Creative Freedom: what is it?

Who are we when we are not being tabulated, enticed, manipulated, or otherwise controlled? When are we free from all that entraps us? How much awareness can we muster and maintain around our ordinary attention, our most sacred resource? How can I use the “season of giving” to give myself and others freedom? Are we able to unlock our own cages and walk out freely?

I was captivated by these excerpts from Life Style by Bruce Mau. Published in 2000, and ringing loudly true 18 years later.

“Designers today experience a condition of ambiguity and compromise: building, aiding, and abetting the global image economy seem inevitable consequences of our work. Prospects of that condition changing seem remote. Nonetheless, our obligation to exploit the situation is compelling, provided, that we are willing, given our position, to recognize the potential of radical contradiction and to take an eagerly opportunistic posture in looking for the openings that appear before us.

What I am attempting, in response to the torrential acceleration of the global image economy, is engaged design. Engagement means enlisting all the restrictions, conditions, and limitations of the context in which we work. It means taking on the background, like it or not, and bringing it to every foreground. The question we have to ask is: What is our relationship to this beast?”

“Contrary to the popular maxim, the digital age does not behave like a revolution, but its opposite. An apparently predatory totality surrounding us. And yet, it is transforming human capacities for communication, for environmental reform, for productivity and creativity. Every aspect of the global image economy is darkly problematic, yet every aspect of it also carries a potential for human reinvention. If the accelerated image -production technologies have saturated society, the have also put image -making capability into the hands of non professionals. Technology has miniaturized the image-making process”

“If freedom can be defined as the ability to apply one’s energy to objects of one’s own choosing, then our attention, our time, and our energy-our most precious human resources- ought to be guarded jealously. The onus is on us to devise attitudes, postures, flexible, and imaginative strategies to exploit the situation.

Every gesture we make now is cinematic becuase it gets swept up into a swift sequence of gestures that precede and follow it. The condition of montage, as Eisenstein so radically conceived it, has become the condition of our culture. No single gesture can be preserved from that condition, none can be regarded as completed or closed. Every gesture is held to a context in which it is made. And the context is moving and absorbing so fast that new gestures constantly have to be invented. No matter how bleak the situation into which we have been thrown by the global image economy, it offers opportunities - we need only invent them. By understanding our living and working context, we open - even if only temporarily-avenues of liberty not yet charted or even explored. ”

Big messy layers

I'm making a big wet colorful mess today. Sometimes I make smooth neutral early layers, and sometimes bright and sloppy seems like the way to go. This may be a case of art imitating life- my three small children are nothing if not bright, colorful, and messy! 👍👶👶👶🎨🌈💦 after this dries, I'll figure out what to do next. Maybe collage? I'll probably try to sharpen it up with more detail.


Process notes

I had an idea yesterday, started working on it today. Curious to see how the idea will change as I get it down on paper. It's a meandering process of expanding the idea and then editing for clarity and focus. And making it look 'right' to me. Every day I get a new little idea to try.

I'm working on being mindful of the amount of clinging I do to making the image 'perfect' which for me sometimes translates to tight and crowded. Like if I just make enough marks tiny enough and am obsessive enough about their perfection, I will end up with an interesting image. Sometimes this works.

But sometimes it stifles the energy in an image and creates a needlessly complex space.

I've also been thinking about what types of art I want around me in my own home. This is a different angle than I usually consider when I'm making images. I'm usually considering just what my imagination offers in the moment, not necessarily the end result in a space. It was so frowned upon to make 'decorative' fine art in school that I hesitate to even broach the subject, but I think that's an element of the work that should be considered. I want to make images that work for people in their daily environment, bringing some inspiration, mystery, and beauty to the daily grind.

I was thinking about what types of images I want around me in and here's a list of those qualities for me at the moment









I think that I may try to gently guide my new work in this direction. However, if there's one thing I know about myself, I tend to say one thing about what I intend to do at the start of a project, and then I'll make something else entirely. I'm not sure if this is a flaw or a strength.

There's something that happens when I'm making an image: the problem solving and thinking takes place while I'm making marks. I get consciously focused on each mark, but there's some other unconscious force guiding the image making as a whole. It suggests the ideas, and I put them on paper and then we go back and forth until it feels done.

The less I'm thinking the better, I guess. The more lost I get in the making of each part of the image, the more it will succeed as a whole.

I can't separate the process of figuring out what the image will contain, and actually making the parts. The two processes are completely entangled.


Turned A Corner. Wallpaper. Lists. Digressions. Songs.

Turned a Corner. 22x30. Colored pencil, acrylic gouache, collage on Rives BFK. 2014.

Turned a Corner. 22x30. Colored pencil, acrylic gouache, collage on Rives BFK. 2014.

