Make it Out of the Ordinary: Pixel Magic

We are all living in a surreal moment, so this next creative prompt leans on the Surrealist practice of collaborative drawing to connect our FOOLmoon CommUNITY.  

Over the next few weeks will will be collecting our pixels and bites to create compelling stories about our CommUNITY and connect not just our drawings and sounds but each other.  

This week, you are going to help us take over the FestiFools Instagram Feed with our collective surrealist dreaming. Follow the directions below and email or tag your photos #makeitoutofordinary and #pixelmagicmoon on Instagram or Twitter.  Our FOOLish team will cast some pixelated spells and post your images on Instagram where they will connect and tile, just like collaborative drawings on paper by Dali, Miró, Tanguy, Man Ray, and others.  [Edit: Now with collaborative Whiteboard, see image below, or follow this link]

Join the #pixelmagicmoon Challenge!


  • Paper
  • Something to cut with, or patient fingers to fold and tear
  • Dark marking implement (black or blue is ideal!)
  • The camera on your phone or other device to share with us at
  • FOR AFTER you share your black and white image: Coloring implements


  1. Make a list of ten things that made you stop and think. 
    • What made you feel connected to our CommUNITY?   
  2. Make your paper into a square.  It does not matter if you are starting with a GIANT page or a tiny page, once it’s a square we can do PIXEL Magic and shrink it to link up with everyone else’s tiles.
  3. Mark the midpoints on the sides of the square by matching corners and pinching JUST the edge of the paper.  (You can fold across, but then you will have the creases visible. If you are a very young person, it might be easier to pinch, anyway.)
  4. Mark with a pencil where those creases are.  These are how your machine will match up with other FOOLmoon CommUNITY members’ machines.  
  5. Look back at your list, and choose TWO things that you think would be FOOLishly fun together and draw them into your square so that pieces of them touch those midpoints.  
    • How do they relate? What can you imagine and invent?
    • You can use pencil and then outline with marker later. 
    • You can use mechanical elements like gears or levers or buttons
    • The MOON is the limit: use your IMAGINE-ation!
  6. Take a picture before you color and share it on social media and/or email it to
    • In a couple of weeks, we will provide instructions to repurpose a cereal box to turn these black and white drawings into a color-it yourself tile puzzle, and are hoping for some other fun re-mix ideas!
  7. Color your machine if you want.  Make another! There’s no limit!  
  8. Check out our machines as we build on instagram, or check back for curated tiles on Facebook!
  9. As a community we will connect our stories and ideas. Join the BEAUTIFUL collaboration (beginning of image below)!

Make it Out of the Ordinary: Faux Luminariaux

This post about making something “Out of the Ordinary” is the first of several I will be doing in collaboration with WonderFool Productions as a part of their new initiative, FOOLmoon CommUNITY in which they will enable creative engagement with WonderFool artists both as a response to the current physical isolation, and to deepen and extend their community impact throughout the year.

Written instructions can be found at the bottom of the page.

Under the circumstances we do not assume anyone has any one material at home, so everything we imagine for you will have multiple materials suggestions so that you can truly  make something literally out of ordinary things, you already have at home.

This week, we are truly appreciating our artists and the ways that our virtual platform has created CommUNITY, so here is a project made from ordinary materials that will bring back a little extraordinary GLOW!  

Faux Luminariaux:

Lots of luminaries from ordinary materials

You can take materials you have around your house to create your own mini luminary with abstract images created with Crayon and Marker; Re-purposed magazines that create imaginary scenes that pop; or build draw your own scene on regular paper and bring it to life with a flashlight.  

Creating a joyful image

  • What is out of the ordinary for you right now?
  • What did you see this week that  you joy?
  • What story matters to you?

As you read the instructions below, full of technical information, hold on to these questions. Imagine what these things look and feel like. Think about what colors they might be, how they sound, and how to break down the story into snapshots.  

The technical bits are here to give your ideas some legs, but it doesn’t matter if you have all the materials or if your folds are perfectly straight. What you want to express is the most important. 


