Creativity and Web Design (The Creativity Series: Guest Blog)


Eleanor Kleiner is a one of those people you are just glad comes into your life. We worked together for a short while and became friends. I got to know her as a very creative spirit in both her music and her art. She left for London, met her (now) husband, formed a new band…and is just someone YOU should know.

So…Musician, Web Designer, Artist…Creative Spirit…

The Creativity Series Guest Post:

Creativity and Web Design: Eleanor Kleiner

About a year ago I mentioned to Stu that I was learning web design.  What that really meant was haphazardly playing around on Photoshop at a VERY leisurely pace.  So, when Stu asked me to design him a website I hesitantly agreed to try, actually having no idea if this was something I could pull off.

Luckily, I did pull it off and it turned out to be a far more creative process than I had previously imagined (of course, building a site for a creative person who used phrases like “flight of fancy” and adjectives like “swirly” to describe want he wants, definitely helps).  I also found that having a real world project to complete made learning a lot faster.

Being a musician and creative person, before I began this undertaking I had found the idea of web design to be, at most, a palatable way to make money, but still pretty dull…and Photoshop was a completely daunting obstacle.  But as soon as I started speaking with Stu about what he envisioned for his website, ideas started flowing to me.  It was a really exciting experience, to be inspired about something which had previously been a complete unknown.

I started seeing people’s websites as extensions of themselves in the virtual landscape of the internet.  It’s like a whole new(ish) dimension in which people can present themselves in any way they wish, and my job is to listen and really get a feel for what they want, and then translate that into a site which reflects their vision and is also easy to navigate.

Finding ways to meld the client’s desires and the constraints of the medium into an aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly site is a creative challenge, and it allows me to be creative in a completely different way than songwriting does.  With songwriting, I’ve always taken a relatively passive approach, waiting for inspiration to hit and then following it until it runs out.

With web design, I’m finding that having specific projects with various deadlines is allowing me to take a more proactive approach, and I find that the inspiration comes eventually – it just takes some coaxing.  When writing a song, I tend to become emotionally invested in the result, which hugely hinders my creativity.  The idea that I’m helping someone else create a website, rather than creating something from scratch, takes my ego out of the equation and seems to make being creative a whole lot easier.

So far, the experience has made me aware that trying new creative endeavors is vital for me as an artist.  I think that the more creative avenues we explore, the more we grow.

It’s also served as proof for me that no matter how daunting something may seem, if you just jump in and put one foot in front of the other, you’ll get where you’ve wanted to go!

www.ekleiner.com

Biography
Over the past six years, classically trained vocalist Eleanor Kleiner and French bassist Elie Brangbour have traveled the world on an adventure that began when the two met at music school in London. With a shared passion for music and travel, they took their unique brand of folk/rock across continents, logging enough frequent flier miles to make any avid traveler jealous.

Full of imagery and stories of the human condition, The Whispering Tree‘s songwriting is the backbone of their sound and has been heavily influenced by their travels abroad, which have taken them from South America to China.

Following a seven month gig in Macau and the release of their self-titled EP, The Whispering Tree returned to New York City, where they released their full-length album, Go Call The Captain, in 2010. The Big Takeover calls their latest release “one of the year’s most luminous albums” and Deli Magazine named them “one of the most talented duos to take stage in NYC.”

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Save The ARTist (Creativity Plus)


There is a great deal of concern and hand wringing over saving the arts. Recently, the Westchester County Arts Council sent out a plea for us to write to our congressmen about major cuts to the arts. I did is they asked, knowing that in even the smallest way our voices have to be heard.

I got an answer back not from the congressmen but from his assistant. there was a lot of blame and finger-pointing in this letter, it still talking how great Westchester County is in comparison to other locations. I will copy and post her letter, but before I do: I have something to say. Yes, big surprise.

With all the talk about saving the parts one very important component seems to be forgotten:

WHAT ABOUT THE ARTIST?

I am a performing and teaching ARTIST. I make my primary living from working in the Arts. My discipline is Theater/Drama, Storytelling and Creative Writing. I do not create “lasting” art in Fine Arts, but I DO perform a service in the Performing Arts.

When you cut the funding for the arts, you are not just cutting out a sculpture or a painting, or a dance or theater piece, or a choral work, you are taking money out of reach of PEOPLE who are trying to pay their bills and survive. by making these budget cuts to save organizations, you are also then putting more people on unemployment. This fall, I have been unable to find a job, mainly because in my field there’s much less work. There are also more people out looking for any work, so even jobs that I could fit into are inundated by other people looking for work.

Where would we be without ones like Van Gogh?

Is it just me, or does this just not make any sense? A good friend of mine has put it  very simply: at this point in time, if everyone across the board and that means the big boys in the middle management boys played fairly, more people to keep their jobs. It’s part of what I’ve been saying in that we need creative solutions and problem solving in place of the reactionaries.

