2018 goals: first 3 months

Posted on: April 6th, 2018 by Nathan E. Lilly

The bitter cold and late snow has slowed me down in some of my goals, but it’s still early enough to make gains. Here’s the current status of my 2018 goals…

By the end of 2018 I’d like to have:

  • Painted 50 paintings: Expected: 12; Actual: 0.
  • Ran a cumulative 1000 miles: Expected: 250; Actual: 42 miles.
  • Written 50 blog posts: Expected: 12 Actual: 7 (with 4 more in the chamber).
  • Posted 12 videos on YouTube: Expected: 3; Actual: 0.
  • Created a portfolio of 12 graphic design works: I have a list, I have thumbnails of some of the items in the list, and I should start churning them out soon.
  • Practiced the trumpet for 50 hours: Expected: 0; Actual: 0.
  • Run a 5k race in under 24 minutes: Expected: not yet; Actual: Race season just started.
  • Run a marathon in under 5 hours: Expected: not yet; Actual: Race season just started, but I feel good about his after the Love Run in March.
  • Lifted 1000# in the big 3 lifts: Expected: not yet; Actual: I will get there.
  • Settled my remaining SF/F/H debts: working on it.

Projects I’d like to complete this year:

  • Launch a new SF/F/H online magazine with an associated podcast: gearing up in Q2; launch in Q3?
  • Edit and publish one anthology/collection: in the queue.
  • Create and publish a mobile app: v1 requirements are being worked on.
  • Write and submit a technical article: no, but I know what I’m writing.
  • Write a fiction story: no.
  • Write one non-fiction book: no.
  • Write a novel: no.

Additional notes for the past three months:

Made some minor updates to several of my existing sites.

  • Read ¾ of the Art books that I had set aside at the beginning of the year.
  • I’m about to tackle Vasari’s The Lives of the Artists. It’s dense, and I want to wring everything out of it that I can. It might take me most of the rest of the year to finish this.
  • Began refocusing on some technology.
  • Began addressing some smaller technology projects.

Podcasts for an Aspiring Artist

Posted on: April 2nd, 2018 by Nathan E. Lilly

I’ve been listening to a wide variety of podcasts since I began my art reeducation. Here are the best I’ve found so far, related to Art and the creative process.

Your Creative Push

Your Creative Push is the podcast that pushes YOU to finally pursue your creative passion, whatever that passion may be.

If I could only listen to one podcast, as an artist, it would be this. Every interview gives you some small insight into being creative, whether the episode’s guest is a musician, writer, visual artist, or some other type of creative professional. As you listen to the artists speak about art you’ll notice some very distinct patterns and trends about how different types of artists generally approach art in the same way, with similar creative methods (inspiration, flow, etc.).

Tides of History

Everywhere around us are echoes of the past. Those echoes define the boundaries of states and countries, how we pray and how we fight. They determine what money we spend and and how we earn it at work, what language we speak and how we raise our children. From Wondery, host Patrick Wyman, PhD (“Fall Of Rome”) helps us understand our world and how it got to be the way it is.

I believe that to understand art you need to understand the period in which it was created. I started listening to Patrick Wyman with his The Fall of the Rome podcast as I was researching Roman Art. He does an excellent job of helping you to understand the events that lead from the fall of Rome to the rise of the Modern era, beginning with the Renaissance, from both the large scale view and the view of what the history would look like to someone living in that time.

Philosophize This!

Beginner friendly if listened to in order! For anyone interested in an educational podcast about philosophy where you don’t need to be a graduate-level philosopher to understand it. In chronological order, the thinkers and ideas that forged the world we live in are broken down and explained.

Another thing that I believe is that you also need to understand what people were thinking about, and what questions they were asking, to understand why they were creating art. Stephen West covers not only the content of the various philosophies, but also why they were important and how they influenced each other.

Invisibilia

Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia — Latin for invisible things—fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.

In the Modern era the artist’s state of mind is more important to the understanding of art than ever. The current seasons are hosted by Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin for National Public Radio, previous seasons were also hosted by Lulu Miller.

The Renaissance: A History of Renaissance Art

A podcast devoted to the art and artists of the Renaissance.

At the juncture of art and history Dennis Byrd presents podcast that’s very informative about art and artists (and some other people who were influential) of the Renaissance. It hasn’t been updated since mid-2017 just as it was getting into the Northen Renaissance, but the content is evergreen. I’m looking forward to future updates.

