Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Warhol Never Had It This Easy

For a few years I made collages and then mailed them. Once in a while someone would post an image of the collage that I would then save and upload to my various digital identities. They would sit there; I’d do nothing else with them. They were done and living in someone else’s house.

After a while I started to play around with these more, mostly when I was at work and had a few spare minutes of nothing to do. Most of the time, I take the colorful collages and put them in monochrome, which really brings out the overlapping images into strange shapes. It doesn’t look like the same creation to me. Things pop out that I never noticed before. Then I started adding some color from Microsoft Paint, the thing I had available to me at work. The color would go wherever it wanted. The colors were vibrant and lacked any sort of subtlety in them. I liked how the colors often clashed with one another. Doing things this way was definitely an extension of my already trashy aesthetic. Using terrible tools to make things felt right to me since I make my collages out of found pieces of paper, newspaper, and student worked thrown out all over the halls at work, so why not use the image editor that comes with the computer?
Mainly I’d post the colored images online to folks’ profiles. Sometimes I’d print off the images in monochrome either for Add And Passes or for Xeroxed copies of my work. Sometimes I’d add paint to them and put them on a hard surface and mail them. Starting to play around with things in the digital realm really increased my productivity. It was fun to spend ten or fifteen minutes after lunch coming up with some silly picture made of found images, add in a caption, print them off, and send them to folks that would enjoy them. I probably did this sort of thing too many times, but who cares?

On a visit to a friend’s house I paid more attention to the art on the walls. This was the art that had been there for well over a year. Art that I had stood under while eating Flaming Hot Cheetos more than a dozen times while drinking late into the evening. The art was canvas prints of each one of the Star Wars movie posters. My friends run a print shop out of their house, mostly t-shirts but they can also directly print on canvas. It never dawned on me to have them print some things up for me.
I dug through my folder entitled “Colored Images” and found five that I thought would be interesting. Since they weren’t designed to be blown up, three of them were discarded right away because the file size was too small. One that would work was an analogue collage I had done using the outline of North Carolina as the focus. It was in a book of stuff I had done some years ago but had used randomly here and there. The viewer had nothing to think about when looking at the image…nothing to figure out, no real meaning. It was decorative and simple. I thought someone might buy one for their spare bedroom out of sympathy. It felt like a sure thing, something clear and direct on a 16 x 20 inch canvas for $40.00 dollars, done deal. Finally I could get some stamp money out of my bullshit, anything to offset the postage fee I have every week. I had two of the state outlines printed.

The NC collage printed.

I had an all-black collage printed that I called “self-portrait.” It was a bunch of random images tossed into one giant file. One of the collages wasn’t even mine, it was something if found online that contained my face in it. I guess the image came from one of the stickers that I sent out into the world.

The other image was done with the above method. Someone shared an image online of a postcard I had sent to South Carolina earlier in the week. I trimmed the edges; put it in monochrome, colored it multiple images, stacked images onto images, flipped things around to give some movement, and that was it. I did the collage rather quickly while sitting at my desk at work. I posted it online and people seemed to like it. Since the other collages didn’t work out, I went with the one done at work in its place. I had two of these printed.

The "blocks" printed collage.
Thankfully I was able to see the process. The two guys that run the shop, James and Jon, had me over to take a look at things. All five canvases took about forty-five minutes to print. James brought them up on the computers in the front, Jon sprayed things down in the back, and then James taped them off and then laid them on the metal runner the printer slides over. He pressed print and in about five minutes the whole thing had printed.  Warhol would have dreamed to have such a thing back in the 1960’s. Once it was done on the print side, Jon took the image and ran the heater over it a few times and stacked them in the front. It was quick and easy and everything looked great. The yellow on the North Carolina outline really stood out.

A few shots from the process.

It made sense to wait until the next day to post images since it was about 10:30. I figured more people would see the things if I waited for midday on Saturday. Not heeding my own advice I posted an image of the North Carolina canvas to both Instagram and Facebook, making sure to write that these were going to cost some money. Normally I just give my shit away. I waited for ten or twenty minutes before seeing if anyone was interested, nothing. I did this periodically for the rest of the night, and although I got random “likes” here and there, no one said they were interested in buying one. The next day I wrote that they were 40.00 dollars hoping the post would appear in Facebook feeds for a second time. Once again, nothing. I posted an image of the multi-colored collage online midday on Saturday. Just the jpeg elicited some interest so why not a three dimensional thing? Nothing, nothing at all.

