Drunk painting

I think it is funny, all these paint-and-drink events I keep reading about. This is a new trend – to get people to come out for an evening of painting and drinking. Perhaps they have to drink in order to paint? Perhaps they have to loosen up in order to let out their inner artists.
To me, being artistic is intoxicating enough. I don’t need extra. But I certainly understand that other people do. I remember when I did.
I remember when I thought that the only time I could be creative was when I was stoned. I remember one of the reasons I used to say I could not stop smoking pot was that it would stunt my creativity.
Nothing is sillier than that. Pot and booze don’t make you creative. They just make you forget yourself.
And maybe that is the point. We get stuck in our view of ourselves. We create these rigid roles of who we are. We are shopkeepers, or secretaries. We are adults, parents, responsible people. We have grown past being creative, right?
But we haven’t. Art isn’t just for kids, just like reading isn’t just for kids. But then again, that too could use some work. Way too many parents get books for their kids and not for themselves. Reading, and art, is for everyone.
Create art, however you can. Creating art is healing for the soul. It won’t look pretty at first. It doesn’t ever have to look pretty, in fact. It just has to happen.
I create something every day. I think of it as a vitamin for my soul. I write, paint, draw, collage, or bead. Sometimes I do several of these. Sure, I have a full time job and run a house. Yet I make time to create every day. If I don’t, I feel out of sorts. I’ve learned that creating things isn’t extra. It is everything.
When I create, I don’t forget myself. I find myself.
Art, unlike alcohol or drugs, has no negative side effects. Don’t ask your doctor if art is right for you. Just do it.

Blob art.

There seems to be two ways that art is going these days: hyper-realistic and blob. Either people are painting reality better than reality or they are painting blobs.
Me, I’m in the blob category. Sure, it is fun. And nobody will know when I don’t get what I was aiming for, because what they see looks nothing like anything else anyway. When you try to replicate something that is real, it is easy to tell when you have missed the mark. Blob art is free from this constraint.
But then I see other blob painters charging hundreds, even thousands of dollars for what they made, and I wonder. Is someone actually buying this?
Blob art can be made by toddlers. The more you think, the less it works. In fact, part of the reason I paint blob art is because I want to not think. I want to disengage. I have tried to paint blob art with brushes and other paint tools and I just don’t like it. It is fingers all the way for me.
I call it blob art because that is how I make it. I pick up a tube of paint that looks nice and I squish out a blob of paint on the canvas. Then I pick up another tube and squish it out too. I’ll keep adding blobs until I feel I might have something to work with. Then I smear the blobs around and mix them together until I like the blend and the swirls. Sometimes I add in a few more blobs and mix them in.
It is kind of like how I cook. Spices, colors – it is really all the same. I’m heading towards a goal, and I take whatever I need to get there.
Painting realistically has never made sense to me. Just take a picture. It is faster. Sure, it is pretty impressive to find someone who can paint a picture that looks like it is a photograph. But to me it seems like a waste of time.
Now, one advantage to painting is that you can paint what isn’t there. You can paint all the good stuff and leave all the bad stuff out. This is especially appropriate when you are painting a family portrait and not everybody is available to sit for it at the same time. Or it also works if you are painting something that would be good for a science fiction illustration.
While you can create some pretty amazing things with photo manipulation software, there isn’t really “art” in that. You aren’t making something new, so much as working with what is already there.
Is blob art really art? Sometimes it just looks like someone shoved paint around a canvas. Sometimes they did. Sometimes I do. So is it worth a lot of money?
Sure, the materials are expensive. Paint and canvasses are stunningly expensive. Framing is insane. Sometimes you can get deals on supplies but not often. So there is something about the actual physicality of the piece that will raise the price.
Sometimes what inspires people to admire artwork or writing or music is what it reminds them of. What they see in it has little to do with what the artist put into it. Some swirl, phrase, or riff catches their attention in just such a way and they find that a doorway has opened in their mind, or a bridge has been created.
That is one of the most frustrating things to me as a creator. I really feel like I’ve expressed something well, and people just don’t get it. They may like it, but what they like isn’t what I was trying to express.
Maybe that is why I make blob art. I don’t have as much invested in it. It doesn’t matter if they see something different in it, because I didn’t put anything in it. It is more about what I got out of it.
I discover when I create blob art. I play, too. I learn how the colors go together, and I relax during the creation. There is no stress because there is no specific goal to be reached. Just enjoying putting paint on the canvas is the goal. It isn’t about creating anything. It is about creating me.

