timothy wells


  • Ingress - The game and why I'm playing it

    A friend of mine, Greg Peters, aka The Reluctant Networker (www.thereluctantnetworker.com), recently introduced me to the smart phone game Ingress (www.ingress.com).

    Ingress is a location-based augmented-reality game created by Google (you know their url). 

    First off, the game makes you have location mode turned on on your phone. This is something I am not a fan of - big data, making it easier for all the web entities (and others) to keep track of your movements.  And yes, I know, they know these things any but it makes me feel like a rebel and retaining just a smidgeon of control of their access to my movement and interaction in the world if I have location turned off. 

    But based on Greg's description of the game I thought I'd give it a shot. For research.


    Yes, I enjoy playing the game a bit but in all honesty, I don't find it any different than most pointless online games. I learned early on in Windows-based slot machine games, "why not bet everything you have on each pull?" because there's no penalty for losing (or reward for winning.) It’s not like money came spilling out of your computer if you hit a jackpot. 

    This mentality carried through with Mafia Wars, an early game on facebook. It was more interactive, but boiled down it was doing repetitive tasks to earn more money which was needed to buy more things so you can advance to more levels so you can do the repetitive tasks some more. It did add an interactive element by attacking at first game-placed villains - the same missions and tasks all the other players had to complete and if you started the game over, would be identical to the last time you played it. It evolved to where you could attack other players (and they could attack you) and allowed you to form alliances and teams to help each other out and attack the other groups.

    It was at this point in the game where it became unfun for me. I'm not a team sports kinda person. In high school I ran track and played tennis. I liked playing one-on-one Trivial Pursuit but greatly disliked Pictionary. It's just who I am and the types of games I enjoy. It's about personal achievement for me.

    However, based on my installation art and interest in making interactive and immersive experiences, augmented reality games and gizmos are of interest to me. The creation of a compelling backstory and a fictional overlay to the real world that makes you question “is it real or part of the made up world?” are of great interest to me. It’s something I study and research and contemplate to add to my installation experiences. And Greg’s description of Ingress hit on several of my areas of interest.

    A few years ago, Disney released an augmented reality game / blog called The Optimist which I followed externally. I didn’t participate in the missions (one reason was the vast majority of the external activities to complete the missions took place in L.A. and I’m not), but followed the blog, the forums, discussions, etc and was greatly impressed with the level of thought and effort that went into the design and backstory of the game. I attended a conference and had the chance to chat with one of the Disney Imagineers who was part of the The Optimist team. He told me that once the game got up and running, they did shift and change the course of parts of the game based on the game play of and comments by the die-hard players. One thing I noted or felt from reading the forums was that the veterans (people who had been around for awhile or from the beginning) were very unforgiving to “newbies” coming into the game, asking questions, and disrupting the style of game play that was in place from the veterans. As an outsider who may have wished to engage with the activity, it was very off putting to see newbies bullied by the veterans and it wasn’t policed out by the game controllers.

    The Optimist project was part of a bigger plan that was based on the movie Tomorrowland that came out in 2015. Based on the AR (augmented reality) game and being a big fan of what Disney is able to create with their experiences and theme parks, I went into the movie very excited. I left the movie less so. There was so much potential and it felt to me like they wasted a great opportunity to truly make a unique movie. 

    But this isn’t a movie review. It’s a commentary on Ingress and what I’m garnering from it for my art installations.

    After only playing the game off and on for a few weeks and nearing achieving Level 5, I have the following thoughts.

    I enjoy the simplicity of the game. You pick of one of two teams (factions) to join. It’s not a game of good vs evil, right vs wrong, so the faction you pick just kind allows you to form an allegiance with strangers without really picking a personality trait (aggressive vs passive, thinker vs fighter, etc) or a location (home team vs visiting team).

    Using your smartphone (with the Ingress application running and location mode turned on), you explore your area finding portals. The portals can already be claimed by one of the two factions or be unclaimed. If it’s unclaimed, you claim it and install resonators (and protections) and the portal now belongs to your faction. Someone from your faction can come along and bolster the levels and protections of your portal, and members from the other faction can attack your portal and try to claim it for their side.

