Today I happened to hear about lettermo.com, which is a NaNoWriMo-style challenge: to write and send a letter a day for the month of February. Now, as everyone who knows me is well aware, and as I have blogged about before, I actually took on a similar challenge back in college, but for a whole year. The challenge then was a haiku a day, but of course just a bare haiku in an envelope rarely satisfied either the sender or the recipient, so my friend Tim and I ended up sending each other all kinds of things, sometimes incredibly elaborate pieces of mail art. So I know what it’s like: I know both the pleasure and the frustrations of having to set aside a space of time to sit down and write/make something, every single day.
My last attempt at something like this didn’t turn out so well–in fact, I’ve tried various challenges and it’s never really come together since that one year. The fact that I was getting mail every day as well as sending it was an important positive feedback loop; and the fact that Tim and I have always had a bit of a competitive streak that made me want to one-up his amazing letters helped to make things awesomer than they might have been. So: I am asking you for an address to send mail; I would also like to remind you that one of the rules of this challenge is that I must reply to everything I recieve. In other words, you don’t have to do anything, you certainly don’t have to take the challenge yourself; if you tell me your address I will probably send you something. BUT the likelihood of my achieving the goal, and the quality of the things I send, will be much increased if you send me something yourself. Just send me an e-mail or leave a comment with yours, and we can exchange addresses. (I don’t quite trust the Internet enough to put my address out here for everyone to see.)
Looking forward to corresponding with you! Let’s do it!
Here’s one I can show everyone, for sure! I made an 8tracks mix for my creative endeavor. It’s a mix of spooky, more-or-less ambient music for your next dark and stormy night. I got the idea when I was looking through my CDs (I’m old) and found this old album by Antediluvian Rocking Horse, a CD which I bought for $2.99 at Rhino Records back in college because I liked their name. I could only remember one track, a creepy collage of English women’s voices talking about dreams of drowning, and I built the mix around that track. (Alas, the rest of the album is not really my taste–they construct all their music out of samples and it’s mostly “quirky” “humorous” “dance” music. Oh well.) My one disappointment is that I couldn’t include the piece I wanted to by my friend the amazing composer Nicci Reisnour. That piece, a setting of Wallace Stevens’s 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird for voice and wineglasses, was too big a file. So I put in a different one, of microtonal violin. Still very good.
Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get 8tracks mixes to embed in this blog, which is a real drag. If anyone out there has any technical tips on this, let me know.
Doing a project like this, I always hope to learn something along the way. But sometimes you learn a different lesson than you anticipated. I’ve been sick for the past couple of days, and kind of miserable, and I sort of realized tonight that this 30 Days project is teaching me a lesson that I’ve been trying to ignore away. The fact is that I’m an extremely private person. That’s something I’ve always known, but I guess what I’ve learned this month is that it goes deeper than I thought, and my creative mind is not as public a part of me as I thought it was. I’ll try to explain what I mean.
When I did that haiku project with my friend Tim, there was no problem, because Tim and I are as close as friends can be. He’s really a part of my family. I could send him anything my mind came up with; it was like sending it to myself. But even though the hit count of this website is usually in the single digits, it’s on the Internet, and under my own real name even! It’s as public as anything can be in this day and age. And I’m not comfortable, I’ve discovered, with sharing the vast majority of the fruits of my creativity in public this way. Do you want to know a secret? These doodles were not actually the only ‘creative’ things I did those days. I actually draw and doodle almost constantly. But almost every day this month I’ve thought to myself, “I can’t put this stuff on the Internet. I’d better do something just for this 30 Days thing,” which meant something contextless, unobjectionable, personality-free. So I’d do some dutiful bullshit drawing, and even if it was total fucking garbage and something else I’d drawn that day was perfect, what I’d show would be the one I’d made with the Internet in mind, because the other stuff was too personal. It had some part of me in it that I just don’t want on the Internet, at least not like this.
It’s strange because, for example, I always enjoy sharing my sewing on Craftster (when I actually remember to take pictures). I never minded showing my stuff for critique in art class, even the most preliminary sketches and notes. I thought that the art-making part of me was a public part–even an exhibitionist part. So I’m very surprised to find it isn’t, not entirely. And what’s really terrible about that is that, in trying to deny that fact, I’ve been sharing this “art” that comes from a place of no inspiration or interest at all, just something to sort of pay the piper, to prove I’m doing my homework, or something. Which is a poor thing to pass off on people, and makes me look bad to boot.
So. I’m just not going to show something for every day anymore. We’ll just assume that what I did those days, I don’t want to share with the world. But I’ll share whatever I make that I feel that I want to share. I should have pictures of some things to put up this weekend! I think they will be good.
Xerxes, Emperor of the Persians
This is the last character in The Persians! This design, well, I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. I’ll probably redo it somewhat, like the Ghost, not like the complete overhaul I need to do of Atossa.
