Art I Made in Q1–2023

Chuk Moran
11 min readDec 23, 2023

Winter is dark and slow, thus also a good laboratory space for art. The desolation and bleakness provides a motivation for people to do more art and care about more art. It also makes space for failure.

To me, many deployed projects were failures, but most of the stuff I prepared and did not yet deploy ended up going very, very well.

With a whole summer of normal events behind them, people were post-lockdown. The economy was strong and a democrat was president, so most people in my world were relaxed and happy to give a shit about cultural stuff like art.

I even think that, at this point, many had gotten back in touch with the unpleasant default world of clubs where men grope you, bars where you have to wait 20 minutes for a drink, and waiting for a table at a restaurant. Our daily suffering provides a critical context for art; what are you trying to escape from?

One-Off Art for Parties

During this time, it was important to me that art try to do something in addition to look like something and provide an activity.

Bunny Creation

Lunar New Year in January kicked off the Year of the Bunny! I am into the Chinese Zodiac system and try to learn lessons from each year’s featured animal. Bunnies are diplomatic, hop around a lot, and are quite social. They also eat vegetarian, are cute, and try to be nice.

Super simple air dry clay project. Bring this to an event and get people to make a bunny!

It turns out that most people think they can’t sculpt a bunny, so they choke. See the green ball bunny in the middle? Surprisingly common. Later in this year I started getting more strategic about what I would invite people to make. Somehow bunnies are too intimidating.

In 2022 I made up a nice game of Hide the Tiger for the Tiger year. For 2023, I made a growing herd of bunnies and encouraged the roommates to move the bunny herd to a new party spot each month! This was kind of a dud, and mostly I moved the bunnies. I’m not sure what I could have done to increase engagement here. I think moving small items felt like work, but walking around looking for a tiger somehow felt like play. It’s so hard to know! This is probably the kind of thing I will get better as I spend more time with average people, something almost totally missing from my youth.

Month Ranking

This was just a depraved idea I brought to a bar, but I got many people to share their opinion on which months are best. And worst.

Did this project in January. Everyone agreed it was the worst month.
Brackets are a really silly way to try to determine which months are the best. Throwing October against September in the first round is totally unfair while January fights February.

This is a good topic for engagement. People understand the months and feel comfortable generalizing about them. Ranking things that don’t seem to need any ranking also worked. I think I’m bypassing people’s aversion to judgement and reasoning-that-might-have-nasty-conclusions. Of course, the other major activity at the bar was to chit-chat and drink beer. Compared to those activities, this was exciting!

Ultimately, I never used this ranking for anything, so I don’t think this project did anything.

House Party Conversation Starters

Here’s another one that mostly failed, because people have such a big gap between their idealized self and realized self. The concept seemed simple: what are common ways that people strike up a conversation at a house party?

I didn’t hear anyone ask, “What are you excited about lately” as a conversation starter, but I think this is what people think they should be doing in party conversation. I did hear “Hey you live here right? I need a” and “I am using this space and do not mind your spill”

Another case where my calibration to normal people is still a long ways off. I think my attachment to reality is alienating and unwelcome, so we mostly got fantasy-based contributions.

At least it was fun and this project was very easy.

Put Art On Their Walls

This was a wild idea from Renee. She saw the photos of the home where we were going to a housewarming. There was no art on the walls. She suggested we bring something from our “art storage.” We brought some old paintings made by my mother a few years ago.

Then we went to the party and put art up on the walls.

It stayed up for a long time.

Wall Letters

This was a killer project I’d encourage anyone to copy at other house party events. The idea is simple: print out a bunch of letters that can spell some words and then let people put together whatever word they want, then tape it up somewhere! Andie was my collaborator on this and it went great. We took over a large table and had people coming through to play for hours.

This was a perfect typeface because it doesn’t use that much ink to produce cute letters. Also we had to make some more letters onsite and that’s quite doable with a Sharpie.
We also put up some posters I bought at the art store because that seemed fun too.

The goal here was to leave one or more words the residents would choose to keep. Eventually, they selected “pee” in the bathroom. So Andie and I printed up a new version, got frames, framed each letter, then dropped off the framed letters for them to put up! Cute.

