Category: Art and Entertainment

5 Things You Wanted To Know About Mold Making

A mold is a negative impression of the object you want to cast. It captures every surface detail of the object right down to the slightest undercut or indentation. It is not just inanimate objects either – it is even possible to capture a negative of a living, breathing person before using the body mold to reproduce a stunning life cast.

1. How to make a mold? – Mold making is an intricate art in itself. There are many techniques such as block molds, blanket molds, glove molds, poured molds and more. The making varies from simple to intricate and some can get quite time-consuming. Similarly, you can make the mold as a single piece or in two or more multiple parts depending on the shape and complexity of the object. The choice of mold type depends as much on the object as your own dexterity and comfort level.

2. What do you need? – You have to stock up on various materials, supplies, tools and equipment to make molds. There is a varied choice of mold making materials such as clay, plaster, alginate, moulage, polyurethane resin, latex rubber, silicone rubber, thermoset mold rubber and so on. Each of them has specific features, functions and suitability. You will also need gloves, containers, spatulas, mixer, brushes, knives, rasps and sometimes even a vibrating table or vacuum chamber. You should source all your art materials and tools from a trusted brand and supplier to ensure good quality and value.

3. How to go about it? – Once you have settled on the most suitable mold making material and method, you begin with the actual mold making. You will need a mold box to contain the object and seal the object first. It’s better to apply a release agent over the model. Then you have to apply or pour the mold making material all over the object. Technical aspects like spues and keys will have to be considered. The mold has to set properly before demolding it carefully from the object.

4. How to use the mold? – Once the mold has cured properly, it is ready for use. Clean and finish it properly before proceeding to the casting. You have to carefully choose a complementary casting material as the latter should not react or interfere with the mold in any manner. Sealing and coating with release agent follows again before pouring the casting material.

5. If you need help? – Mold making is interesting, enjoyable and even makes for a lucrative profession. You can learn how to make a mold by apprenticing under an expert, watching videos, reading how-to books or even experimenting on your own. Or you can choose to join a workshop that is led by an experienced professional for some valuable hands-on learning.

The author is an artist by profession as well as an experienced writer in the field of art and craft. In this article, he has focused on how to make a mold and other things that are related to it.

The Mind of an Artist

Art Student, Chiamaka Okenwa, answers the question, ‘What runs through the mind of an artist before the birth of a true masterpiece?’ This is a question that plagues everyone, especially in today’s chaotic world where your identity is easily lost.

The answer to this question is what I have set out to find in my visit to ‘Identities’, an exhibition at Denk Spaces. At the entrance to the gallery was a display by the exhibiting artist Erasmus Onyishi. What had at first appeared to be a mere tangle of wires and clutter took form upon more careful observation as a colony of ants marching up the wall. This mixed media piece, Openly Closed, was perhaps what opened our minds to the existence of other forms of art apart from realism, a concept we had been more or less closed off to.

Stepping into the building, eyes began to fill with wonder. Each separate work was a colorful and vivacious expression of the same, special theme: Identity. The exhibiting artists had identified themselves through their work by their choices of color, line, texture and form, and each work appealed to all of us in different ways. One of Henry Eghosa’s expressive works, depicting a woman in the process of dressing in traditional attire seemed to whisper, our culture is our pride. Stephen Osuchukwu, in his dignified rendition of an elephant herd, drew focus to the matriarch elephant whose leadership position is almost synonymous with its identity. This female cow is the oldest and largest in the herd and is responsible for leading the elephant herd. Their survival rests on her broad shoulders. On deeper reflection we realize that, perhaps, we are a sort of matriarch when we are given leadership positions.

Obinna Makata, in his work Beauty Deeper than Cosmetics II, leads us to realize the need to maintain our own unique identities in a world where society dictates what to wear, how we should look and, ultimately, who we become. Another work of his, Of Race and Identity, tells us Africans that we do not truly conform to the label [Black], but our identities are rainbows of color, because there is a splash of something special in each and every one of us. His artful employment of Ankara emphasizes individuality. Just as each Ankara pattern derives its beauty from its unique pattern, so we derive our own from our difference in identities.

