Creative Karma – Teenage Bedroom Edition

Creative Karma – Teenage Bedroom Edition
My son’s first plants.

I have a 16 year old son. In the deep past I was the person ultimately in charge of his room. I didn’t fiddle with it day to day but I re-arranged the furniture every few years, re-organized the stuff so it was developmentally up to date, thinned the toys. Four years ago was the last re-arrangement. Initially quite satisfying, the room slowly calcified into something stale and arid. Only occupying 1/20th of the available surface area, he had pilfered a small side table from us which he used, sitting on the floor, to do absolutely everything. There is a desk and I kid you not, he hadn’t sat in it for four years. Four full years! You could tell by the dust on top which was thick enough to make felt. He slept on the bed at night and all other floor space was like outer space, you could see it but you did not tread into it. Why!!??!!

He seemed like someone who lives in a basement. Boxes and items everywhere. Big piles of who-knows-what where the middle of the room should be. I was afraid he and the room would be just like this, a 50 year old man hunched over a side table laptop with no chair, forever. It pained me in two ways; wasted potential and overwhelming wrongness. Add a hardy helping of those two condiments to your daily sandwich for a few years and guess what effect it might have? I felt A LOT of frustration. I really wanted to go into the room and re-do it. I am good at that. I enjoy that. But…I was not invited. My assistance was not welcome.

I tried everything; yelling, screaming, crying, bribing, cajoling, flattering, threatening, brainstorming. Eventually I tried giving up. Giving up is the one that worked.

My son is old enough to have control. My son deserves to author his own experience. Developing one’s own creativity is not a straight line. It’s not efficient. It’s not goal oriented. I wanted to take my well honed creativity and flex it with his stuff in his space. Then I wanted him to love that and thrive. Mostly by occupying more parts of the room. Why is that even important to me? I almost always sit in one spot on the couch and it doesn’t make me love the living room less. But the problem was real, he was trapped in the past.

I did one thing that might have helped. I had all of us find pictures of rooms that fit his style descriptions. We sat on the couch, me in my spot, and shared the images. I bit my tongue and tried really hard to listen to his responses. He told us he hated some of his furniture and didn’t think we would let him get rid of it. So in listening I discovered that what I really needed to do was make it safe for him to tell us what was holding him back. I used what I learned to make very tentative suggestions about items we could look for and acquire.

But he had to do the actual work. He had to reckon with the dozens of toy’s still in their boxes under his bed (sold box by box on eBay to some other hoarder a few years away from this process). He had to touch his stuff and figure out what sparked joy. He had to come to terms with the results of making ten drawings a day and never throwing anything away. He had to decide if he wanted to live in an overstuffed museum of past obsessions or in a space with the potential for new ones. He had to make the hundreds of decisions that have to be made.

Creativity is really just getting used to making many small decisions in a sustained and focused way for as long as it takes. If I could pass on one thing to my son, it wouldn’t be receiving decorating services from his mother, it would be developing his own creative muscle.

A few days ago I got an email from him. An email, guys! That’s another blog post but I’ve been teaching him to email. It’s like teaching a cat dog tricks. The email was pretty terse. It had a subject heading of “Rug”, then only a link. I’ve never bought anything faster than I bought that rug. His room is now quite wonderful, extremely different and in flux. He is doing his thing, on his own momentum. It’s happening!

Making Art is Like Organizing Cooked Spaghetti

Warning! This post is a lot of complaining and elaborating about art making minutiae that may make you want to stab your hand with a pencil or click over to the Playbuzz quiz What Genre of Metal Are You? (I’m Industrial/Experimental). But if you have a creative addiction and like analyzing your monkey, read on.

If my title is true, trying to impose some control over floppy noodles is more fun than it sounds because making art is my favorite pastime. But how is something so pleasurable simultaneously so maddening? Is my inability to control it part of the appeal?

