Archive for the Literature Category

The Endless Slug Will Sleep a While

Posted in Art, Dance, Film, Games (other), Leisure, Literature, Pop-culture, Social Science, Theatre, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 23 November, 2010 by endlessslug

Well, gentle readers, it appears the slug must unfortunately slumber for a while during a potentially very long winter.  In a week or so, I will be taking my blog down, or at least limiting access to it for an indeterminate time.  It’s not that I want to, there is a bit of external pressure to do so for the time being.  I have much more to say, much more to do, and lots of interest in doing it, but for now, the slug absolutely must find a quiet stone to slime his way under and rest, just rest.

But don’t worry, the slug is endless and will return.  Wish my sleep well everyone.

Work, of the Type I Dislike

Posted in Art, Art Student Handbook, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Leisure, Literature, Pop-culture, Social Science, Technique on 7 November, 2010 by endlessslug

The slug found himself a job.  It’s one of those jobs that kills all creativity and time, yet kind of pays the bills.  My new workmates like to remind me (constantly) that “it’s money, right?”

Wrong.

Yes, I get paid, but so what?  My interests are broader and I was getting along while also building two different companies.  I was producing, I was beginning a successful climb towards my own agenda of success and quality workmanship.  But now I must toil at a graveyard-shift shit-pile of a job and make way less than the average employee (as I’m considered a “temp”), and get absolutely no new work accomplished.  I know its difficult for a non-artist/writer to understand sometimes, but artists no matter what the type require time, above all, to complete projects.  In fact, we need time just to think and design a project.  We cannot simply sit down for 30 minutes at a time between meals or social events or work and be expected to pump out masterpieces – or anything at all.  The mundane world sees this as “correct” – that now artists and writers must make themselves a “decent” or “honorable” living because the general public believes very little in what we do for them.  And of course, there are artists and writers out there that have really made a terrible image for the rest of us working little and pissing out terrible work for a high profit return (cf Andy Warhol).  I would encourage the public to see artists as carpenters or other construction laborers, and no different, as much as popular artists, or the “artist you know” would like you to think otherwise.  Artists are craftsmen and women like any other, but our work is often situational and based on life experience, not a directly or obviously functional device like a house or car.  This is also not to take away from the artistic elements of the work that other craftsmen do.  I saw a forklift driver the other night whom I felt was a fine artist of truck loading, for example.  The difference between us is only that I (or any other artist) focus on the artistic/aesthetic and secondly on function; just a reverse of the practical consensus.  I wish we could be paid by the hour to create our structures, our homes, our food, our art, but this cannot be.  I don’t blame the public here, I blame artists in conjunction with a cultural mentality that we must all find some sense of uniqueness to consume and compete with.  A mixture of protestant ethic and capitalism, combined with contemporary reliance on spectacle and immediate gratification.  A competition for the shock, as it were, as a means to qualify for a self-defined (yet with immense lacking of experience) sense of personal hard work in the completion of a sub-standard pile of regurgitated sameness steamers.

You can make something new and important and be paid for it.  Relax.

I’m Published Again

Posted in Illustration, Pop-culture, Publication on 6 September, 2010 by endlessslug

Johnny Rook Games has published a second book illustrated entirely by me, including the cover painting.

Check it out at:
http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/warrens-of-the-great-goblin-chief/12464797

I’m currently signed on to do a number of further books which should also be available as soon as I can do the illustrations.

Quit Painting Other People’s Art

Posted in Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Gallery Talk, Literature, Studio Work, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16 March, 2010 by endlessslug

Here’s an issue I see frequently in the world of art today from the lowly student, to the returning retiree, to the professional: Re-creating a work of art into the artist’s medium resulting in a lifeless copy of something once beautiful and meaningful.

Do you know what I’m referring to? Have you seen/created works like this?

I’ll contain this discussion to my fellow painters:

O BITTER MUSE!

The most common form of copy-painting folks often come across is people who paint from photographs.  Yes, yes, I know, many painters and especially illustrators use photographs frequently as reference in the construction of an image.  A reference.  Say it with me now, “R E F E R E N C E”. A painter knows how to draw the image already, the photo helps in the small details when a painter feels they need to recall more specific information.  Far too often, we see students and especially pseudo-professionals create a work entirely from a photograph.  A trained eye quickly picks up that photos have been used.  Why should we not do this? The work ends up lifeless – only a copy.  Some artists can make some aspect of these works interesting: Watercolorists can sometimes create interesting effects in color application and transparencies, drawers can create different effects in line weights and contrasts, and the painter can shift a whole mood in addition to the previous two effects.  But these changes are often pedantic and cannot detract from the image as a photo.  We can always tell the photo-painting because of the inclusion of excessive details revealed by looking at a pictoral reference, which are different from the movement details we find with live or imagined objects.  The photo is a static instance of an event and completely unsuitable for a painting.  Photo-paintings also lean towards the development of bad habits: restrictive drawing space, restrictive palette, attempts at color which result in drab local color arrangements, and lack of experience in drawing live models/scenes.  As painters, we must, at all cost, SEE (with our personal eyes) what a subject looks like – how it moves – how light plays off edges and curves, how lines appear and disappear, how color plays in the shadows, and so on.  A photo cannot reproduce this; neither does video.

