Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Blog

I've moved my Travel-Artist blog over to Wordpress, for better integration with my website. Come visit my new studio in Lijiang - a beautiful town near the Southern Silk Road in southwest China:
Travel Artist Blog

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crap Job Market = Creative Opportunity

Drifting Creatives is the blog of a pair of new graduates from a university in Texas. This week they're spending time on the beach in Panama - and getting some work done while they're at it.

From their about page: "We are creative problem solvers, aka designers. One problem we are trying to solve is joblessness. What are we doing about it? We are taking our design skillz to the road. Too many small towns don't have access to smart design. We know we aren't a huge design firm, but we think we can help out."

Instead of worrying about jobs, they're getting out there, finding work along the way, and looking for solutions. Making connections online and in their industry. Going on the road leads to new perspectives.

Awhile back, England was going through a recession in 1981. In response to criticism & rising unemployment, Tory MP Sir Norman Tebbit said, "I grew up in the 1930s with an unemployed father. He didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he went on looking until he found it."

Here's another bloke who got on his bike and looked for work during a difficult English economy. In the early '90s, Roy McClean [a.k.a. The Man, or my better half] rode a rickety Dutch bike from Delft to Rotterdam after his university graduation. The short-term jobs he picked up along the way offered eclectic experiences: as a soap-factory worker, he was filmed for a documentary; he was a model of Dutch efficiency while planting tulip bulbs; and working as a shop-fitter was a first-hand lesson in the socialist-capitalist divide. This trip was a cultural immersion that gave him flexibility and a wider horizon.

Uncertain times offer unparalleled opportunities for growth - kudos to Drifting Creatives who are finding success in unexpected places, and making great design along the way.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sand in my Laptop

My coconut-wood hut on Koh Mak island, Thailand

Some photos from a quiet island.

Deserted beaches during the slow season are a great way to experience the pace of island life. Koh Mak's flat horizon bristles with palm and rubber trees, and down its sealed roads drive its quirky inhabitants. Some live there all year; most split their lives between Koh Mak and elsewhere. Almost none were born there.

The center of the island is covered in rubber plantations, owned by the "big three" families who were given the island by the King a century ago to keep it from the colonial claws of the French. At night you can sometimes see the latex tappers, who wear mosquito coils on their hats and lights on their foreheads.

Work-station window from my hut. I'm still shaking sand from my laptop

I worked in three-hour blocks, and every day was different. Some days I transcribed notes from interviews in Laos and Vietnam; on others I sketched from memory and photo references, or finished the last reference books from White Lotus.

The open design let in plenty of breezes - and sand too

Off-season beaches get half the sun and are half the price of the tourist peak from November-March. My $5 bungalow was shaken by plenty of storms during the first week. Rain dripped through the thatched roof. Sand flew through slats of coconut wood into my mosquito net. But I just pulled my blanket tighter and slept through it.

Rainy days are the best kind of weather to get the work done. And that’s why I was there in the first place: for a real working holiday.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pretty as a picture

Sala @ White Lotus Press, May 2009

I painted the picture above with some brand new art materials - new to me, anyway.

Thai tea is traditionally flavored with tamarind, which gives it an orange color (cheaper versions use a lot of food coloring, but this tea's good quality). A German papermaker I met in Luang Prabang uses it in some of his paper designs, so I'm trying it for my current illustrations. It gives a warm tinge to the image. The blackish ink comes from bamboo charcoal created for Dong Ho woodblock prints in Vietnam. I enhanced the sala's white stucco with a handmade acrylic paste made with ground shellfish from Hai Phong, Vietnam (also used in Dong Ho prints). They give a lustrous iridescent finish.

I gave this image to the director of White Lotus as thanks for his hospitality - he hosted me in his library, office and garden-side diningroom for the past week. From the writings of 15th century Chinese sailors to 21st century French ethnologists, I read of new perspectives and people. An invaluable help to this paper-book project.

The next stage of this paper trail will be 11 days of seclusion on the off-season beaches of Ko Mak, eastern Thailand. There I plan to do two dozen illustrations for the book, and catch up on my notes from recent weeks.

