Waiting For It

Waiting For It

Any given artwork is made over a period of time. The gestation period is inherently uncertain, a series of conscious decisions by the artist and other contributing factors outside the artist’s intentions. A marker could be losing ink and create a more textured line than intended, the artist finds them self either annoyed and starting over or pleasantly surprised and continuing. At each moment, an outcome and a reaction, a constant stream of decisions. The more chaos in the process, the less certain the outcome. If you paint in oil, make lots of preliminary sketches and perfect a technique, you may get a painting pretty close to the one imagined before the process began. But even then happy and sad deviations will occur. We don’t have the power to make our thoughts material in an instant with no mechanical intervention.

Agapanthus 1

As someone who has very few concrete ideas of what I want before I start, I don’t aim for an outcome. I am much more interested in the moment by moment reaction to each new iteration. A very fast series of yes(es) and no(s) to the most recent addition. My whole goal is to not know what I will get, to work so fast and with so much randomness that I can’t possibly guess what the result will be. It’s not magic but a very good approximation, I think, and feels exciting.

Agapanthus Early Days cc small

The process of making a sidewalk face ranges from 5 to 15 minutes, about the time it takes for Decaf’s whimper to start getting annoying. So the evolution of the face is fast. Occasionally, sensing I could do better or needing supplies not locatable in the immediate vicinity, I go back to a spot and do a second version, my way of sketching and perfecting.

Most faces dissipate before I encounter them again. Wind or feet knock all the elements out of alignment and the character devolves back to a gunky stain or evaporates or decomposes or whatever.

But! There is one type of Sidewalk Face that does take time to fully develop, the faces I make in living matter. Aliveness and growth are additional chaos elements. I start the ball rolling and then wait to see the result, natural biological forces take over the creative process. It’s a collab with mother nature. How can it get more fun that that?!

Agapanthus 5_cropped

Want to see what happened to him after he fell off? Check it out!


The Crap to Beauty Ratio – Why Los Angeles is the Best for Making Sidewalk Faces


Since writing a recent blog post about making Faces in Other Places, I have been reflecting on how perfect my neighborhood is for this particular activity. Before this analysis I had sort of been patting myself on the back thinking I can do this anywhere. But I must now acknowledge I am blessed to live in a locale that consistently provides the perfect ratio of man made detritus to organic detritus.

It’s very hard to create these faces without trash. How can I make an orange smoke a cigarette if I can’t find a cigarette butt? It’s also hard to make trash attractive. But combine a little crap with a little flora and bingo bango you just might have a new friend. The weather here doesn’t dip below 60 degrees, it never snows and rarely rains. The neighborhood is teeming with a diversity of plant life most of it flowering all year long. Come on! Why isn’t everyone turning roses into faces? To put another cherry on top of this environmental sundae of possibility, I live in a neighborhood full of Spanish style fourplexes from the 1930s. Why is that helpful? Because everyone is renting and no one likely to be around owns or cares about the stuff in their yard. How nice to have orange trees dropping their rotting fruit in apartment complex driveways so I can jam cigarette butts in them without feeling like I am stealing produce. And that red stuff on the end of the cigarette that hopefully makes it look lit up is the droppings of a bottle brush tree. There is so much stuff to choose from. It’s like shopping at a Walmart Supercenter that has a special junkyard section as well as a Botanical Garden in the back. I am free to pluck leaves and seeds and petals without feeling like the petty fauna thief that that I am. Would I have done this to a rose in some well tended rose garden? No! Not only embarrassing but also wrong. This rose was the single flower growing amongst weeds in front of our local post office.


The final thing that works really well here is the anonimity. Of course there are people around, I’m hardly the only dog walker in the hood. But people in Los Angeles DO NOT CARE. If I was wearing a purple flashing spiderman costume (what? why?!) nobody would pay attention. They would assume, if they even bothered assuming, that I was on my way to Grauman’s Chinese Theater to pose with tourists. I like this because when I am arranging trash in the dirt I don’t want to converse with anyone. I don’t want to explain myself and most importantly I don’t want to stop. I want to get the photo.


So all in all I am pretty darn lucky to live here. Praise Be.

Wormhole to previous blog post:  Faces in Other Places