It took many years for me to understand the disparate modes of material exploration and play that I put here under the umbrella of “in the shed,” a term that has lived with me from my many years of being a jazz musician: #woodshedding, locking oneself up with the instrument to feed the improvisational practice. While I’ve always drawn and painted and made books and have an extensive technical facility in other media (3D, 2D, digital, printmaking) – I struggled to find meaning when this practice wasn’t driven by research or inquiry into socio-cultural solutions / systems building.
It would ultimately be the birth of my daughter, Beckett Rose, and engaging in material play and exploration with her in a space devoid of expectation that I found a renewed freedom, pleasure, and even healing capacity in pure making. I wrote about this in 2012 on my then 9-year old blog, The Trouble With Bartleby, the para-academic site of much of my inquiry for my early practice. In tandem with my active work around mindfulness, trauma / CPTSD recovery, and continuing to find coping mechanisms for disability, I returned to a practice of material making as a space of almost ur-development, which now felt essentially linked to my work around auto-evolutionary theory and self hacking. What I learned here would eventually be drawn into the Disruptor Mechanism Protocol and other more clearly articulated “projects,” but I now see these more private practices as essential in their way, as a somatic, embodied space of continued relationship with multiple forms of understanding, seeing, and re/presenting the world. Once it became clear that this making was a space of learning to see, and not at all performative––once I could differentiate between my intentions regarding who is it for and what is it for, I became free to move between these ways of thinking and making.
In the essay, “And I in the Middle-Ground Found: Documentation as Self-hack, Sigil, and Blueprint,” I lay out what I see as essential differentiations (and overlaps) between the whys of who and what our work of re/presentation, documentation, and dissemination are for––and how having an understanding of the long arm of one’s practice as simultaneously workshop, archive, field study, research, and healing journey can free one up to be in the work.
The work I do “in the shed” may never see the light of day, and sharing it isn’t my intention as I work, though as I move into my own archival practice I can see ways to gather and re/present again to others, making clear that its primary goal is and was the reprogramming of my own body-mind, what I was able to learn through materials teaching me new ways to move and see and ultimately be. But when we do this and share it with others, it is a doorway to granting permission. Creating our own language around it, too, assists in an essential reframing away from hagiography and hero-making as artistic goalpost – my desire is always to invite others into what they too can inhabit and find joy in, never ever to suggest what I have or practice is scarce.
For as long as I’ve had the capacity to shoot digital “panoramas,” I’ve been interested in manipulating this function through movement – thereby producing “stills” of landscape impossible to reproduce. I see these as a collaboration with time and technology, as their production relies upon the composite of frames the camera attempts to shoot while a vehicle exceeds the rate per frame it can handle. The result captures a sense of movement but also superimposition that is at once surreal, dreamlike and dystopic.
SPECULATIVE MAPS and OTHER PAINTINGS
My painting practice, usually with watercolor or acrylic / tempera, is one of material pleasure. It involves an enormous amount of color mixing and play, abstraction, and responsive composition and form. Recently, in 2021-22, a speculative map series began, unplanned, out of larger watercolors I was able to start doing with a new studio space. Now this series is primarily on gessoed cardboard, and at times involves pen, pencil, or other media – I go into these “territories” without a plan, allowing them to emerge much in the way of settlement relationship to ecosystem, waterway, and land mass. Other paintings here are mostly ones I could almost call ekphrastic, responsive to other media and taken as a healing / iterative process without goal other than material exploration. I seek, in general, to fill a canvas or page, and at times create these in a timed limit I call a “sprint.”
ILLUSTRATION, DRAWING and ASEMICS
Observational sketching has been a primary mode of “seeing” for me for many years. I do also have a cartoon or more illustrative style that I use when not directly observing, but the bulk of my drawing work consists of learning the forms and relationships of light, dark, line and shape in the built and natural environments, of the human form (clothed and nude), of crowds, of interiors and still lives, of details and patterns. The bulk of my drawing or illustration not in this category is either a practice of meditative patterning, often with white and other bright inks on black paper, and/or asemic writing and form making.
BOOK, ZINE and PRINT MAKING
The making of books and zines (as well as other “document” types, which I sometimes categorize as such), as well as print making rounds out more of my analog practice. I’m trained in all sorts of traditional printmaking from letterpress to linocut and silkscreen, risograph and more, and use these when materials . tools are available. Book design is a central part of my practice both personally and as the lead designer for books produced by The Operating System – I make handmade books and zines regularly and teach book and zine making as a vital tool for creative practitioners in any medium.