For artists - and creatives - who could use a re-think of their relationship with money, check out Chris Guillebeau's new Art & Money Guide. His co-writer, Zoe, lives in Chiang Mai and is doing some great literary work there, too. When I get back to the online world, I'll join her team of Location Independent Creatives. We are just beginning to explore the possibilities and freedom offered by the internet. Through sites like Exile Lifestyle and Free Pursuits, people are becoming more aware that there's more than one way to live a life and combine it with their career(s).

This awareness couldn't come at a better time than now.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Location Independence Maps

This blog and the community I've met through Twitter are a great resource for a mobile, modern life.

Last week I was working from The Artists Place in Thonburi, the oldest part of Bangkok. Here's a map; the new skytrain stop of Wongwian Yai is just down the street, but prices are the same:

...and this week I'm working from White Lotus Press, staying in the guesthouse and sharing meals with the eccentric, charming publisher. It takes a rare person to discover and publish all these old works on Asia - we've had some delightfully long-winded conversations.

If you're ever in Pattaya, Thailand, feel free to stop by; they're happy to have visitors. It's definitely off the beaten track:

Next week I'll hit the beaches of Eastern Thailand with ink and brushes in hand, ready to finish the illustrations for my new book, The Paper Apprentice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Split Existence

Hitting the streets with the Man in Seoul, 2004

This year, the Man and I will spend a total of 6 months apart. With visa restrictions & our work/travel schedules, we've only managed to plan a single meetup - next month. When strangers hear this, they do a double-take. They make noises that indicate I'm jeopardizing our relationship with my work, "tsk" and say they could never manage it, hinting that we won't, either [it's usually a man with a "real job" that travels for work, right?].

But those who know us well just sigh & say "Oh they're at it again." This photo album shows a few of the places we've been together - often while one of us visited the other when we lived in different countries.

It's not that we want to be apart all this time, it's just that we've realized what most nomads do after awhile - that you can't "have it all", all the time, in the same place at the same time. That our lives are works-in-progress, together & separately. That our careers require different locations for training and development, and also that we have different levels of tolerance for humidity, hassle, & searing SE Asian chillies.

This isn't a "Long-Distance Relationship"; it's a relationship built while living together, and enhanced & maintained with care over a distance. We met in Korea 6 years ago, and had already planned to move to Cambodia (me) and to China (the Man). Within weeks, we changed our minds and decided to stay in one place long enough - postpone our dreams - to see how it would work with the other person. Over years of online & domestic communication, in the livingrooms, bedrooms & internet cafes of several countries, we've created our own system of what works for us.

For an hour or two every day, we chat online, and use a webcam when we can stick one on top of a dusty computer. We probably look into one another's eyes more now than when we're living together; it's easier to focus on the other person, free from daily distractions. When I can't access a computer, I call him instead: from a night-time boat on the Mekong, from temples and airports and jungles and buses. In tears and with borderline heatstroke and occasionally with elation.

When your partner respects your dreams enough to miss holding you for a few nights, then you know you're spending your time with the right one. Many male writers say with a hint of condescension, "I couldn't have done this without my wife's assistance". My version goes something like this: "The Man knows I would've done this anyway, with or without his approval. Thanks for giving it before I thought to ask."

Friday, May 08, 2009


Every few months I'm told by someone who barely knows me, "Oh, you can be an artist because you're married. You don't have to worry about money."

It's always a woman who says this to me (though it's likely that plenty of men have thought it, too). She's always over 40, and had children at a young age, with a man she's been happy to leave. Often her teenage daughter's wrestling with career options, and mother wants to be sure that daughter doesn't make the same kind of choices that Mom did. A "respectable, lucrative" career is high on Mom's list for Daughter, and that of Artist is best left to mad geniuses or dilettantes. It's not a real career where a woman can survive, let alone thrive, on her own.

Well what comes to mind when I hear this?

Designer squat toilets at Talat Sao (Morning market) Luang Namtha, Laos

She doesn't know that my partner & I keep our bank accounts separate, which keeps finances simple; she doesn't know that I buy my own international health insurance and pay for my own plane tickets. I've learned how to budget during the past 15 years, living on wages that ranged from paltry to middle-class, in all sorts of economies. I don't need a man to support me, and never have.

