A good friend of mine and Circusplanet colleague Tim van Hellemont (a.k.a. Netwel) loves messing about with Photoshop. He’s been an active member and contestant of Photoshop Contest for a few years now and occasionally shows me some of his work. Go check out the website and Netwel’s profile. The contests are pretty amazing to say the least!
A few weeks ago, Tim showed me some Photoshop tutorial DVD’s from The Gnomon Workshop. Besides the amazing skill level, some of these guys use very interesting methods to push their creativity. One of them stood out for me in particular. I was immediately trying to think of ways to apply his approach to diabolo. I think I have succeeded and would like to share with you.
I am talking about Nick Pugh’s “Originality in Design” DVD. I’ll try to summarize his approach, but the DVD is just packed with great advice so go check that out in full if you can.
The starting-point of the DVD addresses the difficulty that many design artists face while trying to achieve originality in their work. He then describes his own method to get the creative juices flowing. He starts off with a huge amount of sketching — up to hundreds of pages. He explains how this process helps to shake all the cliches out of his mind and gain a mind state where he has a chance to explore a different angle and create something original. In the initial stages of sketching, he tries a variety of techniques and is definitely not trying to design anything in particular.
A great suggestion is to use both hands for drawing. This will (hopefully) split your brain into the 2 halves it’s made of and force you to use both to their full potential. The key here is that you don’t really want to be comfortable by doing the same you always do and following some sort of routine, or you’ll find yourself stuck drawing the same things over and over. You will have to explore new territory, which can be really exciting.
His last piece of advice is to avoid going back. Put away the eraser. Stack up your pages with sketches and keep on drawing until you feel like you’re done. Walk away and come back later to review your drawings. The majority of your drawings won’t be useful at all; however, if you discover only a few things that are actually really original and different, you have succeeded.
Applying the approach to diabolo
Creativity is applicable to a wide range of skills. Applying this approach to diabolo isn’t as hard as it may seem. The first issue you need to think about is how you are going to record the process. You can’t write it all down, so you will have to set up a video camera and film your session.
Go with the flow, use different techniques, try different kinds of tricks, and apply the ambidextrous approach. Let’s get the standard repertoire out of our system and gain a mind state where you can go to the next level without worrying about mistakes and drops — they’re a natural part of the trial-and-error process.
Don’t go back trying the same tricks and sequences over and over again. You’ll have the ability to review your new “hooks” after your session. You can stop recording after an hour or so, and come back later to review what you have filmed. The majority will be crap, but there’s got to be a few nice moves you can work out!
I recorded one of my practice sessions once (way before I saw this DVD), and reviewed it together with William (a.k.a. Crackers). This led to some nice tricks in the end! One of them being the trick at 1:36 in my “Dang-diggy-dang” video — the slowcide hit-back to wrapcide. It used to be this thing that evolved from an alternate infinite suicide exit. William pointed out he loved the look of it, so I worked on it a bit more. Having a second pair of eyes can help immensely when reviewing your recordings.
Please keep in mind this approach might not work the first few times and you don’t have to record for a full hour. Go try it out!
“I’ve been doing diabolo for a year and I still can’t do trick X!”
“I could do that trick after three months, it’s not that hard.”
There are three things that bother me about this:
1. A month of diaboloing for one person is practicing two hours per day, every day of the week. For another, it’s only an hour maybe twice a week. Clearly the first person has practiced much more in that same month.
2. People have different practicing methods. I’m not going into much detail with this, but people practice in different ways and different methods have different results.
3. Tricks vs. style and technique
The main emphasis of this article is on the third point. Many people seem to think that pulling off some really difficult trick is a sign of progress. This is often not true.
Lets consider the following statement: “If person A can’t do trick X at his sixth month of diaboloing, he or she hasn’t progressed as much as person B who could already do it after five months.” This is problematic.
I think that there’s too much emphasis on individual tricks rather than style and technique. What I mean is that some people try learning new tricks as fast as they can without caring about their style or technique. An easy trick done with style and good technique often looks much better than a really hard trick done badly. Of course it’s great to be able to pull off some really hard tricks, but that’s not everything. Style and technique are also part of your repertoire. It’s not just tricks that you should practice it’s also the way you do them.
Sometimes, instead of learning new tricks, you could try to polish what you already have. That’s another way of being creative — take an easy trick that’s not innovative or creative at all and make it your own with your style.
It’s not always tricks that show real progress — often it’s style and technique. I’ll quote a contact juggler: “Make easy tricks look beautiful and difficult tricks look easy”. This also applies to diabolo. I didn’t write this article to tell you to stop learning new tricks, I just wanted to show a different point of view. Keep on diaboloing!
