A site-specific project I undertook over multiple days at Portland State University. The initial idea was to sit next to tables used for distributing flyers, producing small original drawings and placing them in a stack for people to take. Below are some examples from this early phase, which I left in a study lounge in the Science Research and Teaching Center. These are the kind of doodles that spring from my imagination when left unattended:
(All drawing images are clickable for full-size viewing.)
This idea soon evolved into actively engaging the physical and social space of PSU by sitting in a specific spot in a highly trafficked Smith Memorial Student Union hallway next to a sign reading “TELL ME WHAT TO DRAW” and some notebook pages for people to write on. As I produced drawings, I put them next to another, smaller sign reading “TAKE ONE.”
Photo credit: Jake Johnson
Over the next week I returned to this spot for four different “shifts,” always listening to music on earbuds while I worked. Immediately there were more responses than expected, and I wonder if the earbuds helped by signaling that people could stop and write down a suggestion without having to actually talk to me. I did frequently make eye contact with a passerby, point to the sign, and then point to the “sign-up sheet.” This was pretty effective at getting people to stop, and meanwhile several people also stopped unsolicited.
The very first person to contribute a prompt inexplicably wrote down “Piggy bank society.” I don’t know what, if anything, this phrase means. I tried Googling it really quick, but learned nothing. Over the next hour I came back to this oddly compelling prompt two more times. Though these were quick doodles, I ended up accumulating more prompts than I even had time for. Other drawings from this hour included “a wolf,” “a cat,” “silence - a monk maybe,” “female samurai (onna-bugeisha),” “portal to another world,” and “the Grand Canyon.”
Below are the drawings resulting from my second “shift” of prompts: “a goat holding a beer,” “a PSU Student Union member holding a sign that says ‘DISARM PSU’ and a sign that says ‘JUSTICE FOR JASON WASHINGTON’,” “a star,” “a person dancing on stage,” “the consequences of speaking truth to power,” “revolution,” “Honey Boo-Boo holding Kermit the Frog,” “Scorpion being ridden by Deadpool,” and “ivy.” As expected, only a small percentage of these turned out to be drawings I was proud of, but they were all fun to make. Some of the prompts (and some of my own interpretations) reflected current events, like the Jason Washington shooting and the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.
Here are the drawings from the third shift: “Pikachu shitty hybrid trying to jump but can’t cuz of its small legs,” “Giorno Giovana” [which I had to look up], “a hand (opened),” “a wolf and a moon,” “superhero playtapus (I think I spelled it wrong),” “a squirrel smoking a cigar,” “the planets in our system,” “Vegata from DBZ” [again, had to look this up], and “a turtle saying hi.”
…And below, the final shift. Some of the prompts were becoming outlandish, but I earnestly tried to meet each challenge. To the bitter end, I continued to accrue new prompts faster than I could draw. It was exhausting, and great exercise. The last batch: “A narwhal playing the ukulele,” “a fist for resistance #BLM,” “Michael Jackson riding an exploding unicorn being chased by rabid ponies,” “utopia,” “elephant wearing a Halloween mask,” “a duck and a dog drinking tea,” “Salvador Dali cutting his eyeball,” “a sheep listening to a cassette in Germany,” “a snake wielding a sword,” “I can’t think of anything,” “a real poop show,” “Yoda riding a swordfish wielding a baguette fighting Jesus on a swordfish with a lightsaber,” and finally “draw yourself as an artist expressing something about you.”