It all comes down to choices. Here are some I've made to keep my flexibility high & my financial liabilities low.

Even better, take a look at this famous illustrator, a pioneering Female Nomad. She's still on the move at age 72, after over 20 years on the road. She's living proof that just because people say "You can't do that," they can be wrong. It takes careful planning, budgeting, and research, but we can turn life's obstacles into undreamt-of possibilities. And while it's great to have a man along for the ride, they aren't necessary for the journey in the first place. Sheesh.

Happy Mother's day this weekend. You couldn't ask for a more inspiring Mom than mine: she's been a Catholic nun and a high-school teacher & the driver of a flashy red Corvette, a salon member in France and a student at Oxford. And people wonder where I get it all from. (Dad's history's just as checkered, too.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Strange Kindnesses

Donations mean good luck at Wat Lampang Luang

A few kind words mean more than gold, especially when one's hung over.

After a full rainy day of research at the Princess's library on the edge of Bangkok, I stumbled blindly down the street to Mak Yah . Muslim restaurants are the perfect spot to recover from a hangover: there's no alcohol to tempt you into another one.

The owner asked me how the meal was. I grinned in response, and he launched into his whirlwind of a life story in five minutes: how he was born in the troubled province of Pattani, lived in Germany & Sweden & Japan, where he met his Thai-American wife (the daughter of a Thai woman & an American serviceman on his R&R from the 2nd Indochina War), how with his southern good looks (european/malay/thai/arab), locals in Bangkok mistook him for a farang, so taxi-drivers charged him triple the Thai rate.

Before I left, he insisted I meet his wife, who had cooked the simple and spicy seafood meal. She gave me their restaurant card and mobile phone numbers "if you ever need advice or help in Bangkok, please call." I've spent months in the city, met hundreds of people there in different situations from classrooms to girlie bars, but have never had such a spontaneous encounter quite like this one.

Kindness is at its most striking when least expected.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

YOUR World

Making bamboo paper in a H'mong village, Luang Namtha, Laos

If I'd given up the first or second time a Lao translator/tourist official said to me: "No one makes paper here now/this time of year/in this region," I wouldn't have found out that, actually, some people are making paper here, even at the very end of the dry season. And had I listened to them, I wouldn't have had this rare chance to try my hand at it - much to the consternation of village kids. You see, I had a lot of experience to catch up on - they'd started learning at 8 years old.

It's not that I have a problem with authorities - I just choose to make my own way through the world, rather than pay their edicts too much attention.

I was reminded of this when I read Chris's great essay, "Welcome to the Real World". For those of us who are more interested in creating the status quo than in maintaining it, that phrase is a rigid roadblock. I've never seen "the real world" as particularly relevant to mine.

One of the few times I had the phrase directed at me was nearly a decade ago, after graduation from a public Midwestern university with a BFA in Painting. Not exactly a recipe for success in my chosen, insanely-competitive field.

"How's the real world treatin' ya?" asked an associate professor, six months after my graduation. She was a paper/print artist, visiting my counter at Wet Paint for some Twinrocker paper. Pale-haired, Nordic-skinned, she looked starved for sun; winter had begun to weigh heavily on all of us.

"It's OK," I said, shaking off the blues with memories. "I went to Liverpool after graduation to volunteer at a teen art program, and ended up working with the Biennial fringe festival. No idea what I'll do next, maybe learn sculpture in Italy next year."

She had nothing else to say.

There's not a "real world", there's just YOUR world. Enough existentialism. Next step: On to World Domination.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


By Kate Kretz. See more of her work here

Lately I've spent most of my time talking to papermakers in small villages, and travelling between big towns. Living life offline in Laos. I spend time online to keep up with R, with my publisher, and with colleagues at ThingsAsian. With the occasional foray into Facebook & Twitter.

The "Artworld" concerns that saturate my google Reader are irrelevant to what I see around me here, to my paper research, and in some ways to my personal work, which falls into a no-man's-land between "fine art", illustration, photography, and travel-writing. I'm not pursuing a conventional art career, and many of the directives for that field aren't relevant to what I do. But neither am I "just" a travel-writer.