In my first blog post I mentioned a skill triangle that consists of Technique, Creativity & Presentation. This week I’d like to share another diabolo perspective I’ve given some thought.
You can divide your play up into 3 elements. The Sticks, the String, and the Diabolo. They all have a certain level of “basic presence” (i.e. the diabolo acting as a counterweight, or the sticks to control the string). When you’re doing a trick, you are shifting the balance between these 3 elements. We’ve all been doing tricks without realizing there’s some kind of “model” behind it, so what if we use this model to build tricks, rather than using the model to analyze your tricks? Hopefully, this will lead to new moves.
Let’s take the basic magic knot as an example. You need 1) the axle of the diabolo to make the knot around, 2) the string to make the knot, and 3) the stick to support the hanging string. Obviously, the level of String manipulation overrides the Diabolo and Stick element. You can see 1) and 3) as the basic presence of the Diabolo and Stick elements, respectively. Now if we break this basic move down into its elements, we can try to change it into something more interesting.
Option A) Let’s up the Stick element ante by throwing in a suicide (no pun intended). We can now create a quicker, instant magic knot.
Option B) Another possibility is to incorporate the Diabolo element by throwing in a sun (instead of a suicide) to change the style of the trick from static to flowy.
You can also boost the String element itself further, but I’m leaving that up to you guys.
Option C) The real interesting tricks begin when you’re combining 2 or even all 3 elements of the manipulation triangle. Let’s take the basic magic knot again and increase both the Stick and Diabolo element by deliberately missing the string during the suicide. Then, you can swing the diabolo back to OS (open string), which makes the trick more visual.
Another way to use this perspective is to decrease the basic presence of 1 or 2 elements. You have probably done it yourself without realizing it. At some point we’ve all tried to control the string with our fingers instead of the sticks by taking both sticks in one hand and the string end in the other. Recently, I have been trying to take out the counterweight effect of the Diabolo element by catching the diabolo in a grind in the middle of a suicide trick, instead of on the string. At first, it’s pretty odd to do stick releases with semi-slack string; however, I believe it’s possible to create some interesting moves with this concept.
It would be cool if software engineers could design diabolo simulating software using a GUI where you can slide a button to either of the 3 corners of the triangle, or more interestingly, in between 2 or 3 points.
And the body…
Arguably, your body can be seen as the “4th element”; however, since diabolo is a hobby for me, I approach it as a skill toy most of the time. Therefore, I’m using this model to create new tricks here. Body movement is more style related – which is a whole different topic for me to blog about!
Inspired by Void’s article, I’d like to share my own experience in “bad juggling”.
Another method that has worked for me in the past in creating new moves: mess up on purpose. When you leave out a bit — shift the timing or exaggerate the movement of a certain trick — the trick will loose its subtlety, which leaves you with something raw to work with. This allows you to change the emphasis of the movement to your liking, which can lead to a whole new move.
The first few times you won’t be able to control the diabolo which will result in a drop or tangle, but don’t let that discourage you. After a few tries you’ll find a way to solve the problem you created and get the hang of it. This method doesn’t always work, but for me it can be great fun.
Let me give you an example.
The 2 diabolo S-Fan arm stall entry. Normally, you enter the arm stall, toss the other diabolo up, catch it in LBS (left backside), swing the arm stall out and go into S-Fan.
I have been trying to shift the timing of this trick as follows: enter the arm stall, toss the other diabolo up, swing the armstall out and then you try to grab the diabolo you popped up in a LBS at the last moment. This changes the style from a step-by-step trick to a more flowy, sloppy move. It’s still WIP (work in progress) so it might turn into something completely different after exploring and messing up some more; however, it feels very funky and I think I can use it as part of a nice 2 diabolo combination.
And another example.
Let’s take my Mini Suicide Madness VotW as our 2nd example. The first move is a combination of a suicide and a sun. I deliberately created a problem by using the wrong wrap for the slowcide, which results in a twist above the axle. To get rid of the twist, I do a clockwise sun. This sun forces me to swing the right stick on the other side (near me, under my left arm) of the hanging string, for one cycle. This results in another problem. Because of this sun & underarm swing, the twist gets transferred to my right hand that’s pinching the string. Now there’s a twist on the string near my right finger. If I continue with this twist, I’ll increase the chance of dropping. So to get rid of this twist, I swing the stick underneath my right arm (like you do with suns under the arms). Voilà – new move.
The 2nd part of that VotW is another sun + suicide combination. I didn’t have the time (or the weather) to explore this one a bit more during filming, but I did get some fluke 360 turn-around knots that could be worked out nicely! So get out there!