Studio Tips!

So there’s a lot to unpack here. There’s a lot to talk about. I hate lists and I hate tip videos/blogs/shit like this, yet here we are. I’m trying to make a thing, so let’s go. Youtube is awash in “SHOP HACKS” “LIFE HACKS”, there’s an entire channel devoted to things you can do with PVC pipe. There’s one by woodworklife that says, “Don’t be a jerk.” Yeah, ok, that’s pretty good, but not necessarily an original perspective. There’s tons of, dare I say, ENTIRELY TOO MUCH OF, Adam Savage and the geeks at Tested gushing over all kinds of tech and first order of retrieval. The most important things I think Adam has ever said were at a conference for atheists, “drawers are where things go to die,” and “when you’re weathering something think about where it will have been touched or bumped, hide your crimes, and make it look good.” Oh and also, “I love rivets.”

Good stuff.

Jimmy Diresta has some pretty original takes on things, and if you’re at all familiar with what he does, some of what I have to say might not seem that revelatory. If you’re not familiar with what he does, for fucks sake, get on the train. There’s another channel called AvE, which can be hit or miss but his video on three rules for troubleshooting is FANTASTIC. There’s a series called “Bits” by Iliketomakestuff, that is really informative for the uninitiated on a number of topics, and he is the champion generalist. I don’t know if you can tell, but I demand a lot of input and process it and remember it and I want to share it with people. While we’re at it, three podcasts I swear by are: Making It (more of Diresta and Bob from Iliketomakestuff,) The Blindboy Podcast, (a flavor all it own, but the moments of insight are enthralling,) and Joe Rogan. Just kidding fuck that guy. He is, to quote a friend, “Alex Jones for that guy who smoked DMT once.” But really, WTF with Marc Maron can be heavy but is majestically insightful and he talks a lot about quitting drinking and stuff.

But back to the point of this. Here’s maybe 10 tips for trying to get your studio sorted out, to get your creativity flowing, and to keep you in the room where you make stuff.

Preface to the tips:

What have we been doing up to now, if this is the preface? Whatever. Here goes.

Figure out what stops you. Figure out what you need. Observe your own behavior. If a thing continues to go wrong, or represents an annoying lack of infrastructure, then fix it. If you trip over something, move it, give it a place, BUILD it a place. If a thing will enable you to do more things, invest in it. If a thing will force you to learn how to use it an more things, invest in it, commit to it. Be on a quest to figure stuff out. Get motivated to move and carry on my wayward son, ya know?

11 studio tips

 

1. If you like or use a thing a lot, have at least two on hand. I have dozens of the same pens and pencils. I have spare blades, extra sand paper, extra spray paint, super cheap brushes, markers, sharpies all kinds of stuff. I don’t want to be stopped if I’m working and I’m flowing. If a pencil breaks or I drop it or put it down and lose track of it, I’m not held up. This may draw a spurious comparison to my, “Don’t buy stuff until you need it” thing from the art school post, but if you’re doing a thing and moving forward, and you know what you like, it’s good to have back ups because things WILL go wrong. I have multiple drills for multiples purposes, and sometimes I use all three in a row. I don’t have to change bits. I don’t have to change types. I set out on a path, and I can chew through tasks when I need to. Some people love the shit out of shoes, I love .07mm Uniball pens. Deal with it.

2. Just because you don’t use it all the time, doesn’t mean you’ll never need it again. Find ways to stay sharp across multiple platforms, in multiple materials, with multiple machines and processes. It’ll keep you plastic, and get the mental muscles churning in a good way.  

3. No matter how much you plan, things will not work out. Sometimes. The sculpture will slip off its armature, your mold will break. Things will break, tear, soak, and sometimes a 32sqft painting falls on a table saw rail and gets a giant hole in it. These are examples of things that have happened in my studio. Suck it up. Have your moment, freak out for a second, then start working on a solution. We’re problem solvers. Let’s solve it. There’s a great moment in One Punch Man where one of the heroes (Genos) is trying to stop a giant meteor from destroying the city, and he shoots a ton of fire at it to no effect. He uses up all his juice in his one go and nothing happens. He doesn’t know what to do next, except apply power, ponders self-destructing, and gives up.

When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, right? An older, wiser hero nearby, his name is Bang, says, “When your back is against the wall, the best thing to do is bumble through. The result will be the same.” HOLY CRAP, THANKS, BANG. If a situation seems impossible within your knowledge or experience, the result will be same, do what you can with what you’ve got, try stuff, and see what happens. If you fail, then great, keep trying to figure it out, look for a solution. The only thing that truly makes an obstacle insurmountable is giving up. I mean, Saitama then punches the meteor once, splits it in half and prevents total destruction of the city. The two halves still destroy a huge chunk of the city, and he sort of half-asses it, but total annihilation is averted. Just go watch One Punch Man (IT IS SO GOOD) and covers a lot of ground about training, self-worth, and the importance of feeling excitement about what you’re doing - struggles are good. 

4. Figure yourself out. If you notice while you’re working on something that a cart or a shelf or an organizational system would make what you’re doing easier, finish the thing you’re doing then start planning to not have to deal with this hold up again later. I briefly mentioned this in the preface, but this is all about noticing your own behavior, and assessing your tendencies. If you have a tendency that helps you, then use it. If it gets in your way, or interferes, or goes against a fundamental principle of what you’re trying to accomplish or process you’re following, then maybe stop? My drawing classes come to mind a lot with this example. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, your focus, your interests, and how your day to day profession or thinking affects the kind of work you do. Trained or practiced artists don’t work like CPAs or lawyers who think they know what they’re doing. And I mean, of course the opposite is true. Make sense?

5. Don’t put things away when you’re “done” with them. You’re not done. You’re kidding yourself. You’ve forgotten a step. Or need to redo something. Or mixed that color wrong. Or fucked up that line. Leave em out for a bit. Set up and tear down is a major turn off. It takes you out of the moment and is busy work. Plus cleaning up is lame. It is a space for work. It only needs to be as clean as it needs to be for you to do your work, and mileage may vary. Like everything else in art it goes ITERATIVELY. You try a thing and work towards a best solution. Embrace uncertainty and stuff.

If your stuff is out on the table or at arms reach you can use it. It’s like leaning a guitar in a corner or on a stand, it’s easy to grab play and practice when you don’t have to dig it out of a closet. It’s easier to use things when they’re in your way. The same way it’s easy to get sucked into the TV, or your phone when it’s the nearest thing to you. I hope that sounds familiar.

