Monday, December 10, 2007

Failure, and bonus answers

No new painting today. At least there was, but it'll never see the light of day, 'cause I wiped it down.

Hmm. That makes 2.5 'bad' paintings in 5 tries.

Hope this isn't the start of a slump!

In the meantime, more words. I was asked to answer the following questions from a senior at a local high-school here in Seattle. Here are the questions, and my answers...

1.) Why did you choose a career in the art field?
I found that I am passionate about visual arts-- as a kid I wanted to draw comic books (which I ended up doing later as an adult). I never lost that interest in drawing and painting as I have grown up.
If you can marry your passion with your career-- go for it! You'll be happier, and do better work.

2.) What do you enjoy most about your career?
There are interesting stories to tell, and problems to solve. If I've done my job right, people look at the fruit of my labor and have a visceral response to it. I find that satisfying.

3.) Do you try to send a message out to society with your paintings? If so, how? If not, what do you believe is the purpose of your paintings to society?

I generally do not try and advocate a particular philosophy or polemic in my work. I would argue that all artists have a message of some sort, even if that may only be "this thing is pretty" or "this person is tall." Each is a message, just not a moral observation.

That being said, while I prefer to let my work stand for itself, in general you will find that I paint (and draw) things and people that are modern and not particularly extraordinary. I am drawn to the moments and objects that are part of our everyday lives, and by recreating those vignettes I hope to draw the viewer into a longer examination of the thing or place. In the end, I hope to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.

Basically, I like to paint things that I think are nice to look at, and that I hope other people will want to look at too.

4.) What is your definition of "art"?

I think any intentional act of creation for the purpose of education and/or exultation is art.

On the other hand, I don't confuse that with thinking that all art is 'good' art. :)

I personally prefer art that benefits from the application of honed skill and/or talent. The artists I admire and respect most demonstrate some version of this.

5.) How do you express your artistic self beyond your paintings?

I have done some video/film work, but mostly that's about it; painting and drawing.

6.) What was your first painting like? Describe what it was like.

Err... I couldn't remember that for the life of me! When I was a kid I drew lots of battle scenes and super heroes.

7.) So far, what has been your favorite piece? Why?

I actually don't have any favorites. Sometimes, every now and again, I'll finish something and I'll become a little entranced by it. That sensation usually goes away after a week or two of looking at the thing. I will point to a couple of paintings that for whatever reason, entranced me for a bit when I painted them:

8.) What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

It doesn't sound terribly romantic: my greatest ambition as an artist is to support myself entirely through painting

9.) Where do you get the inspiration for your paintings?

From the people and things around me, and other artists.

10.) If any, what piece are you working on as of now? What do you think of it so far?

I paint a new piece nearly every day, and work on some larger things as well. My last painting I wasn't so fond of.

11.) What advice would you give a young artist wondering where to start?

Hone your craft: keep a sketchbook, paint, sculpt or draw something every day. Worry more (in the beginning) about your skills than the 'message' of your work.

Building your skills will enable you to better be able to get your message across-- the way you intend.

12.) What challenges have you faced in your art career?

There two kinds of challenges: the basic, which is growing to the next level as an artist-- by improving basic skills, adopting a new medium, spending an appropriate amount of time on task, learning to see more accurately, not stultifying, that sort of thing. This challenge is fundamental to all artists.

The other challenge is that creating art is only lucrative for a small number of artists. Being a professional artist is a bit like making it to the big leagues in baseball, or to the NBA. Being financially successful as an artist is an ongoing challenge.

13.) When and how did you discover your talent?

Err... I have no idea. I think it was an organic process that just sort of developed.

14.) Do you think the internet has a positive or negative effect on art? Why or why not?

Positive. For many reasons.

The internet allows for an easy way for current artists to dive into the wealth of historic art-- there are hundreds of thousands of images of past art on the web. It is the biggest art museum in the history of the planet. You can't know you future if you don't know your past.

The internet offers the means for an extended global community of artists that in the past, was only able to happen in certain places at certain times: New York in the 50s or 80s, Paris in the 1890s, and the 20s.

Finally, the internet allows for artists to gain exposure to wide audiences, outside of the traditional gallery/museum venue.

15.) In your opinion, how do you think art helps or contributes to society?

That's a much bigger question than I am prepared to answer in just a few sentences.

Suffice to say that art can educate or provoke (act as an agent of change), can reinforce societal mores (reinforce/define Beauty, idealize the status quo), and can even just be decorative (which enhances our local environment).

16.) Have you ever thought of giving up as an artist? If so, why? If not, what keeps you motivated and strong?

Sure--it is a huge time sink, which can lead to stress on interpersonal relationships. It can be messy and stinky. It rarely pays well.

I am motivated by a strange compulsion which drives me to create images. I derive strength from the reactions and support of friends and loved ones.

17.) What do you think the role of art is in today's society?

See question 15. I think that is the role of art in society: educate and/or provoke (act as an agent of change), reinforce societal mores (reinforce/define Beauty, idealize the status quo), and/or to just be decorative.

18.) How does your paintings make you feel?

Mostly: tired, frustrated, quiet, accomplished.

19.) Do your emotions change when you are painting something personal? If so, why? If not, what emotions do you usually feel?

I usually am wrapped up in the painting. When I'm working, it feels like I am "in" the moment being portrayed. The closest I have found to an accurate description is a Hindu/Buddhist term: samadhi. From wikipedia:"... term that describes a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object, and in which the mind becomes still (one-pointed or concentrated) though the person remains conscious."

Something like that.

20.) Have you ever considered any of your paintings a failure? Why or why not?

Regularly. Usually it is some combination of factors: a failure to slow down and *look* at what I am painting, leading to bad drawing, color, or value choices; a poorly prepared surface; bad composition or subject matter choice. Stuff like that.

If I know about it early enough, I'll stop, or repaint an affected area. Occasionally I'll finish out a doomed piece.

21.) Did you ever expect to make it this far with your art? Why or why not?

Yes and no. I think I'm about where I'd expect to be all circumstances added up. I'm probably behind where I hoped to be when I was younger.

I think I'm on the right path. Ask again in twenty years.

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