It took a week to get to Canada, but we made it. And what a beautiful site! Well, except on the way to the border crossing the road was washed out and we drove through a place in the woods that was adorned with confederate and Christian flags—oftentimes associated with the Aryan Nation—scary.
People keep telling me how much I am going to love the Pacific Northwest. Nothing could have prepared me for the breathtaking views of Canada. Ray keeps saying, “just wait until we get to the coast.” I love it so much here, I’m not convinced that it gets any better.
Speaking of better. What better way to spend a few weeks than at an artist retreat? It took only a 1/2 day to clean up and get settled into the space. The history of the Caetani Cultural Centre is intriguing. Svena Caetani lived in the house as a young girl but was captivated by her mother never to leave the house until her mother’s death. Svena was never allowed to make art while her mother was alive. Just 15 years before her own death, she started to recollect all of her memories and put them onto paper to form a series of 56 paintings called “Recapitulation”.
It’s nice to have a place to rest our heads for a while. We can take a breath, I can focus on my lettering practice, Ray can go fishing and make needed repairs on the trailer.
And what’s a birthday without dancing? In addition to Rosanna and Ulrich being incredible hosts, they also invited us to a Cinco de Mayo dance party on Ray’s birthday. He wasn’t thrilled at first, but these photos prove he had a pretty good time.
For those of you who would like to follow my lettering journey and perhaps learn a few new lettering styles, check out my new Facebook page where I will be posting events and resources. If you are on Twitter and Periscope, I plan to make small “knowledge deposits” about lettering throughout the rest of this month. You can follow me @CorpGraffitiArt.
Thanks everyone for being patient with us as we leave DC and make our way to my hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas to visit my folks where they have been remodeling Flo. We have had a lot of requests from friends and family to know what’s happening. We have been posting weekly so feel free to read past posts or follow us by clicking the link at the bottom of the page to receive updates via email when we post. We also post snippets throughout the week on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Last week in Kansas was intense: paperwork, fixes, squeezing in time with family and leaving unfinished projects. After the amazing woodwork Clint and Larry did on the cabin, we were itching to hit the road. Since we have a timeline and a lot of miles to travel, we were ready to leave last Friday but didn’t get a chance until Monday. That set us back so with no time to test her out, we just went for it. We knew that anything could happen and we thought we were prepared.
The first hit of culture shock came the first night at a campground in Little Sioux, Iowa just 225 miles north of Kansas City. Here is my first evening report of our maiden voyage:
Day 1: 17 April
Shortly after crossing the Kansas/Missouri bridge and as soon as we hit 50mph, a little wind got under the window, popped the artist tape off and the duct tape popped shortly after (2-3 minutes later). I was watching the whole time so we pulled over immediately.
I added two pieces of gaffer’s tape to each window. A long piece in the front and a long piece along the bottom.
At the 50 mile mark we pulled over and did a walk around. The gaffer’s tape didn’t budge. The wheels were cool and not much had shifted inside the cab, just a little settling of contents.
~160 miles later…
Sunset at Little Sioux, Iowa is 8:07pm. When we pulled into Woodland Campground, we weren’t sure if we would get a spot. The website said it opened April 15th but the office was closed. A couple pulled up in a pickup and asked–nearly in stereo while bogarting cigarettes–“can we help you?” I explained that we were chasing the sun and were hoping there was a spot available with electric.
The woman passed her cigarette to her husband and gave clear instructions on how to put it out without “killing” it. I said something about needing to save it. She agreed and said she was trying to quit but her son recently shot himself so things were a bit crazy lately.
She showed me to the office and told me our spot would be block 9, lot 2. I looked up at the map and the RV rings resembled a microscopic view of a Petri dish full of bacteria. Funny shapes, and lots of them, scattered around with lots of little sections. Each representing a lot to drive through. Drive through…good because we haven’t mastered the back-in yet.
After forking over what I hoped would be worth a hot shower in the morning and an electric hook up she shooed me out the door. I asked for a receipt and she referred back to her son’s tragedy, complete with details about how he shot himself, fractured his femur in 5 places, had to create a tourquinette and plug a major artery with his finger as he drove himself to the hospital where he worked. While stunned by the amount of detail she shared while staying compassionate for her son’s tragedy, I thought I was never going to earn that receipt and get camp set up by sundown.
Hierarchy of Needs
Once we were in and started pulling out gear, it hit me. I was stirring mayo (from packets I took from a gas station) into my tuna when I realized I simply was not prepared. Part of feeling not prepared is a sense of safety. The campground was cold, with a lot of annual residents but very few cars which indicates they haven’t returned for their summer getaway. While there we only saw three other families in the distance. Since we packed in a hurry, I didn’t know where everything was therefore not everything has found its place.
I have always felt safe with Ray around. The only change was our environment. I went from the warmth of my childhood home to a cold, small metal cocoon. So many “I should haves” ran through my head including all of the luxuries my mom offered me before we left. I said no to so many things that would give me comfort in exchange for keeping things simple.