6. Develop a system that works for you. Artists, like doctors, scientists  and engineers, are systemic learners/creators. Each time you make a composition you are creating a system and juggling those elements until that system is complete. It’s a process you’re engaging in, not a task. Tasks have a beginning and an end, a process is tougher to pin down, there’s constant review and a whole psychological component (your cognition and level of education and personality and training and conditioning and history et al). Check back on that iteration vibe I was throwing down in the last point. Some people sketch and beat the shit out of a thing before they start in earnest, with the goal of being able to get in there and execute. I find that sometimes practice makes me too bored to care about the project in the end and I’ll move towards whatever is exciting. Don’t worry though I’ll come back to it. I just have to let it settle in my mind for a bit, and a solution will present itself. Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes it doesn’t, it can depend on weather and work and what you had for dinner. Find out what system works in the system of your life, and give to it what you can. A little bit over a long time is a lot. I would say, “Ask this guy,” but he died digging a hole through a mountain over the course of 30 years, and probably doesn’t have e-mail on the astral plane, so you can’t.

7. Social media is not that social. I mean, yeah, share stuff, promote your stuff, but having friends over to visit, or better yet, going to art related events or shows, tabling at a show or anything that puts you out next to people talking about what you do and how you do it, has more value than a solid instagram story. Unless you have 12k followers or something. I’m going to be honest: This isn’t something I’m good at. I’m crap at social media most of the time. My friends, (*sad little wave* Hi ) tend to like my things, and usually in about the same proportion. Especially on instagram. I have a broader reach on facebook, but I kind of hate it. I have actually had a lot of good fortune through there, selling work and talking to people and making arrangements. It has lead to real life human interaction sometimes. So, try to gather a community of people that you support and who support you back, it helps with the psychological component I mentioned in the previous tip. You can judge the impact of a post based on the number of responses but if the president does something particularly heinous that day, you might not get the exposure you’re looking for. You’re doomed, just Invite people to come check out your space and your work and encourage them to be honest. “Hey I’m working on this part and I think it sucks, what do you think?” It’s the innocent bystander test. If you say your work does something, and you’re not sure that it does it, (and you probably won’t be, because you’re too close to it,) ask somebody who doesn’t know anything. An innocent by stander. It’s hard to get people to show up though. I haven’t figured it out, but I just wanted to cast doubts, serious ones, on the validity of social media as a substitute for actually calling someone, or texting someone, or saying, “HEY COME OVER I’LL MAKE YOU COFFEE.”

8. To see an error you have to step back. Often artists mistake ruminating or dwelling on something for actual reflection and introspection. If your thoughts or your work or anything has you caught in a negative feedback loop, you’re doing the analysis part wrong. If you look back and your first thought, (as mine often is,) is, “Man, what a piece of shit I am,” then it might be more effective to say, “Wow, I was a piece of shit in that situation, it’s unfortunate I did that, but I don’t want to be that way anymore and I’m going to take steps to change my thoughts and behaviors.” Just a thought. But maybe do that with a painting or a drawing or a sculpture or a book you’re writing. Step back, and look at it like it’s someone else’. What advice would you give to someone if you were presented with what sits before you? You would be way nicer to them than to yourself, so respect yourself, give credit where credit’s due, then make some decisions and changes. Once the thing you’re making, and your self-worth are not as linked as you imagine them to be, (are you your work? Is your work you? What version of you? It leads to an intense line of questioning) it becomes easier to evaluate and critique your work - and to accept that criticism - and the way you make that work. Want to be more productive? Start looking at your process and thinking about how much you’ve actually invested in what you’re working and go from there. It’s what I’m doing. That and not sleeping. But you do you, ok?

9. A studio can be a lonely place. Working by yourself is a weird thing. There is no “Team” for most artists. The loneliness of making things, can cause your brain to go to weird places that you don’t want it to go, and can be more of a distraction than an actual distraction. I like to listen to podcasts, or put familiar movies on in the background in my studio, to create some chatter. I listen to a lot of music, but sometimes I’m reminded of things I’d rather not think about when I listen to music, and that’s a whole other thing. Or if a machine is really loud, and I can’t hear the music anyway, then why torture my neighbors? My studio is in an attached garage, so if I can feel myself starting to freak out from not having talked to anyone all day, I’ll go inside and maybe make some coffee or eat something or talk to my cats, or my wife or I’ll text someone. It feels like someone is talking to me. Get out of there if it’s not working. Then get back to it when you’re past whatever is going on. A bit of distraction can be a tool of focus when you are cognizant of its role and can resist it.

10. Try to get in there everyday. Not every day in the studio will be revelatory. They can’t all be zingers. In art as in life, the days are comprised of mostly mediocre days, and we tend to remember the worst ones more than the triumphs. The more time you spend in there, the better the chance that you’ll get something going. When you get something going, the chances are better that you’ll feel like you’re having a productive day. Good days make you feel good, and make you want to be in the studio. This flow chart making sense? Stuff happens, things come up, try to overcome the guilt of not being in the studio, it’s a challenge. It can be a miserable slog to sit out a day in the studio because of something as mundane as Thanksgiving or a birthday. Remember you’ve got to try to get some kind of balance, you’ve got to feed your mind and hands with education, relationships, books, movies, INSPIRATION that will find you later while you’re working. Write in a journal, things will come out of it. Make small contributions where you can make them, and results will happen. They will happen slowly, but they’ll happen. You’re laying on your back inside of a ring, inside of a circumference. To expand the ring, you’ve got to put pressure and a bunch of different spots, press too hard in one spot, you get a kink or a break, and you fuck up your ring. Gently push in all directions, and you get a stretch and you build your strength. I guess. I think. This metaphor is dubious, but hopefully you’ve got a visual to work with. This isn’t some positive thinking bullshit either, this is about taking steps, living in the moment, and pushing as hard as you are able.

11. Practice explaining what you do, by thinking about what you’re doing when you’re not doing it. And after you’ve done it. And before you’ve done it. I often make revelatory judgements or have probing thoughts of inquiry about various things, while brushing my teeth, or when I’m looking in the mirror while I’m washing my hands, or when I should be paying attention to something else. Thinking constantly about something, without being obsessed with something, letting it float around in your head until something bubbles up out of the mire while your body is on autopilot, can be a challenge to dinner conversation, but it’ll train your brain. It’ll teach you to organize your thoughts in ways you previously didn’t. It will teach you to play with language, and meaning and context. Complexity will arise. Nuance will arise. Substance will come out of this. All the garbage, all the recycled thoughts, all the bullshit, you’ll learn to filter out. You’ll be smiling to yourself some day because you’ve come up with something you’ve never heard before. And that’s good. Keep doing it. Keep trying.

 

I’ll be back with 10 more things to know about Art school. And maybe a video about how to sharpen your pencil the crazy way. Or measuring techniques. Or something. There was a whole other part I wrote at the end of this that I forgot about when I save it as a draft two months ago. So, there’s my next post sorted. Look for it … eventually.

Let me know what you think. I love to answer questions, and talk about things, so lets maybe do that?

Hope to hear from you soon, so you can come check out my stuff.

