Why post with no comments?

I don’t have much to write today, I am exhausted and worn. I will, however, like to address a question asked of me previously: How do you continue posting when no one comments on your blog?

This is a pretty simple answer for me. I don’t maintain this blog for anyone but myself. I invite others to share it, comment on it, enjoy it, make fun of it, or whatever. But, this blog is more a record for me both tracking and keeping me in line with my daily meditations. It is merely the public part of a process designed to strengthen my own art work and my comfort level in sharing myself with others.

Opening a dialogue with others or establishing an e-reputation, things I think most bloggers are attempting, are merely by-products when or if they occur. Now don’t get me wrong, I love comments. There is a sort of validation there. But, I will continue with the blog until it is no longer useful regardless.

Eric in a Word: scheissenbedauern

Book of the Day: Citizen Soldiers- Stephen Ambrose

Song of the Day: Warm Beer, Cold Women - Tom Waits

Religious Figure of the Day: Pazuzu

Sketch medium: graphite on business card (2" x 3.5"), re-colored via Photoshop.


Cop-out post

So I did this 25 Random Things about Me thingy on Facebook and thought it would make a passable cop-out post since I don't have anything fresh to say today to accompany my sketch.

1. I don’t actually try to be weird, quite the opposite really. You should hear/read some of the things I filter out.

2. I have never owned a monkey, a diaper, or a monkey in a diaper.

3. I don’t like potato chips, in general.

4. I am actually a smidge under 6’2”

5. I have actually performed the Heimlich on a chipmunk.

6. I have long held the belief that I would probably taste good blackened and seared with a nice Merlot- then again, what doesn’t?

7. I have only had two nicknames that stuck for any period of time: tripod and sleeper.

8. Every night small animals sit on me.

9. I often wear pants.

10. I have a hard time remembering names, even my own.

11. I am a world-class loomer, but I struggle with hovering and loitering.

12. I have actually drawn my way out of a paper bag- it’s all about pencil pressure.

13. I have never passed a polygraph by telling the truth.

14. I really like chapulines tacos.

15. I don’t believe in putting my friends in some sort of hierarchy.

16. The sense of humor I rarely share is pitch black and would make the devil flinch.

17. I tend to do things I shouldn’t be able to do and forget to do things I need to do.

18. This is not my first rodeo.

19. I love vulcanology.

20. I don’t like people in general only in specific.

21. I have two Master’s degrees – Religious Studies and International Policy.

22. I specialized in death rituals and then transitional justice issues related to genocide for my Master’s degrees.

23. I could be a vegetarian if it weren’t for bacon.

24. I read up to 6 books at a time and tend to finish 1 a day.

25. I don’t have a favorite color, but I’m not a fan of yellow.

Eric in a Word: plenilune
Book of the Day: The Sacred and The Profane- Mircea Eliade
Song of the Day: Seven Deadly Sins- Flogging Molly
Religious Figure of the Day: Leucothea
Sketch medium: charcoal on bristol board.


To become and to cease being. These are two simple facts of existence. Everything else is extraneous; they are just other things that fill the intervening space. They are just extra verbs. “Be” is the only verb that is absolutely necessary. Nothing else is relevant to the issue of birth and death, to be or not to be. And yet even this dichotomy is really a description of the same coin.
Eric in a Word: Be
Book of the Day: Pictorial Nominalism - Thierry De Duve
Song of the Day: Straight, No Chaser - Thelonious Monk Quartet
Religious Figure of the Day: Altjira
Sketch medium: marker and graphite on manilla envelope


Racism, who needs it?

Today I experienced the still all too pervasive division and hatred of the “other” in our society (rather ironic considering the book I brought to read today). I am speaking in particular about “racism”, specifically between “white” and “black” populations, but divisions such as this are not just relegated to that distinction. There exist hatreds between most ethnic, cultural, and “racial” groups.

