When I was in pre-school, our class did a project where you draw a picture on a plastic plate in colored Sharpie marker. I guess it’s an arts and crafts standard, because during my childhood I seemed to find them everywhere: displayed in breakfronts or upstairs hallways; hidden surprises in cupboards; the plate your chicken nuggets were warmed up on. For me, the plate project stands as my only surviving memory from pre-school. I took one marker at a time into a balled left fist, jerking my hand like a Richter scale and admiring the no-smudge chaos. No expectations, no ego – just exploration and creation.

This was Long Island, 1988. By Long Island, 1998, Colgan’s Playschool was gone – knocked over for more housing – and my plate experiment was in the regular dinner rotation. When I’d go to friends’ houses and see their plates, I’d note the stark differences in approach. Their plates were pictures of sunsets; group portraits with “I love my family” scrawled on top in Lemonade Stand font; rows of long-stemmed flowers exactly the same height, color and size, like some army rifle drill. My plate seemed babyish in comparison. I learned to be conscious of my actions in relation to others.

College came, and no one takes their pre-school plate to college – at least, not physically. I did my time, felt hopelessly isolated, met a girl who changed that, stuck my hand in cow’s blood, coated a door with it, and called it a day. Kaylen’s plate is mounted in the kitchen of her parents’ house. It’s a meadow scene with a single flower and the sun overhead. There’s a random rainbow in the middle of the sky that reminds me of a car air freshener, and the sky’s only three-fourths done because she got tired of coloring. If you blur your vision, the sun and the white surrounding it turn into a Sunnyside egg.

At some point, most bios try to draw comparisons to other famous talents or describe what type of work goes on here. Unfortunately, my publicist sent out the last copy of that bio in a recent press release and my secretary can’t seem to find a backup copy in either our LA or New York offices. What I’m trying to do here is get back to the dinner plate – that moment of pure creation when I didn’t concern myself with the thoughts of the outside world but rather the fancies and curiosities of the world within. It’s that type of work, free from external expectation, that never smears or fades and remains in the dinner rotation for years to come.