 

 

How to Write About Your Art

How to write a statement/proposal/prospectus/lecture/paper/thesis/whatever

  1. Panic.
  2. Sit down to write. Begin screaming. You are a baby bird, mouth open head tilted back screaming at the brutality of nature’s cold embrace as you begin to grow. Take a deep breath. Continue screaming.
  3. Question the very nature and apparatus of how you view the world and your work. Deny any knowledge you have used in the past to analyze yourself and your work. They are invalid. You, your education, your work is/are worthless. Forget everything you think you know about yourself. Make sure that you are completely unable to explain why someone should like your work. Forget what anyone who likes your work has said about your work, they know nothing. By now you should have accepted that your work is terrible and undeserving of praise, and you must make an excuse for why there is so much of it.
  4. Insist on originality. Reinvent the wheel. You want your work to rise from the ether untarnished by history and influence. You must separate yourself from all that came before. Don't even consider using conventional forms or ideas or thoughts or groundwork lain down at your doorstep by the swell of generations behind you. No, you are unlike any of them. You know more. Your experience is impossibly vast and unique. Sometimes if a thing has never been done before there is good reason. Sometimes there isn't. It must be original or you and your work are awful.
  5. Don’t talk about it with anyone else. Don’t take any suggestions from anyone. Don’t accept help. Don’t listen to people who love and respect you. Complete secrecy is the to key success, and miserably struggling alone is mandatory for artists!
  6. Skip the context, it is unimportant. Write anything you want. Put a collection of letters in any order with varied groupings. Whether those groupings are words is irrelevant, it will be accepted as though they are and analyzed as though this was done on purpose. The more you can obfuscate and create a mystery cult around yourself the more that humble gallery or arts council will want to work with you.
  7. Further to the previous: Make sure that your work and what you write about it HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. Make sure that what you intended, and what you see, what can be seen, in your work is completely undetectable and indecipherable to anyone, maybe even you. A true artist resents not only their own existence but also their audience. Make it impossible for anyone to connect your work to anything or anyone else. Make it impenetrable and obtuse, prevent prior knowledge & love & learning and appreciation. 
  8. To further reinforce the previous point: Make sure your work doesn’t do what you say it does. Make sure that when viewers look at your work and read your statement that it makes them question their sanity, and their ability to perceive the world around them. You want to provoke a resentful, “THIS SUCKS,” or “WHAT BULLSHIT,” “THIS IS FUCKING DUMB I’M GOING HOME,” “THIS MAKES ME WANT TO DESTROY SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL IT HAS REND MY INSIDES IN SUCH A CHURN.” It should be an assault on the senses, literally as in, “DO MY EYES WORK, ARE THEY CONNECTED TO MY BRAIN, AM I SEEING WHAT I THINK I AM..” And so on. 
  9. When you talk about your work, you should be as vague as possible. You should make statements that sound like questions, but are not in fact questions, and respond to questions with unrelated questions, non-sequitors, or just improvised sound effects. Either way, punctuate with a waffling upward inflection, a head tilt, and 2 seconds too long eye-contact and incredulity that your genius has not been easily received by the plebs. 
  10. If someone asks a question: Say words. Say words back to them, but do not answer the question. Don’t answer their question with a question. Don’t probe. Don’t pick. Just mumble and punctuate with a few key poly-syllabic words that don’t contribute in any kind of meaningful way.
  11. Don’t make any mention of the origins of your work. Don’t talk about things you like, or that influenced you or were formative. Talk only about yourself. Like you are the sole progenitor of the entirety of existence, and your works just manifest whole out of the ether. 
  12. Remember: You did this all by yourself. Don’t thank anyone. You earned this. There was no infrastructure, no support, no loved ones, no nothing, just you.
  13. Remember the curator, the board members, the executive directors, they’re the real artists. They demand umbrage. They take their commission. They grant the opportunity you did not earn and don't deserve. They allow you to continue to exist. Like a feudal lord, handing out plenty to their chosen servants groomed to support their own continued existence, to keep the system in place. APOLOGIZE FOR EXISTING. FOR ASKING FOR ANYTHING. YOU ARE A DOG SHIT PERSON. A GARBAGE PERSON. IT IS SUITABLY UNJUST THAT YOU GET A CHANCE AND DO NOT AND SUCCEED AND THEN FAIL. 

 

An artists statement is meant to give people a window into your work. It’s to grant them an opportunity to explore and sit with it. A statement is meant to make it easy for people to like your work. It’s some marketing wank, some crass elitist bullshit that we pretend is intellectual. We use obscure academic, critical and theoretical constructs as an evaluative method for something that may not merit such things. For some really smarty pants people, doing really innovative things, can be good at this. But for most of us, lets be real, it’s just, “Please invest in this thing, I made it for you, I hope hope hope you like it, it would mean a lot to me if you would get it, and then I would get to make more of these.” That’s really all it’s about. Maybe the goal is just to make the cookie you want to eat, and hope that somebody else wants to eat it too. 

Just in case this went over someone's head, I intend this list ironically.

It's not always like this, except when it is. I'm sure that some of my assertions come from my own jadedness and inconsistent success but this was a fun one. It was a kind of wacky journey, and I think it's important to express the absurdity of subcultures that purport to be primarily concerned with culture and beauty but are actually consumed with money and status just like everything else. Maybe I have an axe to grind, but the people who are concerned with money and status and the flow of commerce and all that shouldn't be butthurt, artists are too neurotic and disorganized to be able to do anything about the situation, or society or its structure. But we're superb at commentary. So look out for that.

   I think this was maybe as much about the whole creative process as it was about writing about ones art specifically. What do you write in the blurb of your book? The "About" page on a website? How do you respond when someone says, "tell me about yourself," and you don't want to come off as a self-absorbed piece of shit, though you may in fact be one. I try not to present my list of accomplishments right off, and really focus more on my current interests, but apparently it is more like being introduced for an audience with the king of wherever. Pedigree, filigree, stuff you've done, your status, blah blah, "Who gives a shit if it's a good idea, that's the guy who said it and we don't like him!" Weird how that happens.

Leave a like or a comment. Tell a friend. Read this aloud at a meeting about how not to conduct yourself online as a "professional." I'll end on this note: A friend recently complimented me on my disdain and loathing of straight men and I thought that was pretty cool. I can explain that more in-depth in a future entry if you want. I sold a few jewelry experiments I had made the other night, so thanks to those who picked up a leaf, or a love/death or a fuck off set of earrings. It means a lot that you'll fork over your dough for stuff I made. Also, youtube ads are 10x louder than they used to be and I'm not happy about it. But definitely watch this fucking weird thing. It's Mum-Ra from the Thundercats, doing Shimmy Shimmy Ya by Ol' Dirty Bastard, a song with which I was previously unfamiliar. I have recently watched all of the episodes of the original Thundercats though, so that'll tell you something about me. 