The incident or my brush with the "anti-Rosa Parks":
Standing in a line at the bus stop at 5:45 am this morning (yeah, damn early I know), I was 5th in line. Ahead of me were two women and two men – 1 Asian-American man, 1 Senegalese man I’ve met before, and 2 African-American women. Anyway, two more people showed up a couple of minutes after me, an African-American woman and man (not together). The woman is directly behind me, ignores my ‘good morning’, but that’s not unusual. A few seconds later, she literally leans around me to complain to the Senegalese man about the long line while glaring at me and then asked him the time. He answers with his beautifully accented English and she gets this look on her face like he just spit on her shoes. She then proceeds to talk to the young African-American man behind her (loudly) about how Obama is going to change this country and once she gets him involved in the conversation once again switches to the long line. She expresses her disgust at so many whites and foreigners moving into the area and taking the bus. I’m shocked and look around at everyone, but everyone is looking away and down except for the young man who makes the briefest of noncommittal eye contact. The bus pulls up and it is a Russian emigre driving. This woman, after all her complaining, actually steps out of line to wait for the next bus!

I consider the actual incident more a symptom of a larger disease, instead I’m going to intellectualize an emotional (personally and writ large) topic.

We, humans, talk a lot about “race” and “racism” but many of us don’t even know the history of the terms. Here in the U.S., for example, a lot of people specify “racism” in particular as “white” discriminatory activities, etc… against “black” people and populaces. “Race” and “racism” are much broader than this and have a rather storied history, don’t worry I won’t go into great detail, but here are a few key points:

The modern meaning of “race” emerged in Western languages in the 1600’s and referred primarily to categorizing people by their physical differences. Since at the time travel was more difficult, people who shared similar physical properties were often lumped into categories based around geographical regions (i.e. African Race, Asian race, European race…). These geographical regions were determined by the predominant features of the inhabitants there, because, surprise, surprise a group of people who have been living together and intermarrying for generation upon generation start sharing similar physical characteristics over time. Anyway, over time “race” has also taken on some distinct cultural overtones that have lead to other racial groups- the Irish race, the Greek race – usual in reference to some “inferior” qualities that made them distinct from those doing the categorizing (Britain & France mainly). A discussion of Social Darwinism would fit nicely here, but just check out the link.

Anyway, despite this most people still equate race with physically distinct populations. There are two things I find darkly humorous about all of this:

1) It is pretty well-known fact now that the genetic difference between any two humans is less than 1 percent. A lesser known fact is that the few differences there are, even in the most widely scattered and isolated groups occur in only about 7% of our genes. That means in even the most divergent populations, humans are about 93% the same biologically.
2) Despite the fact that categorizing individuals into racial groups was developed in societies increasingly dependant on colonization as much to reinforce their society’s “right” to colonize and enslave other populations as to “benignly” categorize people, we all still play by the game. All of us.

We as groups are still defined by this 400 year old system and we scramble, scrap and scrape to move up this imaginary ladder of superiority. Why? Because power structures are set up in reflection of this classification. The thing is, as long as we acknowledge the power of the categories and its implied rankings we give the whole structure support. The only way to truly undermine inequality and racism is to refuse to play by its rules and to stigmatize those who continue to do so. The path to equality is to change the game.

Eric in a Word: colpocoquette
Song of the Day: A Message to You Rudy- Dandy Livingstone
Religious Figure of the Day: 'Aho'eitu
Sketch Medium: graphite, colored pencil, & coffee on canvas


Inspiring First Class

An interesting thing happened this morning; someone I don’t know asked me if I was the Giles from the Giles Daily Sketch blog. Getting an answer in the affirmative, which at that time in the morning consisted of a grunt and nod, they preceded to ask why I hadn’t posted in a week. Receiving a muttered “scanner issues” and “time” response, they decided I needed a bit of encouragement – they were right – and let me know that my blog and I were an inspiration to them. I must say, I was taken aback by this, I’ve never thought of myself as an inspirational person. I have friends with the talent (Rosetta for instance), but I wouldn’t consider myself that way. I am way too cynical and have a natural penchant for finding the Camusian absurdity in life. That being said, I appreciated the compliment.

