Friday, December 12, 2014

"Another year over, a new one's just begun" - John Lennon

"I don't even know where to begin.", one painter writes. "I was so intrigued by what you do [with #iThinkOutsideMyBox] that I needed to know more!! Art has always been a wonderful way to express yourself and now you are engaging the public to express themselves without even knowing it!!! Amazing!!!!!!!!!!" 

And so closes our second full year with the project that even I have a hard time explaining. I'm always amazed that the letters and comments I receive from participants do so much better a job of explaining what we do than I. And so I've learned to collect those observations and impressions, like a third party researcher, to teach myself what the iThinkOutsideMyBox project does best - and that's beginning to help me structure a narrative for where things go from here on out.

One of our key tasks, completed this fall, was our application for the Artplace America grants, a national grants program designed to 'invest in creative placemaking projects that are committed to strengthening the social, physical, and economic fabric of their communities'. Which I am learning, we do very well.

In applying for the Artplace grants, a program that will distribute $10 million divided amongst 40 projects in 2015, I was asked to place our activity alongside the artistic community that currently exists in Chelsea and more specifically, the High Line, and describe what makes us unique and valuable to the community in a way that other public art programs do not - and the answer is simple.

Highlights from  2013 - 2014: From remixed classics [The Scream*] to modern, street, outsider, landscapes  character studies, surrealism to abstract expressionism, nary a day goes by when I'm not absolutely humbled by what people create.

   *Boudhas [Morocco] 09.02.14                    Cecile 07.29.14                                         Anthony 12.02.14
   Jestianna 05.20.13                                     Alden 08.30 14                                          Illiana 09.16.14

We are the only community engagement program that involves the public creatively through the making of art - by encouraging anyone and everyone to express themselves in any way they like. And while the High Line and galleries in Chelsea occasionally present interactive exhibitions, 99% of their work is directed towards a viewing audience, not a creating one, not an interactively involving one. But we are.

That is why we exist. It is the only reason we exist: to further self expression in a world that increasingly suppresses it - by engaging the public in public art. But another thing I learned from our grant application process is that, for grants of this size [$50,000 and above], the grantor wants to see that you have already built a support base. And that's where the public, comes in again. With your help we need to show a steady public support stream through print orders and our other outside the park activities like museums, non-profits and schools to prove we're a viable operation that truly does serve a public need.

Expressions & Affirmations: He wasn't really filled with rage but the humor inspired a painting:) Rarely having the opportunity to do whatever they want, people mostly opt for fun once they get over the idea that we offer no direction.

   Jon 11.10.14                                               Jocelyn [England] 10. 27.14                      Alexa 10.19.14
   Saffron [#England] 10.19.14                       Susie 10.25.14                                           Katie 10.19.14

Each donation of $100 is also an order for two (2) prints of your choosing and a small step forward to building a future for this project in New York City. Our goal this holiday season is 10 donations of $100 each. Beating that goal will see us through to 2015 when iThinkOutsideMyBox begins its first museum artist in residence program.

Museum quality prints
All giclée prints are 3"X3" and lasered on acid-free, water colour paper, mounted on shadow-raised, corrugated cardboard, affixed to an 8.5"X11"acid-free, water colour backing sheet - ready to DIY frame in a standard 8"X10" frame. Prints are numbered as each is a handcrafted original and signed and dated. 

To order, just select from those shown on this post, or pick any from the galleries in the lefthand sidebar of this site. Then send me an email with the print IDs and pay through Fractured Atlas (tax deductable) or PayPal (standard). Please add $10 for shipping and handling in the US - $20 overseas. Orders will be processed and shipped the week of December 15th to make sure everyone has their prints by Christmas (with time for framing).

Impressionism to Expressionism: "I don't paint what I see, I paint how I feel it makes me see." - Lysle

    Saze "Brooklyn Bridge" 10.08.14               Yuliana 11. 07.14                                      Tanya 08.01.14
    Romi 09.30.12                                          Lysle 10.16.14                                           Jan [Australia] 09.06.13

In keeping with our promise to never sell the original artwork, prints are a way to keep the ideas in circulation as well as provide an income stream for the project. From the beginning I knew the project would never work as a business. "What do I do? Charge $5 to make your own souvenir? Or try to get rights releases from 4 year olds?" No, neither, because treating it like a business takes away from the immediate lure of the project. 

Surrealism Explained: The first painting below was made by a woman in her late twenties named Olivia who described herself as a painter by occupation. She spent nearly 90 minutes on the work. The painting in the same row to the right was done at the same time by an eight year-old girl who simply watched Olivia and reframed the techniques she saw - taking the same time but without any instruction or conversation. Feelings are communication too.