 

Coming up next is some studio tips. And maybe a more realistic version of how to make stuff. I dunno. Nobody asks for these things, and yet I keep doing them. See you soon. 

On Fucking Up and/or Failing

Just a heads up: This one is a bit dour, but hopefully it takes you on a journey.      

So, I'm not making things. Not anything I'm excited about. More leaf jewelry that everybody likes but nobody is buying. That kind of thing. I've written a bunch of things though, like a lot of things, mostly gnashing-of-teeth type of stuff. I could get specific, but then this would feel more like a diary entry than an essay about something. The fear. The paralysis. It is creeping, it draws near, I can smell its sweaty flabby body saying, ONE MORE EPISODE.

      Since quitting both drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, my impulse control has made a strong comeback, like an unpleasant guilt shaming madness inducing things-you-did-forever-ago-reflecting type stuff that just isn't helpful or productive. It is fucking frustrating. Who knew getting healthy could be so, slimy or ruinous to the bits that were working. Maybe I'm doing it wrong? Let me say this, I'm no 12-stepper. I just decided to change things, nobody asks why they just say congratulations, or "Good for you man, I don't have a problem." Then I say, "It's not a judgment thing, I just, I mean, it wasn't going well, ya know?" I'm getting better at explaining that. It still makes some people self-conscious, but I go out a lot less now, so I'm generally nobody's burden in that way. I have dabbled in anti-depressants, haven't done talking therapy, but I'm being pulled in that direction, and holy shit DIARY ENTRY, right?

   (Why am I using to words for this? Why can it not be paintings or something? Gotta find the right medium for the job, that's why, idiot. Like no one should care whether the book was better than the movie, but rather whether it was a good book or a good movie and if you can't see that distinction then GET LEARNT, ok? Shout out to Matt Price on the inspiration for "Get Learnt," lets go 50/50 on the T-shirt sales. Just kidding.)

     I have been trying to work. I have made an effort to go into the studio and sweat a little, to move things around, to vacuum, and organize and shelve things. I am exercising. Let's go back a 18 months or so. I got called into the principal's office. Weird things happened. Lots of changes. I said yes to everything because I didn't know what was going to happen. Some of that stuff worked out. Some of it didn't. The stuff that didn't work out, this mailbox, I should never have even thought about doing. Or I should have done it WAAAY differently. But anyway. It was big. And heavy. And expensive. And required new equipment, and tons of consumables. And I kept screwing it up. I kept trying things. I was determined.

TIME WAS TICKING. MONTHS WERE FALLING OFF THE CALENDAR.

I DREAD MY OWN EXISTENCE EVEN MORE THAN USUAL.

THIS IS NOT GOOD.

Generally, my wife doesn't necessarily notice when I'm having trouble with things. And this is nothing against her. I have a tendency to seclude, and to "woodshed" and to fucking kill myself until I have a result and then I say, "Oh, this?! PSSSSSHHHHHHHHHH, EASY." I didn't want to admit that I couldn't do it. I didn't want to have to tell the client I had to cancel. I knew what I had was a piece of shit though. I had some ideas on how to change it, how to make it something usable, but I didn't want to get an, "Oh that's what it is?" from the client when I was done. MY WIFE NOTICED. I was putting in a lot of hours. And sweat. And screaming. And misery. And neglecting all kinds of things. This mailbox and my inability to complete this project was getting in the way of me doing anything else. FOR. EIGHT. MONTHS. 

I had nightmares about it. I worked so hard, that my wife even noticed. "You worked so fucking hard on that thing, oh my god I don't know what to say." I was so pissed off and depressed and just radiating this vibe of disappointment. It was on everything in my studio. There were metal filings and BB's from the grinder in EVERYTHING. The spectre of this project lived on long after its demise. Reminded. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. 

Am I a diva or what?! I don't know. I got fucked up over it. And didn't really have anybody to talk to about it. Or didn't feel like I could talk to anyone about it. Because I'm bad at that. 

Sidenote: Who has friends? Like, who has people they walk with from place to place? And you aren't just recapping or talking about work/life related stress. Or transactional shit about fucking bin bags or mowing the lawn. You're talking about the bigger stuff, the hopes and dreams and fears and sadness things. THE FUCKING INTENSE STUFF THAT MAKES SEEING THAT PERSON AGAIN LATER ON SOMETIMES UNCOMFORTABLE BUT MORE MEANINGFUL BECAUSE THE CURTAIN HAS BEEN DRAWN BACK. 

I think it's harder today. Because we see people more often on social media than we do in real life. And social media is the top 1% or our lives, if you're posting photos of concerts or vacations or weddings or kids or whatever. You do it because you want to show the world you are happy. I always found posting in this way to be embarrassing. Do what you want but I'm embarrassed. If I'm doing something fun, or I'm happy or I'm really truly enjoying something, I don't give a fuck about posting on Facebook or Instagram or wherever. If I am dipped out of the experience enough to think I should use this as a fulcrum for my status in an artificial social construct then I am probably not enjoying myself; it undermines mindfulness you see. Unless promoting a thing is the point of what I'm doing. It's complicated and this doesn't cover all scenarios but I'm building a narrative here, and I'm talking about feelings and SHUT YOUR FUCKING HOLE OTHER SHIT-TALKING, INNER MONOLOGUE INSIDE MY HEAD CRAIG, YOU'RE NOT HELPING. 

That's another thing. My internal monologue has become less "Observational Comic Hopped Up Depressive," and more, "Grima Wormtongue Beatboxing and reminding me that I'm a piece of shit". It is how you say, no joy.

So failure.

I failed. I wasn't able to make a metal sculpture. I couldn't complete it. Because I didn't know what I was doing well enough. I couldn't obtain those skills quickly enough for it to be worthwhile. I tried a ton of different things. And didn't ask for enough help.

[REDACTED - dm me, maybe i'll share it]

So I try to get into the studio. And sweat. And show up to things. And be better. And be different. And fight neglect. And I don't know. 

 

You fail. You fuck up. You hope to learn. Try not to get caught up in the misery of it all. Don't post too much. Fight that inner-monologue fight all day and night. Zone out with some pencils or something. Get your shit together, you know? Try.

 

Let me know what you want here. I want to do a podcast. I want to talk to people. I want to make things. I want a vibrant fulfilling artistic existence where I make things. Show me how. Help me do. I can post more things I have been writing lately. Or my great mass of unpublished works from long ago. Send me a postcard. Drop me a line. Text me. I don't know. 

 

Talk to you soon.

STRAP IN THIS IS A KNOBBLY ONE. COULD PROBABLY HAVE BEEN A LIST.

      Making a to do list, I am told, is how successful people accomplish things. (Am I a successful person?!) The logic is that you can organize and hold yourself accountable to complete a number of tasks or projects in a given period of time fueled by the satisfaction of eventually being able to cross those things off the original list, and as a side effect actually accomplishing the things.

