I’m a fairly good marketer because of three things:
I seek the truth like a good journalist.
I have a doctorate in Fine Arts (emphasis essentially in storytelling).
and from an ethical perspective I want to ensure that the story I tell is true (not just technically, but perceptually).
I think it matters that the impression you create in a story actually rings true in reality, and not just in some small, narrow, legal-definitional sense. I strive for that in all the work I do because the story isn’t worth telling if it’s a lie or someone will feel had post-transaction. I’m in it for the truth and the long-term.
But the thing I hate most is marketing myself. It’s not that I’m incapable, but any reduction of a human person is inherently untrue. All human beings contain multitudes―so too do I.
However, the below tweet has reminded me of the importance of at least sharing things I’ve done more publicly.
It’s not that I’ve tried to hide things, but spending the past nearly decade at startup/incubators in the healthcare space and more recently a non-profit have been situations where the work I’ve done has been huge in scope, fast by necessity, and in most cases private by default.
That’s a far cry from the work I did as an artist/educator which was able to be vibrantly public (see #2510s project, for example, and the accompanying exercises). I’ve since done much other work, but I’ve neglected to organize it in a single location and in some fashion as to make it digestible for others. You’d be forgiven for not knowing about my visual art/graphic design showings at some coffee shops (because I mostly didn’t mention them), and my 3×5 project (which is probably somewhere online), and my photo manipulation project of soft squares (which I just found yesterday while cleaning up some photo files).
You probably didn’t know about a brief series I did on the negative space between bicycle frames.
Or my flat, cartoonish, object series (some below).
None of this includes the work I’ve done writing code, parsing data, researching, or any other number of things. It’s missing the work I’ve put in learning blender and creating new and interesting things there, often for the Fedora Linux project as a designer.
You can’t know if I don’t tell you.
So I’m going to try to take some time to arrange these things in a singular location in categories that make sense. And, honestly, not just for you―but for me. I honestly forget most things I work on, because I work on so many things.
The trick, as always, with art is to know when something is finished.
A number of years ago I was trying to learn python. Random numbers have always amused me (as I was recently reminded by a twitter nod to the weird usage of spreadsheets).
A user named @context_ing tweeted: “I love finding the ways in which people use spreadsheets. Personally, I use them for mostly budgeting, workout tracking and travel planning. Here’s a few in the wild I’ve found. Would love to see more! Please share if you’ve come across any or have any yourself.”
I felt compelled to reply with my own little story. “Reminds me of a decade old excel project. A playwriting book said something like “I guess it would be a play if you cut up words from a dictionary and pulled them out one-by-one, arranging them into lines of 10 words under character names, but it wouldn’t be a very good one.” So I took the entire public domain text of Oscar Wilde’s classic and had Excel recreate the play on every reopen of the file by randomly selecting words and character names I think using a vlookup and random. The result was interesting (and likely bad theatre).”
The text in question (blasted tweet limits!) was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. The resulting play was garbage, but that random interger generation was magical. When combined with other functions it really could do wonderful things for art.
Fast forward some (10?) years and I had a different problem to deal with: I needed to seamlessly transition all staff and clients from one grouping of technology services at one company to a different group of technology services at a new and different non-profit that was going to just continue doing basically the same work for basically the same people.
To remove almost all complexity from this story: I needed passwords; lots of random, unique, and strong passwords.
I once again turned to my friend the random number generator, but this time in python rather than excel. I coded up a script that would allow me to specify the number of words I wanted, unique separator I desired, and―importantly―how many of these unique passwords I wanted to be generated in one go.
I had the program roll digital dice and lookup words from the EFF’s Diceware password list and then spit them out. People would get their passwords and privately think I was just very adept at coming up with wacky sounding passwords, but I did not deserve this misconception as random integers were to blame for everything.
Eventually I thought it would be a good idea to create a sort of Public Service Announcement on the web about the odd truth that a list of words obtained by rolling dice really can be unique.
The end result is a Twitter bot and a Mastodon bot that very frequently tweet out unique passwords they’ve generated (though you probably shouldn’t use them). More people follow on Mastodon than Twitter, and Twitter relatively frequently blocks my bot’s tweets makes me unnecessarily prove that there’s a human behind the bot to get things going again (anyone at Twitter can explain this?).