Due to many unknowns of pulling a trailer, new geography neither Ray and I have visited, and the stress of lifestyle changes, I was not able to stay in the flow state. However I have been able to simply go with the flow. There is a routine when you go camping: setting up, finding the gear you need when you need it, eating, cleaning, tearing down, etc. But what you may not be able to anticipate is where you may sleep the next night and what the weather will bring. Most campgrounds this time of year are closed or don’t have electricity. With such low temps and since we aren’t “self-contained” we need heat to keep us warm at night. Not to mention all of the luxuries electricity may bring (hot pot, charging mobile devices, etc.). So I spend a good majority of my day tracking the weather and calling campgrounds to keep everything running smoothly. It’s a temporary flow for now until I can get into a more comfortable routine.
In the meantime, we were able to smile for the camera during stops along the way.
Life on the road with a teardrop trailer is like having another person in an already committed relationship.
So here we were, on the road with this new to us—yet antique—piece of metal. Ray is very familiar with camping as he grew up on the mountains and lived there during his childhood summers. Me? I’m used to 4-5 star accommodations and all of the amenities it provides. The idea of having a bed everywhere we go and a solid cover over our heads was what we both had in common.
Getting the rhythm down and taking on a new lifestyle was a challenge. But when we found ourselves at the foot of Bitterroot Mountain in Victor, Montana our challenges melted away.
George Wilkerson is a tall and generous man who served in the Army, 35 years with the LAPD all while running a teardrop company, and has built over 600 trailers and touched at least that many rebuilds and repairs. He kindly took us in and watched over and guided us as we found and fixed things on Flo.
The setting was gorgeous. The snow-capped mountains served as our backdrop as we ran around in t-shirts all day airing out linens, adding seals, patching and learning about other teardrop makers, how to build from scratch (both kits and replications) and where to source parts if George doesn’t have them. And he ALWAYS has them.
George added a little sparkle to Flo’s shoes with these rims. He specializes in aluminum trim, sells kits for those DIYers, and has all the tools. His website is what attracted us to Victor and can be seen here.
George’s knowledge was matched only by our couriosity and desire to learn. Along with all of the resources, he shared stories of Bill Kennedy, co-owner of KenSkill trailers, and Dan Pocapalia, author of “I Love a Challenge!” and veteran teardrop builder. George loves to talk teardrops. He shared emails from people who sends him pictures of their builds and offers commentary about how they are built, estimates of how long it would take us if we took on a project like this, and tips on how to recreate an original trailer should we ever want to. We are hooked.
An entire wall in his office reflects his life from Boy Scout badges, certification in diving (he was an underwater diver for the LAPD), and even a Purple Heart. He didn’t talk much about the awards, just that they remind him of where he has been. He has lived a full life, has two beautiful daughters who he talks about fondly, and shares his passion for the classics freely from Coca-Cola coolers to black and white movies featuring Humphrey Bogart.
We are headed back on the road now a little smarter, a lot more confident and extremely grateful for the kindness of George and others. With the 10-day forecast showing rain, we are reminded that it is spring and have the best seat in the house to witness the change of season: the front seat of a Jeep while on the road.
If you have any favorite stops along the Westcoast that you recommend, please let us know. We are planning that leg of the trip now.
We spent five days in a vortex. First I thought it was the pattern of visiting my home town. Then I blamed Mercury retrograde. Finally I realized that it was simple: too much to do in order to prepare for the next leg of our trip—more than we had time for.
When explaining to my dad all of the delays from parts not being in stock, paperwork not clearing in time for registrations, etc. his response: “Do you know when the best time to plant a tree is? Twenty years ago.” I swear I could write the sequel to “Shit My Dad Says.” He is famous in my family for some real doozies. His commentary assumes failure to plan on my part. I’m not sure how the operational speed of others and automated systems are my fault. This was my opportunity to practice patience.
No sense wasting time reliving the vortex by listing everything that kept us from moving forward. My friend Diane Bleck once advised me, “Don’t speak when your bleeding, only when your healing.” So instead, we will celebrate all that we have accomplished in the last few days before taking to the road with Flo.
Do you have a spare?
I will share that after a dozen phone calls and six visits to tire stores in two cities, we found the part we were looking for: the size equivalent to a Coker American Classic spare for Flo. While the part number is important, the critical piece was getting the right width so that the tire doesn’t rub against the wheel well while driving down the road. Tire dealers told me they stopped making that size and one even laughed at me. After asking me what I was putting the tire on and me saying, “a rebuilt 1947 Tourette teardrop,” he said, “I don’t think my inventory goes back that far, haha!” Soon we were digging through piles of tires and walking through dark, musty warehouses.
It wasn’t until I changed my approach from focusing on logic to relying on intuition that opened up and delivered us from the vortex. Why focus on an obsolete part number? So instead I got to know the shape of the tire and it’s relationship with the wheel well. By doing so, I trained my reticular activator to manifest the tire we needed. When I walked around the garage at Falco’s Service on Truman Rd in Kansas City, it was if the clouds parted and I could hear angels singing. I could tell from a distance that it was a fit. And it was!
