Wednesday, September 30, 2020


I've been thinking about risk and chance operations. If I want to weave two photos together do I pick the photos without looking? When we get married we have no idea what the future may bring. We have a premonition. And then we see what happens. I photographed car lights at night while dancing through the street. My teacher (A.S.) admonished me because he said that I wasn’t a dancer and I should give my camera to a dancer and have her dance through the streets. Suppose that I decide I’m not an artist but that my wife is (true on both counts). Should I just have her do my art (she’d refuse, so this is “academic”)? So back to T.S. Eliot, “What shall we do to-morrow?
"What shall we ever do?" (Does anyone know why he left out some quotes?)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020


My graduate school classmate said that we don’t give artworks life, but rather they take on a life of their own. I really like this. Words are so approximate. Someone said that the artist is not the best expert on their work. Some artists don’t like that statement. When Robert Frost was asked to explain a poem, he said, “would you like me to tell you in other and worse language?”

This is a labyrinth day. It is a long path, and I don’t know where it will lead.

P.S. As I “meditated” today I imagined what Jackson Pollock might have done had he lived another 30 years. Would any of his work surpass what he had already done? Probably not. It was his lack of skill that gave his works their punch. If he became too good at it, his work would become couch art. I had an art history teacher who wrote a book on the 20th century. He claimed Picasso fizzled out with synthetic cubism (1914). I like the idea that we don't give art life, but rather we become witnesses as it takes on a life of its own. That is more aligned with what happens with our kids as well.

Monday, September 28, 2020



In my continuing inquiry into the creative process, I have one idea for today. I will start with a piece of paper 4”x6”, a photo, a scissors, and a stapler. I will cut out a 4-sided shape about 3/4” on each side. I’ll cut it from the back of the photo after rotating it around so that I won’t know what I’m cutting out. There is no possibility (in my mind) of having “writer’s block” with this strategy because I know that I’ll be faced with a problem after stapling the scrap to the paper. It will either be finished or something will be missing. Working with the idea that the two elements in a picture are variety and repetition, I’ll choose one or the other or both and cut out a second shape. I’ll continue this process until I can’t think of doing anything more, or until it is 11pm and Mensa texts me that it is bedtime.

I heard yesterday that when the Zen teacher, Joko Beck, was asked what she did when she meditated she answered, “thinking.” I decided I would try that. I imagined the word, “think” written on my wall. I ordered myself to “think” rather that trying to do something else and ending up “thinking.” What would I think about if I told myself to think. I was completely paralyzed. I couldn’t think of anything. Trying to think wasn’t possible. How would one do that? Finally it became apparent that I had Joko Beck all wrong. She wasn’t orchestrating thoughts, nor was she drifting off with them. She was simple noticing them and (as she did), likely was labeling them. Art thought. Meditation thought. Time to start though.

P.S. So I started on the piece, and then realized there is a big spread between making a wood doll and making Pinocchio. The question is not how to make the thing look good… that’s design… but rather how to give it life. There seems to be a point when I realize that I need to take charge and make this piece into something. It is the point where the original idea goes away and the kid becomes their own person. It is the most difficult part of the creative process because it involves magic. I suppose it is the same with cooking. What is the difference between great chili, and chili that one would die for (as in, I died and went to heaven). How do you do that? Can that be taught?

Sunday, September 27, 2020

“What shall I do now? What shall I do?"
I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
"With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
"What shall we ever do?" —T.S. Eliot 

So this is the question for me… not just making art, but in living my life. Art S.’s house burnt down. His teacher, the great Harry C., asked him repeatedly as they were drinking into the wee hours of the night, “What are you going to do now?” I heard a recording of this about 40 years ago. Even then I took it as a koan. 

What are you going to do as an artist? Teachers love to tell students, “You should do this.” I’ve been guilty of that too. I’m forever indebted to my teachers who didn’t tell me what to do… though when I confronted one of the best of these teachers years later, he said, “you don’t know how much I was telling you what to do.” So there! 

I’m really curious about the creative process. We start somewhere… maybe with a nose, or a triangle, or a photo and a pair of scissors. And we make a mark… drawing, cutting, or whatever. Then something takes over, the clock speeds ahead and something is born. That’s all I know of this process.

Saturday, September 26, 2020


Making art is like making life. My teacher told us, “take care of your life and your art will take care of itself.” Alois Senefelder, the inventor of lithography, said, “Take care of the edges and the center will take care of itself.” Alois was talking about grinding a litho stone. I didn’t believe my teacher. I thought I could just do art. Maybe part of me still does, deep inside. So I wake up in the morning and I wonder what picture will come from today. I could try to repeat yesterday, esp. if yesterday came out well. No, I say to myself, “that never works.” Then I think about the masters. They worked in series, like Picasso’s did in his blue period. They try something over and over again because it has something that they are still curious about. And some go on longer than they should, having already expired the idea. I’ve been stapling for 30 years or more. I’ve been doing my figure for 60 years. Jews say the same prayers over and over again. Some say “enough is enough.” The test for me is to try to do something different and then to watch it come out looking the same. I told Mensa the other day that I always do something different and she laughed. Our voice has a signature that is unique.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Two Heads

Sometimes it happens fast. I was all ready to cut up 100 triangles and reload my stapler a few times, and then, before I could wink, it was done. What then? Do I make another artwork today? Am I any different now than I was a moment ago? Yikes, you pin the tail on the donkey with the first try. What then? And if someone likes it, do you say, “it was nothing… it just took a few minutes”? In art school we heard a diatribe from Mr. Savage about how we shouldn’t say that… that it was nothing. I later learned that in Japan, if you were really proud of your son, you’d introduce him saying “this is my stupid kid.” I guess it is a cultural thing whether we demean our utterances (or kids) that hit the mark.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


They say that we don’t really stop. Molecules are jumping off our bodies as we move through space. Our skin is falling off, as is our hair, for those who have hair. I try to figure this out. In Zen we say not two. I have a social security number yet I don’t stop. You have a number and you don’t stop either. I think I’m separate, until I vacuum the floor and see the bag fill up with my dander. He said that space is just a variation of density.

And yet my son calls me on the phone. How is that possible if we aren’t separate? And how can we be 1000 miles away, yet our voices travel through space as if there was no tomorrow. How is that possible? What starts out as an aerosol morphs into a wave of some sort that travels by wire and air 1000 miles. I guess it is like what we did with two dixie cups, though the distance is increased by some exponential power.

I want to feel that connection to the outside, if there is even an outside. If we aren’t separate are we the same? These are all questions I ask as I put myself in one picture after another. Where am I? Who am I? Am I? Those are the only questions that matter to me today.

Anatomy Lesson and Love