Archive | June, 2007

Peggy Van Pelt – In Memoriam (Part II)

Continuing with my tribute to Peggy Van Pelt, who brought us so many valuable guest speakers and resources while we worked together at WDI, I thought I’d make a list of some of them for you (in no particular order).

Jean-Philippe Lenclos, expert colorist from France, who discussed how to apply color based on what is found in Nature, particularly in various regions of the world, during different seasons. He also taught that certain color combinations (i.e., red, white & blue) impart a specific meaning to different cultures. I’m grateful to learn he has written a book: Colors of the World, The Geography of Color.

Peggy Van Pelt also brought in (the late) Judith Crook, who also taught Color Theory at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Judy always arrived with several trays of color slides, providing us with a tremendous assortment of photos of buildings from all over the world. Photographed at various times of day, she showed us how the reflection of the sun, and the color of the sky, dramatically affected color on the surface of buildings. She also showed us, by using color gels in spotlights, how the opposite color (from the model) is reflected in the background. An artist, a scientist … and a great teacher.

Peggy Van Pelt organized yet more art classes, bringing the perfect teacher, Ron Pekar, to coach artists to grow “from where they were.” The hands-on class included those of us who were just beginning to familarize ourselves with art tools, all the way to those who were already exceptionally talented, experienced artists. Ron challenged us see just how far we could go. Ron taught us to see with an educated eye.

Peggy brought in a wonderful program for building team skills. Leader Effectiveness Training designed for managers, had several artists participating as well. These workshops taught us how to observe differences in our work styles, and to maximize those qualities when working in a group.

Peggy’s colleague and dear friend, Lucia Capacchione, provided multiple training sessions … and changed many lives with her classes and her now-classic book, The Power of Your Other Hand. [Lucia has developed complete training programs, for artists, for healers, etc. Check out her books, including Putting Your Talent to Work, co-authored with Peggy, and CDs.]

Peggy Van Pelt introduced us to Dr. Valerie Hunt. I could go on, telling you much more, about this enlightened teacher and New Age Scientist … but will let you explore on your own. Valerie’s work in the area of energy bio-fields and healing with color vibrations is (and has been) waaay ahead of her time. You can start with her ground-breaking book: Infinite Mind.

It was Peggy Van Pelt who brought in (the late) Betty Bethards. Betty was a seer, a gracious, fun lady, who reminded us of the universe beyond, and one who inspired us to explore all that we can do while we’re still here. Her fine organization and teachings are still available.

A good friend of Peggy’s, Will McWhinney, from Enthusion, Inc., Venice, California, came to teach us about Career Path Patterns and continued to develop his many writings throughout the years. One of his valuable lessons was to acknowledge how artists’ careers do not typically follow the “corporate ladder” model established back in the 1950s. He identified several other motivators for artists and those who feel they have a creative leaning.

Kurt Wenner was invited by Peggy to speak to us about painting on a large scale, in murals, and sidewalks … using the ability to see in “3-D.” Kurt taught us how to make our own crayon-chalks!

Peggy brought in another good friend, Arthur Joseph, expert vocal coach … who guided artists in how to present themselves and their artwork. We observed employees as they blossomed before our eyes, growing from ‘hardly able to speak’ to being perfectly comfortable, explaining and demonstrating complicated projects to an audience. Vocal

The list goes on and on … as you can see … including many others like Theo Wells, who taught us that it’s healthy for creative people to have a ‘down’ cycle, that one can not possibly be 100% productive every day. In fact, Theo taught us to value that time when we can rest. Peggy Van Pelt brought us information about The Inner Child (and the all-important Inner Critic). She exposed us to the workings of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) simply to clarify how some of us are more visually-oriented, and others are more auditory or kinesthetic. It was back in those days, she inspired us to study Joseph Campbell‘s classic The Power of Myth).