    Olivia [Israel] 07.25.14                             Denise 05.27.14                                          Lila (Qumathur) 07.25.14
    Anon 06.21.14                                          Tao 08.28.13                                              Stephanie 03.28.13

When people walk up and learn that all the paintings are made by visitors, and then see that they can make one as well, that's an invitation, an invitation to be part of something. Not a trick with a hidden price tag. Activities like this need to be priceless, because that builds communities - communities where all are equal.

Hearts & Flowers: Of the items painted most frequently, hearts and flowers follow closely after 'eyes'. One might say these are not particularly imaginative subjects, but one look into each category (on left) proves exactly the opposite.

   Jordan 07.11.13                                           Joyce 08.20.14                                       Dani 10.10.12
   Annie 07.15.14                                          Morganne & Zoya  07.21.14                    Abby 07.13.14

Feel free to browse the categories on the left and choose any image to print. Click to stop the slideshow and see individual images. To order, just note the image ID below each one and send me an email with images and shipping info before transferring payment.

I'll be adding still images here in the next days to make it easier to see our best.

New York: AS many our painters are visitors to New York it's entirely understandable that they paint the town red, or any of a million other colours if they like.

  Enolia 09.12.14                                           Cindy (Germany) 07.19.14                       Jan (Australia) 09.06.13
   Javiera (Chile) 12.23.12                              Stephanie 08.01.14                                    Vanessa 09.27.14

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Work Outside the #iThinkOutsideMyBox™ Project

Annual Report cover pen and ink drawing

One of the most frequently asked questions of visitors to #iThinkOutsideMyBoxregards whether all the small paintings have been done by me, and the answer of course is 'no', but I do tell people that the signage is mine and that brings into question the fonts, styles, and execution of such. The drawing above is an original font in mid rendering but much tighter than any of the work on cardboard seen on the iTOMB exhibit. And the reasons for that come in translating hand painted work to hand lettered typography for printing, something that is done primarily by computer these days.

I began as a self taught hand letterer in my teens and eventually found my way into the professional sign painting business by the time I was in college, working for established sign companies and learning from the masters, painters who learned how to 'letter' with brushes as opposed to 'caligraph' with pens and quills. Eventually I graduated in graphic design, but have always had a love of fine typography over the many other 'crafts' of the design world.

Annual Report cover pencil drawing

A sample layout
made with Adobe
Illustrator from my
pencil drawing
Of course today, 99.9% of this work is done in Photoshop and Illustrator, but not always necessarily well if the person doing the work has never learned it by hand in the first place. 

As I was once told, as an apprentice sign painter, "The letterform was originated by the human hand - but then the machine took over, Gutenberg and all that. Now that you are taking mechanical forms of what were once products of the hand, you must put the hand 'back' into the form - for there's no point in doing it by hand if you are just imitating something made by a machine."

And to this day, that continues to be my philosophy in font design. Above was inspired by my more free sign work - quickly sketched out in thumbnail form, then tightened in pencil and pen in a drafting form, and finally tweaked (not twerked) in illustrator. Yet it maintains the personality of the hand in that you couldn't make the design inset from a convention al font - or if you did, it would be a relatively painful process. Sometimes, at least in art, less tech is better.

The work here was commissioned by a graphic designer for his client, a non-profit working in healthcare and I was asked specifically to provide typographical solutions for the project. Should you be in need of hand lettering in any form, from simple sign design on cardboard, to painted permanently on buildings or items, to typography and font design, please feel free to contact me. It's one of the many things I do that's well outside the #iThinkOutsideMyBox project.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"If You Build It, They Will Come"

In the film, Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner builds a baseball field in the middle of an Iowa cornfield because a voice tells him, "If you build it, they will come", and so arrive Shoeless Joe Jackson and the banned 1919 Chicago Black Sox, eager to play baseball. 

In real life, circa fall 2011,  I had just returned from sixteen years overseas to find America deep in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the great depression, when Occupy Wall Street began and I returned to painting in public again. There began iThinkOutsideMyBox, a public studio in a public park where anyone could paint – that moved to the High Line in the fall of 2012.

Two years and twenty thousand paintings later the concept has grown from an activist vehicle for one to an interactive vehicle for all that has become the most attended public engagement activity in the park – an organic growth that I could not possibly have foreseen at the outset but have had the good sense to nurture into a blossoming non-profit social concern that spans genders, ages, skill sets and over 80 countries and counting.

Charles Eames, House of Cards
But what about the structure, the physical representation of the work? Compared by many to Charles Eames' House of Cards, a set of custom playing cards with slits for joining together, I didn't pattern the structure on the Eames concept specifically, but must have had the idea buried deep in my memory, having seen it as a child and studied Eames' design concepts for years.

