Art + Some Blogging

Some recent digital art . . .

 

 

 

Life has been hectic this year, but with an extra little oomph, things should finally be going much better. So here is a bloggish ramble.

In the past year and a half, I’ve found more of a direction for myself, developed a better understanding of what I need to do to stay on track. Which also includes a better understanding of what sort of content I want to create, what I want to do with that content, why I want to share it, and how I’m going to share it.

I’ve been focusing more on drawing. Anatomy, proportions, posing, all that tedious hell. It’s frustrating. I’m happy, though, and it finally feels like I’m actually improving. So I hope to reach a point where I’m actually drawing more stuff that isn’t pages upon pages of gestures.

I haven’t written anything significant for a few months (and in that time I’ve realized Burn-In needs some major revisions, I’m glad I haven’t released much), and I’m trying to detach myself from the feeling that I need to know what to do with a piece of writing–stand alone story, zine piece, episodic novel?–and just write. I guess I have a fear of commitment and a fear of not following through. All I need to do is remember why I write in the first place. I like it. And that’s that.

Social media is giving me a headache. It’s so easy to be drawn to it and its gratification. (It’s designed to be addicting. Alas–I’m too weak to resist temptation.) But feels hollow in the end, just in it for the numbers.
So I’m trying to remove myself from it again and dissociate from the gratification of numbers.

I’m staying active on Twitter, DeviantArt (at least for the time being–it’s the only place my art actually gets noticed lmao), and teeter-tottering on whether to keep Instagram. It’s so full of people who just want you to follow them back that I don’t know if sifting through that is worth it. It makes me feel as though no one has a genuine interest in my art. But at the same time it seems to work out incredibly well for a lot of artists.

As a digital artist it’s almost innate to want a following, but I’ve realized what I truly want is to network with people who share similar interests, or are interested in accompanying me on the exploration I would like my content to be. This video about the new Twin Peaks helped me realize how much I don’t want to cater to a wide audience, and how even the eclectic and unconventional can be widely successful.

There are a few pieces of media (Naked Lunch, Blade Runner, Myst, Fahrenheit 451, Brazil (1985), House of Leaves, Nine Inch Nails, Deus Ex, Tool, to name a few) that have dramatically impacted my psyche, and how I approach my own art. (I hope to create work that is equally as psychological. As of now it feels as though I’m stuck in a boring skill-building phase. Boo. ) That’s the reason I want to share my art. Just in case something I create can have that sort of impact, however few or many people it is. And I hope I can have an active exchange of thought and content with any audience I might form.

Instagram artist with 150k followers? Eh. I’d rather be a cult classic.

Follow Your Fears.

Watch out, we’re about to get personal.
I’ve been writing so many memoir essay blog things recently. I’d like to turn these thought into fiction. I’m laughing because I was supposed to be writing erotica on this blog and I’m just spilling my feelings uncontrollably.

 

I’ve been thinking about success a lot, particularly because I’ve hit a slew of less than good grades on exams. (I’m talking 50.5 and lower). Which makes me wish I were a woodpecker so that I could safely bash my head against a wall at a nice couple mph–repeatedly.

I have an account on Medium, but I rarely use it now. I log on and on my dash are a sea of “ways to succeed” articles. They’re all quite objective, and many do provide some good advice. And they all like to say “here, let me tell you the REAL truth about success”.

So I’m going to tell you the REAL truth about success. (The real truth about my success.)

Sometimes I enjoy reading those articles, it throws some instant (and very transient) motivation into my motivation, but after a while it seems a whole lot emptier than it really is and I’m left feeling vacant.
I’ve been calling it the “productivity culture”, and it’s that hustle sort of thing. That make-a-schedule thing. That get-more-done-in-one-day thing. That ten-things-all-successful-people-do thing.

It was that, that effectively threw me into a downward spiral in high school, probably the first turning point in my life, and so since then I’ve been thinking about these things.

