Tag Archives: writing about art

What Should I Do With These Sticks?

Sticks are so useful, I never have enough. Sometimes I get frustrated and gather a lot at once. As I cleaned out my overstuffed dog walk bags on my desert retreat, I discovered I did actually have enough. Way more than enough. I needed to let some go. I needed to throw them away.

No! That doesn’t feel good. I will not divest before giving them a chance at the big time. I personally selected those sticks and carried them around for months. They will have their 15 minutes. Here goes.

Check him out. He’s determined!
Can I use this fake fly as an ear?
Yes. Works so well, now he’s demanding a cap.
Next time you are in Target perusing the cookie sheets you’ll think, that would be perfect for sorting my sticks.

Even though this was the first face I made in the desert and the first post I wrote after returning home with my newly cleaned out bags, I am posting him last. He sums up the process nicely. I picked up some sticks, I arranged them into a face, I threw them away.

Seth Godin says: There’s a hackneyed expression, which is what would you do if you knew you could not fail. I find that completely unhelpful because it’s basically a genie question; You want control and you’re never gonna get it. Here’s my question. What would you do if you knew you would fail? What would be worth doing even though it’s not going to work?

I can say I will make faces out of crap on the sidewalk no matter what. I mean, what outcomes are even possible? It’s not an activity with a known outcome. And maybe that’s why I love it. It’s just a fun, joyful thing to do.

The problem, because there is always a problem, is that I collect stuff and then I am saddled with stuff. Then I have to agonize over choices. Keep it or chuck it? Keeping objects is a sign I believe in their potential, or maybe that I believe in my potential, to turn them into something that could make me smile. But is it worth the burden of having all these grubby, difficult to store objects? I really don’t know. Even as I write, all the stuff I let go of in the desert is in a plastic bag under the drawing table in my office. I haven’t thrown it away! Just in case I think of something I might need in there. Have I learned nothing? Or have I learned everything?

I do think I will throw it out, probably once the Christmas decorations rear their multitudinous heads. There won’t be room for everyone. The fact that it’s sorted in a single disposable container means it will be much easier and faster to get rid of then when it was spread over multiple bags and mixed with treasure. Processes are time consuming. If I knew how to make them not that way, I would tell you.

I think going forward I will be more choosey about what I pick up, I will try to make the face right away and when all else fails I will not berate myself for having tangible signs that I was interested in something. Better to be interested than apathetic. So, I will tell myself this: Self! If you have some junk laying around waiting to become a face, don’t get so upset. Something wonderful is sure to happen.


The Seth Godin quote comes from the Time Ferris podcast of October 26th, 2020: Seth Godin on The Game of Life, The Value of Hacks, and Overcoming Anxiety (#476). It is fantastic and I highly recommend it.

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Bags of Crap Part 1 {The Dark Side of Good Ideas}

The bane of existence is too much crap to deal with. I get really stressed out by having more to do than I can do. So, let me tell you about a problem I’ve been living with for a few years that is the result of a great idea becoming so overwhelming it calcified into total execution paralysis with a heaping helping of hoarding. If you’ve read my last few posts you know I am not one for excess stuff so what exactly went wrong?

While walking the dogs I collect things that might be useful for making sidewalk faces. Even though I pick up very little on any given day, over time it adds up. It might take me a few months to notice but at some point, while rifling through a tornado of plastic poop bags for that blue marble I’m sure is in there somewhere, I come to realize the bag is full to the brim with disintegrating plant matter, bits of plastic headed towards a terrible end our ancestors will curse us for, sharp sticks and rusty nails (thank goodness for tetanus shots I tell myself when I put yet another rusty garden staple into the bag. I do worry I’ll forget it’s there and puncture my skin, but they make such great noses!).

For example: Below are the contents of my bag from November 2017. That doesn’t seem like much stuff to me now but it’s enough junk to make locating any specific item difficult.

Three years ago I do a simple act and dump the contents of this messy satchel onto a white table for sorting. No big deal. Easy peasy. Being the type of artist I am, I make a face. Then several faces. It was really fun because there was so much to work with. I posted some photos to Instagram stories and thought maybe I’ll make this a regular part of the practice.

Did you spot the big paralyzing idea? In addition to making multiple faces a week, color correcting, writing up captions, sharing on Instagram and occasionally blogging about it, I will now also never ever clean out a sidewalk face/dog walk bag without making a whole bunch of new faces and sharing them on social media. Honestly it seemed like a good idea at the time. It is a good idea. But it’s also an idea that necessitates a ton of work. It’s not a thing you can just dash off.

I did it again four months later, felt good about the results and kept stuffing my bag with items.

For a while the bag was filled with wonderfully useful material all organized into easy access containers such as the little Altoid boxes above. But some things resist being contained such as a four foot long bicycle chain. Surely that would make an awesome face outline, right? It’s pretty heavy, should we pick it up? You bet! It’s greasy, should we put it in the bag? Pop it in a poop bag first! Just do it! You’ll be glad you did.

With this type of positive attitude the bag quickly came to weigh 7 lbs and I was growing tired of lugging it around. The pleasure of abundance was feeling more and more like obligation. I desperately wanted to thin out the contents but…do you see where this is going?…I would have to make a whole day of it. I would have to film the process and make art and do stuff I theoretically want to do but don’t actually want to do. The bag got heavier and heavier.

I don’t know exactly when, because who marks on a calendar, today’s the day I give up, I left the heavy-laden bag at home and grabbed an empty one. I have two beautiful handmade leather satchels and I started using the 2nd one. I used her until she filled up. Then I started using a fabric bag that’s older than my 16 year old son. When that one was growing obese I started to worry. My storage closet floor was home to these two hibernating bags of crap and they were crowding out the vacuum cleaner. It’s not like there is another place I can put the vacuum cleaner. But the bags couldn’t be properly put away because they were full of stuff that needed to be dealt with. Artistically dealt with. What the what?! There is a dark side to having good ideas.

In Bags of Crap Part 2 I will show you how I recently got out from under this crushing conundrum. I did what I said I would do. I cleaned out the bags and made faces. In Bags of Crap Part 3 you will get to see a giant face made from a rusty bicycle chain, one made from a broken car mirror and one made from a Prada business card. Are you trembling in anticipation! Was it all worth it? Stay tuned! Part two coming next Tuesday October 19th.

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