In two separate conversations recently the same ideas cropped up. That a core value of art is that it is directly from the self. And art is good if it is innovative, and taps into the zeitgeist of the now. Maybe there moments when those two seemingly opposite aspects come together. They need to be hovering close together.

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#0853 Paradox
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Born Digital

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#0765 Born Digital
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Had a great conversation with my friend Brian about the relationship between info and objects. He summed up an idea that has been bubbling in my blog posts with these words “born digital”. That is a central realization in the Thousand Sketches project. Art is either born physical, and then described or photographed to be digital, or it is born digital and made physical, it can have many physical forms.

One more image, followed by lots more and more TALK!

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#0765 Born Digital
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Continue reading “Born Digital”

Is this a sketch?

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#0755 Is this a sketch?
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Thursdays conversation with Dan. I told him about my experience in Nevada with Shawn & Emily, Shawn looked at my sketches and said: “What is your question?” Dan responded with something I found right and affirming, “You have a question every day, you are questioning all the time.” Yes. So it was hard to answer Shawn. If he had asked “What is your question today?” no problem. Dan & I continued to chat away about decorative and digital, cyberspace, and matters psychological. One question of the day was “what is a sketch?”

Thanks Dan for suggesting this one! It got me started on a roll.

What I am reading, looking at…

Blogging on the Progressive Grounds in Bernal Heights. Lovely place.

Met with Eric Maisel here to talk over creativity coaching and such matters. I got some good tips for walks in New York. Art links:

Walter Benjamin
“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” – On Josh’s recommendation.

John Molyneux with a post on Tracey Emin. Following on from a discussion about the YBA.

Emily Prince And More from Emily. We stayed with Emily in Alta.

The Creativity Coaching Association. Eric Maisel pointed me in that direction.



Loved this artist at DeYoung


Josh’s recommendation.


Just looked like it explored well the life drawing I have been doing. And found an old edition hardcover one of this across the road in the Red Hill Bookshop.


Which I was recommended at the San Francisco drawing group, and browsed art Emily & Shawn’s.

Been sketching here too.

Interview with Eric Maisel

If you have read my recent posts you will know quite a bit about Eric Maisel, creativity coach and author, he is here now on Thousand Sketches on a tour to promote Ten Zen Seconds, one of his current books, yes he has three that came out this year.

The focus is on the tension between shadow & light, so if that is of interest, read on, and please join the conversation in the comments.


Walter: Hi Eric, thanks for visiting my blog on your world tour. How are your travels so far?

Excellent! It has been interesting to see how each host has personalized the process. And the tour has helped to sell out the first edition of the book in its first month, which is unusual … and great!

That is inspiring! A blog tour is a creative project, how did the idea originate?

I put out a monthly newsletter and I asked my readers if they knew of any out-of-the-box ways to publicize books. One reader, a small press publisher, told me about the successful virtual book tour that one of her authors had recently completed, the idea intrigued me, I asked for details, and decided that I wanted to do the same.

So the creative step is to connect with your readers. I hope you enjoy your virtual stop here with the Thousand Sketches project and being here (again) in Christchurch, New Zealand. As a psychotherapist also have a psychological blog but I think this is the right place for you to visit as you have such a focus on creativity, and the artist.

Yes, much of the writing on creativity isn’t very psychologically astute. It tends to be more like cheerleading or spirituality-by-a-different-name. I’ve been interested in looking at the real processes that affect creators, like depression, anxiety, addictions, and so on, along with what really helps to deepen the creative process.

What is Ten Zen Seconds all about?

It’s actually a very simple but powerful technique for reducing your stress, getting yourself centered, and reminding yourself about how you want to live your life. It can even serve as a complete cognitive, emotional, and existential self-help program built on the single idea of “dropping a useful thought into a deep breath”.

You use a deep breath, five seconds on the inhale and five seconds on the exhale, as a container for important thoughts that aim you in the right direction in life—I describe twelve of these thoughts in the book—and you begin to employ this breathing-and-thinking technique that I call incanting as the primary way to keep yourself on track.