I subscribe to around 60 blogs, most of them art-focused. This is how I stay free of the obligation to live & mingle with arty folk in London, Berlin, or Brooklyn. But in recent weeks I'll open my Reader and just click "mark all as read", after scrolling through a few of my favorites. I can't read through hundreds of blog posts after spending days reading several languages at libraries, landing on-the-spot sweaty interviews, or jostled by knees and cargo on long busrides.

This offline life is more present than wired life.

To write my Paper Apprentice book, I must be all here, in these places where the paper is made. Take in the scents of musty indigo-dyed shirts and fresh fish sauce. Notice things like the pigs loaded beneath fellow passenger's feet. I can't afford to be distracted by pixels and artworld egos. And - especially - distracted by my own.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Collection obsession

Kitikong in his Chiang Mai gallery

The other day, Seth Godin was talking about how artists can make a living, and some of the inherent difficulties. As he sees it, artists have a limited market for their work with any individual collector: "So, what's the problem? Share of wall. Unlike records or shoes, it's hard to buy a lot of art. Pretty soon, you've got no place left to put it, do you?"

But while Seth knows lots about business and viral marketing, he doesn't know much about the business of art, which works quite differently from your typical model. Collectors are an eclectic bunch. Some focus on the work of a particular artist; others pick and choose from an era or style. They buy for many reasons: some find just the right piece for their mantel; others swoon at a piece and have to have it at any price; some are seduced by a low price tag and a promising CV; and others simply buy for the bottom line investment (though these speculators have temporarily paused, leaving mainly what gallerists like to call "Serious Collectors", flattering their sophistication). More often than not, collectors want a piece of the artist's life, manifested in his/her work. And some can never have enough.

Kitikong, pictured above, is a smart, soft-spoken artist based in Chiang Mai. He prints his own work, and helps other artists print theirs. But he doesn't print the work of just any artist (ordinary artists are welcome to play around in his studio for 500-1000 baht/day if you know what you're doing), no, he's looking to work with high-profile or bankable artists who will add to the stacks of incredible work already jamming his flat-files.

You see, this printer is also a true collector. His name-dropping skills are on par with the hippest gallery-goers in London. He's plugged-in to the gallery scene throughout Asia, L.A., New York and Australia. He knows those whom he wants to work with, and has positioned himself to make this happen. (This artist recently made a series of prints at Kitikong's Chiang Mai-based studio/gallery, C.A.P.)

C.A.P. assistants - they live upstairs, life and work inseparable

Through an ingenious funding scheme, he has created a win-win situation for fellow collectors and artists, and also for himself and his assistants. Kitikong is a great example of how an obsession - because for the best, collecting art is a true obsession - can be turned into more than just decorating our living-room walls.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Looking forward to the unknown

No idea what's next: zipping through Laos jungle canopy a few days ago

A friend recently wrote: "I don't see much [reflection about HK] on your blog," and I responded "Typically there I try to look forward rather than back," and leave nostalgia to wine with a friend or two.

This trip so far has been a series of surprising discoveries; I never know what's around the corner, and hints crop up in unexpected places. Everyone I meet becomes a possible target: "Does anyone make paper around here?" I ask, and once local contacts get digging, they usually turn up results.

Last night I arrived in Luang Prabang, and am looking at options in this cultural hub; the region's also been a historic center for papermaking.

PS: Some hilarious tips on how to pack like an artist. You can tell that Anna has a second career as a web designer: the layout's meticulous.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Join my quest to become a paper apprentice in Southeast Asia, and follow me on Twitter. The twitter feed will have near-daily updates of my travels, and more detail than my weekly blog postings.

Today I'm headed to the relative wilderness of Laos. Lots of surprises in store over there - Laos has captivated westerners for centuries.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Pots of paper pulp at a Thai village workshop

Do you define yourself with your job? By your relationships? When people ask you what you "do" for a living, what's the first word on your lips?

