Category Archives: Art Project

The Art of Shoveling Snow

A long time ago I used to paint and draw. I found a couple of small drawings I did back then, but it was unusual for me to do things this small. My paintings were all in the 6′ by 8′ range when I suddenly stopped in 1988.

Since I had gone to architecture school first then art school, I have six years of art history classes under my belt, plus years of reading all the latest rags on contemporary art and countless years of doing the gallery crawls in Chicago.

It seems I always have images in my head.

Two of my biggest influences were also my art instructors. The art school at this university was so small that I wound up hanging out with them after school hours. I was already in my early 20’s, so it was no big deal to go hang out at bars, drink and talk art.

Both of these artists had a way with color that I liked.

William Conger

Robert Donley

A couple of other artists that were a big influence on me were Jasper Johns

…and Robert Rauschenberg.

But you never know where inspiration will come from and today while shoveling snow I kept thinking about Philip Guston.

So now, all along my sidewalk and driveway are a bunch of piles of snow that are starting to look a lot like the image above.

I tried to get a picture of them all, but there’s too much white in the background and they didn’t turn out quite the way I had hoped. Besides, more snow on the way, which means I get to make them bigger.

Recreating the black will be easy.

Maybe if I thaw out the steaks in the freezer I might be able to squeeze some red out of them.

Thank god my wife doesn’t read any of the things I write.

The things in my yard, or…

…why my neighbors avoid me.

For some reason my wife agreed to this.

Some vague plan to use it as a planter, or something like that.

With the river muskie fishing season upon us, actually, they can be caught pretty much any time of the year, I’ll probably use it to make sacrifices to the muskie gods.

Throw in the occasional chicken. The goslings will be all over river soon, maybe a few of them. That damn possum living under the deck if I can ever catch it. A few headless chipmunks that the cat drags home. Lots of feral cats hanging around lately. Hang some rotting sucker carcasses off the shepherds hooks perhaps. Get a little sacrificial pyre going in front of the thing, burn some old muskie lures I have laying around.

Anything to help increase my odds. Never did like that fish of a thousand casts nonsense. No fish is worth that.

Just about anything will catch a muskie, they’re eating machines and they don’t care what they eat.

Never did test out my Barbie Doll muskie lure. I’ll have to get it back in production.

A video of that thing getting nailed would be classic.

A Fishing Life Plan

The summer of 1996, I was driving out to the Fox River. I no longer recall why. I was 40 years old and had never fished a river before. I had no clue at that point how to fish a river. I had read a few articles on river fishing; cast 1/8 ounce or heavier jigs and twisters up stream and let them bounce back down stream. Don’t recall the reasoning behind doing that other than this presentation was supposed to be mimicking river food tumbling down the river.

Sounded good to me. I had all my fishing gear in the car, so I must have been driving that way intentionally, though I no longer recall if getting to the Fox was my actual goal.

I crossed the Fox River at Indian Trail Road on the north end of Aurora. There was an island park, so I pulled onto the island. For some reason I picked the east channel to fish and spent a couple of hours throwing heavy jigs up stream just like I had read. I recall losing a few of the lures to the rocks, but I also recall catching a few smallmouth bass.

And with that, my obsession with fishing flowing water began.

Within a month I had bought a pair of hip boots and a DeLorme Illinois Atlas and Gazetteer.

The hip boots only lasted a few months. I quickly learned that I needed to be out wandering around in the river and not just walking along the shore line. The book of maps has taken a beating in the last 16 years. Pages have been coming apart and clear packing tape is the only thing holding together quite a bit of the book.

Luckily, the paper is pretty tough, lots of dog ears and torn pages, but nothing I couldn’t live with.

I don’t travel very much for the opportunity to go fishing. Once I found out about and figured out how to fish the rivers in the Chicago area, it seemed pointless to travel. Now I can walk down a hill and be in the Fox River in about 2 minutes. If I felt like driving, I can drive for 25 minutes and be on one of the best stretches of the DuPage River for smallmouth bass.

Less than an hour will get me to Kankakee River State Park.

In less than 15 minutes I can be fishing very productive spots on any one of a half dozen creeks that feed the Fox. If I wanted to drive for another 10 or 15 minutes, I can add three more Fox creeks to the list. I’ve waded many miles of these rivers and creeks, but the miles I have yet fished far outnumber the miles I have fished.