Where did this idea come from?

Continue reading “Interview with Eric Maisel”

Eric Maisel interviewed on …in my spare time.

I have now read the interview with Eric Maisel on Jan’s …in my spare time another down-under blog, from Coff’s Harbour in NSW, Australia.

I was impressed by how many books Eric has put our & has on the go. Inspiring.

Another question for Eric emerges, same theme as I’m my last post… the eastern ideas of enlightenment, and the psychological ideas on positivity seem to go against the notion of the unconscious, Jung’s notion of embracing the shadow in particular. Eric, what do you make of that?

And another question: I am curious about how you learnt this stuff Eric. You almost seem to say, here are the answers I learned the hard way so you don’t have to. Do you think there is struggle can be bypassed?


Let me say how I enjoyed looking Jan’s blog. Creativity, books, GTD, coffee… we share a few interests. Jan is doing a series of paintings for each incantation in the Ten Zen Seconds book. Here is the first one, (I am) (completely stopping) Jan can I pinch that idea? One sketch per incantation, I’ll do it too! Look at this painting:

Continue reading “Eric Maisel interviewed on …in my spare time.”

Exploring Ten Zen Seconds

I read this from Eric Maisel in the interview on Catherine’s Blog (read that interview):

First, the creating ought to come first each day – —thatÂ’s a big secret and a big deal. When we get to our novel at five a.m. and write for an hour, then we have made some meaning on that day and face the meaninglessness of some of our daily pursuits with much more equanimity. If, on the other hand, we spend a meaningless day and THEN try to get to our writing, we are usually both worn out mentally and drained existentially, since we have been with “too little” meaning all day long.

Well, immediately I have a few questions! Really I’d like to know the answer to this:

What if you are not a “morning person”? I get to work in the nick of time in the morning, work all day, and then create mostly at night. Not ideal! I love my work, and I love the night-shift too. Is there a better way?

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, Eric, when you say “creating ought to come first” I initially read it as creating ought to come first in your life. I don’t think you said that, but it is an interesting notion. I subscribe to it in a Joseph Campbell “follow your bliss” way. What do you think?

I will be reflecting on the TZS for the next day & emailing Eric my questions, stay tuned.

I also want to apply the method to some sketching…

If I breathe into a few of these I can see it will help!

1. (I am completely) (stopping)
2. (I expect) (nothing)
3. (I am) (doing my work)
4. (I trust) (my resources)
5. (I feel) (supported)
6. (I embrace) (this moment)
7. (I am free) (of the past)
8. (I make) (my meaning)
9. (I am open) (to joy)
10. (I am equal) (to this challenge)
11. (I am) (taking action)
12. (I return) (with strength)

One little doubt creeps in… I have done quite a few sketches while less than centred, plenty of them, from a dark place or from an agitated self. Bursting, Blacker to mention just two. These have been satisfying. My creative work centers me. I imagine you have explored this nook of the creativity phenomena Eric, and I’m interested in your comments.

Eric Maisel & Ten Zen Seconds on the Thousand Sketches blog

Dr Eric Maisel is an amazing man.

He has initiated (perhaps invented?) the world blog tour. He will be here on this blog Tuesday, 8 May (San Francisco time)

I found him while exploring sketches on the net (blogged that here). I found Danny Gregory, and liked his sketches a lot! That led me to a A Writer’s Paris, which I bought for the sketches as much as anything, then loved the essays. I delight in that book even now, a few month’s later. One theme of that book is that it is good to have a time & a place to write, to warm up to it, and to commit to it. To do it. And Paris is a place that will get the creative juices flowing.

I quickly saw Paris as a metaphor. Christchurch is Paris. It is a great little city the with cafes, galleries, a rivers, squares, churches, gardens, beaches and hills. A writer’s paradise in the South Pacific. And for me, right now, writing is sketching.

Then I learnt from his website that he is a creativity coach. Fascinating. I can see how people need that, I do. I sometimes want help with my sketching, but mostly it is simply connecting around the process of creativity I need. In fact too much input on sketching distracts me from what emerges.