Promise O’nali, whose novel style would identify him in the farthest corners of the world, gives us another take on the term, identity. Because who are we, really? It is something to be deeply reflected upon. His works, in a cool and simple manner, induce the viewer to observe the intricacy of man’s journey through life, and the constant battle to maintain his true self.

At the end of this truly inspiring and eye-opening exhibition, I returned almost on a different plane of mind. I had taken away one general lesson. In the words of Mr. Nnoli, “Art is always involved in our lives… It opens the door to our individual creativity.”

And indeed, I have truly been inspired to open those doors, and reach for the magic in more creative ways.

Museums and the Marathon Man

The Washington Post article by Christopher Ingraham (June 13th, 2014) says it all “There are more museums in the U.S. than there are Starbucks and McDonald’s – combined.” Quite accurately we think of museums as important cultural and educational institutions; however, they are also quiet superstars of the entertainment industry. According to The American Alliance of Museums (AAM), with over 800 million live visits annually, their attendance exceeds that of all theme parks and major sporting events combined. But America’s museums are much more than popular and numerous; they are cultural and educational gems that play a vital role. They are community elders that tell the stories of our American neighborhoods. Mamie Bittner with The Institute of Museum and Library Studies (IMLS) stated in the Washington Post article:

“Many of these institutions, particularly in small towns and rural areas, are historical societies and history museums. We are in love with our history – at a very grassroots level we care for the histories of our towns, villages and counties,”

The story of how I came to visit and admire so many small museums begins nearly eight years ago when I faced a scary scenario. Diagnosed with prostate cancer my doctor’s instructions were clear and blunt. “We caught this thing very early; lose some weight but by year’s end take care of this.” Taking care of this meant either an operation or radiation. He was confident that either procedure would be sufficient; nevertheless, I was scared as hell. When you hear that diagnosis, “you have cancer”, a thousand things race through your mind all at once, yet somehow the whole world stops at the same time. What are the treatment options… I have to research each treatment… I have to research the surgeons… what if I don’t make it… what happens to my wife… what happens to my family… I want this thing out of me… how do you research this stuff… I want this done before the end of the year… why me… why not me. My mind was racing, racing, racing. Who do I tell? When do I tell them? Should I tell them? My mind was just racing, racing, racing.

It was June 2010. I was 54 years old, a professor, husband and father. Earlier that year my wife had been hospitalized for 34 days. Should I tell my wife? Would this aggravate her condition? She was already worried about being unemployed. Do I tell her? Our three sons were all in high school and doing reasonably well; the oldest would start college in the fall. Out of worry would my oldest boy forgo his athletic scholarship to stay home with his ailing parents? Even if he did go to college, if he knew I was battling cancer how would this affect him academically? Who should I tell? Do I tell my boys? Do I tell everyone? Do I tell no one?

I once heard somewhere that “we grow up and become our parents.” How true that is. Although it didn’t occur to me at the time, I’d seen this situation play out before in 1969; I was 12. One day my dad asked me to come with him to his doctor. This was strange; he had never asked me to go to a doctor with him before. We went to St. Nicholas Park, Mount Morris Park, Central Park, baseball games, museums and grocery stores. On Sundays we walked to newsstands to buy the New York Times and Daily News. Afterwards we’d come back home and eat big southern style Sunday breakfasts – smothered chicken, smothered pork chops, grits, gravy and biscuits, never rolls – always biscuits. We did a lot, but he had never asked me to go to a doctor with him. I should have known that something was up, but I didn’t.

