Beginning with the Very First Night

Digital illustration from a photo: Slide into NightFrom Darkness to Stars

Those distant notes of smoky, sighing dusk

That underlay and raise the early moon

Draw mystery from earth, as if its musk

Were growing far too fecund, far too soon,

To lie a moment longer there in wait

And hide the heart of what was made for strength,

The time when reinvention is so great

It imitates Creation, and at length,

Renews its potent primacy and grows,

Becomes, designs, accelerates, empow’rs

All who would build, each being here that knows,

The inspiration of the nighttime hours—

So break the stars of newness in the night

To bring from utter darkness brilliant light!Digital illustration from a photo: From Darkness to Stars

Spaceships, Time Machines, Bicycles

Photo: One for the RoadWhen I think about it, I’m amazed at how many modes of transport exist. Contrary to the fantasies popular in the middle of the past century, we’re not all traveling in levitating cars and being atomized and reassembled on opposite sides of the world. But it’s still fiction-worthy stuff that emerges when I realize we’re within reach of fully self-driven cars and can already travel at light speed, drive under the sea, and fly to the moon and, yes—more importantly—back again.

Fiction, however, has always outstripped real-world progress, as well it should. If we don’t imagine it first, how can we build it? If we didn’t travel thus in dreams, what chance would there be of our ever doing so in life?

I have invented an item or two in my time, but my ingenious machinations have never yet been realized in concrete form, at least those unrelated to my art. Still, I hold dear the idea that ideation is the necessary precedent of exciting discoveries and meaningful inventions. As silly as they may seem, then, I’m unlikely to quit developing my odd creations of the imaginary sort.

Who knows what journeys might someday spring from them?Digital illustration from photos: Time Machines

Portals

Photo montage: Portals 1Every doorway, every window, every gate is a portal to adventure. It may well be that those  portals are locked when I approach. More often than not, I find that it’s I who locked them up, who put impediments in my own way. That is the price of fear, of laziness, and of self-doubt. What holds me back or shuts me out is rarely an insurmountable obstacle; it’s me, often and only me. If I want to grow and change, learn and progress, it’s up to me to find the openings I most want to explore, and challenge the barriers with all my might. If I can’t find the key, I should make one. And frankly, if I can’t do that, I should probably make some adventures of my own and not bother waiting for the right portal to appear. Knock, knock! Life calling!Photo montage: Portals 2

Building Dreams

Dollhouses were for other girls. I preferred to design my fantasy floor plans and build them out of cardboard and found objects in the built-in bookshelves in the upstairs bedroom. I built them for dolls if those happened to be handy, but since I wasn’t ever a huge fan of dolls except as handy models for my model homes or as fashion models for my clothing and costume designs, my time and energy were more happily spent on the architectural fantasies and the drawings that led to them.

There was never any hope of building the real-world, full-scale versions of any of these, since I started as a young squirt whose whole bankroll comprised a few allowance installments, then grew up (a little) into an arty type, yet another iteration of the sort never meant to have large hunks of cash lying around. I never stopped loving buildings and the magnificent, marvelous pleasures of dreaming up all of the different ways to make interior and exterior spaces work beautifully for all of the different people and purposes I imagine in them. As I grew, my methods leaned less toward bookshelf usurpation and more toward drawings and particularly, toward inner design: one of the ways to soothe myself to sleep when my brain is too hyper for relaxation is to choose a specific kind of building, close my eyes, and try to work out every tiny detail of it in my mind. Eventually, that usually leads to the perfect combination of dozing off and waking up with some new inspirations, often enough ones that can be applied to other things than mere mental building construction.

Just because I’m realist enough to know how unlikely it is that I’ll ever afford to build a dream house in reality doesn’t mean that there’s nothing purposeful in my fantasizing. I’ve invented all sorts of dandy details that would make the constructions more ecologically sound, longer lasting, easier to change and update over time, simpler to construct, more affordable, energy-efficient, attractive in a number of styles, and flexible for multiple users’ needs. All in my head, with the exception of a few on paper and a few in the old bookshelves in Mt. Prospect.