Heavenstice Art

For our house party during this quarter, we chose the theme of Heaven. This was a follow-up to another event that had chosen Hell, but then pivoted to Heck.

Wearable angels. Most of these are existing sculptures with wings + safety pin hot glued on.
Heaven is a difficult theme to dress for, so I tried to help people out.

At the event, I also made a little paper hat creation station. I made a good hat, someone else made a decent hat but didn’t wear it, no one else made a hat. So making a hat to wear yourself is unappealing to people.

Seven Minutes in Heaven

Another Andie collaboration! I have always thought “Seven Minutes in Heaven” is a fun-sounding game but worried that no one would play it, even though it would make them happy. (Like “Spin the Bottle” but somehow even more intimidating.)

So we designed a really nice experience! When you come to the party, we offer you a “Game” sticker that makes you eligible. Whoever has Cupid’s Bow can then shoot you. You can then agree to go do the experience with them, then take the bow.

Final sticker design

The experience is a cozy cute room with some accessories, then a menu of things to do and a timer. It’s a great menu and I’d love to run this again.

The game mechanic of “Cupid’s Bow” failed us because it turns out most people are too intimidated to wander the party with a bow and shoot someone they might want to kiss. Yeah, people are pretty shy, I guess. However, we did get a few people to kiss and two of them tried to start dating! That was our goal here, to get people to kiss and enjoy it! But I think we only got about 4 pairs of people in there across the whole night, so I think of it as a mostly failing project.


Coming out of lockdown, my art had ditched almost all intellectual content in favor of physical or childish content. Games proved successful in this atmosphere. With these games, the preference for using your brain started to re-emerge!

Jeu Gruyere

I encountered this game in November and played it with Gene. I messaged the creator later and he pointed me to the right name and some related games. Then I built this game with Sophie.

Ok this is not mine. This is the general idea. Use ropes to pull a ball up a wall that has holes in it.
This was a leftover plywood sheet from the Explorey Torium in summer of 2022. It already had chalkboard paint so we drew a bit on that and cut more holes. Lots of holesaw!
The pleasure of painting.
Sophie and I learned how to draw gaping mouths with teeth really well.
Sophie and I faced disaster as the board snapped as we tried to drive it to San Francisco. Very scary and sad. But we regrouped on a beach and decided to do the work to repair it! We got more board, more paint, cut this one, added a new board, painted using spray and paint markers for faster dry times, and delivered the project that night to a club takeover. Overachievement.

This was a wonderful game that we continued to take to events all year. It has great replay value and does well with a variety of audiences. I even had the pleasure of watching someone figure it out on their own! They said, “it must work that way.” Then they played with their friend.

Needless to say, we played the game with onions so you had to take onions to market without goblins eating your merchandise.

I Step On It

This was the second of three board games I was planning at this point, but it was the first one finished because it’s very simple and I didn’t play test it.

That was a big mistake as the game did not work for regular human sensibilities. Again, I think this one felt like too much scary judgment energy for people, as it requires you quickly assert that you dislike something.

I felt sure the tiny shoes would make the game work!
To me, it’s a normal part of one’s psyche that some things, like Mormons, trigger an immediate feeling of distaste and disapproval. In polite society, we remain stoic about such a feeling and try not to judge. But the immediate sense is there, which should make the game fun. In this game, you can say “I hate heirloom ivory that’s so fucked up” and step on the card with a tiny shoe.

I also added the too-bizarre Goblin cards, which ask you whether or not you would literally step on a scorpion or autumn leaves.

There was one party where this game worked, but it involved two hotties shouting a lot to get people into it. Two hotties shouting could probably make any game work.

This project is about as close as you can get to a bomb, though I hope it has its day sometime, maybe in another place than Northern California.

Great practice making a game, with a nice cover and fun shoes (mostly from ebay).

Goblin Art

Somehow, this year we decided to just pick one art theme and do tons of projects with that theme, bringing it out in many forms to many events. The art started in January, with small experiments and some basic items coming together quickly.

