Musician, writer, artist, gardener, Jane-of-all-trades.
I keep astonishingly busy with a wide variety of things and this blog may seem random in consequence. Expect Mass Effect fanfic (including the ongoing saga of pilot-lovin' Rhi Shepard), thoughts on disability, politics, and a liberal helping of goats. Especially baby goats.
I scanned it, uploaded it, and sat back for my usual episode of art angst—I painted something noxiously cute and relatively simple, without a background, that did not particularly stretch me in any way, merely because I thought it was funny and wanted to do a stripey design with my PITT pens, the shame, the shame.
I had a buyer within—I double checked the time stamps—six minutes.
I thought “Man, the thrill of selling it really goes a long way to negating the guilt of having done it in the first place.”
Then I thought, “Whoa, I’m letting commercial success overcome my art guilt! I have SOLD OUT! ARRGH! Get thee to art confession! Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned—I have painted simple and cute and sold it and felt less guilty for having sold it!”
Then I thought, “Is it actually possible for a commercial artist to sell out? I mean, without, y’know, hardcore porn or working for Disney or something?”
Then I thought, “No, that makes me feel less guilty, so it can’t be right.”
Then I thought, “Bunnychicken!” for no apparent reason. (That happens a lot.)
Then I thought, “If the measure of not selling out is forcing yourself to do things that nobody would put money down for, it’s dumb and in it’s own way just as reactionary as do things people do want, because you’re selling out to the mystique of not selling out, damnit, which is a total sell-out.”
Then I thought, “Yeah, but once you’ve thought of that, no matter what you do is selling out because everything could be percieved as selling out somehow, and the only way to avoid selling out is to do your own thing without even thinking about selling out, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead, and stop worrying about it.”
Then I stopped and ran that last bit through my head a few times to see if I could understand it the second time through, which I could, but only barely, and I really wasn’t sure whether that meant it was okay to paint mice in ponchoes or not.
Then I thought “Fireworks! The crow has FIREWORKS, not toilet paper!” which was important to something unrelated.
Then I thought, “Screw it, it’s a mouse wearing a poncho and a chicken. If that’s selling out, there is no hope for any of us.”
Then I thought, “Man, I could really use a nap.” And in this, at least, I was unanimous.
And that constituted my art angst moment for the day. Tune in next week for another exciting episode of “Ursula Wrestles With The Demons Of Art,” which, we predict, will end in another exciting nap.
Video games figured out they were art but they still don’t know that art is bullshit. Everyone else figured this out in 1915. They forgot it instantly, but you can look it up in a book to see how silly it is that not just games, but books, film, music and literally everything else is highly self-conscious about their status as art because art is art because someone says it is art and that is that. For example, my orchid has just told me that anime is art, and I must deffer to its beautiful purple flowers and PHD in art history. If you would like to be recognized as art by say, a mammal has tenure at an american university, chances are that you might want to appeal to what he thinks is art.
That’s the extremely cynical analysis of art and like most cynicism it’s true enough to convincingly mislead. While it’s true that mammalian professors are not nearly as open minded as my fabulous purple orchid, they’re usually smart enough to be able to tell at least 85% of the time whether art has created something original and true and whether the art is bullshitting everyone. If a game’s artistic aspirations are obvious and making you cringe, it is almost always because the work has the signifiers of art and high culture (like the classical music you suggest) but it’s just sort of there without craft or meaning or intentionality.
Indiecade is a different venue for art than the Louvre, but within the genre of art that fits in the venue there’s stuff that’s true and beautiful and stuff that’s less so and stuff that drastically isn’t. What is great art that is true and beautiful and what is great art that fits in a particular subculture or discourse community’s vision of art are two different questions that appear exactly the same to whoever is running said discourse community.
