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Ten Thousand Flowers and the Fate of Flower #71

Today, according to my calculations, is the one year anniversary of the day I embarked on this mad project.  The gremlins in the head did win enough battles, so that my current rate is a little less than a flower a day, but I hope to rectify that soon.

It was easy enough to keep track of things when I was mailing them out in the order I received requests, but when I starting going out into the world and handing them out personally it became a little harder to calculate what I’d given away and what I still had to give.  Fortunately, I number and date each flower as I draw it, so it’s not impossible, it just takes a little more work.

I don’t keep track of what happens to each flower by number, other than this one particular exception, because Flower #71 has a different story than any other flower I’ve drawn so far.

When I heard about Free Art Friday in Atlanta, my first thought was “That sounds like fun!  I want to play, too!”  The only problem was, markers and index cards aren’t exactly the most weatherproof of mediums.  My attempted solution was to paint up an empty Coke bottle, place the flower inside, cork it and wrap the cork in foil in the hopes of protecting the delicate medium from the elements.

A bottle, a note and a drawing of a flower

I hope that someone gets my . . .

There turned out to be two fundamental problems with this bit of presumed cleverness.  One was that it didn’t work.  The other was that it didn’t work.

It didn’t work because I placed it somewhere where nobody was really looking.  And it didn’t work because despite my best efforts to clean out the bottle and seal it properly, a bit of lingering moisture got in and when I finally extracted the flower from the bottle the results were not pretty.

a drawing of a flower with mold spots on it

This? Not pretty.

I held on to it for a few months, trying to figure out what to do with it.  I felt awful about the idea of giving it to someone in the state it was in and even withdrew it from circulation until I came to a decision.

This was my solution:

flower burning in improvised cauldron

...one day this will all be ashes...

I shot video for as long as I could manage before I needed two hands to light another match.  By the end of it, I was reduced to spiking it on a hatpin gripped with pliers and holding it over a candle like a toasted marshmallow.

It felt surprisingly liberating.  Now I can let my flowers go and know that whatever happens to them, it can’t be any worse than what I’ve already done to Flower #71.

Click the magic link to learn more about the Ten Thousand Flowers Project.

Ten Thousand Flowers and the New Domain

I’ve done a bit of tweakery to simplify the link to the Ten Thousand Flowers project and I decided to go ahead and register the domain 10KFlowers.com to point here.  (I’m still keeping Wonderbink.com, though, because who else would want it?)

It’s been not quite a year since I embarked on this crazy idea and it’s a bit disheartening to realize that my current flower count is rather less than it would have been if I’d drawn a flower a day from the start.  There were long stretches of time where the gremlins won out and nothing got drawn.  I’m still hoping to make up for that.

Still, I am further ahead than if I’d done nothing at all.  My little tracking system is still intact, and showing signs of some kind of progress.

219 and counting

...a progression of tiny dots...

And flowers 191 through 200 do look a touch better than flowers 1-10.

Flowers 191-200

(and they were all drawn on the same day, too)

Now that it’s warm enough to venture outside, there are more art festival type events where I can plant myself and try to find more people willing to take these flowers off my hands and give them proper homes.  I’m also glad to mail them to anybody who sends me a SASE.  And if you’re reading this and you’re one of the lovely people who already has one, thank you from the bottom of my fractured heart.

Click here to obtain one of these ten thousand flowers.

Dorkin’s Big Question

How do you break into comics? Post your comics on the web. Poof! You’re in comics. How to make any money in comics? That’s the big question.

–Evan Dorkin, in a Twitter post.

Evan Dorkin is a comic book artist who is probably best known as the creator of Milk and Cheese and, more recently, as the writer of Beasts of Burden.  If you know nothing about comic books beyond what arrives in the movie theaters, you more than likely haven’t heard of him.  Nevertheless, I think that Dorkin’s Big Question is one that every creator in just about any artistic medium in this Internet age needs to start asking and coming up with better answers for.

