Pea tendrils w/garlic & spring onions on a bed of beef burgers and sharp cheddar. #dinner
I make million dollar UIs, indie film posters, watercolor paintings, pen & ink drawings and… toddler birthday decorations. Sounds about right!
I never drink anything with a face, but in this case I’ll make an exception…
Our “To Do List” for the foreseeable future…
Durham you’re beautiful just the way you are!
On September 27, 2012 I was on a panel called Find Your Calling In The Web Industry (meetup.com/refreshthetriangle/events/82369542/) for local design and development Meetup group Refresh The Triangle (meetup.com/refreshthetriangle/) on the campus of NC State University (ncsu.edu/) at their College of Design (design.ncsu.edu/). Unbeknownst to me, my wife Caroline Shillito (emmadelon.com) recorded one of my answers to the moderator, Jean-Paul Haire’s (jeanpaulhaire.com/en/) questions on my phone. Other panelists seen in this video are Sarah Kahn, UX Engineer at Adzerk (adzerk.com/) and Marc Phillips, Project Manager at Relevance, Inc. (thinkrelevance.com/).
- Decide you must.
- Develop deep respect
for feather, bone, claw.
- Place your trembling thumb
where the heart will be:
for one hundred hours watch
so you will know
where to put the first feather.
- Stay awake forever.
When the bird takes shape
gently pry open its beak
and whisper into it: mouse.
- Let it go.
This is possibly one of my favorite photos of myself. I see the seeds of my current self staring back at me through this photo, defiant and independent, confirmed by my father’s story about the photo: I was anxious to get back to my friends on Halloween and would only stop just long enough for Dad to take this photo. Looking at this photo makes me feel Barthes’ punctum in a powerful way, like many of the images of my childhood that I’ve kept. Which in turn, brings me to the following digression into the whys and wherefores of the publication you are reading.
Reason 1: The Voyage Home
I’ve moved around a lot, shown by the custom map below. My dad was in the Navy until I was 8 and we moved even more frequently after he got out. I’ve never lived in one place for more than 4 years or so (though by the end of this year I will have broken that record), thus my history is a coalescence of places; there isn’t really a good, brief answer to “Where are you from?”. If we could communicate in images, I would probably answer with this:
Most people want brief; it’s the start of labeling and sorting you in their minds, but it’s just never worked with me since my answer is always a story. The map below represents the just over 20 times I’ve moved since I was born and the 20 places I’ve lived in that time. So movement and displacement are literally part of my identity and I’ve never really come to terms with it; exploring what it means to not really have a place to be from, short of just saying “The United States Of America”.
At the same time I can’t imagine life any other way. Spending your life, even just your childhood, in one place sounds so foreign to me that I just can’t imagine it. It’s not even that it would be boring; I just have no familiarity with what happens when human beings stay in one place for a long time, the things that accrete and accumulate like barnacles or moss on a life lived in a stationary way. Aging in place does seem to give objects and people character, though.
To that end I’ve found lot of commonality with immigrant narratives, especially among the generation who’ve never been to their homeland. For them, “home” exists as an idea, a place talked about but untouchable, whose memories and shades can be found everywhere. This displaced-ness has been the generator of countless works of art and literature for others throughout history. I hope to explore these themes further on this blog, as a reporter’s notebook of sorts, finding expression through art and writing.
Reason 2: Electric Boogaloo
Technically my degree is in Illustration. I started school studying Computer Art in NYC, transferred schools and took Graphic Design as well as Printmaking classes in NC, and finally settled on Illustration (in Chicago) because it seemed to be the nexus of all of my artistic pursuits and interests at the time. Many of the Design majors that I’ve known can’t draw their way out of a paper bag, and many illustrators can’t design (which is not to fault either for those shortcomings; specializers gotta specialize these days). I wanted to create content as well as its container; that freedom was more possible in the illustration program I graduated from than the design program that was offered at the time.
