Monday, December 12, 2016

There are few exercises better suited to "rolling with the puches" than heading off on a one week vacation (to Stockholm in winter, let's say...) and then having the whole family, one after the other, get sick... thereby forcing you to stay confined more or less continuously in a tiny little apartment that you'd previously envisioned as nothing more than a jumping-off point for some outdoor winter adventures. Well, if that were to happen by some chance, it would open up some opportunities for movie watching, creative thought, and blogging!

Here's a nice shot of my two favorite people feeding some ducks down near the Castle on Gamla Stan, on the one day we all got to walk around together before getting sick. Taken at about 2:30 pm... ha ha! It was dark as night 30 minutes later!

I would say that the lifestyle that Christina and I have carved out for ourselves is perhaps a bit different than the lifestyle of many other folks (such as those who have more traditional jobs, for instance), insofar as it is really up to us to motivate ourselves to find new professional opportunities or execute new creative work. We are certainly not unique in this regard, however; I believe it's a characteristic of the lives of many people, ranging from freelance professionals to most individuals who make their lives in the world of art. And what it means is that there are times when the work flows out of you fast, and there are other times when it barely comes out. Sometimes the factors that condition these relative differences in productivity are external (the world seems to ask for the work, good job situations, positive feedback loops, surrounded by inspiring visuals), sometimes they are internal (brimming with ideas, agitating to work, bereft of ideas, writer's [sculptor's!] block), and sometimes they are intangible or unknowable (welcome, muse!; uh, where did you go?)

I've had an interesting few years, with regard to this topic. For a while there, the world did want the work. Every year reliably produced one or sometimes two opportunities to build a new piece. And the many interims were filled with chances to show the older pieces to new audiences (and luckily this is still happening; Thank you Hand of Man for showing us the world!) But a funny thing can happen when the world keeps asking for your work, which is that sometimes the desire to say YES to the world, a desire which is of course fueled by ego and money, can cause you to provide an answer which doesn't really feel like your own work anymore. You get so tuned in to the subtle, or not-so-subtle, parameters of that request that the world is making that you answer it in that way. Well anyway, that's what happened with me.

So... a break. Funny enough, this break has had multiple simultaneous causes. The world did stop asking for the work (well, the new work anyway) at roughly the same time the muse left me (or perhaps that world just put its foot on her chest for a while). And so I've taken some time off, and we've moved to Barcelona, and I'm starting to hear the muse breathing faintly again.

In the absence of pressure, my creative drives are starting to show again, and starting to coalesce around a few interrelated themes. There's a study out there which shows that when a creative person talks about an upcoming project, they are less likely to actually complete it because the act of talking about it fulfills some of the same psychological needs that actually completing it would have. And so I'm not prepared to discuss here what those interrelated themes are (perhaps I'm superstitious after all, or perhaps I just know myself). But for the first time in a long time, I'm actually adding new items to that list I keep on my phone of new ideas for sculptures, and for the first time ever some of those ideas are actually not for sculptures at all, but for other forms of art.

And, in a new situation such as Barcelona, the onus is really on me to make it happen. I have no network, no clients, not even a studio. And that is hard. But I also have fewer distractions, fewer excuses. For the first time in years I feel I have the space to try to answer Austin Kleon's imperative: "Make the work you want to see in the world".

As for the studio space, we shall see. Last week Christina and I visited a few possibly promising places to get a smallish studio, unfortunately none of which come with any shared tools. And next week we will visit a place called FabLab, where they definitely have tools, but I don't know yet if they have space. I hope to solve this question within the next 4 weeks or so, possibly as a hybrid solution between FabLab and one of the other spaces, and get to work. Will update.

So I'll end with a few pictures of work I have managed to do in BCN, between all the other entry and acclimation tasks, and without a studio.

Is it cheating to include a drawing from 24 years ago? Not technically, as it was made in Barcelona!
When I was 22 years old I spent about two months living in BCN with our old family friend Carla Ros (before jumping over to East Africa for three months, much of which was spent on a Honda XL250), and I made this self-portrait back then, in 1992. Luckily she still has it!

Not too long after arriving in Barcelona we spent an afternoon at the aquarium, where I was reunited with one of my first loves, sharks. A quick trip to the Chinese store across the street for card-stock and glue and tape, and voila... wall art.
I hope to do a bit more of this type of paper art. 

And, a stab at a clay head. Faces are tough. At least I think so. I aim to get better at them.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Motorcycles in Barcelona

OK, here comes the much-awaited "Motorcycles in BCN" post!
If you REALLY REALLY don't care about motorcycles you could probably skip this one, but hey, you might be unexpectedly entertained!

Well, the first thing that needs to be said is that Barcelona really is a motorcycle town, as long as you consider that scooters are also motorcycles. And, as we shall see shortly, the line between "motorcycle" and "scooter" is a lot blurrier here than in the US.

Here is a pretty typical moto parking area, this one at Plaça Cataluña. I would say that at least 8 out of 10 motorized 2-wheeled vehicles here are scooters. Proper motorcycles are in the small minority. Of that remaining 20%, which are the proper motorcycles, I would say 3/4 are "street bikes", with the remaining 1/4, or 5% of the total, being dual sports of some kind, including super-moto. And I will also point out that probably one out of every 300 bikes here is a BMW K75, the same bike Christina rides in Taos. Those old K75s did well here.

But the range of "scooters" is impressive.

Here we see a 600cc BMW scooter.

And here are the police scooters. I think they are also 600cc. Suzuki makes a 650cc scooter called the Burgman. 400cc scooters are also common. But the vast majority are 50cc and 125cc. And speaking of 125cc...

125cc bikes are super common, and can be had in pretty much any style - rice rockets, super moto, naked, street, whatever. Here is a KTM125 Duke. 

The Suzuki VanVan is a neat little bike that I first saw in Israel. Fat tires, tiny tank, looks fun.

And a couple of customs. This type of modified bike is very rare here.

And a handful of super-motos, which are basically "dual-sport" bikes, or "enduros", with smaller wheels and street tires, thereby achieving a lowered stance. From the top, a Yamaha 125, a Rieju 250, and a KTM 640. Supermoto bikes are very much what I have my eye on these days, and I would be thrilled to have a bike like that KTM to zip around BCN on. These are, after all, very similar to the KTM full-fledged dual-sports I've been riding in Taos the last few years.

Last week I did finally have to scratch the 2-wheeler itch a little bit, and so I rented a 125cc Peugeot for a few days. Lots of fun, but also lots of traffic and waiting at red lights. The highlight was certainly a little trip I took up a mountain road in the Collserola, the mountain range that forms the northwest edge of Barcelona. The views were great, and it was fun to ride a curvy road once again.

And lastly, here's a neat little electric scooter for rent down by the port. Looks fun. Actually, it looks like it was fun to design. It's mostly just CNC milled plastic panels bolted to a basic welded frame, with small wheels and pretty nice bolt-on suspension components.

At some point soon I will have enough of my paperwork sorted out here in Barcelona to allow me to legally buy a bike of some sort. That ride up in the Collserola was enough proof, to me, that I would benefit greatly from having one. The only struggle then will be: Supermoto? Dual-sport? Or moped? Who will win, the dopamine-circuit or the pocket book?