Well, a couple days ago I was in the worst mood, and very down on the whole 30 Days thing; it seemed like I was getting nothing out of it except embarassing myself on the Internet with a bunch of bad pictures. But then I went fabric shopping, and started reading William Gibson‘s latest novel, and the two things combined to pour some enthusiasm back into me. Five minutes in any fabric shop (even Joann’s, where natural fibers are apparently forbidden) gives me five thousand ideas of things to make.
Gibson’s always had a very interesting eye for clothes, but in his latest, non-science-fiction books, he’s really been focussing on them more, which I’m loving. When I’m reading him I find myself lurking on superfuture‘s message boards, contemplating the mysterious differences in how details work in mens and womenswear, wishing I had a lot of money to spend and mysterious underground semi-black-market boutiques to spend it in. I think my own detail-eye is more a womenswear eye, but that makes it all the more fascinating to hear how these dudes’ minds work. I remember when I first stumbled on superfuture (I think I was looking for the address of Nowhere, before my first trip to Tokyo) and discovered the world of denim nerds and their selvedge jeans. Fascinating. And all this kind of thing, which is not quite fashion, but certainly not dressmaking either, helps to open my mind a little, I think, and get out of the ruts of thinking which I am very prone to. (It also makes me miss Japan very much!)
What I worked on this weekend is not finished, and I’m not ready to talk about yet. So here’s Monday’s creative work, another costume design for Persians. This one, I like. I’ll never quite get reconciled to the fact that (for me at least) design tends to come all at once, a complete piece, and out of nowhere, or else never really comes at all. If I struggle along at it, garbage like that Atossa design comes out. But with this one it all came, the colors and the shapes and everything, and all I really had to do consciously was fill in the little details.
The messenger, bearing very very bad news, in The Persians by Aeschylus.
Art Deco Doodle
Here is a work which I have entitled, Silly Doodle I Drew in Lieu of the Song I Was Going to Record When It Turned Out My Music Recording Software Doesn’t Work.
This next is another very minor effort, because I fell asleep weirdly right after supper last night and when I was woken up, I felt very out-of-sorts and exhausted. The other day I discovered, scrolling idly through the endless list of our digital cable guide, that Jem and the Holograms is in reruns on some channel called Hub. So I started watching it with my sister and 6-year-old niece.
I was a somewhat unusual boy I suppose in that I often preferred girls’ entertainment options to boys’. I never read the Hardy Boys, much less My Side of the Mountain or Hatchet or any of that kind of boy book, but I loved The Nancy Drew Files and The Babysitter’s Club. (I had a big crush on Claudia.) I did love He-Man, but I also loved She-Ra. If I had the choice, I usually preferred a female hero to a male one; which in fact I still do (when I play Super Smash Bros with my family, I choose Zelda by default.) So, I liked Jem then and I like Jem now. Of course it’s very dated (although to my surprise, only barely in terms of fashion) but it’s enjoyably ridiculous, and I can’t help but love that 80s vibe. It is my culture, man.
Anyway, here is my little doodle, which barely even looks like Jem, but which fulfilled my obligations for the day before I went miserably to bed. The good news is, I have a ton of free time this weekend and I am going to make some clothes.
Truly, truly, truly outrageous
Sketches for Atossa in The Persians
It’s been a frustrating couple of days in terms of 30-days-of-creativity. I know the point of things like this and Nanowrimo is to turn off the doubting voices in your head and just make art. The reason, the thinking goes, that we rarely get art done (and especially, finish it, which is always the hardest thing) is that we are always running things through the quality-filter in our heads and finding them wanting. So write a novel in 30 days, because of course the novel will be bad, but it will be finished, and you can go back and fix the bad parts, or at least learn from them, rather than stalling on it forever.
I pretty much agree with this; but it doesn’t mean that I’m not bummed that what I’ve been working on for the past couple days has been so bad. (It wouldn’t be such a big deal if I wasn’t throwing it all up on the Internet for everyone to see!) A lot of the time was spent on research and sketches, which was interesting if a little difficult. There doesn’t seem to be much out there about the dress of the Ancient Persians, and particularly, almost nothing at all about women’s clothing. This makes designing the costume for Atossa, the Queen Mother, very difficult, particularly as I would like to avoid any too-egregious Orientalisms. The Persians is possibly the original Orientalist text, but that doesn’t mean I want to use Europeans’ imagined Sexy Harem Girl stereotypes in her costume. I’d much rather have a basis in fact to work from and go from there.
Anyway, here are a few more of the doodles/sketches, as well as the preliminary Ghost design (which I’m not satisfied with, and will change, possibly using the idea in the little sketch following) and Queen design (which is wretched and will probably be scrapped entirely.)
Sketches of Persian decorative patterns etc.
Preliminary Design for the Ghost of Darius in The Persians
Doodle of possible revision to Ghost costume
Heinous design for Atossa in The Persians