The Art History Babes

Four fresh Masters drink wine and discuss all things visual culture. Regular episodes: Discussion and critical analysis of art historical topics fueled by alcohol. Art History Babe Briefs (Art History BBs) : quick, to the point art history facts minus the expletives. Hot Takes: The Babes mix it up, chatting about topics outside the realm of art history & making connections to visual culture.

I started listening to this because there are few Art History podcasts out there. They’ve won me over. Excellent discussions of Art on topics from Edmonia Lewis to Art of the Sublime to F*** Gaugin.

The Jealous Curator: Art for Your Ear

ART FOR YOUR EAR brings you stories from some of my favorite contemporary artists. When I studied Art History, the best part was, well, the gossip. I loved finding out why artists did certain things, what was going on in their personal lives, and behind-the-scenes details about other artists they knew and worked with. This podcast is exactly that … inside-scoop stories from the artsiest people I know. You’ll hear first-hand from these talented, successful, full-time artists (who also happen to be regular people with hilarious stories) BEFORE they’re in the Art History books. – Danielle (aka The Jealous Curator)

A down-to-earth podcast featuring interviews by Danielle Krysa with contemporary artists. One of the nice things about this podcast is that it often shows the side of being an artist that’s grounded in normal day-to-day life (being a parent, being a friend, etc.).

Artist Decoded by Yoshino

“I started this series as a means for exploration, an exploration of self and an exploration of the perspectives of other artists. This series is an unabridged documentation of conversations between artists. It’s a series dedicated to breaking down the barriers we tend to set up in our own mind. I want to inspire future creatives to have the courage to explore and experiment. This is about making dreams a reality and not about letting our dreams fall to the wayside. My intention is to give my audience a sense of real human connection, something that feels rich and organic. When I was thinking of a title I thought of the word ‘movement’. In relation to the Renaissance period in art, my goal for this program is to signify a rebirth of consciousness towards the way we look at contemporary art.” – Yoshino

Yoshino’s podcast leans towards the more mystic, spiritual, theoretical, and psychedelic aspects of being an artist.

Medieval History for Fun and Profit

Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the middle ages but were afraid to ask! Two professional medieval historians answer questions from the audience about anything and everything to do with the middle ages. Did they know about other kinds of sex? How long would I really have lived? Who was the best medieval? What were the best swearwords? Listen and find out…

I started listening to this when I started learning about Medieval Art History. I keep listening to it because it’s entertaining and I like the Medieval period. Dr. Alice Taylor and Dr. Alice Rio answer user questions about what life may have been life for everyday people.

Myths and Legends

Jason Weiser tells stories from myths, legends, and folklore that have shaped cultures throughout history. Some, like the stories of Aladdin, King Arthur, and Hercules are stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories you might not have heard, but really should. All the stories are sourced from world folklore, but retold for modern ears. These are stories of wizards, knights, Vikings, dragons, princesses, and kings from the time when the world beyond the map was a dangerous and wonderful place.

Similar to understanding what was going on in people’s daily life (history) and what was going on in their minds (philosophy) I think it’s also important to understand the stories that they told each other (mythology and fiction). That’s where the Myths and Legends podcast comes in.

This is not hand soap

Posted on: February 8th, 2018 by Nathan E. Lilly

People think in symbols but the symbols in our mind are not the actual objects themselves. That is to say: when you think of an apple, that apple is not real. This is the treachery of symbols. The symbols in our mind don’t always match the reality of an object. We think we know how to use an object based on the symbol in our mind that we apply to it.

This leads to encounters with objects like this:

We automatically interact with an object as if we know what the object is based on the symbols in our mind. It’s second nature.

This object is perfectly functional: push on the top; liquid squirts out. But good design isn’t just designing an item that functions. It’s designing for expectations. No matter how well designed a widget may be, people expect certain things in certain contexts. They expect certain interactions to produce certain results.

The Joshua Tree

Posted on: January 23rd, 2018 by Nathan E. Lilly

As preparation for launching Space Westerns magazine I began researching Western-genre fiction. I wanted to be familiar with the tropes, plots, themes, stock characters of a Western so I’d recognize them in a Space Western story. So I read John G. Cawelti’s The Six-gun Mystique, and David Mogen’s Wilderness Visions, and Jane Tompkins’ West of Everything, and Matt Braun’s How to Write Western Novels. Now when I watch Star Trek, I don’t just see colonists and Starfleet and Klingons; I see homesteaders and the U.S. Cavalry and the Mexican Army. When I watch Star Wars I don’t see Han Solo and Chewbacca and Boba Fett; I see The Lone Ranger and Tonto and The Man with No Name. It dawned on me: this is just another example of designer Robin Williams’ The Joshua Tree Principle:

Many years ago I received a tree identification book for Christmas. I was at my parents’ home, and after all the gifts had been opened I decided to go out and identify the trees in the neighborhood. Before I went out, I read through part of the book. The first tree in the book was the Joshua tree because it took only two clues to identify it. Now the Joshua tree is a really weird-looking tree and I looked at that picture and said to myself, “Oh, we don’t have that kind of tree in Northern California. That is a weird-looking tree. I would know if I saw that tree, and I’ve never seen one before.” So I took my book and went outside. My parents lived in a cul-de-sac of six homes. Four of those homes had Joshua trees in the front yard. I had lived in that house for thirteen years, and I had never seen a Joshua tree. I took a walk around the block, and there must have been a sale at the nursery when everyone was landscaping their new homes—at least 80 percent of the homes had Joshua trees in the front yards. And I had never seen one before! Once I was conscious of the tree, once I could name it, I saw it everywhere. Which is exactly my point. Once you can name something, you’re conscious of it. You have power over it. You own it. You’re in control.

I see “Joshua trees” everywhere now.

Neanderthal Art?

Posted on: January 17th, 2018 by Nathan E. Lilly

Neaderthals lived in Europe and parts of the Middle East approximately between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago. We’re discovering that they are more like modern humans than we previously thought they could be. How to Think Like a Neanderthal gives a good overview of what we currently know. Neanderthals were social, cooperative, family-oriented, planned ahead, and displayed mechanical skills. They made tools, wore clothes, used fire, and possessed some form of language.

The fact that they possessed language, no matter how simple it may have been, is interesting. Language is a symbolic communication system. In the strictest sense, a symbol is a (sometimes arbitrary) mark, sign, or sound that is understood to represent some other thing. If Neanderthals had language then they must have been capable of thinking in symbols.

They were capable of thinking in symbols, but did they create art? They certainly made artifacts. They made stone and composite tools; we have evidence of fire-making. We also have indications of artifacts that we can intuit no useful purpose for: lines carved in stone; lines incised in avian bone (raven’s wing with seven regularly spaced notches). We can’t say that these markings were symbolic, but we can say they were most definitely done purposefully.

We know that they gathered pigments (black manganese dioxide and red ochre), but we don’t know if it was for what might have been body art or for what may have been medicinal purposes. The evidence for painting is slight. One contender for a potential Neanderthal cave painting exists in Spain. It shows a series of mandorla shapes with lines drawn across them. These works are dated to the time and location where Neanderthals may have coexisted with early Modern Humans, so it may end up not being work by Neanderthals at all.

It’s still possible, it may even be likely, but we currently have no conclusive proof that Neanderthals created anything that modern Western culture would recognize as art.

Neanderthal art resources:

The Naming

Posted on: January 9th, 2018 by Nathan E. Lilly

It didn’t start with Ursula LeGuin, who says in The Wizard of Earthsea that discovering someone’s true name gives you power over them. Since ancient times people would have a secret name, known only to those closest to them. This lives on in our middle names, and every child knows they’re truly in trouble when their mother uses it. To the Ancient Egyptians, the name (ren) was a part of your very soul. When captured by the cyclops Poylphemus in the Ancient Greek epic, The Odyssey, Odysseus claimed his name was Outis (meaning “No one”). It is only after Polyphemus, deceived and blinded, learns Odysseus’ true name that he is able to curse him, and delay Odysseus’ return to Ithaca (yet again). Even in the bible, Adam gives names to all the animals and God gives him dominion over them.

And so it is in Art. The graphic designer Robin Williams in her book, The Non-designer’s Design Book tells us the story of her discovery of the joshua tree. The gist of it is this: until she learned of the tree by name, she never really saw it before. And she came to learn that joshua trees were planted extensively throughout her very own neighborhood. Until she learned their name, they didn’t exist.

The same is true for anything else. We typically draw things using symbols: tree, car, house. Using other symbols for the parts: eyes, nose, lips. From plants and animals, to anatomy, to machines. Once you name something you have a handle with which to grasp it. Look at drawing a spider…

A child’s first attempts at drawing a spider might look like a dot with some legs.

…and they learn that spiders have eight legs.

…that spiders have eyes.

…spiders have fangs.

…legs have joints.

…the body has two main parts, the cephalothorax and the abdomen, and all the legs attach to the cephalothorax.

…spiders have two smaller grasping legs, called pedipalps; and the fangs really have two parts: the chelicera and the fang.

…and so on, until you’ve learned enough about spiders that you can draw them 99% realistically. Until you can name, very nearly, all of their parts: pedical, coxa, trochanter, spinnerets, etc.

