Texans are a lot like Catholics: it’s the converts who are the most fervent believers…
In the midst of the mortgage crisis, Meg and I went out and bought a house. We closed today, we move in this weekend. In the five years that we’ve known each other, we’ve never lived in anything bigger than a one-bedroom apartment. Now we both have offices, a washer/dryer, a two-car garage…it’s very surreal.
When you live with someone in a tiny apartment, you’re always in close proximity. You never see that person more than 10 or 20 feet away, because there isn’t 10 or 20 feet to gain between you. You get used to seeing them from a particular distance.
Meg and I often meet each other for lunch on campus. When I see her from far away, walking towards me, she looks like a different person—she looks like a stranger, or someone I just met. It’s like a visual refresh. (I wonder if this visual element isn’t part of the hidden magic of what self-help couples books tell you to do: meet for dinner, but take separate cars…)
I’m reminded of this passage from Dylan Horrocks’ Hicksville:
Maps are of two kinds. Some seek to represent the location of things in space. That is the first kind – the geography of space. But others represent the location of things in time – or perhaps their progression through time. These maps tell stories, which is to say they are the geography of time. […] But these days I have begun to feel that stories, too, are basically concerned with spatial relationships. The proximity of bodies.
I wonder about this proximity of bodies. I wonder how we will grow in a bigger space, with an upstairs and downstairs. How our changing spatial relationships might alter our story…
Above is a sketch of the house, superimposed over a page from William Maxwell’s wonderful short novel, So Long, See You Tomorrow.
Posting slideshows in this post because I made a ton of sketches, took way too many photos, and I don’t have the energy to pick the best images. I will say, with all love to the Montrealers out there, that I didn’t like the city as much as I thought I would. You know, there’s this thing that happens when you’re in a city, and you can tell within the first couple of hours if it resonates with you. It didn’t happen in Montreal. We just didn’t click. C’est la vie.
The food was amazing, and the used bookstores were outtasite. Tons of comics, although I HATE the format of most French language comics — those awful semi-A4-size hardcover thin albums. Ugh, they’re so tacky. But I did do some good shopping and got some great loot.
If, for some reason, the slideshows don’t work, here are links to the Flickr sets:
Had some awesome seats and great weather to see the Rangers spank the Red Sox last night in Arlington, TX: Rangers 15, Boston 8. Ate a jumbo hot dog, a ton of nachos, and my first kolache at the Czech Stop in West, Texas along the way.
There’s a bunch of great stuff you see at a baseball game, so I always try to take my sketchbook and draw a little. Meg had the camera and caught me in action:
I don’t know whether my husband is a genius or not, but he certainly has a dirty mind.— Nora Barnacle on James Joyce
Woe to you, my Princess, when I come….I will kiss you quite red and feed you till you are plump. And if you are froward, you shall see who is the stronger, a gentle little girl who doesn’t eat enough or a big wild man who has cocaine in his body.— Sigmund Freud, 1884, in a letter to his fiancee, Martha
…when one draws from direct observation, one is choosing what to leave in, what to leave out and even reconstructing elements so that the drawing will “read” better. When one draws from a photograph, the space is flattened, the camera has already selected the lines, shapes, and forms for you. When you are outside drawing a tree, YOU are choosing what is in focus, what is not—there is an exchange between subject and viewer. That is the art.— Frank Santoro
Drawn on the back porch of Bouldin Creek coffeehouse while drinking a $2 beer.
I prefer to think I’m just a man, not a poet part time, business man the rest….I’m no different from anyone else, just a run of the mine person. I like painting, books, poems. In my younger days I liked girls. But let’s not stress that. I have a wife.— Wallace Stevens
She said there ought to be one place you thought about and knew about and maybe longed for but never did get to see.— Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”
I just doodle until I find a character; you go with the one that has a certain little spark of life….After that, I really can’t force them to do anything. They know what they want to do if they’re strong characters. And they surprise you! If they want to do something, there’s nothing I can do to stop them.—James Kochalka
At last I do not know how to draw anymore!— Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) at the end of his life
Some doodles I’ve been doing with a brush and ink.
Not all of the songs I write will be good ones. Actually, a lot of them will be ridiculously bad (experience has also taught me not to show those songs to anyone for obvious reasons). But when an honest, four-dimensional, hook-filled piece of humanity is finally born, there is a clue to recognizing it’s timelessness. There is a peaceful, non-judgmental appreciation that falls over me when I hear it, a feeling — or even a knowledge — that we songwriters really had nothing to do with its creation in the first place. It’s as if we were archaeologists at a dig and all we had to do was chip away the stone and brush away the sand that hid it from view. We were just lucky enough to be in the room that day when it showed up to sing to us.—Darrell Brown, “The Three Hs (Honesty, Humanity, Hooks)“
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I met a printmaker a few weeks ago and he was going into his lengthy process, the many stages of sketches and drafts he goes through. He didn’t have a website, and I suggested that he should think about just starting a Flickr account and a blog to get himself out there, start a viewership, etc.
