Downsizing.

Week 1 - 3693

I want to make a change in my life.  A big change.

A friend of mine from school is getting rid of everything she owns and leaving on a big travel adventure.  I find myself so jealous.  And not even for the adventure- well, maybe a little.  In thinking about leaving to go to school in the fall, I realize how much stuff I have, most of which means little or nothing to me.  It’s weighing me down, even just thinking about getting rid of all these things.  Some things I’ve been holding on to for years, and I couldn’t even tell you why.  Is it precious to me in some way? No.  Is it unique? No.  Would it be expensive or difficult to replace? No.  And scarier- have I used it lately? No.  Scarier still- Have I ever used it? No.  Why do I have these things?

I think it’s a feeling of security.  My parents (and their parents before them) worked hard for what they have- they still do.  And there is value in that, earning something.  Saving for something of quality.  But my generation, we have everything we need, and too much more.  Things are so plentiful and so easy to attain that we all own way more than we need. Sure, most things I own are really cheap, or hand-me-downs – there’s nothing wrong with that, but I rarely say no when someone offers to give me something.  And I take it home, put it on a shelf somewhere, and there it stays.  Of all the things I own (excluding artwork/things I’ve made), very few are things that I feel I’ve worked hard for, earned, or value in a real way.  It’s been about accumulating, or getting a leg up, so to speak.  Or saving broken umbrellas for a rainy day.

And I think it’s costing me something.  How much more money would we have, if we didn’t feel the need to go shopping for more clothes, or my biggest weakness, books?  How much more freedom would we have? How much more would we value and take care of the things we do own? As I think about leaving to go back to school, I am amazed at how much crap I own.

I’ve realized that I do it with things like art supplies and groceries too. I buy more material than I anticipate needing to build a certain project, even taking into account the possibilities of mis-measurement and errors.  For instance, I bought four yards of burlap a few months ago, and for what?  I don’t know.  I still haven’t used it, and don’t know if I will.

B and I always buy certain things at the grocery store that we never seem to eat at home.  I don’t know how many bags of dry noodles and spaghetti sauce are in our cupboards, or cans of soup. Or frozen vegetables, perogies, or burritos. How much food do we throw out of the fridge because there’s been too many “better choices” to eat, or even that we’ve forgotten it’s there?  I think on some level I am afraid that at some point in time, there won’t be enough, or we will run out, and so I have got to collect and hoard as much as I can while I’m here.  Do you see how much of a problem this is?  How fear, even unarticulated, could cause so many problems which, if I could just change my point of view, might be fairly easily avoided?  And the reality is, I’ve never been in need of anything that wasn’t somehow attainable to me.

Wow.  We are priviledged, to be able to afford to be so spoiled.

So, it’s time to make a change, for me, at least.   I want to be more conscious of what I spend my money on, what I actually need and use, versus what I think I need and use.  I want to clean the “garbage” and unused supplies out of my studio and my life, the things I’ve been saving for God-knows-what reason.  The clothes that I don’t like, or that don’t fit. The ratty towels that never get used.  I want to start to buy groceries so much more consciously, keeping in mind what I can and will eat before food goes rotten or gets forgotten about.  I want to spend my money that much more consciously, not doing what is convenient all the time, but what might have the most value in it for me.  I want to have enough – enough food, enough things, enough money, enough experiences, and enough freedom – to enjoy my life and what it could be, but not so much that I am limiting myself with too many possessions (which could be related to bills), too many responsibilities (working to pay for the things), too much food, etc, etc. etc.

Time to make a change.

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So here’s my experiment.  The photo at the top of the post is $36.93 worth of groceries (yes, Cracker Barrel was on sale).  You can see that I was trying to eat healthy, although there are a few treats in there.  I am planning to track how I eat this week, where exactly this $36.93 goes and how far it lasts, with one exception- I had some hamburger meat and taco shells set out for dinner before I went to the store, so they’ll be part of that too.  B will not be included in this, as 1) He and I don’t have similar eating habits- he won’t eat most of this anyway, and 2) his schedule is so busy with running his Taekwondo club that he’s not home for meals anyway.

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PS> As the next few months pass, up until August, I will be giving away/ selling a lot of things, those of you in Calgary stay tuned if there’s anything of interest.