Upon returning to my dad’s shop, together we continued to check off tasks from the punchlist. Mom and Dad added seals to the doors and galley, screws and plugs to cover holes and caulking anywhere we see daylight coming into the cabin to prevent leaks. Together Dad and I installed the light fixtures, fixed key locks, popped on the half moon hubcaps, and added a flexible rubber/aluminum fix to cover the piano hinge. It seems like every time you walk around the trailer you find something else to fix. Flo is 70 years old so she needs a lot of TLC…and she deserves it!
It has certainly taken a team and a lot of preparation to get Flo road ready. Mom and Dad have been working on her for months. Clint and Larry have added a golden glow to her interior. Here’s Clint’s account of the build and some additional photos from his recent Facebook post. Special thanks to these two for working so diligently this week and for your patience over the next 4 months until you can begin phase two: the galley.
I can’t help but wonder if the original builder and owners—who purchased Flo 70 years ago—had any idea the adventures she would see. Mom picked her up in Sedalia, Missouri the day after Thanksgiving in 2014. We have no idea if she has ever left these two Midwest states, but she’s about to see the Westcoast.
In just one week after leaving Arts Letters and Numbers, Ray and I have experienced the gamut. And we have discovered how bumpy riding in a Jeep Wrangler is over 1,500 miles. We wondered, “will adding the teardrop help or jumble us more?” I guess we will find out.
Niagara Falls was the best first touristy stop we could have made. We took it in at night and the next morning. I had witnessed it’s grandeur before. This was Ray’s first time and he was in awe. Honestly though, standing next to all that rushing water while impressive, just makes me want to pee.
Traveling on the cheap during our pre-Flo era means a lot couch surfing and staying at roadside motels. The hotel in Niagara Falls included a police visit to the hotel and a hooker (separate instances). That was something not everyone gets to see everyday. But what’s better is when someone who knows you are traveling says, “come visit me…” Those types understand what we are doing, the way of the wanderer, and want to share in the adventure.
We had the pleasure of staying with Diane Bleck, scribe tribe colleague, and her family on their farm. It is a gorgeous tree-filled farm with chickens and wildlife. Diane was incredibly generous in sharing her techniques with me and her children are a delight with their voracious curiosity and kindness.
Knowing that I would spend next month focusing on lettering, teaching workshops, and creating more exemplars for students, my visit with Diane was a timely springboard for this effort. I was blown away at how she has built a following at http://www.DoodleInstitute.com, the quality of her materials, and humbled by how she contributed to building up the industry we share. She is incredibly generous in her offerings to the community. While I had been thinking about packaging my skills into online courses, etc. she has taught me a lot about what to expect when putting myself out there to the public and balancing that with a happy life. Together we offered a 1.5 hour live, double broadcast (Periscope and Facebook Live) on, “4 Techniques to Massively Improve your Hand Lettering.” The viewing audience grew to 299 people and continued to grow even a day later.
I have a lot to digest and so many ideas to share with my new lettering friends. I’ll save it for the next art residency and focus on getting back on the road.
Visiting with friends and family has really been the highlight so far. By doing so, we have been able to share in the rituals we set at Arts Letters and Numbers: baking bread and pizza night.
Whether it’s having lunch with Brandy Agerbeck over deep dish Chicago-style pizza or meeting new friends like Renee Adriani to talk shop, it’s the connections we make along the way that string together an exciting adventure. As we head West, we look forward to more.
For those of you in the KC area, please come join us at a free gathering about how to leverage the power of visuals. I would love to share my creative passion with you and help you discover yours!
Next up: more roadside motels, meeting Flo, sign painting and spending time with family.
I’ve spent so much time in the Flow State that for a couple of days I couldn’t tell when I was in it and when I wasn’t.
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihaly there are 8 elements of Flow. Here is what you can expect to experience if you are maintaining it correctly:
Clarity of Goals: The rules of the game or steps needed to take are known. Every moment is clear as is every step of the way to meet the goal.
Immediate Feedback: Moment by moment you know what you are doing. Your senses are heightened and you are fully aware.
Balance between Skills and Challenge: What you need to accomplish is equal to the skills you have. You are operating at the right level. If there is too little of a challenge, you can become bored. if there is too much of a challenge, you can become stressed.
Concentration and Focus: Duality disappears—split attention merges into concentrated, focused attention. You experience harmony through efficiency and effectiveness.
Operating in the Present: You can’t afford to let your mind wander. There are no worries. You become unaware of the problems of everyday life. You can escape forward and create a new reality.
In Control of the Experience: You may feel as if you are on an edge with a sense of control of what’s in front of you.
Loss of Self Consciousness: There is no wondering of what others may think of you. With a loss of ego, you transcend defensiveness and have the feeling of being a part of something larger.
