Will Convenience/Instant Gratification Be Our Undoing?

A City’s exorbitant cardboard trash got me thinking about our excessive consumption, and, in this Covid-19 reality, creating.

Author’s portrait of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Oil and x-acto knife on recycled cardboard. Covid-19 series. Cutting into cardboard give a 3-D effect.

I’ve longed to live in NYC for years, and when it became a reality this October, it didn’t disappoint in showing me a rich banquet of stimuli that could satisfy the senses of any appetite. But an interesting side effect, a slight indigestion, grew as my awareness sharpened and revealed some of the underbelly amidst the dazzle.

Sure, I expected to see skittering rats on the subway tracks and a cockroach or two. What I didn’t expect were mountains of trash, especially cardboard, left curbside most days. This begged the question why do we have to have so much? All you have to do is look at the growing trend of self storage units that have become a blight on the landscape anywhere in the U.S. We have so much damn stuff, we need additional space to house more damn stuff. And then there’s the environmental impact.

Back in October an average of 1.5 million packages a day were delivered to NYC. In addition to the congestion, add to that the growing concerns about carbon dioxide emissions and deteriorating infrastructure.

For most of us, myself included, these growing concerns flicker to a weak flame for a moment in our consciousness but then quickly get tamped out by our desire for convenience and instant gratification so easily attained with the tap of a finger.

But this pandemic is an opportunity to reevaluate, reflect, to go deeper.  By going deeper I mean calling on our higher nature to do the right thing instead of succumbing to our lower nature that always demands I want it now. Essential workers’ lives in this plague economy are on the line, and that includes people filling orders and delivering goods. We’ve got to be asking ourselves is this something I need or something I want? Is it an emergency? Then act accordingly.

Author’s painting: Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, NY. Oil and x-acto knife on cardboard. Covid-19 series.

Like millions of others, I’m trying to exercise restraint and do the right thing. At the same time I’m looking for ways to be productive, creative, and entertained with what I already have as we social distance and self quarantine. 

As an artist, I’m continually looking for ways to be innovative while limiting my carbon footprint. Not able to find the right size canvas/wood block I wanted, and not wanting to place an order that required a delivery, I looked to recycled items.

In January, I joined the ranks of the bottle-pickers and began scavenging my Brooklyn neighborhood for large pieces of of unblemished cardboard (flat screen TV boxes are perfect). This resulted in a never-ending, free supply of discarded cardboard and the discovery of a medium that, when cut into, adds a 3-D effect to my paintings.

Author’s painting: Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn. Oil and x-acto knife on cardboard. Covidd-19 series.
Author’s painting: Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, NY. Oil and x-acto knife of recycled cardboard. Covid-19 series.

Covid-19 has brought the world to a screeching halt. If it has done anything, it has, perhaps, forced us to take a ” searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.” Or it should.

I’d like to think there are many ways we can make a difference. Acts of kindness, thinking of others, being resourceful and creative can spread exponentially too.


  1. Stephen O'Donnell · April 8, 2020

    well said.. thanks for the art and inspiration.


  2. Jon Jennings · April 8, 2020



  3. Sharon · April 8, 2020

    So we’ll articulated and illustrated. I like to believe some of that perspective comes from growing up in Maine.


  4. Sally · April 8, 2020

    Great thoughts, Con! I don’t know how many of the 1.5 million packages per day were from Bezos’ and Amazon Prime (loved the shifty eyes btw) but I do think he has a responsibility (and he’s totally got the mega bucks to do it) to think and create a way to recycle and pick up those boxes for his folks to collect and reuse. A little better care & compassion for his employees wouldn’t hurt his bottom line any, either! You might have gathered I’m not a huge fan of Mr. Bezos!


  5. Donna Duplessis Lerman · April 9, 2020

    Loved this! The art is beautiful and a creative use of cardboard!



    • connieottmann · April 9, 2020

      Hi Donna, Thanks so much! So nice to hear from you! Pretty much in my apartment these days…


  6. Jenny McKendry · April 10, 2020

    So exciting to see your paintings with your succinct expressive writing!The portrait is so alive, 3-D, colorful; he seems ready to move. The opening up of the corrugation on Bezos and in the buildings is imaginative and well used placed.I look forward to the next keyhole view of your world.


  7. David Morris · April 12, 2020

    Inspiring work and words in these strange times. Your leading a remarkable life! Carry on


  8. connieottmann · April 13, 2020

    Thanks, David. Just trying to make sense of it all!


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