Anybody who has a pile of money just sitting around all unloved and unused and wants to contribute to the construction of my living-&-arts community complex should feel free to give me a jingle. Barring that, I will happily continue sharpening my mental prowess as a developer of mental real estate. Come on inside, if you can figure out how to join me here.photo

Anachronisms

There are advantages to being out of sync with the known, the planned and the expected. Nothing new, of course, can ever happen if someone or something doesn’t step out of line. Creativity and growth can only take wing if we allow anomalies and anachronisms. Learning doesn’t happen without forward movement and its inevitable mistakes.

So once in a while there has to be the duckling hatched in autumn or the crazy idea hatched at three a.m.

Great things are timely no matter when they occur.digital illustration

And So, Good Night

photoBedding becomes at a certain time the only allowable necessity in the list of must-have, must-acquire things: a soft, squashy place in which to drop into docile dreams and a few gentle coverings to keep the nighttime’s monsters reasonably at bay. In the great grand scheme of everything, it is plain that eventually nothing matters so much to us as a modicum of food and a good night’s sleep, and that, with the essential and desirable bits of bedding to line the nest.

These are nearly universal enough desires that I think I can safely claim they’re innate and downright laudable human compulsions. And if that’s so, why then I’m quite happy to claim that as the possessor of an extreme quantity of the urge for lengthy, peaceful sleep and lots of delicious food, in that order, ergo I must be a particularly outstanding specimen of humanity. Fortunately, this approach to a philosophical stance on my being excellent by virtue of having a notable love and appreciation for the most desired of goals is so far removed from logic as to be virtually unassailable. Unassailable, at least, by persons deeply asleep, which in this tautology we all ought to be. Therefore, I adjure you, let us all seek and dive into whatever glorious sleeping comforts we can find, and make no more pretense of being productively awake.photo

Best Hardware-Software Combo Ever

digital collageWhat? People. Easy-peasy. People, people. The most productive combination of ideas and imagination with the support structures to bring them to reality that was ever created. And hey, the human machine is able in turn to create further things. Yes, like hardware and software, among many-many-many others. What a strange invention is the human, the first ‘learning computer,’ yet so prone to errors and malfunctions and full of operational bugs that if we’d been a product, our inventor would’ve gone bankrupt in a cosmic instant.

Despite our messiness, though, we remain marvelous and surprisingly elegant machines. The thought of building structures that are not only composed entirely of living cells that, in health, constantly renew themselves and rebuild but are also able to contain and generate and synthesize and communicate intangibles like belief and imagination is quite astounding. That we creatures are able, as well, to imitate our own invention by being creative ourselves is nothing short of bizarre and miraculous.

How lucky we are, how blessed, to be–despite our fragile and somewhat freakish nature–able to be powerful and lovely in our creative ways too. How grand that we can appreciate this loveliness. And how rich and potent, above all, that we can still recognize how small and fleeting all of this goodness is in the greater scheme of invention that embraces us, our fellow living things, our world, our galaxy, our universe–and all the marvels that are yet unknown to us. We are tiny, we are mighty, and we should always be in humble awe.digital collage

The Fine Art of being Meaningless

When I was teaching, I hated grades and grading. Even more than when I was a student. I understand the desire, even the need, for being able to assess and evaluate and compare and all of that sort of thing, but my idealism would much prefer to believe in a world where people do the very best they can at whatever they are doing and that, all by itself, is grand enough. I know plenty of practical reasons why this fluffy fantasy can’t work 99% of the time in reality but it certainly never affected my intense dislike of the whole quantitative approach, most especially when it had to be applied–as empirically and evenly as possible, of course–by yours truly in some areas that are arguably quite subjective.

So I set up criteria as clearly as I could and identified particulars of skill, technique, fact, synthetic application of knowledge and so forth that I considered worthy of the study, and took what measures I could to insure that all students got equal access to those resources and had the opportunity to learn, incorporate, express and otherwise use them. And I gave out grades. It was my job.

