Areas of transition
Nothing lasts forever. But some things take forever.
Splitting the difference
I work remotely as a user experience designer, and have been remote full time since the pandemic. My day job desk is in the same space as as my art-making desk. It’s just “Dad’s studio” around the house, but from 8-5 Monday through Friday, it’s my office where I am currently managing a small UX team and fixing a website for a state department in Louisiana. There is a constant battle for the purpose of my 12’ x 24’ workspace in my mind. Some days I see more of my drawing table behind me in the background of my Zoom meetings than I do by actually sitting there making work. Currently there is a mix of drawing and soldering equipment covering my drawing space - I was soldering some contact mics for a musical experiment, and left everything out, and now it’s all a mess and I’m letting said mess prevent me from making drawings.
Visit my art shop?
On top of the distracting mess is a lingering feeling that I’ve tapped out the experimentation phase that I told myself I could stay in since the early fall. I’ve felt distant from painting for several years. I spend too much time on my computer during the weekday to want to log on at night to finish mixing tracks, or work on the artist book I want to finish. I gave myself permission to not feel pressure to do any “real work” for all of 2023 in order to figure out what was next. Drawing has been my refuge for at least 3 years. It is an easy and simple exploratory way to work. There is so much freedom in a giant stack of thick paper and an endless supply of Ticonderoga #2 pencils. But lately it’s started to feel boring and repetitive. I feel myself at the end of this current phase of whatever the hell is going on, but without clarity of what the next phase will be.
Elsewhere in life, my kids are all shifting in their stages of growth, our financial situation is shifting (for the better for the first time ever), and my wife and I are starting to talk about the next 10 and 20 years of our lives. I’m also winding down my time with Eugene Contemporary Art, which has been a constant project in my life since I helped co-found it 12 years ago. This week in particular there is a lot swimming around in my mind, and it feels as if EVERYthing is in transition. Nothing is decided. All plans are all floating two feet off the ground.
But back to the art-making…
I know what I need to do to get the next phase. In this order:
Clean the studio
Reset my schedule for dedicated studio time during the week.
Gesso the pile of surfaces I know I want to paint on
Identify a set of elements from my drawings that I know I want to work with in my paintings.
Number four is an interesting one, and kind of represents this unsettled, transitory space cluttering my mind. Out of the few hundred drawings from the last few years, only a small handful of them are any good (a.k.a exhibition worthy). Almost all of them contain some elements I don’t like. For a long time I thought my next phase of painting would end up being from elements in my drawings that I do like - especially some of the images that I’ve been writing about. But a couple weeks ago I was having lunch with a fellow artist and I mentioned that I didn’t like a lot of marks in my drawings and she pitched the idea of indexing and cataloging everything in my drawings that I hated as a piece or project. I laughed at first. I imagined myself doing an archeological excavation of my drawings and carefully labeling and numbering each icon or shape. It sounded terrible.
But I’ve found myself so used to the things that I do like in what I’ve been drawing that I don’t actually feel much of anything towards them. Now I wonder if making work out of the things I hate is the more interesting path. When it comes to artwork I’ve always felt it’s better to feel something than to feel nothing. Even if that something is dislike or hatred.
The only way to know if this is interesting to begin.
Last week Free Static was a guest on the legendary Mike Watt’s podcast “The Watt from Pedro show.” My mind is still pretty blown. If you know, you know. If you don’t know, Mike Watt was the founding bassist of the massively original and influential punk band The Minutemen. And then the band Firehose. And then such a long and amazing discography (he played with Iggy and Stooges in the mid-2000s as well) that its hard to wrap your head around.
Watt has been producing this show since the early 2000s. It started as a radio show and remains very radio-like - It’s three hours of music broken up with sections of interview. He’s a riot and a really curious guy who plays music from every genre you can think of, and then a lot that you didn’t even know existed. He plays a bunch of our music and asked us back once our new record is out. Wild.
Listen on his website or anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Listening to this week:
The National “The first two pages of Frankenstein”
Karlheinz Stockhausen “Gesang Der Jünglinge”
Tim Hecker “No highs”
CHEFKIRK and Crank Sturgeon’s “Nice to err with you”
Jan Jelinek “SEASCAPE - polyptych”
The Fall “The Unutterable”