      But it never ends, does it? No one has ever made just one to-do list. There are items that linger on those lists. They stick around, waiting there, never getting done. Sometimes it's the really hard or complicated items on the list, others they're just so banal that there seems no point to doing them. Either way, I have never crossed all the items off of a list, because that would give me an opportunity to feel at ease, nay nay, I REWRITE the list with new thoughts and ideas that have arisen through the completion or pursuit of items on the original list. I look at my life and my thoughts and my lists spiraling out of control, and I seek the Somali pirate in my psyche to say, "Look at me. I'm the captain now." And then cross some shit off. It's either something that's unimportant, or I wanted to do it less than the other stuff I didn't really want to do, or there's a bunch of reasons. But there's another list. Sometimes I eschew lists altogether - Sometimes the very concept of organizing my thoughts into words on paper becomes more stressful than having them float in the metaphysical ether because then I have an actual snapshot of that which I have not wrought, and it fills me with wrath. I get depressed and lazy and I don't want to do anything. I am sapped of my strength and a cycle of avoidance and watching every video on youtube begins. It is daunting and unpleasant and so orderly. I am a person who thrives in chaos, and crisis, and having to fight to make stuff happen. It makes doing laundry a real fuckin' chore, you know? And if a project or idea is too easy, or doesn't feel complicated enough, or any number of other things, it's a weird feeling. But lists. I write them. They're long. They're impossible. And I rarely refer back to them when I make them, but I don't throw them away. I find them months or years later sucked into a vortex of some other stack of shit. Usually I've gotten the things on them done. 

I DON'T KNOW MAN, LISTS ARE WEIRD AND SO AM I.

          I haven't read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (can you tell?) but I have heard bits of it bandied about with great vigor. One of these bits is the idea that you are supposed schedule your priorities rather than prioritize your schedule. What this idea presupposes I think, is that you are a single executive with very few obligations, or that your obligations are so much a part of your identity that they supersede anything else. It presupposes that you are in charge of your own fate. It presupposes that you are the master of your own destiny, you are a jet-setting entrepreneur whose will is unflappable and you seek conquest. It says don't let other people run your life, your autonomy is undeniable and it is the greatest sense of privilege and pleasure to say no. Do you see where I am going with this? Let's set aside the fact that this is one of the dopier corporate black magic techniques of creating a we-think-its-very-clever-don't-you-agree nonsensical boardroom inside-out two word reversal techniques, (see inspect what you expect, ABC, and MBWA for more details,) it presumes a level of privilege and autonomy most people don't get. What are the things you do, outside of the steady paycheck thing that you do, and how much time to you get to devote to them? Is the job you have the one you want? Is it the reason we watch Netflix in the background of everything, or you know, whatever other thing you do while you're doing the thing that you otherwise don't want to do, but have to do? I think Steven Covey may have been only thinking of people working 80 hours a week, as executives, men-in-charge type of people, who don't necessarily work hard, but instead *dictate the lives of the proletariat in an effort to prevent them from profiting in a meaningful way from the surplus created by their labor.* Just a thought though. I also think that when Marx talked about people not being specialists, I think he meant multi-disciplinary contributors with broad experience to prevent myopia. But what the fuck do I know?

          For those of us whose lives are divided up mostly by what we have to do, what we want to do, the dream we're pursuing, and what we can actually accomplish, the idea of scheduling your priorities gets messy fast. What goes in each of the categories I just named? Wait. Did I .. Did .... I just divided up a schedule by priority. Curse you Stephen Covey! 

There's external stuff: Your spouse is a priority. They have to be for them to stay your spouse. All the little things that sustain your existence are priorities, food, sleep, sex, exercise, socialization, washing yourself and things, pets, a job or three, these things demand your time. The time it takes to get ready for things. The time it takes to get places. They demand time and can't always be put on auto pilot while you handle some of the internal stuff. And by that I mean things like enrichment, development, finding, witnessing and internalizing things or experiences that inspire you in some way to go on sustaining that existence, the stuff that feeds that dream. Then there's maintenance: Keeping up all the things you already know, the things that are a part of your being but are not Art, like reading complicated materials, learning new skills, writing, playing music, talking to people, telling jokes, telling stories, arguing, seducing, compelling. All of these appear in various forms, qualities, quantities, and yes, I have missed or glossed over a few things. All of this is stuff you do to keep what you've got. It's defense, so you can hold your position.

There's so much more to life than lists and schedules and priorities. And that's more or less the point of this entry.

       Do people list this stuff? No they don't. I mean not really. They do. But they fucking hate doing it. Does this stuff make us feel accomplished? Not really, but it can sometimes offer relief, like everything will stop swirling for a minute if something is fucking spotless, or there is NOT A SINGLE CRUMB in the bottom of the toaster. It all goes on under the vague category of "stuff that doesn't count as stuff I have to do, because everyone has to do it." 

[First: No they don't, and really it's a choice. Live in filth if you want or must. And second: That's a whole other discussion about capitalism, autonomy and slavery, which really I hope somewhere there is a sociology grad student writing about things like slavery, autonomy, artificial intelligence, the human diaspora, colonialism all of that stuff but in the Star Wars universe. There's so much to unpack. It's a questions and a weird one but I wasn't sure where I was going with this whole thing when I started so here we are. ]

             Making art is a priority. Thinking about art is a priority. Both of these things are hard to do well or with any kind of verve if you are constantly in a tizzy from trying to cling to work, or life. It is hard to make cool stuff in a garage or studio or wherever if it's not the thing that pays the bills, if it's not the thing that gets a lot of time. It takes equal measures of fearlessness and privilege to get there. Or support, which is hard to find and difficult to ask for. Or having a high paying job that doesn't demand that much of you. There are many factors. This is a piece of writing that could potentially have benefited from being organized first as a list and then executed in an orderly manner. Not my style, I'm afraid. 

            Can I save this post from itself? WILL THIS ENDLESS RAMBLE NEVER CEASE?

            Let's get back to lists and how and why I make them. Why they are both stupid and amazing. Whenever I have ever had to write a paper, there were never outlines. There were 50 pages of insanity, and notes and madness and dozens of drafts. I create a crisis from my excitement and then have to distill it down. Lists are organized. They lack the razzle dazzle of having to remember a ton of stuff. I mean, reducing complicated, strong things, to a list or a quiz or something for clicks or views or your data whatever is bullshit. Look out for my next post TOP TEN STUDIO TIPS ARRANGED FOR OPTIMAL HYPOCRISY. Lists are great for communicating an overview, if the list itself is a summary. Some lists become instructions, and themselves eat up so much time to make, that you might think the list is a by-product of a previous list where you made a list about lists. 

