Next Steps

I'm making good progress now, working several different projects every day. 

One of the projects I want to discuss today is the cartooning, or drawing projects I'm doing.  I've been working on developing some cartoonish characters, mostly by drawing faces and upper bodies together.  In some instances I'm going back to some earlier drawings and redrawing those early characters with a bit more refinement and skill.  I'm at the stage where I want to expand my efforts at drawing these characters.  I plan to do that by drawing several sets of the same characters, but from many different angles and with several different expressions.  I'll run each character through a range of emotions and facial expressions, and different body postures. 

Would you like to dance?

Eventually once the drawing gets up to an acceptable level, then I plan to begin plugging the characters into some story lines, or jokes, or whatever I come up with.  I need to also begin thinking about what kind of environments and locations I might be able to place the characters into.  But much of that will depend on the stories I'm trying to tell.

I fully expect that these characters will begin to take on a life of their own.  They will develop individual personalities, and I suspect that I may even be shocked at some of the things that will develope with these people.  I'll try and remember to treat them kindly.  I hope they don't become too unruly or out of control.  This will be interesting to watch as it goes along.

A Memorial Day Remembrance -- You have changed my life -- Thank You!

Someone, a few days ago posed an important question.  What was the one thing, or personal single, one resource, blog, book or website that really changed your life, or inspired you to be who you are today?

With the Bible being the most obvious answer for me, and Jesus the central character most influential in changing my life completely. There are many people who have played significant roles in helping me change my life at key turning points in time.

One profound life changer was a person named Ed Ragozzino.  He passed away in January 2010.  While I knew of him he lived and worked out of Eugene, Oregon. Ed Ragozzino gave myself and many others a simple bit of advice that has changed everything, and forever, in the most positive of ways.  I only wished I would have had the opportunity to thank him for the profound impact he has had on my life. 

Ed Ragozzino was the head of the Performing Arts department, and a Theater Director of great skill and respect in his community.

What Mr. Ragozzino did for me, he did as a teacher, and as an employer.  One summer I worked in his office while he went on vacation to Hawaii with his family.  Shortly before that time I had been taking an Elements of Acting: Voice class at Lane Community College in Eugene.  The class was taught by various theater arts instructors.  While in this class, Ed Ragozzino taught it just one day, but the advice he gave that day, I took to heart, and put into practice at that time and have continued to follow that advice, and will continue throughout the rest of my life.

Ed's simple yet powerful suggestion was for anyone who felt they lacked confidence, or were insecure about being able to present themselves as an actor or even a human being. Mr. Ragozzino said that if you'rer shy and need to develope confidence, to get away somewhere by yourself and begin reading things out loud.  Read the Bible, read Time magazine, read anything and everything you can get your hands on, but read them out loud. I have been doing this ever since.  What it did for me happened very quickly, and was in effect a pernament change for the better.

I will always remember and be thankful for Ed Ragozzino and the impact he had on my life. I could go on and on about all the great things that have happened as a result of taking his advice.

While working in his office that summer, my job was to remove all of his books from his very well filled book shelf in preparations for the painters that would be re-doing the office that summer. He jokingly said, "Your job was to remove all of these books, take them home and read all of them out loud. Cover to cover." I've been doing that now for years.  I do much of my reading out loud.  I used to frequently doze off while reading in my early college days, but after doing as Ed suggested, I found it to be great fun, to read out loud, to try on different voices, to play the parts of all of the characters in a story.  I became not merely a passive reader, but an active participant in every thing I read.

After taking Ed Ragozzino's advice and reading aloud, I found that much of my initial shyness and lack of self confidence merely faded away.  I found myself in a short period of time talking to more people than I had talked to over the course of my whole life up until that point.  Prior to that I had a terrible fear of using the phone, of simply calling someone up for some bit of information. 

For me, I had to get used to hearing the sound of my own voice.  Ed taught that the actor's voice is one of the most powerful and important tools he owns.  I still, by nature consider myself a bit of a shy person, an introvert at heart, but now I know that I can rise to the challenge and interact with just about anyone any situation will call for.  At some points in my ongoing studies of Communication Arts, I've had the opportunity to enquire of others into how they might view me and my personality.  Several people have said that to them I appear to be very confident and self assured.  This is not how I've often seen myself, but when I look at my actions objectively I can see how the perception of confidence can be seen in me.