Specifically, games are embracing classical art because video games have embarrassed themselves so much with orcs and space marines that the safest antidote is the cool embrace of the classics. Games might go for classical imagery because it is recognizable As Art, unlike Dada and modernism and all that weird shit made by godless communists that snide jerks say their kids could paint. Like pretty much every philosophical or artistic movement ever, games are reacting against one thing (hideously corporate billion dollar entertainment industry) by going to another thing (the equivalent from a couple hundred years ago that’s actually good). Beneath what seems like a kind of shallow grab at the appearance of art is a sincere attempt to grasp the basics of art that appear so absent from so much of the vast body of the medium.
The mere fact you’re pointing it out, as others have, signifies that we’re probably going to see games move away from classical imagery the more tryhard and shallow the gestures appear. But one big problem is that the ways games tend to be visually interesting are either associated with retro nostalgia or with cutting edge hollywood SFX. So maybe games are having problems being confident in their imagery because what makes it unique is part of what gets it discounted as art. Sworcery more or less successfully made pixel art feel like “art” so maybe we’ll see stuff like that first. Lots of Dada games (vidiot game comes to mind) already exist; maybe when when Andi wins the IGF with a game you can complete in five seconds with no win condition we’ll get the modernism of games or something (that’s not a joke, I hope she does).
I apologize if you already have this, but I think you might want this cat licking its butt as a medieval reaction.
Thomas of Cantimpré, Liber de natura rerum, France ca. 1290.
Valenciennes, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 320, fol. 72r
I think this just stands on its own, to be honest. I know my day just got a little brighter.
Joker is starting to look like Joker and Rhi is starting to look like Rhi! IT’S AWESOME! \o/
I’m really kind of upset that I have to go to bed within the hour. Dammit, clock, STOP for awhile, okay? THERE IS ART TO BE DONE.
Made a spreadsheet of all my Copics thus far this morning -mostly to avoid buying duplicates when looking at sets or going to the art store-, and I found out a few things:
1) I have a huge amount of Copics that I’ve accumulated over the last 2-3 years and will probably have to invest in better storage.
2) I only have 2 violet colors. D=
And on an unrelated note, I’m redrawing Ophidian-Larfleeze, and I’ve suddenly realized that I subconsciously push the ‘why boner’ envelope every single time I draw him that way. Well.
Ha, I started doing the same thing (for the same ‘can never remember what I already have when at the store’ reason) with my prismacolor pencils. Then I discovered that someone online had already made an awesome coloring chart with all the ID numbers and spots to ‘sample’ each color (so you have a good idea of your palette). It works really well — you might try something similar.
Also, I admit, sometimes a nice brainless color-in-the-lines task is kind of a nice way to wind down.
I draw in public a great deal; on the train, waiting for my bus, at a café with my friends. I like having something to do with my hands, and since the options of a lengthy period of sitting still are either a page full of sketches or a lapful of napkin confetti, I find it pays to have my art gear on me.
As a consequence I always end up with at least one curious rubbernecker eyeballing my sketchbook. I don’t mind. I’m a comic artist for godssakes – my business is creating art for public consumption, to entertain and enthrall. It’d be pretty damn hypocritical of me to hide my scrawls. Half the most delightful, vivid and insane encounters I’ve ever had were with perfect strangers over the contents of my sketchbook. Art’s a powerful uniting force, a basic language we can all share regardless of race, creed or gender. I love to engage with people over art.
What I love less is the inevitable conversation that follows:
“That’s so lovely. I wish I could draw like that.”
“Well, there’s no reason you can’t! Do you practice much?”
“Oh, no. I’m not as talented as you.”
Pardon me, strangers, but that’s a giant load of poo.
Everyone begins life as an artist. When we were kids, we were allowed to run wild with our crayons and imaginations. Nothing was off limits, no creative barriers were built around us. We had no concept of our own limitations, so there weren’t any.
But then, somewhere along the line, we learned we could be bad at stuff. Remember that day? The first time you were told you couldn’t play tee-ball for interschool tournament because you weren’t as good as the other kids? When the loudmouthed kid in the back row looked at your painting (or worse, your teacher) looked at your collage and asked why the hell your dog looked like a squashed weasel? Somehow, through environmental pressure or cultural conditioning, we developed the idea that to excel at something, you had to be talented from the get go.
