The Day Job & Practical Concerns

Haircutting 101: the Coronavirus Edition

Apr 16, 2020(edit)

Since barbershops and salons are closed during the COVID-19 lockdown, now may be the perfect time for you to make the switch to cutting your own hair. I’ve been cutting my own hair for the past 1.5 years. So, I’m recommending tools, videos, and a shift in mindset that hopefully will fast track your learning.… View More

Coronavirus vs FIRE

Mar 30, 2020(edit)

Although this is an artist journal and not a news blog, we’re going through an unprecedented time. The health and financial devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a defining event of this generation. I need to write about it.… View More

The Innovation Engine

Jun 5, 2018(edit)

I’m always curious about creativity. I want to understand the conditions that foster creativityäóînot just in my artwork, but also at work. Yesterday, I was surfing YouTube and came across Tina Seelig who created a creativity framework for the workplace. I love things that attempt to explain… View More

The Poetry in Cryptocurrency

Jan 24, 2018(edit)

“You should invest in Bitcoin,” my nephew who’s a techie said this past November. I’ve never heard of bitcoin before. “How much is one coin?” “It’s like 10,000 right now.” “Well, I can’t buy one then, I don’t have 10,000 lying around.” I forgot about this conversation until a week later,… View More

Simple Retirement Calculator

Sep 6, 2017(edit)

  After I stumbled into this idea of Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE), I became obsessed with creating a simple retirement calculator for office workers like me who have a full-time day job but want to do something else. How many years would it take to become financially independent?… View More

What I Would Have Done Differently To Become An Artist

Aug 18, 2017(edit)

There is a Star Trek TNG episode that I remember, where a man had the ability to change the timeline of the universe. His entire race died from some cataclysm and he was the only survivor. He was trying to save his people by altering the timeline. What would you change in your past to alter your… View More

Retiring Early To Do Art Full Time

Aug 11, 2017(edit)

So recently, I got obsessed with FIRE. Do you know what that is? It stands for Financial Independence Retiring Early. I’m not sure how I got into this topic, but it had something to do with looking at my new artwork for the past six months and writing that mid-year review blog post.… View More

How to Brainstorm Like An Artist At Work

May 24, 2017(edit)

And that’s the end of the brainstorming session. People then get frustrated, fear looking foolish, and shut up. There must be a better way. We already know the advice on how to brainstorm. We read it in self-help books: keep it high level, don’t eliminate ideas, focus on generating the quantity… View More

To Be A Leader or Follower At Work

May 17, 2017(edit)

Look, everyone wants to be a leader at work. I get it. You want to be recognized as someone who is forward thinking, dynamic, and in charge. But the thing is there are only several spots in that corporate ladder. Do you really want to do strive for that? Is it really what you want? The 80/20… View More

How Creative Are You At Work? Here are Two Indicators

May 2, 2017(edit)

“You have to be creative” is the buzzword right now in the workplace. What does that mean exactly? It’s been my experience as a back-office analyst that when your boss says this, it means ideas that haven’t been tried before. Something that delights people. Like what art does. So how do… View More

Why Do Art When You Already Have A Day Job?

Apr 25, 2017(edit)

The short answer is that whatever art, hobby, or side project you pursue will improve your day job performance and satisfaction. I know it will, because it’s happening to me. And that took me by surprise. The Turn in The Road I’ve been an accountant for 25 years and a little over a decade ago, I… View More

Getting Ready for the 21st Century Workplace

Apr 12, 2017(edit)

“You already think like a computer. I’m not sure why you are reading that article.” What my work colleague was talking about was a recent article from the New York Times on Computational Thinking. Colleges and universities are starting to offer courses on how to think like a computer to solve… View More

How To Be A Star At Work

Mar 15, 2017(edit)

In my late 20s, I read How To be A Star At Work, 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed by Robert Kelley. I was a tax accountant at an accounting firm and wanted to be a successful. At that time, ultimate success meant becoming a äóìtax partner.” That meant that you became a part owner… View More

What Picasso Can Teach Us About Spreadsheets

Mar 6, 2017(edit)

We’ve looked at the most important consideration in spreadsheets and that is the data-ink ratio, a word coined by statistician Edward Tufte in the 1980s in his book Beautiful Evidence. We’ve looked at the importance of value, proximity, enclosure, continuation, emphasis, color, and… View More