As I stated in my post Little Book of Abstracts, I decided to do only abstract art in my then recent blank art book. It went exceedingly well and I completed all the pages by late March, 2015. I thought I would share more of that here but I made the process too tedious. I wanted digital access to everything so I started scanning each page, got bored and gave up, or lost consciousness of the endeavor and stopped. I think I told myself that I was to use my computer free time to scan rather than web surf but that didn’t pan out. Also, I greatly prefer making new art to documenting old art so that might have contributed to the loss of enthusiasm. Most of my blogging about this happened in my head. Any mind readers out there who enjoyed my psychic posts? Your welcome.

3 new blank books_small

Upon completing book one, the most natural progression seemed to be making a Little Book of Abstracts #2.  I looked around on the web for a square hardcover blank book and couldn’t find anything I liked, most had spiral binding which is the worst.  So I ordered 3 more blank books from L. Cornelissen & Son in London and paid the same amount in shipping as I did for the books themselves. So worth it!  Take that frugal Caren. But no sooner had I done something a little extravagent, justified by previous success, than the mental momentum hit some existential traffic and productivity slowed to a crawl. Here’s what happened.

In book #1 I did the pages out of order, so for a long time many of the spreads had an image on one side and a blank page on the other. It looked nice and clean.

Orange Rectangle Blue Background_cc_smallPink frame around brown and grey_smallHowever, a number of the spreads had images on both sides as sometimes I would do a theme and variation kind of thing. Calligraphy Spread_small Brown and Blue Bleedthrough Spread_small

The inconsistency bothered me so I decided there should be imagery on every page. A cool thing started to happen where I would pair a dense marker based image with a light and subtle pencil based image.

grid bleedthrough with pencil circle_small multicolor cityscape on navy_small
Nevertheless, as the book filled out, I started to miss the clean blank pages and several drawings I felt were harmed by the newer drawing they got paired with. Green dino in multi color grid_small

This bummed me out. I told myself that in the next book, there would only by one drawing per spread.

So the rules for abstract book #2 was one drawing per page and they would be drawn in order, first drawing on page one, second drawing on page two, etc. I wanted to rebel immediately but told myself stick to the plan! I really liked my first drawing but for whatever reason, my second drawing was of a radically different style. They did not sit well together. In the first book that wasn’t a problem as they would be separated by mulitple pages and I would make the art between them harmonize.  Now I didn’t have that option. Seeing these two disparate images together every time I opened the book galled me. The problem just got worse, each successive page seemed to relate less and less to what had come before. Instead of feeling joy when I opened the book, I felt irritated. This is what I get for paying $30 in shipping!

I am always torn between rules and no rules. Of course there are always some rules. Whether you consciously create and follow them or take notice of them after your effort to see what they were, they are there. For example, a medium is a rule. If you are using markers, you aren’t using paint so the rule is markers. A rule is just a choice and art is full of choices. I have been paying a lot of attention to whether I am making my choices with my conscious mind or unconscious mind and to what effect. I think the most interesting stuff comes from the unconscious. No sooner does it come out then my conscious mind seizes on it and wants to make rules to help us get more. But the rules often backfire, like they did in the second book. It’s so frustrating.

Some where around the time I was finishing the first and starting the second book I had an idea for another abstract project with another set of rules. I would make larger abstracts on individual pieces of paper and get a frame I could put them in so that I could hang it up and see the work. It’s hard to get the little books to prop up and stay open so that I can step back and look at the art from a distance.

More on that project and how I think the unconscious works in art later.  Or tune into my live and uncensored psychic podcast where I do mental mixed martial arts cage fighting with myself while drawing more nonsense for no good reason because I am free and I can do as I please.

Privacy vs. Internet Communication

I am enmeshed in an ongoing mental dilemma regarding communication on the Internet.  Is it okay for me to write a blog, post stuff on Facebook, comment on stuff on Facebook, share photos of my kid, let people see my art, etc. or should I maintain my privacy and by extension maintain control over unintended consequences?

Obviously, as you are reading this, I’ve made a decision to write, however, I still hotly contest that decision in my head everyday and with every post.


