On acting, on roles

I had planned a book review for today, but either it is too long since I read the books I’d love to talk about, either I borrowed them and can not go through my bookmarks to find the excerpts I cherished the most.

So, let today’s post be a reflection on acting and on the roles you can build, or have to fit in, as a human being. I have been fascinated by how the actors of Sherlock have created such rich characters, full of little details and vibrant from emotions, but without identifying themselves in them (you can see how they appear outside of the stage, and even briefly when they pop out of their character’s role on stage. Intriguing). I wondered how it would feel to keep being a given character in real life, and concluded that it would not be possible – as much as a statue or a painting are not as alive as the subject they represent. The way in which these actors carefully build their own characters, line by line, gesture by gesture, is the most artificial way that I can imagine. No one could create his/her image for the public like this, without feeling the varying gap between the character’s personality and his/her own, and suffering from it. There would never be room for truly natural behaviour, as everything would have to be considered by the mind-director before being executed.

Still, I find that the acting process is able to generate extremely valuable insights in one’s own personality. A particular ease or difficulty in acting a line tells much on how one built him/herself during the years; and the stage offers a relatively safe place to test  changements, because it is not you, rather your character who is in the spotlight.

Let me conclude with my love for the backstage – for the basement where the statue stands – for the closeness of actors beyond their characters – for the privilege of knowing how a magic trick (let it be a play, a concert, a dance show, a cooking recipe!) comes to life – for the sweet, subtle pleasure to be among the magicians.

 

Drawing streak – third week

For the third week I kept drawing something every day. Sometimes I waited until very late, but I am proud of not having missed a single day. Here is the mosaic of this week’s sketches:

And here are the links to Flickr pages with all download options:

Day 15Day 16Day 17Day 18Day 19Day 20Day 21

Day 15 represent four horses, one for each language I can speak – see the dedicated post that explains how I came to this picture.

Day 16 is a colour variant of a very nice horse picture I found on Flickr. I used watercolour pencils and a wide brush, so the result is a bit vague.

Day 17 represents a three-legged dog. He usually does everything he needs, so he doesn’t mind that much, but he has one less leg nevertheless.

Day 18 is a common subject of mine, I enjoyed imagining the shadows and lights of this horse.

Day 19 represents ideas and movements that locally aggregate in ordered structures, in an otherwise unordered space. In the end there will be more order than at the beginning, but the process could not be linear.

Day 20 was a simple colour experiment.

Day 21 is a part of an armour. The armour provides shape and strength, it can replace inner bones of the arm inside it. One should remember to take the armour off from time to time, to keep bones and muscles functional.

Now I get ready for the flight back home – I hope to see aurora lights over the Pole!

Refusing to jump – reflections

Picture credit: Tom von Kap-herr, of backhomeinbromont.com

While watching a couple videos from 2012 London Olympics, specifically the ones of the riding part of Pentathlon, I saw several horses refusing jumps, many more than it happens in dedicated jumping competitions. Why so? The horses themselves were experienced jumpers or eventers and the difficulty of the jumps in that competition was reduced. The differences are two: first, the rider is an athlete that only dedicates part of his/her time to horses and riding, and second, he/she meets the horse only around half an hour before the competition.

The result is that the horse and the rider could not have enough time to adapt to each other, and the horse is more often required to mask the rider’s insecurities or mistakes, or even abort a jump if it doesn’t feel it will be able to clear it safely. I can very well imagine that it’s rarely a matter of disobedience, more often a lack of coordination. On the other hand, it was amazing to see how some horses decided how to approach the jumps, independently from the riders’ advice, sometimes carrying the rider along without paying much attention.

Then I noticed how differently the riders reacted when their horses refused to jump a given obstacle. Some of them tried again with a better preparation and balance, others hit the horse, or at least clearly wanted the horse to obey. Not all riders thanked the horse after the end of their run. I find hard not to disapprove the lack of closeness between rider and horse, but at this level of competition there is so much stress and tension that I can understand why that happens.

That made me think about  leaders in general. I witnessed a wide range of reactions when their team is not willing to go on, or would prefer to avoid an obstacle. If there is pressure of various origins, there is probably no time to understand why the team is not complying. Still, I would suggest to check how crucial is the goal in question, if it is worth to push the people through at any cost, or not. If it is not, cancel the jump yourself, don’t let the team struggle. I have been myself in the position of not having the possibility to refuse to jump and I have very few other memories of such an acute mental pain. Seeing the refusal coming is a big help. Learn to see worried faces, well before anyone talks to you, that would likely be too late anyway to abort the jump. Praise the team afterwards, especially if it has costed much in terms of stress and energy. And for next jump, improve the approach and the balance.

