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I followed my plan of drawing the same subject in a markedly different style tonight, difficult though that is, and it helped shake the doldrums I had last night. I’m going to try something even more uncharacteristic tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what happens if I keep mixing it up.

Day 96 of #100days of making art

That’s all. I just hate my own style, or maybe it’s not that that I hate, but the particular ways I get stuck. My too-familiar ruts. Ugh.

I’m spilling this out here because my blog is in part my art journal, and it’s important to share the gamut of moods.

Tomorrow I’ll try to get out of the rut by drawing the same subject (a couple of leaves) in a totally different way. Tonight I’m just closing the sketchbook on this unsatisfying drawing and going to bed.

Day 95 of #100days of making art

Day 92, and the second in a row of having lots of time for art, thanks to a Sunday off. I painted the lower right hand “room,” glued the walls in place, and did most of the vase.

I still don’t know the main element of the third room, nor lots of details of the others. I did stitch a length of videotape into something resembling cursive writing, which will be the main element of one room, I think. Am I the only person who feels a mixture of sadness and curiosity when they see a length of video (or audiotape, when those were around) all pulled out of its cassette and tangled and dirty on the street? It makes me wonder what was on it–what still is on it, but is now inaccessible. Anyway, this one will be part of a sculpture.

#100days of making art

I started on an assemblage with some techniques and themes that are similar to the last one’s. It’s going to have three or four chambers, so a lot of what I did today was cut the inner walls to size and sand them. I also worked out the string pattern for the lower-right chamber (you can see the plan on the paper in the foreground) and drilled most of the holes in the walls for threading it through. I’m still not sure how I’m going to do that, but I’ll play around with it tomorrow.

I also had a great time drilling successively larger holes in the door (lid) to make a peephole. The cigar box wood splinters so easily that I thought for sure I’d have a disaster if I tried a large bit first, so I worked my way up to a 1/2-inch bit.

I’m trying to stay in that indeterminate head space where I’m lightly holding a theme and some images, without knowing how they all relate to the theme or even being entirely sure that they do. I know I am looking at the difficulties of understanding each other across gulfs of culture, experience, language, etc., and the extraordinary fact that we ever reach any understanding at all.

The virtual vase that emerges from the strung thread expresses this in one, hopeful way. The unspooled, unidentified videotape is more expressive of the frustration involved. If I look too analytically at these or other images that are coming to mind, I’m afraid their meanings will shrink away from me like a snail retreating into its shell. So I’m letting them float in my peripheral vision, hoping that while I paint and drill and sand, they’ll take more definite shape of their own accord.

Day 91, #100days of making art

My wife got into the car on Sunday and passed me a handful of seed pods she had picked up on the sidewalk: different than the kind I drew in Sacramento over Thanksgiving, smaller and darker, though again I don’t know the species. “Here,” she said. “I know you like this kind of thing.” It’s so good to be known.

I put them in the well of the driver’s side door, and there they have been getting drier and rattling around. They’ve also given me an idea for the linocut workshop we’ll be taking from Katie Gilmartin at SOMArts in February. I want to have drawings ready when I go in, or I won’t get far on the print. I’m going to make a series (triptych, maybe) of these pods in various states, from fresh to freshly fallen to dried up. It’ll be a further exploration of something that’s interested me for a long time: the ambiguous nature of decay. “Decay” sounds like a judgment, as does “progress,” though one could use either word for what is happening. “Change” is a more neutral descriptor. That’s what fascinates me. Since they are growing more wrinkled and fragile, we would probably say that they are decaying, yet their beauty is not diminished. It is only different, and to some eyes, increased.

I don’t know how much they have really changed over the last five days. They might only rattle more now because they were damp when Joy picked them up, and now they’re dry. I have the impression that they’re more wizened and bent, but I can’t be certain because I didn’t look very closely at them on Sunday. I’ll know better when I go get some more and draw them at intervals.

For tonight, I just drew them as they are now, twice, quickly, in ink pen, as a first stage of getting to know them.