Comic art isn’t about talent. I’ve never met anyone who fell out of the womb with an ames tool in one hand an a hunt crowquill in the other, ready to wow the scene with their perfect Jim Lee crosshatching. Comic art isn’t about sloshing paint about on an easel to pin down the colour of your emotions, while wearing chunky earrings and blasting Orinoco Flow. Comic art isn’t something you can pick up in a vacuum. You can’t wake up one day and be good at comic art.
Comics are a skill, and every skill has to be honed and perfected.
Every comic artist currently sweating over deadlines spent hour upon hour cultivating their skills. They studied anatomy books, attended life drawing, talked to other artists, swallowed their pride and begged for critique, and they spent most of their waking hours drawing. I’m good at art, and I’m grateful when people express a liking for my work. But I’m good at art because I spent hours upon hours hunched over a sketchpad, dissecting techniques from the masters of my craft and trying to replicate them for myself. I’m good at art because I took every criticism as a challenge, and proved naysayers wrong by isolating my shortfalls and mastering them. I’m good at what I do because I’ve dedicated my life to it since the age of seventeen. It’s an unpopular opinion, but I honestly don’t believe in talent. I believe in application.
If you wake up in the morning, switch on your art brain, buy a sketchbook and spend the next four years doodling in every spare moment, you’ll be a better artist than when you started. If you wake up in the morning, compile a huge folder of stock reference images and tutorials, borrow art books from your library and study the crap out of them while doodling in every spare moment, you’ll be a better artist than you would have been merely by sketching. If you wake up in the morning, grab your reference file and work on things that challenge you, drawing hands or ankles over and over again until you nail them; if you talk to other artists, get your work critiqued and surround yourself in an environment that forces you to think, breathe and live art, you’ll be a better artist than you could ever dream.
Every comic artist I admire and respect worked hard to get where they are now. There’s no comic book cinderella story. In this fairy tale, the princess’s fairy-god-editor took one look at her handful of scribbles and kicked her backside from here to the palace, and made her redraw the whole lot from scratch because she can ALWAYS do better. In this fairy tale, the princess is covered in ink and exhausted from a four-day convention spent kissing up to other artists in an effort to learn new techniques. In this fairy tale, there’s no happily ever after because if you’re ever content with where you are, you won’t strive to be better.
I’m glad people like my art, but I’m not talented. I just draw all the damn time. I’d challenge anyone who doubts their own ability to do the same – push past that initial ‘can’t’, and I guarantee you’ll be impressed with what you can do.
It’s like Natalie Dee put it “The only things you know how to do when you’re born are eat and complain.
That said, usually when people say “I don’t have the talent for it” it’s code for “I am politely recognizing your skill but don’t actually care enough to want to learn it myself.” It’s like telling someone they could learn to speak Polish, yes, theoretically, they could, but they probably won’t unless they really want it and have a particular use in mind.
I always disagree with people who say “talent” isn’t real, because to me, talent represents aptitude, inclination, or drive towards a certain skill set. You have to put in the effort no matter what, but everyone is wired differently and some things will just click with people. You know, the ol’ “Nobody’s good at everything but everybody’s good at something”.
I encounter this with both art and music, and I always wince when I hear ‘talent.’ I’m willing to to believe that some people are naturally better at a given pursuit from the get-go, but that only puts them perhaps one rung up the ladder from everyone else — and it’s a long ladder.
The problem with starting any of this as an adult is that you’re more aware that you suck when you start. Of course you suck when you start. That’s what beginning is all about. The only reason children learning an instrument don’t have this problem is they’re usually totally thrilled to be making noise. The other place kids benefit is awareness of time and responsibility. As a grown-up it’s harder justify putting in the hours at something you’re bad at because you have so much else to do — and if you don’t put in the hours, you don’t become better. (This is the problem that’s driving me batty with art at the moment — I need time and have too may obligations).
For my part, when I see someone with a skill I admire but don’t share (like sewing, for example) I usually say “That’s amazing. I’d love to learn, but I’d need another lifetime.” or something similar. Or, y’know, just compliment them on their work. :P