Professional Dogs, puzzles, holiday box and figure ground relationships

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I got my Covid19 booster shot and thought of the relationship between individuals and community. That brought jigsaw puzzles to mind. Quite a number of people were getting vaccinated the same time I was and it got me to thinking of how each one of us fit into the local community in some interlocking way.

After getting the poke I had to stay for 30 minutes to make sure I wasn’t going to have a reaction. Since I was thinking about puzzles I got online and shared some jigsaw puzzles I’ve designed that are on my Zazzle shop.

Then, after sharing the puzzles, I kept thinking about the mechanism of human perceptions. When working on a jigsaw one shifts back and forth between looking at the colors and patterns on the puzzle pieces to looking at the shapes of the pieces themselves. Somewhat similarly we – well, most of us – shift back and forth between seeing ourselves as an individual person and seeing ourselves as part of a much larger community.

That got me thinking about optical illusions and the ways design, specifically the design of narratives, the design of governments, can dovetail with our perception mechanisms and our behavior choices in a which comes first the chicken or the egg sense.

I sat in the medical center waiting area trying to remember – without using Google – the name of the guy who did the pioneering work on the perception of figure-ground relationships. I tried to remember the name of the optical illusion that illustrated this figure-ground discovery and the name of what the switch of perception in a figure-ground relationship is called.

I didn’t remember the guy’s name but I did remember the book I had at home that would tell me! So when I got home I looked it up: Edgar Rubin is the guy, a Danish psychologist working in 1915, and Gestalt Switch is the name of the perception change he studied. The book I looked this up in once I got home is called Universal Principles of Design by Lidwell, Holden and Butler.

I felt fine when I got home. My arm was hardly sore. I did feel a bit tired and decided on a day of indulgence. That means spending most of the day reading! My spouse documented the occasion – see below. The next day I was tired and had a slight headache. While I did do some work I mostly read books the next day too.

I’m reading “The Book” by Alan Watts slowly as there is a lot in it to think about. I read, fairly quickly, two wonderful fiction works that pair well with lap blankets, a warm dachshund and hot tea: The Nature Of Fragile Things and A Psalm For The Wild Built. Both of these titles feel like a hug from a dear friend.

Despite both my spouse and I getting our booster shots and being busy rearranging furniture and stuff for workmen to make house repairs I did manage to get some illustrations done for my in progress childrens book project “The Professional Dog”. Here are three together.

Below are closer views of each of these illustrations along with the text line I plan to use in the book.

The Fireman’s dog is a friendly dog.
The Framer’s dog is a famous dog.
The Gallery Owner’s dog is a gallant dog.

I did not have time to do one of my Creativity Chats this week. Also, since one of the home repairs is happening in the kitchen – there are no creative approaches to food that could be discussed or depicted here with glee. (I’m so looking forward to having my kitchen back!)

As I wrote in my last post my 8 inch cube shaped holiday box project for an upcoming exhibit at the Caplan Art Designs gallery is finished except for the final coats of varnish and we’re still waiting for Gallery permission to post publicly about it. Below is my art studio supervisor dachshund waiting very patiently. Mostly.

In addition to jigsaw puzzles and the figure-ground relationship shift of mind I’ve been thinking of how I use that mental shift method with words and images to stimulate my creativity.

For example when I began my holiday box project I listed, in longhand on my legal pad, over 20 items that are square or cube shaped. After making that list I worked in my sketchbook playing with images related to these words. (I’ve posted some of these in a past blog post) Below is a photo of part of my handwritten list – and I trust it doesn’t give too much away. 😁

I’ve also been thinking of figure-ground type shifting we do in other ways: inner life/social life, old/young, self/family, indoors/outdoors, leisure/work, mind/body, survive/thrive… I could go on listing these kinds of interrelated mental shifts but this is enough.

Anyway, of that list of shifts physical and mental health are important to me for both living-well reasons and to my creativity. Also important to me is the topic of doing a really good job of growing old (there’s a wonderful essay by Bertrand Russell here).

