Saturday, December 27, 2008

Brainstorm, Daydream

At any given moment, there are infinite avenues for thought and action. Be brave, take risks, embrace the opportunity to make mistakes - you cannot fail. Brainstorm. Daydream. Experiment. Play!

Scape 1

Scape 1-detail

mixed media, 20" x 15"


Brainstorm - detail

mixed media, 20" x 15"

Friday, December 12, 2008


Uh oh, I've discovered pattern making in Illustrator, and Pucker & Bloat effects. Dangerous. Please excuse the cheesy tropical-holiday wrapping paper collage look to this, I'm just playing.

I used to make great patterns in CorelDraw, It had some harsh limitations, but some functionality that I sorely miss...

I'll admit it, I'm having surface design fantasies: sheets, rugs, papers, printed fabrics, maybe even linoleum...

Consider yourself warned.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cultivating Change

(click on image for larger view)

I sold another painting through this blog last week (the middle one here), which delighted me, and got me thinking about a much darker time of my life, when I marked a few simple symbols on a pocket-sized calendar and learned some wonderful lessons.

Every evening, I entered a "+" or "-" for the day to indicate whether I'd been feeling generally up or down. I'd been doing this for several months when, after a string of three particularly trying days, I began flipping back through the calendar pages. I was sick of feeling bad and expected to see confirmation of my despair.

Though this this was the first time I'd had three bad days in a row in weeks, I was surprised to note that in the beginning, negative days were the norm and even two positive in a row was exceptional. I could not deny that something was shifting, that though I felt low right now, it was nothing compared to how I had felt weeks before. Instantly, I began to feel better. I have felt better ever since.

The lesson? That it is a powerful thing to step back from the minutia of right here and now, to take in the wider landscape. It is a discipline, with enormous creative potential for cultivating optimism, pride, confidence, and future-vision. In other words: Perspective is a tool. Use it.

In time, I added a second mark to my calendar: On days when I'd felt exceptionally industrious, tackling swaths of items on my long To Do list, making long-avoided phone calls, I added the letter "S" (for Sowing Seeds) to that day's calendar entry. And on days when it seemed that a flurry of things had fallen into my lap: receiving a letter from an old friend, a new job offer, a refund check from the IRS - I marked my calendar with a letter "R" - for Reaping Rewards.

I began to notice an amazing thing: Though the rewards did not necessarily correspond to the seeds I had planted, every "S" was followed almost exactly two weeks later by an "R." I've come to trust this process, to live by the implicit lesson. Plant all your seeds. You reap what you sow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Inspirations and Aspirations

While making a collage this morning, I listened to Rick Warren's TED talk and had to pause to write down his statement that we live toward a three-tiered aim: 1) Survival , 2) Success, or 3) Significance. I know the Survival tier very well. I've spent many years in that realm. These days I have been tasting some Success. Though it feels triumphal, it also feels like a dangerous seduction. There is always more success to be had, more work to be done to attain it. Though I don't shy from hard work, there is an emptiness to it. Even in my collaging, I suddenly noticed, I get to a certain point in the piece, when the general background and color scheme is blocked out, and my attention goes toward the home stretch, into making something cool, beautiful, interesting, successful. It is so easy to slide away from the push toward discovery, inquiry, meaning, investment.

I remind myself that these collages don't need to be anything more than a warm-up exercise. But still, what am I warming to? Something to think about...

More inspirations of the day:

Martin Venezky's It Is Beautiful -- Then Gone - a beautiful book about one designer and his personal and professional design practice. So much to look at, I can only absorb a few pages at a time.

Lara Cameron's 10 (Potentially Controversial) Tips for Starting a Small Craft/Design Business. The first tip is the best.

The artist Carol Blackwell. A true artist with a unique sensibility, actively teaching and showing her work, but didn't start doing a bit of it until she was over fifty years old. Just goes to show you, it's never too late.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Letting Go

I'm not exactly in love with these two latest, but I'm happy to see myself letting them be whatever they are.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Number Three

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Here We Go Again

Maybe this time it's a collage-every-other-day series...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back in the Saddle

I've been craving collage lately, found myself giving in to the urge yesterday. I think I may be launching another collage-a-day series. Hoo boy. Watch out.

Monday, October 27, 2008


More inspirations, eye candy, and practical advice:

Blu makes amazing murals and animations, using outside-the-box urban environments as his canvas (Oh, how sexist of me! I'm assuming Blu is male? Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

Stephen Gill's photo collections are more than worth a look.

Nutritious food for thought for the graphic designer is readily available at Design Observer: Thoughts on Design and Culture.

