Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Breaking Records

The idea of breaking records rarely holds my interest (particularly feats of strength and speed). Attempting to break records can at times feel like an exercise in striving to best others at narrowly defined achievements. Without a higher sense of purpose, efforts can feel like a misplaced use of energy. Despite my misgivings, I will delve into a small personal record. I will continue because an attempt to reach lofty goals can yield redeeming results (e.g. truth or service).

With this current post, I will have broken my record for most posts in a year. At the beginning of the year I declared a renewed work ethic and commitment to write and post. I did not know how long this resolution would last. Thus, it came as a surprise that I had brought a higher than expected level of dedication.

Breaking records serve as markers and can allow us to be reflective about setbacks and surprises while also allowing us to consider how to move beyond abstract points of completion. Pushing myself toward the finish line and the end of 2014, I made one of my "assignment" drawings. In order to not lose sight of the fact that I am student, I set a time limitation one would have for a studio art class.

I gave my self about three hours to come up with something that approaches resolution. The results are not always as fine tuned as I'd like. However, a little pressure is felt and occasionally I end up in a very different place than I thought I would. In memory of a watercolor by John Ruskin depicting a large stone/boulder, I decided to draw my own "bolder" (seen below).

As it turns out, a bolder approach sometimes can be record breaking.

Above is an image of John Ruskin's watercolor Fragment of the Alps. However distant in style and approach, below is my own drawing of a large Stone.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Pilgrim's Poppin Progress

Earlier this year I wrote about Phil Poppin and Mr. Wisor. I wanted to follow up here and show some progress. I started out with one drawing of Mr. Poppin (represented in the far left of the image below). However, this drawing did not seem to represent the full dimension of the character. I wanted to move from a physical description to a depiction of spirit. This led me to develop two additional versions (the second two bands in the image below). Though the third rendering focuses less on the body, it still offers hints and parts remain. Eventually I glued all three drawings down to a larger sheet of paper and spread out to the left adding "poppin" in the way that stars appear in a clear night sky. This was an attempt to focus on qualities and thoughts rather than a fixed identity. I am not sure if there are three, four, or one renderings of Phil Poppin here, and I am not yet certain when to stop adding "poppins"? However, for a rectangular image the character is becoming more rounded.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Studio

In most cases this blog focuses on short and direct ideas. With these efforts there is the satisfaction that comes with quick and immediate results. Not all work is like this. Currently, I am involved with several projects that involve collage, drawing, painting, and writing. Little by little work gets done. The slow pace can be frustrating. Today I took a picture of my work space to prove to myself there is progress. Sometimes we need small rewards to keep us going with grander visions.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Staying Calm

Much has happen in the last month. There have been many ideas. These have come and gone. There have been good intentions. I wanted to report on my visit to Detroit. I wanted to report on all of the birds that neatly lined themselves on the power lines down the street from my house. Alas, they have flown away. Frazzled and a little warn, I sketched out a meditating man. It is hard to make what is flat have dimension or to pick colors that are not within grasp. So, I try and stay calm and let some of the nervous actions rest. Best not to try and force harmony. Harmony, is not responsive bullies.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Thirty Minutes

When at work I have a thirty minute lunch break. While the weather is warm, I usually spend the time at a special spot beneath a tree. There I have a perfect view of the cars on the bypass. For me the trick is to see how to maximize this short time. After eating lunch I am usually able to collect fifteen minutes of solitude. In my mind, I am often able to drift to foreign places. At times I try to recapture my break experience through drawings of the places I have imagined. Below are some of the drawings inspired by this break. The top portrait involved testing out a marker, the middle drawing is a kind of self portrait (myself under the tree), the bottom drawing is an imagined landscape. What I enjoy about making these little pictures is the roughness of the marker and the direct feeling of moving from thought to image.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Cricket's Song

Although the activity of insects and animals surround us, in our busyness we are often blind to their movements and unfazed by their sounds. While lawn mowers often wake me up, the chirp of birds and rattle of cicadas can become part of the background as I get ready for the day. However, in an opposite way, I linger with the acoustics that arise in the evening. In August as the night air cools, I appreciate the sound of the crickets as they call to their mates. It is a concert that reminds me that summer is waning. I wondered how to picture nighttime concert. So I made a drawing that mixes order (the pattern of sounds) and a kind of unknowing dance in the dark (a depiction of what I can't see but can imagine).

To make this post a little more interactive, I have added the following YouTube video where one of my friends sounds the call.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Vacation Pictures

Last week I was in Ocean City, New Jersey. I spent part of an afternoon walking around town taking photographs.

At first I thought this was a living breathing bird.

