Our Creative Journey!

A magic moment in the highlands of Scotland.

So a month and a half ago, my fiancee Dave and I embarked on a voyage. Not exactly a holiday, not exactly a work trip–somewhere in the middle. It is a creative expedition. It was based on an idea that we never really go anywhere or have time for anything except when work is involved. Our best trips away together have mostly been short journeys within New Zealand to go and record sounds.

So we figured if we were ever going to go on any big overseas trips, then we should involve our work in the creative industries. Last year, we had two friends who had both offered us to come and stay at their artist residencies.

The first was from Peter Roberts, a picture editor who had a residency in Ibiza off the coast of Spain for writers. It was a house once used by famous New Zealand author, Janet Frame. This sounded like a perfect chance for me to focus on the second instalment of my children’s sci-fi adventure and Dave could work on his feature film scripts. 

The second residency was in Trélex in Switzerland. Our friend Nina Rodin runs an artist residency for all manner of creative artists and she has not had many sound artists stay at Trélex. Her husband David Rodin went to school with my Dave, so he had been talking for years about the idea of heading over to visit them, but the idea of doing art at the same time was doubly fantastic. Not only would we do plenty of sound art, Dave and I both love painting, photography, video-art and composition, so there was plenty of things for us to experiment with that we normally never have time for.

It would have been so easy to think; “Oh yes, that would be lovely to travel overseas and work on our art,” but never actually get around to it. For once Dave and I wanted to jump on such an opportunity and go for it.

Last year was a big year for Dave as he directed his first short film. And my book is in the final stages of preparing for publishing, but I wanted time to dive into the second book before the first one comes out. With a heavy work load planned for the back half of 2017, we decided that from the end of March to June would be the best chance we had to head to Europe for a couple of months. When we get back Dave has his short film screening in some festivals as well as a very exciting writer’s workshop to attend, so now is the perfect time to get things moving on the writing front.

Though we were only planning on spending two weeks at each of the residency locations, our process of creating art was one that we would  engaged with every day of the trip. We record sound every single day, no matter where we are.  I’ve been keeping a couple of creative journals with sketching and writing ideas. And of course Dave has his trusty camera  and I have the GoPro.

Sound recording in Switzerland.

We started out in the UK, spending a few days In London with some friends before driving up north to Scotland. We stopped in to see relatives I had in England, but for the most part we were travelling heavily every day and visiting as many attractions as we could all the way. All the while, we were gathering sounds, video footage and artistic photographs to inspire our art. Some highlights were Stonehenge and Avebury, the Roman baths and Lindisfarne and of course, the castles. Edinburgh and Stirling castles where stunning, but some of my favourites were the derelict ruins standing alone in the mists without tourists and gift shops. Places where you could sit and sketch and soak in the ancient landscape.

The longest we spent in one place was four days in Skye. Skye was breathtaking. Such wildness and isolation, I felt very much at home there. I guess in many ways it’s similar to New Zealand. Harsh weather and rugged landscape permeates the cultures of the Antipodes and the Hebrides with a similar fortitude. The first two weeks in the UK was so jam-packed full of excitement and adventure it felt like a lot longer than two weeks. I planned on doing more blogging on the journey and I also had hoped to start up a video blog, but we’ve been busier than I expected and quite often without very good Internet access. So I thought I should make a start somewhere. Better late than never.

Today I have more time on my hands because yesterday, I badly sprained my ankle.  There is nothing quite in injury to allow time for retrospective and slowing down to appreciate what you have. For example, I am incredibly glad that I only sprained my ankle and and didn’t break it. Today is 18th  of May and we have exactly one month left of our trip. We will arrive back in Wellington on the 18th June. The trip has been in some ways longer than I could have imagined and in other ways has flown by.

Our two weeks in Ibiza, was amazing. The warmth was a welcome change from Scotland and we made sure we explored the landscape there and went swimming in the crystal blue waters. I had a lot of trouble with asthma and sickness, and yet we still got a lot of writing done. It was so incredibly luxurious to be able to focus on writing, considering it a full-time job instead of having to cram it in around a normal workload.