I just made this drawing and thought it might make a nice wallpaper, so here are some files you can download. And if you like to read stuff about stuff, there's more stuff after this. 

1280x800  1440x900  1680x1050  1920x1200  2560x1440 

 iPad  iPhone 5  iPhone

I've been making a lot of lists lately. I've always liked them, but they are starting to seem essential lately.  I probably have at least 10 active lists going. Three or four in the kitchen, one by my computer in my studio, a few on my phone, some in my sketchbook, and then all the ones in my head that I haven't written down yet. Most of them are mundane things or big things that need to be done to get ready for our next baby. Like shopping for a minivan since we will have three kids in car seats soon. And getting more celery. And finding the play food I bought for our daughters a year and a half ago. Could be anywhere in the towers of boxes lining the edges of our basement.

It might be nice to make some lists that are less pragmatic now and then. For instance, yesterday happened to be a great day to hear songs I actually like while running errands. I'm not the snobbiest of listeners, so it wasn't really about taste as much as nostalgia, and hearing those songs connected my past with my present in an inspiring way.  I heard a lot of songs that I have 'history' with.  So, one idea for a non to-do list might be to write down all those songs that I can remember from yesterday and put them on a playlist. And maybe make some notes about the songs. It might be fun to share with my kids one day. 

I digress. My biology teacher in high school used to say that a lot. 

Here's a list of things about this drawing that might be interesting to some of you: 

1. The lines that look like fold lines are from tiling multiple scans together. I have a regular letter size scanner, so if I want to scan a big image I tile everything together. My scanner is from the year 2000.  This whole process feels very dated, but I haven't found a better solution yet if I want a super crisp image of my image right this second. I left the shadows because I liked them on this piece. Its digitally enhanced I guess. 

2. This idea came to me in a way that felt very immediate and spontaneous. However, I think I am at the point creatively where ideas that feel immediate and spontaneous have been stewing for a while. To extend the cooking analogy: the ingredients have been in my imaginary pantry for a while, and now and then a new concoction turns up using the same old stuff. 

3. I love drawing on paper. Its like a favorite pair of sweatpants. So comfortable. Especially right now for some reason. 

4. There is something about the spatial illusion in this drawing that I really love. It feels flat, yet dimensional at the same time. 

5. I'm not sure about the lower right corner. 

6. I like that there is a lot of breathing room in this piece. It probably reflects the sense of relaxation and refuge I feel when I'm making images at the moment. There is a lot of stuff and noise and detail and busyness around me at the moment, and I'm learning to let my work be a form of relaxation. 

7. I might add this image to an online sale that might happen before my baby is born.  I will make announcements here and there online if that is the case. 

Observations about observational painting.

I'm working on a painting idea that involves observational painting - ideally in my imagination there are photo realistic components in the image. I'm getting started, just a couple hours in and wanted to share a few thoughts/notes to self: 

Observational drawing seems to overlap quite a bit with mindfulness/meditation practice.  

It is a constant process of noting how you perceive something, and then realizing how far off your perception is, and then adjusting and re-recording. There seem to be an infinite number of refinements that can be made to bring my notes closer to the reality that I see. 

What I see is always changing even if I am looking at the same thing. 

Nature/life is far more beautiful and amazing when I slow down and really look at it, and see how much I am missing. 

I like that there is a feeling of progressing towards some concrete visual goal, but I also like that this concrete place will be within the more open unpredictable space of my typical painting style. 

Parallel Worlds opens Thursday February 6

I'm thrilled to announce the opening of my show with Andrea Wan and Sandra Dieckmann. 


Parallel Worlds
with Andrea Wan and Sandra Dieckmann
Compound Gallery, Portland
February 6 - March 1, 2014

Opening Reception: Thursday February 6 from 7:00 - 10:00 pm. 

If you would like to see a preview of the work, please sign up for my newsletter.  The work will be online for the general public sometime later this week.

Thanks for all your love and support. 

Seeing, thinking, and drawing.

I plucked a few quotes from A Short Guide to Writing About Art by Sylvan Barnet.  Just picked this up last night. Pairs well with back to school season. 


"A picture is not thought out and settled beforehand. While it is being done, it changes as one's thoughts change. And when it is finished, it still goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it. A picture lives a life like a living creature, undergoing the changes imposed on us by our life from day to day. This is natural enough, as the picture lives only through the man who is looking at it."  

 - Conversation with Christian Zervos, 1935, reprinted in Picasso on Art , ed Dore Ashton (1972) 


"No two people see the external world in exactly the same way.  To every separate person a thing is what he thinks it is- in other words, not a thing but a think"

 - Penelope Fitzgerald, The Gates of Angels  (1990)


 "To know what you want to draw, you have to begin drawing" - Picasso

Wishing you peace and productivity.