24 April 2015

[creativity] A Pilot Program Promoting Perfection of Practice

After a great deal of reflection, I'm going to try an experiment to instill the one quality that I desperately need and have never quite mastered.

It goes by many names. Persistence. Patience. But the facet I'm most concerned with is Discipline. 

The big D. The hafta-hafta. What must be done, sine qua non anything else.

I have had skill. I've let them atrophy for a variety of reasons. I'm starting over in many many ways. But so far, every attempt to channel my boredom and rounded edges back into a sharper mien has fallen flat. Every single one. I was writing in my diary, just now, and something common to a few inflection points … the Muse seminar in February, Linework NW and meeting Lisa Congdon and her book, Art, Inc., the idea behind SARK's MicroMovements, an evolving commitment to more deliberation in my everyday things … everything coalesced in a single idea, as simple as can be.

Starting within the next few days, I'll decide to stake out a 30-minute block for creating something. Writing, drawing, either throwaway or persistent. In the beginning, diary writing (I should be writing every day; that's something I don't do, and to me, that's a pure shame which I'll not hide from), but there are ideas of things that have been pestering me. But my superpower is inertia … and you all know how that goes.

Every plan has a gimmick. Here's mine. The first day, 30 minutes. The second day, 31. The third day, 32 … by the end of the month, I'll be logging a minimum 60 minutes a day of creative calisthenics. Since I'm starting with 30 minutes … hell, I can endure 30 minutes of anything. And I can always, always do another sixty seconds on top of what I've already done. And the repetition means to encode the new habit into my psyche's DNA.

If I miss a day? Still increase it by that minute. If I can hold out for sixty extra seconds, I can certainly do 120.

It's a manageable goal. A manageable execution. A manageable evolution.

I'm a believer in evolution on more than one level. Managing ones' own is always best if you can arrange that. 

23 April 2015

[art] One More Linework NW Post: Brett Carville and Fifty Licks Ice Cream

As though the experiences in the last posting weren't memorable enough, there were two others and I can't quite comprehend how I forgot to mention them, so I'll make up for that remission here and now.

Brett Carville is a rather affable fellow who lives here in Portland and works at Laika (the lucky bastid). He does inspired, edgy cartooning bordering on the grotesque; the characters he draws arrest the attention and make you wonder about the leaping creative mind that can hold that sort of chaos within it, never mind transferring it to a drawing of any sort. He's an incredibly affable fellow, and chatted gladly with my wife about his drawing and his characters. What really drew our attention was the card he was handing out  promoting himself and his Life of Craig comic book.

The characters (clip on right) are lined up, impassive, posing against a white background. It reminded us of nothing so much as the lineup of aliens from Barlow's Guide To Extraterrestrials, that legendary book by the equally-legendary Wayne Barlow, whom should need no further introduction round these parts. Can you feel the echoes of Barlow informing this work, even indirectly? We fancy we can. It gives Brett's work extra resonance, because it speaks to us from the same place of fancy. We love it. To see the whole lot, surf on over to the project on Brett's Behance portfolio.

The other (clip, left) is as perfect a piece of whimsy as we've seen in a while. Keep Portland Weird then like to say, endlessly, ad nauseam, round these parts. But when the banner is being paraded down West Burnside Street past Powells by a mastodon-like tusked beastie on stick-y, stilt-y legs, the whole idea of Portland being weird takes on new dimension. Or, just maybe, something's come to town that means Portland will have to up her weird game to the next level. Are we up to it? The passing traffic on Burnside assents by its mere tolerance: we are Portland, and we are awesome. It delighted us so much that The Wife™ bought a lovely print of it, and Brett produces quality-product … it's printed on photo paper and begs to be framed. You can see the whole of this not-so-wee beastie by following this link here.