AS SUBTLE AS POSSIBLE

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve really been spinning my wheels lately.  A good friend of mine, Lindsay Joy, has been giving me some encouragement to try to jumpstart me out of the slump.  Her latest attempt is to give me some homework, an assignment: AS SUBTLE AS POSSIBLE. 

Now, if you know me and my work at all, I really don’t do subtle.  I do crazy, cheeky, colorful things, that can’t seem to help but have an element of humour to them.  So my challenge, AS SUBTLE AS POSSIBLE, really is a challenge to get me out of my normal ways of thinking. And yes, the theme really is capitalized.

So, what does the theme mean?  How will I interpret that?  First of all, what is “subtle”?  A google search gives me a starting point:

definition

Complex, understated, delicate… so, I started to play with my camera.  What fits these words?

Doily and yarn

Doily.  Delicate, intricate, yet unobtrusive. Ok, boring.  What else?

Coffee Stain

Doily, with embroidered coffee stain.  Embroidery is the same colour, and directly over the stain.  Subtle.  Seen it before. Hmm.   (Gotta start somewhere…)

Tears detail

Embroidering symbolic tears.  Ie, blood, sweat and tears. Thinking about the time and skill that goes into these “useless” things, that are incredibly abundant in certain houses.  They’ve also got a certain attitude connected with themselves, cleanness, a little bit of fussy-ness, and “properness.”  They give the impression that the house they inhabit is “as it should be,” by society’s standards.  Anyway.  Still boring.

How can I manipulate these ideas into something else?  I tried altering the structure of a doily, pulling and tying a section.

Tension

It’s perhaps more interesting staged, than documented.  I like the textures here.  What else can I do with texture?

Tension and text

Here’s some layering.  Pretty, but has no depth.

Doily

What about combining some objects, a still life, so to speak?  The textures here are subtle, yet compelling.

Texture 1

Texture 2

Now, the beginnings of depth, a sense of narrative, or memory, maybe?  And the fortune, a tongue in cheek reference to subtleness?

Keeping Secrets

Then I started looking around to see what else might possibly fit well with these textures, and the white colors…. and found these little heads I’d been making for something else, something much less subtle and much more creepy- dead fairy in a jar, anyone?  😛  (I know, crude. But amusing.)

Feathered faces

Feathered faces 2

Feathered Faces 3

 

These last three images are much more true to my sensibilities than the earlier images, although I’m not so sure that they’re the best interpretation of the theme: subtle.  But I don’t really think that was the point- the point was to kick start my brain into making something different, which this has accomplished.  However, as the theme is AS SUBTLE AS POSSIBLE, I think I’ve nailed it with these last few images.  What do you think?

 

I found quite interesting the progression of exploring the theme.  I would have never made the last few images if I had stopped after the first couple.  This is how interesting art practices develop, except on a much smaller scale.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so worried about life after the IMR, but just make stuff and see what happens.

At this point, I’ve got lots of ideas on the go, some completely outside of my current capabilities and skill sets.  While I think they’re interesting, there isn’t much continuity between one and the next, and not a lot of depth right now.  This has been a reminder that that just needs my time and focus to develop.  I’ve gotta let go of this self-imposed pressure to dive into another fully developed, mature body of work, and just let it develop on it’s own.  Part of the cycle, I guess.

Gotta do some more playing.

Lindsay, set me some more assignments.  And what’s my grade for this one?

Flying Pigs

Flying Pig (Jennifer Akkermans)

Here’s something I did just the other day (see the video). I wish I could manage to be this productive every day.  Or, more days than currently.  It’s been an uphill battle lately.  (I’m at 15 rejections, and my recent health problems have set me back a bit.) Maybe that’s why it’s a flying pig- everything I want to do seems so incredibly daunting right now.  That’s natural, I guess.  Fly, little pig!  Onward and upward!

Anyway, it’s not the most perfect thing I’ve ever made, and if I were to do it again, I’d definitely make some changes, but it did the trick of helping me learn about constructing these kinds of things.  It was a good idea to start simple and build on it, although my ideas are way more complicated than I think I’ll ever have the skill to make.  I’ve been doing a lot of sketching and drawing, trying to capture all the crazy ideas, some of which I hope come to fruition.  This is the time to be thinking ideas, before I know what my technical skill can and probably can’t make- before I design projects to fit my mechanics.  (I’m thinking large, and eventually my little skill saw just might not cut it… pun intended!  Best $35 I’ve ever spent!)