At any rate, here’s some examples embedded below. Note that I also added the Harry Potter wordlist as well. There are others for your enjoyment on EFF’s site.
Lastly, there are infinitely better versions of this if you’re looking to generate a password. I’d recommend the much more easily installed passphraseme by Micah Lee.
The WPA has long been a source of inspiration, awe, and and envy for me. With an extensive background in the arts and theater, the very concept of the government directly investing in the arts in a profound way that leaves a deep impact not only at the time but nearly a century later is something akin to the creation of fire―and the arts was only a part of that wonderful project.
The recent centrality of the Green New Deal―with it’s framing firmly and clearly recalling the New Deal, from which the WPA emerged―has allowed that previous envy to turn to a weird nostalgic hope that my own lifetime might have such a force of art unleashed on the nation.
And if you haven’t read the Green New Deal take the below, easily accessible links, as me encouraging you to read it. I highly recommend the attractively formatted 14-page PDF version, but here are both: [html] [pdf]
So entwined is this national history of art (even the stylistic components) that as the Green New Deal has continued to grasp the imagination of climate activists it was even promoted by commissioned artwork recalling that distant past.
I’ve long been musing and meandering internally about somehow contributing artistically to this Green New Deal reality that I would like to exist. Sanders’ movement was and is a part of that reality and seemed the most obvious conduit through which to achieve it.
It still is.
Noam Chomsky’s musing on the Sanders campaign―notably distinct from the movement―was instructive for me:
It’s common to say now that the Sanders campaign failed. I think that’s a mistake. I think it was an extraordinary success, completely shifted the arena of debate and discussion. Issues that were unthinkable a couple years ago are now right in the middle of attention.
The worst crime he committed, in the eyes of the establishment, is not the policy he’s proposing; it’s the fact that he was able to inspire popular movements, which had already been developing — Occupy, Black Lives Matter, many others — and turn them into an activist movement, which doesn’t just show up every couple years to push a leader and then go home, but applies constant pressure, constant activism and so on. That could affect a Biden administration.
So in addition to the nice quote and concept of “constant pressure, constant activism,” this comment helped me to contemplate what Sanders’ Not me. Us. movement might look like without the Not me part―just Us, graphically.
Yes, it is extremely basic, and no, I can’t say I thought about everything fully here from a design and/or marketing perspective as I was just making a poster with a nice quote, but the simplicity of US being on the bottom center of an otherwise empty sign for many reasons felt right.
Underdog: Us isn’t on the top… yet.
True Center: Us isn’t even really on the left―Us is center.
Young/Small: Us isn’t big enough… yet.
Acronym: Us is also the U.S.
Sans Sanders: Us doesn’t have a Me that it’s not anymore―it’s just Us.
On the last bullet point: I did briefly contemplate having aNot me on top of the Us, but it’s not needed and it’s not the point. There’s a beautiful simplicity and solidarity in the lone US on a sign, especially when it’s held by characters drawn between 1936 and 1940 as part of the WPA, which was part of the original New Deal, originally to promote books (and presumably the scary socialist libraries that house them). You can see artist Arlington Gregg’s other WPA poster work at the Library of Congress.
Let me know what you think of this thing. And, as the Sanders yard sign was recently stolen from my font yard I’m thinking of replacing it with an “US” yard sign. It might look nice for a minute before it disappears, but it’s meaning would live on.
Note: This was written with the purpose of being less detectable as a structured poem if the line breaks are removed. I’ve placed that version immediately above the formatted sonnet.
(Secret) Sonnet #011
In quarantine I have been writing thoughts down in my org-mode notebook to preserve the things I’m thinking as the world’s distraught with stay-at-home’s and flattening the curve. I realize I have been trying to hide the simple joys of language from myself with self-imposed busyness I tried ignoring simple keys to mental health.
So once again I’m writing like I did before I found myself sheltering in place and now I’m so embarrassed that I hid the writing I should otherwise showcase. At any rate, I thought I’d write and share this secret sonnet of which you’re now aware.