The last thing was a bit of epicure in from the building. We'd missed Kim Jong Grillin', but +Fifty Licks Ice Cream was still there, and The Wife™ can't say no to a taste of ice cream. But Fifty Licks challenged us. We hadn't gotten on board the artisanal, gourmet ice cream wagon yet … were we ready? We decided to take the plunge with a scoop of Salted Carmelized Honey flavor. A warm, brown color that spoke of summer hillsides, we approached cautiously; the guy who served us educated us on what 'carmelized honey' meant, and I was duly impressed. The taste was divine; we had no reason to be apprehensive. Savory-sweet with notes of burnt sugar and a delightfully bitter-bite finishing note that made me wish that we weren't sharing a scoop.

Any time we get into discussions about flavors like this with people we usually dish a little on the hoard of so-called 'chocoholism' that's swept the country since we can't remember when it started. It's not that we don't think people should like chocolate, but there's so much bad, blah bland chocolate (and if there's any indictment of our current culture, it's that it should have rendered chocolate, one of the boldest tastes out there, bland) out there that everyone seems to go mad over, we sometimes wonder if chocoholism is some kind of pose. Well, the Fifty Licks guy shut us up but good with a taste of a wonderfully complex and nuanced chocolate-fudge concoction that had both notes in a wonderful balance with an almost coffee-like finish. 

Those who love good ice cream can go thank whatever gods there be for Chad Draizin and Fifty Licks Ice Cream.

And that's it for now for the Linework 2015 report. Check in next year, when we go both days. 

20 April 2015

[art] What We Saw At The Linework NW, This Year

I must say, in the short time it's been extant, Linework NW has made strides in seven-league boots.

Last year was its first. Reviewing what I wrote then, It's plain we had fun. You certainly couldn't beat the price. And it was a charge being able to enter the Norse Hall, over by NE 11th and Couch.

Last year was such a success, they did it again. And they did it better. This rocket, my friends, is taking off. Whereas last year they made do with the big room downstairs and had the palmful of panels in the bar over a single day's proceedings, this year, it was two days worth of niftiness, more panels, and more space (the panels moved up to what was called the "Lodge Room"). And, instead of just one day, it was two.

About the only thing that suffers is the air circulation in that place. Not that it checked the velocity of the feeling in there one little tiny bit. At Linework NW, the air was also filled with this palpable electric charge … the community feeling, the creativity was almost so solid you could pluck it out of the air. And this was late on the second day.

We came in later on that second day. And it was so busy that I found myself regretting missing the first (if for no other reason than we missed one of the big-time guests … none other than Daniel Clowes (talk about punching above your weight. This is only the second iteration of Linework NW)). But the cosmos seems to be paying attention, and rewarded us handsomely for just showing up.

To wit:

We sat in on one panel. Hazel Newlevant, Taneka Stotts, Tristan Tarwater, Lucy Bellwood and Kory Bing led a witty, knowledgeable talk about crowdfunding, touching on Kickstarter, Patreon, execution, what to expect, and how to expect the unexpected … no matter where I go personally with my art from here, I didn't necessarily see a crowdfunding step in the mix, but I have a good idea now why I might do it, and may at some point take it on.

A creator I muchly admire sat in on the talk; none other than Barry Deutsch, long time proprietor of Alas, A Blog, and creator of one of the winningest heroes I've ever run across, Mirka, whose adventures are chronicled in Hereville (of which I've exulted before), a brave graphic novel series about a brave young woman who takes on adversaries that none of us could frankly handle. I got to meet Barry, well, actually, my wife roped me in (gladly!) not knowing I'd heard of Alas, which was a moment of married-person comedy. Barry's a truly nice guy.

You don't get away from one of these without scoring something memorable, and since the event is still free, that's free as in Beer (top that, ComiCons) there's that much more money to spend for the tightly-budgeted on a goodie or an experience. For me, that came from the fertile mind of Lisa Congdon, who was a very nice person and sold me one of her books … one with danged useful info in it … Art, Inc …

And then she did me an extra blessing, and signed it.

She chatted me up for a couple of moments. Not only did I listen to what she said, I listened to what I said back to her. I've always believed in paying attention to myself as well as others, because sometimes I find the most wonderful things. And this time, I found something. I need to unpack it, so I won't go on about it right here, at least not yet. I will. May be next week, may be next year. But I will expound. Eventually we all like sharing our epiphanies, and I'm no different from that.