Anyway, I had one of those experiences last night where I wanted to be inspirational, but could only see the absurdity during and after the event. I am speaking about my first teaching experience at the College of Southern Maryland. Teaching at this level isn’t particularly new to me, but there is a bit of a difference between teaching Native American Religion or the History of Christianity and Drawing. There’s a certain inspirational element needed in a beginning drawing class, most of the students come in with a desire to learn how to draw and no confidence or they come in thinking they know how to draw and aren’t going to learn much. Two different types of inspiration are needed.

I’m not sure I succeeded in either last night – the oddness of talking about drawing when I have always considered drawing a kinetic activity had me in two places at once. I wanted them to have the experience of doing what we were talking about as we talked about it, but lacked the time. Drawing, in fact I’d argue most visual art, is a full-body activity. It is the empathic connection with your subject and materials and how your body moves in response that creates art. Just looking or imagining doesn’t create, it is translating of observation and imagination into the physical act of creation that completes the circle.

Eric in a Word: coomb
Book of the Day: Detection by Gaslight - Douglas G. Greene, ed.
Song of the Day: Run for the Hills - Iron Maiden
Religious Figure of the Day: Lemminkainen
Sketch Medium: charcoal wash, coffee, green tea, on scrap paper


RIP - Mr. Wyeth

I don’t feel like writing much today. One of the few people I have ever idolized died today. Although Andrew Wyeth never received the critical praise, I think his work was once called colored drawings and a bunch of Styrofoam and saccharin, his work has always struck a chord with me. His drawing and tempera skills have always astounded me. He was truly a master, if one unrecognized by the “experts”. I met Mr. Wyeth twice in my teenage years, once at a Wawa (he was buying candy corn) and then again through an arranged meeting at the Brandywine River Museum- where he gave me some invaluable tips on composition and drawing in the few minutes we interacted. As silly as it may sound, they were both formative meetings in my own progress as an artist. I will miss him and the excitement that accompanied the viewing of any of his new work.

1917 - 2009

Eric in a Word: callipygian
Book of the Day: The Art of Responsive Drawing- Nathan Goldstein
Song of the Day: Catfish on the Bayou - Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
God of the Day: Aguara
Sketch Medium: graphite on bristol board


*Content Removed

***The written portion of today’s Daily Sketch has been removed due to the use of unwarranted expletives, grandiloquent hyperbole, and occasional incidents of verbal nudity. Eric would like to apologize for any unforeseen consequences related to the reading of the latest entry before its removal. He would like to issue a special apology to the following:

Mrs. J. Whittley of Montalba, Texas- I am sorry that your young daughter was driven to enter a nunnery at the tender age of 9 after reading the blog upon a whim.

US Border Patrol and Customs agents- I know your job is to monitor the influx of legal and illegal customs and people. The chaos resulting from the spontaneous exodus of legal US citizens and products to Canada and points south must have made your job more difficult than usual.

James Franco- What I said was just uncalled for and I apologize, although I still think you should work on the kinetic aspects of your acting, amongst other things.

The Citrus Industry- I know there have been no direct ties to yakuza crime syndicates proven as of yet and to imply anything, at this point, was irresponsible. All I ask is that you leave my family alone; the responsibility for what I said is mine.

And finally, the victims of the feminicidios of Cuidad Jaurez- The blog entry and I have nothing to do with this, but think it is a tragedy that the killers of almost 400 women have yet to be brought to justice. It is equally wrong that Cuidad Jaurez is consistently ranked as one of the best cities to do business in Latin America despite the drug cartels and feminicidios – unless of course the rankings are for drug cartels and homicidal maniacs.

Eric in a Word: empasm
Book of the Day: The House of the Dead - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Song of the Day: They Dance Alone- Sting w/ Peter Gabriel
God of the Day: Yen-Lo-Wang
Sketch Medium: felt tip pen and green tea on bristol board.


Change is what?

Ok, so I am really crunched for time today, so forgive me if what I say next is dense, inelegant, or even incomprehensible. I have been thinking a lot about change lately. Obama’s successful use of the word, and concept, during his campaign and the time since has really made it a buzz word for everything. In fact, what got me thinking about it today was a giant advertisement on a bus today for IKEA with their newest campaign slogan “Change is good” – imagine if you will, stumbling off a commuter bus at 7:00am to be confronted by a large yellow bus textually screaming “CHANGE is good”. It was a bit unnerving, especially since I was approached by a homeless man less than a block away who repeated the slogan – he only got 35 cents today, all I had.

Anyway, everyone is saying things like this: “Change is good”, “ I can’t wait for the change”, I am the change” . But what do we mean by “change”? It seems we just talk about change without thinking about how or what. We just assume it will be good because we’re convinced that the present is not good. We never consider the fact that things are always changing, much of it is neither good nor bad, it just is.

Look, I have nothing against Obama (yet), in fact I voted for him and believe he will be better for this country than McCain could possibly have been. However, before you buy into “Change is good” I think we should ask fundamental questions about what is changing, who is changing, why it is changing, how it will change, and what that change will mean in the short, medium, and long terms. Someone once said that change is the egg of the phoenix, just remember that the phoenix is born of ashes and ends in flames.Whatever the hell that means..

Eric in a Word: expergefacient

Book of the Day: The Analects- Confucius (William Edward Soothill trans.)

Song of the Day: Spoonful - Cream

God of the Day: Heimdall

Sketch Medium: Graphite and felt tip pen on used manilla envelope


I am the Professor now...

As of yesterday, I have accepted a position at the College of Southern Maryland as an adjunct faculty member in their Department of Fine Arts and Humanities. My first class will be a drawing class. I have been thinking a lot over the last 24 hours about this opportunity- beyond the syllabus, etc…. What is drawing and how do you teach it?

My belief is that drawing, as in most things, must start with the fundamentals, the bare bones basics. So what is drawing? At its essence, I think drawing is the ability to observe and then represent those observations.

In my opinion, learning how to draw is mostly learning how to observe. You need a firm understanding of how light and shadow play upon the surfaces of objects; you need to be able to abstract what you see in such a way that you can imagine complex objects as constructs of simpler forms; you need to have the ability to see the movement of things as gestures. I would estimate that 75% of drawing is training yourself to see things differently. The remaining 25% is the technical aspect of drawing. The capture….

The technical aspect of drawing is in reality training your brain and hand to capture what you have observed. Acquiring the technical expertise is a process, a matter of doing and checking what you have done with your observation and then redoing until you have captured the observation to your satisfaction. This is what most people think of as drawing. As you gain confidence and your muscles and brain become attuned to the process you are able to do more and express more.

Drawing, to me at least, is very similar to learning to speak a language, you learn best by immersion. To speak a language you must speak the language. It is only by trying and making mistakes that you learn new words, you correct your pronunciation, and you extend your vocabulary. In my opinion the most important physical tool for drawing is the eraser and the most important non-observational skill is the ability to use your eraser wisely and mercilessly. Approach every drawing knowing it will not be perfect. Every drawing is in essence a map of the process by which the drawer has tried to capture their observation.