Occupy the art.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our society valued creativity more? Students would get scholarships for their art instead of their ability to play a sport. People would flock to see them perform a symphony they created instead of seeing them face off against each other on the field.

When we support sports over arts, we are supporting aggression over creativity. We are saying with our stadiums and our sports scholarships that violence pays. We are saying that the jocks are the heroes and the artists are the zeros.

Now, we certainly need sports too. We need physical activity. We need movement. There are way too many kids and adults who are inactive and obese. They are way too many people with diseases that could have been prevented by being active. And there are many valuable lessons to be learned from team sports. People learn about discipline and how to work together. They learn about how each member of the team is important to the outcome.

But sports aren’t everything. We can encourage sports and the arts. In fact I think that everybody in school should learn both. Have the jocks learn how to paint or play a saxophone. Have the artists learn how to play tennis or swim.

Arts and sports need to both be offered as team and individual options. There is a lot to be learned in working together and also in shining on your own. Basketball and being a gymnast should be equal. Playing in a symphony and painting a picture should be equal.

People need to learn as many ways to express themselves as possible. Humans have a lot of pent up energy in them that needs to get out. That energy is physical, emotional, mental, psychic, spiritual. We have many different parts to our personalities that need to be expressed. Communication isn’t just with words.

Perhaps when we get to this point that I see, we won’t have any more school violence. We also won’t have anywhere near the levels of depression and anxiety that we currently do.

But let’s not wait for the schools to do it. We don’t have to wait for committees to study this and funding to be allocated and lesson plans to be created. Let’s just do it on our own. Let’s do this from the ground up. Let’s start at home.

Let’s start an arts revolution right where we are. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Get some crayons and some paper. Buy a kazoo. Go to the dollar store or Goodwill or Big Lots and find inexpensive art supplies. Get a notebook and start writing. Make up a play. Sew a costume. Design a garden or a house.

It won’t look great at first. Nothing ever is. A child’s first steps are pretty wobbly. A first sketch is pretty wobbly too. Just keep doing it. The point isn’t the product. The point is the production. When you are making art, you are making yourself at the same time. The goal isn’t the painting or the sonata. The goal is the part of you that you found along the way.

This isn’t just for kids. Adults of all sorts will benefit too. I’m interested in all people learning to express themselves creatively. I’m a little more interested in getting kids to be exposed to the arts because it means that they will not be as self-conscious about it. They will learn that being creative is a normal part of being human and not an extra.

“Successful” vs. “Starving” artist.

Notice how unusual it is to say that someone is a “successful” artist. Usually they are a “starving” artist. You never have to say that someone is a successful doctor or successful engineer or a successful plumber. It is assumed that they are successful. But artist? It is assumed that an artist isn’t successful. It is assumed that they are scraping by, just barely making it.
Why don’t we put more value on art? I mean real art. Art that is one of a kind, not mass produced. Art that is so amazing that it doesn’t match your sofa and you don’t even care. Art that is so amazing that maybe you even buy a new sofa to match it instead of the other way around.
Real art is one of a kind, just like the artists. It takes time to make and it takes love. That is worth supporting.
When you buy original art, you aren’t just buying the materials. You are buying the artist’s time and dedication to her craft. In the same way an Olympic athlete has to train many hours to get good at what she does, an artist has to work many long hours to get good at her craft. Good artists, like good athletes just make it look easy. It isn’t.
Notice that very few people get art scholarships, and many people get athletic scholarships. What do we need more of, arts or sports? What lifts our spirits and helps us see beyond ourselves? What shows us how we are all connected? I’m not saying to get rid of sports. I’m saying that arts need to be equally supported.
So go buy some art today. Or better yet – go make some. Art is for everyone, and it makes us better people.

On art – collage, time, and audience.

