by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
August 17, 2009
I’m always looking for inspiration, and every month I can get it from two ingenious graphic designers’ Op-Ed blogs on NYTimes.com: Maira Kalman’s And the Pursuit of Happiness and Christoph Niemman’s Abstract City.
Both are visually and intellectually entertaining, Maira interspersing handwriting and illustrations of her thoughts and Christoph depicting his in a different medium each time (coffee stain drawings, lego constructions, computer wiring, etc.).
The latest entry in And the Pursuit of Happiness is “Can Do,” in which Maira muses over Benjamin Franklin’s accomplishments and his ability to do good and set goals. She writes, “I don’t think he was ever bored. He saw a dirty street and created a sanitation department. He saw a house on fire and created the fire department. He saw sick people and founded a hospital…” The lesson is that everything is invented and must be invented by people, so “don’t mope in your room. Go invent something. That is the American message.” After reading the piece, I definitely felt motivated to do anything.
Christoph Niemman’s latest entry is “Master of the Universe,” an upbeat interpretation of one’s control over life events using a little voodoo. He starts with, “N.B.A. playoffs. The weather. Politics. Life is full of uncertainties. Luckily, I have found that fate can be manipulated with a little witchcraft. Remember the Knicks making it to the finals in 1999? That was me. The blizzard of 2006? I just felt like it. Barack Obama being elected president? You’re welcome.” The piece is illustrated with stuffed burlap characters and red pushpins. It’s witty, uplifting, and reminds me that life is full of uncertainties but that we need to keep a positive outlook and keep our wills strong.
When I see the works of great artists, I am not only awed by the intricacies of their art and thought processes but also by how they touch hearts and inspire others to tap into their own creativity. I’m looking forward to the next entries already!