The Path of the Snail Trail (update) (part 13)

Whoosh. Cripes: it has been more than a year since I last wrote about my life with the snail trails. In fact it has been about a year since I worked on this project. I have some other snail trail stuff I want to try, but not just now.

Thus and hence, this update marks the conclusion of … whatever this was. Let’s call it phase 1.

To refresh our memories:

+ I photographed a complicated snail trail on a low tide beach, then tried/failed to figure out what path the snail had taken to make this trail.

+ I took the photo into Adobe software, figuring I could color and manipulate the image to detect the path.

+ I never detected the path but coloring it led to many interesting images, some of which I shared in Snail Trail posts 1-12.

+ My next ‘failure’ arose when I tried to organize the images into a single poster.

+ Some of the images, including this one, told me they wanted to be displayed alone.

… OK, that concludes our stroll down memory lane.

I printed and framed 3 of the solo snail trails. Each snail trail wanted an entirely different frame and it took a long time to understand what they wanted. They are more fussy than I am.

Here they are, decked out in their frames. Two of them got to join an exhibit at the local Arts Center!

(And even juxtaposing these 3 reminds me why it was so squirrelly, trying to put 30-40 colored trails on a poster…)

Unplanned, unexpected, rarely understood, this snail trail project has been so important to me! It remarkably shifted my creative process. I’ve learned and discovered so much. And perhaps the coolest discovery of all came a few months after I set the trails aside.

I happened upon a web page that discussed sandroing, an indigenous performance art in Vanuatu. Sandroing artists tell a story with words and song while their finger creates a design in sand; they wipe away the design to conclude the performance. Times being what they are, some of these ephemeral performances persist on You Tube. And in the first one I watched, the design looked staggeringly similar to the original of the snail trail I spent so many months trying to color and understand! (Frustrated to report that I can no longer find that particular video … so… still ephemeral, just not so immediately so…)

My takeaway from this: I am on the right path. I have no clue what that path is, or where it leads, but I intend to keep following it, as best I can!

Meanwhile, back at the tidepool, I fell in love with bean clam shells like these:

which launched a new project, still very much evolving. More on that to come.

Probably much more on that.



Patience and Photo Cubes

The last couple months, I’ve been working on an oddball project that is proving quite time-consuming. I’m maybe half done, and already I could have written another novella in the hours I’ve spent on this. Sue’s folly?

It turns out that there are different kinds of patience, just as there are different kinds of intelligence. For example, I am quite happy to clock countless hours using Adobe Illustrator to mangle innocent bits of text. However, when I confront what will probably cost mere minutes to solve a print/sizing glitch, I stall out.

And it’s all for the love of photo cubes. Sue’s folly.

You’ve probably seen a photo cube. It sits on a desk with a picture on each face. Typically it lives in a cubicle. It’s a cheap plastic thing and yet. It’s awesome in a special way.

For a while now I’ve been preoccupied, pondering the possibilities of photo cubes. I used one to make a 3D collage of beach tar photos. Not an easy cube to like, apparently. Not many of us did:


Yet my fascination with the cubes persists. Once upon a recent beach walk, I realized that I could put a poem on a cube, 1 verse on each of the 6 sides. I further realized that Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky would be great for this. (True, it has 7 verses. But the 7th matches the 1st.)

I next realized that I could combine my loves of typography and Adobe Illustrator:  I could mess with text to decorate the cubed poem. I would not presume to attempt illustration, as John Tenniel’s originals are among the greatest illustrations ever. Here is his Jabberwock (tinted by Fritz Kredel) from the 1946 Random House edition of Through the Looking Glass:


Armed with my realizations, I got to work. First I took the cube template from my beach tar cube and made that a background layer:


When I print something designed within this template, I can cut-then-fold the paper to create a cube… Hmm. Does such basic paper folding qualify as origami?

Early on, I had to decide rotations – how each verse would flow into the next on the cube:


That turned out to be the only engineering aspect that I enjoyed.

I’ve had tons of fun with the decorating – with interpreting Carroll’s special words and pondering the details of this fantastic unique poem.  I’m astonished at how many hours I’ve happily spent, taking unsuspecting text (mostly in the Didot font) and doing strange distorted things to it. I typically try and scrap 10 effects, for every 1 that I keep. Here is a snapshot of the current draft of the 1st verse:


On every cube side I’ve still got many tweaks to make. Relocating, resizing. For example, I need to rearrange this text, because the bloody bbs need to end at burbled (No wonder I love this project. Where else would I utter that phrase?):


I really like how I portrayed the death of the monster. Oh. Spoiler alert. The Jabberwock gets chopped by a blade. Here’s a snapshot of the death scene:


I don’t usually discuss my work in progress, but in this case I’m going public in hopes of nudging myself to the finish line. Part of me wants to give up and set this cube aside – it feels, I dunno, frivolous. Not what I should be doing. Whatever the hell that is…

(I’m a writer, so I should be writing, right? Okay, I am writing. I’m working on the final book in my speculative detective series, FRAMES. I’d also like to be writing something that deeply resonates in Our Situation. But when it comes to our pandemic. Woah. Dude. is as far as I’m getting.)

I’m frustrated by some of the things that aren’t going well in my Jabbercube project. For example, the printed, cut, and folded draft cube has some faces that are a titch too wide. The paper cube buckles when I slide it into the plastic cube. This didn’t happen with the tar project. I thought I’d done everything the same. Sigh. I hate that kind of fussy refinement stuff.


Also, early in the project I knew I was making effects that were too subtle to show up on a 3.5 inch cube. I opted to keep going, to find designs that worked best, and think about format later. But now it’s time.  I need to smallify some of the existing decorations so they will play well on the cube. But I don’t want to scrap any of the existing decorations. Which means I’ll need to expand those and move them into a larger format like a poster or booklet.

So! How about that! The one enormous project has split into two branches!

For both branches, I still need to come up with the right, overall design element. Something that sets off each cube face, something that says “Hi, I am a cube face” (or “Yo, I am a page”). I’ve tried/discarded several elements already. No clue how long until I hit upon one that I like. Now, this is a kind of experimenting that I do enjoy. But. I’m starting to hear a clock tick when I sit down to work on this. I don’t have a deadline but I’ve got so many other projects I want to start!

Admittedly, part of my impatience to be done comes from a fantasy that I had, when the world went into lockdown and many of my favorite musicians began performing music at #livefromhome. This hashtag gave an open invitation for anybody to share what they’ve done while stuck at home. I love that idea! Nobody wants to hear me sing or play an instrument. However, I listen to #livefromhome music while I work on this cube. So I imagined that I would share the cube. But the rate things are going, the lockdown will come and go and I’ll still be cubing.

(I assume I don’t need to add: of course I want the lockdown to end!)

OK, maybe it’s time to go move some bloody bbs.

(I wrote this in response to Discover Prompt Day 21: Instrument.)