Eric in a Word: haptic

Book of the Day: World War One British Poets

Song of the Day: Save Tonight- Eagle-Eye Cherry

Sketch Medium: graphite,sumi-e ink, and coffee on watercolor paper



I have been thinking a lot about site-specific art today. It is a visual art form in which I used to work extensively, in fact it is the form of work in which I have the longest experience and in which I am most comfortable. When I say site-specific art, most people of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, perhaps, Claes Oldenburg’s baseball bat in Chicago, or almost anything Andy Goldsworthy. The types of work that I used to perpetrate were more Andy Goldsworthy-like, taking the materials at hand in a natural setting and manipulate them creatively. I tended to use the natural materials in a different way, however. My work was aimed at using natural materials at hand in a specific site to rework the site itself to look like a site of archaeological significance- particularly ancient ritual space or battle fields. It was more about art making that doesn’t focuses on the object or product, but rather the process, but unlike many artists who work on site-specific projects who engage with social and political issues, I am much more interested in my, and through me human, relationship with a specific physical place. I never took a commission to do this work and aside from a series of photos Laura took of my roadside stone sculptures in Colorado I never documented them. That wasn’t the point; it was simply to do them, to immerse myself in the work, in the time, and in the space. There is purity to it that I love. It is the axis mundi of all my other work and I need to make a pilgrimage again soon.

Eric in a Word: engastrimyth
Book of the Day: All Quiet on the Western Front- Erich Maria Remarque
Song of the Day: Night of the Assassins - Les Rallizes Denudes
Sketch Medium: graphite and turkish coffee on paper


Perfection smerfection

I have been really struggling with my artwork the last week or so, today’s banana drawing in all its unevenness, spills, mistakes and joy (see above) may actually be a break through for me- finally. I have fallen into a bad spell of perfectionism and it has frozen me creatively. This happens every once and a while, I get this great idea and instead of just doing it, I press to do it perfectly. Instead of just exploring the idea I drive and force a perfect expression of that idea. I think a lot of people fall into this trap and all you get out of it is frustration, procrastination, and a serious case of nihilistic “what’s the point”-ism. To save everyone, including me, the suspense, there is no such thing as perfect. In fact, if there were, it would be fucking boring.

My artistic mentor and guru Kirby once told me it is not the things we do perfectly in any piece of artwork that make it successful. And it is not the incidental and accidental “mistakes” in any piece of artwork that make it unsuccessful. It is the interplay of the accidental and the purposeful, the combined working of the subconscious, the conscious, and the over conscious in any piece that make it a unified expression, a piece of art that is more than the sum of its parts. Kirby was and is a wise man.

It is not just in the arts that this is relevant. It is this interchange and interplay, this chaotic mix of the circle and the square, the mess and the order that makes life what it is. The ability to appreciate it all at any given moment, in part and as a whole, is what creates a beautiful life experience. You can’t let the pursuit of perfection keep you from living, keep you from creating, keep you from trying, or keep you from loving.

Beauty without imperfection is not beauty at all.

Eric in a Word: conbobberation

Book of the Day: Outliers- Malcolm Gladwell

Song of the Day: Handel - Serse "Ombra mai fu" - Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson

Sketch Medium: graphite, ink, coffee, tea, highlighter, white out on watercolor paper


Existential musings on a grey day

It’s a miserably grey day today. The world seems to be standing in a line to see the light, diluted glow. I sit on the 901 surrounded by the lethargic waiters, weighted by the time it takes to travel space. From slowly moving seat to encased chair. From a fiberglass frame to drywall demarcations. Who are these people? Do they do this to survive? To thrive? To make a difference? To make a buck? Their thick winter coats, black, embrace and protect their fragile physicality, but what protects them from the existential chill? Family? Hope? I know not. I, for one, am bolstered in my knowledge that the cup is always full. By my belief that the cup is also part of the whole, that I am in the cup, outside of the cup, and the cup. I believe in illusion and its fragility. What keeps you when the atmosphere presses on you like the moist palmed grey hand of fate?

Why is it so upsetting and shocking to us when politicians or those in positions of high power appear to go bad? That’s like being surprised your cheese has melted in the summer sun. There are really two things to keep in mind: one- leverage is the name of the game in politics, whether it comes through previous relationships, spin and insinuation, or… two- the messages the public receive has always been spun, either by political opponents, friends, or the inherent bias of the reporting agent. The thing is, they all do it in the belief that they are acting in everyone’s best interest. There is no “evil” agenda, just competing definitions of what is best. There are no impartial facts, information is always shaped and interpreted by humans, their comprehension and communication of events and statements always limited and informed by their own beliefs and experience.