The doctor’s appointment took place on an early evening. The office was located on the first floor of an apartment building and it was dark outside. I sat in the waiting area while my dad met privately with the doctor. That day his doctor told him he had six months to live. My dad a tall, quiet, dignified WWII vet said nothing. We went home and he acted as if nothing had happened. He kept it all to himself. Yet twenty one years later, and long after his doctor had died, my dad was still alive. He told no one this frightening secret for all of those years. Finally, in 1990 he spoke with me about what had happened on that day way back in 1969. When I asked him why he hadn’t said anything he had a classic answer, “Hell, I wasn’t gonna die to just to make the doctor look good.” To this day I still don’t know if he ever told anyone else.

In 2010, 41 years after my dad was told he had six months to live and said nothing to the family, I became my dad – absent the courage and dignity of the WWII vet. Initially I told no one. I did however listen to my doctor’s advice and began power-walking aggressively to lose the weight. I weighed 308 pounds. This was the beginning of a journey. Little did I know it would transform my health, my body and to a great degree my soul.

I elected for a robotic prostatectomy as treatment. Recognizing that I would be hospitalized for several days I was forced to say something to my wife. Every married man knows that disappearing for several days without telling your wife is a guaranteed death sentence; cancer is only potentially lethal. We sat down on the living room sofa on a Sunday around 7pm. It was the evening before I’d be admitted to the hospital. This scenario gave her very little time to dwell on the matter; I had to be at the hospital early the next day. As I had feared, she broke down and began to cry and as soon I uttered the word cancer. We agreed not to tell our sons; we both thought it might cause them to worry.

Fortunately the operation was a success. Neither chemotherapy nor radiation was required. Several months later I resumed my power-walking. Over time a routine evolved. I prefer walking outdoors in parks (no matter the temperature) to treadmills and tracks, mornings are better than evenings, warmups last 5 – 7 minutes, weekday walks last 45 – 50 minutes, weekend sessions last a minimum of 90 minutes and finally, almost all sessions end with 7- 8 minutes of stretching. I walk 4 times per week during cold months and 4 – 5 times per week during warm months, I also found a very reliable partner, music from the 70s, 80s and 90s. My partner also gets along fabulously with an ancient Sony Walkman. Who knows, perhaps this partner is my subconscious whispering to remind me of long lost youth.

While I do not claim to be a very religious person, being outdoors in parks (which are after all tiny forests) sweating, breathing and among the general splendor of God’s nature is often a spiritual event. The cancer has now been gone for nearly eight years. Over that time 70 pounds have melted away and my diabetes seems to have disappeared, or at the very least be well controlled. Along the way I began to enter races; I power-walk but compete against runners. Half marathons (13.1 miles) and 10Ks (6.2 miles) are my favorites. Being somewhat vain, before entering my first race I checked the times of the runners to make sure I would not finish last. At first I entered local races. Later a colleague, who is a runner, told me about the Philadelphia “Love Marathon” which I competed in. This lead me to research races in other locations. Now, I travel to participate I races. However, journeying to different cities only to participate in a single race seemed hardly to be an efficient use of time and travel. I needed another activity to compliment the racing. This is how I developed an interest in small museums.

I had some experience with researching museums. Years ago I had begun exploring museums as field trip venues for high school students. At the time I supervised a college program that provided various activities for at-risk high school students. The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) provided a great deal of information for our program. Later, as I began to look for museums in the cities and towns I would be racing in, AAM and several other museum related organizations such as The Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) and Museums of the World (MOW) have become valuable resources. One fact that immediately became clear is that America is the undisputed museum capitol of the world. According to MOW there were an estimated 55,000 museums located in 202 countries in 2014. IMLS, (a U.S. agency) states there are 35,144 active museums in the United States alone. Assuming these data are accurate, over 63% of the world’s museums are located in America. The IMLS 2012-16 Strategic Plan points out “There are more than 4.5 billion objects held in public trust by museums, libraries, archives and other institutions in the U.S.”

