I finally had some time to gather together the images from the workshop I did several weeks back. It’s nice to see them properly categorized and truly see the different perceptions of one cloud. Here is an example:
At the Teddy Bear Museum in N Seoul Tower, one can discover the history of Korea in the most adorable and saccharine way possible. Hundreds of teddy bears, with most being mechanical, are dressed and arranged to form scenes from Korea’s old and modern history. Bears in royal court! Bears at war! Bears playing polo! Bears doing breakdance! Bears going on a date! Bears getting married! Bears! Bears! Bears!
Some of my favorite scenes involve the arts and the sciences. Here’s one during with scientists during the reign of King Sejong.
Here’s a scene that made me smile. Look on the lower right:
I love this little errant artist bear that could.
I also love this scene where the first light bulb was installed in Gyeongbukgung, which I visited last month:
Sweet, amusing, and way more entertaining than your usual history museum.
(Seoul)—Last Saturday, a group of high school students from the docent program of the National Museum of Contemporary Art of Korea made their way over to the Changdong Art Studio for a talk and workshop with me and fellow artist-in-residence, Karolina Bregula.
After I made the students go on a scavenger hunt in my studio, we had homemade kimbap and tteokbokki for lunch. Then, I facilitated short workshops on drawing what they see in clouds, assigning colors to memories, and a blind smell test to dig through their memories.
For the color workshop, I thought the work of this student who matched color with pop culture was spot on:
I also loved this color palette of memories by another student:
Oh, and some used The Hug Vest as well.
All in all, a lovely and inspiring day with such intelligent women, who will soon be off to university.
With thanks to Ms. Sung-hee Cho of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea, and the staff of the National Art Studio of Korea, Changdong. Also huge thanks to Ashlee Seo Hyung Lee, who translated for me during the day.
In a field trip to the National Museum of Contemporary Art of Korea, I came across the piece Wol In Cheon Ji (2012) by Korean artist Choon Sup Lim in his solo exhibit, Luna, and Her Thousand Reflections.
On one side stands an enormous wooden structure that resembles a loom. The other side consists of four columns with thread.
In the middle lies a lovely installation of a tiny pavilion that is hovering over a changing projection of the moon’s surface.
There was something incredibly light and peaceful about this piece, which took up an entire room. So lovely! The exhibit runs until February 24, 2013.
(Seoul)—In Gwanghwamun Square today, I came across a snow bear in front of the statue of King Sejong, under whose reign science and technology flourished in Korea. In his rule, Hangul was also introduced to the country.
Up close, the bear is decorated with flowers for ears, cookies for eyes, a glove for his neck and a traffic cone for a hat.
Behind King Sejong is Gwanghwamun, one of the gates that leads to Gyeongbokgung, the main palace of the Jeoson dynasty. The mountain behind it is Bukhansan.
It’s such a pretty sight in the evening, isn’t it?
My dreams of the sleeping kind are often about flying, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’m considering aviation. However, as someone who nearly fell out of a building at 8-years-old, I am afraid of heights. But childhood trauma be damned! As a tiny yet tangible step to being an actual explorer, I went on an ultralight for a ride overlooking the Philippine city of Angeles (about 1.5 hours from Manila) two Sundays ago.
Rorsketch: The Flying Edition
The desire to fly, or be up in the sky without the stressful ordeal of commercial flights, to which I am no stranger, also has something to do with my cloud project. For years now, I’ve looked up at the clouds. It would be awesome if I can actually be at the same height as them!
Arayat is a mountain with its own share of myths that feature gods who battle other gods and/or giants in nearby mountains or disguise themselves as humans. It’s pretty. I want to climb it. But that will be another story for another day.
On the way, the clouds were already teasing me:
It’s difficult not to imagine the Wright brothers, who worked on planes and gliders of a similar size. The smallness of it! It’s like a bike with wings. But here goes nothing:
A bicycle in the sky
Flying via small planes has often been compared to being on a roller coaster with invisible tracks. Unlike commercial flights, which can give you the similar, and sometimes even better views, there is no barrier between you and the atmosphere. You control the vessel (well, Captain Max who was sitting on my right did, but he let me work the controls for a bit) and it is like riding a bike in the air. It’s quite exhilarating. And the skies told their stories:
What I like about flying in relation to this project is that it makes me a part of the canvas now.
The change of height and vessel also brought about one crucial, if not obvious, thing: I can see the ground below. And so grass and fields and roads turned into playgrounds of visual perception as well. Living in big polluted cities all my life, it is always startling to see huge patches of green. While we were rocked by scary gusts of wind, it was air that tasted of rain and sunlight and coconuts.
That day, my friends and I witnessed another plane doing aerobatic sequences in the sky using a bright yellow biplane. My jaw dropped, and I stared for several minutes. Then I started squealing. I can’t wait to do that eventually.
A hangout in the hangar (Yes, puns are not funny)
When the plane landed, I marched up and interrogated the pilot, Captain Mike, who humored us and described how the plane was made. Back in the hangar, he pointed out a pair of wings being made. Each part has its own paperwork so that it can be traced should anything go wrong.
Even the hat and glasses are very steampunk. Look!
On the way back, we had fresh coconut juice from the roadside. The sunset painted the clouds a pale orange, and I caught two that looked like dolphins. The day was almost too cinematic.