Sense of Time Transformed: Time adapts itself to how you feel when you are doing something. Hours get condensed into minutes or what takes minutes feels like hours.
At the beginning of the residency and in my studies of Flow, I noticed that when I switched to working with art materials, I could quickly get into flow. But as soon as my phone rang, an email alert came in, or my alarm reminding me to capture my experience I would quickly exit the flow state.
Later I simply shut off or ignored electronic sounds that permeated my creative space. Eventually I was able to maintain a flow state whether I was creating, cooking, conversing, driving. I even found that running errands was rewarding.
Until I dropped my cell phone. That’s when everything came to a halt. I couldn’t call, text, or check email. A sense of fear overcame me pulling me so far out of flow that it kept with me for a few days. Fear about the costs involved, the lost opportunities, and the usual addiction to devices we all suffer from. Not to mention that I dropped it two days before leaving and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the replacement in time for our planned departure. In most cases, this would be an inconvenience. When traveling, logistics are complicated. With changing billing addresses and shifting shipping addresses, it may seem to an outsider that I am committing fraud. But it all worked out, the phone arrived and we are back on track to travel West as planned.
Despite traveling down the highway at speed and thinking about how doing so is a type of time travel in the space-time continuum, I am still able to experience the flow state from time to time. What I have noticed is that if I let my imagination go to a negative place it pulls me out of flow and keeps me in a negative spin cycle until I can pull myself out. Once I catch myself, I quickly focus to gain clarity of the present moment and the goal then I’m back in again.
We create our own realities. I find that when I am in a flow state, it’s blissful.
Integration is key.
Weather plays a crucial role in the lives of us all. This is especially so for those who make their living collecting and processing the sap of maple trees. Maple syrup is big business and a proud tradition among those in the Northeastern states of the U.S.
There is a small window when sap can be collected: when maple trees awaken from winter dormancy until the first buds of spring appear. During this time there is much work to be done as well as time to celebrate. Maple syrup festivals are held across the area once the sap begins to flow. There are demonstrations of maple syrup production, tastings of syrups, creams and butters, and of course pancake breakfasts to sample the new year’s syrup. Each farm with their special technique or secret recipe makes for interesting visits.
I met Kent Goodermote at Kent’s Sugar House in Berlin, NY. Here he has produced maple syrup for over forty years. In contrast to the large automated commercial syrup producers, Kent’s facility is a shack in the woods using a wood burning evaporator. Kent and his partner Todd Hewitt, with the help of family and friends, complete every task necessary to produce their maple syrup.
The work begins in the fall as Kent and his crew gather the 8-10 cords of firewood needed for the evaporator. As winter settles in they plan how many taps they will place in the trees and how best to lay out their lines. Sap is no longer collected in buckets but in long plastic tubing connecting the trees in a large system depositing the sap in central locations. Once the trees are tapped the wait on Mother Nature begins. This year with unusually warm winter weather the sap began to flow in mid-February. When we were visiting in late March they expected the season to be over in a few days producing a low yield for the year. Typical seasons can run from early in March to as late as the end of April. Mother Nature is in control during the entire process. In his forty plus years Kent has produced anywhere from 50-270 gallons of syrup in a given year. It takes 43 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.
One of the regulars at Kent’s Sugar House is Kent’s friend Loren. Loren is a true mountain man of upstate New York. In 1922 Loren’s father purchased 250 acres of wooded land for $500 on Berlin Mountain. Loren and his 10 siblings were born in the house his father built and where he resides today. He has left Berlin Mountain only to serve his country and returned in 1954 to never leave the area again. Loren never had much interest in beaches and cities and the mountains had everything he needed or wanted. He spent his life as a logger and charcoal maker and continues that work today. Many of the trees he harvests now are third generation growth on the property in his lifetime. Today the high property taxes on his land threaten to force Loren from his mountain.
One of the larger maple syrup producers visited was Ioka Valley Farms. As the names implies they are more than maple syrup producers. There are farm animals of all types along with crops raised and wagon rides. This time of year is all about their maple syrup. They produce upwards of 3,000 gallons of maple syrup each year. Using a modern automated evaporator their production is fast and efficient.
The main attraction at Ioka Valley Farms has to be Terry Lynne. She spends her time in the Sugar House describing each of the products made and handing out samples. She does so with an energy and enthusiasm that is hard to describe. She reminded me of a snake oil salesman in an old western movie. She even referred to one of the maple syrup products as an elixir for good health. But Terry Lynne is serious and no nonsense about maple syrup. She says it’s “supercalifragilisticexpialidelicious!”
Standing, looking out the window, focus on breath, the beat of the heart becomes more apparent. My internal rhythm matches the cadence of my fingers as I type.
Where one applies their thoughts, focuses their attention, receives immediate feedback, and distances themselves from the past or future is the start of the flow state—the start of the next instantiation of self.
