Mt. Vernon, NY

6″ x 8″

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I feel like now would be a good time to stop making paint color called “flesh.” First of all, everyone should be able to mix whatever color it’s supposed to be using various amounts of red, blue, yellow and white. Also, it could be better described as “peach.” Also, and it’s racist. This is the first and last time I’ll use “flesh” from this new pack of paint before I throw out the tube.

Toodleloo

11″ x 14″
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I recently found out “Toodleloo” comes from french À tout à l’heure, used in the same way – see you later. “Toodleloo” is what will be inscribed on my grandmother’s tombstone. Rest in peace, Margaret Wesley.

Night Crawlers

13″ x 13″

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There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them. So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty. He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster without stopping until he finally dropped dead. He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps.
(Chuang Tzu, 4th c. BCE)

Vikings & Bodoni

6″ x 8″

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A viking ship and some letters in the elegant Bodoni font. I’ve been doing a lot of middle-of-the-night studying of fonts. The world of typeface design is complex, intelligent, and sensitive. It’s also a warren of deeply held, and militantly defended opinions about the most minute minutiae, it’s hilarious. Not sure where the viking ship is coming from.

Hush (Hat)

5″ x 8″
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Here are a few small sketches of family photographs from the first few decades of the 20th century. I enjoy peering into the pool. The hush is the hush of time.

Hush (Drill)

18″ x 24″

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I’ve had a policy of not including outside sources on the Work-a-day page, but this seems necessary.

On Sept 25, 1864, an ancestor of mine wrote a letter to her daughter from the family home ‘Sweet Auburn’ outside Natchez, Miss. To save paper, which was in low supply, the letter was cross-written. This is such an anomaly of Victorian letter writing, happened quite a bit during a time when formal letter writing was common, but paper was not, and postage expensive. The penmanship is so elegant, but when it’s written on top of itself it gets all jangled up. The writing, nearly indecipherable, is about the current (bad) state of things (war).

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Then sixty-five years later, the letter writer’s great-great-granddaughter (my grandmother) was learning to write in her seventh grade class in Natchez. This is drill 20.

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The ancestors keep giving me stuff to draw about, I’m barely touching the surface here. More cross-writing/drawing to come.

Pecans

18″ x 24″
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This drawing is based on two dimly xeroxed ancestral photographs taken by a family member in the 1910′s.

I recently read that Faulkner said his writing was a process of “sublimating the actual into the apocryphal.” One of the aspects I love about drawing is that its connection to ‘reality’ is always spurious. As it references one actuality, it simultaneously creates another, separate actuality.

Sources and Expenditures

9″ x 12″
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The snake is saying, “For me, drawing is a source of energy, while painting is the expenditure of energy.” I really have to say that’s my experience as well. As much as they have over-lapping concerns, the stylus and the brush are very different instruments and when I go looking for how an artist thinks, I look at their drawings. It’s like looking at their drawings gets you closer to the source of what motivates their ideas.

Twisting My Beard

6″ x 8″

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This one I’m twisting my beard, a nervous habit I can’t seem to break (though I honestly haven’t tried). Self-portraits often strike me as sad. I don’t make self-portraits very often, but I like seeing other people’s self-portraits. What a touching and awkward thing to record, studying and drawing one’s own face. I do love Jim Dine’s horribly awkward self-portraits. Rembrandt’s almost don’t count. Maybe my favorite self-portrait is old Bonnard in his later years, purple fists up in the bathroom mirror.

Weevil Sanders Goes to Town

6″ x 8″
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Last week I wanted to call the “Chicken and Beard Man” drawing something about Weevil Sanders. But I didn’t know who Weevil Sanders was and thought I would at some point, but I still don’t. So here he is on his way to town.

Why Is Six Afraid of Seven

6″ x 8″
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Because seven ate nine. On another note, the word stylus comes to us from Etruscan, as few words do.

Recently talking with Bill B. about polysemy and open meanings in drawing and writing. He said about one poem “as much polysemy as the poem can bear.” (phrasing taken from something Jane Freilicher said, about wanting “as much light as the painting can bear”).

Of the Federal Occupation

8″ x 10″
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I came across a photograph of a Confederate army camp. What struck me about the image was the manner of the soldiers’ poses, one draped over another’s lap, comfy as BFF’s at a sixth grade sleepover.

Collaborative Frieze

16″ x 140″
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I made this today with the students in my Drawing the Myth and Daydream class at the Drawing Studio.  It’s really long and so in order to see it, please click the image, then enlarge it again.  Look at all the archetypes and situations unfolding!  I love this strange thing.

Cherries

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From this week’s Drawing the Myth and Daydream class.  Strangely also cherry-themed, like last week.  He seems enamored with her trick; I’m borderline distressed by it.

Talking With Bill Berkson in Front of an Ellsworth Kelly

5″ x 8″

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“You collaborate with your peers, either directly (that is, you write works together) or not (that is, by parallel creations you form the work that comes to be recognized as that of a period style, the art of your time). Competitiveness is a form of collaboration. Addressing an audience—conceiving an addressee, a reader or viewer, for the work—you collaborate with that shifting phantasmagoria. Such sociability is what puts the work in the world.” — Bill Berkson, from “Working with Joe,” 2002

It’s these broad definitions of collaboration that gives me hope. Sociability, generosity and conversation at the heart of art-making and art-viewing softens the sense that the Art-World is a fractured and self-important megalith. I had an uplifting morning with Bill Berkson at SFMOMA; this isn’t a great drawing necessarily but captures the conversation as I experienced it. And the Ellsworth Kelly room was elegant.

The Beards of the Ancients

5″ x 8″
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The beards of the ancients cannot grow on my chin. Something like that was written by Tao Chi (17th painter and poet during the late Ming Dynasty) to talk about unavoidable newness in painting, stylistically speaking.

Garden District

6″ x 8″

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Wonderful new prismacolor pens, color squares, an airplane, and a group of us at a sidewalk cafe in the Garden District after my opening in New Orleans.

Draw a Scorpion

5″ x 5″
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In a book on the British painter Ken Kiff, the author refers to Art as a ‘species of Philosophy.’ I like this but wonder if there is more nuance. I think of what I do as a species of Philosophy, or sometimes a mutant relative of Linguistics, or sibling of literature. Seen from a certain angle, Painting could be considered a ‘species of Interior Design.’ Grouping like that helps me stay clear of the vortex of seeing one medium as in competition with another.

When I was in Glasgow, Painting was of no consequence, but Video Installation was of vital importance, now Social Practices (which could be seen as a ‘species of Activism’) is making Video Installation look like basket-weaving, and Painting is no longer a threat. Activism is seen as morally superior to intellectual pursuits now – not to mention the collecting of art objects – so Art that engages social issues and justice is at the top of the wheel for the moment. Will be interesting to watch the Art establishments domesticate Social Practices; reminds me of that quote from Octavio Paz: “More astute than Rome, the religion of art has absorbed all schisms.”

The above drawing: I made a note to myself and then did it, right there on the same page. Rare that happens in life.

Incredible Six-Legged Steer

8″ x 9″
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Before exit 70 on the interstate that runs the length of Kansas there is a series of signs tempting one to pull off and admire the “incredible six-legged steer.” I just came across some notes I had drawn while driving (I know) and worked them up into more developed drawings. Maybe interesting for those who follow the Wastrels saga on this page, clearly the genesis of the eight-leg deer . . .

The next few drawings are of related oddities of beast at the same exit.

Wastrels XCIII: I’m Not Asking You, You, I, and About the Middle of Your Heart

8″ x 10″

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I do not want to close, and to worship, but you have my ears pierced. Sacrifices and sin offerings you will not, therefore, behold, I come from, we told him. The head of the book is about. I’m not asking you, you, I, and about the middle of your heart.

(this text is a mutation of Psalm 40:6-8, having translated the excerpt using Google Translate from English to Italian, Danish, Latin, Turkish, Bengali, Finnish, Hebrew and back to English)

Construction Paper Alphabet

8″ x 10″
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When Jessica and I were designing the homepage for the new issue of Trickhouse (this one here), we wanted to use a paper alphabet, so I cut letters out of construction paper.  This is the layering of the paper that remained.  This is also I guess the first Workaday post that is neither a painting, nor a drawing, though an expanded definition of drawing would include any mark left which records a movement, action or idea.  So, let’s call it a drawing.  Not that it matters.

 

Eyes Eyes

8″ x 10″
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The title of this little drawing of Bookoo and Cilice in a cave of eyes is derived in part from Michael Hurley’s classic song of the same name, the opening lines of which are as follows:

Protein Monster
ate a sack of poison sugar
crawling out of the barn
to the weeds to die.
Rolling his eyes.
Eyes, Eyes.