The architecture for me is a simple form-follows-function distillation of the dimensions of the park's concrete decking, divided by the dimensions in which I am able to buy the corrugated plastic. After that bit of fairly simple mathematics, the components are multiples of a basic 4" cube in which our 3"X3" paintings reside, arranged in a pyramidal composition that probably owes more to Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water than any particular Eames building.

iThinkOutsideMyBox℠ at night
The time-lapse image above was photographed by Alan Pollock-Morris of Northfield Editions and appears in the most recent issue of Into-Gardens. My thanks to Alan for a fun image.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water
Beginning January, 2015, iThinkOutsideMyBox™ will extend its public engagement activity to the museum space as I begin an Artist in Residence program at a museum in the city I'll name later, once we've locked down all the details. In this next incarnation, I've been asked to work with museum visitors on a daily basis, over a period of time, to create an interactive exhibit that will become part of the permanent collection on site - and the only thing I can tell you is that it will not look like the display above:)

As our exhibit on the High Line was designed specifically to integrate with the space around it, whatever we do in this new museum space will be a synthesis of the art participants create, married to the space in which it resides - creating yet another experience for others to view and interact with. 

"If you build it, they will come." Again.

Monday, October 27, 2014

engaging the public in public art℠

#iThinkOutsideMyBox™ engaging the public in public art

I woke up this morning to a wonderful note from a visitor to the project in my email that said, 

"I sent this note to the friends of the High Line. It was great to see your project – 'In iThinkOutsideMyBox, David is adding a whole new experience to the High Line by creating a space for self expression.'"

And it reinforced a lot of what I have been telling myself this week in writing grant proposals for #iThinkOutsideMyBox. That for all the public art projects that are funded, curated and executed in the city's public spaces – including those of the High Line park itself, #iTOMB is the only one that is consistently interactive, consistently engaging the public, and pretty much, consistently championing the First Amendment. And that makes us very unique.

Choose your prints
This year I'm hoping that we can secure a number of grants that will allow us to expand the project, primarily on the Internet, but until then (grants tend to fund  up to one year after application) we are still totally reliant on your support for growth and sustenance.

To make donations more attractive, for every $100 committed, you can choose from our library, two limited edition prints that will be signed, museum mounted and ready for framing in standard 8"X10"frames. With the holidays coming up, these prints represent a real value in fine art and are an absolute bargain if you've shopped art lately:)  To choose your prints, simply view any of the slideshows on this page, copy the title and date of your selection, and then email me to finalize details.

I thank all you you for your kind words and encouragement. There are exciting new developments on the horizon including a possible museum partnership and a a very nice story on the project for an English gardening magazine, of all things. So we'll just keep calm, and carry on:)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

#iThinkOutsideMyBox Gallery Premier

#iTOMB Interactive @ #ArmatureArtSpace hosted by #BuskNY

The first gallery opening for #iThinkOutsideMyBox™ turned out to be the perfect venue for us as an interactive experience on Friday 3 October at #ArmatureArtSpace in Bushwick/Brooklyn. Hosted by #BuskNY, SHOWTIME! Underground Art, proved to be interactive all around with performances by #WaffleNYC Dance Crew, musicians Debris Bouquet, paper artist Ming Liang, and violins and spray paint and all the bustling of a subway experience, in an underground gallery nonetheless.

Our presentation began with live painting in the garden and finished with painter's works being featured as part of the show in the gallery inside – growing the exhibit as the night wore on. As #iThinkOutsideMyBox™ is usually hosted on the High Line, an abandoned elevated railway converted to a park, it seemed only right that we would rejoin our railway roots in this, decidedly, literally, underground show:)

#iTOMB Interactive @ #ArmatureArtSpace hosted by #BuskNY as the wall fills...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SHOWTIME! Underground Art Gallery Opening and Show

BuskNY is an arts advocacy organization formed to promote public art in public spaces

#iThinkOutsideMyBoxis proud to participate with BuskNY in the gallery opening of SHOWTIME! Underground Arts at Armature Art Space in Bushwick/Brooklyn (316 Weirfield St., 11237 - Metro: Halsey St. on the L line) on Friday, 3 October from 7pm to 11 for an exhibit opening, interactive art experience, performance, music, dancing, refreshments and garden party.

We'll be bringing the entire #iTOMB gallery and studio and inviting all to paint – then, all painted work will become part of the exhibit too:) Click on any of the links above for more info, directions and featured artists and performers. I look forward to seeing you all in #iTOMB's first gallery show:)