Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Cyn Rene' Whitfield

I’m not a tweeter but I found the research from Harvard and Northeastern Universities where they quantify and visualize happiness by examining tweets fascinating. The study found that the West Coast is happier than East.

What is our source of happy?

According to Sigmund Freud the ability to love and work is deeply connected to one's degree of happiness and satisfaction with life.

I’m not talking about a “feel good” satisfaction that is subjective and fluctuates, but the gift of inner peace that shapes your life. There are many books and websites that help point you to the goal of happiness. I have read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, How to Magnetizing Your Hearts Desire by Sharon A. Warren and The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz. I have browsed mundane sites that give you a check list path of quick fixes to get there. But, solutions like faking a smile and playing with puppies is minutia information.

From an artist standpoint, Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion by Derek Hough is a refreshing positive approach to life that is a breath of fresh air in a world of negativity and the false bravado of the performing arts. I cannot think of any other profession that shapes participants through criticism, scoring and reviews more than the performing arts, especially for starving artists. We live in a world “where the show must go on” regardless of our personal state of mind. And amazingly, those learn to “fake it for the camera” and eventually reach the level of fame and fortune usually succumb to personal failure. It is possible we begin to believe external validation as truth.

Applause is a wonderful validation of performance. So are the monetary rewards from years of focus, persistence, perseverance, determination, passion, hardcore work ethic and discipline. But these are external momentary fulfillment like petting puppies.
Perhaps the artist needs conflict to produce great art, the relationship between comedy and tragedy. What is the appreciation of Yin without the Yang? Does the artist really need opposing forces to create?

Van Gogh reportedly only sold one painting out of approximately 900 during his lifetime, Red Vineyard at Arles (oil on burlap) which now resides at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Van Gough began to paint some of the best loved works of his career in the unusually harsh conditions and confinement in the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Arles. Studying his life’s work is transparent.  In the drawing Sitting on a Basket, Van Gough masterfully depicts quiet domesticity, as well as an underlying sense of despair. These feelings truly defined Van Gogh's state of mind at the time. Within his lifetime his greatest works were created during turmoil in his life. The Potato Eaters, (large oil on canvas) acknowledged to be Van Gogh's first true masterpiece received criticism at the time but he was pleased with the result and thus began a new, more confident and technically accomplished phase of his career.

Beethoven wrote nine mostly unnamed symphonies in his lifetime bridging the Classical and Romantic periods of the 18th and 19th century. When his works were first performed nearly 200 years ago critics of the time generally panned Beethoven’s symphonies rather harshly. Today, critics’ reviews are that Beethoven was great even in his mistakes. And even through his deafness he excelled beyond criticism to compose his last symphony, amazingly enough commonly referred to as Ode to Joy.

Russian-American ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov drew inspiration and an experimental spirit from a turbulent relationship with his father, his mother’s suicide and defection from the Soviet Union to choreograph several iconic pieces. Considered to be hindered by his 5' 7"-inch frame (too short to be taken as a serious dancer) he is considered as one the greatest most perfect (New York Times critic) ballet dancers of the 20th century. Baryshnikov is quoted in Misha!: The Mikhail Baryshnikov Story by Barbara Aria as saying he is “happy to be happy”.

I have to wonder…. Are we really happy to be happy or does the artist truly seek happiness in the ability to make others happy?  Where do you draw your inspiration?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rainbow in the Making - A presentation by Michael Jones McKean

The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts presented Michael Jones McKean’s The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Form. The project creates a simple, but phenomenal visual event — a rainbow in the sky in downtown Omaha. The public artwork produced  temporary rainbows above the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts using the most elemental materials: sunlight and rainwater. Throughout the project cycle, collected and recaptured storm water was filtered and stored in six above-ground, 10,500 gallon water tanks. Within the gallery, a custom designed 60-horsepower pump supplied pressurized water to nine nozzles mounted to the 20,000 square foot roof of the Bemis Center. At timed intervals, in the morning and early evening, a dense water-wall was projected above the building emerging a rainbow. Based on atmospheric conditions, vantage point, available sunlight and the changing angle of the sun in the sky, each rainbow had a singular character and quality depending on the position of the sun.
View the Omaha rainbow by McKean at    

Sunday, August 5, 2012

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
                                                                               ―    Marilyn Monroe

Immortality of Art

Cyn Rene' Whitfield

This is the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death. I wonder what her beauty would have transpired to at the age of 86. Today, more than any other day I am channeling her troubled energy. I wonder what her beauty would have looked like at the age of 55. Norma Jeane Mortenson’s troubled childhood as a ward of the county of Los Angeles shuffled between 11 homes and a mother who was committed to a psychiatric hospital was beginning to manifest to what later would be an outlet and escape as Marilyn Monroe. Not unlike Norma Jean at a young age when reunited with her mother they admired, like I, the star power of concrete impressions at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  I have placed my hands where hers were placed celebrating Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) where she was paid 10 times less than her female co-star Jane Russell. I have walked where she walked at the Coronado de Hotel filming Some Like It Hot (1959) considered by many to be her best romantic comedy. Some Like It Hot received a "C" (Condemned) rating from the National Legion of Decency (formerly the Catholic Legion of Decency).  But this distinction was in good company alongside the Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). Some Like It Hot won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture yet sadly her flame went out three years later.

