Archive for January, 2010

Free Art Friday, Eggs, and Marketing

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I didn’t even know it, but today is Free Art Friday.

I won’t make the mistake of not knowing again.

It was a lark that I discovered this – I almost didn’t go for a jog during my lunch break, but I did. On my way back up Folsom Street towards the office, I saw a sign next to a table:

Free Art Friday

Of course I stopped to investigate.

Guerrilla Marketing, with food

The artist, who I soon learned was named Tracy, had a table set up offering a choice: a free hard boiled egg, or a free drawing of an egg. I couldn’t make up my mind (I was hungry from my jog), and after some conversation, she kindly offered both.

Tracy Grubbs on Free Art Friday

Tracy Grubbs offered fresh hard boiled eggs, or a drawing of an egg to every passer by

The whole interaction and experience was so pleasant and unexpected that I’m writing about it now.

I’m also writing about this because it shouldn’t be unexpected. I wish this was much more common.

The artist is Tracy Grubbs, a San Francisco painter. I asked about her art, and she told me that lately, she has been examining shape and space in her art, and in particular the empty space around objects as a subject matter.

(I hope I am remembering her words correctly)

As I was looked at the drawing I received from her (it’s down below), and thought about her words about space, I saw the empty paper as part of the composition, just as much as the ink. The unmarked areas are as much a part of the drawing as the marked areas.

I mentioned my own woodblock printmaking, and we discussed her “mercenary” marketing methods (my description). She sets up in front of her studio, on the edge of the Financial District. Folsom isn’t the busiest street, but there is a decent amount of foot traffic. Her location was a good balance between enough people coming by, but not so many that she would be lost in the hustle and bustle.

The real trick is to get people to slow down and engage, she mentioned. As I was talking to her, another guy stopped for a minute, and left with an egg. Two ladies walked by, but did not stop.

I thought the egg was the cleverest part of her marketing. In a strange way, the option to take just an egg made the entire interaction much more light-hearted, and lifted any pressure that may have been part of an interaction.

The art and the egg

Eggs from Tracy Grubbs

The Eggs I received from Tracy. The hard boiled egg has since been eaten.

I ate the egg for lunch. It was delicious.

As I write this, my egg drawing is attached to my calendar at work. I’ll bring it home with me tonight.

I encourage you to take a minute and check out Tracy’s site, it is right here:

She does striking paintings of impermanent automobiles. I’m going to leave it to you to click through to her site to see what I mean by that; I rather like them. You won’t be disappointed.

Go check her website out now, I’ll still be here when you get back.

I’m in

“Free Art Friday” has a nice ring to it. I think I will participate.

The aspect of Tracy’s set up that I liked most is that she was taking the time to get art into people’s hands. Art does not have to be something stuck in galleries, only appreciated by people “in the know”. Tracy took her art to the streets – literally – and people went home with art in their hands.

That is cool, it is inspiring, and I think we could use more of that in our culture.

I have to spend my Fridays chugging along at DayJob, so I’ll have to set up a virtual table for people to visit. Look out for my own FreeArtFriday posts next Friday on my Twitter account. I’ll probably have drawings of fire hydrants to give away, or something like that.

Want in? Follow me on twitter here: @BadDeacon.

I’m Buying an Apple iPad. This Will Change Things.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

People that say that the iPad is just a big iPod/iPhone are missing the point.

This will change things. A lot.

This device is certainly cool. I won’t be buying this because it is cool, but because it will make every other computer I have a more useful and productive tool.

I’ve got an iPhone, 2 labtops (PCs), a desktop (also PC), and an xbox, if you want to count that as a computer. I don’t need an iPad. Everything the iPad will do can be done on one of my other devices.

For most of those things, however, my iPhone is either too small, or my labtop is needlessly big and clumsy. Checking email, posting to twitter, quick updates to my blogs, facebook, reading RSS feeds, commenting on other blogs are a touch difficult on the iPhone because of its size, and while my labtop is powerful enough to do all of this easily, it is not very portable.

This tablet will be my “casual” computing device. I will use it to check email, read twitter and my RSS feed, download pdfs, and browse the internet. The size is big enough not to be an eye sore, like the iPhone, but small and portable enough that I can lounge about at my coffee table, or sit in bed. I have a feeling that for all of these casual computing and internet tasks, this tablet will be the baby bear device: not too big, not too small, but just right.

The beauty is my other devices will be free to do what they do best.

My iPhone will still be a phone, ipod, and on-the-go internet device. I’ll be able to post to twitter, update foursquare, and check my email on the bus, walking to work, or at a party (lame, yes, but important when you launch new product for sale that day).

My labtops will be movable work stations, and I’ll be able to use them for what they do best, writing code, creating written content, and editing audio media. My desktop will be my primary media storage device, and image and video editor.

