Author: Monstress

No Throwing Coals: Learning from the Past to Have a Present

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal meaning to throw it at someone else; you’re the one who gets burned. –Buddha I look at my daughter on the first anniversary of her birth and feel nothing but gratitude to the people – all of them – who were instrumental in my finding my way to her, my wife, and our present life. Without knowing these folks I’d never have gotten here at all, although it’s taken me ages to see this clearly. My life’s trajectory altered radically a few years ago when I finally realized that no matter what others did to or for me, I was the only person who actually chose my path; nobody else could have done it for me. I chose to act, to react, to judge or not; I chose it all, though in some cases I didn’t know any better. I am so deeply thankful I know a little better now. In the past, I blamed a few people for many things. I thought some particular woes were …

A Bargain No More: Raising the Price on My Life’s (Art) Work

Sweet friends, I am raising the prices on all of my art work as of 12:01 am, October 19th, 2013. That day is my 42nd birthday and it marks a fine time to grow up a little in terms of my art career. This is not a decision I am making lightly, but maybe my reasoning is helpful to others out there struggling to assign value to their work as well. Quick edit: here is a link to one store of my work, and here is the link to Ennui Free, my last project. Get it while it’s cheap! My updated art-making standards I will not give away work unless I get a grant to pay for the entire production. I cannot pay for it out of pocket. The Valentine will be a subscription from here on out. I will send out word when one is being produced to a few hundred people who will be given the opportunity to order the work at a reduced price. Everyone else who orders one will be charged …

Asking (with Class) for Recommendation Letters

This summer, I was asked by several students for recommendation letters for jobs and other such opportunities. Each request resulted in a slightly different journey and I learned a lot from them all. I realized I need to come up with a policy for writing them, so I sent out word to all of my professor friends and did some research: there were a lot of horror stories and funny anecdotes. I could easily illustrate this essay with lots of eye-roll-inducing tales of badly mannered students and lazy professors, but I am taking a more positive approach: I am writing this essay for all of my former, current, and prospective students in hopes that I help you make better choices in this area. You are worth the effort, to a one. One thing: I mention “class” in the title. I am simply referring to the fact that you can, right here and now, choose to treat the people around you with respect and thereby slowly sculpt your life’s trajectory. You can be circumspect and polite, …

An open letter to my newborn daughter

Dear M, You will read this when you are much, much older and able to understand. I just thought it all needed to be said in the meantime. I am home alone, waiting until tomorrow morning when I can go see you and your other Mom, Jen, in the hospital. You are both to stay there until Sunday, when Jen’s incision has healed enough for her to come home. It’s been a rough couple of days for all three of us and I am so tired. At the same time, I have never been happier. You were born 24 hours ago after a hellacious induced labor and eventual c-section. Jen and I were holding hands in fearful anticipation; suddenly, you drew your first breath and let loose a gorgeous angry cry from behind a thicket of medical attendants. Although Jen was in a cloud of painkillers on the operating table, she immediately started crying tears of joy. I had been crying already, so I just sobbed harder. So happy. The fact that I’d ended up here was …

Designing and printing protest posters with CSUN students

 I am just back from Los Angeles, having spent an amazing week there working with some incredibly bright students at California State University Northridge (CSUN). I was able to lead 2 groups (about 40 people each) through the history of protest posters and printmaking, and then we designed and printed our own using screen printing. I was invited there by Professor Samantha Fields, who had selected my work to be in a group show called Tomorrowland. Before each workshop, I gave a short lecture on the history of protest posters and its relationship to different forms of printmaking, going through the last several hundred years and then focusing back on the 1968 student protests of Paris. That era was particularly well-documented, and the students were able to organize themselves into an efficient propaganda machine, all because they learned how to screen print. This method of printing enabled them to produce and hang posters that had been conceived only that morning. Of course there were other centers of student protest, but I have a certain fondness for the Paris uprising in particular. Once we had …

How to prime the idea pump with ease and aplomb

I am having fewer ideas, but they seem to be of better quality than the flood of ideas I used to get when I was younger. How can I take advantage of this?  I am 40 this year and I have to say, things look a lot different than when I was 25. I used to be a babbling brook of ideas for my art work: I filled sketchbooks and journals with odd thoughts over the years. A lot of them were crap, but still, it felt great. I do have to admit, life was a lot simpler then… I did not have nearly the amount of responsibilities or cares that I have now, but I think my brain has changed. In fact, I know it has: the Seattle Longitudinal Study showed that we get way more efficient at processing information as we get older. We can’t work as fast or as long as we could when we were young – but we shouldn’t need to, since we are working better. So I am better at thinking of …

Learning typography by making typography!

A note: In the third photo, the n is actually an upside down u. We didn’t have an n. I am teaching Typography 1 and I have to say, I love this class. The students are eager and willing to take risks, the material is unfolding at a good clip, and things are just generally really rewarding. I have decided to take a more haptic approach to teaching the basic tenets of typography, which I will describe here for your perusal and evaluation. What is Typography? Robert Bringhurst says it best: Typography is the craft of endowing human language  with a durable visual form, and thus an independent existence. Its heartwood is calligraphy – the dance, on a tiny stage, of the living, speaking hand _ and its roots reach into living soil, though its branches may be hung each year with new machines. So long as the root lives, typography remains a source of true delight, true knowledge, true surprise. From The Elements of Typographic Style, pp. 11 Essentially, what I am trying to teach is the history …

Getting off my butt for other people is a good thing!

So after the drama of last week, my friend Nina mentioned that maybe, just maybe, I would feel better if I did something for someone else. What a concept! In my turmoil, I absolutely forgot that there are other people  out in the world, perhaps in need of some help.  Here are some resources to help find opportunities for service: New York Cares The 7 Best Places To Volunteer In NYC  There are measurable benefits for people who do service, actually. Or, at least, there seems to be: Is Altruism Good for the Altruistic Giver? For myself, I have to say that altruistic acts are the direct opposite of and cure for unmitigated self-absorption. It breaks the spell instantly, frees me from my fascination with myself, and humbles me back into sane behavior. So I am looking around my community and looking for opportunities to help my fellow man, no matter how menial the task at hand. I’ll let you know what I find.