      AGAIN, I'm getting off topic. To do lists. I go a little bonkers trying to find a balance between making a list I will actually accomplish, making lists of things that I want to do to do other things, things I need to get to do things I need to do, and things I have to do, in the limited time I have to do them, or bypassing the list altogether and ACTUALLY DOING THE THINGS THAT ARE/WOULD BE ON THE LIST. These lists do not account for obstacles, failures or technical difficulties. So the things don't always get done when I need to do them. Strangely though often enough months later, I will find an old list, long discarded and forgotten, and I will have accomplished most of the things on that list. Mostly. But sometimes things just go completely astray. That song I wanted to write? The time I wanted to spend drawing? Or pulling books off my shelf just to flip through them? A space for my mind to relax and let thoughts flow? Nope. It's all about getting stuff done. It becomes about objectively completing tasks, and knocking them off the list. It doesn't become about exploration, or edification, it becomes more about getting from A to B. It's what Hal Reddicliffe once said to me when we were complaining about how late we students were up and how much we had to think about what we were doing: Sometimes you just have to shut up and work. All the time spent poring over lists, trying to rack up accomplishments, trying to work towards something, without really accomplishing it. Great you've written out all the things by which you are overwhelmed, and codified your anxiety to a list when once vanquished will only carry over into a new list with new accumulated tasks and anxieties which. .. you get it, the cycle starts again, and the satisfaction never arrives.

Our society is preoccupied with productivity. That's the point. That's the point of this whole thing here. We are too busy pulling on those mythical bootstraps to be well enough to proceed sometimes. It's preventing the flow of thoughts and ideas. It erodes willpower and confidence and doesn't help. 

    I don't know if this one is good. Or if it makes sense. But I had to get it out there. I've had the draft saved since November. Let me know your considered thoughts and criticisms in the comment section. Or e-mail me. Or facebook. Or instagram. Or I dunno, send a raven, or an owl or something. 

There'll be another one along soon, I wasn't kidding about those studio tips. And maybe video? I don't know. Let's not get carried away.

 

Here is a thing or two that happened.

HERE IS A THING THAT HAPPENED. OR IS HAPPENING. OR alskdjflkjfs YOU GET THE IDEA.

So about a month ago I had a conversation on the record with a nice fella' in my studio.

This is the article he wrote. It was definitely flattering and made for a pretty solid end to the week.

I've been organizing and trying to get my studio and mind in order for the coming year, and  my lack of actual "productivity" - look for a future entry about the American obsession with productivity and how it's destroying .. well... everything - had been getting me down. Or as my wife would say, "You're acting like a lunatic trying to get too many things done," and my response is usually, "IWILLSTOPWHENIFEELLIKEDEATHWOULDBEASWEETRELEASE," then I go take a nap or something.    

     In the last year my work situation has changed significantly - I still have multiple jobs, but they fit me better now - and things have been in transition since summer 2017. I've changed industries in the day job, and venues in the teaching gigs. I'm happier where I am now but stability is important for my work/creative process. It took ages for all those things to line up, for the strands to be braided in a manageable sort of way, but I'm getting there.

 I've operated on the, "one-less-thing-I-have-to-worry-about" philosophy of clothes and food and things since high school, but that only works if you've got some kind of financial, spacial and work stability. For example, if you have to make something really quickly for money, the painting you've been working on for 3 months is going to have to take a back seat, and that sucks but it's real. It's hard to get a solid flow going or to start new things, to dream, to explore, when you're half way through a few projects that you owe to various clients. I'm extremely grateful/lucky to have this problem, but working this way can be expensive. Not expensive money-wise, more like realizing there is only so much of your self to go around. If you have to re-invent the wheel every time you need to do something, man I just need to start farming some stuff out, like doing my taxes and automotive maintenance and perhaps even some day mowing the lawn. 

    This is all to say, 2018 will be the year of NO. Once I've wrapped up all my project commitments for the year for other people, I'm going to say NO for six months or a year. I mean, if someone says, "Do the hokey pokey and I'll give you a million bucks," I'll take a dance break, ya know? I'm going to explore and play around and start making more of my own work again. There will be diversions, that's just how I do things, but I'm going to be selfish with my work time. I'll still keep my teaching commitments to my private students, and monthly-ish workshop schedule, but probably won't take on any new private students. And by the way, MONTHLY WORKSHOP coming up shortly.

HERE IS ANOTHER THING THAT HAPPENED.

      So while working on one project, I veered off into an experiment. I've been working on a flora themed steel mailbox, and ended up making some leafy necklaces. I made them because people said, "Hey! Those leaves look great! I would totally wear them as jewelry!" Sometimes I'm a jukebox, sometimes I'm a curmudgeon, this time you get a song or two.

I have been told they are, "cute" and desirable. I have about 14 of them, and $50 seems reasonable to me. So if you want one, or two, or to berate me for my price point click on the 'aul "Contact/Bio" link and drop me a line. I should have an Etsy set up very soon, I have someone helping me. 

THIS MIGHT ALL BE GIBBERISH, BUT I WON'T KNOW. 

      I'm a little rusty at this whole writing thing. I've banked a few half decent entries, but this one, the urge hit me and here we are. I've wanted to drop some studio tips, and talk about how productivity can be a sick mental hole, and how to do lists can be a mental emotional rollercoaster of pressure and madness. I quit smoking a few weeks ago. Maybe it'll stick this time. Here's hoping, talk to you soon. 

OH OH, and if anyone out there has suggestions for tags/categories/metadata stuff I suck at and don't want to deal with, PLEASE ADVISE.


THE STANDARD LINE

While this was probably not informative, I do hope you were, at the very least, entertained. If you want to buy something I've made, or wish to send me a snarky e-mail you can hit the contact tab and fill out the form. Take a chance. Join the many few.

Thanks.

-Craig

AN ENTRY WHICH STARTED OUT AS 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ART SCHOOL THAT QUICKLY BECAME SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY

You’re going to spend a lot of money.

At the beginning of every semester, at the beginning of each new class, you will receive a materials list. You will receive a syllabus. Your wallet will become a husk for your hopes and dreams. You’ll think you need more paint than you do. You’ll buy too many pencils. You’ll buy too much charcoal. Stock up on paper probably, but don’t try to get it all in one shot. Get the stuff you think you’ll need for the first few weeks, and let the rest slide until you need it. You can make a trip to the store the weekend before. The midnight madness sales are fun, but you don’t save that much, they’re busy, and the impulse buys will destroy you. Brushes are sooooo expensive, you don’t even know. It’s a niche market of picky people, so yeah, they’re going to drag you over the coals. Don’t cheap out on your materials though. Try a few different types of the same thing, and see which one works best for you. Sometimes struggling with crap materials can make you miserable, make you look bad and can make doing your work harder than it needs to be.

