February 5, 2014

Creativity Never Fades

Photo: Lyra Jakabházy 

Lyra and I recently had a chance to visit our good friends Jane Gittings Robert and François Robert in Tucson, Arizona. They are true rock stars of design who never lose their passion for finding, creating and sharing that which is beautiful and moving. It is quite a contrast to go from people who communicate through words to people who communicate through their visual creations.

Jane and François communicate through their work:

Image: François Robert
From his series Stop the Violence, the bones speak for François.



Image: François Robert cover of his book Faces with Jean Robert
François loves to find the illusion of faces in everyday and not so everyday objects. You may be familiar with his book Faces that he created with his talented brother, Jean.

Images: Jane Gittings Robert Book 7, Man of the Century from her koobcube project
Jane’s koobcube project is a backwards book and design adventure. Jane reads a cube of books from her library, one at a time. After she finishes each book, Jane redesigns the book jacket and posts the original and redesigned cover. Jane redesigns the cover to challenge herself, but I would say it’s a graphic designer's version of a book review...only better. Inspiring!

Jane and François are a dynamic duo who collaborate together on many creative endeavors from commercial photography to children's books...such as “Find a Face” that you can find on Amazon.


So...our travels with Jane and François took us from Sabino Canyon to “The Boneyard” to Mt. Lemmon Observatory. It was a non-stop roller coaster of compelling image hunting and gathering.

Photo: Sabino Canyon, Jane Gittings Robert
Hiking through Sabino Canyon was breathtaking, but stay away from the cholla plants!

 Photo: Lyra Jakabházy
Ouch!!!

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group of the US military, otherwise known as “The Boneyard”, was colossal!

Image: Google Earth 
These are just the a few of the aircraft...

Photo: Douglas Wills
...and François never misses a pretty face!

In addition to the thousands of dormant military aircraft inside “The Boneyard”, there was an extra visual treat...

Photo: Jane Gittings Robert
...The Boneyard Projects, conceived in 2010 by Eric Firestone and organized by curator Carlo McCormick, resurrects the forgotten airplanes from “The Boneyard” by turning them into three dimensional airplane canvasses...a compelling use of military assets.

But the fun didn't stop there...

Photo: Douglas Wills
As I was saying...our travels with Jane and François were an image hunting and gathering extravaganza...

Photo: Mt. Lemmon Observatory, Douglas Wills
One night, we ended up at the Mt. Lemmon Observatory. I got to see Jupiter with my own eyes and could actually see its gaseous surface and orbiting moons. Another first for me...quite cool!

Photo: Biosphere2, Lyra Jakabházy
Biosphere 2 was something else. However, the story behind it is too lengthy for this post. You can get that from Jane Poynter from her TED talk, who is also friends with Jane and François.

However, I think the real treat came at the end of our trip when we got to meet and chat with Irving Olson. He is a self-made man who created his fortune back in the day as a pioneer in electronics, despite describing himself as a simple “peddler”.

Photo: Lyra Jakabházy
You can look up Olson Electronics on your own, but suffice it to say Radio Shack and Best Buy copied Irving’s business model.

Image: 1968 Olson Electronics Catalog eBay
Irving will be the last person that I ever meet who was older than I am today when I was born. Get it? Irving just turned 100 years old! He actually retired before I was born. You do the math! You might guess he is in his 70’s if you met him, but that is not the point. Irving is not a man defined by his age, he is defined by his humanity, creativity and love for life.

Photo: Lyra Jakabházy
Since his retirement in the 1960’s, Irving has been traveling the world...150+ countries...and nurturing his creativity through his passion for photography. Of course, he and François hit it off immediately.

Photo: Lyra Jakabházy
François came bearing a few gifts, including his book Faces, which Irving loved and prompted him to show off his own latest guilty pleasure. Recently, Irving has been taking photos of people eating or rather “stuffing their faces.”...maybe a creative reaction to the increase in American obesity as seen through the lens of his camera.

I believe creativity and humor are linked. Irving’s innate sense of humor was boundless as he told all sorts of jokes and bantered with François. In my opinion, his playful nature fueled his creativity. When you play, you are not afraid to make mistakes. Irving did not seem to be afraid of making mistakes. 

Photo: Lyra Jakabházy
His “face stuffing” photos are both humorous and tell it like it is...but I’ll leave it to Irving to publish those later.

However, even more stunning are his water droplet images...

Photo: Irving Olson
In his kitchen, Irving has engineered a unique technique of photographing colored water droplets. Through hours and hours of trial and error, Irving comes up with stunning results.

Photo: Irving Olson
Irving never finished college, but he never finished learning either.

Photo: Irving Olson
He does lament that the people in his retirement community do not share most of his interests or passions. According to Irving, most do nothing at all and just fade away into a “cocktail of medications” that are too liberally prescribed to them.While not practical for everyone, Irving is medication free.

Photo: Lyra Jakabházy
Irving is definitely a man of action with many admirable qualities. His photography is just the tip of the iceberg.

Photo: Irving Olson

Photo: Irving Olson

Like many self-made people, Irving feels education numbs perfectly good people. He had enough of formal education after a couple semesters at the University of Akron, but he never had enough of learning. 

Another self-made creative comes to mind, Frank Lloyd Wright, who also ended up in Arizona, felt the same and was quoted: “Harvard takes perfectly good plums as students, and turns them into prunes.”

Irving is definitely not a prune.


FYI...The University of Akron awarded Irving an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters upon his 100th birthday...I believe a formal apology would have been better.

Photo: Lyra Jakabházy
So, hats off to Jane and François who are always finding compelling aesthetics and creative people. Because of their mission in life, we were able to meet such an extraordinary person and share in his love of life and revel with him in the beauty that surrounds us all.

Thank you, Jane and François. We left truly inspired.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Lyra said...

An amazing experience with our amazing friends! Thanks for capturing the memories so beautifully here, Doug!

February 05, 2014  

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