Filmed in my messy studio… of course.

Anyway, building things….. making a mess…. playing again!

Spinning my wheels. (Excuses, excuses.)

A while ago, I had finally thought I had found some traction, only to start spinning my wheels again.  I had spent a busy three days or so working harder than I had in months on building some three dimensional specimen displays, only to lose my motivation just before the last coat of paint.  Not only are they waiting for that, but also for their lighting systems, plexiglass covers, specimens and actual information for the panels.  Now, they’re sitting on a shelf in the built in entertainment unit in my studio.

Then, I did nothing for a little while.  Started a new job, got a vehicle (and all the responsibility that goes along with it), and then injured my achilles heel, which was quite the unpleasant experience, although it’s still going on.  I was unable to put any weight on it for 3 or 4 days, and although I was off work, there was no way I was going to be able to use that time productively, as I couldn’t even get to the studio, never mind do anything there.  So, I watched way too much tv.  I guess I’m allowed sometimes.  Now, because of the foot (and other reasons), I’m working half days for a while, so I’ve been trying to put my time to good use.  I still don’t have a lot of mobility (or stamina) with the leg, but it’s better than it was, so… no excuse, you know?

So I’ve been working a little bit.  A little bit on the IMR, and a little bit on some other things.  As I bought a skill saw when I was making the panels (to cut out the large holes), I’ve been playing with that.  Realizing that it’s all the sudden so much easier to cut tiny pieces of wood, I’m making automata parts, not really knowing what I’m doing with it, or what the intention is.  I’m cutting things, glueing them together, making parts for…. something.  An experiment, if only for my own entertainment (and learning).

I’m also working a bit of the IMR stuff, namely electronics.  Trying to make the Morphoids breathe.  I can come up with a not-too-complicated machine able to create the motion I want, but then, when I try to actually install it in the Morphoid (“We can rebuild him.  Better.  Stronger.  Faster.”), the motor’s not strong enough, the tension on the material (which is important to keep the form) stops the motion from happening.  Hmm.  Trying not to think about it, in order to come up with a better solution.  Percolation time.  Man, sometimes I really wish I could remember my dreams.  That’s where the solutions are.

Lastly, I’ve been melting Phentex.  Drawing with it.  Making jigs out of MDF and nails (that was a twilight zone idea).  It’s gross stuff, doesn’t break.  Melted, it looks like you drew with a giant crayon in the air.  The experiments I’ve been doing are no where near reliable enough to use for anything yet.  Reminds me of the first versions of the polyester.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m in an experimental phase right now, playing with some materials, techniques, and ideas.  The only thing I feel I have to finish sooner or later is the mechanics for the Morphoids, but that’s going to take some engineering.  The other things I see as being a diversion right now, to get me back into the swing of it, but their potential may be farther down the road, after the IMR, if at all.  There will be an after-the-IMR, and maybe sooner than you think- I’m getting to the point where I’ve got a couple of things left to do, but then it’s time to move on to something else.

(Why is it that we’re so encouraged to come up with a cohesive body of work, and then, two years in, I’m told I’ve gotta be careful it doesn’t turn into the only thing people think I do?  Read this:  Artist’s consistency Versus Kicking Ass)

Pictures later!

Percolation.

I’ve given myself permission to take a bit of a break.  A break from working, anyway.  I need some time to let some things that are in my brain percolate, and possibly manifest into something.  They are both directly related to my practice, and not directly, but I feel like I need to take a step back and re-evalate what I want to spend my energy on at this point in time.  Strategize.  Listen to my gut, as your gut always knows what you should do.

It’s not a crisis, but a quiet introspection.  A gathering and arranging of thoughts and ideas, a re-ordering.  I may come out of it with something tangible, and I may not, but that’s okay.  It will clear things up in my head, and hopefully, I’ll have a renewed sense of direction.  Direction is related to purpose, and both are formed by reconnecting with your core.

Vague, I know.  Percolation time is always vague.  Percolation is not actively thinking about something, but letting sit in your subconscious (not forgetting about it, just not thinking about it), and allowing it time.  My subconscious mulls it over, like a rock in a river, and things usually come out much more resolved than when they go in.  I let it happen by the natural process, instead of interfering and complicating things.