I didn’t have a 4.0 but I wanted it. I was in the upper percentile of my class but I wanted higher. I did a lot of volunteering at our zoo but I wanted more places. I slept a few hours but I wanted to sleep less. I would set a vibrating alarm on my phone for 4 A.M. so I could wake up in the middle of the night after going to sleep two hours ago and say, “ah, thankfully I have two more hours to sleep”.

Worst part was the numbers. The cold, hard facts that said it all: you did not do enough–look what other people did, how much more they did than you.
And it was expected of me. I was supposed to compete. I was a chicken thrown in the ring with nice little knives wrapped around my ankles, all poised to duke it out to the death and claim my victory because that was the reason I was there, right?

But, boy oh boy, I didn’t compete with anyone while I was there, I didn’t hinder, block, prevent, do anything to climb up that academic ladder.

I did fight to the death. The only one I ever fought was myself.

And I lost, very, very badly.

It was a horrible, month to month, year to year, hissy fit, arguing, ignoring, patronizing, criticizing, degrading, berating, and whatever other synonyms fit in there.
Though, I don’t regret a single damned thing because I would not be the person I am today.

The real truth about success is that it’s bullshit.

Success has never made me happy.

Only made me feel entitled to hoard all the other potential successes I would come across. First deserve, then desire. It took me a very long time to realize I don’t deserve jack shit. Because it’s not about receiving, it’s not about earning. Play to win the successes put forth by anything beyond yourself and I don’t know what to say. It just doesn’t work for me, maybe it works for you, and that is okay. Maybe I’m just greedy. I am damned greedy–I want to feel successful, I want to ride forever on that proud endorphin high.

In retrospect, it’s very sad to look in the mirror and see something different each day because your self-esteem, self-worth, is entirely dictated by numbers and tangible things and discrete moments and rankings and lists, the academic stock market. A disproportionately large amount of that time I spent feeling worthless because I haven’t done enough.

So skip forward two years and I’m in college and there it is: the ultimate worst time of my life thus far. The lowest low.

And since then I’ve accidentally done something that I hadn’t intended to do, because I never really thought it through.

Whenever I fail an exam I take some time to wallow in intense crisis but I always feel better coming out of it. Not logically, but emotionally. It’s like a welling up, a rising, a walking back from the grave–ha ha, bitch, you thought you killed me? Think again! I’m back to wreak havoc, suckers.

Logically I always knew the standards I was trying to achieve meant nothing, that getting into an Ivy League wasn’t the only way to “be successful” in life, that I could, in fact, survive with a C in precalc and that wouldn’t be the most closely held secret of my life, knew I wouldn’t care a few years down the road at most.

But no matter how strongly I tried to build that logic to influence the way I felt about my failures, nothing worked. I knew it was unsustainable, unhealthy, damaging, I tried to fight it, but there was nothing else that existed to justify that I should try to stop myself from following that productivity standard.

I just got my grade back for my last ochem exam, and to put it lightly, I failed.

Initially there was that horrible swarming feeling of this number is so small. But, oddly, I have that floating up feeling of ascension. And I think I have finally figured out what that is. I’m okay with failing now. I embrace my failures now.

Productivity culture is a jackpot set of numbers, pull the lever and stare, take a card and wait, cross your fingers, wear your lucky hat. Count up all your winnings.

Those days in high school I was working as hard as I could, hoping for luck, chance.

I used to say horrible things to myself in the mirror on bad days.

Most of my days were bad days.

I wouldn’t let myself live by any other standards except the numbers, the count, the productivity because that was the only tangible thing.

It’s very hard to believe in something you cannot see, taste, smell, hear, or touch. Like the electrons moving through the magnetic field, I couldn’t fucking visualize and understand the concept of being successful it meant numbers and something discrete because under all that there is something that is beyond definition and that scares me.

It bites, it scratches, it cries, it screams, and it wants blood, and it has no name and it follows no rules. It just is, and I know it’s there, stalking me every day, lurking, waiting, trying to eat me alive.