  • Paper
    • Could be plain printer paper with crayon, marker, or watercolor
    • …A page from an old magazine that inspires you (collage post creation to add interest)…
    • …Baking parchment colored with crayons
  • Crayons
    • Works on most light surfaces
    • Flows and blends very well on parchment paper.
    • Wax is hydrophobic, so you can use watercolor or marker on top of it and it will show through.
  • Markers
    • Works best on copy paper, but some markers may be alright on magazines.  Not recommended on parchment paper
    • Can be used like watercolor if you want to do wax resist. Just use a paper towel or brush to gently brush across it with a small amount of water, or mist it with a spray bottle. 
  • Watercolor
    • Only good on printer paper, but don’t use too much water. 
  • Glue (for collage on finished luminaries if you want more details)
  • Other sticky stuff like staples or tape (for lantern version).

Folding Version 1: Origami Box

Diorama Luminary, with collage detail

This version looks more complicated because there are more steps to follow.  However, the kinds of folds that you are doing are easier, so this one is the easier version.  

  • Recommended for young people who have not yet attained the age of 7 or 8.  FOOLish fun for people of any age.  
  • Recommended for printer paper or magazine page.  
  • Fold first, then unfold so you know where the main image should go on the paper unless you’re going to go totally abstract. 
  1. Fold Hotdog style (vertical, longways in half).  
    • Use your rectangular paper.  Printer Paper size or similar rectangle.  It can be a scrap, but it works best with something that is close to A4 or Letter in proportion.
  2. Close the cupboard doors:
    • Fold the two sides so that the whole side goes into the middle, a move called closing the cupboard doors in Origami circles.  
  3. Open the whole paper up flat.
  4. Fold Hamburger style (Horizontal shortways in half)
  5. Close those cupboard doors, it’s a wider cabinet this time.  DO NOT OPEN this time.
  6. You will see that there are four lines that cut through the cupboard doors like they were window panes in a French door.  The top and bottom fold lines are where we are looking right now. Taking the paper up to the bottom fold line on the right side, make a triangle by matching the folded edge to the window pane fold line.  
  7. Do that to all four corners.  DO NOT UNFOLD
  8. You will see that you have a kind of irregular octagon now.  In the middle where the cupboard doors are folded there is a bit of paper sticking out just past the triangles you just made.  Using the triangles as a guide, fold that back.  
  9. Here’s the magic part: You can now reach inside the pockets you created by folding back that flap of paper, and pop up your box, carefully reaching inside each corner and pinching along the edge of the triangle to make it stand up.  

If we were just learning the box you’d be done unless you wanted to make a second one as the cover to keep something in.  BUT since this is a Faux Luminary, you’re not done yet.  Notice where the bottom (top) of the box is, and fold it flat again.  This is where you can color your scene.  Unfold the box and draw whatever you want inside that rectangle, with whatever materials you want.  

Folding Version 2: Accordion Lanterns

  • Easy, but easier with experience and strong hand eye coordination, so recommended for young people from 7 or 8 years old and up. 
  • Best with parchment paper or printer paper, because magazine paper cracks easily with its coating.  Experienced folders can do magazine paper, but if you haven’t done this before, it is recommended that you use printer paper for your first one.  
  • Draw and decorate your paper first, then fold. 
  1. Accordion your paper, so that the outside folds are mountain folds. There are tips for how to do this evenly in the instruction video.

2. Crease the whole accordion with a marker or round scissor handle. 

3. Fold the top and bottom third of the accordion into a pleasing angle, think the way a capital C curves, and crease as hard as you can.  

4. Open the “C” curves up, so the accordion is a line again.

5. Flip the accordion over and re-crease the folds you just made so they are very strong and deep.  

6. Open the c curves and open the accordion flat-ish.  

7. Lay it so that the accordion zig zags look like stairs or ladder lines going away from you and begin reversing the folds that are on the side of your dominant hand.  I am right handed so I started with my right hand on the bottom fold and carefully followed the crease lines all the way to the top.

