Figuring Out How Full the Glass Is

I did it again, left the blog too long and it was a little too late to post something yesterday. But it’s not that big a deal, I just resolve to be better in the future. Sometimes we miss.

I have a tendency to consider how much I haven’t done, rather than the opposite. But the only thing I think matters is what gets made. It doesn’t matter later what didn’t happen.

Optimist or pessimist, viewing how full my creative glass is misses the point most of the time. in the end, we only have this moment to make things and a possibility of making more in the future. What has passed can’t be re-lived. Recognizing I messed up a goal of mine—in this case daily blogging—is fine, as long as I leave it there and try again.

On the Street Where You Live

There are two pieces of media I think about when I ponder city life. there’s Rush’s “The Camera Eye,” where Neil Peart writes about how there’s

… a quality of light unique to every city’s streets

(1981)

and this is strangely true, and clearer the more I’ve traveled. Each city has a familiar rhythm and skeleton, but the light and the way it falls on everything is its own.

The other is Sesame Street. No place I’ve ever lived has generated as many parallel thoughts and connections to it as Portland, but there have always been some connections in every city I’ve called home.

The connections circle back to art and creation. We find inspiration in the work of others now more than ever, because of social media and the Internet itself. But there’s endless possibility right there on my street, in the ordinary stuff I encounter every day. The people, animals, vehicles, trees, buildings, sky, shadows. It’s easy to get overly familiar. But around the corner is some Snuffleupagus or Oscar the Grouch, a big, chunky letter A, that I haven’t really looked at before to see what makes it worthy of attention.

I try to remember whenever I can.

A Few Things I Love About Art

The photo above is number 799 in my camera roll. It’s an accident. I wasn’t trying to frame an image and pressed the shutter button by mistake. Is it art? It kind of is! It’s a pleasant minimalist composition. Art can be accidental, which is number 1.

Another 4:

  • It engages your sense while you make it and while you experience it, connecting artist and patron.
  • It makes us consider alternative interpretations of the world.
  • Few are famous enough to make a living at it, but everyone can do it.
  • There’s just. So. Much. Left. If ever I find myself thinking everything’s been tried, there are no new directions to explore, I’ll chance upon something unexpectedly weird, or watch kids draw. There’s always possibility.

Enhance, Zoom, Enhance, Crop, Saturate, Brighten

It’s standard practice to enhance photos for social media. Some rebel, using #nofilter to indicate a shot straight from the straight from the lens with no embellishments or alterations.

I don’t, however, adhere to the same practice in my drawing and painting very often. Though I find many initial sketches to have life and power, I spend a lot of time refining drawings on top of or referencing them, fussing with paint for hours, erasing, redrawing, slowly putting lines and shading in.

If I had more confidence, maybe I’d make the best sketches and spontaneous drawings my work. But I’m trying to get the life out of the thumbnail, to extract and apply its loose coolness into a refined piece. It’s a bit like rewriting: the first idea may be strong, but it has limitations, too. It’s the difference between a funny anecdote and a comedy film. Ideas are sometimes worth refinement.

Everything Is Both Good and Bad, Perspective Matters

I’m writing this from the bus, on my way to my day job. It’s a decent one, with some benefits and good cow-orkers. The only drawback is that it takes me and my focus away from art and writing.

I love the eternal struggle with art, puzzling out ways to bring vague ideas and feelings into perceivable forms, digital and physical. But it’s isolating and insular. If I stay inside too long, I don’t have the human input I believe enhances and sustains us.

Both sides of work have their gifts. Both have their own downsides. But together, they give me things I wouldn’t have with just one. Most of life is similar, very few events and things are all good or all bad. Even in terrible situations good can be had. The ideal job can have moments of tragedy.

It’s easy to label situations and things with a simple word. But we can look deeply. See a bigger view.

Periodic Be Kind to Yourself Post

Unless you’ve just forgiven yourself for failing to do something you’d determined to start, or lapsing on a new habit, or any similar creative project, it’s time to do so.

It is very easy to beat yourself up about failure. Today, give yourself a break. It’s okay to have failed or fallen short of your ideal.

The only snag is that—like forgiveness—you want to see resolve to change going forward.

And if you haven’t failed? It’s time to acknowledge how far you’ve come and be content. Be kind. Progress and skill aren’t served well by self-flagellation. Good job, you.

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.

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.

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.

Little Things Making Up Big Things Is Every Construction Project

Broken record time: when I feel like I’m not getting enough done, I sometimes slow down even further. I break ideas into smaller chunks to deal with. This is a way of doing something daily but still contributing to a big project.

One ant can’t haul much or dig a deep tunnel alone. Ten thousand ants can do huge jobs in hours. Ten thousand marks or paint strokes is an entire piece. It looks the same when it’s finished.