My articles will attempt to capture some of the fascinating stories, color, history, myths and life that are the marrow of America’s small museums. I hope you will join me. Coming soon wax, warships and a poet named Wadsworth.

Eight Common Characteristics Famous Celebrities Have

Celebrities come and go. They can either stay for a couple of years, but some fail to carve a niche in the entertainment industry and remain a starlet. Some are successful and become iconic in the music scene, television and movies.

You might be wondering why some of them have disappeared in the industry. If you observe their stellar status, the luckiest are those who share common characteristics that made them rich and famous.

Take a peek at the 8 common characteristics famous celebrities have in common. Find out if you have any of these traits that can be helpful in your chosen profession.

1. Strong determination and confidence. Celebrities are confident and determined to pursue their goal no matter what happens. They are the kind of people who do not care about what others say when they pose nude in a men’s magazine or wear a bizarre outfit. Getting out of poverty and to become famous are two things that prodded them to try their luck in Hollywood hoping that they could find the right people to help them in their budding career.

2. Their work ethic is infectious. Actors and singers are deprived of sleep as they have to stay awake until the following day to finish their commitment. They work hard not only because they know that they are highly compensated for their efforts, but because they want to leave a legacy when they are no longer active in the industry. Highest paid actors only spend 2 to 3 hours of sleep until their project is finished. But the prices they get from being workaholics can buy them a new house, a car, a set of jewelry and a swanky bag.

3. They work for the sake of art. Multi-awarded actors are choosy in their roles despite the high talent fee that they could receive for a particular project. Top caliber actors who have become financially stable would pick meaty roles that could earn them an Oscar award. They don’t mind if they have to go bald or topless for as long as the role will increase their level of creativity and transform them into a respected actor. Some celebrities accept roles that are challenging even if they don’t share the same billing stature with the main actors.

4. They are creative and unique. Famous Hollywood personalities defy the standard and social norms. They never stop creating and reinventing themselves to enable them to catch the public’s attention. Miley Cyrus, Madonna, J Lo, Michael Jackson and to name a few, had their own strings of gimmickry and controversy to promote their albums or movies. Even local artist in some key cities in the world do the same thing even if it could ruin their reputation and make them infamous. Defying the norm and ignoring their bashers is the best action that celebrities must do to succeed in their showbiz career. Gossips are part of showbiz and welcoming them with an open heart can make them stronger and better celebrities.

5. They think, believe and dream big. True artists think that there is no small role for them. Budding actors must heed what their veteran counterparts say that in order for them to be recognized and earn big, they should accept any role that can hone their acting prowess. Since the competition in the world of showbiz has become stiff, they must grab every opportunity that comes their way. Not unless they are products of reality shows or beauty contests, penetrating the entertainment industry is a bit hard. Changing their mindset from small to big things will inspire them to strive hard and make it big in showbiz.

6. They have a high emotional quotient. Although beauty and talent are important things to consider when discovering a new talent, movie directors and producers would prefer actors with a good work attitude. Celebrities who are acting like divas will most likely to lose their chance of getting the right break because their attitude can cause a lot of problems during location shooting. High EQ celebrities come to work before call time and they do not cause glitches or delay at work. They can mingle with anyone in the set from the director to the janitor. They can laugh at their own mistakes and can exchange jokes with their fellow workers, even if they have been sleepless for several nights. Most of all, they welcome strangers and mobbing fans for autograph and photo ops.

7. They enjoy every bit of their work. Become passionate about your work as an artist in the real sense of the word will give you more inspiration to hone your craft. Celebrities who are enjoying their career are the one who will become successful as they do not get discouraged when failure comes in one point of their lives.

8. Money and fame are only secondary. These two things that can lead to frustration if celebrities are unable to achieve them. Some famous celebrities who are getting less projects and their fans are ignoring them have become depressed and suicidal. This is because they think that money and fame are the most important things in life. But the truth is, any career that is taken with passion can be a great source of your finances if you know how to save your money.