It took losing mostly every single thing–failing two classes when I had never failed a class before in my life, losing friends, losing very good friends, losing my significant other of the time, hurting people I cared about, breaking trust, isolating myself until there was nothing else left and I sat on the floor and cried and it was there then, circling me, and we were the only things left in the room now.

Months and months of sitting there and I finally, slowly looked up and looked it in the eyes.

It walked up to me, dragged me out of that room out into the forest, the middle of nowhere, too dark to see anything, but I could smell the night sky. And there, it nudged me with its snout, dropped my sketchbook in my hands and helped me up and it saved my life.

Passion is a very scary thing.

We can’t see, taste, smell, hear, or touch it. It tries to lead us terrifying places that have no maps, no names, no others, no laws, no sense, no sanity, no restraint.

I don’t wait for numbers anymore. I don’t do it for the trophy anymore.

I can look in the mirror and it’s okay.

I’m proud of walking through the forest with no light, letting my heart ooze out of my body in blood, sweat, tears, because it’s the hardest thing I have ever done, and will ever do.

First deserve, then desire. The more it hurts, the more it matters.

I like being afraid now.

That’s what I live for. That’s what makes me feel alive.

Success is jumping down into the pitch black cave, not knowing what horrible things wait down there, knowing horrible things wait down there, all for the fucking adrenaline thrill and a ravenous, insatiable passion.

 

Fuck productive success.

Anyone can be a number.

Run for your fucking life because you’re the only one who can.

 

 

And I humbly thank those few who saw through my successes and chose to appreciate that chaos, the only important thing I have ever chosen to be. For that, I cannot thank you enough, and your support will follow me to my grave.

 

“Plots are for dead people.”

 

I.

I stumbled across David Shield’s Reality Hunger a few days ago at the Tucson Festival of Books. The first thing that caught my attention was the cover, it’s red, its awesome, and then I noticed the quotations on the front.

“A literary battle cry for the creation of a new genre,” — Cathy Alter, The Atlantic

And then I flipped it over:

“Who owns ideas? How clear is the distinction between fiction and nonfiction? Has the velocity of digital culture rendered traditional modes obsolete?”

Okay, totally intrigued, but then the quotations prefacing the text:

“All great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one.” — Walter Benjamin

I was sold I needed to buy it I bought it.

I took a fantastic class my freshman year here at the University called Thinking Critically About New Media, taught by Professor Charles Bertsch, and it’s my second favorite class I’ve taken thus far (Ornithology reigns supreme). Topics of discussion included Blade Runner, Capek’s R.U.R, Gibson’s Neuromancer, Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Cory Doctorow, and Lawrence Lessig. Basically, it was a class that eerily matched all of my more literary and more existential interests.

Turns out, the book is very similar to the course in themes, just a more literature-based focus.
Which means it’s awesome, and I definitely recommend it.

 

II.

I write, I draw. I’ve been thinking about digital art and theft and copying for years and years now, trying to get a better handle on my thoughts and form some sort of intelligent perspective about it because I love opensource content, I love collaboration, I love innovative crowd-sourced and crowd-funded capitalism-by-the-people kind of thing (the creative economy?). But nothing makes me want to wring out people’s necks more than the justification of stealing intellectual content.

“To be fair,” this person in my upper level evolution course says when our TA has to address the mass amounts of plagiarism copy-pasting the article for assignments where we summarize the article, “these journal articles are way above our level, and we just don’t want to get the wrong answers.”
(I almost stood up and crawled over the table and strangled this person, but I did not. I was disproportionately offended they insinuated the intellectual capacity of the entire class was not above plagirism.)

(There is the book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, which I have yet to read, but a close friend has told me some about. I assume it is sort of relevant, but I cannot say for sure, but I do intend to read it in the future. So there’s that for anyone who is curious.)