His response was, “I don’t want to start creating work for the internet.”
I asked him to explain.
He said, “A lot of the artists I know who start posting their stuff on the net…they start CREATING their work for the net.”
Now, as an artist who has embraced blogging whole-heartedly, at first I found this to be really, well, kind of backwards. I mean, my kind of ideal business plan for young artists these days is: embrace the net, put yourself online, create a readership, find a way to sell your stuff directly to your readership. Forget galleries, forget publishing deals.
But I have to admit: since I started blogging, my art has changed. Instead of writing short stories, I do visual poems. I’ve gone from thinking about doing a graphic novel to thinking about doing a webcomic.
It’s the nature of the beast: shorter, more visual, faster. A click of the mouse, and thousands of people can see my stuff and give me feedback.
And I wonder: is the internet helping me to think “big” or think “small”? Is using my blog as my primary artistic outlet limiting my work?
Back to the printmaker: he makes these huge, colorful monoprints—stuff that you probably can’t process on a tiny screen. How can putting it online help him and not detract from his vision?
My answer is to document the process-side of the work: the “small” stuff. The sketches, photos of the in-progress prints, etc.
But still, I wonder: does making our art live online create a temptation for us to think “smaller” not “bigger”? And as my friend Tim points out, maybe it’s not a bad thing?
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Narrative art is about storytelling in the clearest possible ways. In illustration an artist can direct what the eye sees first, second, and third. You could even parse an illustration as one would a sentence, with a subject, predicate, object, as well as adjectives and prepositions. Your eye, in about a nanosecond, may be tracked looking at the elements of “The Creation” (at Michelangelo’s firm direction) in this order: 1. The hand of God, 2. Who is a powerful and beneficent presence, 3. Who is reaching from his Heaven, 4. Surrounded by angels, 5. Touches and gives life to, 6. Adam, an ordinary guy, in the, 7. world below. The artist is in control and the picture tells a story. A very successful illustration! It is in the area of thinking in pictures that illustrators do the heavy lifting. The finishing of a piece of art is nothing compared to the struggle to get the thinking right. There must be extreme economy as well as meaning. To me where simplicity meets power is what constitutes eloquence, the big “E.” It’s the thing you work for.— Steve Brodner, excerpt from Freedom Fries
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It’s time to kill. And it’s time to enjoy the killing. Because by killing, you will make something else even better live. Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.— Ira Glass on storytelling
Sunday afternoon I went to the Ransom Center to see Jack Kerouac’s original “scroll” manuscript for ON THE ROAD. It’s quite a sight—crumbling on the edges, but still very readable. Kerouac cut drawing paper into long strips and taped it together so that he could write uninterrupted, “spontaneous” prose. The scroll is essentially non-fiction: none of the names have been changed…
“I first met Dean not long after my father died.” That’s the way the first draft begins. He later changed it to say, “I first met Dean after my wife and I split up.”
The last line of the book mentions “Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found.” That would’ve made for such great symmetry! Losing the father, searching for the father, never finding him.
What happens when you kill something good?
There’s a part in the scroll that I don’t remember reading in the book that goes like this:
My mother once said the world would never find peace until men fell at their women’s feet and asked for forgiveness….[husbands] getting drunk while the women stay home with the babies of the everdarkening future…if these men stop the machine and come home—and get on their knees—peace will suddenly descend on the earth…
Boy, do I like that quote.
I don’t crosshatch. I don’t like to put a line through another line.
— Tony Millionaire
Doodling a lot with my sumi-e brush:
And drawing on the bus with a big, fat chisel-tip marker (keeps you from being too precious with your line):
As a woodcut artist, I’ve always been attracted to black-and-white art. I think it has something to do with the rich contrasts. I love a deep rich black that you can stare into, forever. The effect is like our colorful world torn down to its base so that we can read the unerlying message. The truth is always easier to take in black and white. Typography is always more legible in black and white, so why would we be surprised to find the readability of artworks enhanced by those contrasts? Remove the grays and hues, reduce the image to lines and solid blacks, and open up the whites. You have a thing of beauty and simplicity.
Another way to understand our attraction to black and white is through the science of how we see. The human eye consists of rods and cones that process the reflected light of our world. These signals are then translated into color and form for processing by our brain. The rods, which are sensitive only to black and white, are the first components activated in a baby’s eyes. That’s why infants readily respond to high-contrast black-and-white images. We are hardwired to appreciate black-and-white artwork.
—George A. Walker, preface to Graphic Witness
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