Smiles, I Artist

The obligation attached to being an Artist is to make things. Take something and make something else. I like collage in this way because it gives something different from the original materials.

Fish Fossil 1

Just “different” is not enough.  Only to a certain extent do I “know” what I am making. I received a lot of encouragement over the years, however, I still hear, “What’s that mess going to be?” I typed the words but not the quote, because it was not so easy on the eyes.

Girl with green case 1

I gave up on what I was working on, even on Art more times than not. I had many un-finished drawings, ailing canvases, and un-used materials.  I put it up to impatience, but it was the message about the “mess” that came through later, without many smiles.

Now that is not so much the case. Now I power through the “comments” people make at classes or out in the public or when I share a sketch book with someone who is curious.

I usually hole up in the studio or somewhere private to draw.  I took some inspiration from allies and took the minimal kit to a public spot and drew.

“What’s that you’re doing? You’re an artist!” Now I’m surrounded by seven to eleven-year old people craning to see into my books and wanting to see more.

Aldo iPhone unflipped

The more of my drawings I show them the more they are delighted. They smile a lot, all the way up into their eyes.

Now I sort of know what Art I’m making.

I’m making Smiles.


Mallory, First Year Teacher, Makes a Chair

Colorful Chair

Mallory you are already extra-ordinary as first year teacher in a new school– that kind of new as in it has just been built new. How do I know you are already exceptionally impressive, because you are seeking to make your own brand, something recognizable and memorable, and most telling, your trademark has meaning.

You looked at me and started the conversation with a question, “Are you a painter?”

I was in the art supply part of a big box store. I had brushes and paints in my basket.

I thought, being a painter is what I used to hear around the holiday dinner table when the folks referred to how someone in the family earned their daily bread. I smiled at the old-timey reference.

I said, “I am an artist.”

“That’ll do.” You were emphatic and asked me about painting a chair.

Painting a chair? A 3-D chair you sit on or one in a painting?

You smiled that teacher smile. You are good, very good.

You wanted your classroom chair to be special, to stand out. It was a rescue from a thrift store and you knew you could make it sparkle.


Because you will love what you will be doing, teaching, so much in a chair that is full of colors and shapes. It will engage the students’ imagination. It will also make a statement that the learning space is a special space. Therefore, you pupils must be so special too.

It’ll give you a certain dignity too.

Dignity and charm, two good allies for those who dare to teach others.

Mallory, I see you sitting on a stage in your special colorful chair in fifty-years surrounded by your pupils and former pupils. They will be honoring you for your service as a fantastic teacher, a role model of the highest quality.

You will begin your speech recounting your years as a teacher by telling your admiring audience, “Let me tell you about my chair and how I made it.”

You will tell them about your fabulous chair and your extraordinary life.

And they will marvel at you all the more.

I am pleased I was able to marvel at you when we had our brief conversation and how we searched for just the right colors for your chair. I enjoyed your vision and your ideas. How creative you are.

Thank you, Mallory. You touched something in my soul.

Produce Art

It is fine to describe my work to others using verbs. Artists are people. We’re into artistic production; we bring ‘stuff’ forward, into the real world from the imagination. We produce.

  • I sculpt.
  • I create.
  • I design.
  • I paint.

If the conversation goes beyond a one syllable response, “Oh,” the follow-up question, if I get that far, is:

  • What sort of sculptor?
  • What do you paint? What type of painting?
  • Let me see your stuff?
  • Why have I never heard of you?
  • No way? You? Making things?

Next, I receive their advice, “Isn’t it wiser to focus on one sort of Art?”

  • I answer, “I produce results with my Art whatever my materials happen to be at the time.”
  • So you’re a Producer. They are convinced I’m in the movie business.

So the conversation switches to the script they’ve written. It’s pretty good. A mystery.

And I listen. Because I owe them one.

Footprints in sand

Make something with materials at hand

Being a Scrounger

It’s been two days since I’ve picked up any interesting junk. I have a deep respect for found objects.

I started June 2016 with a few loose nuts and bolts.

  • I had peanut butter jars on hand
  • Put the nuts in one jar– bolts in another
  • On a shelf

When I go through my shelves of junk for an Art project it’s almost like birthday opening presents.

Junk in Plastic Boxes

Locks, Keys, Bits, Pieces

In May I opened my bins and shelves to my friends. They made a little party of it. To their credit they hauled off a lot of swag.

That is why I had a few empty jars in June.

I know I should stop scrounging.

But life is so full of such interesting stuff.