A couple of simple rules:

Stop and change your idea immediately if you plan on painting any of the following:

1) Family photos

2) “Found” photos

3) Pet Photos

4) Cellphone Pix

5) Website caps

6) Cropped areas of a photo in an attempt to do something “different”

7) Paintings of famous photographs or paintings of work you did in your photo class that you got that A- on.

8 ) Anything your friends say you should paint.

Because:

A) These are all terrible ideas and have been done by every wannabe post-mod contemporary shit student artist for the last 10+ years.

B) It will result in a terrible painting that no one wants to see.

C) They are boring.

D) They are artistic Plagiarism!

Artistic Plagiarism

Sometime in the last 30 years, some idiot decided it was “OK” to “express yourself” in any way you feel as long as you are being yourself. You, you, you, you, me, me, me, me, blah.  Once upon a time, a favorite old art professor told me, “paint from a photo and you’re committing plagiarism.”  The shitbag art students in the class with me argued with this guy for weeks about that statement.  Partly, he said it so these kids would say something and begin to argue to make them academic artists, but he was also correct.  The photo itself is already a record of an event and it’s own aesthetic creation.  It might be more historical document than art, and the ‘artist’ might decide to elevate the work to some sort of western notion of fine art, but the work is already done – why paint that?  Just frame it and put it on the wall.  When you paint it, you’ve just copied someone else’s work – maybe even your own.  To him, and to me, it’s no different than taking words from a published document and using them as if you said them yourself.  And like the trained literature/composition instructor, the trained artist can tell right away when the work is a photo-painting, thus knowing it was plagiarized.  I believe a little part of that intuition exists in all viewers of the work which somewhat universally makes the work uninteresting – except to the Sunday-painter whose mind was just blown: “Wow! I can paint my dog too! and I have the perfect picture of him in a little pink sweater I knitted”.  Thanks photo-painter for shitting up the art world one person more.

So, in conclusion:

I> Don’t paint from photos or any other copy-reference; draw from life

II> If you do paint from photos, DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR PAINTING that the photo does not or can not.  If you constantly strive to improve upon the photo and instead work more from life, one day magic will happen… you will no longer need it.

*** ADDENDUM ***

That was quick – I got bombarded with private and semi-public arguments within minutes of this post.  On one hand, it’s good to see people are reading me, on the other, I wish people would argue less, listen, and learn.

I should clarify, however: Artists of all forms know that human minds are repositories of experiences and knowledge manipulated by intuition and abstract forethought resulting in limitless creativity, thanks to Noam Chomsky and linguistic anthropologists everywhere, boo to modern philosophers and psychologists.  My argument about ‘not’ painting other people’s work is a plea for artists to construct their own work – which they can certainly do.  We all learn some painting from copying masters and other artists, this is normal behavior, but copy-learning must be tempered with real painting as well and eventually, the student moves away from the copies to become their own master.

My argument is for those artists in galleries downtown, right now, who dare put a photo-painting on a wall.  The “why” about this problem might be fleeting for most non-artists though.  The major problem with photo-paintings is that they are terrible paintings, lacking energy, lacking style, lacking composition, idea, complexity – name it, and these paintings do not have it.  The best one can achieve is small variations of technique – but who cares? The average viewer doesn’t give a shit, they want to see a nice painting, not a dentist’s office visit.  It reminds me about times when I’d go see movies with film student friends.  The movies might have totally sucked, but the film student goes on and on about the direction, lighting, and so on, amidst a flood of angry or confused movie-goers.  This is crap, and a hallmark of the postmodern world we live in where things are now created for exclusive groups, instead of larger audiences.  The longevity and usefulness of personal art is temporary, fleeting, and ultimately meaningless.  We don’t expect every painting, film, or pop-song to be amazing for centuries – of course not – but why don’t we have long-lasting works anymore?  This is the question I raise and attempt to locate data for.  We also do paint for ourselves.  I have a number of personal drawings and paintings that will never be shown.  Not because I’m ashamed, but because that the art is not for a public – there’s no need to show it.  I have a responsibility as a fine artist to show only work which I believe a public would like to see and needs.

Here is a painting exercise for folks – I’ll use my own work.  <gasp> no he didn’ – Sure, I did use photo reference in my earlier days; I too tried painting from photos.  I learned the lesson first-hand that photo paintings lack something which model-based paintings have.  I have since learned how to use a photo for a painting, not as the painting.

