These are five portraits from an evening with one of my regular collaborators.

That same night I also experimented a bit with some new drawing techniques. This first sketch is the normal pastel on paper:


And this one is pastel on canvas, with some amount of using a water-wet brush as a blending medium:


The chalk on canvas felt good to lay down. I’ll be experimenting with other liquid mediums in combination with pastel dust soon.


A hazard of not waiting for the perfect is that you sometimes end up with the good on inferior materials.

This started life as a series of four overlapping warm up sketches on a three foot piece of photo background paper. I’ve been cutting up this old roll of white background paper as it got too damaged and creased for its original purpose, but there are lots of stretches that are perfectly clean. To practice working larger (working large was the whole reason to start leasing an actual studio space to begin with) this paper has been pressed into duty.

By the time I realized I had something here that would be worth completing it was too late. So I’ll finish it on this and preserve it as best I can.

This one is likely to get much more elaborate, so there will be more updates.


You have to get out of your own way.

I do this when I’m frustrated. I take two different colored pastel sticks, hold them sideways, look at a subject and very quickly scrape away with both hands at the same time.

In my head I call this “rubbing one out” because I’m still 14 years old in there.

It’s actually amazing how well proportioned and recognizable these messes are. If I were trying deliberately, with only my right hand and a lot of concentration, it would likely take me over an hour to get the relationship between her arms, her body and the bottle correct.

By handicapping myself I make deliberation impossible. My conscious brain cannot control both hands at the same time in this activity. It can only sit there and watch as some crazed homunculus yanks on my radial nerves from deep in its midbrain oubliette.

That little creep sure can draw.

Sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, stress and sitting in a chair all day.

These are the opposites of the very few basic skills that should be mastered early in life, but somehow I didn’t. As a result, most of my creative efforts, requiring some amount of focused energy, just collapse into scribbles.

Take this picture.

orange green

It was intended as an attempt to get at some of what Kent Williams has got going so terrifically here:

Kent Williams

and sure, it needs more time, it was only an hour or so sitting, it’s pastel on paper not oil on linen, on and on. But mostly it’s me, exhausted.

I’ll be travelling over the next few days, so I’ll post more of these collapsed attempts over the next several days.

This is a short video of the preparations for a photoshoot Push and I did a few months ago. She wanted to use the photos as promotional material and I wanted to play with the camera and video editing. This is what we came out of it with.

Here is my favorite of the photos we made:


the dapper dead

This is your host, all hallowed up.

Performing on stage for many years made it very clear to me how beautiful the lost moment can be. You had to be there. It only happened once. This handful of people has come together and made something that feels true using their bodies and two hours of shared time, burned up and gone. They walk away with a fading green blur in their retinas. They’ll tell others, but those won’t really understand.

When you watch a video of a live performance it’s always terrible. Because the camera is not your eyes. That performance isn’t happening on stage, it’s in the whole room. Where your eyes wander, the way sound surrounds you, the emotions of people on all sides are the performance. The people on stage are conductors. The symphony is in your nerves.

That can’t be recorded. It lives as long as you all stay there breathing your souls into it. When you walk out the door it dies.

Art is better when it can die.

I used to tell people that if I could live forever, even if it meant being a brain in a jar, I would do it.

But we are all already brains in jars. Hooked up to an elaborate life support system that has about a one hundred year warranty. Designed for obsolescence, like God’s iPhones.

In one hundred and fifty years everyone alive right now will be dead. Most of us will not be remembered past two hundred. Nothing that we did, said or made will be of any interest to the next people. Not really. They’ll be interested in themselves, and they’ll mine the fossilized remains of our creative passions looking for validation. Same As It. Ever. Was.

If we lived ten thousand years it wouldn’t change. And ten thousand years is still nothing. A blink. For almost the whole universe there have been no minds. Right now, for a couple hundred thousand years, there are a few. At some point there won’t be any left anymore and then the universe will go on for a lot more time, maybe indefinitely, and if you somehow were to live as long as the entire species existed you’d still be lost in the incredible pit of vibrating nothing that makes it all up.

You are a shifting consensus of atoms that will dissolve and all those bits will go on to other mindless things but you will not.

That’s why you’re beautiful. Because you won’t be around much longer. Because unlike all the fragments of nonsense that were fused out of the fabric of reality that compose you, you yourself are not immortal. Your bits are. But you will die.

You are the performance that the universe is witnessing. You can’t be recorded. You can only burn.

Memento mori.

memento mori



POSTSCRIPTUM – Sometimes there is also a Zombie Abe Lincoln at your party, and you can team up with him to fight The Racist Ghosts of the Old Confederacy. So that makes it better too…

so shall I

before irene

A year ago in late August I had a vacation unexpectedly extended by the approach of hurricane Irene. I was in Manhattan visiting friends and got stuck there an extra two days when all the flights out of JFK were cancelled. I spent the 27th during the day walking around taking pictures of deserted streets. All the bridges and trains were closed, so everyone who worked on the island couldn’t make it in. It was like 28 Days Later, only instead of fast zombies there were only tourists with nothing to do. Even the shows were cancelled.

That storm didn’t amount to much. It became an opportunity to go out drinking an extra night. Some lovely things happened in the wake of that storm.

This year it’s a different story.

I’ve been following friends’ tweets as everything that was feared before Irene has come true with Sandy. Dreading the possibility that, stuck without electricity, they will one by one fall off of the web and I won’t know what happened for days.

Here’s hoping all are well. I’ll be visiting November 10th.

A little levity from a Brooklyn friend’s Instagram feed yesterday:

Instagram Photo

My friend Charlie has an exhibit of her Arduino controlled interactive wax paintings showing at Classic Cars West in Oakland through November 17th.

This is what they look like:

charlie's paintings

Click through that image to see a short video of people walking up to them. Motion sensors control lighting which changes the way these paintings look.

Let me tell you a little about Charlie. I’ve known her for a few years now. I met her in LA, but she already had an accomplished past in Chicago as a performance artist. She doesn’t have video of these performances online, but I’ve seen some of it and it was very good. The Box Show (pictured below) was fantastic. Every way two bodies could move through the space defined by a box was explored. It was geometry dancing.


She used to do these wax paintings live. Standing behind a giant sheet of upright plexiglass she would paint with wax in front of an audience. The paintings would be lit both from the front and behind, and their nature would change depending on where the light came from. When the piece was done, in front of the audience who had watched it made, she would then scrape the wax off, erasing the night’s experiment. The audience would react. People would be dismayed.

She has that kind of courage. To put impermanence in.

covered in wax

She’s been in Oakland for a couple of years now. She is a graphic designer professionally and continues to mount gallery shows of her fine art work. She is teaching two classes on encaustic painting at Wax Works West in 2013 (scroll down and look for her name as instructor to find them).

She gets why I want to spend a year in Antarctica. She will argue with you about interactive design and, if I’m lucky, she’ll argue with me about it here for you soon. She’s true people.

If you have the chance to experience her work you should take it.