Then I got hold of he other book: A Writer’s San Francisco I suppose San Francisco is a metaphor too, but not for me, I will be sketching there for 2 weeks in July and then for two weeks in New York.

As promised mid April, Eric will stop over here on Tuesday this week to chat & promote his latest book.

Ten Zen Seconds

The book

Right now I am catching up on his other blog stops, see the list here.

I am particularly interested in seeing that he was in Christchurch last week! He visited Catherine’s blog, Still Standing on Her Head, and I suggest you have a read – it is a very comprehensive interview and explains the process we will be talking about.

What a day! – Collage – George – Edward – Christchurch Art Gallery – Picasso – and a word from the project.

Planned a collage for #233



Had lunch with George, we talked a lot of art. He is now doing the 14 stations of the cross, abstract, acrylic. Makes sense as he is a Christian Atheist. (Which reminded me that Llew Summers has done sculptures for the Catholic Church here in Christchurch – must go and see them.)

Caught up with Edward and we jointly signed “Just as you are” and he has a great art plan on that theme, which I won’t reveal here – Edward, do it!!

Then I went to the Local Christchurch Art Gallery:


The Giacometti which I have seen, is still on but I did not go there – saw a few other things which inspired me, more on that later as I do some sketches & I’ll attribute the inspirations. AND did sketch #253, which I will post up in the next post. It is a bit of a hoot, as it is a rubbing, not a digital sketch! Not even really my work, but what are rules for?

Followed by a movie on Picasso,

Picasso: Magic, Sex and Death
Three short films in which John Richardson, Picasso’s friend and biographer, sets the record straight about one of the 20th century’s greatest artists. (156 minutes)

Interesting & inspiring, good to see so much of his work, the main thing I got from it was that he saw himself as a shaman, and his art as voodoo magic. Now there is a thought, talk about conceptual art. Its not so alien, as I figure this thing here as alchemy. First mooted in this post. In that post too is the question I live with “What does Thousand Sketches want?”

Today I heard something loud & clear from the project, a realisation… but I am keeping quiet for now. It was a private conversation.

Alex Katz, b 1927 –

I got some feedback today: I hope it is ok that I quote it here, it was that my work was reminiscent of:

Hockney’s sketches, Milton Avery landscapes and Alex Katz figures.

This is the second time someone has said that re Hockney – and I have been studying him avidly since, all I knew of him was the swimming pool stuff, now I have a fuller grasp. More on him some other time.

I’ve never heard of the other two, and so I have been surfin’. I’ll make this a Katz post.

An enjoyable interview from 1991 in the Journal of Contemporary Art: Interview

Another here.

Selected Images

I can see the similarity with some of my figures – the most recent being sketch #241 – what shall I call that style, “bucket fill”? Katz will inspire me to develop that – particularly for portraits. I like the way he can get the tones right in faces. even though there is little shading.

Some of his flat surfaces are in oils and many seem to be silkscreens & lithographs. As I reflect on these media I wonder what I will do when I can get out of this digital crucible?

Oil – printmaking of various kinds – acrylic – pastel – charcoal ?

And a pile of Alex Katz images follow:

Continue reading “Alex Katz, b 1927 –”

Conversations with Edward

I spent a pleasant day with Edward Coughlan and we did some art, walked, drank coffee & talked a lot.

Art: “Just as You are” – the words of Zuiken my digital version is in the next post, Edward’s lino cut print is also in the next post.

Here is the Podcast: The topics covered include ideas about art, and how thinking about it impacts on our work.

Download mp3

Or listen:

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What follows is a mindmap of the podcast & some of Edward’s pictures we talked about.

Continue reading “Conversations with Edward”

Following the flame – Jung’s Dream

Posting a sketch here by L Laughy from Nithwave for inspiration.