Reality Hunger, addresses some of these issues with intellectual property and ownership. Interestingly, Shields makes the case for the dismissal of citations, synthesizing his own words together with other quotations you may not necessarily realize are not his own.

I’m all for remixes and the freedom of information, but it gets touchy once it comes to profiting, because this happens in the digital art community frequently — where a person will steal the work of an artist and draw over it or recolor it or in some cases not manipulate it at all, then sell it on shirts or as prints or etc.
This, I will strangle necks for, but it’s not the same thing as the freedom of information. We’re all talking about people who are interested in transforming and building off of ideas, not looking for shortcuts and quick ways to make money. This is a distinction that doesn’t seem like it can be put into practice — I don’t know how you stop people from being lazy, dumb asses and protect the integrity of content without restraining its freedom.

 

III.

“Good poets borrow; great poets steal.” — Eliot
“Art is theft.” — Picasso

The work that I create is shaped by many things which I had no control over, things I’ve happened to experience, things other people have said, things that I saw, blah blah blah. But what I do with that jumble of information is something that only I can produce, and that seems to be what creativity is. Just using all the scraps you’ve gathered to make something you kinda sorta wanna say, synthesize your own context for the world that already exists using the fragments that aren’t really yours because they are the world’s.

It’s no secret artists influence one another.
But I don’t understand why it has to be theft.

When someone points to something in my work and says, “that’s a neat idea”, I don’t feel like I need to keep quiet anymore, thought I used to. I can say — yeah, I decided to make this story about sentient plant people because of the Wii game Mushroom Men that happened to have some fantastic music by Les Claypool and it was totally fucking awesome, I’d recommend it but the Wii seems to have died out so alas.

I’m not ashamed that I’ve been inspired by someone else because I know my product is not a copy — it’s a remix, it’s unique, it’s in its own context, and only I could have made it.

I’m constantly impressed by the words and arts and thoughts of people around me. They influence me, make me think new things, make me question things, and I feel a sort of pride to say — yes! I would never have written cyberpunk without playing Deus Ex or watching Blade Runner, they said something to me that I clearly think is worth thinking about and haven’t stopped thinking about since and I’m really fucking glad they did.

“Genius borrows nobly.” — Emerson

 

IV.

(Of course it would be silly to cite the origin of every single possible thing that might come up in a work, there would be a footnote on each page, literary analysis within itself, essay after academic essay, footnotes about footnotes. Horrible.
As genius borrows nobly, genius must cite reasonably.)

 

V.

(I’m glad Shields’s publishers forced him to add a list of citations at the end. This allowed me to trace interesting lines and concepts back to someone who could tell me more.
Reality Hunger is not a collection, it is a synthesis. So I shamelessly used that bibliography and I have no apologies. I applaud Shields for his book.)

 

VI.

I’ve been struggling with art.

I’ve been trying to create an actual fucking product from the story in my head, conveying it in a way that actually conveys what I want, looking and feeling the way I want — but webcomic didn’t seem to work, novel attempt #1 didn’t seem to work, now I’m on to novel attempt #2, but this time its working.

A few days ago I wrote that essay/ramble, Stop Thinking About Smelling the Roses because I was so stuck on the idea of authenticity:

And then the acknowledgement of okay, I want to make something worthwhile and quality, knowing I enjoy trying to smush in some literary merit and I have fun making that kind of stuff. And then. . . . it starts feeling fake.

I think not long after writing that I stumbled across this article that had some fantastic quotations:

Picasso was once asked if he knew what a painting was going to look like when he started it. He answered, “No, of course not. If I knew, I wouldn’t bother doing it.

Hungarian photographer Brassaï once asked Picasso whether his ideas come to him “by chance or by design,” and Picasso responded:

“I don’t have a clue. Ideas are simply starting points. I can rarely set them down as they come to my mind. As soon as I start to work, others well up in my pen. To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.

“With relatively few exceptions, the novel sacrifices too much for me, on the altar of plot.” — David Sheilds.