Of course, Peggy Van Pelt provided many classes and training sessions about the corporate culture, the inner-workings of Disney and its history — not just who’s who (she organized several in-house art shows of some of Disney’s Nine Old Men) — and co-authored a book with the late John Hench, Designing Disney and the Art of the Show.

Thanks to you, Peggy Van Pelt, for all the good times. You will be missed!


Peggy Van Pelt – In Memoriam

I lost a great friend a couple of weeks ago — Peggy Van Pelt.

She was my mentor and teacher, when I worked as her assistant in the Talent Development department at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) from 1988-1992. However, Peggy had worked there for 30+ years…

Her title, when I worked there, was Creative Resources Advisor. (She had turned down the title “vice president” on more than one occasion, as she felt it would alienate her from the creative artists who would come to her for advice.)

Many artists will recall bringing their portfolios to her office for review … how scared you were initially and how surprised you were to find her so un-threatening, so helpful.

Our department provided on-going training, via workshops and events, for the artists and other employees at Disney. It was a ‘dream job’ for me, working in what felt like an art school atmosphere, with world-renowned designers and artists.

I remember Peggy as being a powerful catalyst, someone who would see into an artist’s work- style, taking into account what the artist had already accomplished, and where her/his ultimate goals were, and then helping to form a bridge between the two.

For example, when I first met Peggy, I had worked only in the music business before … with songwriters, in music publishing, working with copyrights, contracts, listening to song demos, and so forth. When she asked if I would be interested in working for her at Disney Imagineering, which designed and built theme parks worldwide, I confessed that I knew very little about visual arts. Her response was, “Don’t you know that holding a note (singing) and drawing a straight line are the same thing?”

She convinced me that what I already knew through my work with songwriters and musicians, (beginners to pros), would translate perfectly to working with visual artists. So, I accepted her offer, not realizing it would kick off one of the most broadening experiences of my life.

She provided me with access to every department, working with artists in all media, all disciplines, graphics, model-building, interior design, environmental design, audio-animatronics (robots), architecture, engineering, illustration — and summed it up by saying, “Basically, what we do here is dig a hole and put a building in it…” She left out the obvious … the part where magic is stirred into the mix, and people from all cultures, can explore their fantasies, their hopes and dreams, and revisit their childhoods … all in a package called “Disneyland.”

She allowed me to discover that certain artists are happiest when working in certain environments (just like the musicians I’d known before) … adding that we must become more familiar with our own individual creative process. For example, she would ask, “Where are you most happy in a project’s life cycle? Would it be at the beginning (the concept phase), or perhaps in the middle (during the organizing and problem-solving phases), or maybe at the end (in the production phase), where things get made real.”

She explained how some people like to be involved in the whole enchilada … from the initial idea or concept to the graduation ceremony. And yet, others are most comfortable in only one of these phases … and how they should be working alongside, in collaboration, with others who are happiest in other parts of a project’s life cycle.

Much of her work was putting together teams for projects. In fact, she and Lucia Capacchione wrote a book … Putting Your Talent to Work: Identifying, Cultivating, & Marketing Your Natural Talents.

She brought in the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and the Myers-Briggs tests, so we could learn to appreciate the differences in our co-workers … controversial, but so helpful!

Magically, Peggy got the budget to bring in guest speakers on a regular basis. There was quite an impressive parade of them … experts who spoke on everything from Color Theory to How to Present Your Artwork to Painting Murals to Storytellers to Creating Special Effects to Roller Coaster Design to … you name it. And each meeting was inspirational, creating a stir with the artists (and other employees), and providing us with new resources.

Peggy also was an artist in her own right. She designed and made costumes, and was brilliantly adept with fabric and beads, fur, leather and feathers. Her stained-glass masks won awards, even in competition with other mask-makers at Disney …and that’s saying a lot.

Peggy certainly had flair, a sensitivity, a gentle way about her, and was one of the best listeners. She was in tune with the planet … easily recognizing other seekers as they came into view.

