Wednesday, October 13, 2010


My paintings start out as rough thumbnails I draw in a sketchbook I carry around. For instance, this is the thumbnail for the painting of Claudia that I'm working on:

So where did this get drawn? Well, I can't usually get anything productive done at home, owing to a temperamental disorder of some sort, and I pretty much don't design paintings in the studio - I only paint there. So I need to sit someplace that I don't rent and control when I'm drawing these thumbnails. This raises a practical issue - where can you go and doodle a bunch of naked women and not cause trouble? Starbucks and Barnes&Noble are right out.

I have discovered a room. This room is above a deli somewhere in lower Manhattan. It is supposed to be used for Internet station rentals and eating food bought at the deli. But it is usually hot and dim in the room, and there is a horrible low-frequency vibration from the over-amped heating system. Also, it smells slightly of turned food. Hardly anyone knows the room exists, and people who do know of it don't seem to like it. I discovered it by accident myself. It's usually empty. This makes it perfect:

An empty public room to oneself on a high-traffic street in one of the most crowded cities I know, for the price of a box of apple juice. I'm not going to tell you where it is, because it's my room, and I want to keep it that way.

This is kind of a cutesy story that also illustrates something which may not have occurred to you, but which I feel duty-bound to point out. On this blog, I am excited to tell you about ideas I've had about art (and by art, of course I mean cognitive psychology, physics, and math). I am also covering a lot of the practical territory involved in actually making art. But there are some things I can't tell you. Art, after all, involves people, and politicking, and so forth. I have a lot of interesting thoughts about a lot of interesting topics, which it would simply be career-suicidal to share.

So please don't conclude that this blog is a complete coverage of its theme, especially if you are a working artist yourself. If you're an artist, you'll probably encounter some phenomena which seem curiously absent here. I'm not so much luckier or saintlier than you that I don't have to deal with those things. I do, and it's not so pretty, but that's part of the job. All I can say is that I try to deal with them from my usual position of doing my best to figure out the decent thing to do. This seems to work for me - I think it will work for you. I apologize that some of my observations remain hidden.


  1. I think that a good way to handle this constant dilemma about what to share and reveal and what to keep for oneself is to

  2. You mean like how getting a show in any of the major galleries involves sleeping with the gallery owners? You don't need to talk about that, everybody already knows about that.

  3. McG - assuming that text break was on purpose - very clever!

    Fred - yeah, and even for a guy with my prodigious stamina, that can get tiring. Tiring, and tiresome, frankly. But I was more talking about throwing their cantankerous mother off a train. That's embarrassing, you know?

  4. That's cool. I can't really grasp what city life is like, I mean unless it's exactly like it is in Seinfeld. But I have noticed - and more so as I get older - I do like different places for different creative tasks. Even in my house. I've set up an office that I really like, I refinished a cool drafting table and there's a window that I can see the river from, I have music and a ceiling fan and a comfortable chair. I can design on the computer there, or handle other business tasks. But, for instance, I can't write there. I don't think I ever have. I'll take my laptop into the living room and sit on the couch (not particularly comfortable, ergonomically) or even sit at the kitchen counter. I don't know why that is. Maybe I have a country version of the same temperamental disorder Dani has.

  5. It's pretty much just like Seinfeld. I have wacky neighbors who wander in, and I just sit around all day talking smack.

    I totally need different places for different things - I have one coffee shop for work writing and another one for writing for myself, actually. So that's four creative spaces total? And I really need to do the right work in the right place. I also have particular coffee shops in the non-NYC cities I visit most frequently. Sadly, you can no longer smoke inside my coffee shop in Raleigh.

    That's pretty cool you've managed to zone your house into distinct spaces to allow the single structure to serve multiple creative functions.

  6. Thanks, it is cool. I am lucky. And there are other spaces on the property that have kind of mood-specific purposes. Everyone needs a get away and relax place, mine is this platform in the woods. Kind of the tree fort I never had as a kid. I've tried to write here. I can jot notes down on paper and it's great for that, but the laptop isn't practical here.