Now with the way the price of gas has gone over the last few years, it’s become hard to justify burning off a tank of gas or more for the opportunity to wet a line.

My decision to not travel has been made that much easier by the fact that I don’t fish lakes and ponds. If it’s not moving and I can’t walk in it, I’m not all that interested.

With hunting season over for the year and the weather slowly making an effort to warm, February seems to become the month where I start making plans. I’ve always noticed that others make up their fishing wish lists at the end of the year. Many of these wish lists require driving long distances or getting on planes to reach their destinations.

I get out my dog-eared and beat to crap copy of the Illinois Gazetteer and drive the back roads of the northern quarter of Illinois with the tip of my finger and I dream of places to go. My index finger road trip takes me down back roads through what I imagine are endless fields of corn and soybeans, through little towns that are barely a small spider web of little red lines around an intersection.

I avoid the obvious wide blue indications of the bigger rivers and look for those razor thin blue streaks that feed them. These are the little creeks and rivers that create threads through out this northern quarter of the state.

Get out a map and look at the area bounded by the Fox River on the east, the Rock River to the west, our border with Wisconsin to the north and south to I-80. In this area are enough rivers and creeks to explore that I can probably stay busy for the rest of my life. Each little river and every feeder creek would have to be visited numerous times in the course of a year, not just once and never to be fished again.

I fished the Kishwaukee River near Cherry Valley years ago, but there are a few different branches of this river that snake throughout this part of the state. I have marks all over my Gazetteer on where to park for access. Kilbuck Creek meets up with the Kishwaukee just south of Rockford. I’ve never had the opportunity to go look, but I understand the area where they meet is stunningly beautiful.

Heading down stream from there along the Rock River, I have marks all over my maps. They start at Stillman Creek and move on to Black Walnut Creek, Honey Creek, Kyte River, Clear Creek, Franklin Creek and even one that’s just called Three Mile Branch.

On the south end of the area along I-80 the marks on my map continue. These all flow more or less south into the lower end of the Fox or down into the Illinois River. The name Crookedleg Creek is one of my favorites just for the way it sounds. Nearby is Buck Creek and then as you head west along I-80 you come across Pecumsegan Creek, Tomahawk Creek, the Little Vermillion River (which I hear is outstanding), Spring Creek and as you get out around Princeton you come across the three branches of Bureau Creek.

When you look at the map and the thin spidery lines that make up these small rivers and creeks, you’ll probably think I’m nuts for wanting to do this. How things look on maps can be deceiving. The creeks I fish that feed the Fox, which will remain nameless, look no different than any other of these thin blue lines. Yet when I get to the creeks, their valleys are a good half mile wide. Dense, almost impenetrable woods line the creeks and at times you’re standing 50 feet above the water looking down steep bluffs that are impossible to descend.

There’s no reason any one of these creeks and rivers I’ve marked on my maps shouldn’t look the same as the creeks I already fish on a regular basis.

Now take a look at the maps again. Look at the area bounded by the Rock River, the Mississippi River and the Wisconsin border. I’ve already fished the Apple and Galena Rivers as well as Smallpox Creek.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the new state record walleye recently came out of the Pecatonica River. The northwest corner of Illinois is our driftless area. Down in all those valleys are stunningly beautiful little streams. I don’t think I have enough years left allocated to my life that will allow me to explore this area the way I would like.

There’s a rumor I’ve heard going around for years that down in one of those valleys in the driftless area, as far off into the northwest corner of Illinois that you can possibly get, is one stream that holds a population of native trout. The hints are out there, but the details are not.

That’s the one creek in particular I’d like to get to someday.


16 years and three cars later, that original Gazetteer was finally allowed into the house. With the recent arrival of a birthday present from my daughter, a brand spanking new copy of a Gazetteer, it was time to retire the old dog eared, taped together, beat to crap original book of maps that has served me well over the years.

Maybe I’ll let the new one into the house now and then.

It Could be Anywhere

Those who know me also know I’ve used the phrase “It Could be Anywhere” in reference to where I fish here in the northeast corner of Illinois. Even in this urban area I like to think I have a knack for finding the hidden gems, the out of the way places where, when looking at the photos, you would never guess you were on the edge of a population center with nearly 10 million people.