    Portals shift factions frequently. You can also link portals of the same factions to make their stronger and start to claim zones of territory for your faction.

    Like Mafia Wars, it starts out being an individual player game, allowing you to explore and figure things out on your own (or spend countless hours scouring the web for official and unofficial guides, tips, communities, manuals, stories, etc etc etc). As you get more experience in the game and higher level, you need to become more engaged with other plays to attain higher levels and protect your portals by attacking the other faction’s portals more, developing larger strategies, forming alliances, and well, depending on others for your advancement in the game and therefore your enjoyment of the game.

    I’m at that level and am reaching burned out on the game. It starts requiring more and more time and energy to maintain what you’ve built and perpetually seeking the carrot on the stick of the next level, badges, items, etc.

    All that being said, it’s a very well thought out game. It’s simple but has serious levels and depths of complexities.

    But I’m playing this for research and experience for future art projects. Really. I’ll admit there is a level of enjoying the game, but that fuels my analysis and thoughts on what I want to do in the future with projects.

    Recently, hypothetically, I was out driving around with my Ingress map up which I don’t recommend because you start seeing the world through the augmented reality (portals and links and zones show up on your map as you move through the world) and kind of forgetting that the car you almost hit is real or you don’t think anything of stopping in the middle of the road to hack a portal. 

    Hacking lets you hack a portal and receive items for your inventory. It doesn’t damage a portal (from what I can tell.) You can hack portals owned by either faction, usually from what I can tell getting more and better stuff from friendly portals than unfriendly.  You can hack a portal protected by someone of the rival faction much higher level than yourself and not have them alerted of your presence. If I at level 3 attack someone who has created a super high level portal for the other faction, they are alerted I attacked them and that puts me on their radar. If they aren’t fond of me being attacked by a gnat, they may start seeking out my portals and demolish my marks on the world. 

    When I picked my faction (Enlightened, for full disclosure), it was just the description that interested me. I apparently live a very heavy Resistance (the other faction) area, populated by some very high level players.

    As I’ve explore rural settings and city settings, I’ve noticed how the game play shifts and changes in each setting. In rural, people seem to set up kingdoms they hold onto. In the city, portals are constantly changing hands particularly in areas of lots of players. If I’m stuck out in a cow field in eastern Colorado, it’s very unlikely there will be many or any portals and unlikely there will be many players to team up with or attack. However, where I live is a very active area with lots of portals.

    One local high level Resistance player seems to be fine with the nice empire they’ve set up. They understand there are us gnats and vultures out there who will pick up morsels that aren’t  claimed or the local high level player doesn’t want. But as soon as I started making some inroads to making a small empire for myself near the player, they came out of their cave, slapped my hand (ie took back the morsels I snatched from under their unwatching eye, and destroying the links I’d created as I started to form a small empire.) They allowed me to keep most of what I had claimed and they didn’t want. They just didn’t want me setting up a kingdom in their backyard. 

    There are some players I’ve run into that have taken my portals for no apparent reason other than to destroy my hold on them. They didn’t claim them as their own or begin to build an empire. Just took out my portals, “just because” from what I can tell. 

    There are as many strategies as there are personality traits. And the game allows for each type to flourish and play.

    All this to get to these few points of where I am thinking/analyzing right now.

    In creating a game/experience, 

    1. Keep the concept and backstory very simple to enter. 

    2. Add enough complexity to train and tease players as they progress

    3. Account for a wide variety of personalities, perceptions, and traits people bring with them

    4. Determine what the penalties and rewards will be and if they will be virtual (and meaningless) or find a way to make them real

    This list is still growing, but I’ve been doing structured analysis of my Ingress, The Optimist, Mafia Wars, and other game experiences and how they relate to creating art installations/experiences. 

    I can look back on some of past installations and see where I missed the mark a bit and what I’d do as I continue to grow my art practice - which when I step back a bit could benefit from following these simple steps too. It’s an infinite loop, but one that will spit out jackpot coins.



  • Wrapping up 2015

    Well as is tradition in our society, I'm using the down time around the end of December to look back on the year that's been and the year that's to be.

