Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Delving Below

I find all kinds of interesting forgotten things when I go delving around in old boxes in the basement. I was searching for some of my Tree Free Greeting cards today so that I could send one to my mother-in-law for mother's day. I knew they were hiding somewhere in the basement. They were of course in the last box I thought to check. But during the hunt I came across some other interesting things:

* My home-made Wiz-War game set. An addictingly entertaining game. Too bad it was never reprinted. The next unsuspecting visitor to my home will be forced to play this.

* Photos of my brother and I at the Takashi Murakami installation that was a pleasant surprise at Rockefeller Square in NY when we were there years ago.

* My old Rapidograph technical pens. I had a real love-hate relationship with these things. On the one hand, they were my treasure, $50.00 bought from my hard saved stash of Chinese New Year lucky money as a teenager. But they were more trouble than they were worth, always getting clogged. I prefer nice disposable gel pens these days. Picking them up, I got flashing visions of laboring over a sinkful of hot water trying to unclog stubborn nibs.

* An unsent letter from 2001. I suppose it got lost in a shuffle and I forgot to ever mail it.... I was in Japan, having just quit (sort of) my software job. As I read this again in the dingy basement it struck me how confused I was back then. It's easy to forget, now that I've found my niche. I'm often asked by artists who are starting out how I went about it. Well, this isn't that whole story (maybe I'll get into it another time), but it is a glimpse into some of it. The intended recipient never got to read it. Someone should.

* * *

October 14, 2001
Dear ##### --

Greetings, from Japan.

So... I am here now. It is very odd how quickly it went from being something in the distant future, to Now. No longer speculation and the safe distance of "a time yet to come." The weeks sped past, and then I was giving notice to the landlady. And then to work. And then after a flurry of stress and packing and unpacking and packing once again (San Francisco ->Los Altos -> Tokyo), suddenly theee months have whirled past and that date that was "three months from now" has become "two weeks ago".

I finished a book today -
The Forgetting Room by Nick Bantock. It's a combination of art and story. Anyway, the thing I thought might be of interest to you, and worth sharing, was an excerpt in there of one of Garcia Lorca's poems:

The duende is a power.
The duende is of the earth...the dark sounds, a struggle, not a concept.

The duende is not in the throat, it surges up from the soles of the feet.

It is of blood, of ancient culture, of creative action.
It calls one out.


I have settled in here finally I think, after two weeks. It still feels a bit like an extended vacation, but I have not been lazy!

You first, months ago, the Grand Plan* was to go here and work for Plumtree Software part time and do art as well with the rest of my time.
But in July I went to a fantasy convention**. I was there as an artist for a small company I did some illustrations for - they paid for the trip in order to have me there at their table to talk to fans/customers. Well it gave me a chance to go and be among other artists who had made that world their life. For four days, I mingled with them, asked questions, was welcomed by them, and when i got home I suddenly wondered what was I doing as a programmer? I was so demotivated at work, and at night I was painting in a frenzy.

need faded a bit after a month, though I kept wondering if I should quit Plumtree. I could do it. Monetarily at that point, art brought in enough. But...I would miss the people. But...there's the apartment. But but but....

At the end of August I went to another convention in Atlanta***. I'm afraid after that, my "but's" were evident to me as only excuses. And so...after considering it for a month, I told Plumtree I would not be working at all in Japan.

Thus...I am here, on indefinite leave of absence from Plumtree (though I doubt I will return to it) working full time as a freelance artist.

I went to a flamenco class
last Tuesday. Afterwards I came home and flopped to the couch, exhausted. And then it hit me -- that I could lie there and luxuriate and enjoy relaxation without the nagging feeling that I should be painting with those sparse two hours I had in the evening. Because I can paint all day now and do all the other things I want and need to do at night. I can read, or write this letter to you. It's such a wonderful feeling of freedom!


* * *

* The "Grand Plan" upon leaving Berkeley was to spend 2 years maximum at a software job while working my way into art. In the end the lure of the dot-com era and stock options kept me for 3.5 years.

** It was my first Gencon. Until then, I'd only attended small local shows, and the prospect of flying somewhere for a convention was daunting!!!

My first Dragoncon. I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to Robin Wood. She scolded me plenty for spending far too much time away from my table when I could have been making many more sales. But I was pretty wide-eyed and couldn't get enough, wandering around.

Flamenco is surprising
ly popular there. Had no trouble finding a class to take, and it was a nice way to meet new friends, seeing as I spoke maybe five words of Japanese.


  1. So happy to finally see a photograph of you! Thank you for the beautiful artwork.

  2. Oh there's photos of me floating around in a lot of places on the web, you just have to hunt a bit. :)

  3. What a wonderful letter giving delightful insight into your life. It's interesting to see the impact that a decision has on one's life. That particular decision took you down the path you are on today... Thank goodnes!!
    I'm soooo glad you went to that fantasy convention. :) I'm sure we'd still be enjoying your art... just maybe not as much of it.

  4. What a discovery, to find that letter...and how wonderful of you to share it with the rest of us!
    Its amazing how many of us linger in that place you were in...but...but...what if....but you made it happen and that is inspiring to the rest of us! Thank you :)

  5. Yeah, when you're standing at that cusp, that's the hardest. Once you set your mind to the goal though, it becomes easier!

  6. I'm glad you decided to do art full time, I'm always amazed at your skill and just how incredibly prolific you are. And I can totally relate to the rapidograph bit... I was so excited to get a set as a present, and loved using them. But the hours I spent at the sink trying to unclog them was just too much!

  7. "my "but's" were evident to me as only excuses." Oi I know far too many people, including myself, who are at that point of realization and have either surpassed it or, more commonly, are buried by this string of 'buts'.

    I've felt this way so many times and am so happy that I've decided to ignore the inner voice that nags of security to really take the plunge into freelancing and promotion. I couldn't be more happy (and broke), but I am confident all this preparation and work will pay off in the end.

    As always, you're an inspiration for me. I'm so glad to hear that it IS possible to make it in freelancing if one works hard enough and takes the opportunities they are usually not brave enough to take.

    Thanks for sharing, as always:)

  8. This was very moving for me. Gosh, I stumbled upon your art work back in 2004. I'm doing the same clerical job now as I did then while doing portraits off and on. Well, mostly off. All the while I watched you and other artists I admire continue to grow in your skills. I'm wishing now that I had been more determined and less fearful of taking the full artistic plunge. Let's see if I can get the next 5 years right. Thanks for sharing.