Marylyn’s complexity was little known as she owned and read over 200 books, listened to Beethoven records, took literature classes at UCLA and admired the late 18th century Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. Her enlightenment included  Anthroposophy until she converted to Judaism entering her marriage to distinguished playwright, Arthur Miller. She was a smart mind trapped by a troubled soul who underwent psychoanalysis to learn more about herself.  She wanted serious acting to replace the sexpot image enabled by studio contracts with 20th Century Fox studios, and studio head, Darryl Zanuck, who continued to cast her in stereo-typical roles of the dumb-blonde.  Not unlike Elvis who strived for a better showcase of his talents, Marilyn studied to receive the respect she so craved. She wanted serious acting and respect by attending New York's Actors Studio leaning heavily on acting coach Paula Strasberg, second wife of the great film Director, Lee Strasberg. She wanted her own voice. Like any artist Marilyn wanted the control so she formed her own production company Marilyn Monroe Productions which produced The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). But sadly something had to give.
Perhaps the medium she chose was the wrong one ignited by the feeling she got when she posed for the Blue Book Agency. She loved being in front of the camera and the likes of photographer Tom Kelly who paid Marilyn (Mona Monroe) $50 for the famous pin-up picture and Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner who later bought that picture from Kelly for $500 agreed. Hefner was so enamored by Marilyn he bought the burial vault next to hers in 1992 for $78,000. Named “The Most Advertised Girl in the World” by the Advertising Association in 1953 her licensing rights were sold for $30 million in 2011. The success of Niagara (1953) wasn’t Marilyn’s first firm but certainly her most acclaimed as reviews calling her out as more than one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  She was notoriously known for retakes and late arrivals. During the filming of Let’s Make Love (1960) Marilyn’s no-shows added 28 days to the shooting time and $1 million to the budget.  Why? Because she was perfectionist. Strasberg has stated that she was theater trained not film trained. The stage is where she belonged. She took advantage of the retake because she could. Marylyn’s own admission said she was most at home on the stage performing for the troops in Korea, 10 shows in two days interrupting her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio, was instant gratification that fed her talent. She got nothing more than criticism with film directors who guided her down a path of insecurity. On stage she could embrace the response.

Marilyn wanted to feel good about herself but seldom did. She brought joy and warmth and laughter to many but seldom felt its return throughout her short lifetime. Adored by millions, considered the world’s most desirable woman, and fighting the veil of loneliness of several miscarriages and failed marriages Marilyn was successful in a career where theater is a steady diet of rejection despite the celebrity and glamour yet her art was the only thing she could cling to. She evoked emotion and praise by others yet not in herself.   What is left behind are many markings that tell us that Marilynn Monroe passed by here. Marilyn found iconic attention she so craved posthumously as probably the most celebrated actresses of all time, certainly the most recognizable. How sad that we remember the controversy of how she died rather than the contributions she made in how she lived but, how grateful we are to have the immortality of her art on film. How sad that what is immortalized is limited by the control imposed upon her by others in her art rather than the maturity it could have been had she lived.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”
– Albert Einstein

Brainstorming: Divergent Diva!

by Cyn Rene' Whitfield

In 1941, advertising executive Alex Osborn began looking for ways to draw out ideas from both his creative people and his office staff. He believed that under the right circumstances anyone could be creative. His novel twist on divergent thinking at the time was called “think up”. Today we call it “Brainstorming”. Brainstorming is a tool to generate ideas, solutions or new concepts by removing inhibitions that block the creative process. Once you determine what it is that requires a creative answer it becomes an impulsive response environment. The concept is to think up as many ideas as possible regardless of how ridiculous they may seem at first, getting every idea out of your head, and then go back to examine them afterwards. Divergent thinking generates many different ideas about a topic in a short period of time. It involves breaking a topic down into its various component parts in order to gain insight about the various aspects of the topic.

“Invention is something new, not seen or known before. Discovery means that the idea was not known to you or in the context or application. Association is putting known ideas together in a new combination. All three can result in new and profitable applications.” Brainstorming releases all three components through freewheeling by removing restrictions allowing ideas to flow freely and without criticism. It can be a difficult process for many reasons: sometimes people are unwilling to suggest a solution for fear of criticism or the problem may just be a very difficult one, and one that no existing solutions exist for yet.