How do you break into publishing? Write some books and upload them to Amazon or iTunes. Poof! You’re in publishing. How to make any money in publishing? That’s the big question.

How do you become an artist?  Make some art and sell it online.  Poof!  You’re an artist.  How to make money as an artist?  There’s that big question again.

How do you break into film?  Shoot a movie and put it online.  Poof!  You’re in film.  How do you break into music?  Record some songs and put them online.  Poof!  You’re a musician.

How to make money at it?  That’s Dorkin’s Big Question.

I spent this past weekend down in Alabama for my third go-round at the Doo-Nanny.  I made twelve bucks selling bottles of water and soda and somebody tipped me a buck when I gave him one of my ten thousand flowers.  I didn’t sell a single piece, not even one of my wishing stars which I usually sell at least one of at these sorts of things.

The Monday after my return, I hung my art up on the walls, propped up what I couldn’t hang and decided to just leave them there.  And it felt so good to do it I should really quit things more often.  Not that I’m quitting the word art, exactly–I still have some ideas I’d like to try out and there’s one recent piece I’m quite proud of that I’ll be posting about Real Soon Now–but I’m giving up on any hope I ever had of taking this up as a day job.

And I’m finer than fine with that, and I’ll tell you why.  Because even if this art thing had taken off as a day job, it would only have been to sustain my writing habit.  So maybe I should just cut out the middleman and turn the writing habit into some kind of day job and then I’ll have this word art and flower-scribbling hobby to refresh myself when I need a break from doing that.

Now, how to make money writing?  Well, that’s Dorkin’s Big Question again, isn’t it?

Doo-Nanny 2012!

Yes, I will be at the Doo-Nanny.

Yes, I’m bringing art.  And flowers.

Yes, I’m looking forward to it.

No, I haven’t finished packing yet.

Excuse me while I get on that.

Ten Thousand Flowers and the Magic Clicky Button

It’s been roughly six months since I got it in my head that I would draw and give away ten thousand flowers and I think I’ve gotten a grand total of six envelopes mailed in my direction. When I infiltrated Flux 2011 and set myself up at a table, I was able to draw and give away nearly fifty flowers there. But now the flowers are starting to accumulate in my art supply bag and I haven’t been able to find a suitable venue to distribute them by hand again.

Knowing that the Internet thrives on laziness, I decided to make it just a step easier for someone to acquire a flower from me.  On the Ten Thousand Flowers page you will now find a PayPal donate button, where you can send me the money to reimburse me for postage and envelopes and provide me an address to mail a flower to.  For simplicity’s sake, round it up to $1.00 for a flower mailed inside the United States and $2.00 for a flower mailed internationally.  If you want to round it up even higher, be my guest–any excess funds can go towards more index cards, internet hosting fees and maybe a cup of tea to sip as I draw.

So if you’ve wanted one of these scribbly flowers but you’ve been procrastinating getting it because you pay all your bills online and haven’t used a stamped envelope for anything in ages, I’ve now cleared a path for you to acquire one.  Enjoy!

Click here to receive one of my ten thousand flowers.

Ten Thousand Flowers and the New Year’s Resolution

So for my 2012, I have decided instead of the usual resolutions about exercise and getting organized, I’m going to take on three self-imposed challenges.  The one we’ll discuss here pertains, as you might have guessed, to my Ten Thousand Flowers project.

I knew when I set myself the task of drawing ten thousand of these things, that I’d come up against the usual resistance and procrastination.  The incentive of having people ask me for them has been a useful nudge but the requests have dropped off and I’ve been terrible about letting the world know that I have flowers to give away.  So as a way to poke me into keeping the momentum going instead of waiting until I’ve run out before making new ones, I’ve placed this New Year’s resolution on my shoulders–each day I must do at least one flower.  I can do more, and probably will, but I’m setting myself a minimum of one flower a day.  To keep myself honest, I will also photograph the first flower of the day and put it up on Twitter with the hashtag #10KFlowers.

