Ellsworth Kelly, Visionary Artist of the Everyday, On Aging

Ellsworth Kelly, 91, photograph ERIK MADIGAN HECK

Ellsworth Kelly, 91, in his Spencertown NY studio, 2014 photograph ERIK MADIGAN HECK

“The most pleasurable thing in the world for me is to see something and then translate how I see it.” – Ellsworth Kelly 

Visionary painter Ellsworth Kelly died last month. I (Camille) had the pleasure of interviewing Ellsworth one bright autumn day in 2014 for a story I was working on “Old Masters” for The New York Times Magazine. Ellsworth Kelly, who was 91 at the time, became a nature lover and avid bird-watcher at a young age. After a stint in the army designing camouflage, Ellsworth combined as art critic Holland Cotter described in his obit for The New York Times, ‘the solid shapes and brilliant colors of European abstraction with forms distilled from everyday life.’ My art, Ellsworth said, is an attempt “to get at the rapture of seeing.” This was a path that he sought everyday. “I want to work like nature works,” he told me. His work is a testament to maintaining a life-long vision.

Ellsworth Kelly

Here is an excerpt from our conversation on aging:

What’s different about your life now that you’re older?

When I was 79, I asked my doctor, ‘‘I’m 79 and you say I’m in good health, what should I expect from the 80s?’’ And he said: ‘‘If you haven’t got any of the Mayo diseases, you’re pretty good. You can slide right through.’’ And I said, ‘‘What about the 90s?’’ And he said, ‘‘Well .?.?. we’ll talk about that.’’ But I didn’t sail through exactly. What happened five years ago is I discovered that painting with turpentine, which I’ve been doing since the 1940s, had ruined my lungs. So I’ve been on oxygen ever since.

Any surprises?

I don’t travel now. That’s the big thing. But I’m here [in Columbia County, N.Y.], and I love it. Each year I’m very surprised by the color. . . It’s one thing about getting older, you see more. . . . Everyday I’m continuing to see new things. That’s why there are new paintings.

What are your days like now?

I’m in the studio everyday. I draw a lot. . . I chose plants because I knew I could draw plants forever. I want to work like nature works. I want to understand the growth of plants and the dead leaves falling. Oh, how I connect with that!

What Malala Can Teach Us About Being a Leader

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In conversation with Malala Yousafzai and filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth” “Waiting for Superman”) whose film, “He Named Me Malala,” is in theaters this week, we found out what makes Malala a true leader.

You probably wouldn’t think to look to a high school junior for lessons in leadership. But the 18-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai is no ordinary high school student. In her short life, she’s not only drawn international attention to a massive problem—that of the 61 million girls around the world who don’t have access to an education—she’s persuaded world leaders to start taking real action to fix it.

As the filmmaker Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary He Named Me Malala hits theaters this week, it’s worth drawing a few lessons from someone whose influence, courage, and resolve have been felt around the world before she’s even hit 20.

Our story here

3 Tactics for Taking On Big Challenges

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Philippe Petit offers us a glimpse of what’s possible

It’s 1974. A man has decided he’s going to walk across a wire stretched a quarter of a mile in the air between the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center. As he does it, pedestrians below gawk in awe. An entire city swoons. Wire-walker Philippe Petit becomes an international celebrity for performing what many called the artistic crime of the century.

Forty-one years later, Petit’s feat is the subject of director Robert Zemeckis’s 3-D spectacular, “The Walk,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit. The film, which hits theaters this weekend, puts audiences right there on the wire with Petit, and is a powerful reminder that even the most perilous feats can be accomplished one careful step at a time.

And indeed, when we interviewed Philippe Petit for our book The Art of Doing, he told us there was a method to his madness. Having gone on to perform dozens of other high-profile wire-walks, authored several books, and become an adept equestrian, fencer, carpenter, rock-climber, and even bullfighter, Petit would bristle at the idea that his work could be reduced to a system. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons that any entrepreneur, artist, or aspirer to big deeds can’t learn as they gear up for their next big challenge. Our story HERE.

What Jeff Bezos Can Learn from Henry Ford

Amazon Unveils Its First Smartphone

Henry Ford wanted to get as much out of his workers as he possibly could. But being a pragmatist Ford knew that his success would depend not just on technology but on the bodies and minds of his workers. 

