From February 2019

Artist to artist, the Connections We Make Are Vital

From the ever-bountiful @WomensArt1 on Twitter, this wonderfully caring and open-hearted letter from Frida Khalo to Georgia O’Keefe is a reminder that we need our friends. And some of those friends who are fellow artists often understand best how the journey feels.

It coincides with this article on how artists tend to find their fame through their professional networks, that is, their artist friends. Food for thought.

Passing Out at the Doctor’s Office

I was in for a check up, and they wanted to draw blood for testing. Fine, “but,” I added, “just so you know, I have fainted before, once, after they poked me four times in a row unsuccessfully,” which is something like I always say. Usually, they get a vein after one or two tries, and we all go our merry ways.

This time, however, the nurse kept digging in deeper, and it got to me, consciously and subconsciously. I felt myself slipping away as the burning in my left arm intensified and the room spun a slow circle.

I woke up on my back in the chair, fully reclined, while the nurse held my feet in the air. I guess that’s what they do to get better blood flow to your brain, maybe. It took a long time to recover, and I still have to go get blood drawn soon.

It’s weird that these kinds of altered consciousness exist. I had a very short dream while I was out, though I don’t remember it. It’s the kind of thing that artists have historically made work from, dreams and strange alterations. I do suspect the majority don’t involve such harrowing causes.

Respect for Mark Hollis

Mark Hollis, front man and major songwriter for Talk Talk, died at 64 today Monday.

He was the driving force taking them from synth pop to post-rock to something else. All in the span of maybe 6 albums. Massive evolutions between each release. Brilliant songwriter and musician.

I bought Hollis’s solo album (1998) nearly a decade before I finally listened to it. I was waiting for the right moment, and I decided last fall that it was time. I was alone on a calm fall day, and I watched the sunset as I played it. It’s a very quiet, open record, the final evolution in his musical exploration.

Laughing Stock, Talk Talk’s final album, is not so different, but it’s more well known. Good work, Mark, all around.

Appreciation for the Little Things Is Best Practices

This goes for bosses, cow-orkers, friends, and family. Everyone likes to be recognized, and this is a small way to keep up with the positive ways they all impact your life. It’s also a little bit of a humility check.

None of us get to where we are alone, and we don’t just need each other for the big things. Lots of small acts of generosity, accommodation, and support go mostly unrecognized day-to-day. If you go out of your way to notice them and say something to the ones who make them, you’re ahead of the human game. It can feel like a more angry world out there. We need more love and more expressed recognition.

It Could Always Be Worse—or Better

Saying “it could be worse” can invalidate emotions and circumstances. It not that you want to try to always be positive. But “things can only get better” isn’t superior. That’s unrealistic and possibly harmful, too.

But if you say one, remember the other is just as valid. It’s a tempering move, something to brace against while you tackle to tough, real world with your soft feelings and ideas. Feel your feelings and keep moving along, move forward, move even though you’re afraid. Make stuff and make the next stuff better than this stuff. Sometimes that’s enough.

Abandon the Paths That Aren’t Leading You Well With, Well, Abandon

You can’t always tell if the path you’re walking—metaphorically, as usual—is productive or even really going somewhere. But sometimes it’s clearer. Ironically, the paths that get darker are often dead ends, you should be seeing some light approaching.

I’m not against the white light on the road to Damascus, or lightning strikes of epiphany, but they just don’t happen very often and not to very many of us. Most of the time, your creative journey is downright confusing and hard to see. It’s usually hardest to see at the beginning, though. If things are getting murkier, harder to interpret (for you, forget about explaining your work to others for this), or circular, it’s probably time to abandon it.

It seems counter-intuitive, because we’re often told we should stick it out in life. Successful people talk about the hard work that got them where they are, and how only losers quit. But you’ll know most of the time whether the road you’re on is getting you somewhere. You’ll be able to see, feel, and/or hear it. It’s not necessarily that things should be becoming easier. Just about everything worthwhile takes a lot of effort. But there are very few artistic gems that sparkle suddenly from a confusing and muddy place.

Don’t be afraid to start again. That’s your secret weapon as an artist: you can jump off the current path to a new one any time you want. You try things with as little fear as you can muster, but similarly you should feel free to walk a new road when you hit a dead end.

When You Don’t Know What to Draw, Draw Rabbits

If rabbits is the thing that you keep returning to, then let that happen. Lately it seems that’s what I do. And it’s okay. Repeating yourself until you find the next thing or new path can lead to wonderful discoveries.

We don’t always have to be working toward the new thing. Sometimes we need to exhaust the possibilities of a path or subject we’ve been working on. The important part is that we’re continuing to do the work and sincerely exploring ideas.

Avoiding New News to Know No News Is Good News

I’ve been trying an experiment to stay less stressed out and anxious—or at least less angsty, which is never too good as an indulgence. Namely, I’ve been shoving news to the end of the week.

Contemporary news has become wrapped up in the immediacy of its fastest delivery systems. Television was pretty fast, but Internet is even faster, and it encourages sensationalism, salacity, and recklessness.

Long form journalism is valuable and worthy of time. Outraged of the Day, breaking news, and gossip aren’t much. These things suck up and waste time. Without a huge audience, there’s not much point in staying constantly informed. A week seems a good amount to catch up with. Usually, the immediate picture has resolved into something else, sharpened or abandoned as the case may be.

Results so far are promising. Let’s see how the addiction feelings go after a few more weeks.

Mentally Juxtaposing As a Way of Life

It’s Kurt Cobain’s birthday, and it’s also the programming language Python’s birthday, according to a Reddit post calling its author’s announcement message the special day.

What joins the two together? Nothing, really. Except I tend to use Kurt’s birthday for online things instead of my real one, and I’m learning to code in Python. It’s a weird coincidence, nothing else, really.

But that’s what we do in art all the time—notice coincidences and things close together and decide they mean enough to inspire a new thing into the world.