The biggest challenge for me is that computers do too much. When I am writing a blog post, I am working on a machine that also connects me to email, RSS, my music, twitter, can be used to update the code of my websites, can create audio media, and on and on and on. Even when I don’t have these applications fired up, the fact that email is just a mouse click away is a distraction when I am editing an article.

My hope, and faith, is that this tablet will create a hardware separation between these applications. Right now, my computers are be-all, do-all devices. They do everything, and it’s too much for me. When I am working at my labtop that I use for everything, it becomes harder to focus on one thing.

When I am working on my computer, I don’t think about doing my dishes, folding my laundry, or reading a book. There is a hardware separation between those activities that helps me keep these separated in my mind.

(Sure, it may be funny to think of labtop and a dish sponge as separate hardware, but it works for me)

I don’t have a hardware separation between twitter and Notepad++. Interacting on twitter and writing PHP code for my WordPress installation are pretty different tasks, as different as checking email and doing dishes are. Having one machine that does both keeps me a little distracted from either, even when I’m not consciously aware of it. I may not know that this happens, but I feel that this happens.

I imagine that I will use this tablet when I want to quickly check my email, or post on twitter, read some articles, or something else that has to do with social interaction, contact, and media consumption.

I’ll fire up my labtop when I want to write code, or write a blog post/email newsletter, or edit images or a podcast or something. My computer will be a content creation device again, and I will (hopefully) be able to break the distractions in this process caused by content consumption.

My other computers will once again be tools for primarily getting work done.

I could probably write another 500 to 1000 words about how this tablet will change how media is consumed, blah blah blah, and it probably will. This will have an impact on the arts, media, and all sorts of stuff.

Ultimately, however, having a separate device that mixes the best of how an iPhone accesses the internet with the best of how a labtop access the internet is going to make me more productive.

That alone is what sold me on this device.

What do you think? Is this device the future? Are you going to get one? Why or why not? Leave me a comment, let’s discuss.

A Free Monoprint Available (a mono-what?)

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Yes, I have a free print to give away to somebody, just read to the end [update, 11:38am, Jason claimed the print, thanks for giving it a good home!].

It’s a weird abstract thing. Hope you like it.

But first, a short journey into the studio…

Take one big mess…

After a weekend of printing, my ink palette looks like this:

My Ink Palette

After a weekend of printing, I have bits of various colors, all partially used.

I have dabs of ink everywhere, and I keep a dollop of every color mixed, in case I use it again. The ink is left out overnight from Saturday to Sunday, 1 day isn’t enough for the ink to dry. It usually takes at least 2 days for the ink to develop a skin.

When I finish printing on Sunday, I scrape off all the unused ink and throw it away, because it will have started to harden by Wednesday, the next day I have any time to print.

Usually, quite a bit of ink gets thrown in the can.

Nothing wasted. Kinda..

I found 1 last use for this ink however.

I masked off the edges of a sheet of paper with painters tape, like so:

Masked Paper

The tape protects the margins of the paper from the ink

Lesson learned: painters tape isn’t the best choice when working with this paper (Rives BFK). The tape sticks a bit to the cotton rag, and roughs up the paper when the tape is removed.

Next, roll out all of the ink left on my palette to one big flat mess, and plop the masked paper down on it.

Rub the back of the paper to transfer the ink, then removed the paper from the palette:

The paper is pressed against the ink

Left: the paper is pressed against the ink palette; Right: the paper, after it is removed from the ink surface

The ink left on my palette is a huge mess! This ended up taking more time to clean up than usual.

Moving on, I remove the tape masking the edges of the paper, and end up with an interesting monoprint:

Palette-made Monoprint

Palette-17 Jan, monoprint, paper size: 11x15, image size approximately 9x12

A Monowhat?

A monoprint is made by painting ink on a plate of some sort. Glass and metal plates are commonly used, but a flat plate of any material will work.

The plate, with the hand applied ink, is pressed against paper to transfer the image. Usually, only one print is made from each design painted on a plate. Most of the ink transfers to the paper, and needs to be re-applied by hand.

Each monoprint is unique. They are usually labeled as 1/1 in the bottom left corner, meaning it is the first print out of a total of 1 made, an edition of 1.

Monoprinting is a method “in between” painting and printing. All printmaking processes have two characteristics in common:

  • Ink is applied to an element of some sort (metal plate, woodblock, limestone, silkscreen, etc), then transferred to the paper
  • The process is repeatable, allowing identical images to be made

Monoprinting has one of these characteristics, the ink is applied to a plate, and transferred to the paper, but not the other. Since the ink is applied by hand, without mechanical control of where the ink is applied, each iteration cannot be duplicated.