I’m in the process of going through thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years. Some of them aren’t half bad. I’m hoping to get them all up on a gallery site I’ve started putting together. Would be nice to offer the best ones for sale. Will be manipulating still other images, turning them into my image of artwork and offering those for sale too.

But, before I go any further, I’d like some feedback. There’s no point doing a ton of work if the site is ugly, unreadable, clumsy and a whole list of other possible issues.

Right now, I like to think I’ve adjusted type sizes and colors to make them easy to read. In other words, I’m not squinting at the screen, have to put on my reading glasses or getting a headache. I know what I can’t read when I go to other sites, so I’ve tried to eliminate those issues right from the start. Click on the link below and let me know what you think.

It Could be Anywhere

I haven’t put up much in the way of images, just test pieces in the first 3 galleries. The sizes seem good, what little type I’ll be putting in is readable. I know most images are best viewed on dark backgrounds so not sure I would change that unless I get a lot of complaints on it.

Feedback is appreciated. The hard part is yet to come, but if I can get this style stuff out of the way, I can quit thinking about it and move on.

Thanks in advance.

So, How did I get Here? – Rusty Ring

It starts out innocently enough.

I go over to Outdoor Blogger Network, look at the list of Newest Blogs and if I see a name that sounds intriguing, I click on it.

Same goes for the Community News.

I guess that’s a hint to other bloggers.

If I like what I see, I bookmark it. I’ll go back to it periodically and if I continue to like it, I add it to my blogroll. It can take weeks to get to that point.

While I’m on other blogs I’ll scan down their blogroll. If I see something that sounds interesting (there’s that hint to bloggers again) I’ll click on it and follow the same routine. Eventually I forget where I saw things the first time. Luckily I bookmarked it because I would probably never remember it or find it again.

That’s how I came across Rusty Ring – Reflections of an old-timey hermit.

I was liking that already.

Then, at the very top left corner, Robin had his About Me:

I devoted my life to Zen practise many years ago. Unfortunately the “Work” menu here does not include “Monk,” and I’ve learned to distrust the word “Religion,” so this will have to do.

I knew at this point that this blog was something I wanted to follow.

The other day a new post went up: Hermitcraft: Fudos, Part 1

In the post, he explains it:

What is a fudo?

The small-f fudo is a sanctuary object. It reminds us that we are not alone, that others are also looking for the way out, and that together we will find it. Fudos create mindful space. When one is hung on a tree, fence, or other structure, it alerts seekers that one of their own has passed that way, and the spot becomes a sanctuary, a place of rest and encouragement. Think of it as Kilroy for hermits.

I loved the whole idea behind this.

Since I started fishing, even though I touch upon the mechanics of fishing, I’m about being out there, the experience. For those that followed along with me for the past 15 years, they know that when I give away some of my spots, they’ll not only have a good fishing spot, but I’m also showing them a sanctuary, a place of rest and encouragement. There’s also a good chance it’s one of the most beautiful looking spots in that stretch of a river or creek.

I ran this past my friend Bob Long, Jr. He has developed a very Zen approach to his life in the last few years. His response:

Hanging fudos out along the Fox River in those various places would be wonderful. Most wouldn’t get it, but they don’t have to for the Zen invoked to be effective. And for the spirit of the fudo and the hanger to be in force. 

I have drawers full of washers in my tool box. I’ll have to keep an eye out while wandering to find the one’s Robin describes:

The more abused the ring, the stronger it is. I collect mine from junkyards, roadsides, and beaches, to ensure that everyone I give one to gets a full arsenal of arse-kicking contempt for their particular hell.

I know where lots of abandoned farms and farm equipment is just laying around out in the woods. I should be able to get quite a few of these abused rings.

It looks like the cords by which they are hung play an important part in this. I kind of get what Robin is talking about in this post, but it seems like the knot also plays an important role. Then there’s the strands that hang down. I’m hoping and assuming these will get covered in Part 2.

I’m looking forward to doing this in the coming year. I’m already being referred to by some people as a ghost on the river. I fish alone 99 percent of the time and it’s rare that I run into anyone. I already know where I’ll be putting quite a few of these. I already know who has the possibility of finding one.

When they do, I hope they take the time to look around. There’s going to be a very good reason for their location.