Sidenote on materials: If you let running out of white charcoal stop you from finishing a drawing, meeting a deadline or making a grade to make a GPA to meet a scholarship: Beg, borrow or (don’t really but the cliché fits,) steal some white charcoal to make it happen. That drawing is the most important thing. It has to be, why else are you spending time at a 4 year institution drawing nudes and going to war with modernism/clement Greenberg/post-modernism? So suck it up. Draw the thing. You’ll be glad you did. Or make an excuse in front of a steadfast practitioner in whose hands lies your fate, and he may reach into a drawer and give you some white charcoal to shut you up. But don't rely on this, professionals have limited patience when it comes to plucky young idiots in white t-shirts.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Enthusiasm is great, but FFS follow the directions, you're being graded.

Tom Sachs says, “Creativity is the enemy.” Also checkout, 10 Bullets, by Tom Sachs, (from whose studio I would be quickly fired, probably.) You don’t get to do what you want, how you want to do it - at least not at the beginning. Whatever habits or style you have cultivated up to this point in your life is wrong. It has contributed to your acceptance to this institution, but they chose you because they saw ability that could be molded into something serviceable, you were good raw material. So, calm down. Take the instructions. Temper your enthusiasm with humility. If you are presented with something completely foreign to you, accept that it’s only foreign because you don’t know it yet. It is not necessarily wrong, and you lack the credibility or experience to make that call yet. Also, you’re there to learn, so suck it up and give it a shot. If somebody tells you to do a self-portrait, for instance, don’t do the metaphorical thing, you’re not there yet. Find an interesting way to draw yourself, by actually drawing yourself, because that’s the point of the exercise. That’s what they’ll be talking about in class. And you’ll look like a dope during the critique if you don't, (sophomore year was rough.) Do what you want. Eventually. But I recommend learning a process first, it'll help you make more informed decisions about your own tendencies and style.

You are learning how to observe. You are learning a process of revision, evaluation and iteration.

Or I think you should be. You will be exhausted all the time. The level of activity you will spend observing will be intense. And I think it should be. You're rewiring your brain. You're LEARNING STUFF. If you're learning how to be a “contemporary artist,” you're learning about what's trendy. And if you're learning that, you're not learning about Art writ-large. It's up to you to decide, but I would consider a program geared towards observational work. Working from life teaches you how to see, how to evaluate your own tendencies and cultivates objectivity about the resultant drawing or painting or sculpture or whatever. You will learn to embrace the uncertainty and figure stuff out.

For instance sometimes I think performance art is just really shitty theatre, or made up ritualistic exercises in determining what you can get away with to express an idea that if you really wanted to talk about it, it might've been better just to write an essay. Or make a movie. Or start a cult.

I feel the same way about installation work sometimes. If the work has to be supported by a mountain of text does the work do enough on its own? Is the experience meant to be a sensory one? Is it meant to overwhelm with beauty and splendor? Disney World is an art installation. Maybe installations are just kind of really crappy theme-parks? Sometimes I think they're media made-up to be poor imitations or more deliberately commercial enterprises. Are artists statements just a sales tool cooked up by the establishment so that elitists can feel like they have one over on the uncultured masses? Or is it an essay meant to endear someone to your work? I know I hate writing them. Look at the work. See if it does something. Read the title.

I've got opinions and questions, lots of 'em. Know why I have them? Because I learned to observe, to think, to re-organize that information and to turn it forward by drawing crumpled paper tacked to a wall for 3 weeks.

Your work has to do on its own that which you will say it does, without you having to say it does it.

This is an imprecise way of saying, “Sincerity has no value.” I stole that line from 101 Things You Learn in Art School. It's a great little book. But, no matter how much “heart and soul” or time or money you put into a thing in art school, if it sucks it sucks, (Art-star douchebags, Hurst, Koons et al not withstanding.) And sometimes you won’t know it until somebody else tells you. This thing you make has got to do the thing you think it does without you there to direct the way for the people viewing it to think about it. Artists statements are ok, (refer to previous bullet point) but once you let that thing you made out into the world, it's open season. If it sucks, a friend or family might hold back, but nobody else will. You can't please everybody all the time, and punching people in the face is illegal. Make good work that does what you want it to do.

Get ready for contradiction, complication and downright hypocrisy.

A teacher will tell you a rule one day then refute it the next. Maybe they're tired of your shit. Maybe they really believe it. You may never know but you'll probably figure out that both of the things they said are true. Two opposite but related truths can coexist and both be right. It's all about causality, and here's where hanging with Philosophy, English and Classics majors gets really fun. So get in there, mix it up, don't be dogmatic, and baste yourself in the savory juices of pluralistic ecstasy. Which is to say, “learn to hold two or more thoughts in your head at the same time.” It's not a step-by-step, singular path to completing a drawing or painting or sculpture, it's more of an advancing loop, like life.

If you don't learn to fail, you will fail to learn.

Calm down. Don't worry so much about making a great piece of art. It will become apparent when that is important. Focus on learning how to do things. Gather skills, tools, materials, experiences and ideas. Those are the things that you won't get anywhere else. Think about it the way you think about language; think about how you feel when you go to write an e-mail to someone. Good writers have a big vocabulary to help them out of a jam, to clarify, to articulate. Not every sentence is an opportunity to embellish. And most peoples first few novels, or essays or blog posts are a bit crap, but the more practice you get using the components of these finished products, applying ideas and proficiencies in a meaningful way, the better the result will be. Focus on the process, not the result. You'll be happier, feel more accomplished and ultimately have more intimate knowledge than you thought, because you weren't always looking at the goal post.

A wise woman once told me, “If you're alive now, and making art now, you are a contemporary artist.” No philosophical inquiry or aesthetic trend makes you less contemporary, factors beyond your control make you of your time. So learn the old processes. Learn what works. As this all strains through your brain, whatever comes out will be you. Same lady told me she could teach us everything she knew, and we still couldn't do what she does. Sounds mean, but it isn't. She meant that we each have a unique perspective that is refined through learning, not altered or destroyed. That shit takes time though.

Be nice.

    If during the course of your drawing class, you notice your professor starts to phone in their instruction to you, if they softball you, or they start to ghost you: Shut up. You’re being a dick. Ask me how I know this.

    Connections and friendships are important:

    College, as I learned too late, is about making connections. There are alumni magazines for a reason. Be nice to people. I know. It's hard. But this is America, and here people are nice. It'll help you later on. Nobody cares if you do a really good job, or how skilled you are if you're difficult. They'll find a reason to push you away, or out the door. Your calls will not be returned. I didn't realize that. This ain't no meritocracy! Nothing is straightforward and honest! #goodvibeseveryday, - hashtags by the way, I just... can't earnestly bring myself to use, #earnest #articulate you will never see - will get you by, or so I've heard.