An early January hangout where we didn’t have much to do resulted in these excellent test sculptures. It turns out you can definitely carve a potato into a goblin face!
They dry pretty well too!
Andie and I went to a local “Drink and Draw” event and practiced drawing goblins and goblin ears. It turned out that the ear designs would come up again and again!
Some quick goblin faces made with painted cardboard. These faces ultimately traveled with us to almost every goblin event! I hadn’t thought that they would be so useful, but they were excellent deco and really helped push the message of “goblins” even though none of us were in green facepaint.
The idea of hanging wooden spoons seemed intuitive to me. Sophie really got going on this and figured out a bunch of ways to make spoons great. She dyed some with turmeric, then other ways, and explored burning them with a soldering iron to make patterns!
I explored a lot of patterns I was seeing in Mongolian country dwellings, mostly because they feel very different to me and also because they are rather straightforward to do by hand (not digital).
The more advanced goblin face incorporated a pattern on the skin and a “cranky contraption” wiregear mechanism that I had seen in vintage toys in Santa Fe and wanted to explore.
This was the first cranky contraption and it was the best one, ultimately, because it was so simple and easy to repair. The warrior just jumps up and down behind a pile of onions, waving a spear. Beautiful.
Yes, we discovered, you can peel an outer layer of an onion, put a light in it, and sew the thing shut. This is a cool trick we used a couple times, but it’s very labor intensive per bulb. Totally weird and lovely though.
Andie and Liz painted this bottle for us! They are such a powerhouse when they work together!
The Goblin Walls project was ultimately a bomb, but I was inspired by a pseudo-chessboard pattern that could be used to cover our typical lumber framing.
Painted cardboard is cheap and fairly weather resistant. However, it’s almost impossible to deploy in rain or humid conditions. 2023 was an El Nino year so we ended up trying to set these up in a light rain and they were useless.
Filling out the finest level of detail took many hours, despite my attempt to make these fast to build.
Goblin Smut was a runaway hit for the goblin project. Andie and I worked on this quite a lot during this quarter, with other images also collected by Sophie. Curating it, getting the margins and file formats right, and finalizing it for print were all pretty back-breaking. I hadn’t designed a full print book in many years at this point, so it was extra hard.
Design iterations on the cover.
Our foreword was pretty good too. We did get some content from ChatGPT, an emerging force during this period, but it was weak so Andie and I each wrote a foreword and I edited them all together. Above you can see the reference material, Erotica Universalis by Taschen.

Sadly, because we used images from all over the web, we don’t own the rights and can’t sell copies of this book. I’m sure it would be a win-win for the original artists, since most of this is from Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt etc and the book absolutely kills, with many copies stolen over the year.

A good design process on the logo involved many iterations and a good group session toward the end where Liz freehanded a nice goopy iconic onion face.
I pumped out banners using an improved process from the previous year. In 2022, I fastened the cloth to the top rod, but here I just sewed crude straps so you can take the thing off a rod. Easier work, cleaner look, more reusable parts.
The coffee bottle that Andie and Liz painted, like the goblin wall checkboard squares, inspired me to use lots of specific drawings of things goblins could relate to, such as snails and leaves and acorns.
Here I also copied a torch and tatter look from a museum exhibit on Yokai and used a motif in the corners from source material related to Mongolia. I was very proud of the typeface solution, which involves characters that are ambivalently upper and lower case at once.


Making art is important to me. Figuring out how to make crowd pleasing art requires learning more about crowds than I ever wanted to before. The taste of crowds also changes over time, especially around major events with direct impact on my peers, such as the pandemic.

Working with people I like and respect is amazing and motivating. I feel quite lucky to be able to invest my time into art and relationships that complement each other. For most artists, working on art is at odds with investing in relationships. Relationships are more essential, leaving art starved for time and attention. During this year, they were aligned and that was fun, magical, and productive. I think it was pretty nice for everyone, which should encourage more of this in the future!

Most aspects of my life were on lock during this time, so I didn’t have any home improvement to worry about or a job hunt or a medical problem. I was free to do a ton of art and I took advantage of that opportunity!