Monday, October 19, 2009

Curry-ing Favor of Local Artists

Michael Curry - noted for his work on costumes for the Lion King, several Olympic ceremonies, theaters and operas - was invited to speak tonight by the staff at the Portland Art Institute in a talk open to the public. Curry is an engaging and inspiring speaker for both students and professionals.

Curry started out with a 5 minute video of his work which definitely sucks you in. He shared larger than life "puppets", sculptures, and art that moves physically as well as art that moves you emotionally. He then proceeded to talk for about an hour without the aid of slides or other hocus pocus. He just talked - about art, creativity, craft, and a bit about business.

"Theater," Curry stated, "won't die, due to our desire to be with other people." Despite the popularity of computer graphics, his 3D business continues to thrive and his belief is that it is a backlash against CG. People still want to touch and feel and look at "real" things.

Curry talked about expertise, inspiration, business and innovation. Below are a few salient points from this talk.

On becoming an expert:
Curry quoted world renowned cellist YoYo Ma on expertise. Ma stated that 10,000 hours of practice outside of an academic setting pushes you from practitioner to expert. That breaks down to about 5 years at 40 hours a week. Sounds about right. Where I disagreed was when he talked about not needing talent or special skills, but that practice will always get you there. Being one who spent years drawing and making things and being artsy, I have still fallen back to the verbal world where I just have a keener knack and am more comfortable. Maybe I never got the 10,000 hours of drawing time in, but I became convinced at around 2,000 that though I can get a point across as needed, and sketch out concepts for clients, my sketch art alone would not keep me in kibble no matter how long I practiced. [Since writing this, I've started reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. He has a whole chapter on the 10,000 hour theory if you are interested in reading more on the phenomenon.]

On inspiration:
The new economy continues to inspire Curry's work in new ways. The need to continually reduce shipping costs has created a new challenge and the studio is doing a lot of work around inflatables and origami to meet these needs.

Curry reported a story about a choreographer for Momix who does his best thinking while riding his bike, listening to the music for the next show.

Curry himself uses 10.30 at night in his barn with a cup of tea to sit down with a new script and grab the "golden minute" that time you enter into something new and trust your intuition to see where it will take you.

On business and success:
Be the coach. Be sure your team feels like they get to the end together.

Say yes to the right projects.

Have a post-mortem, discuss why things worked and why they didn't.

On innovators:
Curry favors scientists. Tesla, Galileo, Nostradamus. These men inspire his work.

I encourage you to explore his site from the link above. His work is beautiful, fanciful, mystical and most of all it sure looks like they are all having fun. The audiences enjoy it too.

1 comment:

brad.needham said...

Why do people (technologists) hate post-mortems? I suspect it has to do with a strong desire to a) not admit failure, and b) avoid being associated with failure.

Here's an alternative to the post-mortem: a surprises analysis. Look at what surprised you as the project went on, and what those surprises ("The Gap" in literary terms) might reveal about new opportunities and directions to go from here. The idea is to shift from what went wrong ("wow, I didn't see that coming") to what those failures teach you ("wow, I never thought of audio tours as a form of augmented reality").