By western definitions, "Art" has been a pretty broad term for over a century, and "artist", for even longer - say, since the Renaissance. Growing up in an academically-minded Europhile family, renaissance images decorated our walls, punctuated our conversations, and lined our shelves.

It wasn't simply about the pretty pictures. What appealed to me most about these antique Italians was their pursuit of projects in multiple disciplines: architectural proposals and sonnets were not distractions from their visual work, but a complement to them. Their drawings, paintings and frescoes were informed by their other projects.

Recently I came across an ancient description of my "job title" from an old reference to my blog 5 years ago (that's an ice age in blog-years): "Artist, Photographer, Travel-Writer, English teacher...." I cringed; it looked like a litany of collegiate confusion, ten years too late.

"Artist" is a generous umbrella. It allows a range of expressions, from Dao Anh Khanh's performances to paintings of beer bottles. Somehow, though, Writing and Photography are considered such distinct disciplines that only a Writer can write, and only a Photographer can take professional-quality pictures.

More than once on this trip, fellow travellers have expressed bemusement that I've been given this project. After all, it's common knowledge that artists are barely literate and can barely balance their bank-books, let alone write "a real book". (They usually don't know that during university I sold 2,000 kinds of paper from around the world, primarily Thailand; that I've had extensive experience in making western papers; and that my artwork is currently paper-based.)

But fear of failing can't stop those of us who are used to facing it every day over morning coffee. With a smile.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

My new website


Thanks to the very talented Nguyet Vuong for putting this together.

Northern Papers

What do elephants....



and ducks have in common?

They're all a part of the papermaking industry in northern Thailand!

Here I'm learning to make paper with the Green family, near Lampang.

It's been a whirlwind of 3 weeks of south-to-north travel; research in dusty libraries; making paper in under hot tin roofs; and deciphering Thai handwriting to sort out what fibers make up the papers between my fingers.

Another week or so, then I'll head over to northern Laos from Chiang Rai. Will try to keep up weekly updates with pictures, but the very best material will go into the paper-book.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Home away from home

It's always good for a chronic travel artist to have one or two familiar spots as touchstones during an extended trip. Here's a selection of photos from my favorite pied-a-terre in Bangkok, The Artists Place.

View from my room last week, on the "Penthouse" a.k.a. rooftop. Hot summer winds whistled through three walls, it was the breeziest room I've had there yet

Rooftop garden with edible plants like kaffir lime leaves, basil, and sage

The Artists Place is in Thonburi, the oldest part of Bangkok. Life's a slower pace here; more khlongs (canals) and wooden houses have survived modernization

Many small sois (lanes) in the neighborhood are family-run shoe factories. Day and night, you'll see parents and grandparents cutting rubber soles and glueing shoes while kids scamper on polished tile floors and concrete streets

Local broom-seller on his bicycle

Every corner at the Artists Place holds an eccentric surprise

Including entertaining hand-written signs like this one

Unexpected sculptures

...and more sculptures - these linga double as door handles

The entrance has plenty of sunshine and mosquitos

and a ceiling that's grown organically into a spectacular fire hazard

Charlee, the owner, is usually around to welcome visitors. His english is charming and flawless, and the house is full of paintings by Charlee and other artists (including one by me)

The Artists Place isn't for everyone - the shared toilets with their 3-inch cockroaches are an affront to most notions of hygeine. But if you don't mind some creepy company during your showers, it could make for a memorable stay in Bangkok.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Paper-making in Ghana, or Free Flophouse in Paris

Floating steel fish, Hong Kong

Half the fun of travel isn't the sights, but the experiences you run into - sometimes literally - that aren't available anywhere else.

Here's one I found during my papermaking research - it's a unique cultural center next to the sea in Ghana.

This quote from the site sums up an eccentric spot: "We have potters, batik artists, welders, fantasy coffin makers, art galleries, drummers and many free spirits all contributing to the unique character of the place."

Found via this video

And if you're ever in Paris you should really spend a night at the famous Shakespeare & Co, while you can. This idealistic little spot won't be around forever: spend a week - or a month - in Paris and sleep for free. Work a single hour each day in the bookstore below, and read a book a day.