In quarantine I have been writing thoughts down in my org-mode notebook to preserve the things I’m thinking as the world’s distraught with stay-at-home’s and flattening the curve.
I realize I have been trying to hide the simple joys of language from myself with self-imposed busyness I tried ignoring simple keys to mental health.
So once again I’m writing like I did before I found myself sheltering in place and now I’m so embarrassed that I hid the writing I should otherwise showcase At any rate, I thought I’d write and share This secret sonnet of which you’re now aware.
By Kyle R. Conway on 2020-03-22 Sunday in GNU Emacs
When stuck in time between a tunnel’s light and each escape obscured by mortal dread from whence shall solace torch a flame so bright alleviating anxiousness in head?
Must nothing happen as all sit and watch such silent and invisible true foes encroach so quietly and cut each notch by stealing life breath underneath each nose
Uncertainty―uncertain though it seems― may be a sort of blessing so disguised to see beyond collective, fevered dreams and poems composed in fear soliloquized. By writing I will quell my anxious mind: immortalized anxiety enshrined!
This is the original playscript I wrote for The Art of Python that took place at PyCon U.S. in 2019. I additionally performed the piece at PyCon with the directorial help of Sumana Harihareswara and the stage management work and acting performance as the Figure by Mel Chua.
There were some changes to this script for the live performance. I created slides for the event and they were displayed behind me during the performance and are presented throughout the script below as images.
(slide reads: “THE VOID”)
(the stage is empty. We can make out one person, a figure, front and center.)
(staring, wide-eyed, excited, past the audience – beat * 3)
(slide reads: “This is Kyle –”)
(beat * 3)
(slide reads: “he’s learning the new skill of –”)
(Terrified / heavy breathing / beat * 1)
(slide reads: “computer programming –”)
(Covers his eyes with one hand, twists away from the audience as if what he is about to do might blind him, and clicks a single finger down on an imaginary ENTER key. Bright lights up full. Beat * 3 – he peaks through his fingers.)
It worked? It worked! Ha ha! Yes! Look at that. There it is: “Hello, World!” (Hand on hips – power pose) And you thought this programming thing would be hard.
(slide reads: “but Kyle was in for – “)
(Red lights, loud, blaring sirens)
(Kyle freezes in a macabre, horrific expression and body position)
(slide reads: “– a rude awakening.”)
Not a Programmer
(slide reads: “on not being a programmer”)
No, I’m not a programmer, I’m just better than you are at excel spreadsheets.
(click sound. beat.)
No, I’m not a programmer, I just figured out how to use this query-like syntax with your data in Google’s spreadsheets.
(click sound. beat.)
No, I’m not a programmer. It’s just a little bash script I wrote that helps me journal better from my phone, laptop, and desktop.
(click sound. beat.)
Ha! I wouldn’t say I’m a programmer, I just needed to batch download a really big list of files from a service we were using and python seemed easiest after a google search.
I’m sorry, what?
No, yeah―it did work―ran for about 80 hours straight before finishing. Lots of files.
(click sound. beat.)
Okay―fine―I’m doing some programming: but I’m not really a programmer…
Picking a Language
(slide reads: “on picking a programming language”)
Hi. My name is Kyle and I’ve decided to become a programmer. Several blog posts, books, and twitter surveys have lead me to believe that it is of the utmost importance that I:
(the next sequence is rapid-fire)
(between each beat are quick head, body, and vocal tone adjustments)
(very short beat. matter-of-fact:)
Learn Visual Basic, because my high school teacher gave me a book one time and I can probably find that in my basement if I look hard enough.
(very short beat. sarcastic:)
Learn Bash, because it’s already installed on the self-inflicted torture device known as my Linux Desktop.
(very short beat. in jest:)
Learn emacs lisp, because you’ve already invested the time into memorizing emacs keybindings and you’ve heard it could use a good text editor.
(very short beat. whatever:)
Learn Go because people talk about it on twitter a lot and it was created by Google.
(very short beat. haughty:)
Learn COBOL because it’ll always need maintaining, and it pays the best in my geographic location.
(very short beat. overheard/whisper:)
Learn Python because it’s the “second best language at everything.”
(very short beat. honest:)
(very short beat. snooty:)
Learn R, because it’s the best language at data analysis and graphical representation.
