Monthly Archives: January 2015

Little Book of Abstracts

I always have a little blank book that I do stuff in, write notes, draw pictures, tape photos.  They tend to be very visual but there are no rules.  I can do anything with them I feel like.  It’s a place to keep track of the now, make art, spend time with myself.  Here is a two minute video I made of one of the books a few years ago.  I give all the books names and this book was called Don’t Speak.

A friend of mine, Mick Kubiak*, also does this.  In addition, she has two specialty books that are only for art and each one has a theme. Trucks was completed some time ago and Circles is currently in process.  Every time I visit her, I ask to look at what she had added in the Circles book.  It is a great pleasure to see this body of work as it is being born, to witness the process, to see how previous drawings influence future drawings, how the drawings change over time, to see new breakthroughs in her technique.   I just adore her art work.  It really inspires me.

When I was in London last year, I bought a 5 1/2 inch square black hardcover blank book from a magical art supply store called L. Cornelissen & Son.  Their shop is on Great Russell Street, close to the British Museum.   At the time of purchase I was already working in a purple leather bound book titled iPhone Dynasty.  It’s named after the 2nd page in the book which is a drawing of an iPhone.  If you are interested in seeing the drawing, I posted it on June 9th, 2014 in my entry Enter the iPhone. Over the course of 2014 I started doing a considerable number of abstracts in iPhone Dynasty such as:


It started to occur to me that I could use the British book in the same way Mick does and make it an abstracts only book.  It would be cool to have an art only book, something I could show people without censorship.  However, I didn’t like the idea of giving up my “freedom”. What if Andy said something funny and I wanted to write it down, where would it go? Olive couldn’t draw in it. I couldn’t just whip something off or do whatever I felt like.  It would have to be “good”. How was that going to be fun?  The imaginary pressure was intense.  I mentally hemmed and hawed.  I didn’t do anything for a while.

Then I ran out of pages in iPhone Dynasty so I made a drawing in the new book. I didn’t like it very much and felt irritated. I made another drawing and liked it a lot.  I felt excited.  I made another and another and another.  I showed Andy and Olive.  Olive loved one of the spreads and insisted I not touch it again. Then Olive did some abstract work, an unprecedented departure from drawing ponies non stop. Andy did some abstract work.  What was going on?  I fixed the bad drawing.  That gave me a new rule. All drawings must be good!  We will work on everything until we like it!

With each addition, my desire to do more grew until I found myself where I am now, thinking that working in this book is the current great pleasure in life.  It reminds me of when I was painting.  It’s very satisfying to be adding to a body of work.  There is a feeling of sublime accomplishment.  It’s not just the output but the quivering harmony of surprise and ownership that one feels when viewing something you made from nothing.  How did I do that?  I really don’t know and yet I really did do it.

It’s a benign addiction.  What marvelous thing might I make next?  Of course this delight is intermingled more or less continuously with disgust.  How will I ever make THAT work?  Why did I make the background puke pink?  Did I just draw a hole through the paper?!!  That edge of disgust and delight is fascinating terrain. In my experience, that is where originality comes from.  I am not saying I am all that original but as an artist, I have to know how to get ideas.  I have to be good at it. This is where I sharpen my knife.

In the future, I am going to post photos from the drawings in this book and talk about them.  So stay tuned if that’s your bag.

Thank you to Mick for the inspiration.  Nothing gives others permission more than your own actions.


*Mick Kubiak is a talented therapist, writer and musician.  You can visit her blog at:

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thought Control – Rule #1 – Mental Credit

My last post, almost 5 months ago, was about my love for Broad City.   The second season premieres tonight.  That’s why I had to wait so long to post again.  Because I had to watch all the first season’s episodes a bunch of times.  That doesn’t make sense. Whatever.

I won’t be able to see it tonight because I don’t have cable.  But most likely I can buy the episode and watch it tomorrow, my birthday, so even better.  Once again, I am killing it at life.

Here’s the plan for 2015, which I have already put into action as evidenced in the above paragraphs, give myself credit for what I am actually doing rather than chastising myself about what I am not doing.  This is Rule #1 of our overall theme for the year – “Thought Control“.

I have noticed (as have countless others whose books I have read) that I suffer due to the specific thoughts I am tormenting myself with.  Regardless of how much I may be able to justify that these thoughts stem from me noticing “reality” the fact remains that it is often the thought more than the reality that is the direct cause of my suffering.  So we are trying something new here, which is being called “Thought Control“.  My first idea about how to implement better thoughts is to heap praise on myself for what I actually do as a substitute for being annoyed that the things I actually do prevent me from doing what I want to do.  The latter definitely makes me feel bad.

It used to go like this:

Oh my Gawd!  Why is it taking so long to research this hard drive?  Why are all the reviews so bad?  If I don’t get a hard drive today I can’t back up all the files and clear the space to edit the thing and then I won’t be able to stop working in time to make dinner and then I will stay up too late and be miserable tomorrow.  Damn it!

Now it goes like this:

Oh my Gawd!  You are researching the hell out of this hard drive!  Way to go McCaleb.  You are so conscientious!  Once we find the right drive we are finally going to be able to clear space and work on that awesome project.  I love working with you.  You get so much done every day.  Also, congratulations on going to the dentist and getting that plaque removed.  You are my hero.

This new technique is way better at making me feel good.  I have been working with it for a few weeks and I like it.

If any more useful rules come up, I will share them.  Also, sooner or later we are going to try that Soylent that finally arrived in December (seven months after we ordered it!) and I am going to report on the experience.  I am just waiting to get good and stressed enough.