Coffee Sketch Podcast

143 - Exploring the Joys of Creativity and Process

January 14, 2024 Kurt Neiswender/Jamie Crawley Season 6 Episode 143
Coffee Sketch Podcast
143 - Exploring the Joys of Creativity and Process
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Show Notes Transcript

Exploring the Joys of Creativity and Process: Experimenting with Literary Analyses and Artistic Endeavors

In this episode, the hosts celebrate the beginning of the new year and the launch of their show's 6th season. One exciting topic discussed is Christopher Alexander’s 'pattern language.' The concept focuses on the relationship between elements at varying scales, whether from macro to micro, to design cities or building elements. The host shares his experiment with software called 'Obsidian' to create a network of patterns analogous to the pattern language. Meanwhile, the other host demonstrates his reinterpretation of process through artwork, showcasing a step-by-step creation of a sketch he created using different mediums. They also touch on a nostalgic favorite - Mark Kistler’s 'Secret City' and the half-hour creative spur it offers, inspiring people to draw and cultivate imagination.

00:00 Introduction and New Year Wishes
00:55 Discussing the New Year and Season
02:05 Reflecting on the Past Year
07:20 Exploring the Concept of a Pattern Language
11:11 Using Obsidian for Note Taking
20:42 Reflecting on the Process of Drawing
29:57 Closing Thoughts and Future Plans

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Kurt Neiswender:

Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Happy new year. Happy new year. How long can one say happy new year in the new year?

Jamie:

I like to go at least two weeks. Two weeks.

Kurt Neiswender:

Okay. I mean, I've definitely it's still it still shows up in my emails to people. Yeah. This week. But I guess I'll, I can extend it out another week, you know?

Jamie:

Cause it just, it seems, you know, like everybody needs kind of, some people are still off, some people are still off and some people just need a little more joy. So

Kurt Neiswender:

I do like, I do like using it because it does feel like you know positive, optimistic, future, future facing forward thinking, not in the green. Oh, I had all the buttons now we're in

Jamie:

the show. It's, it's a new, it's a new year and it is season six of that new year Oh, is that right? No, it's season six and a new year. See, trying to use the right happy words. Yes. Happy new season to you as

Kurt Neiswender:

well. I like that. Now, one thing that didn't make the list, we were talking about lists. In

Jamie:

the green room, which was just a minute ago.

Kurt Neiswender:

Yes. Is a new, a new intro and outro video. And, and it's yeah, that's not yet. It's TBD to be completed. Yeah.

Jamie:

That's my sound effects. I thought

Kurt Neiswender:

that, I would, you know, I would love to have sound effects. Yes, I don't know how I'm sure there's a way it's going to reveal my technical

Jamie:

acumen or Jamie's pulling out the words today.

Kurt Neiswender:

What's a new year? Yeah, a whole whole catalog of

Jamie:

the game. So,

Kurt Neiswender:

so the 1 of the 1 other point on that was you know, last week, which is the week before new year that week between Christmas and new year. I thought I would actually get a lot of things done and I might have gotten some things done,

Jamie:

but you were consolidating lists. Without the virtual assistant that we've talked about. Yeah.

Kurt Neiswender:

And I don't know. It just flew by that week. Yeah. Well, I

Jamie:

mean, from, from all accounts, you know, everyone that I sort of talked to and then everyone that I saw posting things. You know, friends, family, you know, random people just general sentiment. I think everybody was sort of really happy to see 2023 go.

Kurt Neiswender:

I saw that too.

Jamie:

You know, and not that it was like a super terrible year, maybe. I mean like, but there was a lot of super terrible things that happened. I mean, not that we haven't had a couple, quite a few years of late like that. But yeah, I think everybody was just really kind of tired. And so to hear you say that, you know, that, that week where you were like, Kurt's going to catch up on all things technology and, you know, et cetera. And you didn't. Yep. I'm in that boat as well. So that's

Kurt Neiswender:

okay. Well, thanks. You know, it is interesting. I agree. I've seen a lot of social media posts about basically. Yeah, let's wrap up 23 be done. And I guess subliminally, I, I must have been there too. Because I anyway, you know, I used to, I used to work all the days. Except for say the week between in this year, I kind of, I got my billings wrapped up even before Christmas and I was like, yeah, yeah, let's just call it a year. But anyway, yeah, I, I'm in, I guess we're in, we're in the boat. So, with that said, and

Jamie:

not changing any words, no, no,

no

Kurt Neiswender:

word changes, but we've never done that. And, and, and so far, I don't see a reason to, to start now. So, yeah.