Celebrities who have lost their careers because of their bad attitude have realized that becoming famous and wealthy does not happen overnight. They have to learn the traits that could propel their popularity and eventually land them a lot of projects.

Aspiring actors/actresses who are given the break should realize that the competition is so high in the industry. A single flaw is observed from you could put you down and it would be too late to realize that a newcomer will soon replace your position in showbiz. Getting rich quick is a mere fantasy as you need to start from scratch, and when you are already at the top of your success, remain humble and grounded.

Effects of Typography on User Experience

If you give the paper, The Aesthetics of Reading, a look, you’ll be able to see how intricate and complex typography really is, why it needs to be such a focus, and how it effects on the reader’s mood and cognitive performance.

But if you don’t have the time or would just like me to summarize it all, well, here it is.

Researchers found after the study was that if the document is properly typeset, it not only makes it easier to read, but also pleasing and easier. On the other hand, bad typography makes it harder to read the version which quite obviously, in return, makes people disinterested. If whatever you’re designing is properly typeset, you can put in as much information as you’d like and it would still not be a nuisance to read.

It was also found that good typography boosts cognitive performance. This means that good typography makes it easier to perform whatever task is needed. Now, I bet that is something you did not expect.

Typography has a very clear effect on the mood of the reader and also impacts productivity, engagement and creativity.

Now, moving on to explaining the effects a little more in depth.

Why It Matters

If you’re not even sure why you should pay attention to typography, to make it simple, it’s how you can keep your reader’s attention to your illustration, brand or design. Yes, pictures can speak a thousand words, and so can your logo or other illustration. But typography plays quite a bit into how long they keep looking at your work, and the impact it makes on them.

The fonts, colors, sizes and everything else you use matter. You can give this study a read if you want more information. Typography may be an art but you still have to look at its roots in human cognition.

You can grab attention by styling your words differently, and even add them to a priority or importance list which makes it easier for the human brain to analyze and understand them and makes mental processing easier.

How to Get Started

Well, you need to know exactly what it is that you’re trying to achieve. The goal of your typography project should be clear. Knowing what you want your readers to feel is important and then working by keeping that thought in your mind will help you in clearly emphasizing the elements.

Try different font styles, sizes, colors, underline the text, make it bold, italicize it or whatever you need to do to make it convey that exact mood which will let people know about your work and not just grab their attention on first sight but keep it there for a while. If you’re a layman, you can simply try out a logo design tool yourself and see what works for you and what does not.

Also, do not forget, that it is very important for your text to be legible, even in small fonts. The characters need to be able to be identified correctly and make the process of reading your text smoothly without needing to invest a whole bunch of effort in understand the first letter alone.

Following are a few things you need to keep in mind to improve your typography skills.
• Simple letter types – fonts
• Avoid caps or all caps
• Line Length
• Line Spacing
• Letter Spacing
• Your Audience
• Complementation – Contrast and Vibrancy

The Place of History in the New Time

History, they say, is the propaganda of the victor. And rightly so, if what obtains now will be used as a yardstick for historical analysis. For History as it is written today is a product of either a single story or an emergence of a winner in the contest among multiple stories. Dictators are aware of this, and thus, in the olden days, every ruler has a historian in his employ to tell his or her own story. It is still in practice today.

The real meaning of the word is contained in the word itself, which boils down to shortening of two words- His Story. How many times have regimes falsified history to put themselves in the limelight? Can we actually falsify history? If history is falsified, then in actual sense, it does not tell His Story but is rather a piece of propaganda. That is why Africans are suffering today because of the ills of a single story. And history sees Adolf Hitler regime as a callous one, while revisionists are trying to bring a balance to the history spearheaded by the final victors of the second world war.

Based on this premise, will it ever be possible to have a totally accurate record of public events without distortion? The answer is a definite yes. But even at that, the story is also dependent on the personality of the teller.

