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Friday, October 12, 2012

eventually everything

The above Simon Laurie painting ("Still Life with Scraps") changed everything. Give it a look. Make an observation—an observation based on something you find interesting.

Now let me tell you a story. I love to paint. I love to paint simple pictures on small blocks of wood. I'll add a handful of words, then I'm done. A lot of my paintings seem silly—and I hope they are. But they're not ONLY silly. Something about the old fragments of wood, about painting with just a few colors, it all adds up to a kind of whimsical poignancy.

I also paint because I can't draw. In painting, I've learned how to hide my lack of talent.

Simply put, I'm afraid of what might happen if people discover I'm a fraud, if they discover I can't draw. But, I mean, so what? There's tons of stuff I can't do, and it bothers me not one whit. Weirder still, I find this to be the case almost universally: your average person is terrified—almost paralyzed—if asked to draw something and share it with others. Why is this? What is it about drawing that elicits such a deep phobia?

Whatever the answer, the other day I saw the above painting and felt a connection. I loved the simplicity. But there was also an invitation that held my attention, that kept me looking, that told me there was something just about to be revealed. But what? And then it appeared: I loved how flattened—how steamrolled—everything appeared, how so much of what I was seeing felt both geometric and organic. More than anything else, though, I loved how the artist seemed to have owned this perspective, this style—this choice.

And so the next day, at a meeting, I began to doodle (which I haven't done more than once or twice since high school). Almost without knowing it, I also had decided to own the rendering, to willfully steamroll everything—proper perspective and dimension be damned.

Below is the sketch I had when the meeting was over.

It looks like I drew it, but it also looks unlike anything else I've ever done. And thus I'm excited to sketch something in this way again. And, more importantly, I'm not afraid you won't like me anymore because you're now privy to my big bad secret: I'm not a gifted drawer.

I don't care. I'm not seeking talent. I'm just letting go.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Do Now

Teachers: here's a fun "Do Now" to engage reluctant writers. 

Look around. Almost everything you see is made by people for people. The objects that populate our world are here because they serve some (real or imagined) human need. Pick something—anything—and write down its name. full stop.

Next sentence: define and explain your object (give it the ol' 5W's treatment). See if you can land on some broader connection that you wouldn't have made were it not for holding forth about your object on the page.


Shoes.  Shoes protect your feet. They keep you comfortable when you have to stand; they soften the blow when you must run. We wear shoes to keep stuff out. Without shoes, we'd be forced to find the long way around. But with shoes, we can charge right through. With shoes, we scramble up. Or skip the whole way down.

Some shoes are just for play and some are just for work. We have shoes for underwater and shoes that help us fly. Some we wear to pray. And some we wear in war. We tie and buckle and strap. We slip and slide and pull.

If you want to know who I am, just look at my shoes. In the classroom, they are black and shiny—a penny in each tongue. On the weekend, I live in sandals. In the morning, slippers. On a jog, sneakers. The field, cleats. When I change my shoes, I change my me. And sometimes I wear no shoes at all.