    I'm part of a critique group and we met last week to critique the latest work of the group's members. Due to my residency, this was the first meeting I've been a part of since last June. Preparing and selecting photos and paintings to take to the group made me once again realize just how much new work I've made. I've even completed a few series of work, which is something I usually have a tough time doing. I'm always wanting to keep adding new work to never-ending projects.

    But somehow along the way, ending the residency also seems to have given me an end point for much of the work I made there.

    Also, going through the books I've read this year. Usually my summer reading list includes lighter fare and escapism topics. However, this year my reading list has pretty much been in the arts category. The more recent books have been my favorite of the year (but that could be because they are the most recent readings.)  Both books have more highlighted than not in them.  Patti Smith's M Train and Eric Fischl's Bad Boy. Some keen insight into the thoughts and people behind the art - an area I really enjoy exploring.

    Things are underway for another exciting year for next year. Preparing work for shows, preparing applications for shows, and still trying to sort out the studio space thing. 

    Enjoy the end of the year thinking and planning!

  • Transitions within transitions

    Wow. What an interesting month plus.

    I've ended my residency program at the Mayflower Arts Center, tried to re-acclimate to my home studio integrating work and materials from 4 months of productivity into an already overloaded workspace, teaching photography classes three days a week at the University of Michigan, and all the details of re-entry into a more traditional lifestyle and mode.

    Plus trying to not fall into as many old habits, patterns, and rituals related to the norm before the residency.

    It's a lot to adjust to. Plus trying to keep moving forward in the many areas I was making progress in...

    But changes and strides are being made. Just the creative productivity has been suffering.


  • ISE - Immersive Studio Experience

    I was spending time in bed this morning debating getting up versus rolling over for a quick nap. Ok, so not sure you're allowed to call it a nap if you haven't technically actually gotten up yet, but you get the idea.

    I'm wrapping up my four month artist in residency and it's been weighing heavily on my mind about the whole experience. Honestly, I'm not ready for it to be over. And I've been spending time contemplating those thoughts and feelings and I came up with ISE - Immersive Studio Experience.

    My time at the Mayflower Arts Center weren't your typical or classic artist-in-residency experiences. It could have been for anyone looking at applying for an AIR there. However, I didn't have a current project that just needed some concentrated time to focus on and finish. Nor was I looking for a chance to sit down and begin a new series. Those are typically how people use AIRs.

    What I was looking for was a chance to really immerse myself in a studio practice. Over the last few years, I let everyday life and other distractions fill my day, time, calendar, to do list, and mind. I really wasn't doing the "artist" thing full-time like I wanted to. And this residency opportunity came along at the just right time with the right setting.

    As mentioned in earlier posts, I took the opportunity to have no TV and very minimal access to the Internet (the only Internet I had was via my cell phone and had a 10-gig data limit per month. I'm contemplating adding another sub-title for my residency to "Living on 10-gig a month".) And it's only been this month that I'm actually coming close to hitting that limit (mainly because I'm spending a lot of time online preparing for things after the residency.) I've learned I don't miss or need TV. I can limit my Internet needs and access to concentrated bursts on my phone and more leisurely stints sitting at Panera doing things like redesigns and updates to the website and more carefully crafted emails.

    And I've made a lot of work. I was doing the first go round of edits last night of the photographs I've taken this summer. Over 10,000.  (digital only, haven't processed film yet and didn't include the Polaroids). I have over two dozen new paintings leaned up against the wall ready to head back to my home studio. Some assemblages and mixed media pieces. A few minor installations and experiences.  Workshop curriculum for photography courses. And oodles of new ideas and materials from local thrift stores. 

    Not a bad tally from four months. Way more than I've been able to accomplish in 3 years of working at my studio at home.

    Which brings me to a point. I've always thought, "I need a studio away from home." I said it a lot and it started to sound like an excuse as to why I wasn't producing. And then after this four months, I'm pretty sure it wasn't just me making excuses. It was me voicing a real need but one I didn't act on. And one I need to act on.

    I've created, explored, and examined things like I wish I had done in grad school. I tell my friends who are looking at going to grad school that I'd love to do it all over again. Having been through it once, I look back on it and go, "Man, I would do it so differently next time."