On inspection I found that this large stone was plastic. I am not sure what it is hiding?

This sculpture appeared in front of the firehouse. I could find no marker for it. However, it contained part of a beam. This made me think it was part of a monument to the firefighters who courageously worked on the site of the World Trade Center.

This box seemed to be painted to look like a cow or a dalmatian. I am not sure why this was the case, but I like the directness of the painting.

City Hall reminded me of Europe.

I have had dreams about this restaurant, but I can not remember ever eating there.

Doorways that have been closed off peak my curiosity and make me wonder where passages use to lead.

Pastel pink and green houses seem to make sense in an environment of bright light.

In a town where the houses seem to grow year after year. It was a surprise to see that this garage could no longer fit the car.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Time Bandits

Today I was thinking about how art can fit into my life. Sometimes it feels like there is little time left over to make something speculative. This seems to point to a key life lesson. Even if it does not look like it will fit, sometimes it is necessary to squeeze an important activity into the day. The results may not be perfect but at least the effort is realized and there is a point of reflection.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I am not sure if I will have a chance to live in Detroit. However, it is a city I dreamed about as young person, visited as an adult, and have identified with. I am currently working on some art related to my sentiments and experiences.

Below are some notes and some words I hope to use:

Street Names:
1. Woodward Ave.
2. Gratiot Ave.
3. Grand River Ave.
4. Jefferson Ave.
5. State Fair Ave.
6. 8 Mile Rd.

Among many other roads and paths, an impression is left. Cathedrals fall, but the light is still pure. Diamond reflecting a diamond. It is up to us to see our heart and give fruit to all our little actions. Pick up a scrap. Say hello. Offer a smile. Set a root in the ground.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hand Some

I pulled out some prints I use for collage, and in the pile I found something something reflective. The hands seem like brain matter. Literally a handful, I wondered if thoughts were being shaped and ideas formed like sculpture. My present mind feels muddled between the call of the birds outside, the desire to learn spanish, and practical concerns to reach out to others. I hope these hands of the mind settle and find the substance they are grasping for.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Green Machine and Productivity

Recently, I have been thinking about blog posts that gain a large readership. Posting about art tends to have a select audience that seek specialized information or news. Posts that stir intrigue or argument (e.g. politics or celebrity news) attract wider attention but people also come to a blog seeking advice or help. These posts tap into our aspirations to fix things (e.g. make a better meal, become more organized, live a healthier life).

One aspect of life I would like to fix is my relationship to productivity. No matter how productive I am, I sense that there is more that could be done. To perpetually feel less then fully productive may not be reasonable perspective, but perhaps it is natural. There has to be an impulse which propels us and challenges us. However, there seems to be an irony in thinking that we can become masters of productivity. What is thought of as productive may not be very important and what seems unproductive may have its own unique purpose.

As I was out on a walk, pondering ways I could become a more productive blogger, I came upon an abandoned lawn mower. I could not figure why the wheels were missing, but it reminded me of a car vandalized up on blocks. I began to think about the ways this broken mower could be productive. Though my first thought was of scrap metal, I realized this mechanical decay revealed potential as a subject. Although its color matched the grass, the broken machine offered a counterpoint. Like many of mankind's other pursuits, we cannot hope to keep up with trimming every blade of grass. So, a healthier outlook on productivity may be to realize our best options (usually not grand) and negate, subdue, or ignore that which is most disruptive to our growth. This outlook is useful because road blocks will be put in our way, and sometimes things come apart.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pen of the Month - Part 2

Shortly after my last post, new pens arrived at work. I quickly rounded up two test sheets (small pieces of paper where customers try out pens). The new pens consist of at least eight different color ballpoint pens. The ink appears more saturated than the pens from last month and these new results were striking. Given my attraction to color and mark making, I began to wonder about the meaning of these seemingly random drawings. Although they did not start out with much of a plan, they did begin to take a direction. The lose structure mixed with a sense of chance seemed to me linked to a strain art that follows modernist exploits (material exploration and directness trumping most other objectives). This kind of approach often has a richness and vitality.

