As I gear up for a new in house position starting soon (after a terrifying year of little to no freelance and interviews), I'm on a mad dash to get as many of the 9th Circle Robotics pieces painted before my free time is reduced to nights and weekends. In between coats, details and washes, my mind tends to wander. Most of the time it wanders to action figures I want to hunt down, music I need to acquire and films I need to see. Sometimes, my mind drifts to slightly more stuffy and pretentious realms. Today seems to one of those times.
Over the past year, scary though it may have been, I am grateful for the time I was given to reflect on where I stand as an artist, what and where I want to be and finally, what about the creative world I love most and which parts make me wish I was never a part of it.
And so I give you the 10 things I love and the 10 things I hate about art (we'll start with a down beat and end on an up swing):
TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT THE ART WORLD:
10. Stupid art puns like my title to this blog. I find their use most often stems from the desire to create a feeling of exclusivity and warn the uninitiated "you don't belong here". Everyone should be encouraged to try their hand/ear/voice in some art form and anything that puts someone off the path to discover their own creative identity is just wrong.
9. People who brush off creatives who abuse drugs. No, I don't advocate frying your brain or burning holes in your liver/nose cartilage, but c'mon, if we somehow stopped all the creative thinkers in the world from messing with their own perception, 90% of what makes life bearable would not exist. You own an iPod (or other shiny overpriced MAC product)? Thank drugs. Do you enjoy stand up comedy? Thank drugs. Do you enjoy the classic literature of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Bram Stoker? Thank drugs. Do you own any music? Thank a LOT of drugs, drugs you've never heard of and don't even want to know about. If you own/enjoy any of these things and are vocal about how beneath your high horse recreational drug users are, all you're really doing is entertaining the rest of us.
8. People who think "classics" or certain periods are the only eras worth studying. All creative avenues are meant to be extended and built upon. Change is good, fresh ideas are good, trying new things is good. Fearing change or discouraging exploration is bad, so bad that if everyone did that, the creative life blood would stop flowing and die of boredom.
7. People who think what's happening now is all that matters. Respect for what has come before leads to understanding, and its that understanding of What Was that leads us down the road of What Could Be. Sometimes the now gets stuck and needs a kick start to move forward again. Having a working knowledge of the past ensures that a step forward is never a step backwards into the land of Been There Done That (I'm looking at you reboot/remake frenzied film world, copy-cat-to-the-point-of-three-whole-distinct-sounds-right-now modern rock and auto tuned vocals, where ever you may be).
6. Photoshop/Illustrator "brushes". When I first saw the vine like lines, paint splatter and distressing popping up everywhere in print media and advertising, I thought they were interesting. I was also under the impression that each one I saw had been an original creation. Creating elegant design out of chaotic bits is no easy task except, of course, when those chaotic bits are quite literally cookie cutters stamped around randomly.
5. The way most kids coming out of art (specifically design) school all seem to produce the same work with the same current gimmicks in place. Clearly the syllabus had more to do with brushes (see No. 6) and "in" fonts than it did creative voice and individuality. Seeing the general soullessness of their mass produced aesthetic, born from what is supposedly an institution of advanced knowledge and training, makes me all the more glad to have taken a few foundation pouring basics and then skipping out before they made me drink the punch. An individual voice and sense of style sets one apart, its a serious advantage. Its a shame it doesn't seem to be a concept strongly encouraged at such a crucial stage.
4. People who claim one medium is ever better than another. You'll hear lots of people scoff at digital painting. Guess what, paint is expensive. When you're starting out, you can't be shelling out 9 bucks for a toothpaste sized tube of paint, let alone enough for a palette. But if you can achieve a similar look and feel with a program simulating that paint, then by all means go for it, not to mention all the effects one can ONLY achieve through digital painting. On the other end, if you want the texture, there's no substitute for a canvas, some sable hair brushes and a paint splattered floor beneath your easel. Neither is right, neither is wrong. A powerful and effective image is a powerful and effective image, I don't care if it was done on Painter or with a stick spreading mud on the sidewalk.