Jamie:

And for those who are listening to this episode here in the new year episode 143 you know, 142 actually was pretty good. I will say as a, as a start to our season six, this is officially the second episode of season six. You know, the one that kicked this year off, I think we're, we're pretty proud of it, it definitely talked a little bit about. Process and technology and sort of the spirit of the podcast and kind of where we find ourselves here in our, you know, the beginning of our sixth season. But, you know, it's also our opportunity, you know, Curtin has alluded to this before, is that, you know, we try not to have too many themes. That are not themes, I guess it's, it's more of, we don't have too many like traditions, you know, related to the podcast. I can't think of a better word right now, but it's, you know, there's a couple of things that we do do, we do do every time, every time I do that as well, it's like, I just. That hung up in my mind when I hear that phrase come out of my mouth but yeah, it one of them that we, we enjoy is every, every year we do start off with our version of resolutions and so those are in the last episode, which hopefully you, you, you'll go back and listen to and enjoy, but you know, here we are with a different episode but going back to maybe a theme that we've, yeah. We've wanted to bring back in a little bit more with a little more substance and, and regularity this coming year. Last time we talked about AI and artificial intelligence and how some of those different technologies, machine learning related to art and architecture is, is gaining in momentum, but still in its infancy. And so we've had, did some experiments with that, but along those same lines. I think you have been doing some reading, which is pretty exciting. You know, I've been trying to do a little bit more reading. That's a, that's a little bit of what I've been doing the last, you know, week and a half is, is trying to catch up on some reading less sketching, more reading, which is kind of strange for me, admittedly. But I, I know that you had some thoughts on this, you know, related to, an old. Bringing out an old book and doing a reread which is always sort of something I find myself. It's, I find that hard to do. I don't know if it's something that you, you find yourself doing more of,

Kurt Neiswender:

huh? I do, I do think about, I guess I, I, I'm, I'm becoming a little more familiar with the reread I don't know. It's not just with this book. There was a couple of things. I mean, we've talked about'em already in the. Either last year or the year before with some of the Erick Owen Moss books, you know, I did some rereading on that, but I guess I'll turn on turn on screen sharing. But, yeah, I've been cracking open or re cracking open Christopher Alexander's, a pattern language, which. Last year, I believe last year for birthday or Christmas, I got a copy. I had a copy long, long time ago. You know, I think most, most, well, actually, you know, most architecture students of our generation, let's say. Would own a copy of this, but also may also own copies of the, the two other sort of companion texts that Christopher Alexander wrote, which are a timeless timeless way and, and the Oregon experience or the timeless way of building and then the Oregon experiment. Which kind of anyway, so the timeless way building comes 1st, then the pattern language, and then the Oregon experiment in sequence

Jamie:

not to be confused with the Oregon trail Oregon trail.

Kurt Neiswender:

So, anyway, I, I've already last year when I I received all 3 because I, I only owned pattern language as a student. So, then I got all 3 for a holiday, either Christmas or my birthday. I read Oregon Experiment and the Timeless Way of Building at that time, because I hadn't read those. I don't think I ever read those, you know, because we focused on pattern language as a student. So then this year, anyway, long story short, I have re sort of, you know, reopen pattern language. And I can't exactly, I can't exactly remember what really inspired me to crack it open, but there was something about, so in a nutshell, I can't give the entire book report cause I mean, it's, it's quite lengthy, but the essence of it is sort of at multiple scales, say from sort of region. To urban or district down to building down to elements of the building, right? So it goes from macro to micro of designing cities to buildings. And then there's these relationships that Alexander writes or connects between the different scales and different patterns. So every individual items are a pattern. Like, for example what was he called? Green streets or the countryside or city country fingers is a concept. And each 1 of those patterns then depending. So, this is the subjective aspect of it is that, you know, defined by Christopher Alexander. They relate to other patterns. Yeah. So it's somewhat. Subjective because it's, it's sort of selected by Alexander, right? You don't get to choose the pattern connection. You know, it's already sort of established for you. However, what I've decided to do as a, as a started in the, in between the end of the year and now is, is sort of. Do like a, my my own kind of book report of, of, of this pattern language and then start to use this software called Obsidian, which is like a note taking application that you can link. Notes to each other, much like the pattern language that Christopher Alexander created, right? You can create the links to different thoughts in the software. And so, and honestly, the, I'll get to, I'll get to that system in a second. So this little map on the, on the, on the right is, is a really quick screenshot of like, Just the first seven patterns in the book and then the links that Christopher Alexander defines to each other or to the the patterns from those seven, right? So, you know, there's pattern one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and then some of those seven are referencing patterns later on, like 14, 16, 26, 37, 51 patterns that I haven't yet read about. Although I, I mean, this time around, I've already read, you know, read a long time ago, but so anyway, so there's these sort of. Little nodes that are flying off into space because they, they are just being referenced by, you know, say an earlier pattern, but I haven't yet read forward. So the, the, the more I read the text and start to build the network basically of patterns back, this web will kind of get denser and denser and denser. And sort of, I don't know, may inspire some insight into the sort of networked connections of elements, right? From, say, a window bench all the way up to, you know, the site plan or something like