Stopping Sooner


I sat down at a table with another artist.  The last three seats in the room were at our table all the way “up front”. I was present for an “artists advisory” exercise that was supposed to help me overcome some of my obstacles and they featured Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Two for one is good in my book.

Our project was to make a fifteen minute sketch. Use a provided reference or not. At the end of the time we were to trade drawings and go into critique mode.

I fill up Field Notes notebooks with drawings. Sometimes I doodle in what is supposed to be my writing journal. It’s automatic I am going to draw.

I imagine typography or logos on handouts and napkins while I wait for my food.

That day I had a bad case of bashful pencil for some reason.

When time was up we traded sketches.

My table neighbor told me I over-rendered my sketch, “Try simpler pencil strokes, looser lines, and reduce the texturing.”

“But I like all of that stuff,” as if I had channeled a seven-year old whiner.

“Just like it a little less.”

So I guess I will.

Morrey Gape Mouth

Eel, graphite on paper

Keep an organized record of your work

How can I get better at my art?

I answer:

Keep an organized record of your work.

I blush a little to write this as advice. It is a short tale of personal conversion.

I used to just draw in old calendars, grid paper books, free notebooks, and anything cheap even to the point of copier paper stapled inside of manila folders. I kept moving away from storing my sketches in shoe boxes as loose pages to keeping a chronological organized sketchbook.

Why did I change? I tried an experiment on a single page. First I warmed up with some circles and ovals on “scratch” paper. Then I went into the sketch book and made a drawing in perspective. It really was garbage.

Next, I drew the object again. It was a conceptual object but it had to behave in two-dimensional space as a three-dimensional object. The second try was a little better but I took two more attempts before I thought I had the solution or all the wrinkles smoothed out. Sometimes I make my bed all neat and straight the first time. Most times I make adjustments to make it look as good as possible without obsessing.

Then, I drew a “best of the lot” drawing that still wasn’t perfect but it reflected what I saw in my mind. Thank you Aristotle I’ll keep trying thank you very much. Yeah, Plato is in the back of the room throwing gang signs. I’m not shooting for perfection. I don’t want a mess either.

The “best of the lot” made a good enough drawing so I could make a decent rendering from it that followed the rules. And yes, it was fun. Now I have a record of my struggle with the form which makes my sketch book like a laboratory notebook and I can refer to it when I want to learn more or show someone that the struggle is what an artist must overcome to grow.

Art is practice. Practice is patience, usually with you. When I saw how far I had come in just one page it opened my eyes. I have a record. I do not dwell on making comparisons. It’s just one more project in the notebook.

Haunted Places, Part 3

[The last bit of “Haunted Places”]

Part 3

I’ve written in another place, “Don’t you just love the sound of children playing in the hall. But then. You stop. And realize. You live alone.”

I have experienced noises in other parts of the house when Bonnie, a terrier, is sitting beside me and we’re alone. A chair scoots across hardwood floor. It makes that sound.  In a fairly modern home doors sometimes swing shut, but a closed door swings open makes me look up to see who has come home only no one is there.

Bonnie watches movement in her attentive protective behavior, low throaty growl as she lifts her head from the braided rug then she looks at me in what amounts to a flash of self-conscious awareness (yes dogs are sentient beings) that borders on embarrassment. She lowers her head and continues napping.

Living with unpredictable entrances, a bit of hovering, and then a poof-they-are-gone departure has been so much the norm I feel as if I’ve missed something in long periods of inactivity and long for foot-falls, creaking doors, hovering entities, or mildly annoying pranks. It’s as if the departed ones are demonstrating they still have a presence with the living, but more likely they’re saying, “We see you.”

As I started describing my creative, funny Aunt who was forever the center of attention at séances and “after-hours” parties I will end with her. She made a rather “dress for dinner” and sometime dour group livelier. She is sadly missed but powerfully alive in my memory and especially in that little cranial crevice– a powerhouse in my mind, known as my imagination. So when I want to be like her I go into that wardrobe of my imagination and enter laughing as Auntie would have, well in my own clothes.

Perhaps it is so, if one can be “forever the center of attention”, I hope when I visit living family members in future they’ll be receptive and delay dialing Ghost Busters or perhaps give me the guest bedroom, the small one, with the pretty view of the graveyard.

[I’ve categorized this section to include “Backgrounds”. I am not sure what that means at present or if I will use the classification again but I “felt” it to be a proper heading. So I went with it. Your suggestions for a more fitting “Category” will be most appreciated.]