    Only tenured professors, deans and distinguished alumni get to be moody. If you have to be rude, do so politely. Feed 'em a compliment sandwich and go scream into a pillow. “But art school is the place for weirdos,” I can hear you saying. Nowhere is the place for weirdos. I know because I am one. Do what you can with this information.

    Go forth and draw ... or something!

     


    While this was probably not informative, I do hope you were at the very least entertained. If you want to buy something I've made, or send me a snarky e-mail you can hit the contact tab and fill out the form. Nobody's done that yet, so hey, take a chance. Be the first.

    Thanks.

     

    -Craig

     

     

     

    SOME NOTES ON GETTING STARTED.

    I have been putting this off. My collection of dilatory tactics is vast. I have dodged and evaded but here we are. This is an essay about getting started, and I'm writing it as much for myself as for anyone else.

    The two hardest things about being an artist are starting and finishing. When you're trying to get started you are strangled by the yoke of all that came before, and when you're finishing you don't give a shit, or back again to the aforementioned yoke. You're afraid to let go of the thing, you're afraid of punctuation. But that golden spot in the middle when you have something to show your friends, something to dream about, something to come back to, that's hard to give up. So what do you do?

    MAKE A MOVE, YOU'RE A GENIUS.

    I doodle. I put implement to paper and let it wander, and see what comes out. Then I let it get complicated. And then I let it go as another idea waltzes in or saunters by. And I flip the page and start another. If it's any good I'll come back to it. Or I'll do research to fill in the gaps.

    I go through the scrap pile of drawings and collage together some stuff that can't stand on it's own but next to something else I've made it looks alright. Then I add another. Then I draw over it. Then I put it down. Then sometimes I've already drawn the missing piece for a bigger work off by itself, before I even started the bigger work. And I bring it back, do it better and find a home for this wayward doodle.

    Then I redoodle a doodle I've previously doodled, and I doodle it better. Doodle.

    To get things rolling you've got to take a shot in the dark. You've got to set up a frame of reference. Without a frame of reference, all you've got is a blank page or a lump of clay or an empty roll of film. Without doing the wrong thing, without making mistakes, how could you have any idea about what you actually want the thing to look like? Don't worry about mistakes, you'll never make the same one in the same way twice. You'll figure out new ways to mess up a thing. It's just the way it goes.

    You've got to screw it up, rough it in, and then poke it around until it's yours. Picasso did 1000 horse drawings before Guernica. He got 'em all out of his system, to get the one he wanted.

    GO WITH THE FLOW, MOTHERFUCKER.

    I go a bit blank and try to find a flow, I try to be in the moment in front of the thing. It doesn't always last long but you've just got to catch it for a minute, and see what happens. Action will go totally ape-shit on your doubts. It will go full-on berserk in the face of regrets and memories and all that nonsense. Action will pick its teeth with the bones of bullshit self-loathing. It's the way an athlete does complex physics equations in their head without actually doing physics equations, they're in the moment. They've trained for every possible situation, practiced the motions, gotten familiar with how their mind and body work to do a thing. The just follow the ball, put their hand or your stick or whatever where they think it's going and don't worry about what to do next until you get a hold of the devilish thing.

    I find it really helpful to start with things I'm not really invested in. I let the pen wander through cheap paper I have a ton of and try not to worry about how much it cost. I try not to worry about wasting it. I try to focus on the process. I try not to care about what the thing looks like at the beginning, and just be happy that I started.

    EVALUATE IT, AND TELL YOUR PAST-SELF WHAT'S UP.

    I take a look at what I've got and try to assess where it doesn't make sense. Not objective sense, I mean whether it makes sense to itself. Is that leg in the right place, does that foot make sense with that knee, does that thing work in this composition, what kind of contrast do I need to create, what's the next move. I make observations and decisions and try to get my brain to connect to the piece so it can connect to my hand and do what my brain told it to do. I try to keep things rolling, evaluate too long and you'll go in circles. Don't focus too much on one spot for too long or you'll lose the whole thing. Find a bit of balance. Remember it's a process. OBSERVE, TAKE ACTION, EVALUATE, REPEAT

    GREAT. THIS DIDN'T GO AS I PLANNED.

    But, the thing doesn't always come together. Sometimes the golden goose takes a shit. But putting yourself in the position to make things, to work, is important. I find that most artists, myself included have no trouble getting in their own way, so let your art get in your own way: Leave your stuff out, fill your bag with pens and sketchbooks, be the Mary Poppins of art supplies, or something. If you are tripping over paints for a month, eventually you're going to get sick of it, and do something with them. The point is make it easy to do your work and hard to do everything else. Don't worry about the results and focus on the process for a while. Enjoy the struggle, and learn when to stop. It takes practice to really take a studio day to an extreme. And even then, those extreme days I'm usually working on half a dozen things at once. Bit of time here, bit of time there, it all comes up bit by bit. You've got to go at whatever pace you can go, and get whatever you can out of wherever you are, say you did your bit, and put it down. It is an abysmal process. It means you write 10 pages to get 1. Crisis is inevitable.

    DID I REALLY START THIS PAINTING 3 YEARS AGO?

    Artist students have a tendency to commit early, and artists have a tendency to leave late. An art student hangs all their hopes on the thing in front of them, and proceeds with wild abandon almost senselessly, stubbornly trying to slay the dragon. An artist knows enough to know it could be better, but lacks the sense to see that it doesn't have to be on this one. It can be on the next one that you start, or the one after that. Iteration is key. The next one will be better. Nurture a thing to a point and then send it on its merry way. Fill in whatever mud-hole it stomped in your heart and use the shape of its shadow as it's flying away to start the next one. The next one will be better. But it can't be better until you get it going, until you start chasing it.

    Have you ever seen that movie where Charlton Heston plays Michelangelo? I think it's called The Agony and The Ecstasy. But there's a whole montage in the middle of the film where Mikey and Pope whats-his-face have the same conversation over and over again. The Pope says, “When will you make an end?!” Mikey spits back, “When I'm finished.” And the whole thing is meant to glorify the artists commitment to making something great, to romanticize the struggle of making something you think is good. Plays great for drama, but it's bad for business. Unlike the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel, you're probably not working on a masterpiece. Finish by saying, “The next one will be better.” .

    Stick it out as long as you can. You don't have to be thrilled when it's over. But you should be relieved.

    Don't ask for forgiveness, don't forget what you learned, just say fuck it and see if you get closer on the next one. Just make sure there's a next one. So get started.

     

    While this was probably not informative, I do hope you were at the very least entertained. If you want to buy something I've made, or send me a snarky e-mail you can hit the contact tab and fill out the form. Nobody's done that yet, so hey, take a chance. Be the first.

    Thanks.

     

    -Craig

     

    Actual note from my studio wall to remind me that bad days are still days.

    Actual note from my studio wall to remind me that bad days are still days.