Sam Cat’s Colors

Once upon a time, I had a kindergarten teacher ask me to do a lesson on colors.  So I wrote a book.  As one does.

Today I found all the photos while looking for images of our Successive Approximation of the sunflowers for William Blake’s Inn (to illustrate the process in Lichtenbergianism) and thought it would be fun to show them off.

The original used a pad of canvas panels and tempera paint for the brilliance of the colors; my inspiration was my Maine Coon Sam.  I forget how I bound the pages; it may have just been clips on the edge.

—click to embiggen and see Sam in his full glory—

Here’s the book:

The presentation was simple: I’d read a page and at the ellipses would pause to let the kindergarteners guess which color was next.  The book also promoted the idea of imagination—and the attendant alternate realities—as a very good thing.  Finally, there’s the subtle vocabulary lesson of superlatives used by Sam Cat. All in all, a successful lesson I think.

New labyrinth project, pt. 2

So I went shopping for ideas for materials from which to make the symbols of the four elements on the surface of my new endpoints.

The first idea:

We could set glass beads into the concrete in either the circular or triangular patterns, or…

…since it’s unlikely we’re going to be able to see the colors at night anyway, just use black glass, or…

…just plain black stone.

Next idea:

A 7-inch mirror, which I’d trim to fit the top.  I’m thinking we’d want to use the surface to etch or otherwise attach the symbol, then pour…

…a clear resin on top.

If we want metal, we could use…

…aluminum channel.  It would hold its place and be weather resistant.  With this option, we’d be looking at the triangular symbols only, of course.  (If I chose to go to Hobby Lobby, I think they carry metal sheets; we could cut the symbols out of brass or copper.)

Next idea:

Oven-baked clay—we could make any of the shapes, any color we wanted, including…

…glow-in-the-dark!  There’s something weirdly appealing about making the symbols out of this stuff, then putting them on the mirror and covering them with a clear resin.

Next idea:

The simple, classic mosaic.

And finally for now:

This could be exciting.  This is the stuff that I used on my 3 Old Men staff for my lizard’s eyes, and there are many more options here than just that one product.  Have a look here.


Clear resin, and…

…some other stuff.  Who even knows?

So if we used this, we could have several objects of interest embedded in the labyrinth itself.  Hm.

New labyrinth project, pt. 1

You would think after eight years I would be done with the basic structure of the labyrinth.  You are wrong, of course.  It’s never done.  The trick is not to overload the space.

You already know that the classic seven-circuit labyrinth is basically four lines, each of which curves its way around the center and then ends, forming a turn in the path.


Until recently, I capped each endstone with a small wooden block that was painted to look like stone and which had a circle cut into it—I sometimes would place cans of Sterno in those endpoints as little lamps along the way.

However, people kept tripping over them, particularly the southeast one by the firepit, mainly because I had drilled holes in the stones and staked them to the ground with rebar.  So I got rid all of them earlier this year and life has gone on.

I kept thinking, though, that the endpoints needed to be more pleasing visually, and that’s what I’m working on now.

Basic idea: replace the square paving stone at the endpoint with a round paving stone.  Naturally, no one manufactures a round paving stone, at least not in the size that I needed, and so I am casting my own.

Here are my alternate designs:

Pro tip: in Pages, create a layout document, then a circle and a square with white fill.  You can control the size of the circle in the Inspector, and Pages is very helpful about showing you when you have things centered, both on the page and with each other.  Above you can see my templates for circles of 6″, 7″, 7.5″, and 8″.  I decided to go with the 7-inch circle.

Here’s what it looks like in situ:

And from another angle:

Just big enough to tie off the end without being too much big.

Now let me introduce you to a fabulous material:

RAM BOARD!  It’s rough, it’s tough, it’s a huge role of heavy duty cardboard for about $30.  I think builders use it to protect floors as they truck stuff in and out of a site.  I bought it to use in art projects.

Cut out the base of the mold:

Use your handy flexible ruler to measure the length of the arc:

Measure strips for the sides of the mold, remembering to add a one-inch tab at the end:

Use your painters tape to form the sides, then attach to the straight edge of the bottom:


All four of them:

And here we pause.  It’s begun to rain, and I have some æsthetics to work on.