I had a walk & talk with Kate yesterday and we were musing over our projects – her horse treks & my sketches. She told me the story of Jung’s dream with the candle. I found it really useful to keep me focussed here & today has been a busy Thousand Sketches day! No sketches, but podcasts & posts and a few good emails have come & gone.

Then as luck would have it when googling for Jung’s dream I found the words accompanying a beautiful moleskine sketch, I’ll post the words and then the sketch.

“I had a dream which both frightened and encouraged me. It was night in some unknown place, and I was making slow and painful headway against a mighty wind. Dense fog was flying along everywhere. I had my hands cupped around a tiny light which threatened to go out at any moment. Everything depended on my keeping the little light alive. Suddenly I had the feeling that something was coming up behind me. I looked back, and saw a gigantic black figure following me. But at the same moment I was conscious in spite of my terror, that I must keep my little light going through night and wind, regardless of the dangers. When I awoke I realized at once that the figure was my own shadow on the swirling mists, brought into being by the little light I was carrying. I knew too that this little light was my consciousness, the only light I have. Though infinitely small and fragile in comparison with the powers of darkness, it is still a light, my only light.”

From: C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections.

Continue reading “Following the flame – Jung’s Dream”


I am thinking about the desire of the project & the desire of the line (to quote Matisse). Something in the marks that is essential, that has a life of its own. What is that? We want to get a glimpse of the real thing beyond the shadows in Plato’s cave. We are channels for a deeper truth if we can just get out of the way. It is something we can’t attain, but it keeps calling or pulling.

And there is something else.

The marks express unique personal identity. If I can get out of my own way I will come through. Unexpectedly I like my #184 Stuff on my Desk because it has me in it & I was hardly there, just doodling as an afterthought. It has my emerging signature – I don’t mean my name, but something that resonates with my inner fingerprint.

I had a conversation with Kate recently about signature, how as teenagers we “practice our signature”, a paradox totally suited to adolescence. Is that signature being invented, or discovered? The latter I think. Which then had me reflecting on that crucial teen-age time in my life, late 50s. I was drawing and painting a bit, though never with formal instruction, except in technical drawing. I really craved to belong to the art class but would not let myself feel that… and that was not all that was suppressed. I suppressed my signature.

Right now I am wanting to find that scrawl, which will shine, because it is gets closer & closer to …

And here is the point that is motivating this post…

… to the personal essence that is also there, in the same place beyond the shadows in the cave.
The subject & artist share one true nature.


Janey’s post.

An earlier post of mine: Thousand Sketches & Signatures

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Top ten images in the world?

There are some images that are totally famous for ever. At the top of the list? It has to be the the Mona Lisa. What’s Next? Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blowing? The Scream? Vincent’s Sunflowers? Andy Warhol’s Soup-can or perhaps his Micky Mouse. Ansel Adams? Amazing stuff. What belongs on that list? What are the top ten most famous iconic and best loved images?

Leave a comment!

Funnily enough I become fond of prints through exposure to them. I have some on the wall here at home that came from my family home & I love them. Perhaps those images became iconic in part because they are so famous, once the cycle starts can’t be stopped. There is a complex element of genius, innovation, drama, and timeliness that kicks off the cycle.

And I become more fond of the images I put up here over time, they become familiar if not better. But I’ll make another post about faves here.

Mona Lisa





Tablet PC & Art

JK On the Run, Tablet PC expert James Kenrick has posted positive and focussed words about Thousand Sketches. Thanks James. James has a great podcast that I have been listening to for a long time.

Tablet PC people have taken some interest in my work, and rightly so, without my tablet where would I be? I would not be doing 1000 sketches that is for sure.

The Thousand Sketches project is fully launched

Last Friday we had the launch of the project, the real life physical one with food & wine. Many people came along, and I am very pleased, thanks for your interest & enthusiasm!