Even now Mark Rothko's big blocks of color, Pollock's drips, Frankenthaler's stains, or de Kooning's brush seem liberating. However these artists seem unique and forever locked in time. In today's data driven world, where digital screens offer glimpses at every scribble (including my own), and schools prepare gallery ready artists, I often wonder if this kind of direction is enough hinge one's artistic identity? Are the variables too minimal? Is it heroic to cast aside illustrative qualities in favor of pure expression of form or is that expression merely more marks made by a mortal hand? Surely there is a place for all kinds of art because it grasps for our best instincts, desires, and hopes. However, how much is too much? If the loop of productivity returns to the same places how many times do we watch?. There is no question that art of great merit is being made, but in my more cynical moments I wonder how will we recognize it? Will it be great, great scribble, or just more scribble? Lets hope for the best.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pen of the Month

Currently, I am working in an office supply store. Each month a brand of pen is featured at the register and are sold individually. This is a good way to observe pen testing habits. Under less scrutiny, in other parts of the store, test drawings at times include anatomical studies and the kind of writing reserved for bathroom stalls. People behave much differently when they feel they are being watched. At the register customers are mostly determining if the pen works well. My hunch is that writing and highlighting are effective uses for these pens. Other uses exhibit marginal quality (e.g. lack of: permanence, line variety, etc.), whereas for drawing, decoration, and other activities art supplies would likely be a better solution. I did my own testing to gain a better understanding.

Among other scribbles, my trials included drawing a face on one of the scratch papers. Hoping customers would "improve" my drawing, I waited for others to add content. However, a curious thing happened, people no longer wanted to use that test sheet and would skip to the next page. My thought is that either people are uncomfortable with the idea of defiling a human/animal form (particularly when they might get caught), or they often want their mark to be both unique and anonymous. Generally, drawing in public seems to dramatically change habits. I wonder how knowledge of this inhibition would yet further change one's drawing sensibility?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Keep Posting

Although my hobby of collecting postage stamps has waned in the last two years, I still find stamps that are stirring. More often than not, I am moved by the interaction between the cancelation and the image. A successful transformation requires adding qualities in a way that penetrates the space between calculated presentation and the moments where anything can happen (i.e. the act of cancelation). Here the sum can feel greater than the parts and something new is offered. The occurrence of particular cancelations can seem like miracles. When I started to collage stamps into my artwork, I began to receive gifts. One such gift was a recycled "Miracle Whip" jar (another miracle) that contained stamps. This is where I currently put recently found stamps and where the examples above reside. Whether or not the indelible gift of the jar and stamps were coincidental or preordained seems equally plausible. However, what seems more important is that wonder can lead to miracles. The size of the miracle seems less important.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Falling Down And A Pick Me Up

It is amazing how long it can take a tree of this size to grow and how fast it can fall. It seems like nature has a strange way of distributing work. A strong wind can negate years of nurture from the sun and earth. Although this neighborhood monument has toppled, I was also thinking of other structures that tower. For months a little pencil drawing sat dormant on the back of an old business card. This week I added ink and it became a steeple surrounded by symbols. With a mix of chance and care, this steeple grew upward much like a tree but faster. Drawing in this unreserved way (i.e. finding out what a doodle can become) served as a reminder to be open and stretch. By grasping, whether it be a small challenge or for the stars, we learn how far we can reach. If we fall over trying, at least we were not afraid of the winds or self doubt.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

First Impression

Above is the first image from my new camera. As the camera arrived, so did the spring. Though the calendar changed, the leaves have not yet shown their presence. The tail end of winter is still nipping at the branches. I am not a fan of cold weather, but one joy is seeing more of the sky from my window. Sunsets can be spectacular, and the branches form an intricate web against the changing colors in the sky. I will miss this, but one loss rarely comes without a different joy. It is up to us to find harmony and our own joy. This may take practice and persistence, but a song is always in the air. With camera in hand, I will have a new instrument to explore each new day.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Chief Ideas

It seems there are two ways to make a creative breakthrough. I am not specifically addressing monumental transformations here, but focusing on the idea and excitement behind any work that allows for rewarding (higher level) results. With regard to making a drawing/painting of merit, the following are two paths I see: First, one could make many examples in a more rapid mode and then choose those that perform in an optimum way (this requires some insight, knowledge, and goals). Secondly, One could layer their work in a way that piles decisions until the outcome fits an an expanded concept and vision of the original goal (this can take considerable time and effort).