The simplest plan is simply to insert these into the ground and fill them with concrete.  The cardboard may or may not disintegrate—who cares?

But wouldn’t it be neat if I embedded something in the surface?  I’m thinking the symbols of the four classical elements: fire/water/earth/air, just like the sculptures at the four points of the compass are now.

Here are two versions of the symbols:

One choice to make is between the triangular and the circular versions.  The problem with the triangular ones is that they are reversible—the seeker would never be quite sure if the turn he is making is around fire or water. That is a problem, right?  The circular ones at least remain the same no matter which direction you’re approaching them from.

However, depending on what materials I find when I hit Jo-Ann’s, the triangular ones might be easier to make.  (My original thoughts were to use brass or some metal items.)

Also however too, it occurs to me that it might be the best thing ever if I were to make the circular ones out of resin of some kind, glass even, and let those be the absolute top of the endpoint stones, i.e., you wouldn’t see concrete, just the glass symbol.


This could be bad…

In a fit of procrastination yesterday, I cleaned off my drafting table.

the art desk

Now I have a space to which I can turn—literally, since it’s right behind me as I’m facing the computer—in order to waste art supplies.  Again, procrastination is key.

I decided to waste no time procrastinating, so I whacked out a small set of Artist Trading Cards, which we’ve explored previously around here.

They are of course rubbish, since I was forcing myself to waste art supplies.  But I began to conceive of them as a series, in which I vomit out something vomitous onto the little cards, and then I “destroy” it by concealing it or trashing it or adding something destructively random to it.

They work better after I’ve destroyed them.  Still rubbish, mind you, but it’s a start, procrastination-speaking-wise.

artist trading cards

The roar of the chainsaw, the smell of the art

On Saturday we motored over to Gray, GA, for Chaptacular, which — despite what conclusion your filthy mind has already leapt to—is actually an art event hosted by Chap Nelson on his spacious property as a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

The full event name is Chaptacular Chainsaw Carving Bash, and it was more than, again, what you were expecting.

About twenty carvers from all over the country—including a national champion and an international champion—were on the premises, hard at work by the time we got there.

A lot of the work (all of which was for sale) was much what you would expect:

Lots and lots of bears: little ones, like these; big ones; happy ones; sad ones; silly ones.  You name it.  But there were other subjects as well:

Stop it, you perverts!  That’s a pelican.  I think.  Lots of Green Men/wood spirits:

Watching these people work was fascinating.  It’s all I can do to cut a log in half with my chainsaw, and here they were wielding them with surgical precision.  Like “real” sculptors, they had a whole set of chainsaws in different sizes, plus buffers and grinders and sanders.

Soon after we arrived, most of the artists assembled for the “quick carve” event.  It’s mindblowing.  About a dozen of them stood in the carving area, each with a large block of wood and his tools, and after a brief intro from Mr. Nelson, they started their chainsaws up and went to work.

Go ahead, click on it.  It’s only 30 seconds long, and it’s tiny, unfortunately; if you do full-screen, it goes grainy.  Sorry.  But do look carefully at the man on the far right of the video, slightly behind the guy in front.

Here’s a good look at him from the other side, on the left.  For the longest time, all he did was saw straight down through his block.

Hold that thought.  After 20-30 minutes of ungodly noise—it really did become hysterically mind-numbing because nobody stopped, nobody paused even for breath—shapes began to emerge.

As you’re holding that thought about the short guy with the tall block, hold a new one about the young man on the right.

Here’s what the short guy ended up with:

This is the national champion, and he got here way faster than the other artists.  (Unfortunately, for our tastes, he ended up spray-painting the heron.)

Okay, back to the young man:

Ambitious, to say the least, and I don’t think he got it very finished by the time the carve was over.  But it was still amazing to watch.

It wasn’t all bears and green men:

These are inlaid with turquoise and crystals.  Not tremendously balanced, artistically-speaking-wise, but they were different from the surrounding work.

As you might suspect, most of the work was not something I would own, but as a demonstration of the creative process it was amazing.  It was the ultimate “take a block of wood and remove everything that isn’t a heron” experience.

The one piece I almost bought and would have if I still had two incomes:

It  would have gone in the southwest corner of the labyrinth, maybe.  Unless it proved to be too large to fit in, in which case I would have given it to Craig for his labyrinth.  (Who am I kidding?  I would have made it fit.)