(very short beat. authoritative:)
Learn HTML and CSS because you can make things on the internet―oh, wait―nevermind―there’s disagreement as to whether or not these are programming languages?
(beat. drop all pretense. speak directly to audience―with pure, sincere, exasperation:)
Am I really learning programming if I just know something like “hello, world!” in 10 programming languages!?
… and HTML and CSS?
(slide reads: “submitting a question to stack overflow”)
(Kyle appears frustrated, staring straight ahead and typing in furious bursts.)
Python. Sort. Array. Count. Items. … Search.
No. No. No way! What? No.
(loud sigh. lowered head. stretch neck. he tries again:)
Python. Array. Group-by-count.
(beat. tilts head:)
Oh. No. No, no, no. Not that, kind of…
(beat. types again)
SQL group by with python?
Hey! That’s kind of it…
Oh! Rude! That’s not a helpful or kind response. Do I even want to submit the question here?―mean!―I already don’t know what to ask or how to ask it and apparently that’s a reason to say that you shouldn’t even ask the question.
Maybe I’ll just figure it out myself…>
(a transition. Kyle is holding a rubber duck.)
I’ve heard talking to you helps…
(slide reads: “Kyle works.”)
(duck is gone. cracking knuckles and stretching:)
Done―well, an example anyway, explaining exactly what I want to do and suffers the same problem as my actual work. But I still don’t know how to solve it.
Submit to stack overflow? Submit?
(resolve. clicks enter confidently:)
An answer!―that does basically what I need―and they think I asked a good question―and I got fake internet points!
Okay then. Maybe I can do this.
(slide reads: “on going to a meetup”)
(hands in pockets. kicking dirt. retelling:)
So, I was sick of trying to learn things on my own―by myself, in my basement―and I found a meetup online. It was at a chain soup and sandwich place on a Saturday.
I clicked “attending” and went.
(miming what’s described.)
I got my laptop charged up, threw it in my laptop bag along with a notebook, a pen, and my charger, and slung it over my shoulder and headed in.
I guess I didn’t know what I was expecting? When I walked in and scanned the room looking for more than like four college students with their laptops open over coffee. There they were―I think. Play it cool!
I headed to the counter and ordered a coffee―maybe I’d get thirsty―and walked up: “Is this the python group?”
(uncomfortable smile, holding breath and upright―more uncomfortable long beat…)
It was. That’s what it felt like―forever. They were nice. Young. Old. Macs, Linuxes, and Windows. Qwerty, Colemak, and Dvorak. Gnome and i3. Emacs and Vim and VSCode and Sublime. Working in finance, consulting, healthcare, insurance, startups, and going to college.
They were just people.
I didn’t learn much about programming that day―I did learn that there are real people in real life who care about some of the things I do.
I needed to reach out to more of them.
(break fourth wall. wink.)
Sending an email to a stranger in tech.
(slide reads: “on sending an email to a stranger in tech”)
(straight to audience. single light.)
(like an awkward introduction at a job interview. exasperated:)
Hi. I’m Kyle. I’m new here. I want to get better at this technology thing. Can you help me? You seem like you could help me.
’cause I need a lot of help.
(ding sound. beat. overly formal:)
Hello. My name is Kyle R. Conway. I have a PhD … in Fine Arts … and you do art … and so do I … but you also do tech things … tech things with art. I would like to do what you do. May I join you?
(extends hand for handshake. beat. wide eyes. beat. more intense.)
(ding sound. beat. casual:)
Hey, tech blogger. I really liked your post about unpackaged fonts with permissive licenses. I think that’s really cool.
(ding sound. beat. rapid-fire round. cheeky:)
(ding sound. beat. Irish:)
(ding sound. beat. concerned:)
I promise I’m not a creepy stranger.
(ding sound. beat. intense:)
I. Am. Your. Biggest. Fan.
(gong sound. rubbing eyes. honest:)
This is never going to work.
(quick fade. slide reads: “Kyle’s actual first email to a stranger in tech.”)
Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 11:36 PM> Máirín, Would the “Nina” font meet the criteria for inclusion? http://www.archive.org/details/NinaPaleyFonts Thanks, KYLE
(slide reads: “Thanks for writing back, Máirín”)
The Figure and the Void.