Enjoying writing in my journal while sipping sangria at a cafe in Ibiza old town.

We were in Barcelona for only three days after that and though we didn’t get to see much of the city, we saw a lot of the Gothic Quarter where we were staying and had very splendid time enjoying the food and wine of that beautiful city.

Sitting by the window of our apartment in Barcelona.

Trélex has been magical. Staying with David and Nina Rodin and their family has been a privilege and a pleasure. Though our time he has been short, already we have achieved a lot. I have been painting and sketching more than I have in years, and I have gotten back into doing my audiovisual art which I’m very excited about. I’ve been continuing writing and Dave has too. He has made some great breakthroughs with his scripts and I’ve been able to help him with editing which I normally don’t have much time for. And of course we have been recording plenty of sound.

A day of sound recording adventure in the forests of Switzerland.

Switzerland is a wonderful place for recording soundscapes. There are lots of public parks and wide open spaces and lots of access to forests and mountains. There is so much more here that we could record but I’m very glad that we have some great recordings of cowbells and church bells and tranquil environments. The bells, the bells!

Our next door neighbour in Trelex and his lovely sounding bells.

 

Now we only have four days left in Switzerland, and I’m very aware of how difficult it will be moving on from here with my injury. With out recording gear, we have way too much luggage, so I hope I can lose the crutches soon. We are supposed to catch a train to France on Monday, but I have to go to the hospital for them to assess my ankle in the morning and then who knows what will happen. Though I hope it heals quickly, I also know that it will stop us from doing big and ambitious hikes which is sad, but like I said, I am very grateful for the things I do have and will make use of this time that I am less mobile by doing more art. As this is a creative journey, you have two create what you can using the tools is that you have available. Though this is my first blog entry on my journey I’m hoping that I will be more productive from now on. Until next time, get out there and create magic everyday!

Dave and I at Stonehenge.

 

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Creating Inspiration

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Sometimes we wait too long to be inspired. Sometimes we expect the world to come to us when we should venture out into the world. I have been avoiding writing a blog entry for a few months, expecting that something exciting would happen worth talking about. Or perhaps I was waiting for some news about my writing. However, experiencing setbacks with my writing should not have prevented me from taking time to express myself.

What I should have been doing is getting out and finding inspiration from the world around me. Life isn’t always glamorous, but sometimes real beauty can be found in the small things that you see everyday or little interactions you have with people around you. You only have to look at how many people post photos of their cat, or what they ate for lunch on social media to see that people think every day life is worth sharing.

I have to remind myself that we create our own excitement, just as we create our own boredom. In my job as a sound designer, I am constantly having to switch on creativity as if it were flowing from a tap. Sometimes this is easy to do, if the project is exciting, or new, or if I am on a roll, but sometimes it’s hard and I have to find new ways to trigger that creative enthusiasm. Often this involves going out and doing field recording or buying a new plug-in for my studio. New tools and toys are a handy way to rekindle a childlike approach to work. You want to make your job more like playing and less like labour.

For writing, new toys usually means stationary.  I love stationary. The smell of a new paper journal and the feel of a fresh pen fill me with joy. Today however, my new toy is my dictation software. So far it seems to be working fairly well. However, I think I could have typed all of this by hand much faster,  but I’m sure I’ll get better.

Aside from gadgets and gizmos, the real reason I got back onto this blog today was because I started back at work after my Christmas break. I was inspired by seeing my fellow artists at work and feeling the good vibes of being back on the project with my team. Sometimes free time and leisure can be the biggest killer of inspiration for me and it’s not until I’m flat out at work that I find myself thinking about my own art.

So, I’d love to hear from you. What motivates you all to pick up your instruments? Or to sit at that keyboard? Or open another blank page? How do you create your inspiration?

Hyperphantasia! The Joys of an overactive imagination

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I only discovered this recently, that some people can not see images when they read. They call this Aphantasia. I was so upset to learn that so many people miss out on the magic of mental images.
I think I fall at the opposite end of the spectrum. Hyperphantasia.
 