But in that aforementioned reality, my own version of which I quite happily embrace post-teacherhood, I am not bound by any requirement to make or evaluate anything on the basis of comparison with anything remotely real, not even the stuff of other people’s invention and making. And I must say that I do appreciate my freedom. Sometimes there’s simply nothing more satisfying than writing or drawing or otherwise making decidedly unreal, if not impossible, things for the pure fun of it. Maybe it just appeals to the rebellious kid in me. Maybe it tickles my fantastic fancy. Who knows but what a miraculous accident could happen one day and I might invent a magnificently useful Thingummy of some sort.

But that’s not the reason to make these things anyhow, now, is it? What is most pleasing of all about the creation of any object of ridiculous and pointless nothingness is the act itself. It’s a fine thing to make artwork of any kind just because one can, to enjoy the creative process without regard to the outcome’s being anything but entertaining for me, myself and I. Yes, that’s what I like. No grading, no evaluations, no need to worry about whether it’s beautiful or meaningful, let alone realistic, because this is my own reality, my own personal little world.

And you’re welcome in it, as long as you know the only rule is that there are no rules, and the only value assessment I’m after on the occasion is whether I had a good time and got some valuable yet enjoyable practice in the process of creating my little graphite universe or my textual treasury of the moment. Well, there is a second rule: you, too, should feel free to visit my place of creativity without being required to grade anything, including your own experience of the stuff, and free as well to leave without being expected to like or dislike anything. Though I sure do like it when anyone is moved by my selfless acts of ridiculousness and leaving my meaningless soul exposed in public to do the same, without fear of recrimination or evaluation, and with the infinitely happy sense that such silliness is not only permitted but encouraged in this neck of the woods. Have fun, y’all. I am.

graphite drawing

A Machine for Making Nonsense

Mystery Story No. 1

I don’t know when, where or how the first fictional mystery story came on the scene, but since I thoroughly enjoy a good puzzle of the not-going-to-affect-me-in-real-life sort, I do like a good mystery story. So sometimes I like to create mysteries of my own. Mostly, visual puzzles. Pictures that invite interpretation, participation and invention on the part of the viewer. Images that demand a second look, or a two-hundredth one, because there might be clues in there, tales to be uncovered, plots to be discovered, fun to be made from the gossamer webs of pictorial intrigue custom-made for playtime. So here, for (I hope) your delectation and mystery-mongering, is a collage created with puzzling in mind. Enjoy!

And don’t forget to tell me if you devise the novel of the century after being so deeply inspired by it. Wink, wink.digital collage

Janus, for Good or Ill

digital artwork

In every one of us there may be a little reflection of the god Janus . . .

Humans are not the only animals that can look both forward and back. But we’re the ones that choose to recognize this trait with a certain reverence and, particularly, to think we ought to make some use of it. We’re undoubtedly the only ones that impute a moral value to one or the other, depending not only on whichever we personally prefer but on what we think can benefit us or others.

We can spend our time and energies on studying, learning from, or even dwelling in the past. We can devote our hopes and plans to the ideation of what lies ahead as scientists, fortune tellers, scam artists or futurists of any sort from literary to application development. And there are certainly those among us who for whatever their religious, philosophical or preferential reasons are dedicated to keeping attention focused on the present time.

All of these approaches have their uses, to be sure. But I like to think that there’s room for a balanced use of this knowledge, these skills. In any time, there is much for us to learn. The successes and failures of the past inform present action, but keeping eyes on present action demands enough concentration that the revisiting of historical notes had best be done while not in the very act of the performance. Likewise, learning to predict, extrapolate and imagine possible improvements and variant outcomes is often the richest trove of possible new successes, but again, dreaming of these accomplishments-yet-to-come is only useful if we aren’t so immersed in them that we can’t complete the steps of today necessary to position us for the future.

We may not be the only beasts able to remember or to aspire, and are clearly not the only ones able to be completely present in the moment. But if we’re the only ones that truly care about such capabilities, why then, let us expend what effort and wisdom we’re able and see how well we can integrate the three. Only then, I suspect, will any of us ever live the fullest lives for which our many possible directions can set our courses.digital artwork