In answering the original question -- it was not solely a blog, or a book, or a website, but a theater director, and acting coarch who has recenlty passed away.  I will always remember and be thankful for Ed Ragozzino and the impact he had on my life.  I could go on and on about all the great things that have happened as a result of taking his advice.
For additional information on the life and contributions of Ed Ragozzino please see the following links.

Koinonia: Celebration - Live from Montreux 1984

Koinonia: Love this, all of them, but especially Abraham Laboriel. It doesn't get much better than this anywhere. I liked these guys music way back when, I just wished they had been more well known in the States. They were awesome in my book. The cut is worth watching for the whole 14:40 minutes, especially for Abraham Laboriel's bit at the end somewhere after the 12:00 minute mark. This is an example of giving it your all, and leaving it all out on the stage. Love it. By the way . . . The Kit drummer, Bill Maxwell was the producer and drummer on most of Keith Green's recordings. And of course Alex Acuna is a legend in his own right.

Words to live by: Make Good Art

This is great advice from writer Neil Gaiman for anyone in the Arts. Well worth your time to listen to this 20 minute speech.

Neil Gaiman, the celebrated author, in a speech to the Graduating class of the University of the Arts Class of 2012, spoke at length providing advice for those pursusing a career in the arts, and how to achieve those goals. His advice is timeless, and can be more broadly applied to achieving goals in any field.

My favorite part is as follows: 

"Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art."

I wish I had heard this advice several years ago, it is practical, and timeless.  Enjoy, and then go out and "Make Good Art."  There is no reason to do anything else but, "Make Good Art."

Ready, Set, Draw . . .

By Jeff Patterson

Today I've been posting a number of my drawings on Facebook for all of my friends and friends of friends to see.  I'm not a professional by any means, but I do enjoy drawing.  I like the idea of starting with nothing and developing a simple idea into something that communicates. That's why I like to spend much of my time writing, drawing, creating new music, or making photographs of people and things that populate the world around me.

Some writers whom I've read recently said that if you want to be really good at something you have to be willing to do it poorly, to take risks, and make mistakes.  You have to be able to risk failure, and even experience failure repeatedly if you want to really succeed.  Failing, or making mistakes is never pleasant, but it is all in how you handle it, how you look at it, and what you learn in the process that makes all the difference.  If you fail a thousand times, at least you've learned a thousand things that won't work, and you're that much closer to finding out what will work.

This brings me back to the drawings I've been working with today.  For me, I like drawing, not that I do it all that well, but every drawing I do is a learning experience. I learn something, someway to do it better each time that I create a new drawing.  Some of them are original ideas, others are inspired by the work of others, but they all seem to come out uniquely my own.  Just creating something is half the fun.  The other part is having people see and appreciate my work, so please comment if you're so moved.  I need the sense of validation and encouragement.  If you have compaints, please kindly keep them to yourself, my ego has been bruised enough to last a lifetime.  Please be kind.

The more I draw the more I develop my technnique. I've always been one to learn by doing. By teaching myself I gain a very solid understanding of what I'm doing.  Not that I'm against learning from others.  I believe it is always good to gain knowledge from other people, if only to learn what not to do, so you don't have to make the same mistakes that others have made.  I like to make my own mistakes, because then when I do get it right I win, I really win, and I've truely learned something and made it my own.

Here are a few more samples of my work:

Reading -- Atlas Shrugged

I'm currently reading Atlas Shrugged, the novel by Ayn Rand.  First published in 1957, the novel has been the topic of much discussion and debate over the years.  It is currently coming into greater consciousness as its message -- some would say "Prophetic Message" -- seems to be echoed in our modern times (circa 2012.) 

From the back cover:  "The astounding story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world -- and did.  Tremendous in scope, breathtaking in its suspense, Atlas Shrugged is unlike any other book you have ever read.  It is a mystery story, not about the murder of a man's body, but about the murder -- and rebirth -- of man's spirit."

"With this acclaimed work and its immortal query Who is John Galt?   Ayn Rand found the perfect artistic form to express her vision of existence.  This is the book that has made her not only one of the most popular novelist of modern times, but also one of its most influential and controversial thinkers."

"From inside the front cover: "Who Moves the World? Who is John Galt? When he says that he will stop the motor of the World, is he a destroyer or a liberator?  Why does he have to fight his battles not against his enemies, but against those who need him most? Why does he fight his hardest battle against the woman he loves?" 