Looking for inspirational ways to recycle plastic bottles into art? Check out Miwa and Mark's PET project.

Money concerns getting in the way of your art making? Sellout is for you.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Overlooked, Underlooked

I made these small paintings/collages a while back and, not sure if I liked them, tacked them to the wall of my studio to contemplate. Funny how you can stare at something everyday and not really notice it at all. Today I took them down, scanned them, and really saw them for the first time. Thought I'd share...

Also, here's another link for ya, the collagist Mark Wagner, who works almost exclusively with the American dollar bill and makes some remarkable things...

9" x 8" mixed media on canvas

10" x 9" mixed media on canvas

9" x 7" mixed media on canvas

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Couple More

Two more paintings, small ones, and two more inspirations.

First the paintings:

5.5" x 5.5" gouache and X-acto knife scratching

5.5" x 5.5" gouache

And now the inspirations:

Watch Blu's Wall-Painted Animation (it's incredible) and then check out his blog.

Take a look at the BioMotion Lab's walker - and play with the sliders. It's fun, and funny too, and amazing to note how much can be communicated with a few points of light and a little bit of motion.

And finally, I know I've posted this link before but it's always worth perusing the latest from SpaceCollective.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rules to Live By

In preparing for the design course I'm about to teach at RISD, I came across this list by the experimental music composer, writer, artist, and all-around smarty-pants, John Cage, which I think applies outside the classroom just as well as in. Let me know what you think:

Some Rules for Students and Teachers

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student - pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher - pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: be self-disciplined - this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail, there's only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don't try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It's lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: "We're breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities."

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything - it might come in handy later.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


gouache and ink on heavyweight bristol paper, 14" x 11"

I believe in the power of wishing. Active, creative wish-making (rather than passive longing, whiny "if only"s in moments of emptiness and desperation). I don't think it helps to cling to a wish, to squeeze it, worry it, focusing exclusively on the void in your life that your unfulfilled desire occupies.

I believe, instead, in creating a detailed visualization of whatever you want to bring into being. Blow your wish into a big pink balloon. As the old New Age Creative Visualization guru, Shakti Gawain advised, let it float away into the sky. You must trust that your wish will be heard by the powers that be, and that, if a path can be forged to its realization, the way will open up before you.

Release your wishes. Allow for the present moment, where you have acknowledged an unfulfilled desire. Allow for the perhaps difficult possibility that your wish will not come true. Allow for whatever emotion comes up in its wake. And most of all, allow for mystery, subconscious process, and invisible magic behind the scenes.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Sometimes there really is nothing better than putting on some music and turning off the brain.

Mixed Media on 100% cotton paper, 11" x 8.5"

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Compare and Contrast

I thought this was interesting:

Two very different yet very similar pieces made fourteen years apart.


montage on cardboard, 14" x 11", 1990


gouache on bristol paper, 9" x 12", 2004

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Art as Play

17" x 14" ink, watercolor, and gouache on heavyweight bristol paper

This painting reminds me of a time, some years ago, when I decided to paint a masterpiece, I felt ready, I felt willing, I felt inspired to make a masterpiece, but try as I might, nothing would come. I stared at the blank page, pen, brush, pencil poised. I showed great discipline. I felt great energy. But still, stubbornly, the page remained blank.

Luckily, I let myself off the hook, declaring that if the creative process can't be steered, then I would try letting it steer me. Half an hour later, I had unpacked my sewing box, ostensibly in an effort to organize, but instead I had become absorbed in a collection of buttons, fingering them and sorting them, enjoying their shapes and colors and textures. Part of me worried that I was wasting time, but I tried not to pay attention to that part of me. I was having fun.

Next I unpacked beading supplies, and for several days, spent all my spare time stringing beads, taking pleasure in color.

And finally, I found myself drawing and painting again, making this, the first of what became dozens of paintings in a new style: intricate, colorful, increasingly fanciful. And fun. That was the missing piece in my determination to paint a masterpiece. I forgot that art is play. I've posted some of these play-paintings, and I'll be posting more, but this is the one that got me started.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


mixed media (ink, pencil, crayon, watercolor),
on 100% cotton paper, 8.5 x 11"

"You're not charging enough for your work."

How many times have we, as artists (and designers, and freelancers), received this dubious compliment? I suppose if we are busier and poorer than we can sustain, it's a comment worth thinking about. Otherwise, it implies a "should." Be very wary of "should"s, people, whether generated by the restlessness of your own mind, or by someone else's.