Which of the following paintings was created from a photo?  Which of the following paintings was painted with photo-reference?  Then criticize and analyze. I don’t have enough portraits scanned in for a good data set, apologies, so I’m selecting three portraits and two landscapes.

-The Endless Slug

Bejart Vs. Tori Amos: War of Postmodernisms

Posted in Contemorary Art, Criticism, Dance, Modernists, Pop-culture, Social Science, Technique, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12 December, 2009 by endlessslug

Did you like what I did there?  I’m using a postmodern style of titling to set up a discourse on postmodernism in the contemporary arts.  I even used the word “discourse” in the previous sentence – very postmodern.  In fact, this manner of writing, whereby I talk directly to you, the reader, is exactly one of the many problems with the postmodern movement: a lack of consistency and structure, and a shift in attachment to works from a universal general detachment to a directly personal, seemingly identity-building attachment between artist and reader with the work forming only a momentary adhesive.  Some readers, you perhaps, will find the way I am writing right now to be invasive, irritating, and downright insulting.  Other readers, you perhaps (which you?), will find the way I am writing right now to be caring, direct, connecting, and unpretentious – a place where you too can speak with me, not against or under me.  Writers, painters, choreographers, dancers, actors, sculptors, and so on, work in this direct style now for a number of reasons, one of which we’ll highlight here:  Fear in a consumerist production society.

Tori Amos performed a live Facebook concert Friday afternoon.  It was amazing.  I am only going to discuss the postmodernisms within her work though, not the concert itself.  I was alerted to the finite differences between Tori’s older music, newer music, and newest music by a colleague of mine who is a much bigger fan of Tori’s ensemble than I.  But I agree – Tori’s music has always been exactly what postmodernism is supposed to be: a break from tradition (such as modernism), with a firm base of tradition (structure), with an attempt to create new things for a mass audience but at a personal level for individual audience members (postmodernism).  Postmodernism, then, is not simply a movement, but a dialogue still continuing from what the modernists were doing.  The postmodernist ought to struggle to discover new ways of doing old things in a way which is meaningful and not simply done to do it, or not in an anti-meaning sort of way (cf Beatniks).  In a contemporary, globalizing, mass-media, consumerist sort of world, we strive to find things which have lasting meaning to us, but we ought to find those things which could have meaning to others as well.  My grandmother’s freezer has been working fantastically since the 1940s.  It’s not really an antique, but people today would classify it as old or antique anyway.  Instead of taking the freezer one day, most of my family will probably just want to throw it out and get a new one or sell it.  This is unfortunate as the freezer is huge and works like a charm.  There’s no need to replace the thing and lots of people in my family have memories attached to it.  In fact, I would claim that if any family had a freezer like this (a huge trunk-type freezer you could fit a small cow in whole), you would also have memories and meaning instantly created.  This need to replace with the new is a salient cultural feature of suburban Americans, but where does this behavior lead?  An inability to ascribe meaning to things due to the fleeting feelings attached to purchased consumer goods.  Essentially, if the thing does not strike a personal chord with me, there’s no point in the thing’s existence.  We’ve reversed meaning!  We are our own Emperors and Empresses needing our decrees to be followed by the rest; self-made monarchies of absolutism.  It’s no wonder personal prosperity theologies are so dangerously dominant here…

I’ve been watching OVAT lately again.  This past week and all next week they’re doing a “Battle of the Nutcrackers” fan-choice contest.  The whole idea that contests allow fans to vote is ridiculous anyway.  Fans vote on what they’re given, and what they’re given dictates what the fans will enjoy, so having a fan-choice is simply a reaffirmation for the creators of the pop-culture non-sense.  Always remember, they care nothing for you, only your money.  Anyway, the week started off well with the Bolshoi Ballet classical production of the Nutcracker.  Critically speaking, there were some small faults that I blame on postmodern dancers, but all in all it was fantastic.  Last night was the Bejart Nutcracker.  I was excited for another rendition of the ballet, so I sat patiently and waited.  I was instantly punched in the nuts.  Apparently, Bejart used the Nutcracker (or selected aspects of it) to tell his own life story consisting of an estranged pseudo-sexual relationship with his mother, his own sex and gender identity problems, and his genius-ness of dance choreography.  Directly, this is utter bullshit.  This is what we tend to find as postmodernism today: entirely self-interested diarrhea of word and art, self-aggrandizing – making our personal monarchy public.  Bejart himself even appears in the ballet on a giant black and white monitor over the stage, narrating his life as the dancers dance parts of the Nutcracker.  Bejart has taken a classical work – which works quite well still, see the Bolshoi – and turned it into a tool and medium to talk about himself in a grandiose way.  What an asshole!  My criticism: Had this nutjob simply used some of his contemporary symbolism to add a modern depth or alteration to the ballet, it could be tolerated, possibly enjoyed.  Less is more!  Who was the audience for this? I can only guess 1,500 community college students believing that this is somehow fine art.  Did we forget what that “fine” part of fine art is for?  Refinement!  After a few millennia of dance, you would think this wouldn’t be a problem, but there it is.  When did we, as a world-wide culture, begin to care one bit about one person’s struggle of life?  That statement might make me sound heartless, but as an artist, I can say nothing else.  Mr. Bejart, art isn’t about you, no one cares.  You need to produce art that is about my experience, his experience, her experience – something which folks can relate to.  Having dance-sex with your mother, supported by two drag-queen Faustian angel-fairies on a public stage is art only as a criticism attacking other post-modern art which tries to do the same thing but less well.  If the point of Bejart’s work is to criticize postmodernism, then it is brilliant although needs to be more clear that this is the intent.  Thus, I believe the guy is serious and therefore fails.  I was ashamed for the dancers while watching this mess.  I can’t blame the dancers, they need jobs, but I’d like to know how many went home later and cried.