Finally, if you’re in the market for a bear, this is the place to be.  They had an auction of pieces donated by the artists, all proceeds of which went to the CFF.  And good deals were to be had thereby.  I highly recommend marking your calendar for next year’s event.

Behind on everything

As you can tell, I’m running behind on everything, so no time to blog with any thoughtfulness at all.

So, to make up for all the time you’d otherwise waste reading a week’s worth of blogposts here, have a link:

WARNING: Do not click on that link. And if you do, DO NOT CLICK ON THE FLICKR LINK.

Just don’t do it.

American Crafts

I went to the American Craft Council Show this weekend in search of a bowl for the west point of the labyrinth.

I don’t have a photo of the bowl I had there; it was glass, I left it face up during the Great Freeze, and it broke:

It was really just a stopgap; I have never really found just the right thing to be a focus for west point meditations, the element of the West being water.

But I figured if I could find a bowl anywhere, it would be at the American Craft Council Show.

Indeed, right off the bat:

This is Wisconsin limestone, made by Brooks Barrow of Montgomery.  Yes, I asked if it would survive as an outdoor piece, and he assured me that it would.  I will have photos of the installation after it stops raining and I get out into the back yard.  I think it’s going to be a powerful station for meditation.

Also for the labyrinth, an 18″ elk-hide drum:

This is from the same artisan who made my flute, Guillermo Martinez.

Here’s a fun thing, both for the labyrinth and the bar:

A quirky little tumbler/shot glass, by Jenny Mendes. She had several dozen of these, each incredibly different, each with two faces.

I also got a couple of things not for the labyrinth.

This is a light switch plate by Kevin Loughran.  It’s going by the back door, so in that sense it is for the labyrinth.  For a certain amount of money, we could have replaced every light switch and outlet plate in the house.  (Notice that we also bought the switches…)

And finally:

Aren’t these pretty?  They’re by Gali Chehirian,  handpainted in the verre églomisé process.

The whole show was impressive, much moreso than last year, and I had a great time talking to the artists about their materials and their processes. All of them were super nice and fun to talk to.  Next year, go and see for yourself—but save your pennies: you don’t want to experience leaving something beautiful behind!

And that’s how my weekend went.  Tomorrow, we’ll dive back into Burning Man theory and practice.


No Burning Man today—instead, we travel.  We’ll start out at the High Museum, mainly because we are members but haven’t been in a while.  Then we’ll settle in at the Embassy Suites up at Cobb Galleria for the weekend so that we can take in the American Craft Council show in a leisurely manner.

This is the third year we’ve done the show, and it’s always mindblowing.  Those who have been around this blog for a while will remember my purchase of the large bell for the labyrinth (and its stand when I realized I didn’t have anything in the back yard from which I could safely hang the thing) and of the small sculpture in our living room, Traveling Together.

Last year, I bought a gorgeous Native American flute:

Lovely deep tone, but very difficult to play since the finger holes are in a straight line and not curved ergonomically.

Otherwise, last year, we were a little disappointed to find that the jewelers had proliferated at the expense of other, more interesting stuff.  I bought an earrings for me and a bracelet for my lovely first wife, but there was no art piece that demanded to be purchased.

I’ll have a full report tomorrow.

Implied projects

Let’s look at all the creative projects implied by the mess in my study.  I think I’ll just list them.  Commentary would be superfluous.

  • A Perfect Life, a rambling memoir of sorts of what life was like for an educated upper middle class white male in the turn of the 21st century
  • painting:
    • the Field series
    • the Epic Lichtenbergian Portrait
    • general drawing
    • Artist Trading Cards
    • learning to mix colors, especially for portraiture
  • rescore A Christmas Carol
  • rescore William Blake’s Inn
  • find a home for William Blake’s Inn
  • archive all the GHP stuff
  • compose
    • Five Easier Pieces
    • the Symphony
    • a song for John Tibbetts II
    • other stuff…
  • continue my reading/writing/exploration of ritual and meditation
  • make the little icon/box
  • learn counterpoint so that someday there might actually be a Six Fugues (without preludes)

Wow.  That’s not a lot.  You’d think I would have already gotten all this done.