    And that's how I feel about my practice in general after the four months I spent in ISE. 

    I highly recommend it for anyone who is stuck.


  • Slow days are hard to accept sometimes

    Some days you just have a slow day. Today is one of those. I went to bed last night trying to make my "to do" list for the day and was left scratching my head thinking, "You have no pressing must-dos for tomorrow."

    That may sound like a nice thing, but when you've spend the last four months in a flurry of 24/7 "what's next" planning, it's a bit disorienting to have a day completely wide open.

    Last Saturday was a day of flurry activities at the Mayflower Arts Center. Troy's downtown Halloween parade and costume contest was held just outside the doors of the Mayflower followed by trick or treat at the downtown busineses. We got the lobby all decorated, candy ready to give out, costumes (I revived my Timbledor costume for the gala), and opened the doors. We gave out candy to over 800 kids (as a guess).

    Then got ready for my bookmaking class which was held in my studio upstairs because the theater was being used by the improv class and the downstairs studio was being used for a painting class. For my bookmaking class, we created 5 or 6 books (two of them were "prototypes" so they not count as actual finished books.) Then flipping the downstairs studio into an exhibit space for the work created by the fall pre-schoolers this fall. As soon as that was over cleaning that up and flipping the the lobby gallery to get ready for the closing reception of the current exhibit.

    It was a busy day of shifting gears and spaces.

    Sunday was a bit calmer. Coming to Panera for some internet time and prepping for teaching photo classes back in Michigan, back to the studios to print and organize those materials, then off to Mojos for a beer pairing dinner and meeting new friends. Back to the theater for a private screening of "How to Draw a Bunny" which always makes me think.

    So, today I'm trying to just enjoy the down time and doing research for "the next things". All the while debating with myself if I should head off to some galleries or go on an adventure or just fill the time with being busy. Or I could just relax, take it easy and plan for the next chapters.


  • Ponderings of transitions

    I sit at Panera for my internet fix and blogging time. The blog tool I'm using for now doesn't allow for easy updating and blogging, which may be a good thing.

    I'm a few weeks away from the end of my residency and pondering the transitions coming down the pike. It's been a flurishy few weeks of transitions. Making trips to help celebrate the retirement of someone making the transition from working to playing and a ICU visits as another transitions to an unknown (but promising) transition after an unexpected event. So it's hard to get too wrapped up in the end of my residency and that transitions that it will bring, or I hope it will bring.

    I guess that's the thing I'm pondering. The things I've done and not done during my residency and what habits I will maintain and sustain when I return to my regular studio space. And what changes I will be making in that space and activity when I return.

    The last four months haven't really been as much an artist in residency as a relocation of my studio and practice to a new place. In reading books about the creative process and such, a lot of creatives (artists, writers, etc) make regular excursions away from their normal studio space, often maintaining a cabin somewhere where they go for a few months each year to fuel their creative fires and energy and this experience has been more akin to that than a focused artist in residency, primarily because of the duration.

    I prepare myself for beginning to pack up things in my space I haven't used or am done using and the dismantling of the space to move out and move on.

    I need to make a list of the things I want to retain from the changes that have happened to me over the last four months. The removal of the distractions that tainted my creative practice and energy before this experience will be key.

    A quick note: last weekend the Mayflower Arts Center hosted two Hallowizard Parties, their 3rd annual. I created 40 light up wands from twigs and branches from the ivy that once covered the walls of the Mayflower and created a character of an absent minded wizard that led the party participants through various adventures and projects. I've been pondering installations and been keen to dig into one lately. The opportunity to be part of a team creating an experience was great fun and only whetted my desire to make a large, complex story-laden installation. 

    New adventures await me as October turns to November. Including cooking up some installation ideas, going through the various works and projects I've made the last few months, and doing some teaching at a local Unversity.

    Keeping the pump primed. The virtual t-shirt I'll be wearing the next few weeks and months.


  • Finding footings

    Some days, I call "footless" days, are ones where you have things you need to get done but just can't find your footing in the morning and you spend the rest of the day off-balance.