This type of history entails telling the story by watching the exact unedited video of events as they unfold. It involves those with heightened “mediumistic” abilities.To explain this further, a word must be said about the activities of mediums. These people are what can be referred as open portals through which higher radiations reach the surroundings. Hence a medium, in ideal cases, simply opens himself as a channel. They can only see things according to their spiritual maturity. By Spiritual maturity is meant that a medium cannot see beyond the plane of Ether he may end up in when he passes on. Some mediums can see only astral things while others see ethereal things. Only an extremely few can see spiritual things. Some see only things in the lower and darker regions, as can be seen in most African medicine men, or higher ethereal, as the activities of some so-called super-mediums of the western worlds, for example, can be described. Their seeing is premised on the fact that most things that happen on earth happen in the beyond first before they happens on earth. The time lapse before its manifestation depends on how high the action is recorded. Sometimes what is seen may manifest in weakened form physically.

But future historians will be mediums who can cull events that has already happened and watch and record it, like transcribing a video camera. The same thing can then be viewed by them either in the astral or in the planes of ether, which is actually looking at the same thing from different perspectives. Thus what is happening now will be read in future by this type of history rather than intellectual propaganda of the victor.

The Good News at the Right Time

When you have a Damascus experience like Paul, it changes your life radically. Before, Paul killed Christians; now he supports the other side 100%. He is driven to use all his energy to tell people about Jesus. When you meet Jesus face to face, everything changes to completely.

No prison can stop Paul. No stick that hits his body, no shouting or spitting by a soldier will stop him. His passion to save others from eternal fire burns constantly and nothing can put it out, 4that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.

I’m embarrassed by my own little fire. It is so easily extinguished or put out. So easily I keep quiet and rather say nothing, because nowadays we have to give everyone space to believe as they like.

I take my hat off to a number of teachers in my son’s school. They saw the need to help dads to connect to their sons and started a movement called Engage. Any father and son are welcome.

They know many are not Christians. They are careful and try not to offend. But they are not afraid to say exactly who they believe in. Even the head boy who talked directly to the young boys stated clearly that he had made a choice for Jesus in his life. How wonderful it was when this same head boy concluded the evening with a prayer and blessed everybody.

Here one could see that today there are still people like Paul who cannot keep quiet. The secret must be revealed. The risk doesn’t matter, whether it is imprisonment or the government or losing your friends, every person must hear the good news.

I think they know how to tell the right thing at the right time. Yes, they are sensitive and give space. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t speak up. By hook or by crook, the secret must out!

I realise that we cannot make it work on our own. Paul knows that too. I suspect that Paul’s personality is more a “turn or burn” technique, and, therefore, he asks for reinforcements. We are too weak. Either our fire is extinguished or we are insensitive and drives people away before we get a chance to give the message.

God must help us. We need God’s Spirit to guide us so that we can say and do the right thing at the right time. May it be so. May we be sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit.

Let us strive to follow Paul’s example. May we be like the teachers at my son’s school and burn like the head boy to tell the good news and may God’s Spirit guide us to do it in the right way at the right time.

The Chicken Came Along

I couldn’t stop laughing when I read Anne-Marie’s (not her real name) story:

We recently bought a smallholding and to augment our income, we are busy raising broilers. They range freely in the yard.

One of the cockerels found a nice warm space under the bakkie and settled himself there without us knowing.

We were going to your book launch that evening and Mr. Cockerel decided: “I’m not getting off in Stellenbosch!”

Back at home (it rained the whole way and tons of oily water must have splattered the underside of the vehicle), the neighbours’ dachshund started making the weirdest noises under the bakkie.

The next moment the dog appeared from under the bakkie with the chicken in his mouth.

Everybody said there was no saving this chicken – chop its head off.

Fortunately, I didn’t know how to do it and chose the easy way out – I cuddled the poor thing in front of the heater in one of my warm jerseys.