The Wife™ had herself a sort-of-a-cosmic experience. She decided to plump for the delightful book D.I.Y. Magic, by Anthony Alvarado, who's also a thoroughly delightful person, as we found out because he, was, of course, there. There was a little bit of human humor over the fact that, at first, she didn't realize the guy behind the table was the author; she wondered aloud that it was possible for us to get the book signed and he acknowledged that it was; to the question in the air, I opined  that The answer is yes. 

Well, as it happened, he'd made a habit that day of writing a bit of what he'd heard snatched from the air as appropriate … and there it was, inscribed just south of the title and just north of his byline, on the title page … THE ANSWER IS YES.

Which is appropriate, in an existential way. When it comes to Linework NW, for us, the answer will always be yes. 

11 April 2015

[Address_Nerd] In Passing: Two Interesting Salem Street Names

While I've not called Salem home for many a year (and at this point feel myself more of a Portlander than I've ever been of anywhere else), I'd be lying to myself if I said I didn't still feel somewhat at home there.

You can take the boy out of Marion County (or he can), but you really can't take Marion County out of the boy. The strawberry patch has set its stamp upon me, aye.

Since I don't get back to Salem as often as I ought, Google Street View is my friend betimes. And since the street level photography has gotten so damn good over the last few years, I indulge my urge to see what the street names and blades look like and how they have changed over time. There are two interesting bits of nomenclature that have stuck with me. I delved and found, and I'd like to share them now.

1. The Cutoff at the end of 12th Street.

12th Street, SE, is a major access backbone to the area of southeast Salem east of Commerical Street but west of the Salem Airport. For over 2 and a half miles south of State Street it distributes traffic and commerce to those inner south-east side neighborhood areas, climbing the hill south of Vista Avenue, and then swerving southwestward to merge with Commercial Street at about the 3800 block, just north of where Sunnyside Road SE peels off.

What is easily missed, though, is that the road stops being 12th Street SE at that point. There is a 12th Street SE south of this point … but it lines up with the main stem of 12th and goes from Duffield Heights St SE south to Hilfiker Lane SE, in the small neighborhood just east of Commerical, south of the 12th St light. That diagonal section connecting 12th at Oakhill Avenue SE to the big traffic signal plenum at Commerical Street is actually known as …

12th STREET CUT-OFF SE. A real mouthful of a name. But it lends itself to, perhaps, the most intriguing looking street blades Salem can boast. The above blade blends the signage for Ibsen St SE and 12th Street Cut-off due to the interesting angle of the intersection, and the extension across the main road that allows southbound 12th Street traffic to access Commercial Street northbound … a dendritic ramp affair that also connects to Promotory Place SE.

Another interesting thing is that the signage is not consistent. There are two other cross streets to 12th Street Cut-off, Doris Ave SE and Oakhill Ave SE, and both the signs shift the "ST" generic to above the block index, leaving the "CUT OFF" kind of dangling there.

The street name is most prosaic, as the cut-off does provide a shortcut to Commercial Street. Giving it a variant name also prevents a duplicated street name, as the southern third of 12th Street Cut-Off is somewhat parallel to the southernmost extensions of 12th Street SE, just a few blocks to the east.

2. The One And Only Link You Need.

The other interesting blade happens in West Salem. I lived near this place for a very short time. There is a street that links Kingwood Dr NW and the place where Hillcrest Dr NW and Riverview Dr NW come together. This is a very short street, on the order of only about 180 feet in length, and in honor of its functional position of being very near three streets but not actually being part of any of them, it's simply (and also prosaically) called …


The "ST" generic seems to be a later addition; when I lived in that neighborhood, maps and the street sign simply called it The Link, NW. Latterly, I've noticed, post offices and city planners abhor a vacuum in the generic spot (Witness here in Portland where SE Reedway (a per se street name sans generic) is increasingly posted as SE Reedway St, a misnomer. So, the awkwardish The Link Street NW it is for them. I'll always see it a little different.

