When Grossness Is Your Medium You Can Make Art Anywhere

When Grossness Is Your Medium You Can Make Art Anywhere

Over the past 3 years that I’ve been making faces in my neighborhood, I’ve learned a lot of very specific stuff. I learn it the same way wild animals learn stuff, I just walk around a lot and notice everything. So here’s a thing I’ve learned, the grossest things are in the the alley. Furthermore, the alley just south of Melrose is considerably grosser than the one just north of Beverly. Aren’t you glad you know that?

Most likely if you were to utilize this piece of intel, you would use it avoid them. What are they good for anyway? For me, needing to find and harvest all my art supplies, they are treasure troves. So much crap deposited densely in all directions. They are also wide and not well traveled. It’s nice to have some space.

Somebody recently hauled their refrigerator here and left it. It can’t have been easy to move, was its former residence the room behind that barred up window?

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It’s nasty for sure buy not spectacularly so. Both the dogs and I had to check it out.

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There is a not inconsiderable amount of gunk at the bottom. What’s it from? We can speculate but luckily we can’t know. I know you were wondering, is it still sticky and pliable or calcified into a permanent crust. It’s sticky. Time to grab a makeshift drawing implement (rusted nail, paper clip, bobby pin, thin but dense stick). Let’s do this!

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Looks like we also need some white stuff and some eyeball definers. No prob. Here are two thin seed pods and a funky leaf. Good to go captain.

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As much as possible I like to work with what is already happening such as that adorable left cheek and inquisitive mouth. It’s easy to know where to start. There is always something more something than something else.

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I have learned that I can make art anywhere and I don’t have to know a thing about it before I start. It’s always a surprise. In a world that often makes me worry and fret, I like a nice surprise. Especially ones that upend my preconceived notions. Gunk is not just the result of past mistakes, it also has a future.

See Mr. Gunk Face in motion below. The dogs really dig the alley.


If it’s not fun, I’m not doing it.

If it’s not fun, I’m not doing it.

SWF Post_0349Does it undermine the post if I start by saying the title is obviously not true? I am still doing dishes, trying to keep my desk clear of excess clutter and being a parent. BUT…… regarding Sidewalk Face activities, I am challenging myself to not do anything unless I am psyched about it. No BIG GOALS. No shoulds or have to(s). It used to be like this so theoretically I already know how. It may be as simple as de-coupling my activities from an imaginary outcome. No more fantasizing that if I do x, y will happen. Now it’s just; how fun is it to do x?

Fun is the word I use in my own head but when I use fun around other people I am self conscious that it’s too frivilous. Putting stock in “fun” sounds immature. Kids are supposed to have fun but fun doesn’t pay the bills. Fun doesn’t get there on time. Fun doesn’t call your mother to check in. Fun sounds like the the wrong person to put in charge. So why do I want to do that anyway?

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Fun to me signals engagement. Engagement is important because if you are engaged in the activity you’re doing it. You might be doing it without enjoying it but seriously, how long will that last? You aren’t going to keep doing anything optional unless you enjoy it. So fun is enjoyment.

What’s enjoyment? It has an aspect that is felt in the moment and an aspect that is felt after the activity is over, a by-product. Both must be highly rated. You know how some movies are fun while you watch them but when you think about them later, they’re stupid and therefore you don’t feel that good about having seen them? Enjoyable in the moment but not after. And some things suck in the moment, like not eating as much cheese as you want, but feel great later. Very unenjoyable in the moment but satisfying the next day.

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The type of enjoyment I want to get back to, the fun I want to have, is the the kind that is fun in the moment and keeps growing and expanding when I reflect on it. I am specifically talking about being in the process of making art. Or more accurately, doing a creative activity. (I mean what is art? It’s hard enough to nail down this slippery word “fun”. I’ll deal with “art” later). When I am listening to music and drawing, it’s really fun. And when I look at my drawing over the course of the next week, because I have taped it on the wall, that’s also fun. It’s actually even more enjoyable to take so much time to “see” the work, to deeply notice and evaluate the composition, the colors, the choices. It creates anticipation for the next time, I gets me thinking of new things I want to try. It is a motor.  Fun is a motor.

Fun is what guarantees there is a next time. If you want a next time, fun beats the heck out of duty.