Variations & Boundaries II - The Revenge

Small paper, two moves, do it over and over

While I was writing my last post, I remembered something. 

A long time ago - 12 years ago actually - someone gave me this tiny sketchbook. It was only about 5.5” x 3.5”. Annoyingly small. I’m particular about sketchbook sizes. I think this one was meant for an old crusty poet traveling through Europe with a whisky flask in one chest pocket, and drawings of Parisian alley dogs humping in the other. I tend to horde free art supplies, even if I don’t use them right away, or at all. Because, why? 


Though I didn’t really like the size I decided to try something so the paper didn’t go to waste. It was a small space so I made me some rules: 

1. Straight lines guided by the hard edge of an old Borders Bookstore membership card that was laying on my desk, 

2. A “free” mark, in ink, anywhere on the page.

3. The limit of how many marks I made, and where I placed them was open

I wanted to see if the process stayed interesting even with the same two elements on every page. The card had rounded corners, so that provided a bit of variation within the tool. Sometimes I’d close my eyes to make the “free” mark, sometimes I’d make a conscious choice of the placement. Smudging lines created a bit of depth. 

Think of it as a kind of drawing game. Or a journal entry using a limited alphabet to form sentences. I have this interest in the infinite possibilities of simplicity. The “how many times can I re-arrange this one thing” type of curiosity. 

The Tip Jar

I started writing this post out based on my memory of the book. Halfway through the third paragraph I had to dig it out of my drawer of old sketchbooks to see it again with the whites of my eyes. Was I even remotely close in my total recall? In my memory, I had filled the whole book, bronzed it, and placed it on a mountain top where the heavens parted and sun lit its glory and it could be seen from miles around. In reality I stopped working on it with about 20 pages to go and chucked it in a box in my studio. The idea must not have kept my interest. 

Memories can be shiny.

This week I set about completing the book. I’ve got about 5 pages to go as of this writing. My interest in it now is mostly about the journey of my own interest. I’m not sure what any of this means. You certainly can create a hell of a lot of variation out of just a couple of elements. Variations on a concept, a formal approach, material, philosophical position, presupposition, juxtaposition, or a missionary position. 

Anyway, boundaries provide creative opportunity.

Some of the pages feel like little poems. Every once in a while I see myself repeating an idea. But in retrospect it is likely that I was not looking back at earlier drawings. This makes me aware that at a certain point, the process began to feel like a chore, and I just started moving towards the goal of completion. I was no longer interested in the page I was working on. The journey was meh, and I have the patience of an 8 year old. 

I have this tendency in life as well - moving forward and not looking back. It’s been helpful in certain aspects of my life, but it is not ideal if one hopes to acheive any measure of contemplative self assessment. Or making art that keeps you interested in the moment. Instead I tend to focus on what is ahead, rarely looking back to take in what I’ve accomplished, created, or failed at, or who I pushed into moving traffic. 

Just kidding. 

I don’t fail at things.