One "tenant" even wrote a book about the experience.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"my roots are shallow and travelling is part of my life"

Quote from the writer Anthony Sattin here.

Photo from the Mekong Delta for a photo-essay, I've Got my Eyes on You

Preparing for this 4-month trip and book project has been all-consuming in recent months, particularly since I moved to Sydney. I've been researching western and Asian paper-making techniques, paper-mills and -villages around the world, and am looking forward to getting my hands dirty soon.

In the meantime, I've written a book proposal, outline & itinerary, though I was never asked for one. Like a business plan, a book proposal is crucial to direct and contextualize writing and experiences. This has been a dream project - the publisher, (words-)editor and (image-editing) designer haven't made any specific requests. They've been flexible and have shown remarkable confidence in me.

PS: "If I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn't need to write it. The middle way, where you have a focus and a trajectory, is the happy way and the best editors understand this." Anthony Sattin.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Altered states

Part painting, part photograph: it's a hand-tinted print

When I decided to hand-tint blueprints for the Hong Kong book, I knew that there would be some puzzled reactions: is it a painting or a photo, or something in between? For centuries, hand-tinting has been a common way to enhance black-and-white photographs, woodblock prints, and etchings.

After weeks of experimentation, I found that blueprinting for less time (underexposing them in the sun) gave me more freedom when tinting. Instead of simply coloring the prints, I enhanced them, expanded their borders, and blurred distracting details. Beginning with blue adds a brilliance of color straight away, whereas black or sepia subdue it.

When I paint the photo-sensitive chemicals before exposure, I selectively apply them with a brush. Once it's hand-tinted afterwards, it's actually a twice-painted print.

For another perspective, Jeane Vogel talks about hand-altered photographs and their ambiguous position between painting and photography here.

One question I'm often asked is: "Are these your photos?" Of course! I would never work directly with another artist's images.

Art Residency alert: if you're interested in a relaxing, green space for art-making, then Compeung Village of Creativity could be for you. Their focus is on nature, community, and interactive installation art.

Some great photos of the center by Phan Hai Bang, an artist I met in Vietnam last summer.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What's next?

Blank slate: village house in Po Toi, part of my contribution to a forthcoming book

This is the question that the artist & art critic Carol Diehl asks here in her Art Vent blog.

I particularly like this paragraph:

"I believe that in the future (which, the way things are going, could be next week) we’re going to be less fascinated with human dysfunction (a la Dumas and Sherman) and seek more art that inspires us, has substance, puts us in awe of human capability."

Hear hear! Then she says:

"I hope that we’ll also figure out another way of experiencing art that doesn’t involve rectangular rooms, white walls, and track lighting."

Over the past few years I've struggled with the same concept. There's something so stiff about stuff that's made to hang on the wall. Simplistic. In Vietnam I discussed possibilities of collaboration with a sound artist.

"I want art to engage and involve, be more than this static thing that we look at while standing on our feet (although I dislike so-called “interactive art" even more), but has to do with its context and, like music, is woven into the fabric of our lives."

...or perhaps the lives of others very different from ours. Here's a fantastic example of a project in Kenya by JR. Not only do these images portray the inhabitants of the village, but the weatherproof material they're printed on serves another purpose: it protects their homes from torrential summer rains.

she finishes with: "I believe the era of the individual genius is waning, and instead collaborative ventures (between individuals as well as disciplines) will come to the forefront."

A unique kind of collaboration I discovered today:this Facebook portrait project by the painter Matt Held. via His paintings wouldn't exist without the initiative of Facebook; it's more egalitarian than traditional portrait painting, where the artist is using the model as a muse, or has been commissioned to paint by a patron.

For some virtual travelling inspiration, have a look at these artists. They gave free holidays to fellow residents of Jakarta, thanks to some creative Photoshopping.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pycho Art

Council tower blocks, Aberdeen, HK

It's mid-winter in the northern hemisphere, and -7C in Minneapolis, where my family lives. Short days and long cold nights enhance introspection. Family and friends trudge through snow and skid over icy freeways on their way to work.

Every year, the cabin fever reaches its peak in early February, when after months of confinement we ache to feel the fresh breezes and sun of spring.

