CREATIVE HEROES: Raymond Strother

24 03 2016

Ray and my sweetie’s friendship goes back decades. While he was down from his Montana mountains and in Louisiana, I grabbed him for a conversation for my Creative Heroes series. A creative hero is someone who lives a fully creative life and Ray teaches us all how to do that. Ray believes that creativity is about seeing the world differently and breaking the rules to create something unique.

ray art

Ray has lived a big life. He’s gotten the powerful elected. He’s a renowned author. He’s piloted planes. He’s taught at Harvard and is an esteemed professor at the small Louisiana university that kicked him out when he was a student for his political views. He is still married to his high school sweetheart and together they have traveled the world. Their home houses a stunning, eclectic art collection from their life together. His musical tastes go from opera to rap. He is a master woodcrafter and can bake a damn good loaf of bread. He is a true renaissance man.

It took breaking the rules for Ray to break out of the life he was born in the blue collar, oil refinery town of Port Arthur, Texas where neither parent graduated from high school. As a young adult he learned to embrace a new direction when faced with a roadblock. After it was “suggested” by the small town university president that he transfer to the more “liberal” LSU in Baton Rouge, Ray packed up his new bride and moved. Having lost his track scholarship in the process, he knew he could write and became a Journalism major. The seeds of his professional life had been planted.

His life proves that all things one learns are useful. A student job of sorting the printing letterforms gave him an understanding of typography, which evolved into an understanding of design. A teacher taught him the basics of photography and he created a studio in the unused attic of LSU’s journalism building. These learned skills would eventually lead him into writing and directing commercials when he entered the political advertising world.

His understanding of living a working class life drove his life mission of trying to make the world a better place. From Ray’s Wikipedia page, “My father taught me that you had to stand on the picket line … and you had to get involved in politics — because people like us had no other choice. So I became a political consultant. It was a calling like the ministry.”

Knowing himself well enough to know that his personality was not suited to being a politician, he used his creative skill set to help people he believed in get elected. It was Ray’s fearlessness, insatiable curiosity and hard work ethic that propelled him on his own creative journey that eventually led him to being a top political consultant based in Washington DC, the most powerful city in the world.

Creativity is the spark of God
Ray does not believe creativity ever grows out of a committee decision. His creativity grows out of solitude. He isolated himself to write his novels. He fell in love with the rugged majesty of Montana while working on a political campaign there. The locals thought he was crazy when he bought the vertical slope of a mountain. Thinking differently allowed him to create a mountain retreat built on that impossibly steep slope, which he named Heroes Ranch.

Hero's

Hero’s Ranch, the Strother’s Montana mountain retreat

Wise Chair

His decades of experience have turned him into a sought after professor. The university that once kicked him out now has an honored chair for him. It’s called the Wise Chair. Ray believes creativity grows most intensely when youth and passion are combined.

“Creativity is the spark of God,” Ray said. What a blessing that a few teachers saw that spark in Ray’s early life. Today he see’s that spark in his students. He is still helping change the world by turning those sparks into creative fire. He is a creative hero.

Click here to watch an extended video conversation with Ray.

Ray video

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CREATIVE HEROES: My Advertising Friends

28 02 2016

My sweetie, Steve Davison won a lifetime achievement award at the Annual Advertising (ADDY) Awards.* And BAM…it hit me afterwards. I’ve now started my new series on Creative Heroes, which is about someone living a fully creative life and not only was my sweetie a creative hero, but as I watched the intro video of past winners, I realized they were all creative heroes of mine. As I watched the show and saw brilliant, beautiful, touching and funny work, I realized I was in a room full of creative heroes. That award show and that evening was a love fest. My advertising peeps have somehow married design, writing, marketing, business and have turned it into a career. We actually get paid for this! It is an industry that I am proud to be a part of. It is the filter though which I see the world.

The night of the ADDY Awards was about honoring creativity. It was about those in the business that show up with their A game. As a friend said in the introductory video, “good is the enemy of great”. That’s really a hard thing to do. We get bogged down with life, people who don’t understand, and all the other excuses we come up with, when we settle for good enough.

Maybe because it’s hard to continually push yourself that the advertising people I know live by the philosophy, “work hard and play hard.” I’m invigorated when I’m with my tribe. It’s a multigenerational tribe; with friends who go back to the Mad Men era to 20-somethings who are fearless in their brand new careers. As my sweetie said in his acceptance speech, “the business may change technically, but it doesn’t change creatively. It’s not the tools that matter, it’s the people.”

The lifetime achievement award Steve received was a surprise to him, but I knew about it. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was that I kept the secret. Our table was filled with family and industry friends. These are friends that he gets together to watch football with, and they are also past AAF-BR club presidents and lifetime achievement winners. Our table was jokingly called the Mt. Rushmore table because of its collective age. But that table was also filled with a lot of creative wisdom. As I progress through this new series, I’m realizing a hallmark of living a creative life is surrounding yourself with creative friends.