I grew up loving Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, and was thrilled to learn that the author himself was actually a pilot. I’ve devoured his other writings, especially Wind, Sand, and Stars, Night Flight and Flight to Arras. I think traveling in general allows for creativity, but traveling alone allows you to get lost in yourself and discover these pure grains of truth that shape you without you consciously knowing it. I think this has been the reason why I keep moving and seeking new and strange experiences, and once you start, it’s difficult to stop.
Thanks to Stephanie (@StephLTan) and Kristel Tan, The Angeles Flying Club, Captain Max, and Captain Mike!
Rorsketches to be posted soon. But check out previous ones here.
Blessed are hard drives, for they shall reveal files gathering digital dust.
I did this digital illustration years back, for an exhibit called “Des de Fora” (From the Outside) in Sants, Barcelona. It was a time when I was getting over the hump of learning Adobe Illustrator. I completely forgot about this drawing! But I suppose this influenced my doodling habit later on.
The theme reflects on being a foreigner in Barcelona; I wanted to portray the increasingly multicultural nature of one of my favorite cities in the world. Futbol, Feast of St. George, Bicing, Gaudi architecture, etc. are all things I will remember Barcelona for.
It was also the year that it snowed in Catalunya for the first time in years:
It was also a time when I saw double AND triple rainbows on the day my friends and I were eating calçots and writing poetry:
I t was also the time I was first part of the Poetry Brothel in Barcelona, which was probably one of the most influential times of my life from a creative standpoint and made me look at science from the point of view of poetry:
I accidentally unearthed that cheongsam / qi pao the other day and was quite amazed by the wear and tear it had to withstand amidst all those poetry readings and performances.
I’ve been in Manila for five months now, and it’s been a time of looking at the city I grew up in from the outside. Despite living in multiple countries for so long, cities never fail to surprise me.
Perhaps, like cities, poetry whores, and the weather, humans, too, can pause and look at ourselves from the outside.
It’s just one of those days.
Owing to my obsession with perception, I was jumping up and down when I came across these star maps from It’s Okay to be Smart, via a tweet by Brainpickings‘ Maria Popova. Compare and contrast how the ancient Greeks and the ancient Chinese formed their star maps:
It’s striking how many images two different cultures have formed. It seems as though the Chinese map generally has more numerous and smaller constellations. I love the people and the animals in the Greek map—The Vain Queen, The Monstrous Whale, the heroes, the twins, the bears. In contrast, the Chinese map emphasizes objects, body parts, as well as abstract nouns —Full Stomach, Bird’s Beak, Encampment, Emptiness, Hidden Virtue, etc.
Oh, and Spilled Breastmilk vs. The Silver River? Awesome.
A weekend project:
I would like to write “thaumatropist” in my CV. Yes? Yes.
What is a thaumatrope, via Wikipedia.
What the clouds can teach you about imagination and everyday things
A fever, a cold, and a hot afternoon on a New York heat wave aren’t usually a recipe for a good day. But bedridden and staring out my window, I had no idea I was about to give birth to another project.
Looking at the sky, I started to wonder at the forms the clouds were making. Although they were white and formless, they started to remind me of the fantastical shapes, such as dragons, whales, and other creatures. It’s not unlike that scene from the Pixar movie, Up!, where Carl and Ellie were lying down on the grass and pointing out what the clouds looked like.
It’s a manifestation of pareidolia, where a random stimulus (such as the shape and shadows formed by clouds) is perceived as significant. This is why we see faces in places and things, religious figures on burnt toast, etc. Our brains are hardwired to find patterns; it helps us see things as a whole. Without pattern recognition, every experience would be new to us and we wouldn’t be able to make sense of the world or solve problems.
During that summer, I was frankly getting burned out from school and my internships, and initially decided, just for kicks, to take photos of clouds and draw what I saw in them. Over the next several months, I religiously uploaded them online, and the endeavor has evolved into a project called Rorsketch. The name itself comes from Rorschach tests, which have been used by psychologists to determine their subjects’ personality characteristics and emotional functioning. In this case, I realize that I see a lot of animals in clouds, as well as strange and often unrealistic scenes.
Geography of thought
When I show the cloud photos and sketches to others, people immediately tell me what they see, which is often different from my interpretations. Professions and culture have a lot to do with this. For example, researchers have determined, unsurprisingly, that Asians and Westerners perceive the world differently. Given a scene, Westerners will usually focus on the main subject while Asians will often take the entire scene in.
More than 100 sketches later, I’ve given talks and workshops on how we see. Occasionally, people send me “re-interpretations” of my cloud photos. I find it funny how one afternoon that summer has led to a project I’m still doing a year later. It has helped me learn about how other people see the world, and has given me a platform to celebrate this diversity of visual perception. It helps me find stories in the skies—a great thing to do when looking for inspiration. It was also part of my MFA thesis, and has thus even helped me graduate.
Wonder in the everyday
The best thing I learned about this project is that it doesn’t take much to be creative. It’s easy to fall into the trap of pining for expensive gadgets one doesn’t have, thinking they will somehow make us get over creative humps. Instead, looking at seemingly ordinary objects in a different light can unleash and sharpen our sometimes tethered imaginations.
Visit and participate in the project at http://www.rorsketch.com or tweet @rorsketch.
This article first appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Learning section, 20 August 2012, page H4. With thanks to my editor! Full text in their digital edition here.