I’m working on a new art style. I’m trying to do collage and it is testing my patience. I love the art of Nick Bantock, of the “Griffin and Sabine” series. I don’t want to replicate his work but I do want to try to approach its emotion and depth. The problem is that it takes a long time and you can’t erase.
When making jewelry using beads, if the pattern doesn’t work out you can always take it apart and redo it. Even years later you can always try again if the design gets old. Not so with collage. Once you paint something or glue it down it is done. You can’t go backwards and change things if it looks weird later. You can’t reposition it. You are stuck. You’ve used up the materials too – you are out that money. It also takes a long time. If you have multiple layers, you have to let each one dry for hours. I’m not really that patient, but I have to be to make this work.
This has stopped me from even trying this style for a long time. I’ve got lots of art materials that I’ve not used at all for fear of doing it wrong. So I’m wasting them even more so. It would be better to use them and figure out what works and what doesn’t work than to not use them at all.
Boats are safe in the harbor, but that isn’t what boats are made for. The same is true of collage. The same is true of life.
I’ve decided with collage the best thing is to just get over my “need” to start something and finish it in the same sitting. I certainly don’t feel that I have to do that with beads or with writing, so I don’t know why I think my painting has to be the same way. Maybe I want to see results fast. Maybe it is because I don’t have a lot of time to work on my art.
I think part of it might be that I resent the amount of time my job takes from me having time to do what I want. I just don’t seem to have a lot of time to do “me” things. I know I’m not alone in this thought. Nobody gets up and says “Yeah! I get to go be a cube-farmer today!” Don’t get me wrong – I like my job. I like the people I help. I just don’t think it requires 40 hours a week to do it. After 40 hours of work and the time required for sleep, there isn’t a lot of time for “me” stuff.
I’d rather work 30 hours than 40. I’ve asked if it is possible and they don’t think so. So I shoehorn in my “me” things – writing, exercise, art. I love the space I go to in my head when I create, and it is hard to wrestle myself back to a clock and a schedule and go to work after being in that space.
I’m starting to see collage as a good middle ground. Since I simply can’t do it all in one sitting, it works well with not having much time. I’ll do a layer, wait, do another layer, wait, and do another layer. I can’t work on it for hours at a time, and that works because I don’t have hours to work on it.
Collage is strange to work with because I don’t know how it is going to look until I’m done. I have some general idea but then when I add another element it changes everything. I can get an idea of where things are going before I glue a piece down but then sometimes when the glue dries it changes the effect. It is always a surprise. Sometimes it isn’t a welcome surprise.
But then I remember that with writing and with beads, the stuff that I really planned out and really love how meticulous and amazing it turned out happens to be the stuff that nobody “gets”. Nobody likes it or appreciates the work involved except me. Conversely, the stuff that I really don’t care about much – the stuff that I worked on and just don’t like as much is the stuff that people rave over. That is the stuff that I think is OK enough for others to see, but it just doesn’t get my idea across the way I meant to.
There are plenty of pieces of writing and pieces of jewelry and other artwork that I’ve created that nobody has ever seen. I feel like I show a lot of what I make, but what people see is just half of what I’ve produced. Some things I feel are just warm-ups, just stretching. Some things are simply exercises that help strengthen me for something better later.
I don’t feel like this about my art at the time. I want everything to be a marathon win, but some things just peter out about the three-mile mark. Or maybe that is just me. Maybe I need to show it anyway. Following the usual trend, they will be the things that people will really “get”. But for now, I don’t want to show them because I don’t want to put my name on them.
When you show any art – be it writing or visual art, you put your name on it. You say “this is me”. For good or for bad, you are showing off what you have made. People will judge you by it, for good or for bad. So you have to be careful what you show. You want to be known for good work so people will seek you out and buy what you have made. You want to get a reputation as a maker of good things. Do you keep with one motif, or do you have a range? Do you create for an audience, or create for yourself? Whatever you decide, you have to be mindful of who is going to see it and what they are going to think. Does this cause you fear, so you edit? Does this cause you excitement, so you embellish? Your relationship with the audience will influence your work.
Art isn’t yours anymore when you let other people see it. It changes. The meaning changes. What you thought it meant doesn’t matter anymore. When another person sees it, she brings herself to it. She brings what she loves and hates to it and sees that in it. Art is a mirror. It isn’t something that stands on its own and speaks for itself. It would be great if it was, but it isn’t.