“Nothing” is always something. It’s just that sometimes you can’t see it.
“Small” says, “nothing is always nothing.”
“Big” says, “Just you wait and see.”
Expanding, going big. Or shrinking — and feeling small.
This is where I’ve got to start, because I’ve struggled between those two states for most of my life. I try to create things even as I catch glimmers of what they might become beyond the blank paper, gessoed canvas, empty wall, computer screen with blinking cursor — through all the smoke, dust, and uncertainty. Artists can be frustrating because they sift through a lot of “the nothing” in search of The Something. That throws up a lot of smoke and dust and more uncertainty — and it isn’t a clean and easy process.
Which takes us back to the “small” and the “big”: fear (“uncertainty”) is small, courage (“sifting”) is large. The former drains you, burns like acid from inside, reducing you a cringing mess; the latter fills you to the top of your being, radiating out and wrapping its arms around the whole wide world.
So, here’s how I stumbled upon the artwork I created over 30 years ago, “The Something” that became known as The Vicious Frieze I–III (1987–1989), or, “A hallucinogenic cartoon of prodigious span.”
By the summer of 1986 I was a year into my first full-time job at a direct mail marketing corporation, and two months in my first apartment.
And I was already feeling trapped.
Which is ironic because during that year I was promoted to lead on our small team of a dozen editors. As lead, I had to make sure jobs stayed on schedule. Every December since 1985 I ordered desktop planning calendars — you know, the blotter pad kind — where I kept all the job deadlines at a glance. Growing bored with the job, I started doodling and scribbling in the calendar margins, sometimes around schedule notes.
As I came into the office each morning I found my coworkers huddled around my desk, laughing and checking out my latest “artwork.”