It was quite amazing to see all those pictures up on the wall – and to think that only a couple of months ago there were none! If you have photos from the night – please send, I was too busy to take any! I have a bit of video from the ending, I’ll spliced that together:

I was pleased how easily people valued the project as a whole and the way I am cooking up something. A common remark is: “I wonder what number 800, or 1000 will look like?”. One person said: “It’s a performance.” well observed, I do find my self unexpectedly on a stage. “It is not only how you are doing it, but what you are doing.” Right, very Louis Kahn. “At the end of alchemy is a miracle.” “Trust the impulse, return to the impulse.”



“Surrender to the flame”

My friend Eileen’s response to the story of my project. Thanks Eileen!

Right now the flame is a glow, re-kindling after days of intense focus on my psychotherapy work with the NZAP council.

I have some air-port sketches. (I posted them already)

What does this flame want? Ideas flood in about the whole rather than the sketches. I am sure that online auctions & the market, are integral, not just a business add on. It began with the “sponsored links” on the sketch pages. There a desire, but also a wish to suppress. My way out of that tension – as I have already mentioned here – is Hermes. The very same impulse to crate a hermetic vessel, brings with it the notion of gold and trade, as Hermes is the God of trade… that is how it is in cyberspace.

Art is investment, it is trade, Hermes the trickster has a hand in it.

Make something out of nothing.

I think auctions are right! It is “what it wants to be” it may be me that is holding back, it hard for me to embrace. There is also a learning curve to auctions – and it is a bit much right now.

Khan’s platonism again of course. Here is a quote on the nature of the nature of things.

Line, autobiography, links to blogs.

Some good posts & discussion on “On Painting” about line. (made a comment there)

And more here on line in Falstaff’s blog.

Discussion here on autobiography & art, and made a post – I’ll paste below.


Loved your blog, this post & great discussion. I am opting for the value of the whole story, art + artist. Art lives in it’s context. What counts is not just the thing there in front of you but how it connects. It may be that it is a radically new use of a medium. Or that it it breaks conserved custom like the PreRaphaelites did. Maybe that the artist was ridiculed for their work is part of that story. The pain would be inherent in that work.

I am thinking of alchemy. There was a time when scientists related the life force in their flasks to their own life force, after all both came from God. Maybe objectivity was needed in a while in science, but it is a bit sad IMO to transfer that to art.

As a psychotherapist I guess I am used to seeing the personal story in art & art in the personal story.

Make it OK again to be autobiographical, to be personal. These things get frowned out with phrases like “indulgent”.

I think the kitten is more interesting now that we know it was saved, I’ll clap & cheer for the swimmer too!

Isn’t it fun being alive!


Met with George for lunch. He was enthusiastic and we buzzed together.
He and Beryl are painting, taking it up, something new. I’m looking forward to doing some painting together, what a great idea. (Mine will be digital of course – for now anyway.)

One thing George said that is with me: “Simplicity is an advanced course”.

That is my challenge – to keep it only as complex as it needs to be.

This ties in with the idea of distillation, getting to the essence. ( download & listen to hour long Alchemy mp3)

Central to psychotherapy too, seeing the main pattern in the many stories.

Means circling around and repeating, until there is, what Khan would call a “realisation“.

It was a fun lunch!

Get rid of this “thing”

I posted earlier about my relief that I had a new perspective on the website. I am reading Louis Kahn, and was struck by the similarity when he could not wait for the crane to leave hisbuilding site, and how later he came to see if as his friend,because it stimulated him to think of new forms. Interestingly hesees it as an extension of the arm, much like McLuhan. see quote.

Form is on my mind. I think of the blog as a new form… not that new, I think I posted that idea about 10 years ago. A new form like once the sonnet was a new form. it feels like cooking in this incubator is some sort of form emergence.

Duane Keiser on in his blog “On Painting” is conscious of the online world impacting on art – the blog is even has: “about painting and how the Internet is changing the business of art” in its title . There is something of a shift happening as he abandons galleries for eBay, much in the way My Space is impacting on the music industry.

It all adds up to that the medium is the message.

Don’t worry we’ll soon be dead

Saying yes to a whim presented by life is a good thing – but how was I to know it would kidnap me? All I want is peace – but no chance with the launch coming up and the pressure I have created here to work. Panic. Then Kate says “Don’t worry we’ll soon be dead” quoting back my idea that there is plenty of time for peace in the grave.

