Friday, December 07, 2012

41 Days Later...

I was just looking over my blog here, and I notice that I'm pretty good about announcing new interesting events and projects before they happen, but not so good about following up with a report afterwards. At this point, nobody cares how my Comic-Con experience was in July (or back in 2008!), but I don't think the statutes of limitations has ended yet on TEDxUCLA, so I'll take a few moments here to write up my thoughts and share them with you...

First, to recap: TEDxUCLA was an independent TED event held on October 27th, that featured 19 speakers, who gave excellent talks on a variety of subjects like: teaching Shakespeare to prison inmates, AIDS activism, tall bicycle adventures, environmental artwork, libraries, fainting and a whole lot more. There were also art and music segments and a little fun with big red balls to round out the day.

In all, it was a fascinating experience for everyone who attended the day-long conference. My participation was a bit unusual. I was neither a speaker, nor part of the audience. In a way, I guess I was part of the journalism team who covered the event live using the TEDxUCLA blog and Twitter. But in another way, I was actually a part of the whole show.

My role at the event was "Live Illustrator." They set me up with an enormous digital drawing tablet (Cintiq) up in the front of the auditorium, and I spent the entire day sketching the speakers and uploading the art files to the rest of the media team who shared them online.

photo by Cindy Grant

I'm not sure who was following the live blogging and Twitter feeds, but my position in the auditorium put several hundred people behind my shoulder and watching me draw. It was an unusual experience, to put it mildly. Unusual and exhausting in a way that I did not anticipate.

The speakers all gave talks ranging from around 5 to 20 minutes in length. They got to go onstage, do their thing, and get off; relaxing in the Green Room for the rest of the day, where they could watch the event on screen, have snacks and socialize/network with the other participants. I, on the other hand, had to stay glued to my chair, frantically trying to keep up with each speaker on stage and try to create images that were at least remotely interesting, right on the spot. I've never done anything like this before, and I have new respect and admiration for courtroom artists who must have to do this every day.

Talk about pressure. As I mentioned, some of these talks were under 5 minutes long. Not enough time to do a real portrait or likeness... and it was difficult to follow what they were saying when I wanted to incorporate their themes into the visuals. Truly challenging and relentless!

The audience seemed to enjoy watching me work, and even liked some of the drawings, so this 'experiment' on live drawing appears to have been worthwhile. Here are a couple examples of my quick sketches...

You can see the rest here.

Part of the appeal of TED and TEDx events is supposed to be the social and networking opportunities that happen when you get a bunch of interesting thinkers and creative people together to 'spread ideas.' I'm disappointed that I didn't have the chance to do that very much (or at all!), but I still think my participation in the event was worthwhile, and what I can remember from each of the talks was fascinating.

When it was all over, after packing up my equipment, I turned to face an empty auditorium. Exhausted. Somewhat exhilarated. Starving. Not really sure what to do. In the end, I walked a long-route to my car, enjoying the calm and quiet of the UCLA campus on a Saturday evening in autumn. I drove home to my family and poured myself a drink, had some food and settled in to ponder a full day of new ideas.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

photo by Mai Koythong

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