Today, it’s sitting in front of the heater, being treated with Panado and chicken feed.

This made me wonder how much we value life: The chicken is worth R35 – the vet will charge me more than the profit I could make from the whole bunch. Do we value people as much?

Last night, when my family thought it was all a joke, my first line of defense was “It’s a living being. Yes! It’s a chicken, but still a living being.”

It doesn’t matter how much monetary value we attach to it. It’s a living being and everybody deserves a chance. Doesn’t matter what you have to face.

So, you know – hopefully the chicken is so tough that nobody ever wants to eat it and I will hopefully be so lucky to have a cock on the farm that will wake us with its crowing in the morning. That’s to say if it survives the next 24 hours!

What a priceless story. A story with many lessons. Everyone on earth has another chance. Yes, we have to keep on caring without looking at the price. Whatever the world says, we keep on hoping and dreaming. What struck me was the cockerel’s staying power. Through the mud and oily water, he hung on with all his might. And without the passengers even knowing about him.

And in a way that is true for God as well. Without us realising it, God keeps holding onto us. Yes, even in the muddy water where we often find ourselves.

Being A Human Whisperer

We have the Ghost Whisperer, Dog Whisperer, Cat Whisperer, Horse Whisperer, but have we thought about being the Mother of all whisperers? The Human Whisperer? I know this sounds funny but it is the most basic life skill set we all must strive to possess. And we think that as humans, we know how to do this?

Nope.

The number ONE challenge that almost all of my clients have is to be able to communicate effectively. Whether it is with their family, loved ones, colleagues, clients or subordinates, this is ONE BIG CHALLENGE.

Over the course of the last two to three weeks, it made me realise that most of the work that I have been doing is really about teaching people how to communicate effectively. It is not about speaking well or having good diction. It is about communicating with each individual or group in such a way that they get what I am saying. Sometimes, I am required to be tough/stern, others times I am required to be soft and loving, and other times, it is important to be humorous. TIMING to do what and when is really the key.

Some of the key challenges that most people face include:

  • communicating with self? Is there effective self talk that one has clarity in the direction they are heading?
  • communicating with others – Are your needs understood? Are you being heard?
  • is using voice better than touch? Or vice versa?
  • how to communicate effectively with a crowd so that you are rallying them towards something positive
  • does being a leader automatically make you an effective communicator? Or is it the other way around?

If our communication skills are effective, then we will certainly have less of a challenge in our relationship with others. It is a fundamental skill that we must have. However, it is also one of the most challenging to learn, and a skillset that is challenging to impart.

To effectively learn this skill, attending a workshop for the masses on tactics, techniques etc is not sufficient. Simply because we are all different. One must learn to adapt these skills to different life situations and with different people.

I have found that certain communication skills I have coached one client on, will not work on another as effectively. As the facilitator, I am required to adapt to each of the needs of my clients. Now, keep in mind that as a coach, it is necessary for me to have this skill set. But the reality is, everyone should have these skill sets too. We need one another, that goes without saying, so our need for one another requires us to communicate. If this skill is missing, not only are our own needs not being met, you will not be able to meet the needs of others as well, whether it is in an intimate relationship, social relationship or work relationship.

Mind Mapping for Creating Characters

Whether you consider it using flow charts, whiteboards or even just free association, Mind Mapping has been around for some time now. People have used it for taking notes, brainstorming, and problem-solving. A Mind Map is a tool used to visually organize information or ideas. As a writer, it can be used for solving writer’s block or creating a workable outline. Today I am going to show you how to create a character sketch.

Character sketches can be very basic or incredibly detailed. It can include eye and hair color or blood type and your heroes first kiss. Many writers go online and look for pre-made character sketches that include hundreds of questions that may not apply to your work. This is where the idea of a mind map comes in handy.

