My Portfolio

I’ll leave it to others, preferably sometime after I’m dead and even less likely to be concerned about it that I am now, to determine whether I’m a real artist or writer. No doubt there are, and will be, many who are dubious that I am a real person, for that matter. But it’s of little consequence, as long as I believe I exist. There’s room enough in my delusion for a number of delightful companions, and as long as I am happy in my imaginary world, all is well. But I will stake a small claim that, whether as a real artist or writer or a mere fantasist, I’ve been making art and writing stuff for as long as I can remember.
Photo: Portfolio 1

I think it unlikely that much of either kind of output will ever be considered especially valuable by others. I don’t flatter myself so far as to think that a large quantity of my work in visual or verbal invention is more than a passing amusement even to me, so there’s no reason to believe that the rest of the viewing and reading world will be so moved by my thrilling creations as to consider it important. And I don’t worry about that.

After all, I am as ephemeral as all persons of the human persuasion are, and thus unlikely to be troubled by anything lasting after I’m dead. I’m not one to concern myself with my epitaph (although I’ve written dozens of silly couplets and quatrains that would more than suffice in summing me up for a headstone, so that’s taken care of already if it worries you) or my legacy. The latter, I hope, will be to not have left too much of a mark on the world when I’m gone, but rather have trod on it fairly lightly, as these things go.

But because I am alive in an era when a veteran introvert like me can now also easily ‘go public’ without the great anxiety-production that comes from real world interaction with other humanoids, and in order to keep myself motivated to enjoy my practice of art and writing as much and as long as I can, why then: I am; therefore, I blog. Inevitably, others will feel it incumbent upon them to critique. Thankfully, the most succinct and practical form of critique in the digital age is first, to ignore, and then, Delete. So if anyone finds my work offensive or ugly, or just plain tedious and tiresome, their best defense of their tender eyebulbs and precious time is to run away from my website and never darken its portals again. I take the grand liberty of assuming that anyone who comes here does so unforced, and is free to go galumphing off in a cloud of huffiness when and if that suits them, and has therefore no cause to chastise me with wasting their life-energy here.

Photo: Portfolio 2

Meanwhile, having this platform for self-training and/or self-amusement, I go on producing new posts, new drawings and photos and poems and fictions and musings and digital collages daily and to my heart’s content.

But I consider that my portfolio is more than just a blog. It’s more than all of the art and writing and publications and stashed-away unshared works of my lifetime thus far and to the end of my days, whenever that will be. My true portfolio is all of the inspirations and ideas and inventions from the alpha to the omega of my lifespan, plus every experience and dream, study and accident, fear and hope and longing that led to those works of my brain and hands. And most of all, it is the collected community of friends, teachers, icons, playmates, correspondents, counselors, and loved ones who have moved, and continue to move, me to pour out this satchel of tricks and treats by which I will leave what little mark I do make upon the universe before I go.

Fugue State in the Studio

It’s not always the case, but sometimes I find that I can lose track of time and self rather thoroughly when I’m deeply engrossed in making art. Writing even a simple email can take ages, if it’s about something or to someone I consider important; an essay or poem can take hours or days, if I get involved and forget where I am. It’s a bit like driving a familiar route; when I’ve been on the same track enough times, I am occasionally startled to realize that I don’t remember passing through the last number of miles, because my brain is so used to noting what is or isn’t as it’s expected and supposed to be that it operates nearly on autopilot, though thankfully if I examine my memory I can indeed recollect noticing real details along that ostensibly missing section of the trip. With making visual images, I can (and sometimes, I think, absolutely should) let go of and turn off my editorial mind for a good period of the work time. If I’ve practiced enough and prepared enough, inwardly, for a session of art-making, letting my attention take a back seat to my instincts and actions before returning to critical mode is at the very least going to produce some worthwhile, thought-provoking, challenging Stuff that will either lead directly to an artwork or, as a bit of not so fabulous yet earnestly glimmering potential, lead to something on the next try.

No matter how that part of the process goes, I’m quite sure that an easy 90% of what I do to make art, whether it’s textual or visual, happens internally and not externally, so it’s no wonder if I wander off at times.Digital illustrations from photos + text: Work Patterns

The Seal of Approval

What shall I say when I am asked my opinion and I think it would be best not to give it? I feel a little like I should perform a circus act, give the impression of cheery appreciation while keeping the less charming truth to myself. Not a little, really–I think I’m actually quite the liar at heart when it comes to people asking for information I’m pretty sure they would not actually like to receive. There are indeed those who want an honest and purposeful breakdown of the situation in question, but they are in my experience rather few and far between. In real, day-to-day life, what people are generally seeking is reassurance and affirmation, encouragement and support, not really a critique, when they ask for opinions.

So excuse me if I put on my happy face and do a little tap-dance of diversionary niceness when asked. If it’s strictly entertainment you seek, I’m here for you and will do my little tricks as best I can, but I hope you won’t decide to ask me for any touchier information. The only thing I’ll willingly admit your pants make look big is my discomfiture on hearing the question.photo

Art, Before & After

graphite and markers on wood panel

Today, another little glimpse of artful goofing to re-imagine an existing piece of my work. I almost never tire of reworking/revisiting my old artworks from time to time. In part, it’s a way to critique and edit my stuff and see how I can grow and change over time. Mostly, it’s just good technical practice–a little bit of re-training my eye and hand and, when I get lucky, learning a new skill or two. In this instance, I took another of my pipeshade designs done in 2007 in preparation for Martin Pasi’s carving the wooden screen panels for his Winnetka instrument and I did some Photoshop playing with it to turn a pair of the panel designs into a merged single image and then ‘hand coloring’ it digitally to redefine it as a wholly new looking picture.

The whole Winnetka project was based on the church’s part of the collaborative team’s desire to have their organ artwork reflect local character. Since Congregational churches don’t tend to wish to fill their worship spaces with traditional religious iconography but rather prefer a more generally meditative space, so it made sense to aim for a design more simply nature-based and reflective of regional beauty. I decided to incorporate some of the Illinois state symbols into the design. This pair of panels featured the state bird, Cardinalis cardinalis–the Northern Cardinal. Is a cardinal too religious a symbol? Oh, that’s right: not a Roman Catholic church. Okay, cut me some slack.

Not really necessary to elaborate, is it. I just decided to show you the Before and the After versions today, and dispense with the intermediate steps–they’re not entirely thrilling to see, being a series of steps mainly devoted to converting the graphite drawing to a crisp black ink-outline appearance (only moderately laborious with the help of Photoshop) and then using my digital ‘coloring crayons’ to fill in the blanks to create a full-color version. This time, I opted for something much more cleanly graphic than yesterday’s reworked image. Who knows what happens next time? That, in fact, is the fun of both making art in the first place and then, in having the option of revising it, maybe even more than once. Can you say, mercurial? Nahhh, we know that I’m still just a big kid with a short attention span. No need to dress it up. I’ll just spend the dress-up energy on the art, if you don’t mind too much.digital artwork from an original drawing on wood panel