#100days

Eh, I said in my last entry that I’d post a photo of my next piece about ancient and current empires when it was finished, but why wait? Here it is in progress. Source text: The Penguin Atlas of the Ancient World.

#100days

I’ve now been making art every day for over a month. I fell into my current series of projects by accident, as is so often the way, and am now happily spelunking in the caves of altered books, maps, U.S. politics, and white supremacy.

It started when I wanted to find a book to (photocopy and) alter. I poked around on our nonfiction shelves and came upon The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, which I hadn’t even known we had. One of the benefits of living with a partner is that they spent decades accumulating books too, and even after 15 years together, I’m still discovering some. It is full of maps, and I love maps, so I pulled it out, found a couple of intriguing words on one of the text pages, and got to work.

The first word I noticed was “administration,” and another was “Nineveh,” which reminded me of a phrase about our future fate being like that of “Nineveh and Tyre” in some poem or other. Yeats, maybe.

The poem kept echoing in my head, until I had to look it up (ah, bless the internet) and re-discover it: not Yeats, but Rudyard Kipling, who had such a strange talent for reminding empire of its limitations even while proclaiming its glories.

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre! (“Recessional”)

Reading about these ancient cultures, and seeing all the maps showing the dominance of peoples whose names I’d never even heard of, like the Scythians, is like coming across the colossus of Ozymandias (Rameses II) in the desert–another poem that’s rattling around in my head. Some of these nations lasted for millennia. Ours hasn’t made it to its 250th birthday yet, and I’m wondering what shape it will be in when it gets there. So the words I’m highlighting as I draw my maps are about the collapse of our democracy from hostile forces, foreign and domestic.

I’ve also always been moved by the story of Nineveh in the book of Jonah. If an ancient city, one of the great ones of its time, could summon that kind of repentance and return to its ideals, can’t we?

Another theme that emerges without the author’s having intended it is the narrowness of his assumption that the “ancient world” consists of the Mediterranean, with forays as far as England to the north, western India to the east, and Ethiopia to the south: basically, the trading partners of the empires of the Mediterranean. The book was published in 1967. I showed it to my daughter as an example of the kinds of things I was taught in school, where our books were published around that time. It was a quiet, background kind of white supremacy, a constant hum informing us that nothing worth knowing about happened in sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, the Americas, or most of Asia until Europeans got there.

I saw with some excitement that there is a New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History: Revised Edition, published in 2002, but alas, it still only covers the same region. A grand opportunity wasted to, if not expand the book, then at least make the title accurate.

I’ll post a picture when I’m done with my new piece.

#100days

It’s been almost a month now of making art for a little while every day. I missed it on Tuesday, just tumbling into bed and not even remembering until morning that I’d meant to do some art. I also forgot it was trash night.

This morning, I was so jazzed to continue the piece I’d begun the night before that I worked on it before even showering. And then it blessed my whole day. It’s more altered text, of the text from an Atlas of the Ancient World (sic; it’s the ancient Mediterranean and environs, a very small world) and inspired by the maps themselves, and the day’s impeachment hearing. I am feeling a deep kinship with ancient Nineveh, and admiration for the people if that city. They put on sackcloth and ashes and repented? Amazing.

Here are that piece and another, both still in progress.

#100days

The cat spends the entire day in one spot, but she actually seldom stays still for long. It’s hard for me to draw fast enough to capture one pose before she stretches and turns and settles into another one.

So here is Luna twice in quick succession.

I haven’t posted the past few days, but I did art every day except for Friday, when (what was I just saying about not waiting until the end of the day?) I lay down at around 9 p.m. and slept right through until the morning. So today I did two.

The first was this drawing done with the SketchbookX app.

I’m really enjoying having this app as a “sketchbook” available wherever I go. I usually carry a small paper sketchbook with me also, but carrying a full range of colors for it is not as easy.

Then I got back to the assemblage I’ve been working on. I think the collaged part is done, and tomorrow I can start stringing the threads that will hold an old-fashioned lock suspended in the middle.

I had no idea until tonight that I was going to incorporate music. I love those discoveries.

#100days

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