(A figure stands alone in the darkness.)
(The figure shouts with naive confidence into the void a single word:)
(The figure finishes the phrase―now a question:)
(figure stands awkwardly, concerned, awaitang a response with growing insecurity.)
If you’ve not messed about with Blender 2.8 yet you’re truly missing out. I’d previously taken some cracks at getting into this 3D software before and quickly found myself returning to the more familiar world of pen and ink or the 2D Inkscape for my artistic needs. But, just look at this procedural marble that I built that changes colors with ease―and also changes perspective (i.e. 3D).
It’s kind of incredible.
Below is a screenshot of the node setup I used for the marble. I’m not entirely sure that all of those connections are necessary, but the leftmost node is a texture, then I color it, and have the color connect to both the color of the Principled BSDF shader and to the roughness (which more or less affects how much it reflects the light; or how shiny it is).
I definitely do not understand what I’m doing well enough at this point to be said to have any idea at all of what’s going on, but I’m having a great deal of fun with it. More, certainly, to come.
I’m asking you to submit a single sentence that tells your own One True Thing about working in tech for a unique performance at this year’s PyCon conference. Please click here to submit (takes less than a minute!).
Or, if you’re up for something more involved, to submit a longer proposal for the larger event.
At last year’s PyCon I was one of several writers and performers at a Hatchery event called The Art of Python, which sought to encourage and showcase novel performance art that aimed to help technologists share their emotionally charged experiences of programming. I wrote and performed an original show titled Hello!!! … World? which outlined my own trials and tribulations in a series of vignettes on trying to get into programming without being around or knowing anyone personally who was a part of those communities. As a small taste, one vignette was titled on submitting a question to stack overflow.
This year I’m part of the team that’s organizing the event again. We are aiming to create a dramatic narrative around programming and programming culture that shapes so much of all of our daily lives (from our smart phone interactions to surfing the web to banking and even reading this post). We are interested in how fictional narrative, visual and performance art, and different presentation formats can lead to a new sort of self-consciousness and reflection on culture. All society is permeated by technology, whether or not someone is a programmer, and most people have had positive, neutral, and adverse interactions with technology (whether building, consuming, or indirectly being impacted). In short, technology is not a black or white issue, but instead a collection of frustratingly similar shades of gray.
Technologists face many ethical and moral decisions in computer science and software development. What was the situation? What was the ethical and/or moral discord? What decision was made? How did you come to that decision? What was the outcome for all stakeholders? How do you feel about it now? What might you do differently in the future? Why?
These questions take time to answer and are difficult to dramatize successfully to honor their truth.
An Old Technology
Storytelling is an old technology―a powerful medium―through which we gain empathetic understanding.
All culture is now technological culture to some extent. We believe it is important to integrate the stories of those making this technology to broaden their lexicon and ours. We must highlight their ethical struggles to bring greater transparency and self-consciousness to both technology industry professionals and the public at large. Hopefully this also inspires empathy for all people, and urgency for any obvious changes that result from our workshops and the resulting art.
From Audience to Creator
While our event this year will have unique and pre-rehearsed performances as we did last year, we will also have a workshop following the scheduled performances. During our workshop we will discuss collaboratively how a variety of issues have cropped up in the lives of the programmers participating, as well as the end-users who experienced the technologies. Everyone will have a chance to work with the other directors and playwrights in order to take these insights and begin to turn these stories into dramatic narratives highlighting the personal struggles of these developers that are building the technology that ends up on the front pages of our papers and the billions of tiny-screened pocket computers.
One True Thing
As a part of the planned performances we want to transition into our workshop with a series of real issues crowdsourced from the broader tech community. To that end, we’re asking you to share One True Thing with us so that we can share your truth at PyCon this year (and elsewhere) in a collaborative performance that we hope will inspire more art from technologists.
One True Thing is a performance comprised of single-sentence statements of truth crowd-sourced and eventually read out loud by members of a live audience as statements of someone else’s truth to be publicly shared and communally experienced.
Note: At the moment I’ve sourced these from technologists on Twitter. Obviously every group would provide their own unique takes, so these should serve only as an example.