Today: Got the domain working! Now it is really messy. still has the blog, some links won’t work.


Realisation: The site is a sketch too. Creating a site is a project and not just a preparation for a project! I have been trying to do it so that it is ready now! I have all the time I need, the line around a year does not apply to the site! The “gallery” and the blog are adequate for now but I have many plans for both, but there is no rush. Phew!

Conversations: Are good. But only while my main one is with – and it speaks only to me. See this quote from Kahn On Collaboration. The important thing is to distinguish between the “architecture” and the “providing a service” – I am still doing the first & later I can call in the plumbers.


57 Sketches

And a lot of variety.

Some new themes emerging today. This is a fertile time my head is buzzing, with feelings, ideas about sketching, big questions. What is the psyche & what is at work here. What is modern, post-modern and how do I deal with all these feelings of passion, fear confusion & doubt. Love too – loving the conversations with Kate – challenging though they can be. Other questions too: what is a sketch? What is a line, what is a “canvas”. The variety in the sketches is also in me. The variety annoys me. I just made a thumbnail page and I see no focus there. And as this post shows, I can’t get focussed right now. Let me say more.

Click image to go to the Buzzing image on the Thousand Sketches site

#58 Buzzing

I said it – partially in the sketch – I just did it thinking of ketchup – or tomato sauce as we tend to call it down under. Felt frustrated in the digital media for the first time. I wanted to get into the mucking about with messy paint!

What is the main thing:

That this project has a life of its own, and that it is asking a lot of me. I feel burdened by it. I feel exposed.

Kate in the conversations today was optimistic. I am being called out to come to terms with all this and so be my true self more. Just as the project asks to have its true life. There is a symbyosis, I am more myself as the project finds its true self.

I hope so, but I don’t feel it. One thing is for sure, I feel gripped by this thing.

More from the conversation today: No focus on the outcome, if shit or gold are both gold, that seemed like a good stance I’d found. Then Kate said: that is just a way of coping with your fear.

Now I feel moody.


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Bid for Print on Trade Me

Conversation with Amy – restraint, genre, tag-clouds.

Amy is a friend and artist in San Francisco. On the phone today she told me she was working on the blog for Public Smog she is one of the collaborators on Invisible 5 What is Public Smog: “built in the economic realm of carbon offset trading”. At least it is not built on sand, or in cyberspace like this project.
Amy was complimentary about the project, appreciated, thanks. What was of value to me in our discussions were simple off-the-cuff comment like “you have a good sense of line” (Marion Harvey told me that in 1970, same words) it is good to hear because I become conscious of line. Is that good? I am all for it, consciousness is OK. She said I had a sense of “restraint”. Restraint. I am not sure what that means yet. Dan just said I was flowing. Flow & restraint, probably work ok together. Perhaps it is something about a sketch as opposed to a drawing, restraint.
I am restrained in posting up stuff! I am am learning what I want here, and so holding back what I don’t like, does not fit with my process, the project process. I want to use the 1,000 for so many ideas, shapes & colours, soon they will be all gone!


Amy asked if she could put in a request. Sure. NZ landscapes. She is missing NZ. But would that be the wrong genre? The genre question was raised in the conversations with Alex as well. This is such an amorphous lot of sketches that anything can go in the melting pot. Anything. I’d like to do landscapes. I love a lot of NZ landscape artists – if you call them that, McCahon, and Marilynn Webb, she particularly inspires me at the moment.

Another great comment – on the genre question: “Draw your way out of it!” Thanks Amy.

Where this project is unified is through the conversations. So I will do landscapes. I’ve done one already in response to the request. (it is no good!) I told Amy I want to get the light right. She told me about the “Bay Area School” capturing the colour of the light – something to research.

We spoke of tag clouds, with a 1000 sketches there is unifying that can be done post-facto, by the user – now there is a word for people viewing art!

public smog