For fourteen years, since I was fired in 1997 from my position as Director of Design for a then high profile luxury custom cabinet manufacturer, I have done much of my best work in product design as a consultant for Premier Custom-Built, Inc. in New Holland, PA. The owner and I share the distinction of being fired as key employees of the same firm, both essentially for being vocally at odds with management. Both of us, several years apart, emerged from unemployment by starting our own businesses, Marlin at a much larger scale than I. Serendipitously, Premier became my first client, and together, we've made a good bit of noise in the world of high end custom kitchens. And Marlin Horst and I have become rather unlikely close friends in the process. Which is another story.

Just this week, in the teeth of a recession that has been especially hard on our businesses, we've agreed to move ahead with several initiatives, on our jointly held optimism that we can continue to thrive together in an environment mired in fear and pessimism. I'm in the shop about half the time and in my studio across the county the other half. Today, it occurred to me that it would be fun and challenging to take my sketchbook out on the shop floor. This is the first of what I think will be an entertaining and certainly offbeat series of drawings, done while sitting cross legged on the concrete floor in front of a chop saw, situated amidst the special cabinet assembly workbenches, while my colleagues, who already think I'm pretty weird, looked cautiously across their lunchpails wondering what could possibly have possessed that lunatic to sit on the floor in the sawdust with a tray of colored pencils, scribbling with mad intent.

8 1/4 x 11 9/16, watercolor pencils



Letting go 

During the last three months, I've forced myself through pages of drawing exercises with far more discipline than I really have the patience for. I've gritted my teeth and worked when I haven't felt like it at all, pushing myself through a self imposed refresher course in eye-hand co-ordination, trying to ignore my screaming mind just wanting to let out waves of rage, knowing that only by burning in this tedious training would I be able to recapture the ability to draw convincingly without thinking, automatically, and really fast. I like the extremes. Swinging between them, often unpredictably and painfully, brings me a savage pleasure that I'm so driven to seek. Most of the time, I don't want to do neat, anal retentive, careful pictures that look mesmerizingly, photographically real. I want to do unruly, messy, shouting to the sky rapturous work. What I've begun to see is that the excruciating practice that makes me want to break things and that so wears me out from the effort of restraint is translating into skills that can withstand all that emotion. Letting go without the skills produces unintelligible results. Sound and fury without meaning. Letting go with the skills deeply developed opens the possibility of sharing passion. Maybe even the possibility of creating art.

Talbert bulldog and friends with a bottle of Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale on my smoking stand, 8 1/4 x 11 9/16, Mars 8B Lumograph and watercolor pencils


Monday 12 September 2011

What I really would write about this morning is best diverted to my journal and kept private. Sometimes the warden is wise to throw the prisoner into solitary confinement until he can behave himself well enough to be allowed back out into the exercise yard with the other prisoners. This would be one of those times. And dammit, it's going to be a beautiful day outside and I'll miss the sun on my face. Don't ask questions. I don't need the straitjacket, thank you. Just bring hot, black, strong coffee.

6AM coffee and Talbert LB and (BADWORD adjective) BlackBerry, 8 1/4 x 11 9/16, 9B graphite and Prismacolors



Wish I could just spend the entire day, without interruption, doing art. The temperature outdoors is comfortable, there are just enough clouds to soften the light so that my eyes aren't squinting. But it's Saturday, almost lunchtime already, and the house needs to be put in order for a busy week of catching up after days of being preoccupied with getting through the wild rain and flooding in the Susquehanna valley. I need to be grateful that I’m able to at least take a little time for drawing, instead of waiting for the Susquehanna to recede enough to begin to make our home habitable again, as families just a block towards the river are doing.

A contemporary Rad Davis 1/8 bent Zulu with two Danish style freeform pipes that I've had for over 30 years. 11 9/16 x 8 1/4, watercolor and graphite pencils


Syrian Full Balkan

Watching the relentless rains (15.4 inches from Sept 4 - 8) then the monstrously flooding Susquehanna here in Marietta these past couple of days, swelling out of its banks, fed by streams washing out roads on their way to bigger things. Something about all these billions of cubic feet of muddy water roaring down to Chesapeake Bay, all the tree branches and debris from collapsed buildings, and bridge piers eroded to fine silt, this awesome power of nature. Something about it has gotten into my bloodstream and thrown me a little out of control. If I had paints out I'd be making a serious mess.

Pipes, a beer bottle, and a tin of Syrian Full Balkan, 11 9/16 x 8 1/4, watercolor pencil and water soluble graphite