31 August, 2015

People Making Cool Stuff: Carmel

"My parents would tell you that I've always been drawing on walls."

It's amazing how you can watch the creation of a work of art — you can follow every stroke of the brush, every mark of the pencil — and it's not until you pause and blink a few times that you see a picture rather than just a composition of strokes.

And even after you recognize that an art work was created, it remains something of a mystery exactly how it happened. How did the person start with a blank page, and come up with this? And why? What had to go through their mind during the creation process?

So I asked. This post is the first in a vague series about the cool stuff that my friends create.
For Carmel, it started in first grade, with Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. She enjoyed the story, but distinctly remembers being taken by the book's illustrations — "I want to be able to draw like this." By high school, Carmel said, she was watching anime like Sailor Moon almost every day, and her current illustration style certainly reflects that influence.
Carmel explained that most of her pieces begin with a "burst of emotion" — a spontaneous sense that she has some feeling or message to share, and that she might express it with an illustration. She mentioned that even during stressful periods, the creation process "takes me away from the real world." The process gives her time and space to contemplate the things that are going on in her life.

Once she has a kernel of an idea, she typically does some pencil sketches to find a direction, and then will keep moving forward once she hits on a form that captures her feelings on the topic. The ideal illustrations are "an extension of my feelings and thoughts," she added.
After the general theme, further development of the storyline and the color palette go hand-in-hand. Carmel specifically mentioned that she picks a color palette to suit the subject. More emotional topics garner darker, bolder colors, while other topics might receive colors that are more subdued and dreamy, as she described them.

To actually apply the colors, Carmel uses watercolor to fill space, and colored pencils for details. She mentioned having tried acrylics and oil, but she stuck with pencils because of her facility with them. "[They] feel like an extension of my fingertips."
When the process is complete, Carmel keeps some of the pieces, and she gives some of them away; perhaps to coworkers, to friends, or as gifts. Even of the pieces intended for other people, though, she noted that "I won't give it if I'm not proud of it." After all, she describes each work as "a piece of myself."

01 August, 2015

Reunion (Rhythm of Racing, Part 6)

(Note: this post follows "Disaster" in the Rhythm of Racing series.)

I mentioned in "On-Track Prep" that the pre-race grid walk is a going-away party of sorts. That for cast and crew, it's a mental transition period from focusing on anything else to focusing exclusively on the race.

The opposite transition begins in the moments before the finish — undivided focus transforms into some combination of relaxation, exhaustion, and a variety of other emotions…
Mental and emotional distance give way to reunion.
And as the race ticks ever closer to the checkered flag, the result crystallizes. "We're doing it" gradually becomes "we did it!", and "we can do better" becomes "we did our best."

That sense of closure, even before the checker actually flies, tends to manifest as small, impromptu celebrations; particularly among teams that are doing well. Here, driver Dale Sievwright (left) and a member of the pit crew share a high-five after the team's final pit stop. Their car, the #31 Hankook Tires / El Diablo Motorsports M3, would finish first in class E0 and seventh overall in the final standings.
And then, the moment itself. Here, team members and race staff cheer as owner Bob Davidson drives the race-winning #17 Davidson Racing Norma M20F (center, obscured) toward the checkered flag, at the head of a formation of other race cars.
The teams welcome the #34 Team RDR Mazda RX-8 and the #70 Mazdaspeed Factory Guys Mazda 6 Diesel back to base. The #34 placed first in the E2 class, and despite finishing over 100 laps down from the E1 class leader, the #70 was the only one of three sister cars to go the distance — the #55 crashed into a stopped vehicle after sunset (see "Disaster"), and the #56 went off-track and rolled later during the night.
Members of Team Quick Racing Products take a group selfie behind their #03 Superlite SLC after a third-in-class (fourth overall) finish. A far sight better than their DNF in 2013.
The closing driver for the #07 New York Rock Exchange / 1st Community Acura Integra celebrates after getting out of the car. The team finished second in the E3 class, only 40 seconds back from first.
Before they depart company, a member of the NASA safety crew expresses his gratitude to people who helped during the race.
Annual car races have a certain kind of rhythm to them. A fundamental identity that defines them, even as they evolve over time. From year to year, things always change — different conditions, different competitors, different tactics, and often, a new winner. But every December that I make the trek to Thunderhill Raceway, I find a race that's familiar, even though it's always a little bit unique.
The full Rhythm of Racing sequence: