The importance of ritual

I haven’t posted anything here for a bit, the truth is my dog died last week, and I wasn’t up for doing much of anything for a week. He was a good old boy, I’d had him for thirteen years, ever since he was a pup. His health was getting bad and it was time to say goodbye before it got any worse. Later today I am going to bury his ashes in a nearby field where we used to take walks all the time. I bet I’ve watched my dog flop down in that field and roll around over a thousand times!


My dog Grendel passing away has got me thinking about the importance of ritual. The importance of marking or doing something special to mark major occurrences in life. These things can be very tough emotionally and having a ritual helps us come to terms with the new reality. Of course they can also be celebrations. For example weddings, birthday parties, graduations, house warming parties, anniversaries, these are all rituals that we use for celebration.

I also am all for people creating their own rituals. Mainly because I think we live in a society that has lost touch with with a lot of are old traditions, and so I think it is time for us to make new ones. The reason we have lost touch with these old traditions is I think, partly just a reflection of what it means to be American. We live in a country where people came here from every other continent on earth and so a lot of the old traditions that people had got lost in the shuffle. Whether your ancestors came from Europe, Africa, or Asia, etc. Our culture is a giant melting pot. And asides from major things like weddings and funerals a lot of customs, traditions, and rituals have gotten lost in the melting.

Rituals are not logical. Rituals do not make sense. And so I think we have let go of many of them thinking they are mere “superstition”. But I am all for cultivating ritual from the smallest to the biggest. What do I mean exactly?

Well, for example my friend Fejj passed away several years ago. He was a huge fan of Jameson Whisky. The good stuff. Now, whenever I have a glass of Jameson Whisky I take a moment to remember Fejj and pour a big slug of the whisky out on the ground. On the one hand it doesn’t make much sense! Fejj can’t drink that expensive whisky! The ritual does not make logical sense. It is just my way of respecting and honoring the memory of my old friend.


Ritual is everywhere. For example handshakes are a sort of micro-ritual. I have heard that anthropologists say that kissing is not universal. Many cultures have never heard of kissing between lovers and think it is weird and gross. But what a wonderful and meaningful ritual it is to those of us who practice it!

The more we look at ritual, that is the things we do, not because they have some logical, rational point—the more we see that ritual is everywhere.

Next week I will post about how you can design your own ritual to remind you of anything or idea that you want to focus on in life.

The 12 habits of highly creative people

I haven’t been posting much lately (camping, hiking, summer etc.)


So I am reposting this list of : The 12 habits of highly creative people.

In the meantime, I have been busy working on my next book. If all goes well I’d like to finish it by he end of the summer! I will be heading to France in the fall to do a month-long writing residency, and will be starting a new project while I’m there. So, even though it appears not much is happening lately on this ol’ blog, there should be new developments coming soon, I promise!

Featured Artist NDA

An interview with the street artist NDA, who contributed to DIY Magic and also happens to be a really good friend. His work is bold and pops up everywhere, (just last week it was even featured on Chris Rock’s instagram feed). Keep an eye on this guy!


You are known for your large outdoor murals—what are some different considerations when working on such a big scale?

I think the main considerations are texture and environment. Scaling up the work from a sketch isn’t necessarily tricky by itself but you also need to be aware of each surfaces nuances. There’s a lot of on-the-fly problem solving that  goes in to it and often times you’re forced to change your idea up based on where you’re able to put the paint and where you’re not. I think another huge factor is having to work with limited resources. Often times my murals are painted with a DIY set up. This means that you’re often on ladders when scaffolding or a lift would be more ideal. So you have to assess the situation and make sure you’re not painting too high where it’ll be hard to come back and do tight line work. Early on, I would get overzealous and paint way too high with a roller and extension pole only to discover that I didn’t have a large enough ladder to reach the top for my line work and the pieces would suffer for it.

dog gold
You often collaborate with other artists. Do you have any tips on how to make a collaboration go smoothly?
I think in order for collaborations to go smoothly you have to be able to communicate with the other artist(s) every step of the way. I’ve done a fair amount of collaborating on large projects and you usually know pretty early on how it’s going to go. I feel like a good collaboration is something where all parties take risks and do something they haven’t done before. Having a set idea of what and where your stuff goes on the wall before you open a dialogue is the kiss of death for collaborative murals.
Do you have any tips or tricks for tapping into artistic creativity? Do you ever get “stuck”?
I get stuck all the time. I’m still trying to figure out methods to jostle myself back to where I want to be creatively. One thing I find helpful is to have a lot of different types of work going at once. That way if you’re bored or stuck with one project you just jump to another one. Sometimes I just get burnt out on painting. When that happens I try to take that time to plan new projects by sketching and writing down ideas. I also find that a good, long walk can help refocus my energy. I’m a fairly anxious person and recently I’ve been trying to embrace the downtime as part of the creative process. Sometimes it’s crucial.
When you’re making a piece do you try to think about the impact it will have on the viewer, or is it more a form of self-expression? 
Each project is different. Self expression comes from your egos’ desire to… itself. It can be a very selfish, narcissistic endeavor. But conversely, you are making work in someone’s neighborhood and you have to be respectful. Each project needs a healthy balance of self-expression and community engagement. This is the constant struggle and I aim get better at marrying these two separate sides of the process as I go.
For people unfamiliar with your work: where is a good place to check it out?
I’m in the process of getting a website together so for now:
Facebook: “nda art”
Instagram: “ndapics” flickr:
I snapped this pic of NDA (left) & Iena Cruz for this collaboration they just finished. (Oh hey, that’s my bearded mug in the background!)

Conscious Inquiry with Alexis Brooks

I had a great conversation with Alexis Brooks host of the show Conscious Inquiry.


Alexis is a warm, inquisitive, and charming host and I felt like we really connected and got down to brass tacks in our conversation. Definitely one of my favorite interviews that I’ve done. I’m looking forward to also checking out her book Conscious Musings. We are both writers who believe that you have the power to change reality for the better by starting with your own ideas and awareness.

Give a listen to our conversation here.

Or grab it on Stitcher and download for later right here.

Interview with artist Jason McLean

This month I’m featuring artists who contributed illustrations to DIY Magic. Here is my interview with Jason McLean.

While I was in New York I got a chance to meet Jason McLean, a fantastic painter and a really great guy. He invited me to see his collection of autographed Pez. So I got to check out his studio in Brooklyn and hang out. So, some of these pictures I just took on my phone and others are from art galleries. Jason McLean has the world’s largest collection of autographed Pez! So cool! (& he makes zines too.)
Jason McLean in his studio with some autographed Pez

Jason McLean in his studio with some autographed Pez

Jason has Pez autographed by tons of people including David Sedaris, Genesis P-orridge, Craig Daniels, Daniel Johnston, Yoko Ono, Dave Letterman, Thurston Moore and tons more. Here is a Pez signed by the musician Terry Riley who has a pretty cool signature:

Terry Riley

Your work seems strongly influenced by your surrounding environment. Do you ever try to use that on purpose? Like, I’m going for a walk over here and I’ll see if it turns into a cool idea for a painting? Does living in different cities produce different kinds of art?

Lately, I’ve been doing things that distract me, or that I want to happen I can draw them out in my drawing. For instance, I want to go get autographs right now but I can’t I need to get art work done for shows, so I thought I would do artwork about the autograph. Another recent work is about Pittsburgh, I know I cannot live there right now but I am drawing it as if I do live there. Kind of like, a way of fulfilling these things that I want to do, almost virtual in some ways. But it is more of a physical object, but I am doing it in a virtual way. I’m not physically travelling to Pittsburgh but I am there in my drawing, like astro projecting. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this, not being able to do things because of commitments but able to act them out through my art work. If I want something to happen I can have them happen in my drawings. Certain scenarios happen in the city that inspire my drawings, like surreal imagery, for example I was on the subway recently and there was a lady singing off key and dancing to Katy Perry, then a guy gets on the same car with a giant door, and another guy got on wearing a hood with giant mirrored sunglasses, put on climbing gloves and grabbed the pole. Other people on the subway were looking at each other as if to ask “what is going on?”


Do you have any tips or tricks for tapping into creativity?

Sampling, listening to radio, television, or recordings. Walking around and sitting in diners, restaurants and overhearing conversations. Pulling from snippets and conversations from people around you. The idea of working overtop of a historical object, and drawing into the flaws.


You’ve done a lot of collaborations, any tips on how to make a collaboration fruitful and fun?

Drawing collaboratively out of the studio and in a setting with food or drink/ coffee … a setting that is more of a fun setting that feels like you are hanging out. Not a precious moment, more carefree.

horse shoe

Any tips for young artists just starting out?

Try not to excel too fast. There is no rush to any sort of top, that world is too negative it spits you out as soon as you get to the top. Do not forget the people who helped you in the beginning. Be yourself, don’t get all screwed up on drugs and alcohol or think you have to do a certain thing to gain recognition or acceptance, dying tragically at 27 isn’t cool.


For any folks unfamiliar with your work—where is a good place to start?

Talk to my Dad. Just kidding, actually I’m not he won’t stop talking about my artwork but lately he has been doing his own work. Greeting cards and bag paintings, and has been talking about himself and his own art work a lot. He is a former car salesman so he has no shortage of the gift of the gab. You can also visit my weebly site, and there is a link to the Canadian Pez Museum a side project I have with my family. 


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