Nothing has ever so greatly calmed my angsty, confused, self-proclaimed artist self.

 

VII.

A while ago I decided I could concisely summarize that I was interested in the exploration of concept, context, and syntax and the grotesque and uncomfortable.

I’m not interested in standalone pieces anymore. I don’t want to make disembodied works of art, I want to make zines, art books, something all tied up together and cohesive. I don’t know why. That’s just what I want to do.

I want to keep all the pages of this novel-in-progress together with a binding because it is meant to be a whole. Deconstruct it to build upon it, sure, but I don’t want cropped versions of my art floating around the internet for no damn good reason.
There’s something about stripping the fur off a carcass and using it for clothing that is different than stripping the fur off a carcass and leaving it a few feet off in the dirt.

 

VIII.

I’m more excited to write than I have ever been in a very long time because I’m not worried anymore.

Last night a friend wrote to me after reading the first 15k of my novel, kids in high school will read about and analyze this in the future.
I said, if this novel isn’t banned in high schools, I’m not doing it right.

Is it a novel? Is it fiction? (Those words don’t feel right anymore, so I have taken to “monstrosity”.) I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t give a fuck.

I’m not here to tell a good story.

I’m here to say something no one else can, that no one else has ever said before.

 

Cut and Paste Philosophy

I’ve tabbed many pages of David Shield’s Reality Hunger, and I have been rereading these sections in the past few days. They’re particularly helpful in reminding me of my own philosophy on art and writing. Sometimes other people put it in words way better than you can.

I decided it would be nice to create a little archive of the quotations I’ve found most influential for my personal philosophy. (And I will continue to update it as I come across more.)
Without further ado, and in no particular order:

“Picasso was once asked if he knew what a painting was going to look like when he started it. He answered, “No, of course not. If I knew, I wouldn’t bother doing it.”
Hungarian photographer Brassaï once asked Picasso whether his ideas come to him “by chance or by design,” and Picasso responded:
“I don’t have a clue. Ideas are simply starting points. I can rarely set them down as they come to my mind. As soon as I start to work, others well up in my pen. To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.”
original article

 

“This is a work of fiction. No person in it bears any resemblance to any actual person living or dead, etc., etc. London does not exist.”
Graham Greene

 

“The film is the talking.”
— David Lynch

 

“Rothko is great because he forced artists who came after him to change how they thought about painting.”
— Unknown Tour Guide via David Shields

 

“One view is “There’s something in charge and I wanna get straight with it.” Another view is “There’s something in charge and it means me no good and I wanna get the fuck out of here.” And the third is, “There’s nothing and everything going on.” The third, because it contains the other two, is most appealing to me.”
— Robert Hass

 

“Authenticity comes from a single faithfulness: that to the ambiguity of experience.”
— John Berger

 

“When we are not sure, we are alive.”
— Greene

 

“Serious writing actually tries to get somewhere–to make intellectual, emotional, psychic, and philosophical “progress” . . . in the work of my favorite writers, the armature of overt drama is dispensed with, and we’re left with a deeper drama, the real drama: an active human consciousness trying to figure out how he or she has solved or not solved being alive.”
— David Shields

 

“Kill your band.”
— Lou Reed

 

“Let us hope a time will come when language is most efficiently used where it is being most efficiently misused.”
— Beckett

 

“I’ve never heard of a crime I could not imagine committing myself.”
— Goethe

 

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”
— Gore Vidal

 

“The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”
— Pablo Picasso

 

“If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.”
— Carl Sagan

 

“Or in other words: shy from the sky. No answer lies there. It cannot care, especially for what it no longer knows. Treat that place as a thing unto itself, independent of all else, and confront it on those terms. You alone must find the way. No one else can help you. Every way is different. And if you do lose yourself at least take solace in the absolute certainty that you will perish.”
— Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

 