So yeah, who the hell knows what people are interested in? I thought these would excite someone just enough to pay for the materials and get me a few books of stamps, wrong! The things I’m proud of never seem to draw any interest, but the things I do quickly that have a definite message behind them without much context at all, sometimes get traction. These were direct and clear and are sitting in my upstairs room. I’ll end up giving them away at some point/. Right now I’ve got an idea to print up a few more things that will rest with the others for an extended period of time.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

9 x 9 Add and Return Block Project

This is the finished 9 x 9 block collage.
Here is the artist guide.
There are only a handful of places that I find myself in a given day. I’m either at work sitting in a classroom or windowless office, I’m at home on the couch or upstairs making things, or I’m out looking for items. I’m a scavenger. Three days out of the week I’m in a thrift store, namely Monday. On Monday I go to five different places in a certain order. I look for old books, records, movies, and any weird piece of trash I can display or make into more trash. If I go “scavenging” for new items, I like off brand dollar stores. You know…the not-Dollar Tree type places, but ones that are somewhat similar. Places with “dollar” in their name that sell junk that stores couldn’t sell elsewhere for a higher price. They’re hard to find but I love them.
Mighty Dollar is one of my favorite off brand dollar stores. The one I mainly go to is in Thomasville NC but I’ve also visited the one in Kannapolis a few times. It’s a remainder store, a place that sells stuff worth slightly more than a dollar that wouldn’t sell in regular stores. Sometimes you can get real finds there, like real ones. I’ve found Moleskin notebooks (I bought dozens) I’ve found full bottles of Modge-Podge, and to feed my addiction, a ridiculous amount of ugly rolls of Duck brand packing tape. I wonder around and pick out bits for future projects that tend to pile in my upstairs room. I also buy my sunglasses there.
One of the sections in the store is the “craft section,” or at least that’s what it feels like. I often move through that section quickly. I don’t have anything against giant wooden letters per se I just don’t know how to use them. Right at the end of this section I noticed a pile of these square boards. Inside of the square boards there were nine smaller wooden blocks. From the packaging it seemed these boards were used for notes or something, not really sure. Being that they were made into equal shapes, which is something I often feel drawn to (I had that I’m too linear) I picked them up for closer inspection. Without rhyme or reason I bought a couple of them and took them to my upstairs mail-art lair.
The boards rested in a corner until late one night. I picked one up and thought to myself, “Why not an add and return sort of thing?” And that was pretty much it. I put it out to both mail-art friends and to real friends (one’s I see face to face) that I wanted to fill up a board with nine different works of art, anyone interested could join. Like usual, you get a lot of people wanting to fill out a block, mostly non mail-art folks, which was great. I started to send out the blocks and then it seemed that people from all over the world wanted in.
The rates for international shipping are insane? One block and a couple pieces of papers costs $13.50 to mail. That is just the starting rate. Two folks from out of the country raised their hand to say they were interested in the project. I felt obligated to send to them, which made me a little nervous since I wanted everyone to participate that was interested. I didn’t want to exclude. Somewhere in the process I decided to run a different project for those outside of the US. I was going to send them a bingo card that would cut down mailing costs to around two dollars. That’s a big difference when you’re talking mailing to ten people at once.
Out of the blue someone suggested I cut a piece of cardstock to fit over the block and then mail that. Obviously I’m an idiot since this never occurred to me. That game was back on; I started sending to folks around the world after posting on various mail-art centered Facebook groups.
So everyone could see the submissions and stay in touch with the project I decided to set up a Facebook group. It’s always more fun if you feel like you’re part of the process. Someone would send me a block and I’d post an image. When I got nine blocks I asked the group what order they should be in. So that’s where we stand, I have one of these completely finished while I wait for dozens of other blocks to come back. I imagine that I’ll get back about half of the blocks I sent out, which is fine; I know how these things go.
The first completed image was made by contributions from Laura Hortal (Winston-Salem NC) Brooke “Cooks” (Seattle WA) Patricia Landon (Del Ray Beach FL) Kathy Mcintire (Little River SC) Jan Hodgman (Anacortes WA) Camilla Post (The Netherlands) Angie Cope (Port Washington WI) Artista Daily (Taylor MI) and Jennifer + Josh Boyle (Lexington NC).
The best part of this whole thing is that I went back to Mighty Dollar and bought every board they had in their store, which means this project can continue for as long as people send in blocks or pieces of cardstock to go on the blocks. One gets finished and then next one begins. If I make another trip to Kannapolis in the near future I’ll see many of the boards I can get from them. And now I wait for the artwork to come in.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Misty likes themed parties. Our most recent one was an anti-Valentine’s party, or at least that’s what the Facebook invite said. Everyone who was planning on showing up was encouraged to bring valentine’s cards for everyone. When I heard this was the plan, I decided to make cards for each person. Unfortunately I ran out of time so I couldn’t complete personalized cards for each person. I got through six or seven of these. To fill in the rest of the attendees I made somewhat generic cards mostly making fun of myself. As I was working people were saying that they were coming to the party on the Facebook invite. I’d see a new name and then have to come up with something else based on what I already had.  I finished them just a couple hours before everyone showed up.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Trade With RF Cote (Canada)