3. Designers who like to show off that they've memorized a billion fonts. When I started out I was one of these useless sods I'm sorry to say. Until I had a moment of clarity best summarized in the words of Henry Jones Sr. from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "I wrote them down in my diary so I wouldn't HAVE to remember them." Same goes for fonts. I pull down a little menu, I see samples, I pick something that suits the job and go with it. I don't care whats "in" (well, sort of, but only so that I purposefully avoid those), I don't care what its normally used for and I honestly don't care what its called. Let's keep it real, there are only TWO real types of fonts: serif or non. You want an apple or an orange? Everything else comes down to shade of apple or orange. Or its a special weird font you're not gonna use regularly so why bother letting it take up cerebral hard drive space? Its right there in that little pull down menu available 24/7, 365, 366 in a leap year. Don't get me wrong, its a useful time saver to be able recognize and match fonts quickly, its the mentality that can often accompany that knowledge that irks me.
2. The lack of realism exhibited by commercial artists/designers that complain about clients who don't get what they were trying to do. Really? Do you know what commercial means? You're selling something. And its not yours to sell. This does not mean become a total sell out, it does not mean you shouldn't push as many creative boundaries as possible. What it does mean, is that you need to put your ego aside and realize this isn't about you and its not about the free range creativity you've idealized for yourself. You want free reign to take your art where ever you want? Wrong field. Commercial art is about creating the most aesthetically pleasing product with regard to its target audience. There's still a lot of creative freedom within that. Consider the audience, consider the message and design appropriately and you'll find a surprising lack of friction between yourself and your client. If your client still doesn't "get you", guess what? You studied art, they didn't. They shouldn't be expected to recognize your obscure references and style evocations any more than you should be expected to fix their budget crisis. A commercial artist must be a business person first and an artist second. Clients are considering a billion different factors that could lead to their product's success or failure. You're but one piece in that puzzle.
1. People who do not recognize comic books, video games, cartoons, or toys as art. Probably thought number one would be something more provocative? Nope. The general geek culture market is still viewed as nothing more than kids stuff. For some reason sculpting a perfect likeness of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow of Gizmo from Gremlins or the style of a fantasy/comic/sci-fi illustrator in perfect 3D, is not as respected as Rodin's "Thinker" or Michaelangelo's "David". Granted, their chosen media was quite a bit more difficult to maneuver, but the skill behind all of these works stems from the same place. Video games are often cheap targets for certain stuffy and past their sell by date film critics, and lets not forget "parents" or the government. Obviously they have no concept of how many gifted illustrators design these worlds, characters, creatures, weapons and vehicles from scratch or how difficult rendering software is to learn, let alone use. Games have some seriously meaty stories these days, and they have to be translated into a fully interactive experience. I'm sorry, what do film crews do again? Oh, that's right, point a camera and shoot. I'm not trying to mock film either, I'm quite the film geek, but don't even start with me on that video games will never be as good as films crap. From the looks of things, I'd be far more intellectually engaged by the likes of Bioshock or Final Fantasy than I ever would watching yet ANOTHER remake/reboot/rehash film staring the same terribly one note yet bankable actors. There have been more original ideas circulating in video games in the last 4 years than in the last 14 of film. Same goes for comics: Artists have to be able to do everything from set direction to cinematography to prop department to concept artist to costume designer. As for the writing, TRY fitting a story into sequential paneling that a reader can quite literally see coming and tell me writing a comic book is easy. Animation isn't as frowned upon as the other kooks on this list, but Western animation is still used almost exclusively for children's entertainment. The likes of Ghost in the Shell, Vampire Hunter D or Cowboy Bebop will never be prime time viewing in this country... not any time soon anyway. And all this boils down to is content bias. Craftsmanship doesn't even enter into it for the critics of these "kiddie" concepts. Bias against content has no place in art. If canvas' painted with a red gradient hang in a museum, if ancient sporks and bowls are art, if a naked dude standing around flaunting his junk is art, then so too are the works from the artists in these fields.
TEN THINGS I LOVE ABOUT THE ART WORLD (which will be shorter since they do not come with rants):
10. Adobe Products. They make the world easier and increase the amount of possibilities one can do from a meager home studio. The best part: using them in ways OTHER than intended often leads to the best output.
9. It beats whining. If you have something to say, don't whine, have some fictional character kick that problem's ass in an interesting yet allegorical story in the form of a book, comic, animation, film or song and presto! Suddenly everyone who used to call you a whiner will be handing you money to ingest your now brilliantly disguised and entertaining rants. You're not whining, you're topical!