    I've been doing my artist-in-residency at the Mayflower Arts Center in Troy, OH, since early July and it will continue on through October. During the residency I've been mostly immersed in studio and creative life. It's been a real refreshing charge to my creativity and creative batteries. But you can't live the 24/7 studio life forever. Or can you?

    Leaving that debate on the backburner for now, the last 10 days I've been outside the studio and residency doing various family functions and trips. Pulling myself out of the studio mindset has had its plusses and minuses.

    I've gotten to visit with both sides of the family as they are entering new and challenging life changing events in their lives. 

    I've gotten to make some photographs I'm actually pretty happy with and excited about. The new places and fresh eyes always awaken and stir creative juices, even though I've been to the various places I visited many times - you can still find fresh eyes if you've been away from a place long enough.

    I got to fly and there's something about being in a plane that makes my brain shift, relax, see things differently, and pieces things together in a way that doesn't happen other places. It's always been that way for me. It's like shower epiphanies, but different.

    But I also missed my residency studio space and location. I sit here in my home studio for the first time in almost 3 months and trying to picture it as the creative space I've created and found at the Mayflower studio and realizing the things I've made, discovered, created, etc during my residency would not have happened in this studio. Nothing against this studio space. I like it, but it had become normal and comfortable. It had become too easy to get online and dwindle away the day. And how easy it is to fall back into the old habits, routines, and patterns that I was trying to break by doing my residency.

    I have three more weeks (ish) left in my residency and I head back down there this afternoon. And I need to do some serious pondering about what I've done, haven't done, what I wanted to do, what I didn't do, why, what, etc over the last three months and what I want to take away from the experience. 

    I will say that after this nice extended residency, having a two week residency somewhere else would be hard to pull off. But then again, now that I've done this one, I have a better understanding of what you can and can't accomplish by packing up your (or at least my) studio for a short period of time and try to find or refind your footings in your studio and creative life.

    May you find your footings in this crazy world of creating things. It's not easy and there are days when the footing just isn't there. On those days, ride the current and see where the day takes you. Sometimes, it's pretty exciting.

  • Magical Days

    Some days you just have one of those days when you go with the flow and it all works out great.

    Yesterday was one of those days. I had tentative mental plans to wake up early(ish) and head to the Ohio Renaissance Festival in southwestern Ohio. Ever since I can recall in my adult life I have always wanted to go to a Renaissance Festival but had never actually gone. I'd collected coupons for discounts, checked out dates and locations, but had never actually gone.

    I think there was a fair amount of apprehension. I know there was. I remember reading stories on usenet (the information superhighway 1.0) of how if you don't act the part, behave, understand the unwritten rules, etc, you are publicly picked up and such. Being an introvert, particularly in new settings, being the center of attention and publicly shamed is not really something I was really interested in paying money to do. Am I wearing the wrong clothes? Say the wrong thing? etc. It really was too much pressure to enter into the experience eagerly, so I waited 20+ years looking and wanting but never doing.

    Yesterday, I did.

    Having read stories online about the parking and crowd horrors at the Michigan festival the weekend before, I decided "I have to get there early to avoid the long lines of traffic, etc. Plus if I get there early, it will be easier to scope out the terrain." Ok, it also had the risk of "less crowds, easier to be spotted as a virgin."

    Doubts be damned! 

    I decided on Saturday night, I'll wake up when I wake up and see how things align. Things aligned nicely and I was on the road by 9:30 for an almost hour long drive to get there, according to the GPS.

    On the way out of town, I picked up some donuts at a place I'd been thinking about checking out but hadn't yet. So, the day was off to several good omens. The donuts were ok. I got a chocolate covered peanut butter cream filled donut and a maple covered whipped cream filled donut. Both were tasty but could have used a significant amount more of filling.

    I drive. End up driving along back country roads, but stuck behind people who obviously do not know how to drive on "hilly" roads. Guh!

    Calm. Breath. Relax. 

    I pull into the parking lot for the festival, second row parking after driving across a giant field. As I'm getting out of the car, I hear a cannon going off. I assume it's the opening ceremonies of the gates opening.

    Walk up to the ticket booth, greeted with "How many today my lord?" 

    I smile. 

    This is going to be fun.