Those who knew her will continue to keep her memory alive in all we do.

In fact, a lot of the material in the workshops and classes I teach today (on creative process) is based, in some way, on the things that Peggy made available to us. Some of you will recall her popular creativity workshops at the Songwriters Expo in Los Angeles, many years ago. I know you do, because you still talk to me about them! wrote a book, [Those were sponsored by the no-longer-existing LA Songwriters Showcase.]

I’ll share some of Peggy’s resources with you in my next post…
And you’re invited to comment by clicking on the “comments” link below.


Flipping for a Living – at Minimum Wage

Among the variety of classes at The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena (California), they teach how to research and illustrate quantifiable data.

Students usually design and execute charts, graphs, or 3-D art to demonstrate their findings.

Here’s a particularly good one that a student (who will remain anonymous) designed and built.

Cardboard stove emits a small burst of steam, accompanied by a sizzling sound, each time a burger is flipped.

Some of the text …

“How many flipped burgers does it take to pay for everyday expenses…”

“The average worker needs to flip 118 burgers to earn one hour of Federal minimum wage.”

“45,825 burgers [need to be flipped to pay] for health insurance”

“916 burgers … for gas”

[Other categories included: college tuition, rent, toilet paper, Top Ramen, diapers, etc.]

“1,700,000 minimum wage workers are currently working at or below the $5.15 hr. Federal minimum wage.”

[P.S. Don’t know where the student got his/her data.]

0 – Game

Years ago, my mother took me by surprise when she revealed that she would have loved to design and build cities. I think she would have been very good at it.

If only she’d had this fun little game …

There are 3 choices: Medieval castle, snow scene or future city. I suggest you choose a background first and then choose and place the roads or walkways. (Each segment is drag & drop.) Then you can go from there … choosing commercial buildings, houses and so on. When you’re done, you can save and send to a friend.



Writing Tips – Paul Graham

Here’s a list of some excellent writing tips from successful entrepreneur/writer, Paul Graham.

Several of them, you already know, but it’s handy to have them in a list form.

One that jumped out at me is, “Imitate writers you like.”

Whether you’re writing stories, or a novel, or songs … this still applies. I know that John Braheny has taught a class “Anatomy of a Hit” where students would bring in their favorite hit songs.

John and the class would pick them apart (the songs, not the students) to learn what specifically helped to make this song successful and how structure, dynamics, lyric content, etc., contributed.

If you’re playing in a cover band, you’ll absorb some of these things just by learning and playing these songs over and over. So, it becomes a process of osmosis, rather than deliberate learning. Learn while you earn. (smile)

Enjoy the list of tips!


Winery Music Awards – Paso Robles, California

Last weekend (June 9) was the first in a series of competition concerts hosted by the The next ones are: July 14, Aug. 11, Sept. 15, and Oct. 7th (2007).

John Braheny was one of the (highly esteemed!) judges and remarked that it was a tough call, as each of the performers did so well.

It’s a terrific event … and you can attend any of the shows, as they are open to the public. Included in the price is a “flight” of wine tastings, a delicious catered dinner plus the music, of course!

Tickets for each elimination round are $40 person. For the final competition and awards presentation, tickets are $60 person.

Sorry to say, if you want to enter the competition, you’ll have to wait until 2008, as the entry deadline for ’07 was a month ago.

Each event is held at a different winery/vineyard in the Central California area of Palo Robles. Several notable sponsors participate to make each event the best it can be.

Put it on your schedule … we hope to see you there!

0 – for Folk Music lovers

Hooray for another marvelous online archive! You’ll bookmark this site and visit often… is described as:

“A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures, streamed with essays about the traditions and filmmaking. The site includes transcriptions, study and teaching guides, suggested readings, and links to related websites.”

If you’re into folk music, or the blues, this one’s a keeper.

[Photo of John Braheny’s well-loved guitar that has traveled with him since college.]


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