Marshall Arisman’s “An Illustrator’s Fable” from Education of An Illustrator pretty much sealed my choice of final major. I tailored my course loads to try to balance the disciplines and ended up with an Illustration BFA that lets me get design jobs, at least from more open-minded employers.
I didn’t want to be a straight graphic designer because the tasks often seemed to be creating contexts and framing for other people’s content. I didn’t want to be a traditional illustrator because it often seemed like the commissioned work was made to order for a container that you had no control over. I wanted to do both: create content and design the container simultaneously. There isn’t really a major that lets you do that, so I have had to figure it out myself as I’ve moved along because even in the “freeform” worlds of art school, the pedagogy of the commercially-minded majors is one of specialization (in my opinion).
Unfortunately it’s much harder to get full-time work as an illustrator/designer because of the hybrid nature of that forward slash. I’m both young and old enough to know that my portfolio isn’t consistent enough (yet) to run a successful freelance business, but that I can leverage my interdisciplinary approach to get decent full-time work. I do notice sometimes that my mental style towards projects is the same. I pretty much approach everything as Art and tailor it from there. It’s worked so far.
Reasons 3, 4, & 5
As the aside on this blog states, my purposes here are largely selfish and solipsistic. I’ve been told most of my literate life that I was a good writer, but have never really done anything with it. So that’s reason three, a place to write and be read. Reason four is that I need an expressive space where I can stretch out my creative limbs without regard to clients or goals other than personal ones. I have a lot of ideas written down, growing moldy and dusty, and a blog is the perfect place to throw shit up on the wall to see what sticks. My personal creative lab-or-a-tory and online sketchbook if you will. It can also be a cheap substitute for an MFA if you find the right audience and connections.
What I’ve found is that it’s just going to take time and patience for all of this to start making sense. To a certain extent you have to create your own contexts. I’m hoping with this blog to start exploring illustration’s place on the web (i.e. what does illustration for/on the web/mobile devices look like, what is its place). I’m also interested in a dialectical approach to editorial illustration and design. So that’s reason five. I think I might actually end up getting an MFA in Graphic Design or Fine Art so that I can explore some of these ideas further in an non-commercial sort of way, but I figured that a blog would be a good first step.
No Seriously, This Is The Last Reason
To bring it around back to the beginning, and the photo at the top, finding the punctum in that image and others like it made me realize a part of my self had grown fallow: the puer aeternus or eternal [inner] child. So I’ve started to reach back in time and rediscover the things I was passionate about as a child that spurred my inspiration along toward this point. This won’t just be a trip for nostalgia’s sake and in fact has more in common with a perpetual sense of a combination of sehnsucht, saudade, weltschmerz, mono no aware, and/or ontological wonder-sickness as I’ve discovered in my own personal research. These describe what I feel when I encounter the punctum in this photo and when I encounter other artifacts of memory and sense of a particular unnamed type. So exploring these feelings is the final reason for this space.
To Be Concluded…
Finally, and I don’t know if it constitutes an additional reason or is the umbrella under which the rest of this essay sits, but the overarching reason for this blog’s existence is a life-long need to find synthesis in life, learning, and art. The ways in which a life breaks down and can breakdown are myriad and fractal in their nature. One reason to write a blog, when inspected becomes six self-similar reasons, relating to the greater whole in similar proportions. A life examined becomes twenty when filtered by location. A body of work becomes dozens of bodies when spread out flat on the examination table.
It might just be that synthesis is an illusion, that no true unification can be had from these disparate parts, but in that case finding the connections between parts, even if they don’t lead to a synthetic accretion in the end, might just be the point of it all, take the drawing below as a for instance:
I’ve been making these off and on for the past 6 years. They started out as doodles, based on images of teratomas I found during research for an illustration, but they’ve grown into the form you see below. I still don’t know what the point of them are, what I’m going to do with them, or where they’re going… and yet, I’m compelled to continue making them and watching them evolve further and further from their root and somehow strengthening their connections to everything else I do. So it goes…