    I walk in the gate, greeted with a "Good morning my lord.", handed a map, and opt to just explore on my own. But on alert for what the lay and behaviour of the land is so as to not draw attention to be picked out from the crowd for attentiony abuse.

    At one point, walking along behind dawdlers, the groups of 3-19 people who walk single file across and mosey at a snail's pace. It really isn't difficult to walk along at a normal pace and still see everything people! And veer off the path to pass them and realize I'm walking in some sunken area that appears to be an old creek bed. And immediately mentally gulp. "Gack! What if walking in the creek bed is verboten and I'm opening myself up to the attack from the "locals" for breaking some unspoken rule.

    Gladly, either there is no rule or I wasn't spotted.

    Yes, these are the actual thoughts I had.

    I walk around checking out the lay of the land. This place is huge! 

    As an experience addict who enjoys immersive experiences, this is thrumming all the right chords in me, experience and creatively. The games, rides, booths, people, etc all "in character", it was just a lot of fun. It makes sense why turkey legs are popular here. It fits. It works.

    However, for any folks concerned. At this festival at least, the privies are modern(ish) as port-a-johns and trailers of stalls. But the foot pump activated faucets to wash your hands were a nice period touch. (:

    I make a few laps of the place, checking out shows, shops, etc.

    I went into the kilt shop and was fitted for a kilt. Something I've always been tempted to consider. After deciding I probably didn't have any known tartan patterns in my family lineage, I'm shown the rack of "open tartans" which are patterns anyone can wear. I didn't actually try one on though and here's why. They were really nice kilts. But having seen the Utilikilts at DragonCon conventions, I think I'd rather go with one of those than an authentic one. And I wasn't quite sure I was ready for that next step. In thinking, I should have at least tried one on. The tartan patterns available to me just weren't exciting to me. At least that's what I tell myself.

    I lose track of time in exploring and randomly finding and watching shows.

    The Kamikaze Fireflies (from America's Got Talent) were funny and did a great job of being funny, engaging, stage patter, entertaining, but still doing some amazing feats. And reminding people, "this is how we make our living, so we'll be on stage and at the exit with a hat collecting money." But it was done honestly but also with comedy. Not begging, just letting the people know how we are supposed to act and what we're supposed to do.

    A theme I notice throughout the day and make a mental note to add to my installation and art. People often don't know what they're supposed to do or where they're supposed to go. It behooves you as the artist or entertainer to tell them.

    We exit out from their area and I find the Mud Theater and they're just seating for the performance of Dante's Inferno. Having done a little research the day before, I guess this is an "audience gets involved and dirty" and opt for a seat in the back on the bleachers, in the shade. Next to me sits a couple who have seen the performers before and comment to each other as people move up to the front rows, "Oh, they don't know what we know!"  This couple proceeds to just annoy me the whole performance.

    The play is quite funny and the performers are amazing. Again, engaging the audience, telling us what they expect us to do, etc. For "traveling music" they split the crown down the middle. One side makes waving motions and sounds and the other side ends the song with a "blech" noise. The couple next to me, since they are veterans opt to perform both parts of the song. Which is fine, but the whole performance they were half a second ahead of the performers: the song, jokes, etc. Guh. Luckily enough they also knew the play was almost over and ditched out before it was actually over. I guess to avoid getting stuck in 'traffic'. 

    Letting it go, as they truly were the worst part of my whole festival day.

    I watch the joust. And am standing on the side of the winner. Go me! Oh and Sir Joseph. He did all the work. And the horse he rode in on!

    A live-person chess match with board-clearing brawls, stunts, and outlandishly overacting. It was wonderful!

    I had spotted a tent of baskets and puppets earlier in the day that was going to have a rope basket weaving instructional after the chess game. So I stopped by Madelon Rose's tent to find out I'm the only person interested in learning to make a rope basket. So Madelon and I sit down and she teaches and chastises me on my inability to follow her directions. Since she is also working her tent, she's taking time to talk to people who walk by, picking on some folks, complementing others on their attire, talking to customers while I'm battling the ropes, etc. And we end up having a really nice chat about art, festivals, etc. She drops out of character as we chat, immediately putting the accent and attitude on in an instant as soon she needs to.