This residency for me has been about being both on the balcony and on the dance floor with flow. From gathering and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data to making work both in and out of the flow state, I have had the opportunity to watch my ideas develop both internally and manifest into reality:
hearts drawn on kraft paper, thoughts captured in sketchbooks
testing all the materials to best approach works on paper with the least amount of experimentation
leveraging experimental marks of ink on scrap paper for marks on final pieces
exploring glyphs and writing illegible letters with energy and personal meaning
binding ideas together with folds, waxed linen and glue
It hasn’t always been this way.
Diane asked if I was making the work I thought I would make. No, not really.
It’s been three years since I’ve made art in a studio. Before coming to ALN, I was in DC for work. Shortly after the election, Ray and I scrambled to orchestrate the next chapter of our lives. Having shifted from the fine art and commercial world to the corporate world in the past, I knew I could and greatly needed to have an experience that would allow me to shift back to the fine art world. ALN has been a rich environment to do so.
Conversations here have their own weekly rhythms: art shares, pizza night, and T time. Here I learned of others, science, and myself.
The final works I hung to fill the space I was provided are merely artifacts of my experience. Pieces from miniature (2″x3″) to large (3’x4′), I created 3 series: Flow, Bookmark in the Continuum, and String Theory. Because who doesn’t like to throw in a little String Theory when the topic of conversation is waning?
Bookmark in the Continuum is a term I have used for years to explain the key points in our lives that illustrate our existence. When time is compressed and our time here is viewed as just a nit over billions of years ask yourself, “What mark have I made?” It could be one big one like a discovery that contributes to humankind, or a series of them that build up to represent a full life. Nothing we do goes without impact.
Over 20 bookmarks were created these past few weeks. Most of them just passing thoughts that make up who we are. Some more profound with sustaining themes. Some weathered many storms, some found themselves bound by a found treasures, others will act as actual bookmarks—reminders of a time that has passed.
I had not given String theory much thought before coming here. I thought it would incomprehensible to me. But Rob made it interesting, put it into context, then habitually reminded me that nothing really new has been discovered in the past 50 years. Imagine those who have devoted their lives to a theory in which the result is essentially null. Not for me. I haven’t dedicated my life, but I did focus on the subject for several days and hope to continue to explore. My interest started with Rob’s mention of Noncommutative Geometry. I studied M-Theory and knots. I had a helluva time (that’s a mid-Western term) drawing them so I made 3-D models made of strips of paper to better understand. Phenomenology models are what they are referred to. After creating and understanding the forms of 5 of them, I had an easier time drawing all 15 of the common models found throughout String theory.
I loved the way the lines inspired me to consider them over time and through space through the making of books and other structures.
The Flow series started the moment I stepped into the studio. From the first heart drawn to the collection of data I have experienced, learned from, and harnessed the flow state. I captured qualitative data using Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Experience Sampling Method. Over the course of 25 days, I captured the following information prompted by a random alarm 3-5 times a day.
What were you doing? Where are you? Who are you with?
Are you happy?
How well do you feel about yourself?
Were you concentrating?
How well do you feel about what you were doing?
Check the Spire for streaks of quantitative data.
The Spire works by tracking breathing rhythms to determine states of calm, focus and tension. I used this information in conjunction with the qualitative data to quickly learn what help bring me into, sustain and ultimately take me out of flow. This approach helped me transition from the life I was living in DC and temper me into this new environment.
After practicing it for just 3 weeks, I feel as if my level of wisdom has nearly caught up with my physical age. Oh have I still have a ways to go!
Paired with Panarchy, my learnings have been magnified which I can now leverage for personal use in future circumstances. And paired with organizational change management models, this practice can be scaled to teams and organizations. It’s a way to increase self-awareness and productivity that to my knowledge is not currently being leveraged in the commercial, corporate, or government space.
So what does all of this have to do with making art? To me, it’s putting everything into perspective, sense making and integrating the learnings from time in the studio to time in the kitchen to time with others—understanding and building relationships. This opportunity is exactly what I needed. The time, the space, and the people have shown me what I can do and how far I can take my ideas when given the opportunity.
To inquire about purchasing some of the work from the exhibition, please visit this page or email me directly. For more information about Arts Letters and Numbers, visit their website or ask a resident.
Ray is spending a week in Colorado with his family before the road takes us in other directions. He enjoyed a springtime nap in the sun in Gawkie’s backyard in Mancos while winter crept back and snowed me in at Arts Letters and Numbers.
waking up to the swoosh of fresh snow being pushed off the road
springing out of bed to dip brush in ink
the second pass brings the metal blade to the pavement
graphite glides across cotton paper
the textured wall behind presses against paper to meet pigment
warm rays of the sun meticulously turn solids into liquid
soothing away the memory of marks on the page
The storm prevented me from leaving the house. This insulation provided me the opportunity to look internally. I discovered that I could turn my strengths and skills into resources—and not have to worry about lack. And these strengths manifested themselves in many ways.