My collage is on the far right. It's hanging in Canada.

The vast majority of things that I make I end up sending off to someone, or I throw it on their front porch if they live near me. Only recently have I started to squirrel away a few things. I put most of them in this large plastic bin I have upstairs. I don’t mess with the bin all that often, just toss stuff in it every couple of months and keep it shut. Not only along I noticed that it was starting to get crowded in there and I panicked a little bit. In my head I had images of full storage units that were completely unmanageable, multiple ones strewn about the landscape slowly filling with things I’ve forgotten about. I had recently seen my future so I knew I had to asses my “collections” every once in a while.
The bin held about twenty items. I could see patterns in the things I’ve saved over the years. I had an Ice Cube thing in there, a Ray Johnson as a sexy lady, a few smaller collages, some cool abstract ones I’d done in a group of four, and then a bunch of other random things. This is not to mention the thirty or forty tape collages I’d saved over a period of a year. A few of the items I was quite happy with, things I could see someone wanting. Still it was too much.

Selling stuff was out; I knew I couldn’t figure out how to make that work. How does one sell their stuff? I’ve outright sold one thing before and that was it. Keeping all of the items to show was also out since I don’t have inroads into that world. I know that art-things happen in my town but I don’t think I have the right clothes for those people, my shoes not nearly smart enough.
Trades! (I know this does nothing to reduce the overall amount of “stuff” in my house). I took a few pictures of my items and then posted them to the various social media sites, mostly mail-art ones. I made sure to write that the things I was willing to trade were a little bigger and a bit more worked than one of my usual postcards. Here again, I often run into roadblocks. So many people that make things feel their work is far superior to everyone else’s. It’s the mindset many parents with ugly children have, the “my child is gorgeous” thing. Their one color line drawing should fetch at least three hundred dollars. I’m not saying my stuff has any value or is good at all, I’m simply saying I’m not precious about what I make. I’d much rather someone who might enjoy it, have it, than keep it around forever hoping to make money on it. That’s why 95% of everything I’ve ever made is given away.

The only person that was interested in a trade was R.F. Cote in Canada. He traded me for a sweet American flag collage that had bodies falling from the stars. They were shot. The collage is called “The United States of Gun Violence.” It’s perfect, it’s amazing! I ended up trading him one of my more abstract collages of the back of a guy’s head, some letters at the top, and a bunch of tapped bits at the bottom. To be honest, I got a much better deal out of it.
My whole purpose in writing all this is the picture that RF sent me of the collage in his home. There’s nothing that makes me happier than knowing that someone cares enough about a thing I made that they put it on their wall. It’s silly, it’s ridiculous, but it makes me intensely happy. I imagine it’s a similar feel when a shitty garage band travels to a new town after only recording a seven inch. They get to that new town to play a show and four or five kids are singing along to the songs. That’s what it’s like for me.  And it’s so far from home! This isn’t a friend that was kind of forced to take something (I know this happens a lot) that I made for them. He actually wanted it. Anyway, it’s all backdoor bragging but if I don’t do it no one is going to. Now if I could get someone in San Francisco to post a few pictures I’d be super happy.

Thoughts on the Summer Makings Process

I’ve been productive this summer. Normally I wake up around eight o’clock and put on the coffee. I watch twenty minutes of online videos,...