I’ve always liked that term for this, percolation.  You smell the coffee, anticipate it’s deliciousness, and slow down.  It’s a time out.  It also gets better if you just leave it alone, and timing is everything.

Anyway, see you on the other side.

Phases of Practice

I seem to be going into an experimentation phase.

Like a lot of artists, I go through phases with my work.   Productive phases (grooves), where everything seems to roll along smoothly, almost pulling me with it, unproductive phases (ruts, like the one I’m finally seeming to get out of), where I’m stalling, and everything in between.  Experimentation phases, where I’m trying a lot of things, but not actually making any finished work, and research phases, where all I seem to do is read and write about ideas and what’s going on in my head.

As you may know, I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting out of a rut in the last few months.  Now, it feels like I’m at least doing stuff, trying things out, ordering a couple different kinds of supplies to play with (such as Arduinos), and at least moving.  I haven’t been able to make any more “finished work” in a while, but that’s natural, I guess.  Now that I’m playing with things again, that will come.

So what have I been doing?  Lots of experiments with the Arduino Uno I bought. Making things blink, playing with servo motors, and making slow progress.  I am no where near being able to do what I want to do with it, but you’ve gotta start with the basics, and then work from there.  I’ve shared a lot of my research in the last few weeks, but not much of the progress I’m making.

Here’s a video of something I’ve been playing with….

You can see the servo in the box in the middle there, and and the blue thing (plugged in with the USB) is my Arduino. It draws it’s power from the computer for now (I need to get it set up with battery power), but the signals that control the servo are coming from the Arduino. You can also see my notes on the blue mock-up, as to how I’ve threaded each of the four legs, varying the movement. I want to try this again, exploring some more options, as the threading has a direct impact on the type of movement in each leg.

In this example, I have the Arduino controlling the servo by time intervals. I have also been playing with sensors to influence the movement, but that will come later.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s some exciting things to come, when I get some of this figured out.  The thing about electronics, is that it’s not like other media- it either works, or it doesn’t, there’s not really any inbetween. It can be really difficult to get things to do what you want, but when you do, it’s SO great!

Spinning my Wheels…

You may have noticed that I’m having a tough time getting rolling lately.  I’ve been spinning my wheels.  Twyla Tharp would call it a rut (not a groove, which is how things had been going for about the last… two years).  Even though I have a lot of ideas of things to work on, everything seems daunting, and my energy is low, never mind trying to find studio time.  (Work is probably a big part of that lately, although I do like my job.)  I’ve got things laying in pieces all over my studio, and piles of things on counters that I haven’t touched in a couple of months.  I’ve been carrying around my sketchbook in my bag, without having hardly cracked it open in weeks.  I have lists of things I want to do, applications to write, and lists of things to research and books to check out of the library.  Lists of things I’d like to make and materials to order. And all I do is none of it.

What’s going on?  I’ve tried taking a break, since before we went on vacation last month.  That’s getting me nowhere, as there seems to be no end in sight.  My motivation hasn’t returned at all.  I’ve been making a point to hang out with a few good friends, but that hasn’t helped much.  I make a point of spending time in the studio, but it seems I just move things around.  Or stare things down.  Flip through my sketchbooks,  zone out or stare at the wall.  I know sometimes I need percolation time, but this isn’t percolation time, it’s literally nothing.

My usual tactics for restoring my motivation aren’t working.  I try working in my journals- same problem.  I flip through the books on my shelves, particularly The Journals of Dan Eldon, anything Danny Gregory, Lynda Barry, Julia Cameron, and… nothing.  Usually I can flip through whatever grabs my attention, and off I go.  There’s a spark.  Right now, the tinder is waterlogged.  Usually even something like “Paper Cutouts” can cause a spark.

Anyway, this is getting old fast.  Normally, I pride myself on my self discipline, but that has been an incredible challenge lately, although it can’t be unique to me.  Do any of you have any ideas?  I could sure use some suggestions.

(The photo is my studio when we moved in, in August of 2009.  Looks a little different now, I’d say!)

Balance (Time Management)

One of the toughest things about being an artist is maintaining a balance.  A balance between studio time and work time, time and money, work and rest.  Socializing and time alone.