Henry Ford and Jeff Bezos changed the world. That’s not an exaggeration. In their own ways, they both revolutionized how business is done. After Henry Ford’s labor-saving, assembly line innovations, companies that made physical products had to adapt to Ford’s style. Or else. Amazon did something similar. Bezos and company built a digital infrastructure for home shoppers. The experience was simple, dependable, economical, and timely. Since then, any company with a product to sell has had to reckon with what Amazon’s innovations wrought.

Ford did not invent the assembly line. Bezos did not invent e-commerce. But both were the first to apply these new technologies with such relentless zeal and scientific rigor that anyone doing things the old way could no longer compete. That’s what Ford and Bezos have in common. But when it comes to their vision of the place of the worker—the actual human beings who perform the labor—Ford and Bezos have different philosophies.

Read more on our story in the New York Observer.

 

Order “The Art of Doing” hereSignup for “The Art of Doing” free weekly e-newsletterFollow us on Twitter. Join “The Art of Doing” Facebook Community. If you’ve read “The Art of Doing” please take a moment to leave a review here.

How to be a Master at Public Speaking?

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How to start, how to hold, how to build, how to end—eight master strategies of public speaking 

Your legs wobble as you approach the podium. Your hands tremble as you adjust the microphone. Your head throbs. A wail builds deep inside you and threatens to escape.

It’s showtime, and the feelings are primal.

Evolutionary biologists tell us that in the presence of a presumed threat, we go into fight-or-flight mode, kicking off a millennia-old chain-reaction that starts in the brain’s fear centers and ends with our muscles pumped with blood and oxygen, prepared for battle or escape.

If you experience this, don’t worry. You’re in good company. In a recent story for the New Yorker, Joan Acocella writes that some of the greatest performers—Daniel-Day Lewis, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Barbra Streisand and Sir Laurence Olivier—have all faced symptoms of extreme stage fright.

As panicked as the thought of presenting in front of a group can make us, whether we’re delivering a speech before hundreds, doing a business pitch, attending a job interview, or introducing a report in a meeting, our careers may depend doing it, and doing it well.

So how can we get better? Our story here.

Bonus: See how comedians handle hecklers.

Order “The Art of Doing” hereSignup for “The Art of Doing” free weekly e-newsletterFollow us on Twitter. Join “The Art of Doing” Facebook Community. If you’ve read “The Art of Doing” please take a moment to leave a review here.

What Do Superachievers Have in Common?

Is it dedication to a dream? Intelligent persistence? Ability to manage emotions? If you answered “all of the above,” you’re right. Sort of. There are more.

Listen to our interview with podcaster Greg Voisen.

 

Order “The Art of Doing” hereSignup for “The Art of Doing” free weekly e-newsletterFollow us on Twitter. Join “The Art of Doing” Facebook Community.  If you’ve read “The Art of Doing” please take a moment to leave a review here.

Are You *Doing* Enough?

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Illustration by Radio

To walk is to take one step after another; to put out a New York Times Magazine special issue called Walking New York is to want to start counting all those steps being taken. So we rounded up a random cross-section of New Yorkers from a dj to a diplomat and asked them to spend a single workweek wearing a Fitbit wristband, which tracks steps taken and miles traveled. Here’s how the subjects measured up against the 10,000 daily steps recommended by health officials.

“The Art of Curiosity” the Official TEDx Talk Video

Being curious, following our curiosity, developing a habit of curiosity can lead to remarkable things. We’ve seen it with the superachievers we interviewed for our book. We’ve even seen it in ourselves, for instance, in an incident that happened to me (Camille) in sixth grade, which I discuss in this recent talk on “The Art of Curiosity” for a TEDx event in Philadelphia.

For all you speakers, wannabe speakers or just the very curious, I’m working on a bigger article on the strange and wonderful art of public speaking, which I’ll share with you soon.

Meanwhile, feel free to share this video with others who you believe could benefit from being (or staying) curious.

Order “The Art of Doing” hereSignup for “The Art of Doing” free weekly e-newsletterFollow us on Twitter. Join “The Art of Doing” Facebook Community.  If you’ve read “The Art of Doing” please take a moment to leave a review here.

How a Media Star Found Meditation After a Meltdown in Front of 5 Million Viewers

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After Dan Harris, then an ambitious rising star at ABC’s news division, was left panting for breath during an on-air panic attack on Good Morning America in front of 5 million viewers, he realized that his life needed to change.

The occasional stage fright? That was routine. But this was something different. “I felt a bolt of fear rolling up my back, over my shoulders, and down my face, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it,” Harris told us. Continue reading