The Best Way To Do A Q&A

I gave a couple of talks last week, one for the community at large and one for the teaching symposium held here a few days ago.

Perhaps my favorite part of giving talks/lectures is the Q&A time afterward. I get into it. Here’s an example:

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That’s me in 2008, answering a question at the Glen Arbor Art Association. There I am, totally sun-burned, wine in hand, and in my element.

But I think the best way to answer questions is after my daughters run up to the front of the room and want to be with their dad while he talks:

MCTalk-DadGirls1smallThanks to Shalonda for capturing this image.

Wow. That’s a lot of life lived between the first image and the second.

For the record, Miranda asked a question herself while there in my arms. After looking at the image of one of my paintings up on the screen at the time, she asked, “Dad, don’t you think we should draw more back into that painting?”

No, babe, I think it’s done :)

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Life, The Universe, and Everything

It’s Towel Day.

Get your Douglas Adams on. Read his books if you haven’t. I’ll be listening to him read his audiobooks in the studio.

I always do something for Towel Day. Here’s a post from 2010, and one from 2012.

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For this year, here are a few of my favorite Douglas Adams quotes (presented in order of their appearance in the Hitchhiker’s “trilogy”):

“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”

― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

“The technology involved in making something properly invisible is so mind-bogglingly complex that 999,999,999 times out of a billion it’s simpler just to take the thing away and do without it…. The ‘Somebody Else’s Problem Field’ is much simpler and more effective, and what’s more can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery. This is because it relies on people’s natural disposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.”

― Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

“God’s Final Message to His Creation:
‘We apologize for the inconvenience.’”

― Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

“Protect me from knowing what I don’t need to know. Protect me from even knowing that there are things to know that I don’t know. Protect me from knowing that I decided not to know about the things that I decided not to know about. Amen.
Lord, Lord, Lord… Protect me from the consequences of the above prayer.”

― Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

       “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

I’m thankful for your life, Mr Adams.

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Me, back in 2007 (in Evanston, IL), celebrating Towel Day.

This Week in 2005

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This week in 2005 Alison and I arrived in Florence, Italy. Above is the path we took almost every day during our stay – from our apartment on Via Ricorboli (right hand of the picture) to the Church of Santa Felicita. (On the left – click the image above to explore the area).

Why did we make the nearly 2 kilometer trek so many times, even if our final destination was in some other part of the city?

Because Pontormo’s epic Deposition resides in that church. Here I am gazing up at the piece:

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I must have spent 6 or 8 hours in front of that painting. I have thought about it, written about it, and taught about it many times over the last 8 years. This painting is ingrained in my life.

I can’t wait to walk once again along the Arno, sidestep the Ponte Vecchio, slip into the cool silence of Santa Felicita, and see it again.

My Favorite Sketchbook Page, and a Surprise 14 Years in the Making

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Above is a double page spread from one of my most cherished sketchbooks. My main professor from graduate school (Barry Gealt) bought it for me during our trip together to Italy in the summer of 2005. The sketchbook is from Zecchi’s, the famous art store in Florence. I really cherish this handmade book. Every 6 months to a year I do a sketch of my wife, Alison, in the sketchbook. These two pages are amazing – the left page is from August 13, 2009, the right from August 7, 2010. They were drawn almost exactly a year apart, and yet what a difference! In the left hand image, Alison was pregnant… but we didn’t even know it yet. And there on the right side is little Miranda Grace Ballou, sleeping as we watch The West Wing. Such a juxtaposition. So much life.

And what a life I experienced today. After a full slate of teaching, I came home to fine china, wine, and risotto – certainly an event. And, of course, today is momentous. It was on this day in 1999 that Alison and I first shared our feelings, intentions, and hopes with each other. We began a dating relationship that would culminate in so much joy and growth for us. When I look into the eyes of our daughters, when I catch a glimpse of my wife across the room, when we come together to make firm determinations about what we plan to do with God’s grace… it’s in those times that I know how important this day was all those years ago. So we celebrate our wedding anniversary, but also find this day special. Here’s the spread Alison laid for us tonight – a simple, rich meal of Aline’s Risotto, fresh grapes, white wine, some flowers, and places set for four.

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I am blessed – above and beyond, more than I could ask for or think of; it’s pure grace.

Thankful tonight.

The Shoes

I picked up this pair of Nike’s at an outlet store back in May, 2001. It’s now May 2013. These sneakers have been through a lot, and I’ve glued, duck-taped, and stapled them quite a few times. Right now they’re just about the most comfortable footwear I own. So here’s a tribute to them. Click to enlarge and see the grungy details. Read on after the pictures to find out why I’d hold onto these things for so long…

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I tend to keep clothes and shoes for a very long time – as I sit here writing this everything I’m wearing is more than 5 years old, and my T-shirt (Williamsburg Oil Paint!) is 11 years old. When some studies suggest that the average American buys 68 items of clothing and 7 pairs of shoes PER YEAR (cited by Elizabeth Cline here), I guess my apparel choices are atypical. I would love to say that this is because I’m so environmentally-minded and progressive, but really I just like to be comfortable. When I find a shirt or a pair of shoes that works, I stick with it. At this point these garments are witnesses to my life. When I wear them I remember the past and that helps me shape the present and the future.