8. Do the same process on the other side of the ladder.

9. When you are done, the accordion will be reconstructed, and your c curve will be there flat, but inside out

10. Pop the middle of the curve back to flat, but not the c curves.  This will create an arched semi circle like the picture

11. You can staple or tape the ends together so it stays fully curved.

First Song to Urban Ecology: Jamaicaway Matins

While natural systems and cities are symbiotic everywhere, there are huge equity gaps across the globe. Higher income areas have more access to open space, and foliage and are therefore more likely to have active and noisy animal populations. There have been many articles about this through the years. One of the most memorable for me was in 2012, on a blog called PerSquareMile titled, “Income inequality as seen from Space. It was during the time when Google Maps was becoming more detailed and people outside the research community were just starting to think about this and the author, Tim de Chant, collected anecdotal information about many cities and their open space which he shared in the second link above.

When I started this project last fall, and even when I sent the germ of it to FossilFOOLs I was not thinking that it would come to life during a global pandemic, but it turns out, the decrease in human activity in cities has drawn attention to how animals are influenced by human action in urban ecology. I heard a piece on New England Public Radio via the NPR app this morning about hearing different and more birdsongs now that there is less traffic on the roads due to quarantine measures so that even in dense urban centers, people can hear more natural noises.

Wildlife biologist Paige Warren of the UMass Amherst Department of Environmental Conservation has reviewed research on how human-generated sounds impact animal communications. She talked about the challenge different kinds of birds normally face when they sing near the rumble of cars. “If you have a high-pitched, ‘tweety tweet tweet’ sound, then it might get through better than if you have a low-pitched kind of sound,” Warren said, imitating the call of a dove. “So if you’re a dove, it might be harder to get your message through the traffic. And then when there’s less traffic, it might be easier to be a dove.”

Nancy Eve Cohen, NEPR, March 31, 2020

To create the sound in my video, I raised the treble to accent the birdsongs that I was hearing, and raised the bass to accent the traffic rumbles and whooshes. It is true that the middle range of sounds is not as audible, and with the sheer volume of those other sounds, even on the unedited audio recording, it would have been hard to distinguish sounds closer to the pitch of the traffic noise.

The audio track was created before the shutdown began in Boston, as I was getting into my car for the morning commute, with many other motorists flying by on the Jamaicaway less than a football field away from me. Now, even at the height of rush hour, there are gaps in the roar and sputter, and fewer planes rumbling above.

Yesterday on my short walk, I jaywalked across the Jamaicaway into Olmsted Park at a place where that would normally be unadvisable. As I meandered into the trees, I heard at least five different types of birds in the middle of the afternoon, fighting, calling, chasing each other. There was even a red-headed woodpecker high in a tree on the border with Brookline. Right now, I hear wind in the trees, two mourning doves calling to each other, groups of starlings, a robin, a jay, a house wren, and a distant redwing blackbird from the park.

Looking from Olmsted Park across Jamaicaway towards the Jamaicaway Tower.

In this fraught time of self-isolation, I feel privileged to be in a place where I have a backyard to look into and a park nearby. Even growing up in an economically disadvantaged area I was embedded in the City of Ann Arbor, it was surrounded by natural areas, and so I was privileged to have orientation to wide open spaces, and still be able to navigate many advantages of life in a thriving college town.

However, many economically disadvantaged urban communities have a lack of space devoted to sustaining accessible natural systems. Torn down houses in formerly “blighted” areas of Detroit, for example, may contain natural systems, but they have largely been left to hazard, filling up with invasive weeds, foragers, and pests instead of being re-planted with native plants and trees that might attract a more sustainable ecology.

Some attempts to reclaim land, like the off-the-books Water Street Common, have been pushed out by city governments in crisis, as Ypsilanti has, citing liability for the toxicity of that zone, about which much ink has been spilled ranging from hope to corruption. Others, like the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, and the Boston Food Forest Coalition here in Boston, have had more long term success at creating sustainable economic development combined with sustainable and/or permaculture practices. There are many other models of community and of place-based initiatives that have had some success in the arts or farming or sustainability, but I want to get back to this project.

Urban and natural spaces are permeable to one another all around the world, and human participation in natural systems is intrinsic.

We are part of nature, and hearing less traffic and more birds right now sounds out loud and clear both how interconnected we are, and how deeply our noise and pollution affects our ecology. These new commentaries about birds and silence and breezes make me hopeful that more communities will prioritize investment in creating cities that are sustainable by both human and ecological measures.

It has been inspiring to do online workshops: I can hear and see what others have been creating.

