Where Everything Comes From

10 of the streetcars in Portland were made in the Czech Republic

The short answer—the general, universal answer—is that things come from all over. I saw the above plate on the inside of a streetcar tram in my city. It was strange to see, but I was more disappointed I hadn’t noticed it right away. It took several trips, even sitting close to the front wall, before I read the plate. Stuff arrives near you from everywhere and anywhere. That isn’t the point, though.

The point is that we don’t often care or even notice where things come from, but beginning to pay attention, whenever possible, is another way of opening up to noticing the things we often overlook. And noticing more is key to growing as an artist. We need to see clearly, and find details in ordinary things. That’s a puzzle piece that completes a big section in the overall creative jigsaw.

Watching Artists Draw Is Not Only Therapeutic for Other Artists, It’s Educational

Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon Draw Stuff

I know, I know: we all revert to 10-year-olds when told something is “educational.” But no, really, it’s the next best thing to drawing yourself. In the video above, Dzama and Pettibon collaborate on some large drawings. It’s beautiful and inspiring.

It’s good for us to observe art in action. And, if you never watch other artists, you’re often struggling in a vast ocean of possibility. Maybe you’re getting better at staying afloat, but it takes a long time and is exhausting.

Returning to Form, Maybe

I’m back! Probably! It’s been a long, traumatic move. Being in a new place, with old stuff, is disorienting. Habits I thought I’d established are more easily broken. But still, change is usually good. It’s inevitable, so better to go the Taoist route and bend rather than break.

As easy as it is to blow off posting here, it’s also uncomfortable. I like the discipline of it, and I think it helps me, creatively. It’s also easy to beat myself up about missing days, but that approach only makes us want to stay away more. Whatever we do—our thing, our work—if it’s habitual, is valuable not just for its content, but also its ability to act as outlet, or creative hydrant. Its meaningfulness is deeply ingrained in the simple act of creation. We should continue.

The Absence of Art Is the Art of Absence, or Something

Involved in a tabletop game the other night, I had a chance to hold forth—probably too enthusiastically and vociferously—on John Cage’s iconoclastic piece, “4′ 33″.” There’s plenty of analysis on the work, but what struck me at the time was the following: Claude Debussy is supposed to have said (among other similar composers/musicians), “music is the space between the notes.” Cage simply expanded the space until that’s all there was, metaphorically making a silent composition music, not the lack of music.

But, naturally, these are concepts that make us think about what music is, about its nature. It’s akin to “is it art just because it hangs on the wall?”

Side note, just consider my lack of posts the previous two days to be a riff on Cage. Or that I was moving to a new apartment and exhausted and disorganized. One of the two.

Moving Ahead While Keeping an Eye on the Rear View Media Mirror

There’s a weird feeling when you’re engaged in a transformative action, like, say, moving, and also picking through bits of nostalgia. For me, the past week and a half has been littered with feelings of trepidation and elation, both brought on by the realization of moving possessions and location. But it’s also given me a strange desire for familiar media.

So, I’ve watched bits of Groundhog Day. The Empire Strikes Back. Also, much more obscurely, the Yogscast Jaffa Factory series on YouTube. While I’m wary of the dangers of nostalgia in general, I’ve kept a kind of distance from these things, unable to stop the perspective I’ve gained over the intervening years. Rather than try to recapture how I was feeling at those particular moments, I’ve been seeing some things with present day filters and world views.

It’s my hope that this is good for my work, to keep moving forward by acknowledging the past and things I’ve been influenced by, while crafting something new. I suppose that for others to decide, but it feels right and good, at the moment.

The Bridge Out of Somewhere Is Always the Bridge TO Somewhere

Don’t forget. There isn’t a straight, one-way path that is objectively better than others.

I have spent way too much time in the past looking at where I’d been and thinking how I could’ve been better than I was, that the stuff I’d made could be more refined, or even totally different.

But the trick was always to pay attention to where I was headed, not the place I’d been. There’s beauty in change and traveling creative roads you’ve never been down before.

In the Midst of Moving, More Videos!

I’m still moving everything I own down the street(s), and all is scattered and turvy. But I’ve got some links I’ve enjoyed recently, and here they are:

The sound of dial-up:

I was talking about early internet days with my brother, and how this very specific set of noises prepared me for the infinite possibilities that awaited.

David Tennant does a very different Hamlet:

The desperate quiet pain of a young man turning in on himself is beautifully, devastatingly interpreted, here. I need to see the whole thing, even if it’s got missing bits as the soliloquy here has.

The ultimate evil eye ending:

I quote Simpsons lines and scenes often, and in this segment, Homer and Mr. Burns carry off a beautifully timed, unhinged, and hilarious denouement. It’s the kind of trope-tweaking the show used to be very good at.

More art soon. The view from the new place is the image at the top.

Inside a Foundry That Brings Ideas to Reality

Detail of a photo by Ricky Rhodes

Casey Lesser posted an article on Artsy highlighting the craftspersons who work at Pollich Tallix Foundry, which does work for many high end and famous fine artists, as well as things like memorial sculptures.

It’s a beautiful look at some rarely discussed but essential members of the fine art world, people who solve the problems and put together ideas for artists who mostly hand over their concepts to produce in physical form.

Out of the Comfort Zone and Into the Fire

One of the advantages of moving is gaining new perspective in a new place. Whatever routines and stagnation you might have gotten used to or stuck in, say bye-bye, pal, they’re gone and you have to establish new ruts and habits.

One of the disadvantages is that it’s not completely safe. Case in point, I fell down a few stairs and am very, very sore. Luckily, it’s mostly bruises, both flesh and pride. Care has to be taken.

But the small risks of breakage—both flesh and dish—are worth it, since breaking the old routines and changing spaces are good food for creating things.

Moving Days and Changing Views

It’s always hard to work my routines into such a big anxiety- and stress-inducing event as moving house, but I’ll still be giving it a shot. There’s value and relief in hanging onto whatever steadiness can be had on a metaphorically stormy sea.

One of the reasons for keeping a sketchbook on you at all times (or whatever notebook you’re drawn to—ha! Drawn!—for your medium and your thing) is to be ready to work on creation or making when its time. Not just when inspiration strikes, but to order.

It’s well demonstrated that creativity can be made to order by habitual attempts. Even when your best equipment is all boxed up, a moment to get out of the world and into your vision is good for you.