Let Your Spreadsheet Speak, Without Speaking

Feb 23, 2017(edit)

One interesting thing about art is that it suggests ideas that are not on the piece itself. That’s how abstract art works. It all comes down to associations. Take Mark Rothko’s paintings for example, my favorite abstract art. His monumental rectangle paintings breathe with mysterious color.… View More

Stop Using Color In Your Spreadsheets

Feb 16, 2017(edit)

For a color photographer and a cyanotype artist to boot, I’m totally against color in spreadsheets and excel charts. I never use color unless I can’t achieve what I’m looking for, with the art principles that we’ve talked about such as proximity, enclosure, continuation. Most people use color to… View More

Create A Professional Looking Spreadsheet Using Art Principles

Feb 9, 2017(edit)

When I was doing my first accounting job, the tax partner who was reviewing my work said: “what is this spreadsheet about? Put a title on it.” When you’re twenty years old, any suggestion is interpreted as criticism, I never forgot this. I put a title on that spreadsheet. I started a series… View More

Connecting The Dots at Work

Nov 17, 2016(edit)

“You have to be creative” is a current mantra being bandied around at work. But how do you actually do that in the work situation? I came across a quote from Steve Jobs where he spoke about creativity. He said that it is simply connecting the dots. It’s about connecting disparate ideas,… View More

How To Simplify Spreadsheets Using the Continuation Art Principle

Nov 10, 2016(edit)

Last month I mentioned continuation. Continuation refers to our mind’s tendency to continue or repeat something if there is a hint of direction. You see one line instead of two. You see a circle instead of two arcs.   You can use this tendency to your advantage. You can choose to start… View More

Creating Beautiful Spreadsheets using the Enclosure Art Principle

Oct 14, 2016(edit)

“Jonah, I have to disagree with you on the white space you talked about last week.” We’ve been humming along, looking at how art principles can improve spreadsheets, making them presentable, understandable, and beautiful. We’ve looked a conceptual framework for sending a message by way of… View More

Using Negative Space in Spreadsheets

Oct 7, 2016(edit)

Things that are close together will be grouped together. Things that are separate will be taken as separate. This art principle is called proximity. This grouping function of the mind is non-verbal and pre-cognitive (i.e. you don’t have to think about it), it’s just something that you do… View More

Value: The Hidden Opportunity in Spreadsheets

Sep 30, 2016(edit)

Now let’s go into the visual aspects of presenting spreadsheets. As mentioned before, combining denotation and connotation forms a complete message of a photograph or in our case, a spreadsheet. I also said that these two have to be in sync. Now comes visual language. The visual language of the… View More

This Is Not An Apple

Aug 23, 2016(edit)

Have you looked at a photograph and said, “Why would anyone photograph that?” Usually when this happens, it’s because we’re missing the connotation. So let’s recap a bit. Denotation are all those things that are shown -in- a photograph. Anything printed on a piece of paper or shown onscreen like… View More

Denotation in Photographs and Spreadsheets

Aug 12, 2016(edit)

So two weeks ago, I recommended turning off the grid in Microsoft Excel to get a sense of spaciousness. Turning off the grid increases analytical ability by removing non-data junk. You become a better number cruncher as a result. Last week, I shared my perspective on the analytical phase of… View More

Getting Lost in The Forest

Aug 3, 2016(edit)

This post is part II of How to Improve Your Spreadsheets Using Art Principles. You can read Part I here. You’ve turned off the grid. So what do you now? Well, it depends on what type of spreadsheet analysis you need to do. Is it typical or new? There’s no point in recreating the wheel if someone… View More

How To Improve Your Spreadsheet Using Art Principles, Part I

Jul 24, 2016(edit)

One day at work, I realized that I was looking at a spreadsheet as if it were a photograph. I was using color, placement, emphasis, balance, size, rhythm, and focus for maximum impact. I was thinking of who, what, when, where, and why. I wanted my audience to instantly äóìget it”äóîwithout… View More

Why Quitting Your Day Job Is Not The Answer When Making Art

Jun 22, 2015(edit)

“I’m quitting my job,” a friend recently announced. “I want to go to grad school and do art.” Should he quit or not? I faced this exact question when I started my MFA. I’m exactly one year out from graduation, and my advice to him was an emphatic no. I have three reasons. Minimize financial… View More

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