The single candle

Are you in search of a sonically damaging drawing experience? I have the perfect materials for you!

This week I embarked on testing surfaces for my new Cultivate pieces. They’re currently on paper, and I’d like to get them on something more like a panel in future. Besides eliminating the need for costly framing, I’m trying to make it so I can do what we in the art world call “activating the surface.” Which basically means I want to cut into the thing. “I’d like to activate that log.” Yes, I could get a grant for that.

All snarkiness aside, or at least as much aside as I can get it, I’d like to do this so that the people seem to not just float on the surface, as they do now, but also kind of float on different planes both above and behind it.

First, I tried out this Claybord, which is a panel that has a (surprise!) clay-like surface. But very smooth, shiny, white clay.


As I worked on it, I quickly remembered why I hate Claybord.

Wow, it sucked all the life (ink) out of my pens with its crazy absorbent surface. You can see it here.



If that wasn’t bad enough, it made this terrible squeaking sound every time I ran a pen across it.

So if you perhaps have a roommate you really need to annoy, this could be the solution for you.

But for me, needless to say, this was a resounding “No!”

Aggravated and a bit disheartened (and probably out $20 of ink), I moved on to my next guess, which involved mounting paper onto a plain birch panel.

This is pretty simple, but it does mean choosing the right glue and right weight of paper or else you have a big old mess (not the official art term).

I chose Nori glue and a heavier weight drawing paper, and it turns out those weren’t terrible guesses.


So I think I’m heading in the right direction.

Sick of making rude-sounding and slightly awkward drawings, I was relieved to switch to my already-complete next group of Cultivate backgrounds and start arranging people on them. Much more visually pleasing.


You may not be able to tell, but these people are different thicknesses, some almost flat and some chunkier.

It’s still surprising to me how the silhouettes will fit together almost like they were cut from the same jigsaw puzzle, even though they were not. Like these two guys in the middle.


Their sides are each pretty complicated, but they match exactly. So yes, those seem meant to go together.

I was reminded of a similar phenomenon today when I met with two of my “no stranger” friends.

(I once read this book of Mia Farrow’s in which she talked about meeting Frank Sinatra, how everyone at the time couldn’t understand what they had in common, but that it was simple: When she first met him, behind his eyes was “no stranger.” I thought that was an excellent and clear description of that sensation, whether in friendship or romance.)

I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of these friends, and it seems whenever I run into them, or speak with them, they have something valuable for me. Like jewels!

Sorry, it’s Friday, and I’m a bit punchy. I don’t mean valuable things, I mean valuable words.

With the first one, Jennifer Kaufman, also an artist and mom, as we talked I felt doubts I didn’t even know I had all come to the surface and resolve into energy and certainty. Some serious magic.

And then the second friend, Sandy Sohcot (the grandmother of one of my daughter’s friends from school), shared with me about this retreat she attended for people working on human rights, education, and restorative justice, and when I told her how inspiring it was hearing about all this great work, she reminded me of this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.”

And I could suddenly picture how when you light that candle it is not just for you, not just to take positive action yourself, it’s so others can see it. So they know they’re not alone in their striving. It’s true in a broader sense, in terms of grand political and social goals, but just as true of things like my visit with Jennifer Kaufman; I felt less and less alone and then felt empowered to be a more courageous, tenacious version of myself.

So this week, here’s to lighting that candle, in whatever form you can manage it! And here’s to the lights of others that keep us company and keep us moving.