,” which means that sometimes you ought to deliver a product even when there are still improvements that could be made. That is a good rule for daily life. But there are times when it’s nice to be like Leonardo and not let go of something until it’s perfect.

12.               Think visually.

Leonardo was not blessed with the ability to formulate math equations or abstractions. So he had to visualize them, which he did with his studies of proportions, his rules of perspective, his method for calculating reflections from concave mirrors, and his ways of changing one shape into another of the same size. Too often, when we learn a formula or a rule – even one so simple as the method for multiplying numbers or mixing a paint color – we no longer visualize how it works. As a result, we lose our appreciation for the underlying beauty of nature’s laws.

13.               Avoid silos.

At the end of many of his product presentations, Steve Jobs displayed a slide of a sign that showed the intersection of “Liberal arts” and “Technology” streets. He knew that at such crossroads lay creativity. Leonardo had a free–range mind that merrily wandered across all the disciplines of the arts, sciences, engineering, and humanities. His knowledge of how light strikes the retina helped inform the perspective in The Last Supper, and on a page of anatomical drawings depicting the dissection of lips he drew the smile that would appear in the Mona Lisa. He knew that art was a science and that science was an art. Whether he was drawing a fetus in the womb or the swirls of a deluge, he blurred the distinction between the two.

14.               Let your reach exceed your grasp.

Imagine, as he did, how you would build a human–powered flying machine or divert a river. Even try to devise a perpetual–motion machine or square a circle using only a ruler and a compass. There are some problems we will never solve. Learn why.

15.               Indulge fantasy.

His giant crossbow? The turtle–like tanks? His plan for an ideal city? The man–powered mechanisms to flap a flying machine? Just as Leonardo blurred the lines between science and art, he did so between reality and fantasy. It may not have produced flying machines, but it allowed his imagination to soar.

16.               Create for yourself, not just your patrons.

No matter how hard the rich and powerful marchesa Isabella d’Este begged, Leonardo would not paint her portrait. But he did begin one of a silk–merchants wife named Lisa. He did it because he wanted to, and he kept working on it for the rest of his life, never delivering it to the silk merchant.

17.               Collaborate.

Genius is often considered the purview of loners who retreat to their garrets and are struck by creative lightning. Like many myths, that of the loan genius has some truth in it. But there is usually more to the story. The Madonnas and drapery studies produced in Verrocchio’s studio, and the versions of Virgin of the Rocks and Madonna of the Yarnwinder and other paintings from Leonardo’s studio, were created in such a collaborative manner that it is hard to tell whose handmade which strokes. Vitruvian Man was produced after sharing ideas and sketches with friends. Leonardo’s best anatomy studies came when he was working in partnership with Marcantonio della Torre. And his most fun work came from collaborations on theatrical productions and evening entertainments at the Sforza Court. Genius starts with individual brilliance. It requires singular vision. But executing it often entails working with others. Innovation is a team sport. Creativity is a collaborative endeavor.

18.               Make lists.

And be sure to put odd things on them. Leonardo’s to-do lists may have been the greatest testaments to pure curiosity the world has ever seen.

19.               Take notes on paper.

Five-hundred years later, Leonardo’s notebooks are around to astonish and inspire us. Fifty years from now our own notebooks, if we work up the initiative to start writing them, will be around to astonish and inspire our grandchildren, unlike our Tweets and Facebook posts.

20.               Be open to mystery.

Not everyone needs sharp lines.

One for the road – the Rule of 21

Years ago I made an axiom for myself called the Rule of 21: It takes twenty-one days to make or lose a habit. Partly because of the Rule of 21 and partly because I think I prefer odd numbers when I make a list, I added one more to the list of things Walter Isaacson said we can learn from Leonard da Vinci:

21.               Live life like a game.

This translates in at least two ways. One is: Live every day as if it were your last, because one day it will be true. The other is accredited to Confucius: Better to play games than do nothing at all. Maybe these 21 things are represented in my original idea for the International Print Center and Inkubators. I wonder: Are the nineteen components of the IPCI the way to realize and activate a list of twenty-one things Isaacson learned, and then to live your life like a game based on printmaking?
“Printmaking game-based learning for STREAM-based education.”