At least the word THE has been retained, giving a memorable presentation. 

09 April 2015

[map] A 1955 Portland Map Reproduction You Can Afford … At Powell's Books

As time goes on, one has a hard and harder time finding old maps of Portland. Either you've seen them before or they're just too expensive.

Powell's City of Books to the rescue. In a bin just to the right of the elevator doors in the Red Room, for less than five dollars a pop, you can find this:

It's the map on the right, of course. It's a "Map Wrap" from Nu-Vue Studio, a Minnesota company that does a rather admirable range of them. On 60# Text, it's good for wrapping things … or makes a nifty poster.

The detail is honest and pure and lovely to look at. Particularly delightful is the incomplete Banfield Expressway … the entry to which at the time was at what we now call the 43rd Avenue offramp. The future still lay ahead.

Remember, what we today call US Highways they then called Interstate highways. They were the interstate highways.

And that was the way it was in 1955.

Red Room. Powell's City of Books. Less than $5.

You can't go wrong.

[logo, art] Seb Lester Don't Need No Digital Design Program

As anyone who spends time with a pen knows, it can do anything. Just takes practice, and effort.

As pointed at by this article at Sploid,  Seb Lester is the sort of pen artist many of us should like to become. Him and his ink can create visually-perfect versions of logos without resorting to one digital tool.

Now, don't get me wrong here … I love digital tools. Photoshop is one of the greatest things to come from the mind of man and woman; I'm in sloppy love with Illustrator, and have had successful and fun interactions with GIMP and Inkscape. I'd never want to completely do without computers. But ink and pen is the sine qua non of design, that without which we wouldn't have what we have. And just like pen and paper arithmetic is good to know, pen and ink design is a fundamental. You just don't get the physical feedback with computer design … there's a reason, I think, that when every digital designer I know of has the chance, they get a tablet and a digital pen. And it's no accident that computers have evolved toward a pen-and-tablet form factor.

You can get a lot done on a keyboard. The most human interface looks like what we've been using for, literally, thousands of years.

This video is about three minutes time-lapsed worth of Mr. Lester doing his astounding best. There's more links to more awesomeness at the Sploid article linked previous.

[liff] Nerdmast√© … A Salutation For All My Nerd And Geek Friends

Whatever else we feel about the nerd in society … most of my true friends are. I would not have this any other way. I love my tribe.

07 April 2015

[art] Doing A Small Mucha Thing

It took me a shockingly long time to decipher, for myself, that I love the poster art of Alphonse Mucha. I come to certain realizations rather late. I've recognized that this is my way and I've made a sort of peace with it; I'm not down with it, no, but it is what it is. We ship the information and move ahead.

Once I realized that this was one of my visual loves I've read about as much as I possibly could. I've assimilated the central legend of the man, how a chance meeting with Sarah Barnhardt would catapult the man to the sort of overnight success that you so frequently hear about, that artist who worked patiently on his art until the lightning bolt struck and when it did, he so happened to be ready to catch it.

His posters are, of course, justifiably gorgeous and give the eye back all the love it offers. Gismonda is memorable, La Samaritaine gorgeously intriguing. One wonders what sort of career La Barnhardt would have inscribed with today's supernovaesque media behind her. For my emotional money, though, the girl in the Cycles Perfecta ad has my heart, the way she beckons with her eyes and her open expression from the page.

In the book I checked out from the Multnomah County Library, I found a photo of the rough sketch for Cycles Perfecta and, reduced to its opening pencil marks, it looked like something I could do … or at least, something I should attempt. I haven't drawn anything for a very long time.

It was worth a try.

Cycle girl courtesy Mucha and Multnomah County Library. GraphiteCourtesy Cretacolor; Bristol ATCs courtesy Strathmore; Ink courtesy
Stabilo (and Copic (not shown)); all courtesy my hard-earned bux.

When you neglect your artistic jones for a long long time, you enter a sort of strange stasis. You start to feel as though you're keeping it in a box for just the right time. Then you open it and it feels awkward, stiff, but you use it anyway, because you've told yourself you've been away too long, and some people you love, who know you're shorting yourself until you do this thing, have never, oddly, given up on you even though you have, in a way given up on yourself.