I’ve written about my sweetie before. We met 30 years ago when he was the hot, tv commercial director in town. He knows every aspect of film/video production. He is an artist with the camera and I’ve heard him say, “it’s like painting with light.” One of the things that drew us together as a couple is the history we shared in the advertising world in our southern city. One of the things the South does really well is storytelling. And that’s really what advertising is, telling a story.

Living a Creative Life
Steve’s creativity is not left at work. He is a talented furniture maker. Our home is filled with pieces he’s built. He’s renovated our master bathroom and built a new deck in our garden. He is also a remarkable cook. I’ve got the extra pounds to show for it from our six years together. His dishes are not only delicious, the presentation is also carefully considered. A perfect evening for us is sitting outside on that deck with friends laughing and storytelling, and eating a great meal that Chef Steve has prepared and paired with the perfect bottle of wine.

I am so thrilled that Steve was honored by his peers. I’m also honored to be reminded by how much I love my creative tribe. We are all creative heroes.

Connections: Steve pointed out in his acceptance speech that he came back from Viet Nam and started his career in 1970. That was the same year that his father won this same lifetime achievement award. A few years later Steve was a volunteer producer for the ADDY Awards at the long-gone Aubin Lane Dinner Theater. I realized that I was also in attendance at that show. My father produced his own commercials and I was thrilled as a young teen to go with my Dad to my first ADDY Awards show. There is just one degree of separation in Baton Rouge.

* It’s called the E. A. “Pete” Goldsby Silver Medal Award and it was awarded by his peers in the American Advertising Federation–Baton Rouge (AAF-BR).

•creative art
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Liquor & Vinyl

15 06 2013

L&Q wine bottleMy vinyl-wrapped-wine-bottle-Honorable-Mention award reads, “This Vinyl Makes Me Want to Liquor.” That pretty much captures the spirit of AAF-BRs* Liquor & Vinyl fundraiser. AdFed, my club, my professional organization, my tribe held a wildly successful art auction. In keeping with the spirit of advertising, which is the industry this group supports, a call for artists was issued with the opportunity to use an old outdoor board vinyl in your creation. And that creation could be whatever you wanted it to be.

This club is made up of people who use their creativity in their jobs everyday; photographers, art directors, web designers, writers, graphic designers. It was amazing to see the work displayed by this group (the majority of the work submitted was by members though the call for artists was open to the public). The creativity was wonderful to behold. Not every one used the vinyl theme and there were some stunning fine art pieces. The vinyl did, however, add to the kinky fun of the night.  There was the shower curtain that was a slice from a colorful outdoor board. There were vinyl pillows, beanbags and vinyl-covered chairs. There was strips of woven vinyl on a frame, paintings on vinyl and vinyl covered frames.  A friend even made and wore a vinyl skirt! Click here and go the event page and you can scroll down and see most of the work.

The Martini Table

The Martini Table 

My sweetie and I took the liquor and vinyl theme to heart. Steve builds wonderful furniture and built a table with repurposed and recycled wood with a vinyl inset. He named it The Martini Table and it took First Place for most creative use of the theme. It came with a cash prize and after we paid our bar tab at the end of the evening, we even had money left over.  My honorable mention was for how I was able to incorporate vinyl onto a wine rack. My biggest expense in creating it was that I had to go buy several bottles of wine so I could take a picture of it before it was auctioned off.

Vinyl Wrapped Wine Rack

Vinyl Wrapped Wine Rack

 

 

Here’s a glimpse into my creative process:

creative sequence2

1. This is the old wine rack I had. It was in a high traffic area in my house. We kept bumping it and breaking our wine glasses. This led Steve to build the Hurricane Bar, which I then had to blog about. 

2. I picked an outdoor vinyl that had the most color on it. You don’t realize how huge an outdoor board is until you open it. This is about ¼ of the board. We’re using the remainder as a tarp.

3. I only needed two small pieces, so I was strategic in the areas I wanted. (Steve used the backside, which is black for his table). The vinyl had a grain to it, so when I selected the sections I wanted, they needed to be in the same direction of the grain.

4. After selecting the vinyl I decided to paint the wine rack copper.

5. I needed a something to tie the rack and the vinyl together. The furniture tack idea comes from watching way too much HGTV.

The auction quickly turned into a good party, after all liquor is in the title. It was held in a new cool downtown restaurant snuggled in the back of a shiny contemporary multi-storied office building, that has an urban vibe. The work was displayed in the building lobby and bought in piece by piece into the restaurant for the auction itself. The place was packed and the auctioneer found a home for every item.

An early morning journaling question was, what is your passion? I realized everything about this event fell into my passion, which can be summed up with the word creativity. The creation of this event with my professional friends. The creation of something tangible for the event. Seeing the amazing work that others created and gave away to be auctioned for a good cause. The fun auction and party that the actual event was. Creative friends supporting each other’s creations. It was a perfect creative storm. It’s left me inspired; I wonder where this creative energy will take me. I’ll keep you posted.