Jamie:

that. Is this the I'm just curious. I mean I mean, you, you shared this With me, you know, amidst you, you know, embarking on this reread and, and you have been, I mean, this isn't something that's sort of coming out of, you know, you know, left field for you. I think this is really deliberate that you were trying to do this in terms of the note taking and then sort of creating the own, your own kind of mind map of this, this visual note system. Is this the first time you've used it? Yeah,

Kurt Neiswender:

okay. Yeah. It's another new, let's add, add things to the plate. But it also is where my, my list lives. Oh, it has the potential to be. So this, the software is, it's called obsidian. And if you go to youtube, there's like a billion. Videos about it is most commonly associated with something. So a term called the 2nd brain. Right? So basically downloading all all of the ideas you have in your head and putting them, you know, in notes, a sort of, is

Jamie:

this like a dark Netflix series or something?

Kurt Neiswender:

Probably, it probably exists in some fashion. However the one that, so the interesting thing that I've stumbled across is that the people that say develop software like this. These sort of linking things, you know, because there's more than 1, right? You know, I just picked 1. And and people that are interested in this idea of a 2nd brain, they are inspired by Christopher Alexander is a pattern language, but they're not architects. They're often, you know, website. You know, coders or software developers and people like that in the tech world, they seem to have picked up on the concept in the pattern language about these links. Now it's not related to architecture, it's just related to the relationship between things, which I find, I find it very fascinating in its own way.

Jamie:

It's a way of. You know, at the, at a surface level, I think, you know, a surface take would be it's a way of organizing information, but then I think, you know, it clearly goes a lot deeper than that in terms of it's tapping into, you know, both the. The note taking and sort of the thinking through the information digesting the information and and pulling out the the important pieces the important facets of that information as as a note or or or some nugget to remember right but then at the same time it's also organizing it visually. And, and not just organizing it visually, but then tying it to other notes and then allowing it to also grow organically so that it's not just a static piece of note. And I think that that concept is really kind of interesting because that to me is something that when you describe this to me, you know, you know, where that sort of. You know, kinship, you know, for the tech world is to Christopher Alexander's work, it made sense. I mean, you know, it's, I think it's the things that, you know what it made me think of. And when I saw this for the first time, I was like, I think Kurt's been watching Minority Report but excellent film. But, you know, it's, it's things like that, where there's these kind of. You know, it's the concepts of, like, neural nets and, you know, all this other stuff that people would kind of, you know, throw around. William Gibson, you know, with all his Neuromancer and, you know, you know, early days of cyberpunk and stuff like that, but it was how do you take, you know, really complex systems and then start to break them down into something that is accessible. You know, and, you know, I'm not sure that this relates to everybody for, for absolutely sure, you know as a way, I'm sort of curious as you kind of run through this experiment how useful you find it when you're done you know, kind of almost that, you know, if you're treating this as the second reading of the information for you, what happens when you're, you're done and you use it as sort of a third, how does it influence the third reading? Of, of that information. That's, that, that's the part that I'm, I'm gonna be kind of curious about.'cause it's, I, I think it is really unique and I, I like it. I'm not sure that I'm ready for it. but but at the same time, time I am, I am. Yeah. But, but from an experiment point of view, I, I am absolutely interested in what you're up to.

Kurt Neiswender:

Oh, thanks. I, I yeah, we can, yeah. I, I really only wanted to introduce it briefly. And I'm sure there's gonna be a ton of questions that you still have, and anyone listening probably is like scratching their head, especially if they're not watching and can't see. Well,

Jamie:

I mean, zoom out for a second where you get both covers and your, your map, because I think that that, you know, that's a pretty good, you know, that was sort of an aha moment when you and I were talking about it the other day.