When I wrote anything in the past, it was almost only for an audience of one.  I would write a letter or an email to “X”.  I didn’t have to analyze very hard what was appropriate and inappropriate for “X” to know.  I could filter almost unconsciously.  Facebook has been a real conundrum in that when I go there to write, I am potentially addressing 100s of people.  I can’t remember who they all are.  I do know that they are a wide net of intimate and casual, professional, familial and past relationships.  There is no obvious one size fits all writing style.  To enjoy Facebook I have had to do two things: #1 – adopt and strictly follow a set of rules about what kind of content I can post and #2 – accept that I might be communicating with someone that I would rather I wasn’t, shrug my shoulders and think oh well.  My rules are:  Never post anything political, religious or contentious.  But of course everything is political, religious or contentious to somebody which is why this is such a damn dilemma. I don’t want to get into it on Facebook.  I don’t particularly want to get into it off of Facebook either, but if I do, at least I have the benefit of picking my conversational partner and getting into it in private.

You could say to me, jeez louise, just don’t post if you are so hung up.  That’s reasonable.  Or is it?  Nobody has to do Facebook, right? Nobody had to try the Model T either, or use the first phone or get a computer or fly in the air but most eventually did.  I want to be here now, participating in history, doing the stuff humans do.  I want to see what it’s all about.  What is interesting to me is not deciding to do it or not do it, but thinking about what it is.  This is a sea change, all of us writing to each other in mass rather than privately one on one.  It adds to and changes our persona.  Before, perhaps, we had various personas, suitable for the occasion. Now we have an additional new virtual persona, suitable for everyone at any time and affecting the other personas since this new persona interacts with nearly everybody we know whether that interaction even registers in our consciousness. It’s bizarre, at least compared to the past. In the past, if you made a connection with another human, you probably knew about it.

My generation, and the ones on either side of me, resides in a pivotal moment in history.  We will be the last people to know what it was like to have privacy.  We existed before the Internet, iPhones, social media, digitized photos, emails, texts, search buttons and credit cards. As everything becomes digital, everything becomes public. Information used to be more material and therefore more stationary but now it’s digital, accruing, multiplying and permanent (at least as long as we have electricity). That changes how we communicate. If you don’t like it and want to opt out, you really can’t. You would just be an ant saying no to a rainstorm.

So we might as well get with it right? I value connection, nuance and specificity so on Facebook I try to post things that are in alignment with those values. As I have gotten used to posting on Facebook, I find I want to go a step further into public communication and share my thoughts in a more nuanced way on certain topics.  Hence, this blog.

Because of the Internet, I now have the chance to do this new thing, communicate with everybody, or at least throw my virtual hat in the virtual ring with everybody else’s virtual hats.  I don’t have to persuade anyone to post this for me.  I can just put it out there.  I can now join the ranks of those people who tell it like they see it.  And all without being vetted by another.  How modern.

The price of admission is random; I don’t have to pay until some arbitrary and unknown time. The price of admission may be getting hit with whatever pie someone wants to throw at me and knowing anyone who cares to see me get hit with that pie can, including my mom, my friends and you.  Or maybe it’s not pie in my face at all, maybe it’s the quieter humiliation of the pie I baked, brought to the party and watched, as nobody even tasted. In my over active and anxiety riddled imagination I am worried I’ll get doxxed because I use the f-word when really it’s more likely that nobody will even know I said I was a feminist because they will be too busy paying attention to things that interest them more.  If the first half of that sentence doesn’t make sense, google #gamergate.  It has nothing to do with me except for freaking me out that online communication is dangerous.

In general I prefer the now to the past so it makes sense that when weighing the merits of anonymity vs. public persona, I am taking advantage of this new opportunity to shout to the rafters and write in a public forum. Meaning, I already tried being private, so why not now try this, just because I can?  When in Rome and all that. I did it before when I started posting videos to YouTube 6 months after YouTube started.  I don’t regret that at all, in fact I am very proud of my work there (   I had the same level of uncertainty and trepidation.  You really can’t know if it’s a good idea until it’s too late.  Mostly I feel a combination of nothing ventured, nothing gained and what the hell, it’s not like anyone is paying close attention.  We are all going to die, and maybe sooner even then we think, and with that in mind, it just doesn’t seem like a big deal.

Does anybody else think about this shit?