What is “A Pulse Uncommon”, and How Uncommon is that Pulse Anyway?

Renaming a blog is not for the timid or squeamish. Especially not when you take titles as seriously as I do. ⊛

Putting a name to something assigns it a meaning, an identity. It would be nice if naming were as simple as giving people a way to identify or find something. Names have mysterious, magical powers. Powers that create shadows and suggestions in our minds; powers of transformation and metamorphosis.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other word would smell as sweet.
-William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

Shakespeare might seem to be arguing against the power of names. And, in a perfect world, he might be right. After all, traced back to their earliest origins, at some point words had to be randomly assigned. 

  • Let’s call this “rock”

  • Whaaa? No! “rock”'s a stupid name.

  • WHUNK!!!

  • “Rock” it is.

The one thing people always forget to do when quoting Shakespeare is to think about who is saying the line. Sure, good ol’ William might have written it (arguments that he might not have aside), but these words were not written to fall from his mouth. They came out of Juliet’s, a love-addled thirteen year old. And we all know what happened to her. 

A Pulse that Echoes with its own Uncommon Rhythm.

At its most cringingly cliched and reductive, A Pulse Uncommon is just my way of saying “marching to my own drummer”. And sure, that’s part of it. Ambiguously optimistic surreal creatures, carved from paper, that reflect unexplored crevices of relationships and the human soul is a singular cadence.

⊛ The Coming Together of the Pulse & the Tremor
⊛ size: 13.8 x 7.3 in • 350 x 185mm
⊛ medium: cut + torn washi + chiyogami paper / Kurume Kasuri Textile

And just look at how many synonyms for “Pulse” I’ve come up with so far. And how much they evoke, both visually and emotionally. Rhythm, cadence, meter, flow, throb, shake, undulate. The thump of the footsteps moving too quickly behind you. The tick of the clock hand counting down the seconds until you launch. The rush of blood as your heart beats. The inescapable urge to move your feet to the music.⊛⊛

PaperCuts was a perfectly serviceable name. Why change now?

This blog’s earliest entry is May 11, 2006. 

Yes, this is a history lesson.

Over the past year, I’ve been hopping around the internet updating old links (this is NOT an interesting way to spend your time, except…) and the most interesting thing I’ve noticed is how many of those blogs are either dead and gone, or withering away. Many belonged to extremely talented artists who I hope are still creating. Many have segued into other websites, or Facebook, or Tumblr. 

Back in 2006, I was, primarily, an illustrator. Most of my work was created for editorial venues - magazines and a handful of newspapers. And I was doing a smattering of children’s book work. 

I had just moved to Tokyo.

Just gotten married.

I had barely begun to experiment with the different types of papers I could get. I hadn’t tried to work with wood. Or light.

And my art style. Wow. Totally different. It was so much simpler, more graphic, less decorative, less intricate. More illustrative. Lots more humans.

I was using MySpace. And calling myself CutPaperNinja because using my real name online was scary (it still is a little scary in some of the darker, dingier corners of the internet). It was a silly nom de plume for a time when the web seemed a little silly. MySpace was definitely silly. 

PaperCuts grew out of that minor ninja obsession. At a time when my writing plan was scattered and unformed, it was the perfect general, all-purpose title. Which probably explains why so many paper artists, and paper-adjacent businesses, and utterly random-and-not-even-vaguely-paper-related-folks gave their blogs and websites the same name. So, yeah, maybe not my most imaginative bit of brainstorming. 

Who am I kidding. I still like ninjas.

Who am I kidding. I still like ninjas.

In truth, I don’t think I spent more than five minutes deliberating on the title. I seem to remember it being meant as a temp title, a placeholder until I had some time to come up with a more appropriate, awe-inducing moniker. I’m a master at procrastinating, but even I couldn’t have guessed that it would take me eleven years to get back to it.

Over time, everything changes, mutates, and transforms.

2006 was a time when artist’s workflows were just starting to dip their toes into digital waters. One day, I was sending sketches by fax machine. The next, by email. And a week later finished, full-color art was shooting through the wires. 

Contrary to logic, this sped-up communication didn’t lead to illustrators having more time to work on the art. Somehow, faster back and forth gave us shorter deadlines. Turnaround times shrank from 2 weeks to a few days at exactly the same time that I was becoming more experimental with my work, and more “acoustic”. 

⊛ Traveling Cloak
⊛ medium: cut paper + washi / board
⊛ size: 302 x 240 mm • 11.9 x 9.5 in
⊛ private collection

I don’t remember the first time I sent my work off to a gallery. It was an impulse. 

It probably wasn’t an impulse. It probably had been percolating in the back of my mind for months. But it felt like an impulse in that moment. I saw a gallery that looked promising and shot off an email. And I got a positive answer (I’ve gotten a lot of negative ones since then. It’s probably a good thing the first reply was a yes).

So, PaperCuts followed this journey from creating art meant to accompany writing, to images intended to stand on their own. 


A Strengthening of the Pulse

The start of a new chapter doesn’t erase everything that came before. It builds on it. If you like the artwork I’ve made up until now, there’s a really good chance that you will continue to enjoy the work. I’m not abandoning themes or concepts. I’m growing them, evolving them. And focusing them.

The past few years, as I’ve moved physically from Tokyo to Fukuoka to southern Osaka (your guess is as good as mine where my next home will be), have been a constant exercise in examining and re-evaluating what is important, in both life and work. 

Moving house has a way of clarifying what you really need. Clothing gets culled, furniture chucked, carpets hocked, knickknacks knocked around. Interestingly, it does similar things to art. Each time I reorganize the studio space, I start to go through the work I’ve done and consider which pieces inspire me to explore more in the future.

Many of the themes I’ve worked with still excite me: relationships and connection (human/human, human/nature, sexual, visitor/long-term native, spiritual etc.). Specifically the interconnectedness of all living things and, for lack of a better word, their soul(s). Flow of life and time. Parasitic and symbiotic relationships. 

To those, we can add the visual idea of the pulse. The rhythm of life and the universe. Most recently, the concept of relics as a way to explore our relationship with belief in things otherworldly.

And larger works. Or bright, colorful pop-pier works. Or small modular works that combine to form a greater work, like some artsy Decepticon (…there goes that focus).

In other words, I’m still very, very excited about making art.⊛⊛⊛

So, please join me as we continue to vibrate, resonate, and create to A Pulse Uncommon.

⊛ of writings and artworks, not people
⊛⊛ My one regret when writing this…composition…is that I can’t find the many scribbled pages of notes of possible blog titles. I think I buried it. Probably after burning it. 
⊛⊛⊛ also, I want to write more.⊛⊛⊛⊛
⊛⊛⊛⊛ If I’m going to write posts this long, I need to get back into the habit of outlining.