Repeat ad nauseam until you can draw the entire world.

But, you can’t know everything. You can’t know all the names.

2018 goals

Posted on: January 1st, 2018 by Nathan E. Lilly

It’s 2018. I’m alert and active again. Who knows how long it will last?

Here’s a written account of what I promised myself I’d attempt to get done this year…

By the end of 2018 I’d like to have:

  • Painted 50 paintings
  • Ran a cumulative 1000 miles
  • Written 50 blog posts (49!)
  • Posted 12 videos on YouTube
  • Created a portfolio of 12 graphic design works
  • Practiced the trumpet for 50 hours
  • Run a 5k race in under 24 minutes
  • Run a marathon in under 5 hours
  • Lifted 1000# in the big 3 lifts
  • Settled my remaining SF/F/H debts

Projects I’d like to complete this year:

  • Launch a new SF/F/H online magazine with an associated podcast
  • Edit and publish one anthology/collection
  • Create and publish a mobile app
  • Write and submit a technical article
  • Write a fiction story
  • Write one non-fiction book
  • Write a novel

    …and a number of other projects that seem to be either too presumptuous or too crazy to post about them yet.

    Will I get it all done in 2018? Probably not. If you accomplish all of your goals in a year then they probably weren’t big enough. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing!

    Alive.

    Posted on: August 30th, 2016 by Nathan E. Lilly

    I’m currently entertaining existential and nihilistic thoughts. Chalk it up to too many years of thinking too hard. I have a great family, great friends, great career, great coworkers. I’m a happy and optimistic nihilist. Digging up the past; looking forward. Trying not to hold myself back. 

    I don’t even know if I want to share my inner thoughts. There’s a certain strangeness in the process of unblocking yourself. I feel like I’m physically dragging my creative self out into the lime light. It doesn’t want to be there. I know it needs to be. That’s a coping device to deny pain and ward off vulnerability. Not that I’m in any great pain.

    I can’t say anything more than: the purpose of life is to be alive.

    So, as long as I can, I’m going to wake up every day; love my family; get some exercise; paint a little; and make some jokes. I’d do some dabbling, but I just don’t think I could stick with it.

    My father’s eulogy

    Posted on: August 30th, 2013 by Nathan E. Lilly

    My father—born August 30, 1948—passed away on January 12th, 2012 of complications due to lung cancer. This is the eulogy I wrote and read at his funeral.

    When your father dies, you sit down and think about what they say a father should be and what they say a father should do. There’s an unspoken measure that is held up to a man as a father. You think about what they say a father is supposed to do, and reflect on whether or not he did it. We didn’t play catch. He didn’t teach me to ride a bike. To tell the truth, I don’t think either one of us were athletically inclined. But he did so many other things…

    I remember sitting on his knee watching Tarzan and Abbot & Costello and Star Trek. He taught us to be brave and how to laugh and to be excited about the possibilities of the future. He taught us how to play chess. While we were younger—before we outpaced him in ability—he would play video games with us. That eventually led to him buying us our first real computer—a Commodore 64—and he was just as excited as us to be programming it. We spent hours writing programs in BASIC and saving them to a cassette drive (and eventually a 5¼" floppy disk). For Halloween one year we programmed an animation: a werewolf baring its fangs interspersed with random flashes of lightning that we displayed in our window on a television screen. This was in the 80s, when it was all but unheard of to do anything like that. We went apple picking; we went camping; he helped us with homework and class projects.

    You’re led to believe that being a good father just happens. But when you stop to think about it you realize: good doesn’t just happen. Good things take a lot of work. As a child, there’s so much your parents do that you’re completely unaware of. As a child, you’re only vaguely aware of mortgage payments and food bills and the effort of getting to and from work.

    It was the things that we often didn’t see directly, things that we really weren’t aware of—that when you stop to think about it and finally realize how much work it must have taken to pull off—it was these things that eventually made the most impact. When Christopher and Adam and I were in cub scouts the Cub Master stepped down. My father stepped up to fill that position. Our father spent countless hours in pack meetings and den meetings and committee meetings and planning and training. We didn’t see all of that preparation. What we saw was father & son camping trips, and trips to nature centers, and blue&gold banquets, and skits by the campfire. We only saw the tiniest bit of time that was the result of all that work. He’d hold pack meetings outside at local parks, and teach us about cooking outdoors, and the proper use of knives, and first aid and safety. Making an outdoor oven and baking muffins with freshly picked wild blueberries while camping is something I’ve shared with my own children.