    One of her tent visitors complains about there aren't enough wandering characters engaging with the guests and helping to provide the festival atmosphere. The guest is told to tell the people at the front gate as it will mean more coming from a paying customer than a vendor.

    This leads us into a conversation about how the festivals are becoming less and less immersive, where street cloths, cell phones, etc are all widely accepted and not pointed out as "what is this?" I tell her that it had always been my "fear" that I would be picked on for being an outsider who doesn't know the rules, but I agree that it did feel a bit too "art fair/shopping mall". Most of the vendors and all the performers did a great job of providing an amazing atmosphere and experience, but if the audience doesn't get into it, then it starts to feel a bit rickety.

    She told me that at her first festival, upon entering the gates not in costume, they were asked if they were peasant, royalty, or some other "classes". And depending on your answer, a piece of colored fabric was pinned to your shirt and the rest of the day, the performers and vendors interacted with you as if you were of that class and in costume. I think that is a wonderful idea.

    Going back to the performers telling us what to do, how to behave, and what is expected of us, it took that worry off us, it helped us engage and connect with their performance, and eliminated any concerns on our part of what is expected of us.  It seems like adding that level of "this is how to behave" and bringing us more into being a part of the town could go a long way.

    I mention to Madelon about how Koch, when elected NYC Mayor, made it an initiative to board up broken windows and clean up trash, the thought being, "If a place has trash and broken windows, it encourages more broken windows and trash. If the place is clean and tidy, it encourages a mindset of keeping it that way." Same general idea with the Disney theme parks. You rarely see trash on the streets and sidewalks and if you do it's not there for long. Why, 1) it breaks the "story" of being in a location they are trying to create and 2) trash on the ground encourages others to just toss their trash on the ground too. If the ground is tidy, you're more likely to hold onto your trash and put it in the trash can no more than a few steps away.

    And once you start to let things like that slide a bit and let peoples' everyday behaviour outside the festival, then it's easier for things to become more and more accepting of what's fine out there is fine in here.

    In the end, I created a mostly acceptable rope basket with much help, patience, and a fair amount of chastizing me by Madelon for not following her directions.  We conclude our conversation just as the festival was ending for the day and I had to rush over to a vendor to pick up some items I purchased earlier in the day and hit the incense shop for some new incense.  I walk by the front gates just in time to watch them sing a farewell song to all the folks leaving. It was a nice ending to the day. 

    And then walking out the front gates down a path lined on both sides with smiling performers all wishing me, "Fare evening my lord."

    Yep. I had a turkee leg. I think it's kind of mandatory.

    I got lost in there. Enjoying the experience, learning from it, and will go back again and this time I may rent a costume (available at the front gate, maybe even a kilt) and be more a part of the experience to help tip the scales back into making it a more immersive experience for everyone, even me.

  • Chugging along

    Chugging along.

    I'm still struggling with what directions, content, tone, etc to use in the blog but all advice I've read and been given is "just do it, just write, and it will sort itself out. You can't think it into existence." So, that's what I'm doing - speedbumps, warts, fits and starts, and all.

    This past week I had the opportunity to have several hundred people come through my studios. It was a lot of fun and a great chance to look around at the studio, since I had to clean it up a bit for the visitors, and kick start me on my roundtuits that have been languishing and gathering dust the past few weeks as I struggled with stepping into Phase 2 of the residency.

    One of the studio visitors was the Mayor. He officially welcomed me to town, told me how much he's heard from people about what I'm doing with art and classes and the community, and gave me an official welcome gift. It's not quite the key to the city, but it's close! (I'm having difficulties attaching photos using this blog editing tool. Guh!) It's a label pin with the Troy, Ohio, USA logo on it. Trust me, it's pretty spiffy!

    It was interesting having several hundred people coming through the studios. I felt a little bit like a docent in a museum. "Yes, I made that."  "Yes, I'm an artist." The best conversations were with fellow artists and getting lost in conversations with them about the creative process and tips and information from locals about places I haven't been to yet and people I need to meet.