The drawing above represents the first mode of working. After quickly making twenty portraits, the example above emerged as one of the best and the character also had a regal presence. He seemed born to be a chief that represents wisdom and restraint. Regarding the latter creative method, I am still working on layering creative decisions. I should have at least three works done when the lambs go out.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Little Extra

In Pennsylvania we are looking at more snow. However, I also realize there is 18 days until spring. Recognizing that a transformation is slowly in process, I thought I would follow up from the last post with some of my own progressive movements. Here I am adding a bit, turning the soil, and keeping a watchful eye for changes.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Little by Little

I did not have a lot of ideas for blog posts this week. However, the picture above came about to reflect this dilemma. Sometimes it is the little efforts or acts that sustains us and can provide for us in unexpected ways.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Phil Poppin and the Return of Mr. Wisor

Tom, who is a friend and co-worker, left a paper on our work desk that said "Fill Poppin". I was left to wonder what this was about? In my mind it quickly became a person named Phil Poppin. Later I found out that Poppin was merchandise and Tom's job was to fill a display of Poppins products. Having kept the paper with the note on it, I decided to fill it with what I considered poppins. This reminded me of my work creating portraits of Mr. Wisor. Because Mr. Wisor represented wisdom, I tried to fill him up with the wonders the world has to offer. Mr. Wisor was/is a real person and someone I met. However, Phil Poppin will have to come into being or perhaps I will bump into him.

Title: Mr. Wisor, Size: 22" x 15", Mixed media, Date: 2008
Title: Mr. Wisor (Occidental), Size: 24" x 18", Mixed media, Date: 2009

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cheese Cake in a Jar and Hercules Segers

Valentines Day brought about two surprises. First, a wonderful co-worker made cheesecake served in little jars (akin to a parfait) for all of the workers on the clock. Second, my friend Emmet surprised me with a book about the printmaker Hercules Segers. We had talked about Segers and this book for months and little did I know he ordered it. Never, did I feel so thankful and blessed to have good friends. Regarding the photograph above, I cannot recall another time that I felt a picture need to be made fast because the primary subject would be digested. In more ways then one it seems that a treat in a jar and a book are food for thought.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunlight and Snow

Since a snow storm knocked out power in my house (this has lasted 5 days), blogging has not been at the center of my attention. However, I got out today and attended a lecture and worship meeting. One of the messages was a simple but profound reminder to 'consider what you can give without consideration for what you can get'. If one follows this approach then one will be less likely to be disappointed and more likely to feel the warmth that contribution provides.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Cold Feet

It could be that poor circulation makes my feet cold at night, but the winter is also not helping. The image above was captured in the early stages of a new drawing. The crisp white of the page reminded me of the sting of winter and my cold feet. For the first time in months I went out running today. My feet got very hot as a result of the activity. A couple of lessons or reminders occurred. One, movement is good for circulation. Two, momentum allows one to continue further than one would have otherwise. As I consider making exercise a part of life, I realize these concepts can lead to a thaw in other areas of life where "cold feet" (an emotionally frozen state that inhibits action) keeps one from trying and moving forward. Although an active mind is important, movement and momentum are crucial.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Descartes' Motto

Upon reading A.C. Grayling's biography of René Descartes, I wrote down Descartes's motto ("to live well you must live unseen"). When I consider nobility, celebrities, rulers, and other leaders who seek or attract notoriety, I wonder what value this attention ultimately has? The benefits of fame will inevitably be tainted by distractions. Without understanding the disruption that overblown attention brings, it seems like fame often leads toward spiritual compromises, disfunction, or ruin. Being shuttled by handlers from place to place for the purpose of being seen and heard (often causing difficulty knowing who to trust) is the antithesis to living unseen. One can see why Descartes wanted to be unseen, he had thoughts and an inner life that needed care.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sleep Study

One of my biggest difficulties is falling asleep and staying asleep. In an effort to post more, I began to making drawings in a quick and less restrained manner. Through this process a sleeping figure emerged (see above). It seems there could be a correlation between this drawing and efforts to get more/better sleep. Learning to let go of worry allows one to relax, and a placid state also seems to help lead the way to sleep. It could be that relaxing the drawing process may make one more productive in ways that are similar to sleep. I know that sleep allows us to be more active during our waking hours and my suspicion is that the dream state of sleep functions in a way that frees our minds and open us a range of insights during our waking hours. The connections between the dream and the insight may not always be apparent. However, I am aware of feeling led by an unknown presence when rested. My guess is that more posts should indicate that I am getting better sleep and I am more relaxed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Drip Coffee and the Sands of Time

The word drawing above is a small gesture, arriving in much the same way words in a conversation come about. Although printed words are set and have a chance to linger, soon enough it is time to move along. If one does not have much (time, money, etc.) then one can do a little. Little by little eventually that small part accumulates into something bigger, maybe a river. Even making coffee reminds me of this, one drip at a time I am left with a full cup. Each sip is a little different and it changes the day in a small way. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A New Start

For a year I contemplated starting a new blog and planned new posts. Nothing got completed and stubbornly nothing was added here. Today I wrote a little note: 

"If something new is difficult, perhaps an option is restarting something old. What is old then becomes something new."

I can't say how exactly I came to write this. However, it inspired me to continue. More is on the way.