Here are some example statements:
“Racism struggle does not belong to one race.” – @LambyTech
“Mentors are incredibly important for succeeding in tech” – @js_tut
“I always joke that someday I will quit the tech industry so I can code all day” – @sarah_edo
“Moral and political issues of tech aren’t moral and political issues because they are tech.” – @dingstweets
“A women in tech recently asked me if I had any advice & all I could think of was: have the patience to prove people wrong the rest of your career.” – @jessfraz
“When you ask a Deaf person if they can read lips, you are asking if you can put the burden of communication solely on them.” – @csano
“you tech people need to hang out with artists and creative folks more, seriously.” – @noopkat
“algorithms reflect the biases of the people who make them.” – @evacide
“So many of the concerns raised about tech today seem to conflate societal issues with the technology that makes those societal issues more visible.” – @mmasnick
Share your One True Thing
Please click here to submit your One True Thing (it takes less than a minute!).
One of the things I’ve been doing this past week is creating art, initially with Kyle& … nobody. I’d been working on some things for the Fedora project on and off, but nothing was really sticking until I started working with my kids.
My children are very good motivators with respect to artistic output because they’re constantly creating artworks―comic books, sculptures, sketches, oral stories, small performances , and elaborate board games. It’s inspiring to watch them create without burden.
They have helped me come to a realization about myself―I’m happier when I’m collaborating. It could be my background in theatre, my penchant for teaching, or my constant questioning of my own ideas (and appreciation of other voices to move forward). Collaboration is something I’ve always found valuable because it’s been a valuable part of of the art I’m most proud of.
So I’ve decided to call a new project into being. I’m calling it Kyle&. It will be a place (and, mentally, a namespace) where I will collaborate with different people to create something new. I’m hoping it’ll be interesting.
Perhaps these artworks will be accompanied by a brief interview with my collaborator? Maybe they will be available for patronage in one form or another? Perhaps there will be other interesting opportunities. I don’t exactly know―it’s an experiment.
this burning heart
The first of these experiments is with my 5 year old and is called This Burning Heart. She had seen me share things with the internet before and wanted to do so herself. I suggested we work together to create something and this is what we ended up with. She’s proud to have shared something with the internet and I’m happy to have found a new outlet to excite the kids.
We’ve already done some things with my other kids (they were jealous). Will post about those later. Hope you enjoy This Burning Heart.
I’ve been working on a project. I believe it’s a good one.
I have arranged some asterisks―
―and also borrowed and modified a line―
―then I borrowed some cruft (dusted off from something pretty good, if a little old)―
―at the end of it all I have some words.
So really, its just a long-time project that began over two years ago that I think still has a place in the conversation about rights, dignity, and human values. I’m hoping to have this out by years’ end, but I’m also wanting to ensure that I’m not missing an opportunity to incorporate some other elements into the work from recent events.
I contributed to the most recent Fedora Linux release’s wallpaper. It’s interesting to have seen it pop up everywhere I normally read about Linux as a featured image touting the new releases arrival.
At any rate, this is a squeak from me. It’s been a while since I’ve posted here (I was off playing with static site generators and custom Emacs scripts), but I’m quite happy to be back. I may migrate the writing I did elsewhere to this blog in time.
At the moment I’m working to add some portfolio content to this site. My 3×5 artwork series for a local coffee shop finally gave way to heavily manipulated photography series I’m currently in the middle of completing. This return to pixels from vectors is a long time coming. We’ll see how long it lasts.
This is a quick (and ridiculous!) version of a project I’m working on. The final version will be more subdued, but I couldn’t resist quickly creating an animated gif once the thought entered my mind. Thoughts?
I have wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo for close to a decade―basically ever since I heard about its existence―but I was overwhelmed with my graduate studies and other things (excuses, excuses). Well, I finished graduate school and rid myself of all excuses. Tonight I successfully completed my first NaNoWriMo. Don’t ask to see the fruits of this labor just yet. Like most first drafts, it is in a pretty unfortunate state at the moment. That said, I’m really excited to have the raw material out of my head and on “paper” as much of what I plan to work on in the coming year will derive from this first draft in some way.
