Land Art Road Trip – departure

I was chomping at the bit to get on the road, but had to wrap up some client things. I wanted as much freedom and impulse as possible, so I only had my reservation for The Lightening Field on May 9th. I booked that on February 1st at 5am. Waiting those 5 hours past the reservation opening meant I barely got in.

I was sure that whoever else got up to make a reservation for the cabin would be interesting; some sort of Art Fanatic, for sure.

It has been 5 years since my last vacation. I hope I never wait that long again. Thanks to Yelp and the Priceline App I was able to travel well, never booking a room or campsite more than a day or two in advance. My first two nights at the painfully hip Moxy Hotel in Phoenix were at a 72% discount. It was strategically located near a James Turrell Skyspace that I hadn’t seen before.

Turns out I had the Air Apparent (even geniuses making awful puns) all to myself, and it was a quarter mile from the Moxy. Arriving at dusk the stone/metal perimeter bench was surprisingly comfy. I liked the detailing of this site specific artwork, and I think much of that was due to the aesthetic of a brilliant Arizona architecture, Will Bruder.


Summer Camp

Just returned from my 2nd WordCamp. This one in Orange County at UC Irvine’s Innovation Center called The Cove. Now that I’ve had a couple days, it is sinking in how life-changing the right information at the right time can be.

Mostly, I just have to say a huge thanks to the organizers and presenters of #WCOC. I can not imagine how much effort it took to create this two day (very) casual conference.

What kind of story to tell?

Didn’t sleep much the night before, so I was I little slow on the uptake, but now reviewing the value of famous WordPress success stories. Jason Weisberger a co-founder of Boing Boing talked about how despite the massive number of mistakes they’ve made, getting it wrong has led to getting if very right–he spends his days collaborating with friends, writing about everything they find that is ‘cool.’ Brian Clark, had almost the opposite message, in his talk about  a “5 step strategy for attracting an audience.” But somehow that was the perfect bookend to what Jason said.

The biggest thing for me was Chris Lema’s “Becoming a Better Blogger;” a misleadingly convention title, that was a wild-man presentation which did that very difficult thing… entertaining and deeply informative. Chris is a brilliant teacher. I am still digesting his clear steps toward improving post writing, doing it with speed and consistency, and be sure to write toward the reader, suspending one’s on egoic needs.

The War of Art

I was speaking to a woman I met at a WordPress event. I new she was a WP developer, and at a previous Wordcamp she had talked about the incredible support she received from the WP community while battling a serious illness.

Over lunch, I learned that she had been a lifelong artist, a painter working in the very challenging medium of watercolor with a photo realist style. Now that she was recovering, she wanted to get back to her art but feared her hand/eye skills would never be the same. A situation like this, is quite different from the solely internal psychological struggles any creator faces.

A favorite book came to mind. The War of Art (no, not the Art of War), takes many of the clichés about art, and dumps them on their head. The woman I was speaking to was obviously very determined, she had survived her medical struggle, taken some time to grieve skills that may have been diminished, and she was ready to go to battle again.

Here are is an image, a sort of map summary of Steven Pressfield’s book. I first read it two years ago, and my 20-something studio assistant also found it evocative. Driving home from the conference, listening again to the Audible version what ‘spoke’ to me was the part living like a PRO,  rather than an AMATEUR, when it comes to working on your art.

I have been struggling with my compulsion to work on many ideas at once. Not just ideas, but medium as different as 3d Printing is from writing. Tried not to beat myself up too much, and ‘The Pro’ paradigm was also a road toward getting things done by taking my Art(s) seriously.

LART: Scottsdale Turrell

I revised this piece at the SMOCA (Scottsdale Museum of Art), which I saw during a major Turrell exhibit they had in 2001. In fact this exhibit was my awakening to the unique power of Turrell’s art. At the exhibit opening I waited in line for almost two hours to experience his one person light shows.

The first time I saw this sky pace, there was a Baroque Quartet playing live. This time, I was lucky in having fast moving clouds above the aperture. This earlier sky space does not include the LED lighting display of the latter works. It was peaceful and calm to sit inside for fifteen minutes. Here is a time lapse video I made that day:



Shop craft, as soul craft…

This book was mentioned in deep work, and I have heard of it several times before, but have never read it. But I plan to make it one of my next reads.

I do know what it feels like to be deeply involved in making something, where I’m right on the edge of failing. It is both stressful and exciting. In fact, I would say it is a feeling like no other. That is why I will never let go of the struggle involved in making physical objects.


“The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, because he has no real effect in the world. But the tradesman must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away. His well-founded pride is far from the gratuitous “self-esteem” that educators would impart to students, as though by magic.”
Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work

Deep work; the story of the blacksmith…

So, “Deep Work” by Cal Newport is the most influential book for me this month. I was hiking along the beach, and the chapter I was listening to, was about a person who had a career in a tech industry, burned out, eventually honed the skill to be an artisanal blacksmith. He had delved into historical techniques for purifying & forming metal.

There was a vivid description of his forging  a sword blade from a small ingot of metal and rendered, and it captured the intensity of working with metal, and having the risk that if you hammer just a bit too hard and your work is cast asunder.

That resonated with something I read once about craft: “Craft, is the predictable manipulation of material to create an object, and the deeper aspect, is when, regardless of your experience level, you’re on the edge of feeling that it is all about to blow apart. (I’m putting my own words to concepts I read in David Pye’s “The Nature and Art of Workmanship,” a book that clarified the essence of what it means to craft.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Newport draws a clear distinction between two types of work: deep work and shallow work.

Deep work is defined as:

Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate (page 3).

Shallow work is:

Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate (page 6).

Inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy

For the seventh year, students of Visual Thinking were asked to make a project called, “Organic Assemblage,” inspired by one of my favorite artists, Andy Goldsworthy. So simple in a way… he goes out into nature and transforms what he finds with only his bare hands. The craftsmanship, concept, and commitment are what differentiates these works from the sort of idyll play we probably all engaged in with leaves and sticks as children.

Arranging Leaves to focus viewer on the shape of a tree meeting the ground.

Stillness, solitude & creativity

I go to everything I chase…

When doing nothing is doing Everything.

Cassidy Hall


01/27/2016 03:18 pm ET | Updated Jan 27, 2017

When Doing Nothing Is Doing Everything

By Cassidy Hall

“Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving.” Bell Hooks
This time, after jumping in my car, no maps were necessary as I navigated my way towards New Mellerary Abbey for the 10th time since 2011. Maybe I had gone enough times to know my way, maybe something beyond myself was helping to guide me, or maybe there was nothing mystical to the experience other than the way I chose to view it. 
As soon as I arrived and settled in my room, that familiar piercing silence rang in my ears. I slowly meandered to the guest library to borrow 10 books: a handful of familiar authors, half of which I’d read, half I hadn’t. I skimmed through the pamphlet the monastery gives you upon your arrival – scanning for any new rules or suggestions for my time there, nothing new. I busied myself seeing if there might be wifi, navigating where I might have cell service and doing everything but precisely what I came there for.
This is nothing new. I go to get away from everything I chase as soon as I arrive because I live in a society that tells me I should never be alone. I live in a society that tells me I should always be connected, I should always be doing something, and even in being there for a retreat – I should have something to “show” for my time there. Alas, I know better. Every second of my aimless searching and grasping only reiterates to me just how ingrained these societal shoulds are. And, as we all know, when we finally come to terms with being in our solitude the guilt piles up of everything we should and could be doing. 

enhanced creativity for all