Creative people are said to be divergent thinkers. The ability to recognize and devise new ways of looking at something or solving a problem helps an artist capture a perspective. It helps a conductor interpret the score, a dancer to interpret the music. This ability to capture a novel approach and to recreate is evident in the works of surrealists like poet Guillaume Apollinaire, artist Salvador Dali and architect Edward James. Abstract expressionism is another form of capturing divergent thinking in medium. Jackson Pollack’s dripping an splattering of industrial paints in “Autumn Rhythm” is a perfect example of brainstorming on canvas!

The companies I have worked for and currently, Terrametrix ( , are imbedded with technicians and engineers. They are essential left brain thinkers: logical, sequential, analytical and rational. If anyone can drive this group crazy it would be me. As a marketing person, I am more right brain: random, intuitive, and out of the box type thinking. I apply brainstorming verbally by asking questions that appear to be off mark. I approach my published articles through free writing, constant revisions of initial random thoughts. It is a journey that takes me to the unknown. Part of this approach comes from the objectivity you must have as a journalist where you cannot begin with a preconceived idea or opinion. The facts, the process, the holistic approach takes you to the conclusion. Perhaps this is why I enjoy writing so much. I never know where the journey will take me. It is the same with my art. A blank canvas is an experience yet to be explored through brainstorming. Yes, I am the office Divergent Diva and proud of it!


Kosslyn, S. M., & Rosenberg, R. S. (2007). Fundamentals of Psychology in Context (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

SkyMark (2009) Alex F. Osborne: Father of the Brainstorm Retrieved January 19, 2010 from

Osborn, Alex (1991) Your Creative Mind, Motorola University Press

Stokstad, Marilyn (2008) Art History: Volume 2 (3rd ed.) NJ, Pearson

Strategies of Divergent Thinking Retrieved January 19, 2010 from

Atherton, James (2009) Convergent and Divergent Thinking Styles Retrieved January 19, 2010 from

Monday, February 27, 2012

Disney Seven Dwarfs: Creating Personality in Animation

by Cyn Rene' Whitfield

When Walt Disney set out to animate the Brothers Grimm fairy tale in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, published in 1937, Disney decided they needed names.  Until such time the dwarfs were unnamed. Disney realized that strong, individual characters would be needed to advance the story as well as provide humor and appeal so, after much contemplation he chose Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy each with associated personalities.
Personality is the quality or condition of being a person and the traits that are peculiar to a specific person. Their pattern of collective character, behavioral, temperamental, emotional, and mental traits of a person which are distinctive qualities of a person, especially those distinguishing personal characteristics that make one socially appealing. It is part of what makes each individual distinct. In the case of each dwarf, Disney continued his movie making with characters that represented and illusion of life. He maintained that his stories were geared toward adults and not children which resulted in his desire to give the Dwarfs separate personalities. It would have been much easier for his animators to create seven generic Dwarfs all acting.. Giving them names and personalities required the development and maintenance of consistent attitudes and actions throughout the film and during their interchanges with each other and Snow White. It also meant that when all seven were on screen, which was much of the time, anywhere the viewers looked they would find a particular Dwarf in character reacting on the basis of his own defined personality. This provided the full animation screen with a degree of activity and comic engagement unlike anything moviegoers had seen before.
Disney understood that personality traits influence how people perceive, encode and remember situations.  The extraversion associated with naming the seven dwarfs created positive emotions intended to tone down the violence and aggression that was being seen in the film industry.  A study by Coyne and Whitehead, Indirect Aggression in Animated Disney Films, examined the frequency and portrayal of indirect aggression in children’s animated Disney films. Overall, Disney films portrayed indirect aggression 9.23 times per hour. Compared with the amount of violence in children’s TV programs, the amount of indirect aggression in Disney films was quite low and was usually portrayed in ways that would not facilitate imitation.
The major challenge to animators today is the realism that is associated with their characters.  Technology has become so advanced that many times the audience forgets they are not looking at a human actor. Part of keeping that realism alive is the understanding of the traits associated with personality.  I have found it is easier to create a life like model of a character in 3D than it is to apply the personality traits of behavior. We have to be observers, like Disney constituently taking personality inventory to apply to our characters about how they behave, interact with each other and respond to different situations.  As this must be brought out by the animator through actions, facial expressions and movement once a character is established. Disney knew this in 1937, without the technology that exists today simply by assigning a name to his characters that set the tone for the personality. We are learning a great deal about character creation today that it is more than emphasis on physical characteristics. Personality traits are what brings the character to life.
Kosslyn, S. M., & Rosenberg, R. S. (2007). Fundamentals of Psychology in Context (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.
Solomon, Charles (1989) Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation, NY Alfred A Knopf
Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination". Cineaste. 01 Jul 2007: 90.

Inge, Thomas, Retrospectives “Walt Disney’s Snow White, Art Adaption and Ideology” Journal of Popular Film and Television

Journal of Communication; Jun2008, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p382-395, 14p, 1 chart