Soon after posting a few pictures of the studio and some of my works on Instagram, a colleague made a request: the heart I drew to be printed on a t-shirt. Having had experience silk-screen printing in the past, the challenge inspired me. Knowing that I didn’t have any of the equipment nor the time or inclination to split my focus from making art to create products, I pulled together a black and white drawing then uploaded to Society6—a website offering graphic tees, printed home products and other gear and set up my storefront: www.bit.ly/heartsketch.
Having the opportunity to make a little money on the road was enticing. So much so that I worked on a few paid projects this week and supported the Visioneering team by cleaning up charts they recently created. Trying to balance bringing value to the world and diving deep to further my understanding of the flow state was a challenge. Not to mention the dirty clothes piling up, driving Ray to the airport (which leaves me to invent, create and eat alone), getting snowed in and having to shovel my Jeep out of 22″ and helping another artist resident do the same.
All of this hard work on the front end paid off. Something magical happened Friday night: Pizza night. It’s not your typical pizza and a movie. I supply the crusts and everyone brings their favorite toppings. The abundance of creative materials is a mashup between color, texture and flavor. The result of the last three events have been incredible conversation and eating some of the best pizza ever created. Here is a list of all of the ingredients we have experimented with so far. Not all on one pizza of course. Although my favorite combination is Sarah’s sweet and savory pizza:
I look forward to the stops on our upcoming road trip where I can bring this delight to the friends and family who will put us up. It’s a wonderful evening activity that fosters the creative expression of all who appreciate good food and conversation.
What happened after was an even bigger surprise and a memory I will always hold close.
Making my way back into my studio, I decided to just clean up and get to bed early to prepare for a productive next day. Upon entering the studio I remembered an idea I had in a dream the night before and I quickly began to create a small dummy for a book I would like to make. I got lost in time and my adrenaline must have kicked in because all of a sudden I was hungry again. Back into the kitchen. I ran into Sarah and invited her to sit in my studio if she wanted to be closer to the activity downstairs. She brought her sketchbook and sketched quietly. The voices from the kitchen grew and that inspired Sarah and I to share ideas about getting a live model and other activities around our upcoming show of work. We invited Rikke and Frida to join us, some time later they did.
I kept working, cutting and ripping paper, measuring and playing with the natural memory of fibers. I love how a bone folder and clips can retrain a piece of paper that has been rolled for year to a flat folded form in just minutes. Then pulling out transparent watercolor ground and experimenting with new handmade papers, I dreamed of ways my water media could be added without warping paper. I’m working very wet and in layers so my relationship with the surface is critical. I must have had a strange look on my face when Rikke asked if their talking bothered me. Not at all, I loved it. They were talking about a project and the creative contributions of all those involved. I loved the way they talked about how they worked and what they needed to make more happen. They have a shared vision and passion for their investment so far and what could be in the future. I found it enlivening. I kept recalling my two-year term with the change management effectiveness team and what attributes a high-performing team had and how to assess what is working and what is needed. I kept suppressing my knowledge because I needed to focus on time and relativity. I wasn’t here to advise, consult or facilitate. But they kept talking and while my hands were busy making art, my mind kept seeing models and soon I found a stopping point and pulled out some flipchart-size sheets of newsprint and started drawing with a bristle brush pen—not your typical graphic facilitation.
It began with the Drexler-Sibbet model of high-performing teams. I explained the model which prompted them to want more and self-identify where their team was. Then more questions about talent and fit…out comes Team Dimensions Profile. Rikke immediately recognized and I validated from my own experience that with creative projects most great ideas attract teams made up of Creators and Refiners and often lack Advancers and Executors. She immediately went to drawing what the need for a balanced team looks like and what the current state is. And (drumroll please) a natural graphic facilitator is born!
The conversation continued with the Laggard scale and more drawings and insights from Rikke. I was able to step aside and witness the continuation of a beautiful conversation about opportunities, challenges and creative problem-solving. Something I had not witnessed to this level in all my efforts over the past 5 years as a visual practitioner in the government and commercial sector. It didn’t take me long to realize why. Because there is very little creativity and diversity in those sectors. Sure, you see the occasional innovation but the lasting, powerful achievements often have a diversity of thought behind them and usually a good number of designers. In this moment I was privy to sit in on a pure artistic solution setting with areas of science, architecture, and political science making their way into the conversation. I wondered why only some companies are open to leveraging the creative skills of professional artists and others only try to emulate the attributes while going about more left-brained tasks. Why not more collaborate and co-creation across sectors? The opportunities are endless!
I won’t forget the way the conversation helped me build a bridge between my art and my visual practitioner work. They really do pair and compliment one another well. I will continue to seek out opportunities to continue providing bridges. While I do have some trepidation that the current US administration is leading us back into an industrialized nation over moving forward by leveraging new ways of thought, I trust I will find my place and bring value where I can—whether it’s commoditizing an image, holding a space for breakthrough conversations, or writing words and intention into my art.
Back in Mancos
Heather and I have plans to visit many beautiful places over the next few months while OnTheRoadWithFlo. It is hard to imagine that many places will be as beautiful as my hometown of Mancos, Colorado. With that in mind I left the Arts Letters and Numbers residency for a family visit.