Balance can be difficult on the best of days, and as an artist, it seems that every week is different.   There’s not only different things going on at work, but different things going on in my studio practice and in my social engagements.  Some weeks, it seems there’s too many openings and events to attend, and others, there’s too much work, and yet, in others, there’s a lot that needs to be done studio wise.

This makes it difficult to schedule.  As my job doesn’t have concrete hours, it seems every day is different. It is sometimes a difficult job to allot enough time to each segment of my life (work, studio, sleep, relax/ hang out).  Time management and flexibility is a skill I am still working on- I strive to be as efficient as I can, working at my job and in the studio when I can, and still maintaining downtime to relax and re-energize.

I currently have a little system, although I need to reevaluate what is working and what is not.  I have a few days a week that are scheduled specifically for my job responsibilities, and those days I usually need to be at the office, although some days I work from home.  On days when I am not required to be in the office, ie, studio days, I try to be in the studio from 9-5, no matter what I’m doing. Unless there’s something going on, I’m usually in a good stride by 5:00, and so stay there to keep working. I’ve also realized that I am much more productive if my computer is not in the studio- that way I have to actually break my rule and go upstairs to get distracted in the internet.  (This is also why I still have a CD player. Well, that, and the fact that all my favourite music is from the 90’s.)

Other days need to be flexible, as my work week can change drastically from one week to the next, depending what’s going on.  These days, I try to work from home as much as I can, starting ideally at 9, so that when I’m done for the day, it’s studio time.

I find that on studio days, checking my email first thing in the morning can change my plans.  If I check my email, I often end up working (job).  This is not good, especially since I have relatively regular hours for work, and studio time, unfortunately, gets cut into when things get busy at work. And, quite honestly, I love my job, but if it kills my art practice, I may have to re-evaluate.

Checking my email before going to bed is also NOT a good idea, as, all of the sudden, I’m “just taking care of something,” instead of winding down and getting ready to sleep.  And the reality of it is, 90% of the time, that “something” can wait for the next morning without consequences.

Socializing is also important, to relax, and for mental health.  Openings and art events satisfy most of that requirement in my life, because that’s where my friends and colleagues are.  Coffee dates are great for connecting one on one with a special friend, or someone I haven’t seen in a while. I do have a certain group of mostly non-art friends that, when I hang out with them, my face and stomache hurt afterwards, because we’ve been laughing so hard.  There’s nothing better than that.

I think this breaks down into four points. It is important for me to work hard, but to also remember to take time off, where I’m not thinking about work, or I will get burnt out.  It is also important to schedule studio time, no matter how busy I am, as that’s what I’d rather be doing, and often, I find that’s what energizes me. Social time is crucial to release stress and to have outside stimuli in my life.  Rest is critical to rejuvinate and relax.

If anyone has any tips for balance, I’d love to hear them!

Morphoid Alive!

A short video of my success today… a physically animated Morphoid!

It has two separate circuits in it, one for the sound, and one for the vibration.  Both are affected by their relationship to light.  The only thing I don’t like is the rattle, but for a first go, I’m pretty happy with it. (Now, I need to learn to solder… right now it’s all taped together on the inside!  Temporary is okay for a prototype, but if I’m going to make more, I gotta learn to solder…!)

Yahoo!

February Photo A Day Challenge: Day 5

So, I’m well aware that I missed a day, but I have decided that instead of beating myself up about it, I’m just going to skip it and not worry about it.  Yesterday was a really busy day, anyway, and really, this challenge, while fun, is not a priority in my life.

Yesterday, I installed my upcoming current(!) show in the Untitled Art Society’s +15 Window in the EPCOR Centre!  While it looked great when I left, apparently a couple of things have fallen, and so I need to fix them tomorrow, on my way into “work.”  (More photos on the show to come!)

Today was busy as well…. working on a few things, a couple of submissions, getting some stuff together (for some press releases), updating stuff, working on other things.  Really cryptic, I know, but you know I don’t like giving out too many details on things that are unconfirmed/not past the “oh, that’s a possibility” stage.

My photo of the day, for 10AM, is tea!  Earl grey, of course!  (Tea means “work time,” most of the time.)

 

February Photo A Day Challenge: Day 3

 

Day three is… Hands!  I know this is not a literal interpretation, but why not push things a little? These are my absolute favorite drawing materials that I use in my sketchbooks and journals all the time.  They are Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolour crayons.  Heaven in a stick.