Flower #74

Ladies and Gentlemen, the first flower of 2012.

I can’t say with absolute certainty that I will hold to this resolution perfectly in the coming year.  But having been offered Neil Gaiman’s benediction to make mistakes this year, it’s worth a try.

Ten Thousand Flowers and the Self-Drawn Map

I find that when I give myself a ridiculous but quantifiable task such as, say, drafting a 50,000 word novel in thirty days, it helps to have some kind of visual aid that allows me to keep track of how far I’ve come and how far I have to go.  By breaking it down into small enough steps, I can also use it to prod the spot in my brain that takes pleasure in a sense of progress.

I came up with a tracking sheet for NaNoWriMo that allows me to cross off a box for every twenty-five words I add to my wordcount.  I batted around the idea of putting together a sheet that would allow me to mark each one of my ten thousand flowers, but I calculated that it would require a 100 by 100 grid, and I wasn’t sure how to put one together without driving myself mad.  I wanted it to be small enough that I could paste it on the back of the bit of cardboard I carry to bear down on when I take my art supplies with me and go to make flowers outside of my home.  One millimeter squares would do the job, but how on earth to draw them?

Answer: find a website that can calculate and draw a grid to just such a set of specifications.  Print out the resultant PDF.  Fill in the squares completed so far.  Victory!

ten thousand flowers

66 down, 9,934 to go . . .

Now each time I complete a flower, I add a single dot to the grid and over time I hope to fill the thing completely with color.

And, yes, you’re right.  I do have a lot of work left to be done.

Click this link if you would like one of my ten thousand flowers.

Ten Thousand Flowers and the Apology From the Postal Service

After making such a huge show of posting my letter to the Postmaster General regarding my misadventures in acquiring an International Reply Coupon, it seemed only fair that I make note of the response that landed in my mailbox yesterday.  I have scanned it (with some redactions) and present it below.


(The full-size scan should be viewable here.)

I’ll have to get a few more International Reply Coupons sent in my direction to test the veracity of this, so if you know anybody outside the USA (or happen to be somebody outside the USA) who would like a scribbled flower mailed to them for the price of an envelope and an IRC, please go to the ten thousand flowers page for details.

Word Art: Abstract #3

This is the third in a series of experiments with doing Word Art in abstract patterns with, well, rather abstract words to go with them.

Abstract #3

Abstract #3

Waves of shining silver water caress a blue sand beach as you stand facing the horizon.

The sun is high and bright in a sky with the palest cast of pink.

You step into the water and feel your feet sink into the soft sand.

You kick clouds up as you progress.

The waves are light and offer no resistance so you continue forward until the waters close over your head.

As the waters embrace your body, you find that breathing is not necessary.

Sunlight shimmers overhead, fractured in a dancing web of light by the surface of the water above you.

Your feet find stone, ragged but level enough to tread upon.

A school of fish the color and translucency of amethyst rush past like a startled flock of pigeons.

The ragged stone progresses to tile and you find a road that leads deeper into the waters.

The road ends in a broad plaza surrounding a building of blue stone with a tall entryway flanked by columns.

You see no windows, but as you pass between the columns into the interior, you see that glassless skylights have been cut in the pointed roof.

It is a single room within.

Black and white mosaic tiles cover the floor.

At the far end of the room is an arched alcove enclosing a statue of a robed woman with blindfolded face and hands outstretched, hands that bear eyes upon the palms that face you.

“Speak!” a voice commands, and while the statue remains motionless, the voice clearly rings from it.

You say nothing, as words require breath, and you have taken none in these depths.

“Speak!” the voice cries out once more.

You remain where you stand in silence.

“Speak!” comes the third shout and this time you hold up your hands, palms faced forward in the manner of the statue and gently incline your head in a slow, deliberate nod.