So, the drawing itself feels stiff and awkward. It's quite rewarding, actually, even though you don't get it done the way you want to get it done. Of course, it'll be work. You knew this already. Same thing as happens with someone whose let themselves get out of physical shape after being in great condition. You're lugging this weight.

So, false-start here, bad line there. No matter. Do it anyway. And the result isn't great, but what did you expect? Mucha worked for years and did it every day. the result, seen below, does not satisfy me, but … but … I am happy for it. I did this thing. And the eyes are too wide and crabby; the curve of the face, comically-tragically asymmetrical. The mouth doesn't look anything like the mouth of the original.

She looks like a rank beginner, which is what I'm back to being. I have only myself to blame. You use it or you lose it; but if I didn't have it to begin with at some time or another, it wouldn't have got me this far.

Ahh, Square One. So we meet again.

And so it goes. 

06 April 2015

[Out122ndWay] The Sign At Powell Villa

Out 122nd Way we do kind of fancy that we safekeep the pre-Portlandia Portland (not that I dislike them or anything like that, but they do get a bit smug about reinventing the city). And two of those things are pre-sign code signs. There's one on NE 122nd Avenue in front of the legendary Ron Tonkin dealership. And there's this one.

Powell Villa is a shopping center from back in the day that's still operating. Of course, the anchor grocery store, whatever it was, hove out some years back; there's an Oregon Department of Human Services office filling that space. There's a few small business in an outbuilding on the NW corner of the property. Our favorite Ace Hardware store is there (Love Powell Villa Ace, and they love us back). There's a billiards hall. There's a Baskin Robbins. There's a 7-Eleven (one of the new ones). And there's this sign.

Standing tall and holding court over the landscape just south of SE Powell Blvd on SE 122nd, it seems to defy time. It's very well-kept … the neon isn't often out, and when it is, it's not out for long. It's charming and friendly and reminds one of the time when east county was still east county.

Squint a bit, and you can almost fantasize about the less-gentrified time that it was attached to. Most of the business around this intersection seem a bit careworn by todays bright'n'shiny standards … there's a dive bar or two, a clearance shop that still selling VHS tapes (a dollar a toss) and a veterans thrift store that looks like it was upthrust about the same time as the Boring Volcanics erupted (it even has the big U sign that tells firefighters don't go in here if it's burning.

I dread, as most of us out here might, I imagine, that the hounds of gentrification and condo-bunker building might eventually come out that way. Until they do, it's a nice area full of good people who are doing what they can to get by. And doing fine by that, thank you.

And we even have a pole star to guide us.

[Liff In OR] Where some Oregonians come from

Spotted in passing a few weeks back, a refreshing take on the now-tired (and a little oversharing) practice of iconically displaying one's family unit on the rear window:

Hadn't though of this one. Nicely done. A Californian marries a Texan and moves her to create two little Oregonians.

No matter what you think of Californians and Texans, you have to salute the good taste they had to come here just to do that. My hat's off to you, whoever you are.

[PDX, Type] At Muse Art & Design, Hand-drawn Type Rules The Register

Another visit to +Muse Art and Design, another few art supplies to satiate the jones for such things. Great visit with Peter and Vaughn, of course.

It was a busy day there. We got there on Sunday just before a sort of an afternoon rush, and I couldn't help but notice there almost everyone there was smiling and happy. I guess Muse has the same effect on just about everyone. It's just that way.

Something that made me happy is a hand-designed ad posted on the pillar near the register:

It's gone up during the last couple of months, and the Spring Sale verbiage is not by the original artist, who I understand is a newish employee there. But that's great design there … I love the classy art-deco-ness of it all

And there is a Spring Sale at Muse. You might want to check this out. Something else worth the checking out of is the other side of that column, which is all original artist…

Whether or not the idea of sugar-alcohol-based low-VOC spray paint is your deal, looking at this lovely hand drawn, highly-artistic type should be.