My Arts & Crafts

A few years ago, my friend Doug Wittnebel posted a digital sketch he made that included a photo. Making inquiries, I learned that he used an iPad app called Procreate to do it. After getting a copy, I started making photo-collages, typically sampling the stream of images that kick up on tumblr and Facebook. While there's an ebb and flow to it, I work fairly consistently at it, finding the medium conducive to the kind of free association that also drives my poetry. 

As a kid, I painted watercolors at a Saturday class at Tanglin School in Singapore. My mother kept the pad, so I still have a record of the work. She also kept several sketchbooks. The watercolors have a free style that seems to reflect a fearless approach to that quite tricky medium. The drawings are tighter, with text as a graphic element - literally, since I couldn't read, but had memorized perhaps 100 words in the course of trying and failing to learn by rote. The "J" in my name is typically reversed. Rudolf Steiner, understanding the visual nature of young children, tried to keep them from reading. In my case, not being able to read sharpened my visual-graphic memory. (I still can't remember people's names until I see them written out.)

I never did well with art as taught. Photography interested me, but it took the iPod and iPhone to revive it. The artist Henrik Drescher told me that he finds digital art too removed from art as he practices it, but for me, the iPad has proved to be a liberating medium. Starting with visual material triggers my imagination, which is fundamentally receptive.

In relation to weaving, though, I can appreciate Drescher's preference for materiality and process. I've done weaving for about three years, moving from a very simple two-shaft loom to a four-shaft loom on which I can do patterns. Weaving combines planning with improvisation. It's the closest I get to design - to the part that resonated with me when I studied it. Mixing different colors, thicknesses, and textures in with variations in the weft is the heart of it. I see commonalities between doing this kind of weaving and writing sonnets.

I post my photo-collages on my tumblr site as I do them. It's interesting to see what gets traction there. The one above had a life of its own; I wouldn't have chosen it myself. (The one below is a favorite, for example.) The artist Ward Schumaker told me that he generates a lot of work and then culls through it. So in this respect tumblr is my warehouse.


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