Brain — on.

My brain has been whirring this weekend. I now have loads of things I want to make — but only one life to make ’em in.

• I am thinking of new daily projects I want to pursue. My 30-dogs-in-30-days iPad drawing project eventually reached 110 dogs, which was great fun for a while, but it’s feeling forced now and for the first time have missed several days. I am thinking of doing a series of drawings and long-text Instagram posts about my family’s history and my childhood. I spent some time yesterday looking at old photos and had a bunch of ideas. I have thought about writing on this topic before but always flamed out under the weight of it all, worrying more about how to wrangle several generations of dysfunctional people into an ongoing narrative but the idea of doing something bite-sized and episodic seems more doable and fun.

• I want to start up a podcast again. It’s been over a year since I did an episode of Shut Your Monkey and the podbug is nibbling at me again. I am thinking I’d like to do a chatty podcast about art making, probably under the Sketchbook Skool umbrella, kinda of like an audio version of the Zine we’ve been doing. A great new issue of the Zine comes out next week, by the way. I wrote a lot of it. (If you haven’t subscribed yet, get on it.)

• I just signed up for a mysterious creative camp for this summer and I am excited and super curious about that.

• There are only a couple of weeks till Illustration Nation begins at SBS and I have been thinking alot about what project I want to spend a month on. I like the idea of making prints or a book or magazine but am not sure what to do with the things I make. Maybe I’ll give them to you.

• I am very excited about a conference we are planning and keep thinking of more and more ideas about what to do there. Ideas that will get people together, ideas about all the people I want to have speak, ideas about how to promote it, ideas about little videos to show and ideas about what I will wear.

• I have been working on a short-film series on and off for the past year and I think I am now ready to release it. I’ll do so episode by episode. They’re gonna be short and autobiographical. I’m not sure why it’s taking me so long to get them done.

• I would like to do some new episodes of Sketchbook Club and now have an entire shelf of books set aside. I’m thinking of finally tackling Maira Kalman, Lynda Barry, Lapin, Eric Sloane and a few others. I’ll try to get one done in the week to come.

• I have three new shoots with artists scheduled for the next month and I’ll be travelling to Atlanta, then Charlotte and finally Nashville starting in ten days. I have been preproducing these for the last couple of months and I can’t wait to get out there, work with some new artists and film crews, and make some cool stuff.

• Koosje and I have been working on a new kourse that we are calling “Zillion” for short. We have begun filming and it has been so fun to work on a new kourse and to collaborate creatively with my partner.

• I was invited to do two keynotes in Washington DC — and they are major. The audience is super-important and not the usual sort of folks I talk to so I am eager to do something interesting. I am contractually not allowed to say who it is, alas, but let’s just say they are in Washington and work in a large building with flags on it.

Weekends are meant for relaxation so I tried turning my brain off last night by watching a movie. But The Square was the most amazing, brilliant, hilarious, thought-provoking film I maybe have ever seen and so it filled my dreams with monkeys, piles of gravel, and angry children. What an incredible work of art!

Today, I will make some stew and probably not watch the Super Bowl. Maybe the Puppy Bowl instead.

Smoky memories of setting myself on fire

edw1. In this morning’s paper, I read Edward Herriman’s obit which mentioned that he had appeared in a play called Moonchildren by Michael Weller. That sounded familiar to me but I wasn’t sure why. Something to do with high school?

2. I googled “Moonchildren” and the initials of my high school. An article appeared from our school paper about the controversy around the school production because the play used obscene language. Listed among the cast: my name.

3. I found a copy of the play online, read through the characters and one of them stood out like a beacon. Norman, a character who declares he is going to set himself on fire to protest the Vietnam War. I realized I still knew most of Norman’s lines by heart. I had played him at 1 5.

4. My high school paper also had a review of another play I was apparently in, Impromptu by Tad Mosel. I remembered this one vaguely. I played an idealistic and brave young man who tried to overcome the cynicism of the other characters.

5. Next to the review was an editorial I had written, excoriating the school’s administration for making students do janitorial work, especially when the unemployment rate was over 10%. Around that time, I had established a Marx-Engels study circle and was adamant about workers’ rights, particularly if violating them forced me to sweep the stairs with an uncomfortably short-handled broom.

Unexpectedly, Edward Herriman’s death had some unexpected repercussions on me as I contemplated the new year from my snug bed. The main one is a new vision of myself as an adolescent.

Though I often think back to those days, they are  a little hazy. I had just come to the USA a couple of years before, after several years speaking just Hebrew, before that go to a number of schools in Pakistan and Australia. I have always assumed that I was probably a hopelessly awkward dork lurking on the edges of the crowd. The fact that I had plum roles in four or five school plays and was usually chosen to play a naive, idealistic youth suggests something quite different about how I was viewed by the students and teachers. I am now starting to see that I was actually a part of a circle of artists, actors, and writers, a political idealist and a bit of a firebrand.

My point in starting off the new year with this story is not just to stroll down memory lane. To me, it’s about the importance of art-making, risk-taking, and preserving our cultural past. My little example shows us how art can crystallize who we are and how important it is to preserve that for the future, not just so we can create memoir, but so we can have a clearer sense of the inks between us, of the unreliability of memory, and that we never know when one insight will connect with another to create and reveal something new.

It is so important to allow our creative expression to go where it will, not to control it and lock it into the compartments and definitions we think suit it today. What I thought about art-making in general or particular at fifteen and what is think about decades later is one thing or another, but the art itself, as the Romans pointed out, is long while life is increasingly short.