Northern spirits are restless and low this time of year, regardless of the world economy. Perhaps that's why there have been so many recent articles written for artists that all have versions of "Keep your head up!"

They boil down to a simple idea: it's all about your attitude - how American is that?

Perspectives on rejection

The encaustic artist Joanne Mattera gives a very New York-ish point of view on how the right perspective can find opportunities in rejection.

Optimistic attitude

Then an interview with the positively practical artist Anne Marchand. A key is her "sense of gratitude and wonder" that get her through the "inevitable droughts of being a creative person".

Art of selling art

and last but never least, Hazel has some insightful words on why the selling of art online is never to be confused with selling widgets on eBay.


For travel artists, here's an Art Residency Alert for you in Beijing, have a look at BDA Space. There are 20 studios available for artists in the capital of Asia's art world.
via re-title

Friday, January 30, 2009

blue frustrations

My roofless dream cottage next to the sea in Peng Chau, for a forthcoming book

When most people move to the bottom half of the world, their litany of concerns goes something like this: how will we get the furniture there, what car shall we buy, what x-rays/shots will I need, where will the kids go to school, etc. Mine center on how to work in a new environment.

How strong is the sunlight? (Sydney has strong UV and lots of sunshine - one reason I was interested in moving here)

What's there to shoot or sketch?

How important are the arts in its residents' priorities?

But a crucial question for many alt-process artists like me is: where's a printshop to make negatives? (see picture below - none of this happens without large-scale negatives)

Hand-tinted blueprint demo from the book

It's a rare print shop that's willing to risk its overheated machines and run my plastic transparencies through them. So far I've spoken with a dozen places in my neighborhood and in central Sydney, but haven't found anywhere that can make a successful print; the rare printers willing to try just shake their heads as my acetates jam their machines.

So with some deadlines looming this week, I've crossed my fingers and printed dozens of images from paper negatives, as architects used to do with their drawings. I've printed these images over and over, for different exposure times, at different chemical concentrations, onto various surfaces. Tracked blue footprints down our newly-carpeted hallway. Spattered the bathroom with cyan rinsewater. I'd hoped that with some tweaking I could get something beautifully blue.

Nope. Not a single image was serviceable, let alone satisfying. The paper simply blocked too much sun, so the prints had very little contrast. Instead, I've had to focus on other endeavors before I leave for Asia.

Still these attempts have gotten me out of my new neighborhood comfort zone: I've shot a new series and will print it - somehow - when I'm back later this year.

There's always a reason for whatever we're doing, sometimes we've just got to make it up as we go along.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You can take the girl out of Hong Kong....

but you can't take the HK out of the girl.

In a few short weeks I'll be back in SE Asia, on a mission to make some papers with masters in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. And stumbling through plenty of mulberry trees while figuring out how to beat the pith (inner bark) into the perfect papery pulp.

Hopefully I'll make a stop in HK on the way back, to take care of some loose ends, and stuff myself w/yum cha.

Until then the only substitute for Cantonese skyscrapers is our set of G.O.D. sheets.

...and here's the real thing

Friday, January 23, 2009

Travel Artist Profile: Mary-Anne Bartlett

Artist on safari

As the founder of Art Safari, Mary-Anne Bartlett seamlessly combines artwork with travel, for destinations from Antarctica to Zambia. A woman of many talents, she has also co-written a guidebook on Malawi.

Here she's written an excellent article packed with advice on how to travel. She categorizes sketching travellers into three types: the 'painting traveller', the 'artist on holiday' and the 'travel artist'.

Which one are you?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Flickr Photos & Videos tagged "Obama"

from my Flickr friends around the world

Indonesian Obama by Keith Kelly

A pair of videos & photo from the Inauguration concert in Washington DC, January 18th, by Sixinterr

Obama's car

Snipers setting up for the Inauguration concert

Officials get to climb fences

Election night celebrations, Chicago - by Dave2Quam

Obama in Cambodia - by Jinja

Election day antics at FCC Phnom Penh, by Keith

Dungeons & Dragons for Obama in Washington, DC - by Nguyet