It borrows from both painting and printmaking to form a new, unique medium.

Free Monoprint (only 1 available)

This print was an experiment, and a way to have some fun after a long weekend of printing. The resulting abstract print speaks for itself — however it is up to you to interpret what it says.

Palette made Monoprint

Only 1 available

I played with the ink, and asked myself what will happen when I mix all my leftover colors, and is more a product of chance than of forethought.

This print documents a weekend of work on the 101 Woodblock Print Project, and is a companion piece (of sorts) to the larger project. For me, the “meaning” in this print is the history and documentation of the work I am doing on the larger overall project.

Do you like the image? I’ll put this in an envelope and send it to the first person that sends me an email requesting it and includes their address. I’ll pay for shipping. All you have to do is make the request. To make this easier, I’ve got a contact page.

I’ve only got one of these, so it is first come, first serve.

[Update: Jason beat you to the punch! The print has been claimed]

My Artist’s Cerebral Struggles

This isn’t the kind of artwork I usually make, which is why I am giving it away. This monoprint is the result of following a process largely relying on chance, not on forethought into the design and composition of the image.

The art I usually make is well-planned and thought out. I don’t rely on chance and randomness. Even when I take chances and take risks, they are calculated risks.

Many artists create art closer to the method I followed with this print, allowing chance and the nuances of a process to influence the artwork. The art is more of a document of a process than a composed image.

Both methods are valid, and of those methods, I feel compelled to make composed, planned art. It is difficult for me to allow chance to have a large roll in the final product.

What do you think? Do you mind art that relies more on chance than on composition? What do you think of the method I used to make this monoprint, randomly rolling out my unused ink?

Leave a comment and let me know!

Fine Art also loses Round 2; Balance is a Sucker’s Bet

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

I lost last week’s productivity to DayJob. I have been busy as an engineer, solving the drinking water problems of California.

I thought I would be able to catch up last week, and be on track this week. Turns out this isn’t the case. I was busy again this week, partly with work, partly with important personal business.

The real difficulty I am running into is the so called “balance” between my DayJob and my ambition to create and sell art.

I like doing a good job at work. That takes time, and it takes energy. DayJob requires about 10-1/2 hours per day, from when I get dressed in the morning till I get home and change out of my slacks and tie.

On top of the time, I am mentally drained after a day of work. This is why I started to dedicate an hour every morning to writing (at least, when I am not leaving early to work, as I have the last couple weeks).

I am freshest in the morning, so I give an hour of my best time to myself, before I give 8 hours to BossMan.

Balance is a Myth

There is a common meme around the internet (and in real life) that it is good to “balance” work life with hobbies and other activities. “Balance” is a healthy way to accomplish the things you want to do, and still maintain a decent day job.

They are wrong. The problem isn’t to “balance” the day job with art.

The truth is, the “balance” to a hard day’s work is relaxing at home, eating a good dinner, drinking a beer or a glass of wine (or 3), and relaxing with your family/girlfriend/whatever.

If I didn’t have ambition, I’d be “balancing” out this long work week by drinking beer, playing Call of Duty on my Xbox, and maybe hanging out with a girlfriend that suited the bill.

Irrational Drive is the real kick

I rely on irrational drive to convince me to get up at 6am every day to write, to work every other Friday night instead of going out, and to work on art every night after crunching through problems all day at work.

Balance does nothing to compell me to keep working.

Irrational Drive is what keeps me pushing to work what is essentially 2 full time jobs, in search of fortune and glory.

The trick is to develop my irrational drive into a monster, a force of nature, that compels me to continue to work, beyond when the “balanced” person does.

DayJob v ArtJob, Round 1 goes to DayJob

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

I’ve been busy at work. 12 to 15 hours a day busy.

I hope that it will mellow out today, and I will be able to get back on schedule.

I have an ambitious schedule of art production after all. I paint on Monday and Tuesday, draw on Wednesday and Thursday, and work on print projects all weekend.

The impact on my “night” schedule when I am this busy at work are two-fold:

  1. I spend many hours at work, hours I planned to spend creating art. I was at work till 10 pm last night, but my schedule has me painting from 7-10 on Tuesday nights. No painting got done.
  2. After 12 hours at work, I am too tired to get anything done at home, even basic stuff like clean up. Last weekend, after working over 12 hours on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I had to spend most of saturday doing chores like laundry, dishes, running errands and cleaning my apartment. I didn’t get to spend 4 hours with the brayers and blocks, making prints, as I had planned.

When I have to spend my nights working at DayJob, not only does it displace the time I scheduled that night to work on art, but it displaces time afterwards that I have to spend catching up.

It has been a conundrum, and not how I planned to start the year. I set a rigorous schedule of art production for myself so I could start strong, right out of the gate. Instead I got put in another race.

