changing your point of view

Anyone walking over the bike path bridge this afternoon found a pair of humans with a lot of neon green parachute cord and a neon pink water proof case with a phone in it, giggling madly. My friend Matt (new to blogging, doing some interesting things with card stock construction) and I tied my phone in a pink water proof case and tossed it dropped it carefully off the bridge as close to the river as we could. We got it down near the ice, and near some open water off a different section of the bridge, and even right into the water in one place (it was dark. And not at all clear what we were looking at).

We made a couple videos too, but they have a lot of extraneous motion and are hard to parse. Also they take for.ev.er to upload.

Seeing the underside of the bridge, seeing the river up close, seeing the ice, and the surface – all those made me think about the river a little differently. Which means I can make some new art based on a different point of view.

Daily February 2022

It is two years into a global pandemic, but some traditions remain. It’s time for Daily Feb 2022. Make something every day, and post it to Instagram. Use the #dailyFeb2022 hashtag to see what others are doing. Comment on friends’ work, accept compliments on your own. It is a good time! I hope you will join me. Tell me you are participating! Friend me on Instagram (lee.thomson.art)! Hash-tag your work.

Past years have seen participants from Clever Manka and Jenny Crusie’s Argh people. People have done everything from finishing sewing projects to a daily painting (you can check the older hashtags on Instagram (#dailyFeb2021, #dailyFeb2020, etc.) to see what people have got up to.

Since we are doing something daily, picking February to start seems like a good plan since it is the shortest month. And when I say daily, I mean daily, no shirking (but also no beating yourself up) which is why we have The Rules, outlined and explained below.

In order to keep from being overwhelmed, we have Rules, and the Rules are:

  1. A Very Low Bar
  2. Very Clear Boundaries and
  3. Quantity Not Quality

Let me explain.

A Very Low Bar: The purpose of an absurdly low bar is to invite anyone and everyone to step over it, to prove, in fact, that anyone and everyone can step over it. Having stepped over it gives you a little jolt of accomplishment, which is a good thing, and encourages you to do it again. We are after that tiny jolt of encouragement that comes from doing the thing. That will propel you to do it again, and again, and again, which is practice. So choose something you have tools for. Choose something that you can set up quickly and clean up easily (or set up in a corner somewhere that won’t be disturbed). Lower the threshold for doing the thing as much as you possibly can. To that end, it is perfectly legit to lay in a stock of things before Feb 1 – like pre-cut paper, sharpened pencils, the paints for this February’s palette, or all the ends of sock yarn you have on hand. Get a little excited about this process!

Very Clear Boundaries: This is a lesson from Twyla Tharpe’s book The Creative Habit and reinforced by personal experience and even Orson Welles (“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” ) To this end, 1) you must put some lines around what you want to practice, and B) make that measurable. So choose a size, limit your palette, limit number of stitches you are knitting, limit yarn size, commit to buying nothing new, or using up all of a resource, do whatever you need to make the box you are creating around your project small enough to be a little constrictive, so that you can experiment with pushing at the edges without having to spend too much time finding the edges first.

Quantity Not Quality: To make that measurable, choose metrics you can see, and count, things that are strictly mathematical or true/false. Your metrics matter, a lot. “Make one nice picture” is useless because who says it is nice? “Use up all the paint I have” is a very good metric because you can tell when you’ve achieved it and also it is pushing you towards more using and making.

SO – What are you going to be working on, and showing the world? Brainstorm ideas here, and join us on Instagram Feb 1, 2022.

Time passes

days have rhythms
of rise and (shine or not) 
of sun and light and lunch
and the slow tumble of the afternoon to evening
slouching more deeply into the couch, then
staggering upstairs to bed

Weeks have a rhythm imposed by expectation? Experience?
on Sunday we do nothing, as aggressively as possible
and then the work week drags its way across our desks
with increasing delight (or relief) to Friday
when we wonder where the week went? again? 

months do not have rhythms, except to think 
Oh, February already? and then
what? July? in the next breath
but I can find no internal rhythm to a September, 
or March, or any other month -
although sometimes a great yellow moon 
comes shouting through the window
into the living room in the dusk

years have a rhythm 
of daylight and darkness, 
of warmth and cold
of green and gold and purple gray and back 
around to the clear green haze of spring
and mud underfoot, and new things starting
burgeoning, pressing forth

The rest are all imposed? invented? by humans, 
the decades and centuries
the generations, 
eras and epochs

still earth keeps track
day by day
year on year
a vast clock, spinning 
through time and space

Which is to say, I have been doing things, useful things even, and simply not writing about it.