I do not want to be on unemployment. I want to work. I feel there are ways that more people can work and keep their jobs. Today on the news from NPR I heard that more than 28,000 postal workers will be laid off soon. What jobs will they be able to get to support their families?

It’s very easy to cast blame and point fingers. As a country, we seem to excel at that.

Wouldn’t we be better off if we were creative problem solvers?

As stated above, here is the letter I got today:

Thank you for writing to County Executive Robert P. Astorino regarding funding for the arts.

Please be assured that Mr. Astorino has read your message and he has asked me to respond to you on his behalf.

The county executive understands and appreciates your concern for the arts.  While developing the proposed 2012 county budget, Mr. Astorino and his administration have given the arts the same consideration accorded to every program, service, agency and facility supported by county government.

As you know all too well, this is a very challenging economy.  There is a critical need to balance a $114 million county budget deficit with a responsibility to provide essential services and property tax relief, protect Westchester’s neediest residents, promote structural financial reform and reduce government spending at all levels.  One of the major roadblocks to maintaining the funding level for Arts Westchester and many other worthwhile programs and services, is the failure of the public employee unions to agree to make a reasonable contribution to their healthcare premiums.  Westchester County’s union employees are one of the few groups left in the nation that contribute nothing to their healthcare costs.  This ever-increasing financial burden necessitates reductions in other portions of the county budget.  The county executive, since taking office two years ago, has attempted to get county workers to agree to the same level of healthcare contributions state workers make.  While there is a reduction in the allocation to arts programs, the County Executive’s proposed budget includes funding for the arts at $750,000.  This action is in no way a reflection on the outstanding quality of exhibits and performances presented by the arts community nor the talents and efforts of all who labor to bring these offerings to fruition.  It is instead, a part of many across-the-board measures which must be taken during these difficult times.

Your views and those of all who live and work in Westchester are very important to the county executive.  Your input is both welcome and valued.

Again, thank you for writing.

Sincerely,

Janet Lokay
Assistant to the County Executive
148 Martine Avenue
White Plains, New York 10601
(914) 995-2127

Here was my response to Ms. Lokay:

Hi…
it’s not just the exhibits and performances.

You forget a very essential part: the artist has to live, pay bills, and be part of the economic structure. By cutting the arts, it’s not just the end product but the people who live through the process. Two very different things.

I am a Teaching Artist and a performing artist. My entire life is creative and my livelihood depends on schools, libraries, community centers and more have funds to hire me and others like me. I live for the educational process that is part of the learning process…and it does not seem politicians realize this.

Schools may not hire a full time Theater Teacher anymore (I have my NYS Certification in Theater), but they SHOULD hire me as a consultant, which is what a TA (teaching artist) really is. I integrate my work into the school core curricula, and it enhances, not wastes, the teachers’ lessons.

I would love to have a conversation  about this. Yes, many of us produce art that is seen; there are many more of us who produce art that is part of the educational process, for ALL ages, and we’re hurting, trying to make a living.

My thing: instead of telling me why something isn’t working, why are we not doing problem solving around the negatives out there. I’d rather know what has been attempted, or will be, instead of what is not working. I  work a lot with my students, when I get them, on problem solving.

I’m serious about talking with Mr. Astorino.

She gave me her phone number. If I don’t hear from them, and if you know me at all, they will hear from me. I will let you know what happens next. I’m tired of the excuses. Let’s get off of  unemployment

Band Groupie: The Whispering Tree (w/music videos)


Music, like books, play a very important part in my life. I cannot imagine a day going by that I don’t listen to a CD, or my new fix of Pandora. When I drive, I usually  will have WFUV (90.7 in the NY area or you can listen online streaming here) playing…unless “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” is on NPR.

The Whispering Tree is a group I’ve written about before (see Interview with Eleanor Kleiner). I worked with El as library clerks awhile ago now. I saw her in her first forays into forming a band. She went to England for a bit, met this guy (Ellie, now husband, and a really nice person), and they now are touring in an Airstream (you can read about their travails on their blog on their website The Whispering Tree) and have already had some great (and not so great) experiences. Where else but on the road can you meet someone who was “forced into cannibalism”? Yes, cannibalism; I’m not making that up.

Why this blog now? I’ve been talking about marketing lately, how to sell ourselves as artists without selling out. I know that blogging is a big deal with the MLM and SEO people, and it’s a numbers game to them. Me? I’d rather turn you onto a group I think you should get to know; one that I feel should “make it.”

Check out their blog. Look for them on their tour. I am a Whispering Tree groupie. Below you’ll find some of their videos, and I hope you’ll become one too. A fan, that is. Groupies are cool. We get to toss  our undies up on stage. 😉

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