It’s not necessarily bad, because the work I am doing at DayJob right now is decent, and I have gotten some assignments that I am interested in, and bestow me with greater responsibilities.

When I come home from work however, I see my art supplies waiting for me, and I see my calendar listing out what I planned to accomplish that night, and I know that it is too late, and I am too tired, to get it done.

When I get set back liek this, and I get tired like this, it has a toll on my emotions. I feel dissappointed, and I end up feeling sluggish. My energy levels go down.

What I am learning is that some days, and some weeks, I will have to put art on the side, so I can do a good job at DayJob, bring home the bacon, and pay the bills. It may set me back a week or two, but it is what will create success for me in the art field.

The trick is to realize that I have not gotten behind, but have just spent my time in other ways. I don’t focus on what I didn’t do in the past, but what I will do in the future.

New Year’s Painting Goal Has Visible Results

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

What are you doing in 2010?

2010 is the year for doing stuff. If you are not doing or making something, you are wasting your time.

My plans for 2010 are rather ambitious. To follow through on them, I am going to have to do ridiculous amounts of work.

I’m Ok with that.

One of these plans is to do 50 paintings this year. One a week.

How to get ‘er done

Self Portrait, Oil on Canvas, 12x12.  First painting of 2010.

Self Portrait, Oil on Canvas, 12x12. First painting of 2010.

The structure I have set up for myself is pretty simple. I paint on Monday night and Tuesday night, starting around 7pm. I work till 10 or 11 pm. The painting is finished when I go to sleep Tuesday night, even if it isn’t complete.

The results of my first week’s work are sitting up here on my left. (I paint myself a lot because I am always a willing model)

This painting is not complete, but it is finished. This is as much as I got done on Monday and Tuesday night. I may work on it again a little bit this weekend when I have some free time, but then again, maybe not.

I imagine that this painting requires about 6 more hours of work to complete — it is about half done right now. The major shapes and areas are defined, but everything needs more work to flesh it out and make it complete.

Why half finish a painting?

When I was getting my art degree, I made a decision to pursue printmaking as my emphasis rather than painting. This had more to do with the school than my interests.

UC Santa Cruz had a marvelous printmaking facilites and equipment, and a marvelous lithography instructor. I had the oppurtunity to get a deep understanding of printmaking.

I also knew that if I studied painting, all that I would get was a lot of time to paint. This had to do with the school and the instructors. There was very little actual instruction beyond the introductory courses. Most of the advanced courses that I would have been in were little more than a lot of time to spend painting.

I put off painting, because I realized that I could get a lot of time to paint on my own, and learn nearly as much on my own as I would have in school.

I set this “painting a week” plan to get that year of painting that I put off in school. This is mostly about regaining my painting chops than producing finished work.

I’ll make paintings that you can buy for thousands of dollars next year.

Where’s Waldo Proves I Have Tech Cred

Monday, January 4th, 2010

There is a walkway between the contemporary art gallery and the rooftop garden terrace at the SF Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and it overlooks some of the adjacent rooftops across the street. The view is pretty boring, unless you are a mechanical engineer, then all of the rooftop equipment you can see from this walkway is fairly interesting.

Every time I cross this walkway, I stop and look at all the equipment across the street.

Last time I was at the MoMA, I noticed a couple stopped in the walkway, taking a photo of the rooftop across the street. I was a little surprised, because I thought I was the only person who looked at the rooftop air conditioning equipment installed on the adjacent roof. “Must be another engineer”, I thought to myself.

It turns out that I still am the only person that checks out A/C equipment. They were only interested in Waldo:

Where's Waldo? Hiding behind that supply duct fromt hat packaged rooftop A/C unit!

Where's Waldo? Hiding behind the boiler water piping from the water side heating system!

That equipment that Waldo is hiding behind is probably a boiler, supplying hot water to a hydraunic heating system or something like that. The hot water from the boiler gets pumped through pipes to coils that sit in the airstream, heating up the supply air, keeping the people inside warm.

I know this because this is the kind of stuff I design at DayJob. I design a lot of Air Conditioning, Ventilation, and Heating systems. In fact, I took this photo last time I was at MoMA, because I thought all of that rooftop A/C equipment looked pretty interesting.

I was all over that rooftop before Waldo ever showed up

I was all over that rooftop before Waldo ever showed up

This is the blessing and the curse of being an Engineer. I can’t help but notice examples of the type of equipment that I design. Plumbing vents? Cool. Fire Protection system risers? Fascinating. Rooftop equipment? Stops me in my tracks.

Anyway, I took a picture of that rooftop long before Waldo showed up, making anyone else care about this roof.

That, my friends, is street cred.

At least for technical nerds.