    And I wonder how much more he did that I’m still not aware of. I’m absolutely sure that there’s so much more. My father’s children show only the tiniest part of the work that he did as a father: Nadine became a strong self-sufficient woman and mother; I went on to college and a career in Web Development; Christopher joined the armed forces and went on to repair medical equipment and form an army of his own; Adam is managing his own small business. I can only imagine the lifetime of work that I didn’t actually see that went into making all of those good things just happen.

    Science Fiction themed races that must be created

    Posted on: March 8th, 2012 by Nathan E. Lilly

    I ran at the Warrior Dash and Run For Your Lives and now I’m becoming obsessed with obstacle runs. Run For Your Lives really opened my eyes to their potential. After giving it some thought, here’s a list of geek themed athletic events that I don’t have the time to make happen but I would really like to run in:

    The Reaver Run

    “If we run, they’ll have to chase us. It’s their way.”

    You’d thought the Reavers ignored you, but they must have circled back… There’s nothing left to do now but run! Kick your engine into high gear, disable their traps, dodge their grapplers, avoid any Alliance entanglements, and do a crazy-ivan back to the Core Worlds before the Reavers can get you. Post-race refreshment: Mudder’s Milk!

    Race into Mordor

    “One does not simply walk into Mordor.”

    Attempt to cross the Misty Mountains, run through Khazad-dûm dodging goblins, take refuge in Lothlórien, travel down the River Anduin, run from the orcs sent by Sauron, evade Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol, and climb the Black Gate of Mordor to drop your ring into the Crack of Doom. A simply epic race, this might work well as a marathon although the expense of obstacles over a 26.2 mile course might make it cost prohibitive. Post-race refreshments: A beer so brown (that comes in pints).

    The Running of the Leaves

    “Despite its name, the leaves don’t do any of the actual running.”

    Bring your fall weather friends to this race to help the autumn leaves of Equestria fall (those lazy leaves). Start at the park, gallop through Whitetail Wood (make sure you look where you’re going), over the bridge past the waterfall, canter past the steep mountain path (don’t take a wrong turn here), back through the maple trees in the Whitetail Woods (look out for the sticky maple sap), and sprint to the finish back in the park. Can you win without the use of your wings? Post-race refreshments: Not sure, but there will be no fudge.

    Track to the Future

    “Of course we run. But for recreation. For fun.”

    Run from the Libyan terrorists around Twin Pines Mall. Avoid Biff and his gang. Race through the crowd at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. And finally, race past the clock tower at 88mph to generate the 1.21 gigawatts to get back to the finish line where you started—at Lone Pine Mall. Whatever you do, don’t interact with your past-selves, the results could be catastrophic. Post-race refreshments: a Tab or a Pepsi-free.

    Pokémon Dash

    “Rapidash escaped using Run Away.”

    Hold down the B button to take advantage of your Running Shoes. Run over hill and dale through the many different obstacles such as cobblestone, forests, beaches, water, swamp, and lava pools. Use the appropriate pokémon that you catch along the way to run on the easy path for certain obstacles. Post-race refreshments: Pokémon evolution shots.

    Escape from the Death Star

    “I’ve outrun Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers mind you, I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now.”

    Many Bothans died to bring us the plans for this race. Sneak into bay 23-7, up through the detention level, rescue the princess in detention block A-A-23 (actually, have her rescue you), tromp through the trash compactor to discover incredible new smells, swing across the chasm to the adjacent the bridge, dodge storm-trooper blasters, avoid being struck down by Darth Vader as you finally exit the Death Star and jump to hyperspace. Extra points if you do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Post-race refreshments: Bantha milk.

    Mythos Marathon

    “There are memories of leaping and lurching over obstacles of every sort, with that torrent of wind and shrieking sound growing moment by moment, and seeming to curl and twist purposefully around me as it struck out wickedly from the spaces behind and beneath.”

    The Great Cthulhu, the Great Old Ones, the other Elder Gods, not to mention Shoggoths, Deep Ones, Elder Things… there are too many dangers to name. Just don’t stop running. Post-race refreshments: A sip from Lethean streams.

    Super Mario Parkour

    “Our princess is in another castle.”

    Save the Princess by racing from castle to castle through the Mushroom Kingdom overcoming obstacles such as vines, pipes, blocks, jumping boards, and flag poles. Defeat Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and Bowser’s other forces or lose one of your three lives. Collect power-ups and find bonuses and secret areas. Post-race refreshments: Nintendo Super Mario Bros. Power Up! Energy Drink (yes, this exists).

    Like I said, I don’t have the time to make these events actually happen, so if you do, please, take these ideas and… run with them.