Friday, August 12, 2005

Dolphins Join Artists' Swelling Ranks

Add dolphins to the ranks of creatures slapping paint across canvas.

On June 22nd I wrote about Congo, the chimp whose art allegedly hung on Picasso's wall, and the Thai elephants redefining themselves as artists after losing their livelihood in the forest industry.

Now it seems that Lithuanian dolphins are exhibiting 30 works of abstract art at the Gallery of Pranas Domsaitis in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

The mother-daughter duo formed by 13-year-old Gabia and seven-year-old Premia are not only prolific; they are also patriotic, with a noted preference for the colours of their country's flag.

The questions remain: Is it art? What, if anything, does this reveal about the creative process?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Creative Construction

I've been busy--and inspired--by a large-scale, all-encompassing project and have neglected The Procrastiwriter so early in its development.

Consider The Procrastiwriter under creative construction as I tweak and tug over the next few days, tapping into the world of resources and inspiration I've been revelling in this past month.

In the meantime, here's a challenge to you:

visit My Favorite Word . . . find out what words roll trippingly off of other tongues and give a shout out to some fave phrase of your own.

My two cents: bumbershoot (British term for umbrella) not only sounds fittingly like a curse word--Bumbershoot! It's raining again!--it's the name of a Wet Coast urban arts festival in soggy Seattle. I'm also pretty fond of gobsmacked, a state I find myself in when thinking of the royalties being racked up by one JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

If Stories Come to You . . .

"If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive."

--Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Where there's story . . .

"The story--from Rumplestiltskin to War and Peace--is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories."

--Ursula K. Le Guin

One of the most prolific and insightful authors writing today, Ursula K. Le Guin's official website is at

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Lessons from Lyrics #1

"Until the lion learns to speak/the tales of hunting will be weak."

--from "Disappear in the Sand" off of the album Heart of Stone by K'naan.

For more on K'naan, a passionate, political street poet and refugee from Somalia, check out

But is it art?

You've heard it before: if 1,000 monkeys typed eagerly on 1,000 keyboards, one of them would eventually produce the works of Shakespeare.

To my knowledge that hasn't happened yet.

A chimp, however, outsold impressionist master Renoir and pop art provocateur Andy Warhol when three of his abstract, tempera paintings were auctioned at Bonhams in London June 20 for CDN$26,352.

The artist, Congo, wasn't chimping around. Before dying of tuberculosis in 1964, Congo packed a lot of painting into his 10 years on earth; he produced 400 paintings and drawings between ages two and four.

I don't know how Congo reacted to the scorn and criticism the art world hurled at him during his lifetime. Perhaps he took some solace in knowing none other than Pablo Picasso reportedly hung one of the chimp's paintings on his studio wall.

Perhaps the skepticism hurt him so deeply he turned his back on painting for the final, colourless years of his life.

Perhaps in the animal kingdom art is an instinct followed by children and wayward youth, meant to be abandoned for sober responsibility upon adulthood.

Congo isn't the first non-Homo Sapien to turn an auction house on its head.

Ruby, an Asian elephant who was moved to the Arizona Zoo at the age of seven, spent years without the companionship of her own species. Dwelling with a goat and some chickens--who couldn't possibly understand what she was going through--Ruby doodled with a branch in the dirt.

Her keeper, in an effort to offer much-needed stimulation, brought her some painting supplies. Holy Ganesh! Ruby couldn't get enough of that painting stuff. Her work sold for up to US$5,000 in the 1980s and she was the subject of a book by Dick George, a consultant with the zoo.

Elephant art is a thriving genre. It is also a burgeoning movement to bring meaning and purpose to the lives of Asian elephants disrupted by deforestation and new logging restrictions. Unable to earn their keep, the elephants face abandonment, mistreatment or starvation.

Enter the Lampang Elephant Art Academy at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Thailand, founded by Russian-born conceptual artists to teach domesticated elephants and their lifelong trainers how to paint.

According to Mia Fineman, an art historian whose illustrated history When Elephants Paint chronicles the Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project, it only takes a few hours a day for the animals to learn the techniques.

There's a catch though. The elephants have got to want it. Despite the boredom of captivity, they have to have an innate desire to put pen to paper. I mean, brush to canvas.

To fund elephant centers--and liven up living room walls-- sells paintings by luminaries of the elephant art world.

It's fascinating but leaves me wondering: is it art? Are the animals routinely replicating a mechanical process or are they engaged by the creative process?

What, if anything, does this phenomenon signify about the human experience of art and creativity?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Poets Make Good Managers

Poets, like absent-minded professors, are presumed to have little skill in the board room and few career options in western society. Well-intentioned parents such as mine fret that their artistic children will flit from one improbable scheme to another until bitch slapped by reality.

Those of us blazing parallel career paths may also question our integrity and identity as writers; we suspect the ability to perform xyz task cancels out any artistic sensibilities or talent. Perhaps more to the point, we've been taught that artistic temperment is as ill-suited to the business world as a vinyl baby tee and hip huggers.

In his new book A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, author Daniel Pink argues that parents and career advisors should steer today's kids away from traditional "safe" professions like law and business in favour of literature and art.

There's an interesting article in this weekend's edition of The Globe and Mail (June 18, F10) that addresses the book's most critical themes and drops the following titillating quotes:

"Get me some poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers."--Sydney Harman, CEO of a multimillion dollar stereo-equipment empire.

"In a world enriched by abundance but disrupted by the automation and outsourcing of white collar work everyone regardless of profession must cultivate an artistic sensibility. We may not all be Dali or Degas. But today we must all be designers."--Daniel Pink

Intrigued? Check out the Pink Blog to find out why comic books may be more important than algebra.