Christmas Eve

9″x 9″

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Other than Tiny Tim hoisted up in familiar fashion, unclear what else is happening here.  Good tidings, snowy sidewalks and general Christmas cheer.

Wastrels Find a Home, Process Drawing #1

8″ x 10″

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This is a process drawing for the animation that is nearly finished called “Wastrels Find a Home.” A hopeful tale. Or something. In which Bookoo and Cilice tinker within the domestic arrangement. With exquisite writing and voice-over by Kate Bernheimer and forthcoming (and eagerly awaited audio) forthcoming from the Eric Jordan.

Man, Rabbit and Parts of a Girl and Fox

8 1/2″ x 11″

This was made in preparation for a class I’m teaching called “Drawing the Myth and Daydream.”  The prompt involves picking a setting (in this case ‘under water’), a figure or animal (I did several), and a state of being (I chose ‘breaking into pieces’).  I think I should have made it more obviously under water.  Other states of being to chose from include: floating, flaming, blooming with flowers, tiny, covered in hair, dissolving, enormous, winged, and part-human/part-animal.  The first class was highly enjoyable.

 

Wastrels Enshrined Within the Thoughts of an Eight-Leg Deer

11″ x 14″

For the last couple years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a long and rich conversation with one of my favorite English painters, Timothy Hyman; we will publish an edited version soon in Trickhouse.  One of his paintings that came up in the conversation is I Open My Heart to Reveal London Enshrined Within, which I love so much, and I ripped off part of the title for this drawing.  I’ll continue to loot his work, as one does, with the hope of absorbing some of his innocence.

Bookoo and the Breach of Trust

5 1/2″ x 9″

Not the first time I’ve indulged a crackpot understanding of linguistics this year on the Workaday page. Bookoo’s lingering in the mirror stage.

“Writings scatter to the winds blank checks in an insane charge. And were they not such flying leaves, there would be no purloined letters.” – Jacques Lacan

Up + Down Reading by the Wastrels

9″ x 36″

This is a single panel from this triptych:

If you click on the image to enlarge the full drawing, you’ll see that you can read the text left to right as one big paragraph, up and down as columns, or in a staircase fashion.  I wrote the sections vertically and assembled them as columns, so how they read horizontally is a surprise to me.  Fun with permutations!  Cilice can eat a bug in a snowstorm.

 

Any Bug or Human

8″ x 9 1/2″

This one here has Bookoo being approached, by whom we do not know. The text (provided by Julia R. Gordon) can be read up and down as well as left and right. That’s kind of how I read, which is why it takes me forever to read a page, so I find this text very satisfying and unnervingly accommodating for the wandering eyes. I’m working more with this up-down-left-right text thing, feeling out how to make permutations. Maybe there will be another example tomorrow.

It’s the Good Loop Trailer Park

6″ x 10″

In Swannanoa, North Carolina there is a cluster of mobile homes on a circular street called “Good Loop” and when I’d pass by the Good Loop, Shirley Temple’s classic song “On the Good Ship Lollipop” always came to mind. There are a lot of trailers in the Blue Ridge Mountains, sometimes they appear to have fallen from the sky. I have made a lot of drawings and paintings of trailers, not for any social commentary, but seeing the trailer as a protagonist, in lieu of a figure.

Happy Hour #14

9″ x 8″

This here is another from the series of drawings for Kate Bernheimer’s forthcoming book “Happy Hour.”  Monkey in a pram.

I Will Not Think of a Horse

4″ x 6″

I had a dream last night that I was a school teacher.  I walked into another teacher’s classroom and on the chalkboard someone had written lines, over and over, like when you get in trouble as a child.  I could not read what the lines said.  As I was looking at the chalkboard lines, trying to make out what it said, a bombastic little girl bounded in and erased a section across the middle of the words and quickly drew a huge stylized horse and then ran out of the room.  I stood there staring at the image and the text and thought “Oh my god, this is perfect.”

This drawing is not perfect like the girl’s drawing, but it is enough to hold the dream in place.  Since I couldn’t read the text in the dream, the text in my drawing says “I will not think of a horse” after that thing about how if someone says: Do not imagine a horse, in order for your brain to not imagine a horse it first has to imagine a horse… which makes the whole thing impossible.  I think it is a well-known psychological exercise.  I just tried to find evidence of it online, but couldn’t, maybe I dreamed that too.  I’ve used it in text/image classes for years, and will continue to do so.

