IMG_2823“Totems” focuses on depicting “the faces of the wild” – a range of graphite and ink work done on brown paper bags.

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

The “Totem” Project; originated out of a drawing style begun in 2002, and later became the backbone work form for “Art from the Pack”.  As I began a life of simplified travel, I also began to adapt my art style to fit it.  Each totem “face” is a story – a combination of people, creatures, places and experiences, encountered while on the road or within the wilds, and worked into a single profiled caricature.  Because of this, each piece is a completely original work, without duplicate “prints” or copies existing.  Every story a uniquely different manifestation of a point along my travels.  Many of the totems I create I build from notes I collect while on the move.  Recording experiences, emotions and thoughts while rucksacking, has become a key part in my process for crafting each totem as well as building upon my literary travel-fiction.

When off the road, I use my time to re-cycle my way through these notes.  I spend time taking the totems drawn while traveling and putting the workshop to use building frames for them.

Totems are a combination of pencil (graphite) and ink, drawn on the back side of recycled brown paper bags.  I use several different framing styles with the totems, the most recent, a combination of wood and cooper (featured on the left), the wood from old weathered fencing, the copper wire stripped from old phone lines.  The totems are often then arranged into “trees” and then mounted on recycled cardboard.  The end result of this process, finds me finalizes most totem with around a 90% use of recycled material gathered during my travels.

Such an art style does come with some drawbacks however. As part of living on the move and crafting my art in order to finance my travels, “totems” as well as many of my other art styles incorporates a philosophy of “raw” art.  When you travel with just your pack, from one city to the next, along both road and trail alike, you have to learn to “Live Light”.  The loss of a favorite hat, a prized watch, have to be let go of in order to progress on.  Too much attachment to any one item can lead to distraction, discomfort and chaos for the traveler.  Therefore, when I travel I expect things to get damaged, to get bent and mangled, to become lost or even stolen.  It becomes part of the overall experience, part of the very process of a life on the move.  My art reflects this too.  I work with materials that are easy to obtain in the diverse regions I visit.  I refrain from using protective coatings on my work, and in many cases (such as with totems) do not use any subtractive methods.  Meaning any mistakes or alterations of the work are either worked into the piece itself or the entire work is recycled.  Even once the work is done, I do little to “protect it”, letting it accumulate the wear of the miles just as I myself do.  Each smudge of the ink, each tear of the canvas mirrors the scrapes and scars I also endure.  Thus “raw” art becomes forever a changing work, a piece continually in motion, continually on the road.

NOTE: New updates regarding work on the large-scale indoor and outdoor Totem work to be updated soon.


If you’re interested in featuring or buying a set of totems can call 518.784.2783 and ask for Jonathan or leave a message. You can also send me an e-mail directly at  I will get back to you as soon as access allows.

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July 14, 2014 · 8:26 pm

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