I want to give thanks for those things that are so vital to my art practice— those tools, entities, and ideas that assist me in realizing my myriad creative efforts.* Family, friends, and pets should not feel slighted about being absent from this tally as you are all well loved and much appreciated. This is a list for everyone and everything else. With the exception of the top three, they are presented in no particular order.

1. X-acto knife— The single most useful item of any creative artist (even after the advent of the personal computer). Sleek, dangerous, high-maintenance, and impossible to live without.

2. Metal ruler— The x-acto knife’s less glamorous sidekick who keeps it all straight.

3. Glue stick— Now that everything is cut out what are you going to use to put it all down? It dries quick but is fairly forgivable. It also dries clear. But beware that purple kind and make sure there’s plenty of scrap paper about to use as a blotter in order to avoid messy glue migration.

4. The studio— A designated space away from home that gives you room to work and a place to focus your creative energy. I had no idea how important this was until I was lucky enough to obtain one. 2007 has allowed me to move out of the dining room corner and into artistic legitimacy. Bonus feature: the cat can’t sleep on my charcoal drawings any longer.

5. Kneadable eraser— Beloved by everyone who encounters it, the kneadable eraser can be shaped for precision erasing and used as a tension taming sculpture medium when there’s nothing else around.

6. Clickable eraser— Handles like a pencil but with far more erasing power.

7. Gesso— The single most important paint medium. Don’t ask me to justify that statement because believe me, I can. My photographic transfers would have to rely on fairly toxic means without gesso. Gesso is around when I need a quick white paint. You can sand it smooth or build it up around a form to take on impressive dimension. Did I mention it was a primer? Now that I’m thinking about it, gesso should really be in the number two or three position on this list. I’d cut-and-paste it up there except for the implicit irony that would engender.

8. Large format photocopy machine— Meant for architects and contractors to reproduce plans this machine turns tiny pinhole photographs into massive black and white vistas.

9. Rives BFK— King of papers. Run it through the letterpress or use it in lieu of canvas. BFK can be purchased in a roll that will last even the most ambitious painter a few months.

10. India ink— Black. Permanent. Enough said.

11. Pushpins— How else can you put something on the wall and gain some perspective? The clear-headed push pin is an ubiquitous feature in art school classrooms around the world. Pushpins are used daily and, I’ve recently discovered, available in a very fashionable matte black that elevates the pin to an acceptable means of display on the gallery wall.

12. Nikon FE SLR camera— Not delicate and fussy like those new-fangled digital cameras, the manual FE can be dropped, exposed to horrible weather, and neglected for years without forgetting its primary function: to take pictures when I want it to. The built in light meter keeps me close to the mark but the fully manual operation gives me the freedom to take whatever out-of-focus blurry image I want. Perfect. Why did the photographic world ever feel the need to evolve?

13. Lensbaby— While on the topic of photography lets here it for Portland innovation! The Lensbaby makes me think I’m Keith Carter every time I release the shutter. Of course, upon receiving the prints, it’s clear that Mr. Carter and I are at different stages of our photographic development (no pun intended), but the Lensbaby always helps me live the dream for a little while.

14. 2” Paintbrush— Skip the over-priced art store and head straight for your hardware supplier. One high-quality house painting brush has helped me complete 80% of the painting I’ve done in the past decade. Treat it well and you’ll save a bundle on bristles.

15. Powdered graphite— Very useful for getting a quick overall tone. It prevents me from having to shave the tips of pencils and a little goes a very long way.

16. Benefactors/Patrons— I’ve been luck enough to have a few over the years. Without their support art-making probably would have proven to difficult and too demoralizing. The enthusiasm and generosity of others prevents you from believing too firmly in all those ridiculous Romantic ideas about mad, suffering, artists.

17. Adobe Creative Suite— The sky is the limit. Design anything you can imagine and see it take 2D form. While it seems contrary to the handwork of my art practice, I’ve found Adobe’s programs to be life-savers in helping manipulate images and ideas over the years.

18. Cordless drill— Install hardware, hang pictures, and build whatever inane maquette you like. Free of the restrictions that a plug brings you can quickly move as quickly between tasks as you do ideas.

19. Chop saw— How can you make picture frames without a chop saw?

20. Sticky tack—Earthquake insurance that also keeps your frames level. . . and it’s reusable. A great product that should make tape feel ashamed.

* I’m not being paid to endorse any of the items on this list. Trademarked names are used because, in many cases, that is how all the artists I know continue to refer to them. Those companies should feel happy to know that their branding efforts are paying off. Any person or company listed above who’d like to pay me for this endorsement is welcome to contact me.



I just completed a beginning graphic design course. I don’t offer that information as an excuse for why I haven’t posted so much as an explanation for what I’m about to write.

I’ve had to ask friends and family if they’d let me photograph their necks. This request has garnered a mixed response— from the wary “Ok.” to the flat-out “No.” The neck, after all, is a sensitive space, tucked away between chin and chest. It is a vulnerable spot that has earned at least two telling cliches over the years:

1. ...sticking your neck out...
2. ...going for the jugular...

I’m sure there are more.

Perhaps due to its vulnerability it is also a place of desire. Tender and recessed, it wraps around our power of speech, swaddling our vocal cords through a life-time of inspired and mundane words.

Considering that it allows food and water to travel to the stomach, messages to travel between brain and body, air to travel to the lungs, and words to travel into the world the neck can be viewed as a conduit. The sexiest conduit in existence, but a conduit none the less.

But I digress. . . these are the reasons why I chose to photograph necks but they do not explain the end product.

Our final project in the design class was to redesign the CD packaging for a favorite album. I’ve long since moved beyond attempting to clarify what my favorite album might be so I chose an album that I was exceedingly familiar with but hadn’t given much attention to over the past ten years— Tricky’s Maxinquaye.

Upon listening to it again I was struck by how raw it still seemed: Tricky’s vocals coercing Martina’s delivery with both of them indiscriminately singing atop one another. The album has a sexual bravado juxtaposed with a crippling vulnerability that makes it hard to describe to others. I had expected that I wouldn’t have to do much explaining to my classmates as they’d all be familiar with the album, but I was proven wrong. Apparently, Tricky was only an inspiration to me in the late nineties.

I proposed to create packaging that over-layed photographs of necks printed on vellum with lyrics from the songs. That way it would appear as if the words were stuck in the throat. Furthermore, there would be odd images of textures and locations placed alongside these combinations of necks and words. It was my hope that this might produce some approximation of both the alluring and disquieting qualities of the music. For the most part it succeeded. The vellum had a skin-like quality compared to the heavier paper stock used for the photos and lyrics. Some of the photos chosen were cropped in such a way that the compositions themselves were confrontational and confounding. When people picked up the packaging to examine it they rarely had smiles on their face which, while not always an indicator of success, somehow seemed appropriate.

There are still many details I’d like to tweak before I would feel completely satisfied, but that requires asking more people to offer up their neck, and those conversations have proven to be just disquieting enough to prevent me from exploring this project any further.