For those who are not familiar with the process, don’t worry creating a mind map is not complicated. It can be done on a piece of paper, a whiteboard or using software programs. It doesn’t have to be expensive. There are several FREE programs that will do an excellent job, including xmind.net, mindmaple.com, and freemind.sourceforge.net. Some of these programs have paid versions, but as a writer, the free versions will do everything you need.

To create a mind map on any subject there are 4 basic steps.

Step 1 – Start by writing a single concept in the middle of a blank page.

Step 2 – Add related ideas to this concept and use lines to connect them.

Step 3 – Branch off each of these ideas to expand and create new thoughts.

Step 4 – Use different colors, symbols, and images to make each branch unique.

To help visualize this process I will use one of my own characters as an example. Every character you create will be different, but if you use these points as a starting place, it will be much easier.

My starting point is always very specific. I use my character’s name and a photo of what I think he or she will look like. Why do I add a photo? Because as the saying goes, “a picture IS worth a thousand words.” Personally, I put the name and photo inside a red circle at the center of the page, like a bullseye.

I add new ideas to focus on around my character. Each idea is placed in its own circle and connected by a wavy line. Why a wavy line? Because straight lines are boring and analytical, I am trying to tap into the creative side of my brain. I will also use a different color for each circle and the line that connects it, for the same reason.

I focus on six main points with each character. These include Family, Friends, Work, Skills, Physical and Secrets. At this point, it might be hard to come up with a photograph for each category, but you can use symbols like a question mark for the section that says Secrets.

This is where the fun begins. Under each main point listed, I include 5 additional sub-ideas. For example, under Family, I would list Mother, Father, Siblings, Other and History. Each of these would also have their own circle, and I would color that circle the same as the primary idea Family.

I can already hear someone saying this won’t work for me, my character’s parents are dead, or my character is an orphan. So? This is only to spark ideas. If the mother is dead, this will remind you of that and be a memory for your character to ponder about. If she’s not, you can describe what he liked or disliked about her the most.

The same idea applies to Siblings, if he has them he can tell stories of when his brother did this, or his sister did that. If he never had one, did he ever wonder what it would be like to have a brother or sister?

You might wonder why I included the word Other. Whether your character’s parents are living or not at some point someone else had a major impact on his life. That could be a babysitter, a scout leader or a teacher. All of us are created by those we have interacted with.

History would include things like who was the black sheep of the family, are all the women in this family short, have there always been anger issues? These are the things the character himself may not even realize affect his (or her) way of thinking.

I could write an entire article on how your character’s family affects the way they act or think or believe. That’s kind of the point of a mind map, you can go as deep as you want. By keeping it simple, (one word at a time) it allows your mind to keep filling in the blanks. Don’t believe me? Just say the word Mother out loud and see what images and thoughts pop into your head.

Most of the categories I listed are obvious, but I do want to take a moment to talk about Secrets. Every person on the planet has them and if you think you can create a character without them, you are sadly mistaken. It could be as simple as they never learned to swim, or as dramatic as they killed their own sister. This is also a good place to include habits. For example, if you wrote Taps, it could remind you when he gets nervous he always taps his fingers. If you wrote the word Ring, you would know she twists her ring when upset. You don’t have to write the whole reason why she twists her ring just write the word to keep your imagination going.

Key points to remember:

1st point – Keep is simple. One word at a time. You are not writing the story you are capturing ideas to include in the story.

2nd point – Use color. Bright, vibrant colors stimulate the mind. The more stimulated the mind, the easier it is to be creative.

3rd point – Use curved lines to connect thoughts. Why? Because if you just use straight lines, the brain gets bored quickly.

4th point – Add images whenever possible. Why? Because if a picture is worth a thousand words, then 10 pictures are worth ten thousand words. By using a word AND an image you engage both sides of the brain without limiting your potential.

Once you start using mind mapping to write, ideas will flow one after another. It’s actually very hard to have writer’s block if ideas come so fast you can’t keep up. It may not solve all your writing problems, but it will make things easier.