“Well said!” the voice replies and you allow your hands to fall and turn to exit the way you came.

The road you arrived on no longer leads directly back towards the point of beginning, but now forks into two.

The mosaic floor now extends to where you stand and continues down each pathway.

The black and white tiles all pattern themselves to pure black down in one direction and pure white down the other.

The road of black tile is flanked by smooth white columns and the road of white tile has a pair of gleaming black columns in the same way.

You follow each path with your eye, trying to discern where they lead and while you can’t be absolutely sure, it seems to you that both roads curve in such a way that they eventually lead to the same spot.

Did I mention I’ve been reading a lot of Jung lately?  Can ya tell?

I neglected to take a photograph of the framed result because I promptly took it down to WonderRoot to donate to the art auction at their Bomb the Moon event.  I may have to go down just so I can get a picture of it.

Prints of this work are not available.

The original is not for sale.


Ten Thousand Flowers and the Confused Postal Service

I’m up to twenty flowers in my Ten Thousand Flowers project, with four sent out so far.  I’ve gotten one envelope from across town, two from across the country and another from across the world.

I’d never had the occasion to use an International Reply Coupon before, but I didn’t think it would be any more complicated than taking it to the post office, finding the guy in the back who knew what to do with it and sending the flower on its merry way.  Instead, the moment I got home from finally getting it sent out, I sat down and composed the following letter:

Mr. Patrick R. Donahoe

Postmaster General
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington DC 20260-0010

Dear Mr. Donahoe—

I wish to bring to your attention an inconsistency in the operation of the United States Postal Service that is of some concern to me and I believe should concern every citizen of our increasingly global society.

I have recently embarked on the project of giving hand-drawn flowers to anybody who requests one from me by mailing me an envelope and sufficient postage. While a SASE is easily obtained in the United States, in order to send my work to other countries I have requested an International Reply Coupon (“IRC”) with the envelope. It did not occur to me that there would be any trouble in exchanging one for sufficient postage to mail a single envelope back to its country of origin.

Unfortunately, I am perplexed to discover that some post offices in my area simply refuse to accept them. I recently received an envelope and IRC from a resident of New Zealand, and while she admitted to some trouble in acquiring one, I never imagined the trouble I would go through to redeem one.

I visited the post office closest to me and the overwhelmed clerk apparently had no idea what to do with the IRC—she put a stamp on the envelope, another stamp on the IRC and then asked for payment for both. I explained that the IRC was the payment and one manager and supervisor later I was informed that the location did not accept them. Fortunately, the stamps were easily removed and I returned home and called another location recommended to me to confirm that they accepted IRCs. I was told that they did not and I asked which location did. I was provided with a phone number that was busy every time I attempted to call it. I called your information line at 800-ASK-USPS and the gentleman I spoke to assured me that any postal location would accept my IRC. He seemed genuinely surprised to learn that this was not the case, and provided me with phone numbers of nearby locations with the suggestion that I call them directly. I finally reached someone at Buckhead Station who was likewise surprised to hear that certain locations refused my IRC but assured me that it could be redeemed there. I drove there and Mr. _____ behind the counter took my IRC, placed three beautiful stamps on my envelope and sent it on its way. (Mr. _____ was a joy to work with, by the way, and should be commended for his service.)

A simple postal transaction should not be rendered a bureaucratic tangle this way. If individual post offices are going to be inconsistent in whether or not they accept IRCs, this information should be made available on your website so that consumers can plan accordingly. Otherwise, all post offices should be prepared to accept IRCs at any time, no matter how intermittently they may be needed.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter and for your service to the United States Postal Service.

Sincerely yours,

Sheila O’Shea

I have no idea if it will make any difference, but I felt the need to make the effort.  At any rate, I do at least know of one post office near enough to me that will accept any International Reply Coupons, so I should be able to continue my global flower distribution efforts unimpeded.