 

 

 

Book recommendation: “L’arte del camminare” from Luca Gianotti

Last week, during my trip to Trento, I visited a small library specialised in travel literature, guides, maps and apparel: la Viaggeria. Every time I enter it I come out with at least two books. The shopkeepers manage to keep this store lively, rich, surprising and homely, and have always a good suggestion – or sometimes they read you a few paragraphs of a book they recently discovered, so that you invariably find a book that opens you a new universe.

This time I examined with more detail the section about travelling by foot, and picked up “L’arte del camminare” written by Luca Gianotti:

I read it at once, fascinated by the simplicity of his prose, that made me readily believe I could prepare my baggage and start a journey on foot with new enthusiasm, new eyes. No matter where it starts, where it would end, the walk is a world in itself. I hope there will be translations soon, so that this concise and poetic guide will reach more readers/walkers around the world.

Proud to be a Fjord – drawing explained

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Yesterday I drew a horse portrait based on this picture of a Fjord stallion. I omitted a lot of details and used only a black pen, but am quite happy with the result.

The first step of my drawing was the outline of shapes with a pencil. I printed the picture and used a window as a light table, so that I got all proportions right. It is a very effective shortcut, but it made me omit the initial observation phase. That’s probably why I could not be so accurate with the drawing itself.

Then I moved to the desk and started the outline of the bigger shades using a broad hatching. I overlaid hatches until I got the appropriate darkness of each area.

I would end with “That’s it!” – there are indeed very few secrets in preparing a drawing like this one. It took approximately half an hour. If you have further questions do use the comment form below.

Happy doodling everyone! 🙂

On objectives and life goals

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Quarter Horse – painted by Maike Josupeit (source: Flickr)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what is my main interest, my main passion, since I was a child. As I have been interested in many things, I could hardly choose one and make it my main occupation. This made me start many things, meet many different environments and groups of people, which I find enriching. Lately, I read a book about how to make this approach productive and enjoyable, instead of seeing it as an “I don’t know yet what I want to do when I grow up” attitude.

I thought more about this approach and yesterday I found out that my current strong interest is the perfectioning of small things. Single movements, finding the right word in a sentence, the right little jump at the end of a staircase, the shoulder twist when putting on a coat. Music practice is of course on the list – my drum practice especially. All these small gestures can be brought to perfection by using only the minimum amount of energy and movement, weeding out all the rest. This is not new and not original, it is common to many disciplines; it happens to be my priority now.

This was not possible in many of the jobs I took, and that made me so uncomfortable and miserable, at the point that I was barely able to stay rational when I tried to explain what was wrong with them. Now that I put it into words, I know what I have to look for in my job search, and I am able to explain it simply, without begging for understanding. If this perfectionment is not a priority for the employer, I will hardly be a good employee in their eyes. I know I can not be too picky, but I will try to stay away from obvious misalignments of opinion.

I am not sure how much time I will keep working on this perfectionment of small things. Maybe one day I will notice that this won’t be my main drive anymore; then, I’ll be ready to go on and focus on a new objective. For now I am overly glad to have found a couple people with this same focus, and I hope to work with them as long as we like and need it.

 

On leadership mindset

Love Bite -- by Chad Hanson

Lately I collected many hints on how a good leader should be: at my kindergarten, at riding lessons and by music rehearsals. At the same time I thought about how it takes to be a good team member.

In the past I had my strong opinions on some topics and would not accept any other, even from people who expected me to conform. I used to fight back, first with explicit force, then more softly but still very firmly. I was not especially good at leading because I was not so good at presenting my ideas and getting feedback from others, on any level. I was sometimes a difficult musician in my orchestra: the more I was pushed to play in a way I didn’t like, the more unmanageable I became.

Since then I understood many signs, or maybe, I got older and I don’t cling that desperately to my opinions anymore. It was an interesting lesson with the horse I ride: I have to communicate clearly and show a calm, focused mind, in order to be accepted as leader by an animal that is many times bigger, heavier, faster than me. I can occasionally bluff and play calm, even if I am not, as it is usually a safe thing to do – opposed to be scared by default, scare the horse and create an actual dangerous situation.

It is almost the same with children. They have marked personalities and clear ideas on what they want, but also rely on adults for guidance and exploration of the unknown world. When I feel that I am teaching something new to them, I am like a mountain guide, walking in front, showing where I put my feet, leaving the freedom to walk in another path when I consider it safe too; I check often with them to see if the way is manageable for them, if they are tired, happy, scared,curious. I learned in these last months how to pay attention to small signs that help me understand how another person feels, even if his/her words say otherwise. It happened too often that people answered “No thanks, how nice of you that you offer help, but I don’t need it now” and I saw on their faces that they needed that help so badly. Then it’s another diplomatic game to play, how to help them without patronisation.

And on this fine tuning, I exercise my leadership skills and my team member skills, usually by trial and error in real world situations. Sometimes I manage to make my tests with people who have much to teach me on this field: it is a real enjoyment to know that I can practice with the confidence that I am in a playpen, in a sandbox where I don’t have to worry that I could hurt somebody in order to learn my lessons.