Kurt Neiswender:

Well, yeah, the funny part is that the book on the left, the cover is not. One of Alexander's book, but it's somebody sort of analyzing Alexander's work and the cover art actually has a very similar diagram to what the software sort of generates. And so it's very interesting. And I've never read this other book, which then basically gives me something new to read right afterward. But, yeah, there's, anyway, yeah, so for those that can see the screenshot, you know, they can they can kind of catch up on or at least get a sense of, of where we're going with it. But,

Jamie:

Yeah, because, because I think it also talks about, you know, you're describing your initial stages of this process. And I think what, what we wanted to sort of dive into a little bit today was, you know, this, this concept of process that really was at the very essence of what this podcast has been where it's sort of peeling back the curtain, so to speak. On, you know, two different architects and artists and creatives who are willing to talk about process and, you know, in, in varying experiments, you know so you're, you're taking it from a a literary angle which I think is really quite unique and, you know, I mean, it's, it's obviously a nonfiction text, you know, so it's not like, you you know, we're taking some, you know, mapping some fictional story or something like that, which I think could be quite interesting too. But, But yeah, I think the, the art and the sketches that, that, that we have up today was sort of my early 2024 experiment in process and doing a little bit of a reveal as well with it.

Kurt Neiswender:

Yeah. Sent, sent these over for, for addition to the conversation because a, well, then, you know, then you posted the, the final, the final draft, let's say on Instagram, which was really exciting because it's a beautiful sketch of this sort of tiny dancer amidst the sort of dystopian knives flying around. It's a sort of whirlwind of activity. But yeah. I don't know how often do you, do you, do you take pictures in, in the, between in the process parts?

Jamie:

I don't do it as much as I should. And I think because I am traveling I had earlier in the week, I had sort of thought through, I was like, well, Curt and I have been talking about, you know, the process and things like that. And I was like, well, you know, and, and I have a bunch of stuff with me. I have. You know, pastels with me and watercolors and graphite. And so I have been doing some sketches and in, and in the hopes that I would, I would do a little bit more process stuff where I could show a little bit more, maybe through a video or short, you know, short segments. And, and I think that that's something that I'm going to be doing a lot more of. So this was sort of a little bit of prep work for that, but in this particular case, you know, I just had an, I had an image in my mind. And wanted to get it out. And so did it just as sort of static photos of the process so that we could talk a little bit about it on the podcast today.

Kurt Neiswender:

Yeah, I, I think you should little videos or somehow turn this little triptych into something on social media. Yeah, I think people. You know it, well, it, we've talked about it before. You know, people like the, the, the phrase, you know, how the sausage is made right behind, behind the scenes, what's in the kitchen. And you know, the, the one thing that, you know, I actually did something similar. It's, it's not quite as elegant as your creation here, but I, I, I took my GoPro that I got right, and I pivot, positioned it to watch me on my iPad, red line. The set of drawings, which is not, not the sexiest part of architecture, but another piece of process and, and the, you know an aspect that has to have, you know, is part of completing projects and things like that. So, well,

Jamie:

I, I think, I think part of it too is, I mean, there is, it's not just as simple as sort of videotaping it as well. I mean, and you do want to, you know you know, these are not like high production value kind of, you know, videos and things that we're, you know, we're talking about here, folks. But I think that, you know, that we do have the ability to edit things and, and we are trying to convey some information relatively quickly. Right. I mean, you know, people's attention spans or interest in the, in, in the subject, you know, is, is pretty limited. And, you know, but at the same time, I think the information, you know, can be really informative. And I think an inspiring in some cases. And, you know, and, and I think what you're talking about with the red lines is sort of the same thing. It's demystify, it's, it's the demystifying that process. Right. It's probably why you did it. It's like, I wonder if I can pull this off, if I can demystify this aspect of the process that no one, everybody knows about, but no one ever talks about and certainly no one ever shows. And, and I think that that's. You know, that is very akin to this is there's no pretension here. I mean, I, you know, picked sort of two pause points in a very quick sketch. You know, one was, you know, using a graphite pencil a fairly soft one at that to just do the quick sketch of the ballerina in this pose very energetic, you know, arch back, you know very, you know, you know, high energy in terms of this sort of static moment, but you can see that there's an explosion to get to this static moment. And, and the figure is picking up that static moment, right? But then the, the switching to the Conte Crayon was to get the explosion, to, to get that actual movement that got to this And sort of, you know, synthesizing both aspects together in one composition. And so I wouldn't, I knew I needed to switch materials to do that and really kind of start to capture it and sort of play with a little bit of tone and shadow you know, to kind of give the form of the figure a little bit more volume and then. Switching to the pencil again and then the pen to kind of get in and gets a lot more of that detail and really kind of explore the creative aspects of the way that I start to see space and people and action and figures in field and. The relationships of the parts and kind of exploring that through drawing relatively quickly. So, you know, those are sort of the 3 steps, but that was, you know, that was the intention of, of trying to capture what the 3 images,