More to come.
Also, note my wonderful procrastination in all of its glory in the chart below.
I’ve been thinking about process lately. Okay, I’ve honestly been thinking about process for years. I’ve figured out pieces of my own process over the years through trial and error, reading about other processes, and dumb luck. What I’m most interested in now is how to increase the likelihood of using my own process to the extent that it is identified at the present moment.
It seems that the best way to improve the use of my own best―at the moment―process will be removing the barriers that hinder continuing or discourage even starting. I’ve identified the primary barrier as the mess of a work area I’ve used through the birth of two children and a PhD[1. if you’re interested you can read my dissertation here]. It’s a tick above freezing in the winter and a constant mess. Home sweet home. The image above is a real shot of my desk without any pre-photo cleaning (promise). What is missing is the disarray around and beneath and before the desk. I grow anxious just walking into the space.
What is surprising is how much and how little work I’ve put into the arrangement seen above. The 2×4’s serve the dual-purpose of raising the monitor to eye-level and providing a handy space for the keyboard to reside when desk- space is at a premium. Unfortunately I rarely use that latter, pre-planned feature. The keyboard is central to my workflow even when using the Wacom tablet to create or edit pixels and vectors. The hard drive to the right of the under-used notebooks is meant for backups but mostly holds older copies of things I already have newer live copies of (or, worse still, holds unnecessary copies of copies).
It turns out that I’m a little afraid to even go through the work of cleaning off the hard drive for fear of getting lost in what has become a truly ubiquitous time-capsule of everything (instead of just what was deemed to be most important). Fear, in fact, motivates much of my trepidation approaching the cleaning of the desk and the surrounding areas. But fear of what?
Time is what I most fear losing. The reframe is simple: I lose time anyway. I wish just saying that you lose time anyway was more motivating. Alas, the human mind is not always rational. Such is life. I find it difficult to get certain things done for fear of losing the time spent getting them done. I might have done something more productive than the thing I’m confident would help most in the future. Again, brains are weird. My poor brain doesn’t want to lose time (that it will “lose” anyway).
I know this is imprudent. That’s the whole reason I’m writing about it. I’m spending unnecessary time on something less productive to fully explore how productive just doing things can be when you just start. And this is a key factor I’ve discovered over the years about myself―
I’m more productive when I’m less efficient.
This sounds either unbelievably stupid or oddly profound. I wish it was wrong. I wish that I could endlessly be driven by efficiency improvements iterated over a lifetime. No matter―the slow way is the productive and efficient way for me. And slow involves some uncomfortable (for me) friends―mainly paper.
I desperately want to like all digital technologies, but I like what I like despite all efforts so far. Paper is the main friend that I’m embarrassed to profit from greatly. Paper―despite what I and many others think―is a technology. It’s hard to think of it as such since it’s not battery-powered. This lack of battery is a feature, not a bug. Recognizing the technology aspect of paper is an important reframe for me as it places paper on the same level as other more interesting and distracting technologies. And this is the core struggle because I’ve known forever that paper makes me more productive (while seemingly less efficient). I hate taking the non-digital step in an ultimately digital process. The problem is that if I don’t take the non-digital paper step I don’t get anything done.
Here’s a drawing I did on an index card a while ago.
Listen, I wish I was a better artist but I take that drawing and scan it.
Then I vectorize the image I’ve scanned.
And then I color it and place it back on an index-card-shaped white rectangle floating above the void.
That’s a process that I’m using now. I’m trying to own it as the process I use and not focus on the myriad ways I could get lost trying to improve the speed of the process. It’s like that xkcd comic about time―is it worth it to automate?
Working on some new index card art. These are the raw images below―ink placed by fountain pen―that have yet to be digitally processed. I’ve been very interested in parallel lines recently. More to come certainly.
At some point I’ll work to explain the process behind these pieces, but the easy thing to say is that the process allows me to create something interesting from something bland:
At any rate: new sketches are looking interesting to me. Should be ready to share soon. Stay tuned.
Toy ball shapes here are interesting. Think they might turn into something more compelling with a proper set of design applications to manipulate and rebuild. Top is just posterized via phone and is already enjoyable. More to come.