“I’ve never tried to be shocking. The only thing you can do is confuse people, because it makes them think. And the art of confusion and chaos is the way to make people think, the way to create a catalyst of change.”
— Marilyn Manson

 

“Any A.I. smart enough to pass a Turing test is smart enough to know to fail it.”
— Ian McDonald

 

“Sometimes I worry that not enough people hate me.”
— Amy Poehler

 

“Have no fear of perfection–you’ll never reach it.”
— Salvador Dali

 

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
— Cesar A. Cruz

 

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”
— The Usual Suspects

 

“I am more than a devil; I am a man. I can do the one thing which Satan himself cannot do— I can die.”
— G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who was Thursday

 

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all of its contents.”
— H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

 

“Only a real artist knows the actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear.”
— H. P. Lovecraft, Pickman’s Model

 

“It is homage to the majesty of the absurd which bespeaks the presence of human beings.”
— Paul Celan, The Meridian

 

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
— Fitzgerald

 

“Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings.”
— W. H. Auden

 

I am god and I need to be destroyed.

 

“To see what everyone else has seen but to think what nobody else has thought.”
— Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

 

“For now in every exuberant joy there is heard an undertone of terror”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex . . . It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

— Albert Einstein

 

I’m not sorry.

You’re wrong and you know nothing.

No.

Why aren’t you dead.

Stop Thinking about Smelling the Roses

If I want to be honest and authentic and uniquely myself, I should probably stop thinking about it.

I want to be happy. And I sure as hell know better than to tear that down into making sure I look happy, making sure people interpret what I do as happy. If I want to be happy I have to do it and not give a damn if people think about it otherwise, because I know what makes me happy. Simple.

I guess that’s where it gets finicky when it comes to writing. Making stuff is hard work. It takes a lot of work to even think about making something, so by that time it’s already daunting to find a place to start, at least to some extents, even with simple things.
And then the acknowledgement of okay, I want to make something worthwhile and quality, knowing I enjoy trying to smush in some literary merit and I have fun making that kind of stuff. And then.

I’m so fucking goddamn busy, if I want to make something quality that requires thought and time and effort I better make sure this is worth it. So I better not waste my time and I better make an outline and know what I’m writing about. And make sure I hit these literary points that I am interested in putting in because I genuinely want to.

Then it starts feeling fake.

(Which, again, is a sort of pervasive feeling that tries to tell me I shouldn’t be writing these essays and that I should pretend to be clueless to my interest in literary musings. Yes, again I’ve reached this topic. Shocking.)

I still don’t get it.

There is the thought that I should not strive to be thought-provoking and deep and artistic because that would be grandiose and pretentious and fake.

And yet I love thought-provoking things.

This circle makes absolutely no sense to me.

(So of course I am writing a stream of consciousness about it.)

My main principle on the active practice of being happy is to stop thinking about stopping to smell the roses and actually smelling the goddamn roses.

Stop telling yourself to do things and start remembering why you do them. Stop remembering why you do things and start feeling why you do them.

Maybe it’s a matter of cutting out the over-analyst. Maybe it’s a voice from pressures I’ve picked up from society around me.

It must work for some people, to sit down and outline these things, and I don’t think it even negates the authenticity. Art takes thought, it’s silly to deny that.

But I hope that I can throw this out the window and just start hacking away at the keyboard without worrying about how am I going to make this express x, y, and z in a clever way and trust myself that my interest in these things is innate enough to build itself. Think about it a bit, instead of obsessively worry about is this sex scene demonstrating important character interaction or is this just porn?

On my death bed I’m sure I’d be glad if I chose to write the smut even if I had no literary justification whatsoever.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written fiction, and picking it back up has made it feel like such an inorganic process (and as we can conclude from maybe three essays and counting, I have no idea why it feels that way now).

I ought to stop worrying about how artistically my prose captures themes that interest me and start trusting myself that writing is inherently my medium of choice to explore these ideas. So I really just ought write more porn.