I see so much when I read that it distracts me. It’s not just images though. I hear, I smell, I taste. I get so wound up in exploring another world inside my head that sometimes it takes me months to finish a book. The more I love the book, sometimes, the harder it is to read.
 
No wonder everyone called me a daydreamer!
I was teased as a child for living too much in an imaginary world, but that never stopped me. I never stopped being creative. Now that I’m an adult, I have a career in the film industry, Im an author, a musician and a painter. I can never get enough of the fantastical realms within my own mind. There’s nothing better than getting out those ideas and expressing them through image and sound.
I love being a daydreamer.
The main character in my upcoming book, James, is also a chronic daydreamer. Though his dreams are more nightmarish. And of course, his nightmares also have the unfortunate tendency to come true.
It’s been a while since I gave an update on my plans to publish, but I swear there will be more news very soon!
In the meantime, I’m going to just grab a book and have myself a little daydream.
 
Is there anyone else out there who has Hyperphantasia?
 

Science is Art. Art is Science

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Thanks NASA for constantly doing research for me. With a steady flow of inspiration coming from the scientists of the world, all I have to do is do a quick google search and BOOM…super exciting news about the cosmos unfolds before me. Of course the scientists also employ artists to come up with lovely pictures that I can sit and stare at, waiting for my brain to sprout some exciting idea. This image was created by an artist called Karl Kofoed, famous for his sci-fi illustrations. He created this image of the snow fields of Pluto by using data collected by the New Horizons mission. This image struck me instantly since one of the alien worlds in my book was based on Pluto. It’s fantastic to have a visual reference to connect to the imaginary world that I created.

Where would I be with out you science?

This brings me to an issue that I ponder quite regularly. Science and art are closer related than many people think. Back in the early days of modern sceince, before photography, scientists relied on artists to draw anatomical and biological figures in order to document and learn. More often than not, the scientist was the artist. Remember the guy who did this? Da Vinci? Scientist or artist? Is there a difference?

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Well, sure I guess there are huge differences, but I think that it’s important to regularly reflect on the interconnected nature of our lives. No aspect of human culture can truly be separated from the rest. Politics, history, human relationships, religion, sport, everything is intertwined.

As Einstein says:

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

My brother is a research scientist, and while he loves art, he often says that he wishes that scientists got as much credit and notoriety for their work as artists do. I agree with this wholeheartedly, the sciences deserve much more support and praise than they often receive. However, so do the arts. And I’m being broad here, including anything from visual arts, films, and sculpture, through to books, music, dance, etc. I think that without art, the human race could not be what it is today. While I’m an artist, I know that nothing I create could be possible without the gifts of science. My computer agrees with me. What do you think? Are you a scientist or an artist?

 

http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/galleries/snow-fields-of-pluto-artists-concept

Imagining Beauty

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’, so said Keats. I wonder what each person sees in their mind what visions are conjured when they hear that phrase. Or perhaps, what they envision when they simply see or hear the word ‘beauty’? The mystery of the mind and its complex machinations is at the heart of all art, no matter how small or great. The child sitting at a desk at school writes what he or she sees of the small world that they know and the great universe they can imagine. The rulers of countries sit at their desk signing their name and attaching it to ideas and dreams they have about the future.

Too often people consume their day with negative worries and fears. So much more time should be given to our imaginings. So much more effort should be spent on visualisations of what we hope will be, what we wish to achieve. Especially if those dreams and wishes are of things that are good.

I was inspired just now about the concept of beauty when I was flicking through YouTube watching short animation sci-fi films. There is some outstanding work being done out there, especially by people who are funding the projects themselves. Often I get so caught up in reading current sci-fi work that I forget how immediate and blistering inspiration can come from sight and sound. How the vast landscapes of written text can so quickly be etched into mindbogglingly beautiful reality through the medium of film.

Short films in particular, need to infuse a ton of of ideas into the viewers imagination in a short window of time. Perhaps this gives the short film genre more license to be more disjointed and incomplete than feature films. They offer only fractured glimpses of another world just as short stories do, without being bogged down by the constraints of character development, story arcs and plotting that larger works depend on.