Kurt Neiswender:

you know, I know we were going to make this a little bit shorter of an episode. Look quick hitter just to drop the idea, plant the seeds. But there, there's something that just crossed my mind, which we've been teasing. About or going back and forth on is the secret city at Mark Kistler, right? And, and when I, I mean, I'm, I could see the, you know, the smile on your face because when I stumbled across this NPR story that there's a documentary coming out, I, there, the episodes exist on YouTube. Thank God, right? Thank YouTube. Yeah. And I watched one. And I know I, I, I would imagine subliminally, this is not maybe as overt as, as it may seem is the, the, the sort of objects that you place in space around and in a sense, seemingly contradictory to a little ballerina, right? These sort of dystopian sheet metal space. Space junk stuff flying around is, is driven by secret city and the fact that his, his whole premise on, on the show was to just draw it didn't matter what, but just take a half hour a day. And, and, and enjoy the act of, of creating something, drawing something, you know, start somewhere, finish somewhere else, whatever, but use the creativity and,

Jamie:

Well, and, and it's, and, you know, we did allude to it before. I think we'll, we'll probably, you know, take a whole episode and maybe kind of talk through it, but you know, you're absolutely right. I think that that early. Moment, you know, I've talked before, but not necessarily having art teachers or taking art classes. You know, I've taken a couple, but not, you know, not as many as one would think. But I do remember, you know, getting home from school and, you know, sitting down in front of the TV and, and watching that and really. You know, like I described before is, is, is just feeling the urge to draw and it tapped into something that I already was doing. I mean, I can, I can get lost in drawings. I could draw all day. You know, and that's just who I am. And, and I, and I recognize that, but watching that show and sort of that spirit of that and the way you just described it, I think is absolutely perfect is, you know, give yourself the gift of 30 minutes to just draw. And, and it doesn't really matter what it is but doing that for yourself it, there is an activity that goes on inside your brain that really allows that spark of creativity and, you know, in, in my case, well being. You know, I think you probably feel the same, you know, describe it, you know, very similarly. But I think that I've seen a few folks I don't know, maybe it's that time of year, but there's a couple of other artists I follow on Instagram that they're sort of tapping into that same kind of sentiment where it's like, you know, give yourself, you know, 15, 20 minutes, you know, doesn't matter what you draw. And I, and I'd encourage those who listen to the podcast you know, to, to try it. I think that that's, that's where that experiment that you just showed. You know, came from for me. There was a little bit of pre planning and in terms of knowing I was going to use the materials that I was but the subject matter and kind of that end result, the picture itself you know, that's, that's from the imagination. The imagination

Kurt Neiswender:

stage, another kiss. Anyway. Well, yeah, that's great. It's, it's actually really you know, week, as we mentioned last week, right. My, my closing final thought is, is how fun we are to do this. For five years, but even in the sixth season, I'm feeling like just right at the beginning when we kicked it off and how fun and crazy it was of an idea. So, you know, you know, I think throughout the trajectory, these little reminders like. The, the Kistler Secret City, you know, something else.

Jamie:

And we are totally doing like a mystery science theater, 3000 watching of, yeah.

Kurt Neiswender:

Secret city

Jamie:

on, on the podcast. We're going to find a way. So,

Kurt Neiswender:

yeah. And I don't know the date. Yeah. Yeah. Hopefully we won't encounter any copyright now, but we'll figure it out a way, but I got to figure out when that is I'm dying to watch that. So yeah, it's really exciting. And anyway, so, yeah. Great, great sketch or sequence of sketches. And I look forward to seeing some more process, which, you know, it's inspiring me to, to carve out that 30 minutes more often. So, so people might see a little, a little competition between Curt and Jamie on, on sketches this year versus you know, Jamie can't have all the fun.

Jamie:

Cheers to that.

Kurt Neiswender:

Yeah. Thanks. So, all right. Well, catch you on the next one. Thanks, Jamie.