I blame it on Mike Mezzino. He taught me point-set topology and real analysis courses back when I had the delusion that I was going to be a new father and get a grad degree in mathematics at the same time. Anyway, he had a singular gift for representing the most bizarre, abstract spaces by drawing doodles on the chalkboard. He could draw just about any concept and somehow convey enough of a picture so that us visual learners in the class could understand. That was when I became first aware of my interest in art as information. If a picture paints a thousand words, couldn’t it also paint a non-Riemannian manifold?
Then I took a course in systems dynamics and became entranced by how complex, dynamic behaviors could be captured by a simple causal loop diagram. I had already been introduced to object-oriented design and programming and had a fondness for the graphical nature of that paradigm. I marveled at how 2-D drawings could convey the intricate manipulations in some of the origami I was dabbling in at the time. Then I discovered Edward Tufte and Richard Saul Wurman. I started leafing through graphic design books, though I didn’t have the technical skills to put the ideas that were buzzing through my head out through my pencil (or computer mouse).
Somewhere at the juncture of art, poetry, semiotics, mathematics, literature, and science, I ended up in love with information/art. I started collecting books that used images to convey non-standard stuff, like Poetry Comics, The Cartoon History of the Universe, Knot Theory, Fractals, the art of Mike Wilks and Graeme Base. I rekindled my love for those old Illustrated Classic comic books I used to have as a kid — like Cliff’s Notes come alive.
Now I find myself, a grown adult and supposedly beyond these things, reading comic books. I sit self-consciously at lunch reading my latest Sandman trade (I’m up to the fourth one) or the Preacher series (morally decrepit but extremely well-drawn and well-told) and try not to look like too much of a weirdo. So I have this itch to do some playing with words, concepts, and line art. Just as my painting is playing with color and texture (devoid of real talent, natch) and my sculpture is playing with junk and glue, I like to poke around the edges of art, not feeling talented or worthy enough to attempt the “real thing” yet. But so far the edges of art are pretty fun for me. One of these days I’ll take classes and arm myself with the technical skills of a real artist, but for now, I want to draw a few mindmaps and systems diagrams… maybe put one or two on a T-shirt…