This seems like a great excuse for me to offer a plug for a sci-fi short film I worked on in 2010. I co-designed the sound for a film called Abiogenesis. As the blurb states; “In this breathtaking science fiction spectacle, a strange mechanical device lands on a desolate world and uses the planet to undergo a startling transformation, that has profound implications for an entire galaxy.”

You can buy it here on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/abiogenesis/id644210102 or preview it. There is only a trailer of it on YouTube that doesn’t feature my sound sadly, nor the actual musical sound track by Rhian Sheehan. It has won numerous festival awards that has put it in a position to be eligible for an Oscar award in 2014.

Shameless plug aside, another film I just watched that sparked my interest was one called ‘The Gift’ –

The complexity of the world building and sheer beauty of ‘The Gift’ is laced with a sense of mystery that utterly captivated me. Though it is only a few minutes in duration and barely scratches at the surface of a compelling view of a futuristic Russia, it draws me in and leaves me craving more. The key character is a creepily well animated robot butler with porcelain skin. He is chased and hunted down by police for stealing a strange metallic box containing what we are only told is a ‘unicorn.’ When the film concludes, I know I should be disappointed for not finding out what the ‘unicorn’ actually is, but instead I’m glad. The puzzle is left open for the viewers imagination to toy with. My mind twists and turns over what the ‘unicorn’ could possibly be and what the motives of the people who wanted to obtain it are. As one of my favourite film makers David Lynch once said, “The more unknowable the mystery, the more beautiful it is.”

A riddle unsolved, that is the spark of inspiration that I crave constantly. Like a book not quite completed, the painting I imagine myself creating before I start, a quiet afternoon spent pondering what I will do next year.

When I was younger I used to think endlessly about the universe and what it meant to say that it was infinite. I used to end up feeling scared, intimidated and helpless. When I thought too long about it all, I always wound up thinking that perhaps there was no meaning to life? Then one day, I had a revelation. A moment of relaxation…of letting go. I realised that if we knew the reasons, the limits, or all the answers then it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting or profound or beautiful. Though every day the sun rises and sets, everything is always changing, always fresh. Transformation of matter and energy is endless and so is my daily appreciation for everything that I see, hear, taste, smell, think and feel. Beauty is just that to me, endless mystery.

How about you? What does beauty mean to you? I’d love to hear since only through sharing our stories can new idea be born.

Could I go a year without looking at words?

I don’t have very good eyes anymore. I used to have fantastic eyes. I used to be the person who would pride themselves on having better eyesight than anyone else.

“Someone has lost an earring – step back…I’m on to it!”

Not anymore…now I have astigmatisms and all kinds of floaters drifting around, waging imaginary battles as they dance across my ever moving sight. My eyes are bad, and my increasing involvement with computers in the last decade have been so heavily responsible for their on going deterioration.

I have a fantasy, I wonder what it would be like to live somewhere remote and spend an entire year without looking at a single word of print. Somewhere where there are no sign posts even…nothing…in any language. Not to take any books, nor write any thoughts or ideas. To live one full year without so much as looking at a calendar. Would it be possible? Would I go insane? Or would my eyes regenerate themselves from looking only at 3 dimensional spaces. It would be a great feat if I could go just one week without touching my mobile phone.

I think so many humans are deprived daily of the chance to see long distances. We are crammed so close together in our cities most of the time, we are lucky if we can gaze a few blocks away. I am fortunate here in wellington that there are many mountains and rolling hillsides that it is quite easy for me to climb up and look out across great distances. One of my favorite runs takes me up the top of a great big hill where I can see the coastline on both sides of the harbor. It is stunning and I am so grateful to be here in this amazing landscape.

I don’t know if I will ever get around to trying out living a year without looking at print, but it is still an interesting thought. To spend a year like our early human ancestors, living with no means of documenting one’s thoughts and also gaining no insight in to the thoughts of others. It might sound like a horrible scenario, but it’s still a notion that I often daydream about on those days when the computer is ruling my horizon with a menacing glare, and all I can think about are those hills and forests and oceans that I would rather be looking at.