It has given me a peek out windows here and around the world. Even though I’m in Boston, since everyone is working online, it was easier to connect with two former students in Michigan. After teaching online, I then did a teaching-artist oriented workshop with two colleagues in Illinois and Sri Lanka. Observations from all the participants from their windows or wishes included sheep, school buses, monkeys, cobras, cars, trees, and more birds.

This project was originally created inside a portable tent cinema full of transparencies with the idea that I would bring this project around the world, packed into a market tent. I do hope to bring the project around the world in a tent.

However, you are invited to participate in this new permutation, and create your own shadow-puppet cinema! Join in with your own sound effects and puppet-stories through the FOOLmoon Reimagined Facebook Group

Or if you want to participate in with a slightly less complicated story just send me a photo of the view out your window and tell me what you hear or make a recording of the sounds.

The collected works that you share will be used to create another clip in this series, possibly “Lullaby for Empty Cities.” The next work already in progress will most likely be titled “Fugue for The Cathedral of M-14

You can email your submissions to me, comment on this post with your photos, or tag anything you make with these tags on instagram or twitter so I can find them: #FOOLmoonreimagined #foolishsongs20

Social Distance Drawing

Doodling is a great way to get things off of your mind, and right now, there are a lot of things on everyone’s minds. In order to doodle with my friends and others, here is a site to doodle together. My plan is to be there around 6pm EDT for the next several days.

In a truly surreal situation, sometimes the best outlet is to follow the footsteps of the Surrealists.

Known participants on March 18: Christine Bruxvoort, Vanessa Chung, and Yaquelin Perez from various parts of the United States.

I’ve set up an instagram feed to track our collaborative drawings, and I am working on creating an exquisite corpse project that we can do digitally. Stay tuned!

Goings On About Town

Big things are in the works. Baby steps!!!

Though my drawing a day project has once again fizzled, I have in fact been making art nearly every day.  When I started the project, my intention was to do all kinds of work, showing progress, drawings, sketches, and finished work as it went on.

But as the project went on, my parameters got more and more narrow.  First, somehow, I decided it had to be a drawing. Then I decided it had to be a drawing on a particular size of paper.  But as an artist, I’m all over the place.  I do several bodies of work in several media all the time.  All those limitations are not how I work, but somehow I talked myself slowly into that consistency and regularity.

Some of the work that I do as an artist is less photographic.  Like the above shot, a photogenic rearrangement of something much less exciting to look at: making the “paints” for my “paintbox.”  Each sheet has to be torn and in order to use them more efficiently be rolled into a ball so when it comes to making the carpet, no detangling is needed.

In any case, I wanted to outline for you some of what I’ve been working on, though each of these things will get more attention as time goes on this summer, perhaps you would like to know the whole list of “what’s up” in Adventurous Art land.

Recycle Ann Arbor had an Earth Day Art Contest, and my “Sun Rug” was selected to be a finalist.  Though the turnout was small, I stuck around for the Public Reception and made some good connections to people in the community.

My small success in that contest persuaded me to shoot higher and I’ve been working on a proposal for a larger series of rag carpets to be displayed in narrative series from Cloud, to Rain, to Rainbow, to Sun.  The first proposal contains some mistakes and omissions, so we will see.  In either case, I’m excited about the project and you will see some progress shots soon.

One person I met through the program was the Outreach and Zero-Waste coordinator for RAA with whom I’m coordinating the translation of some of their materials about how to recycle in Ann Arbor into Spanish.  It’s cool to get to do some translation work, if only as a volunteer.

She also introduced me to someone at the Ecology Center, and I’m volunteering with them to do an interactive recycled art table at the Eco-Ride on June 23 at Riverside Park in Ann Arbor.  Yes, Ann Arbor, not Ypsi.  I’m going to do a whole entry about this since I made them a video and I think you’ll enjoy our project, even if you can’t attend the Eco-Ride.

Another of the people I met through the Recycle Ann Arbor Earth Day Contest was the director of FLY Art Center, an Ypsi organization that does outreach to under-served public school children.  We met up and I’m going to teach some “Studio Skills” classes (one about no-sew upcycled t-shirts, and one about rag rug coasters or placemats), and do some volunteering for them in their outreach and public programs.