"You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the amazing men and women in this book.  You will discover why a productive genius becomes a worthless playboy . . . why a great steel industrialist is working for his own destruction . . . why a composer gives up his career on the night of his triumph . . . why a beautiful woman who runs a transcontinental railroad falls in love with the man she has sworn to kill."

In paraphrase -- Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's perennial bestseller and modern classic provides the spectacle of human greatness, depicted with all the poetry and power of one of the twentieth cetury's leading artists.

I have to agree, with the teasers on the covers. Ayn Rand delivers as promised.  Having read the first two thirds of the novel at this writing, I've been very intrigued by the story and impressed with Ayn Rand's power as a writer.  She does not hold to strict rules of form, but even then the story is very clear and very compelling.  I have owned a copy of the book for years, and tried to read it many times, but always seemed to get bogged down and confused in the first few chapters.  Finally, after viewing the first film of Atlas Shrugged on DVD, I finally understood what was what and who was who, and since starting over one more time.  Now I get it.  I'm thoroughly enjoying the book and can hardly wait to get back to my next opportunity to read further.

Since the movie Atlas Shrugged Part 1 was released on April 15th, 2011 to moderate notice, the 2nd film Atlas Shrugged Part 2 is scheduled for release in October 2012.  With each installment I expect the films, following the progression of the book will get more and more interesting.  And as the blogosphere debates rage on over Socialism vs. Capitalism, and stongly held opinions color the flavor of the debates more than facts or truth. It all depends on who you believe to be the more credible. How many times have we witnessed the so-call experts to be completely wrong?  For me -- Art will continue to make it's point long after all the political rhetoric has faded away.  The theme of the book, written in the mid 1950s still seems relevent to our times here in 2012. 

May you live in interesting times . . . We certainly do. 

Productivity Tools and Motivation

By Jeff Patterson

There are some fabulous blogs and websites online to help the writer to learn all kinds of valuable tips and information.  No matter where you are on your quest to be a writer there are sites that will help you to be more disciplined in you efforts to write.  There is something available to help whether developing a story, a novel, a plot line, characterizations, dialogue, publishing, editing, re-writing, etc.

One of the most recent blog entries I've discovered features an item of how you can be more productive with your daily efforts to write, or frankly to accomplish anything if you are willing to work at it day after day.  Adam Dachis writing for the LifeHacker Blog contributed an article back in February entitled How Seinfeld's Productivity Secret Fixed My Procastination Problem
I'm inspired by the idea of a productivity tool that can help me accomplish some of my goals using the Seinfeld method.  I learned of this process earlier last year and applied it to some of my activities.  It worked, for awhile.  But I eventually became lazy and distracted by some other significant life events that were occuring at that time, and so dropped the plan deferring my efforts to later.

The death of a parent in this case kept me from following through on my long term goals.  The immediate problems were far more urgent and more important.  But now that those issues are behind me, I feel ready to start once again, in an even more ambitious attempt to work the plan more successfully this time.  And I have no doubts as the the efficacy of the Seinfeld method.

A FREE check off calendar based on this method is available from the The Writer's Store.  The calander is often referred to as Don't Break The Chain.  The idea as you may gather by reading the articles I've linked to here is that you take anything that you're trying to do, or wanting to put into practice every day and check it off each day that you have completed the task.  Originally, Jerry Seinfeld's purpose was to write a new joke everyday.  My efforts are multiple and for me quite ambitious, but I also think very do-able as well.  In my case, starting today, I've set up a Don't Break The Chain calendar for each of several areas that I am working on.

  • As a drummer, I've set up one for checking off my drums and percussion practice so that I'm strongly reminded and motivated to spen at least some time each day concentrating in this area.  As I've been doing this the past few days I'm already seeing and improvement and enhanced focus to my practicing time.  The same follows for the several other areas of concentration. 
  • One for Writing, to increase the amount of focus around the completion of several Novels I'm working on and my person jounals.
  • Another focuses on Exercise, again with the entent of doing something everyday
  • One for Drawing and developing my skills as a cartoonist and artist.
  • One for Recording to make sure that I make some efforts to move forward on my songwriting and recording projects. 
  • And lastly one designed to encorage myself into Blogging on a regular basis. 

My efforts in the past, while productive have been very hit an miss.  Hopefully with a better motivation process in place I'll be able to be more consistent in these efforts.  Time will tell.  But I'm committed to making a daily effort to move forward in all of these areas.