The main reason I create my artwork is because it makes me smile. I post publicly because it may give a friend a smile. And my friend Liz Gaffreau recently posted this which in turn made me smile. That’s why we’re here, I think, to love people and to be loved. That may sound somewhat purposeless – but this purposeless loving is the very attitude that leads to being creative, to playing well with oneself and with others.

This blog and my Creativity Chats on my YouTube channel are more of my small efforts to playfully encourage creativity in both myself and others – it’s one of my ways to participate in a creative community. I want the poets, the novelists, the painters, the quilters, the creatives of all kinds to be as well – physically and mentally – as possible. I want this because it is by play, by stories and beauty, that we all will get through difficult times. Mere physical survival is not enough. If I can encourage a poet or novelist to keep writing then perhaps their words will also help someone else keep going. Other writers work certainly helps me keep going. Each effort of creativity is a butterfly effect of sorts.

So, yes, my work feels urgent to me. It’s the shape and color of my jigsaw piece.

Please take good care of yourself this week. See you next Monday.

7 thoughts on “Professional Dogs, puzzles, holiday box and figure ground relationships

  1. I’m glad you and your spouse have your booster shots now. My husband has had his, and mine is scheduled for next week. Speaking of differences in perception, your post reminded me of how much cognitive dissonance I experienced in my higher ed career. Now it’s no longer part of my daily life. How about that!

    1. Glad your husband has his booster and that yours is scheduled! I’m continually amazed at how my own perceptions change over time. In a past life I worked as a graphic designer for a printing house – occasionally I had to visit the noisy printing press area. At that time I thought nothing of all the noise. Nowadays when workmen are at my house hammering and sawing I find that the noise is disturbing. Similarly when I worked as a biological illustrator and was around animals making constant noises … I hardly noticed the din and could easily concentrate on a drawing and continue. Nowadays when my dog or cat make a sound I almost immediately pause in my drawing and go see what the hubbub is about! Lol! So interesting how perception changes over time! I hope you’re enjoying your new non-academic life.

      1. I’ve never dealt well with a noisy environment. If I can’t hear myself think, I become very agitated! I’m enjoying the non-academic life immensely, although I still have teacher impulses. The only downside is that the days are going by so darn fast!!

  2. I’m glad you did pretty well with the shot and found extra reading time. What a pleasure! And I certainly hope you get your kitchen back soon. That is a huge disruption to most anyone’s home.
    I found last weeks Creative Chat on Attention interesting and inspiring and I thought it could be a helpful perspective to some of those doing NaNoWriMo this month, so I shared the link in my Regional chat. I’m one of the ML’s for our region, so I’m always on the lookout for this to encourage our writers. I liked you chat since it gave perspective on ways to approach the work itself and also – as always – plenty of positive permission, if you will, to experiment and to let go and move on if one decided on another direction. That’s the basis of NaNoWriMo’s mad rush of words in a month, but so many forget to be kind to themselves as they get deeper into their word count and their storied take unexpected turns or quit flowing so freely.
    I popped over and read the Bertrand Russell essay you linked to. Enjoyable and thought-provoking. I like his image of flowing wider and quieter and naturally joining the sea. I hope I can be so gracious. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your comment!! My kitchen is back now and almost the minute the house was quiet I did another Creativity Chat to continue on the topic I started in the one you’d liked and shared. I hope all of my chats will be similarly encouraging. I really appreciate it that you shared on the NaNoWriMo regional chat! Thank you!! I’m delighted if I can help you encourage other writers! Just the thought makes me smile! 😊 Yes, remembering to be kind to yourself is often easier said than done… I, too, liked Bertrand Russell’s image of flowing and I also hope I can be so gentle and gracious. So I’m trying to start now while I’m young and practice. 😊
      Thank you again for your comment. I have saved it for rereading when I need a boost. Best of luck on your writing!! You can do it!!

Thank you for reading and sharing encouragements!