Due to my crap training in writing, I can’t help but to write also in a rant-style postmodern method.  Although I do know it when I see it.  Luckily, this blog was never designed as a completely professional publication so I can break my structure a bit and rant.  At least I know when I can and can not.  Tori, do a Nutcracker.

Ritual As Art

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Contemorary Art, Literature, Music, Social Science, Technique, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 2 November, 2009 by endlessslug

This morning, the day after Halloween, I was sitting and staring at a gorgeous plate of chorizo and pork tacos at my favorite Mexican restaurant near my home.  The owner of the restaurant recently started this bi-monthly Sunday brunch buffet which I’ve been desperately trying to go to since the first one.  However, due to the holiday the night before, the owner could not prepare the normal buffet meals and could not do the brunch.  Instead, he gave us the buffet deal anyway and said we could just keep ordering food as an all-you-can eat festival.   I love this place.

Originally, I wanted to go in to the restaurant to make some sketches of folks at the buffet.  These days in our world of pre-packaged, mass-produced meals, it is a rare treat to have an open bar of food, especially Mexican food cooked fresh and from scratch.  The whole local community showed up at the first buffet thrown and it was pretty amazing.  Lot’s of people, live music, great food, and a wait-staff and owner who come around and chat with everyone as if this were all extended family.

I’d like to paint this.  Why? Because here is a series of complex emotions and epiphanies which cannot be communicated to others in any other way.  But then, even the painting falls short.  What we have here is participation in a ritual.  Ritual itself is a form of fine art, refined over thousands of years to be a collective and festive event which helps us as humans to achieve a greater understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.  It already is a painting, just a painting which you may only experience by being part of it and it lasts for maybe two hours every other Sunday at this restaurant.

As a painter, I realize this cannot and should not be painted as it is akin to plagiarism – I would be just copying someone else’s work, afterall.  No, instead what the painter does, it tries to pull from the millions of life experiences he or she has had and select a series of symbolic references which help to construct a similar series of feelings to a more diverse audience.  I sit, I think, I try to break down the feelings of that restaurant into it’s smaller parts and develop a concept of how the ritual functions and works for all involved.  Then I can transpose it to another medium.  If I painted the scene at the restaurant, it would appear as maybe Renoir’s party at the frog pond, and that’s not exactly what I am looking for.  I also cannot simply slap down random paint blobs and “express” what I feel about the brunch, no one would care (see: all postmodern contemporary and student painters for examples of the latter).  The importance here though is the thinking and realizing that the scene I enjoyed and want to re-create cannot generally be recreated exactly or I end up communicating something else – either a narrative, an illustration, or poop on canvas.   I want to make the viewer a participant in an event of cultural exchange, public celebration, exploration, unexpected but delightful shock, and ridiculously awesome food, music, and dance (or maybe consummation?).  But this is too much for a painting – which is why ritual is a completely different form of art.  It is not easily painted, drawn, or written about, certainly not danced, sung, or played about, but can be re-enacted out.

I can’t wait for next Sunday.

Blog on the March

Posted in Art, Film, Gallery Talk, Literature, Music, Pop-culture, Social Science, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 15 September, 2009 by endlessslug

Just wanted a small update for the handful of dedicated readers out there – I have a number of posts coming up soon.  It’s been a little light this month in the posting world for the slug here due to working on stuff, general disillusionment with society again, and an overwhelming sense of futility every day I wake up.  But, I had the pleasure of getting my slug-ass up and going out to the gallery openings in Chicago over the weekend which inspired a number of topical ideas for blog posts as well as new paintings.  The work at the galleries were so amateurish and shit that I have been punched (slugged) in the face with an excitement for working rarely seen at the slug studios.  I also picked up a couple new books I’d like to review and comment on.  So, hopefully we’ll have a very post-heavy mid- and end-month.