8. The sheer number of commercial applications we have in our time. You want to illustrate? Well you could be a concept artist for any number of things, you could draw comics, you could work in advertising. You want to compose? All the classical ventures are still around or you could score films, commercials, video games. You write? Well there are a TON of avenues out there. Art is more integrated into daily life than it ever has been before. Every piece of packaging, every ad, every car, every computer... all designed and actualized by artists. Sure I'd rather be drawing crazy monsters and robots all day and someday I still may... but until then, I'm thankful for commercial art because even the most irritating of client is no match for the hell that is dealing with the daily patronage and middle to upper management of the retail/food service industries.
7. By merely participating, you have contributed to a long and fascinating avenue of history stretching back to whichever version of human first picked up a stick and drew in the sand or smeared mud on a cave wall. You have put a piece of yourself into the very fabric of human culture. You may not be your generation's Da Vinci... or are you? You never know... If you are, pray some nimrod doesn't make a conspiracy book based on your work that ends up a stuffy, takes itself too seriously Tom Hanks vehicle.
6. It pisses off The Man. There's no better way to bug The Man then to inspire some questioning of the way things work. Then you might notice all the bullshit they used for mortar. Then you might start demanding stuff gets built right and that cuts into their money and power. And that's how revolutions are born. It may not be as easy to inspire people to stand up to the machine these days, the machine is plugged in to just about everything and seems to grow more unstoppable on a daily basis. At least with art, people can say SOMETHING even if only a small amount hear it, even if they only fight back in their own heads... that's still better than if it had never existed at all.
5. The sheer variety. Its limitless. Anything that has thought put into it as a creative venture can be justified as art. From this concept was birthed forth novels, paintings, plays, sculptures, songs, instrumental music, spoken word, chairs, comics, movies, toys, sporks, video games and every culinary masterpiece (like Volcano Nachos) we ingest... you want it? It exists somewhere in some form. It doesn't exist? You can make it and BAM!, you've just added variety to the world. How's that feel champ?
4. Artists are our culture's shamans and spiritual guides. No, I did not come to that realization on my own, Joseph Campbell told me that. Well, not me, he told Bill Moyer in the six part "Power of Myth" that every artist (whether visual, written, or auditory) should ingest. In short, artists ask questions, examine, digest and explain life through their work. This work is a source of guidance, peace and inspiration to the world. You can learn life lessons from the tales of Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha or you can get the same information from the likes of Batman, Luke Skywalker, Hamlet, the Man with No Name, Transformers... whatever. Anything that serves as a metaphor for life experience can guide, teach and inspire. I'm living proof. I learned unflinching dedication from Batman, Luke Skywalker taught me that even coming from the humblest of beginnings (and getting a late start) is no excuse to not try and save the galaxy, Optimus Prime taught me that freedom is the right of all sentient beings and worth fighting for... and on and on and on.
3. Try to imagine life without art. Go on, close your eyes. Ok, ready? Art? GONE! [SCREAMS SNARLS ROARS METAL SCRAPING SHRILL CRIES OF PAIN AND ETERNAL SUFFERING]. Right? I think I've made my point: the world is better, prettier, more interesting and pleasant with art.
2. The Internets. Nothing has given artists more resources or an easier time being seen than the Internet. Since the whole rich patron paying to put artists up and keep them in bread, wine and cheese has sort of gone out of style, Teh Internets is an artist's best friend. Get a Twitter, get a blog, get a Facebook fan page, build a website, set up a shop or join something like Etsy and you're off. Plenty of people realize their potential and make their art a career that way. And its all thanks to Al Gore, cuz he invented the Internets and ruined the Ozone layer and made sure all the hookers leaving his boss' office were properly disappeared after their job was done... wait... right? [shakes head "no" at those who thought I was serious as I slip Clint Eastwood a bill to growl at them, "Get off my blog"].
1. Art is everything and anything you want it to be. To me, its a mode of conveying ideas in interesting new ways. Its rebellion. Its speaking up. Its selfish and its selfless. Its fun and its aggravating. Its a part of me that has always been there no matter what and will never ever leave me... not even if it wanted to, those knots are sailor quality and no one can hear it scream with that duct tape over its mouth [revs power drill]. Above all, art is freedom. A freedom that can never be taken from you or tarnished by anyone (unless you let it). There is nothing you need that creativity cannot provide.