My response, regarding my daily collages, has been this: As soon as I sell one, we can talk. This may sound flip, but Cay Lang, in her excellent book, Taking the Leap: Building a Career as a Visual Artist (by far the best practical guide to being a professional artist I've come across thus far) backs me.

Says Lang: "At the beginning of your career, you want to place your work inside the standard price range for the type and size of work that you make, and at the lower end of that price range. The advantages to this strategy are many. By pricing the work low, you will begin the process of getting the work moving. More people will buy it, which means more people will want to buy it, and you will start to develop a following. Pricing the work low creates room for the prices to increase, which makes you look successful and places your work in even higher demand."

Truth be told, I'm not so much strategic as going on gut instinct. I know no better incentive to make more art than hooking up with people who want the art I've already made. But it is difficult, I'll admit, to part with these pieces for just $45 (which includes not only the minor masterpiece in question, but the cost of the envelope, postage, a cut for Paypal, plus gas and my time to and from the post office,). Taking all of this into consideration, I made a promise to myself: Once I sell my first collage, I'll raise prices.

Well I sold my first Daily Collage this week (#32, see below). Additionally, I received word that another sale is looming (the buyer is in the process of choosing her favorite). As a courtesy, I've given this second buyer until the end of the month. I'm extending that same courtesy to you.

Here's my NEWSFLASH: True to my promise, the price on Daily Collages will go up from $45 to $65 beginning August first. (Shipping, within the U.S. anyway, will still be included.) [Note from the future: these prices are out-of-date, and Paypal "Buy now" links have been removed, at least temporarily as I make adjustments.]

Consider yourself fairly warned!

You can see the whole Daily Collage series, as a slide show, in the order it was created, here. And in their original blog entries here. If you want one that isn't labeled with a "buy now" button [or if you want more information], email or post a comment and I'll set up a Paypal link for you.

#32 - SOLD

Monday, July 14, 2008


48" x 36" oil on canvas
email for more information

Have I told you that I'm a writer? I'm starting to wear that label with a bit more confidence, now that one of my essays is due to be published in a book. (More on that as the release date approaches, not for a while yet.) In the meantime, I'm working on a book proposal of my own, have been, in fits and starts, for years. I'm in the grueling last big uphill push before the homestretch now. Though the project weighs heavily on my mind, and I'm anxious to have it done, it's all I can do lately to strap myself into a chair and work on it for even ten minutes at a time.

Maybe I'm afraid that if I look too closely, I'll decide the whole thing is junk, or that I don't want to write the book after all, or that I can't possibly do it because I'm not nearly smart, talented, dedicated, or knowledgeable enough to pull it off. I can't put my finger on the source of this anxiety, except to say: It's one of those things in life that simply feels dangerous—like a car speeding toward an imagined impact—even when it's not.

I traded phone time today. For forty minutes I listened and supported while L. talked through some things. For the next forty, she did the same for me, calmly and quietly witnessing while I typed (and griped) and made more progress on my proposal than I have in weeks. Just goes to show you: Sometimes all you need is an airbag.

I'm starting to believe I'm actually going to complete this thing, which gets me excited to sniff out the next creative project to engage myself in. One that comes to mind: finding a show for my big (bigger, anyway — see above) oil paintings. They're beginning to stack up.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Vivid dreams lately prompt me to share a couple mixed media drawings/paintings I made some time ago about sleep and the creative experience of dreaming:

Road to Dreamville

This one comes out of thinking about that very fleeting instant at the beginning of sleep, when we've relaxed enough to sense all the adventures and companion adventurers glimmering before us in our potential dreams. In that moment, all that remains is to release, to let go, to allow. Sometimes, there is apprehension in that moment.

mixed media (ink, watercolor, pencil, crayon, gouache, pastel)
on 8.5 x 11" 100% cotton paper

Perchance to Dream

The title says enough on this one. No apprehension in this dreamer.

mixed media (ink, water color, pencil, crayon, pastel)
on 8.5 x 11" 100% cotton paper

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Something To Think About...

I found this recently in a stack of old sketches and doodles...

8.5 x 11" ink on paper

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Another Belated

In my zeal to show you the final collage of the series, I didn't realize I'd skipped over the next-to-last and the next-to-next-to-last.

I realized something was missing this morning, and unearthed the two forlorn pieces.

Oh, will you ever forgive me?

WIthout further ado, here they are:

(You can see the whole series as a slide show here.)

#58 - No Love Lost

#59 - September Playground

Monday, June 30, 2008


Here it is. The is a long belated post - I've finally scanned the last of my two-month, sixty-day series of daily (okay, not quite daily) collages.

I've also scanned a batch of drawings. Those coming soon...

# 60