*AAF-BR stands for the American Advertising Federation -Baton Rouge; also know as AdFed or Ad Club

 

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The View from Greenview

9 06 2013

“I’m Greenviewing it,” I responded when asked what my lunch plans were. That’s because this week I hit another mile marker in My Creative Journey. Greenview Designs has been a concept, then a logo and then a business card for much of this year. But it’s suddenly become very real this week with the launch of a very real website.

GreenviewLike everything in my life, this has evolved into being. Last summer I started this blog as a way to have a creative voice while working in corporate world. I wasn’t too concerned about whether anyone would read it. What I discovered was once the words I wrote become solid and published, the ideas I was writing about started to happen. I’m now comfortable presenting my point of view in front of others and I’m comfortable saying I’m a writer because of this blog I’ve been writing for almost a year.  That creative voice of mine is being heard because I’m saying it out loud. Maybe it’s just to coin a current phrase; I’m finally leaning in.

My sweetie, who’s my partner and I had a vague idea for business since he kinda-sorta-but-not-really retired. With his strong cinematography/video/producing background and my art direction/graphic design experience, we knew we had complimentary skills. We’re also interested in growing our lives in new directions.  He has a real passion for building furniture and I’m loving the workshops I’m giving on creativity. We also wanted a business that could grow and evolve as we do.

So we’ve taken all these seeds and planted them. And they have sprouted! Why Greenview? It’s the literal avenue where our creative journey starts every day. It’s our creative oasis. Greenview Designs now seems the natural choice because this is where we grow ideas.

Putting the website together, however, meant we had to be concrete and not just a vague concept. We’ve pulled from our creative pasts and present and will be constantly adding things as we create them. Not only did we launch the website, but we’re on FacebookTwitter @GreenviewDzine, PinterestYouTube, and Vimeo.

Like all journeys there’s been bumps in the road. Like just discovering the site been hijacked by a hacker and would link to a random website in China. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by web guys who know how to fix those things (big shout-out to my friends at Gatorworks).

Greenview Designs is growing strong and fast. My lunches, evenings and weekends are now spent Greenviewing it. My partner, Steve Davison, is putting his full-time energy into this creation of ours. Our business like our lives is a work in progress. Check us out, if you go to the website all our social media links are there. I’d love any likes, follows or comments. I’m savoring this moment and will keep you posted on the growth spurts and the bumps on the road in this creative journey.





Miracle Balls

16 07 2012

This blog post is like one of those movies where there are several stories that seem unrelated, but come together in the end.

Backstory 1

I love process books. That’s a book that breaks something down into small doable steps to achieve a goal. One that’s pretty well known is “The Artist’s Way”. But the one I’m reading now is on “Making Miracles” . I’ve been reading this for months and months. I like to read it only when I wake up really early (5 AM) and have quiet meditative time, to read, meditate and journal. And even though I love this quiet time and to awaken with the world and hear the birds sing and see the sky lighten and savor the silence, I really love sleep.

This book is about creating and making miracles happen in your life. I really do have miracles happen to me all the time. The key is to be aware when they are happening and to savor them and be thankful for them. This blog will highlight my miracles as well as -my goofiness, because it’s all the same journey that I am stumbling through.

Backstory 2

The chapter I’m reading is about manifesting something real in your life. The exercise is to imagine something that you can hold in your hand. It can be anything. But to totally imagine it, what it looks, like, feels like, it’s totally real in your mind. And then let it go. And wait and watch till it comes to you. I imagine a small multi-shaped star. It is silver and shiny—I like shiny things— like a charm you could wear on a necklace.

Backstory 3

I started following Fab.com when I saw a few FB posts from designers that they had bought something from them. Fab has a great marketing story. They now send me lots of emails most of which I delete.

So months go by and I forget about this. And one day when insomnia hits I am looking at my Kindle in the middle of the night and click on the Fab email. And there were my stars. It was exactly like I imagined it, and was earrings that I could afford and wear. So I ordered them. Pretty cool. And the artist that designed them was awesome.

Backstory 4

It was coming to the end of the year as my position of AAF-BR president. The president gives a party every year for the board that’s reflective of whom they are. My sweetie Steve and I are foodies and he’s an awesome cook. So he agreed to cook a multi course meal that I would pair with my favorite wines. Father’s Day was coming up and he said, even though he’s not my father or the father to my daughter, if I got him anything, he’d like a chef’s tunic that he could wear to the party. So I ordered one with Chef Steve embroidered on it.

Backstory 5

It’s the day before the party. And both the earrings and the tunic arrive on the same day. Steve had totally forgotten he had asked for this and was so touched by the gift and so proud to wear it for my party.

The Miracle

It’s a great party. The food is great, the wine is pouring steadily. I’m wearing my Miracle Balls. And I’m telling the story to these people I really care about. And there’s this WOW moment when I tell it, when we realize that it’s all come together at this moment in time. This great gathering of professional friends, the man I love proudly wearing my gift and me wearing my Miracle Balls. And that’s the Miracle and it was really a night filled with love. It was a much bigger gift than I was expecting…miracles always are.

And I call them Miracle Balls because is sounds a little naughty.