While living in the DC metro area for almost three years I made numerous trips home. This one had a different feel from the beginning. I knew this would be the last before heading out across the country with Heather. An adventure that will help us discover what is going to be the next step in our journey together.
I will admit that I have had some fears and reluctance in the beginning. Is it the right thing to do, the right time to go? Can we really accomplish our goals on this trip? We had many discussions on these topics and decided anything was possible if we worked together.
I spent the first couple of days in Mancos with my family, mom, brother, sister, nieces and nephews. Then I had a huge realization. No matter what the outcome of our great adventure is we have a beautiful and safe place to return to if we chose. This is where we began our lives together. We will remain open to all possibilities and be grateful for all our experiences on our trip with the knowledge that together and that we have done this before.
Most of my visit will be spent with my nephews Brady(5) and Emmett(3). That is how all of my visits home are spent. We draw, read, wrestle, tell stories and go for hikes. On this visit I introduced them to root beer floats. And they did not like them. They like root beer and ice cream but not mixed together. Maybe next time we will try hot fudge sundaes.
My family is fortunate to have five generations living in the same town. My grandmother, Ophelia, is 93 years young and is the oldest of thirteen siblings. She is eager for spring so she can plant her flowers. My grandfather, Moises, is also 93 and has lived an amazingly full and compassionate life and he is still laughing his beautiful laugh. We had a great visit and look forward to many more.
Artist-in-residency (AIR) programs can be found all over the world—each having their own focus and model of operating. Some offer studio space, housing, stipends and require artists to donate work or offer a workshop. Others are paid by the artist and are self-guided. For the last ten years, I have kept a running list of AIRs in case I needed a break or had a project I needed to focus on and the time/space to complete it. Thanks to the website ResArtis.org, AIRs are much easier to find and apply to year-round.
Since being accepted into two artist-in-residency programs in 2017, I’ve been dreaming of the opportunity to hit the pause button on my career and life and just make art. Planning what I will make and what I will do during this time was very carefully articulated into action plans and schedules. Nearly all of that went out the window upon arrival in upstate NY.
The BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): Ray and I are making art. We dove right in and began right away. I’ve created works I didn’t know I had in me.
It took a bit to get comfortable in the space, to our new life of transition and travel, and back into making art. The people here come and go, change and grow and we are finding that our internal selves are syncing with the external: land, structures and weather quite naturally.
We took the time to reflect on our experience since we got here. We hope you enjoy our journey. Please let us know what you want to hear more of.
Ray’s First Residency Experience
I recently had the pleasure of working with Mary Prescott, www.mary-prescott.com, to bring her improvisational “Alice” to life. Mary is a NYC-based pianist and composer who works in both classical and improvised styles. Mary was accompanied by Jaimie Van Dyke, also NYC based, an expert in set design, costume design, and all things related to producing all types of performances.
Mary and Jaimie were visiting the Arts Letters and Numbers (ALN) artist residency in Averill, NY to shoot scenes for Mary’s project. On the first day of production, after some apprehension and then encouragement from Heather, I asked Mary if I could observe and maybe make a few photo stills for my own project, “One Hundred Strangers.” After discussing my project and my intentions Mary agreed and we set out to begin for the day.
The first hour was spent setting the stage for filming. Fabric in four different colors was cut into long streamers to be hung from above the set. Ropes were set up to give the appearance of Mary’s character floating in midair. I helped in any way I could and soon the set was ready for the first scene.
I made a few photos of the set and looked for the best position from which to make stills with out being in the way of filming. This is when I received the biggest surprise of the day. Before beginning the first scene Mary approached me with her camera and asked if I would shoot video as a second camera for the production. I explained I had no experience with video but Mary was not concerned so I agreed. Being nervous I used my knowledge as a photographer to get through the first scene. Once I realized that there was no judgment or expectations from Mary or anyone else involved I really began to enjoy the entire process.
Over the next two days we filmed so many scenes we lost count. The best part was working with the many people that were a part of the project. It was hard work but very rewarding. Mary’s vision and her ability to direct were amazing to witness. Jaimie seemed to know exactly what we needed at each step. Everyone that played a part, actors, volunteers and film crew, were all kind and caring. It was the perfect way to begin the great adventure Heather and I have embarked on.
As part of being http://www.OnTheRoadWithFlo.com I decided to do a photography project over the course of our adventure. I named the project “One Hundred Strangers,” neither original or as I have discovered maybe not appropriate. Everyone I have met associated with ALN while technically a stranger does not seem to be after only a few minutes of conversation. So a name change to the project may come in the future.
I have had the opportunity to photograph a few people I have met recently. Part of the residency involves gatherings at the homes of supporters of the residency. Those activities include Monday T time, T is for tequila, Tuesday ping pong and Friday movie night. Many of these gatherings are held at the home of Rob and Diane, supporters and advisory board members of ALN. Their home is a combination museum, art gallery and library. More importantly it is a warm welcoming place for friends to gather.