Happy solstice – the days are getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere. Thank you for keeping the sunlight for us, in the Southern Hemisphere.

little boxes

Not the Malvina Reynolds song, but the output from my laser over the last several days. See:

I am planning on teaching a class at Northampton Center for the Arts in the fall – Fabric Collage and Art in Boxes. Because I have become very fond of making small art, and then putting it in a box for better presentation. My friend Matt gave me an entire 4×8′ sheet of plywood, precut into sixteen 1’x2′ sections, so they fit into my laser cutter. Since they are cheap, I feel perfectly happy using them for testing out patterns and making prototypes. Since the plywood has a nice finish, I also feel quite cheerful about the end results. I am rich in plywood!

My affection for containers, and for smooth stones, seems to have deep roots. My grandmother had several boxes of stones she’d collected over a long life. When I was invited to choose something from her possessions after she died, I picked an owl shaped with a handful of peculiar stones in it, some dated. My mother has at least one jar of stones that sits in her window to catch the light. I have a clear plastic bucket full of mostly nicely rounded stones from beaches of New England. My daughter Alice has a series of Mason jars filled with fossils and samples from geology field trips.

Update

Things I have done since January 23, 2021

  • got my COVID-19 vaccination shots! I can hug people again!
  • accepted a commission for a piece for a friend’s parents
  • found work as a teacher at a micro school, two days a week, maybe a dozen kids, ages 6-14
  • addressed 35 years of paint on the dinghy my father designed and built, as a start to refinishing it
  • reached the one year mark for playing my guitarlele, and celebrated with a concert for a dozen children, all waist high or shorter
  • taught two Making Tiny Art classes for the Northampton Center for the Arts one online, and one (loosening restrictions and vaccinations) in person!
  • worked on a class description and syllabus for a fabric coloring and collage class for Northampton Center for the Arts
  • cleared off my desk twice (but you couldn’t tell right now)
  • went to see my mother in another state for the first time in sixteen months, hugged her a lot
  • mounted an exhibit of my work at the TDBank lobby in Amherst, MA
  • had people over to dinner, gone out to dinner and had a pique-nique at a dear friend’s house (hugs all around)
  • mounted an exhibit of the Daily Project in my dining room
  • helped a friend with her father’s terminal illness
  • answered questions to for the Northampton Center for the Arts Featured Artist spotlight(!!)
  • reserved a dumpster so we can get things out of the cellar so the mason can fix the (non-weight bearing) wall that is composed of melting(?) bricks
  • applied for a mentorship (I would be the mentee)

It’s been a while – what have you been up to?

ends and beginnings

I was thinking about the end of the 100 Day project that turned into a daily project. I made object 366 yesterday and posted the picture to Instagram. I wasn’t sure then what I’d do today.

After I got started with my morning today – I have a whole routine, as you do, with coffee and some writing and some introspection – I did not pick up the materials to make a daily thing. It felt really strange. I went on to the next thing, a little inspirational reading (comics. It’s the funnies, except online.) and finished with Oblique Strategies, Brian Eno’s collection of actions to take when you’re stuck. Because I am definitely at loose ends, if not stuck. And it said:

Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do & do the last thing on the list.

So I’m working now on an exhaustive list of things.

#DailyFeb2021

Hey Friends! We are half way thought January 2021 (I know, it feels like another damn decade, but no, it is just that full of incident) and it is time to think about, and make your plans for, doing something daily in Feb 2021. I have posted these “rules” before, for Feb 2020, and Feb 2019. I’ve been recruiting friends for almost as long; from Clevermanka.net, and Jenny Crusie’s Argh people, as well as anyone else who is inspired by seeing it here or on Instagram.

Below are some images from #dailyFeb2018, #dailyFeb2019 and #dailyFeb2020:

February, as we all well know, is the longest month. The Romans did us a favor by chopping days off it until it felt as long as July, but since it has only 28 days this year, it is technically shorter by two or three days than any other month we have.

Since we are going to do something daily, picking Feb to start seems like a good plan. And yes, we are going for daily, which is why we have The Rules, outlined and explained below.

In order to keep from being overwhelmed, we have Rules, and the Rules are what we must have:

  1. we must have A Very Low Bar
  2. we must have Very Clear Boundaries and
  3. and we should aim for Quantity Not Quality

Let me explain.