Bookoo Under Ice

4″ x 6″

Wherein Bookoo intentionally goes through a hole in the ice to demonstrate her ability to breathe under water.  In previous versions, Cilice does not realize Bookoo can breathe under water so goes in to save her and nearly freezes to death for which Bookoo feels really bad.  But in this version Cilice is unaware and Bookoo is trapped under the ice.  Though not a tragedy since she can breathe, it is still a tense situation.

Children & Letters #1

12 1/8″ x 16 1/8″

Or perhaps “Orphans and Phonemes”.  I don’t know if these wee children are orphans, but the letters appear to be.  Phonetic utterances.

This has a companion piece (as indicated by “#1″) which will be tomorrow’s workaday.

Christopher Columbus Arrives in America

4″ x 6″

from “Christopher Columbus Arrives in America” by Gergio Deluci

Español: Colón llega a América
English: Christoper Columbus arrives in America
Deutsch: Christoph Kolumbus trifft in Amerika ein
Русский: Христофор Колумб прибывает в Америку
Français: Christophe Colomb arrive en Amérique
Italiano: Cristoforo Colombo arriva in America
Česky: Kryštof Kolumbus připlouvá do Ameriky

Household Items #1

8 1/2″ x 11″

Here’s another working cell (so to speak, I call it that, but a real animator might roll their eyes) for the Wastrels animation.  The animation is made by scanning: I draw with lithography crayon on the acetate, scan, wipe off a bit, redraw it, rescan it and so on, forever.  This one has a haircut scene, bookshelf with fish swimming scene (above) and a rendition of Shelton Walsmith’s painting that’s on our wall.

Stair Walker

8 1/2″ x 11″

This is a transparency – grease pencil on acetate – from the Wastrels animation I’m working on.  Each figure represents a stage in a movement of a spectral figure walking down stairs.  The two pieces of acetate were lying on the floor on top of one another and I found it to be a good image on its own.

SoS #5 (with Kate B.)

8″ x 9″

This is one of the (as of now) fifteen images for Kate Bernheimer’s captivating book coming out next year.  In total there will be seventy something images, one for the facing page for each paragraph of text.

All of the pieces are on three layers of tracing paper (an archivist’s nightmare)so are pretty fragile, but the materials allow for all sorts of shenanigans.  I’m somewhat pulling from Depression-era cartoons for these drawings.

Also, I’m remembering some of the drawings that my mother made on the wall of the uninhabitable third floor of my grandparents house, wobbly Little Lulu and others.  They were still there when I was a teenager.  If one were in a pensive mood, those drawings could call up feelings of fleeting innocence, or imminent absence.  And nothing speaks to imminent absence like the ancient story of the origin of drawing according to Pliny (if I remember right… ahem):

A young woman from Corinth was spending the night with a soldier as he was about to go off to war with no chance of his return.  Realizing her pending loss, she took a bit of coal from the fire and traced his shadow on the wall.  The End.

 

I am Neil Armstrong, I am on the Moon (with Hannah Ensor)

12″ x 18″

(definitely have to look at the enlargement with this one, it’s all very light)

I made a drawing of Neil Armstrong the day he died and Hannah recently mentioned that she had written these lines in response to it. Luckily I had the beginnings of another N. Armstrong drawing and put her words in pink middle school curly script next to it to make a diptych. Reminds me of when everybody wanted to be an astronaut. Those were weightless times.

I am Neil Armstrong
I am on the moon

I am standing on a sheet
The sheet flows

The sheet is a moon
The moon of the Earth

La Guardia

6 1/2″ x 10″

I drew this the other day from a photo I had taken on my phone landing in NYC a couple years ago, but didn’t mean for it to be 9/11-related, just happened to draw it on that day.  At some point might make a large oil painting of it.  Amber light and glimmery.

A System for John Cage

In honor of John Cage’s 100th birthday yesterday, I made a grid, grabbed four pencils and three pennies.  Throwing the pennies, I colored in the blocks according to this system:

1 head – blue
2 heads – gold
3 heads – pink
no heads – grey

 

Buddha Head Triptych

11″ x 30″

This is a triptych of Buddha Heads, all separate charcoal drawings (10″ x 11″ each, in real life they are on Rives BFK paper with a nice edge, though I cropped here for convenience). Three is the magic number.

Olympics 1908

8″x 10″

I’m going to do as many Olympic drawings over the next few weeks as is reasonable. This is a vertically-inclined group from 1908.