Immediately upon meeting Rob I knew I had to photograph him. He is physically a tall, strongly built man with a long white beard. His smile and personality along with his amazing mind is what catches your attention. Rob is a physicist by trade but left the profession to pursue things that interested him and made him happy.
On the second visit to their home I mentioned to Diane that I would like to photograph Rob. Her response was to stop by anytime as Rob would love to be photographed. I was a little hesitant but as Rob had retired to his shack I had little choice other than to just show up. The next day I arrived in the early afternoon and was greeted by Diane. Rob was out in the garage and greeted me warmly. Rob asked what I had in mind and I explained that I would like to make a photo in his favorite place in the home and a headshot if possible. We talked some about the house and then Rob decided the best course of action would be a tour of the entire house.
Along the tour we discussed many of the objects in the house: art, toaster collection, books and many other interesting items. Rob told me stories of his career as a physicist and why he left the field. How he made a choice to do the things that made him happy and were of interest and importance to him. I asked him questions about his life and family and he answered with questions of his own. He then asked me what he felt was the most important question: Do I write? Rob believes that writing is necessary to make a true connection with the things we experience in life. Not only to preserve the memories but to actually feel and understand the experiences.
In the end we chose a few places in the home to make some images. Rob was a natural in front of the camera and was at ease. We moved furniture and enjoyed a good laugh at me trying to fold a five-foot reflector I used as a background for the headshot. My hope was to portray Rob as he is, he is many things.
I am grateful to Rob for inspiring me to write. It will allow me to share my stories with you and to more fully experience and understand them for myself.
Heather’s Reflection: The first week of residency
We are invited into a new space.
Creaky doors and floorboards. White walls like canvases, waiting to be filled. The hissing of radiators as heat fills the room.
My internal landscape is reeling in anticipation of the possibilities. I feel as if I have come to the right place and while I look back over my shoulder to gauge Ray’s reaction, I know that no matter what he is feeling in the moment I have faith that we will soon be thriving in this new environment. It will take open minds, open hearts, and curiosity to discover new things.
The day after I arrive I dive into drawing. I knew that I could spend days if not weeks rearranging the studio—getting all of my supplies in order, thinking and getting nervous and then my work would be too tight. So I just started drawing. I’ve had a piece in my mind since I left Durango nearly three years ago. I wanted it to be the bookend to our DC experience. I didn’t fully know what it would look like but I knew the process and I knew it had to be the first piece I created after leaving DC. Like all of my work, it is a process. So I sketched it out in just a few minutes and set it to the side to work on another drawing, a true challenge: an anatomical study of a heart. I quickly sketched on newsprint then drew larger on kraft paper. I knew it needed more highlights and shadows but the materials I brought with me where unfamiliar to me. I had collected these supplies over the past three years but never really put them to use. I knew that I didn’t want to experiment directly on the page. Works on paper take a slightly different approach. I needed to get to know the paper and the inks and graphite before I apply it to a piece of art. It look nearly 6 days, but I completed a 37 page book and created indexes in 3 large sketchbooks that reflected the 8 types of paper I was planning to work with and over 70 different inks, paints, graphite, charcoal and brushtypes. It was a true labor of love but well worth the investment of time and it brought structure to my days as I acclimate to this new environment.
While creating this index of mediums, I also:
Completed the bookend piece—which I will share if it gets accepted into a juried show where I would like it to make it’s first public appearance.
Started a “Bookmark in the Continuum” series—which I have been wanting to create for some time and was inspired by listening to “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem in celebration of International Womens’ day.
Reflecting how women have been living marginalized lives, Chinese women letter writers created their own script and wrote underground friendship letters to one another. The punishment for doing so was so severe making the letters themselves were precious—oftentimes the women were buried with them. They communicated with one another by writing in slender columns down the center of the page, leaving wide margins as spaces for a correspondent to add her own words.
I used water-soluble graphite on pieces of paper shaped like bookmarks and used the tassels to tie them to the large pine tree outside my studio. My hope is that the rain and snow will help partially “dissolve” the messages both I and my new-found artist family have written on them.
Have been practicing Flow and studying the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi including:
Setting up a system to practice his “Experience Sampling Method” to capture qualitative data and wearing a Spire to capture the quantitative data. The objective is not only get better at making art and living in a flow state, but to:
Cross-walk the data against other models like Panarchy
Consider the possibility of team, organizational and cultural transformational opportunities
Utilize it in my coaching practice
Incorporate it into my genre
Captured the significant words in my residency proposal to keep me focused and inspired.
Pulled out the Holga and started shooting the last of my B&W instant film (which is no longer being produced anymore).
Created two small wall-hanging books that reflect The Mill—a great source of inspiration for all artists here.
Started reading Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit.”
Bake bread and write nearly everyday.
Next week I hope to focus less on technical processes and more on the conceptual. I plan on putting a lot more graphite and ink on paper.
For more real time updates, please check out our Instagram accounts. There are more photos there than shared on this site.