We are afraid of our own mortality in this country. We spend way too much money and time trying to hide the physical signs of advancing years and we avoid thinking upon death until the very last moment. The fact is that we are fragile animals and many of us will not live past this very moment. Perhaps the fiction of immortality keeps some us of from the precipice of despair, but I would prefer to embrace the inevitable. I ask myself every morning, “If today were my last day would I be satisfied with my planned actions being my last ones?” If the answer is no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Approaching every breath as my last, I experience the world around me with vividness. Your end which is endless is as a snowflake dissolving in the pure air - embrace it.

Does anyone else smell waffles?

Eric in a Word: pinguescence

Book of the Day: Moby Dick- Herman Melville (yeah, I know, but it's a long frickin' book)

Song of the Day: Can't Stop- Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sketch Medium: pencil, blue & black ink, coffee on found paper


Let the quest begin...

Over the past few months I have experienced a renaissance, a rebirth, into a wholly new, or more accurately holistic person. The reason I bring this up, beyond this blog playing a vital role in the process, is that I have been unable to find a satisfactory way of marking and thus completing the transition. This situation begs for a ritual, but I have been unable to find any that fit. There is a paucity of powerful rituals of transformation out there. The ones we are either become watered down, laden with religious meaning and dogma, or somehow miss the mark. Creating a personal ritual that has meaning for me seems like the only option, but here I run a risk of not creating a fully effective one, primarily because of the highly individualistic nature of it and the possible lack of connection with anything outside of myself. So, I am on a quest, one that could take a while, but to settle for a half-ass marker of this powerful experience would be disingenuous and doing myself a disfavor.

Eric in a Word: anfractuosity

Song of the Day: Fireflies- Mofro

Sketch Medium: ink on green tea infused paper (2.5" x3.5")*

*All sketches from now on will conform to the 2.5" x3.5" format unless otherwise noted.



Today, for the first time since moving to the DC region, I took the commuter bus for the entirety of my 1.5 hour commute. It was quite an experience, enjoying the ride in the near dark with 50 plus people I live near but do not know. With the tinted windows, the fog and utterly silent, immovability of my fellow passengers I half-expected the bus driver to get on the speakers and in a voice like the step-child of Tom Waits and James Earl Jones announce, “We will arriving at the river soon, please have your obolus ready, Charon can be grouchy this early in the morning.”

I think what really struck me was the existential isolation that seems to be designed into each and every bus ride I have ever taken. There is a sense that while on the bus you should be quiet (presumably for your fellow passengers), never make eye contact or touch anyone if possible. What you get is four columns of individuals riding in silence in their own little bubbles of silent space. To step across that barrier is tantamount to breaking a minor social taboo of intimacy- like drunk dialing your ex-girlfriend on her birthday or accidentally groping your cousin while reaching for the biscuits at Thanksgiving.

On the other hand, driving into work, alone, is the ultimate act of commuter narcissism. You pick the music, you pick the route, you pick your nose, and you get to act like the most important person on the road. The pull toward lone commuting is strong. Feeling like you are in control of your own destiny, your own path, making the choices, being the Decider is heady stuff. We all like to feel this way in our lives, although it is rarely the case. The commuter bus is better metaphor for how most of us live our lives. We pick a route, a route similar to many other people, and we look for the appropriately prescribed next step where we exit this route and pick another. We have some say into where we are going, but more often than not, we follow the pre-established tracks. It is easier, more socially acceptable, and frankly cheaper.

I, am content being on the commuter bus, for now, but know it won’t last. There will come a day, as there so often has in the past, where I will open the emergency exit mid-route and exit at an irregular stop.
Eric In a Word: ullage
Book of the Day: Envisioning Information- Edward R. Tufte
Song of the Day: Kiss the Sky- Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra
Sketch Medium: grape juice & turkish coffee on faded construction paper (actual size 6" x 4.7")