A Very Low Bar: The purpose of an absurdly low bar is to invite anyone and everyone to step over it, to prove, in fact, that anyone and everyone can step over it. Having stepped over it gives you a little jolt of accomplishment, which is a good thing, and encourages you to do it again. We are after that tiny jolt of encouragement that comes from doing the thing. That will propel you to do it again, and again, and again, which is practice. So choose something you have tools for. Choose something that you can set up quickly and clean up easily (or set up in a corner somewhere that won’t be disturbed). Lower the threshold for doing the thing as much as you possibly can. To that end, it is perfectly legit to lay in a stock of things before Feb 1 – like pre-cut paper, sharpened pencils, the paints for this February’s palette, or all the ends of sock yarn you have on hand. Get a little excited about this process!

Very Clear Boundaries: This is a lesson from Twyla Tharpe’s book The Creative Habit , reinforced by personal experience, and even Orson Welles (“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” ) To this end, 1) you must put some lines around what you want to practice, and B) make that measurable. So choose a size, limit your palette, limit number of stitches you are knitting, limit yarn size, commit to buying nothing new, or using up all of a resource, do whatever you need to make the box you are creating around your project small enough to be a little constrictive, so that you can experiment with pushing at the edges without having to spend too much time finding the edges first.

Quantity Not Quality: To make that measurable, choose metrics you can see, and count, things that are strictly mathematical or true/false. Your metrics matter, a lot. “Make one nice picture” is useless because who says it is nice? “Use up all the paint I have” is a very good metric because you can tell when you’ve achieved it and also it is pushing you towards more using and making.

I will posting my work on my Instagram account, using the #dailyFeb2021 tag. Post your work too! Use the tag to boast about your own work, and see what other people are doing. Everyone’s friendly!

ending 2020

This has been a decade of a year. I don’t even know what to say about it, that other people haven’t already said, and said better. It has, like most years, both crawled and flown. It has definitely had some comedically awful parts, as well as heartbreakingly awful, and plain boring and awful, and glimmers of the completely ridiculous.

I started 2020 as oblivious as anyone. I started the 100 Day Project on Jan 22, 2020, slated to end April 30. By the time the time April 30 happened, we were in the middle of lockdown for the pandemic, and it seemed silly to stop. So I kept going. I kept going past 200 pieces, and past 300 pieces, and through the election, and the subjective month it took to count and recount the votes, and here I am closing on a full year.

Oddly for me, I am not sure how to stop. I could keep going – I’d have to stop labeling each day as N of 100, because working on the second year is just a complete failure to comprehend the idea of a limited project. I could stop with Inauguration Day. I could stop at a full year, on Jan 22. (Your comments are welcome on this topic!)

I leave you with some retrospective pictures of the tiny finished things, massed together.

Notes: Pieces are glued to tie-tack pins and stuck into twelve inch square cork tiles. The first 100 were in varied frames, with double-size frames every Sunday. For 1-50 and 51-100 the taller frames meant it was easier to fit 50 pieces/cork tile. Continuing the project, I chose uniform size frames to fit better on the display tiles. Numbers 101 – present fit sixty-four to a tile.

thought processes

I collect strategies for creating without over-thinking process or materials. It is pretty clear to people who make things for a living (Brian Eno, Twyla Tharp) that the physicality of the product has to be mirrored by the physicality of the process, and too much thinking tends to stilt both.

To that end, I have collected a pile of prompts and precepts that I use to poke myself out of a creative rut. The most recent is Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which you can find online daily over here. Today’s missive said “What were you really thinking about just now? Incorporate.”

What I was really thinking about was time, and how to demonstrate in a small piece of work the passage of time. But I was also thinking about my father, who is lost in dementia and unsure about a lot of things. He asks me how old he is, and when I tell him (ninety-five) he looks at me aghast. “How did that happen??” he asks. The only answer that satisfies us both is Alice’s answer when I ask her the same kind of thing (“how did you get to be this old already?”). She rolls her eyes, and says in one breath “the relentless, unidirectional passage of time, Mom.” So that’s what I tell my father, and we are both amused until he needs to know that again. Or know something different.

So that’s what I was really thinking of. The relentless, unidirectional passage of time.

rivers for sale!

Three small rivers and a piece of beachfront are all for sale now at BigCartel – at bargain prices! Take one home today! This post brought to you by the Shameless Commerce Division of Lee Thomson art.