    Here's my "office," by the way. Very comfy.

    Is there a guy in your studio building who is your 'Newman?'

  7. I have written entire plays in coffee houses. In 1995 I was the only guy in Cafe Lalo with a laptop and felt like a conspicuous little prick, but my girlfriend was working at Shakespeare & Co. and it was the middle of February and it was a great place to be. Besides, the play took place in a coffee house.

    Today every coffee shop has wifi which makes my concentration level a problem. I need to return to writing things out by hand on paper.

    That and what's up with the kids behind the counter today, turn the fucking music down.

  8. Coming from me--the master of TMI, I fully understand the need to keep some things private. Like my painful rectal itch. I also agree that finding quiet places to create is important. I've never had an idea strike me in the studio, that's just the place I go to paint.

  9. Ed - those are *fantastic* work spots. Thanks for sharing the pictures - hey everybody, look at Ed's pictures and get all jealous! Damn!

    I actually never really watched Seinfeld, because I hated the one or two episodes I saw, so I don't know Newman very well. He's kind of an asshole, right? I don't know if we have any full-tilt assholes in the building. And if we did, you know, that would be classified.

    Pengo - I have written much of my work in coffee houses as well! I am glad to hear that you partake of the coffee house writing habit. Wifi is definitely an issue. I handwrite the interminable novel I'm working on.

    Kids today! Grump grump grump.

    My main coffee shop, Cafe Grumpy, has a lot of indy rock people with capacious ipods working there, so the music is almost like listening to WXYC, my alma mater's radio station.

    Kevin, I hope you've got that rectal itch under control. What did I tell you about olestra? Don't eat things that cause anal leakage. Because the leakage is the *start* of your problems, not the end of them.

    Interesting that you have the same idea generation/execution boundary with your studio.

  10. Newman is less of an asshole, more of a nemesis.

    Anal Leakage: Band name.

  11. Ah, a nemesis! Well, I don't think I have any of those, although that black-on-black painter doesn't seem to approve of my work.

    That band name has *got* to be taken already. If not, then rock really is dead after all.

  12. Actually the black-on-black painter is exactly who I had in mind, but didn't want to say it in case he reads your blog.

    A quick Google search shows that both Anal Leakage and Anal Discharge are, in fact, already bands. The latter, in particular, seems to be as offensive a collection of people I've ever seen.

    Um, quick question: How do I clear Google searches from a work computer?

  13. "....both Anal Leakage and Anal Discharge are, in fact, already bands." The scary thing is they're probably already paintings as well. ;-)

    Location isn't a problem for me but time is, best ideas seem to hit me around six in the morning.

  14. Nice to see that Anal Leak has spurred such deep and thoughtful discussion. However, my rectal itch is different than anal leak, and I would never talk about that! Now as far as ideas go, I just fostered one this afternoon far away from my studio, but I'm already chomping at the bit to get cracking on it! No pun intended.

  15. Looks like Burning Rectal Itch is a band also.

  16. Silly me...I looked here for art talk that I never understand but read to 'widen my horizons' yet I discovered a collection of topics more commonly discussed at one's proctologist's office. I did laugh at loud (not LOL...I am too old for that) at the query about the office many times have I been in that same predicament....? Ah keeps me coming back, which is good for an oceanographer!

  17. Jim - the time dimension hadn't occurred to me. I am naturally a night person, but my wife is a morning person, so now I'm a morning person, and my time sense is diffused in strange ways. I can do most things at most times these days, so I'm inflexible about space, but not time.

    J - It would appear you haven't been paying attention to your Freud on art. Ed, obviously, is an enthusiast of the anal-sadistic model of artistic inspiration. Sometimes such obvious points escape (sniff) oceanographers. :)

    Ed, I don't think the black-on-black guy reads my blog. Even if he does, he probably doesn't read the comments.

    Office computer problem: first run a degausser over it, and then throw it out a window. Works like a charm.