    The studio tour was part of the town's "2nd Story Secrets" where 11 buildings in downtown opened up the 2nd stories. Everyone is used to seeing the businesses on the first floor and often wonder, "What's upstairs?" This tour was the chance for folks to find out.

    It dawned on me as I was preparing the studio for the tour that I'm one of those people living in a cool space on the second floor of a cool downtown building.

    I often go through small towns and look up at the second, third, fourth floors of the old buildings and wonder, "What's up there? What would it be like to have a studio up there?" Well, now I know! 

    There was so much history, some of the buildings dating back to the mid-1800s, with one building having uncovered (and refinishing) the hardwood floors from what used to be the saloon in town and another building have a giant open space that used to be a speakeasy theater (if I heard the history right, regardless, the huge open ballroom with creaky old wooden floors and tall leaded glass windows was dang neat.)

    And there was a surprise secret location on the tour. I guess it's ok to divulge it now since the tour is over and it's not a secret anymore. There are tunnels under some of the buildlings there were part of the underground railroad. The tunnels gave a path to the river for slaves escaping the south. And one building has maintained their section of the tunnels and opened up a section of it for us to walk through. They've found animal bones from where people were left underground for a period of time waiting for their time to get to the river and set of leg irons. The leg irons were on display and we were allowed to pick them up to see how heavy they were. They were heavy.

    To celebrate and recover from having to clean the studio, and keep it clean, and talking to a few hundred people, I opted to spend Sunday at the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival in Urbana, OH. I know! After spending an afternoon of entertaining people, I went to a crowded festival? 

    Indeed. Introverts can recharge in public spaces. Sometimes, crowded public spaces are the best places to recharge. You don't have to talk to people and you can find out of the way places to sit back, people watch, read, etc but soak in some kinetic energy and sunshine you may not find sitting on your couch at home.

    This morning was decidated to admin tasks and heading to Panera for my internet time. 

    One of the many projects I've been working on during my residency has been a series of abstract/surrealistic painting I'm calling "The Dance of Anticipation". While they are more quick studies and experiments, I've been enjoying doing them and seeing where the brush and paint lead me.

    Maybe next post, if I can figure out how to attach photos using this editing tool (and the only editing tool available to update the blog).

    Until then.. chug along and get roundtuit.



  • Finding a balance, for now. I think.

    I think I've found a balance with things. 

    The studios and apartment are part of a tour called "Second Stories Secrets". People on the tour will get to visit various apartments and spaces located on the second (and third and fourth) floors of buildings downtown. I've allowed my studios and apartment to be part of the tour, which also means I've had to put a lot of work into getting the place somewhat organized (I still want it to look like an active creative space and studio). Washing windows, floors, putting away clutter, and such. And as everyone is well aware, those things take a lot of time, a lot more than you budget.

    Luckily, I planned ahead (a bit) and been tackling some of those chores along the way versus waiting until the last minute. That means I can balance some time between cleaning and creating.

    I've been battling a "roundtuit" project for a few weeks trying to figure out what I was doing / saying and how I wanted it to look. And my self censor and editor were working overtime, preventing the roundtuit from materializing in the real world.

    I caught them off balance with all the cleaning tasks and while they were busy trying to determine if my cleaning and decluttering activities met their criteria, I snuck in some creative time in the painting studio and started working on the roundtuit. That opened the floodgates of creating and finding a balance between cleaning/decluttering and creating (which obviously has the effect of countering the cleaning/decluttering projects) but in the end, the reason I'm here is to create, not clean.

    For now, there appears to be a nice balance between cleaning/decluttering and creating, and keeping the self censor and editor at bay (or at least focused on the cleaning portion the days.)

    I'm teaching some photography workshops at the Mayflower Arts Center in the coming weeks. I dropped off the files this morning to get promotional postcards printed so I can hand them out at the this weekend's Taste of Troy and at the Second Stories Secrets tour.

    See? Even finding time in the balance for some promotional and marketing tasks.

    I even added the images from the postcard to the slideshow on the home page (sunset over Troy's Main Street and a rainbow over the town square, both photos were taken the same night and only a few minutes apart. The old adage of when looking at a beautiful sunset, turn around and see what's going on behind you paid off.)

    I've found some balance. Have you found some recently in your world?