Making Art is Like Organizing Cooked Spaghetti

Warning! This post is a lot of complaining and elaborating about art making minutiae that may make you want to stab your hand with a pencil or click over to the Playbuzz quiz What Genre of Metal Are You? (I’m Industrial/Experimental). But if you have a creative addiction and like analyzing your monkey, read on.

If my title is true, trying to impose some control over floppy noodles is more fun than it sounds because making art is my favorite pastime. But how is something so pleasurable simultaneously so maddening? Is my inability to control it part of the appeal?

As I stated in my post Little Book of Abstracts, I decided to do only abstract art in my then recent blank art book. It went exceedingly well and I completed all the pages by late March, 2015. I thought I would share more of that here but I made the process too tedious. I wanted digital access to everything so I started scanning each page, got bored and gave up, or lost consciousness of the endeavor and stopped. I think I told myself that I was to use my computer free time to scan rather than web surf but that didn’t pan out. Also, I greatly prefer making new art to documenting old art so that might have contributed to the loss of enthusiasm. Most of my blogging about this happened in my head. Any mind readers out there who enjoyed my psychic posts? Your welcome.

3 new blank books_small

Upon completing book one, the most natural progression seemed to be making a Little Book of Abstracts #2.  I looked around on the web for a square hardcover blank book and couldn’t find anything I liked, most had spiral binding which is the worst.  So I ordered 3 more blank books from L. Cornelissen & Son in London and paid the same amount in shipping as I did for the books themselves. So worth it!  Take that frugal Caren. But no sooner had I done something a little extravagent, justified by previous success, than the mental momentum hit some existential traffic and productivity slowed to a crawl. Here’s what happened.

In book #1 I did the pages out of order, so for a long time many of the spreads had an image on one side and a blank page on the other. It looked nice and clean.

Orange Rectangle Blue Background_cc_smallPink frame around brown and grey_smallHowever, a number of the spreads had images on both sides as sometimes I would do a theme and variation kind of thing. Calligraphy Spread_small Brown and Blue Bleedthrough Spread_small

The inconsistency bothered me so I decided there should be imagery on every page. A cool thing started to happen where I would pair a dense marker based image with a light and subtle pencil based image.

grid bleedthrough with pencil circle_small multicolor cityscape on navy_small
Nevertheless, as the book filled out, I started to miss the clean blank pages and several drawings I felt were harmed by the newer drawing they got paired with. Green dino in multi color grid_small

This bummed me out. I told myself that in the next book, there would only by one drawing per spread.

So the rules for abstract book #2 was one drawing per page and they would be drawn in order, first drawing on page one, second drawing on page two, etc. I wanted to rebel immediately but told myself stick to the plan! I really liked my first drawing but for whatever reason, my second drawing was of a radically different style. They did not sit well together. In the first book that wasn’t a problem as they would be separated by mulitple pages and I would make the art between them harmonize.  Now I didn’t have that option. Seeing these two disparate images together every time I opened the book galled me. The problem just got worse, each successive page seemed to relate less and less to what had come before. Instead of feeling joy when I opened the book, I felt irritated. This is what I get for paying $30 in shipping!

I am always torn between rules and no rules. Of course there are always some rules. Whether you consciously create and follow them or take notice of them after your effort to see what they were, they are there. For example, a medium is a rule. If you are using markers, you aren’t using paint so the rule is markers. A rule is just a choice and art is full of choices. I have been paying a lot of attention to whether I am making my choices with my conscious mind or unconscious mind and to what effect. I think the most interesting stuff comes from the unconscious. No sooner does it come out then my conscious mind seizes on it and wants to make rules to help us get more. But the rules often backfire, like they did in the second book. It’s so frustrating.

Some where around the time I was finishing the first and starting the second book I had an idea for another abstract project with another set of rules. I would make larger abstracts on individual pieces of paper and get a frame I could put them in so that I could hang it up and see the work. It’s hard to get the little books to prop up and stay open so that I can step back and look at the art from a distance.

More on that project and how I think the unconscious works in art later.  Or tune into my live and uncensored psychic podcast where I do mental mixed martial arts cage fighting with myself while drawing more nonsense for no good reason because I am free and I can do as I please.

Strike While the Iron is Hot

hand logo for word

It’s been in my head for quite some time to write a post with this title. Since I now have time to work on it, I am wondering just what it was I was wanted to say. Looks like I Waited Until the Iron Got Cold. Ha! Serves me right for not taking my own advice. Oh well, failure is just as illustrative as success. I shall carry on.

Okay, now that I have pondered it a bit, I can see that a lot of my ideas start with a word or phrase, something meaningful I can riff on. For example, a few years ago I was walking around an abandoned home in the desert of 29 Palms ruminating about how everything eventually goes out of existence when I thought, I should make a video called Extinct. Since I had a video camera with me, I filmed for about an hour, edited soon thereafter and now I have a short film on vimeo and youtube called Extinct.

As I look at my creative output, I can see that the things I have accomplished are the things I acted on very quickly after having the idea. Thinking about projects is never a good omen for me. Leaping before looking works best creatively.

I am wondering what allows me to act impulsively, in a creative sense, and what throws up a road block.

Time is number one. I have to have at least a little of it. It’s hard to make that first move when work needs to come first. But if I have already made that first move, I can often fit the second, third, and fourth moves into the little crannies of space that open up throughout the day. I love when that happens. So why doesn’t it happen more? Because most of the heavy lifting does need time. Not a smidge or dab but a swath, some substantial amount to maneuver in. Magic doesn’t happen while multitasking.

Next is definition. To do something I have to know what I am doing. To create a video I need to shoot footage, edit footage, edit some more then post it. I’ve done it enough times to know what the process is and to keep going. But if the parameters change, indecision can paralyze the whole project. I think this is where I get stuck the most. For instance, I have finished a video, a piece I worked on for years and now it sits in a password protected vimeo site doing nothing. What’s the point of that? I want to share it but I told some people I was going to submit it to festivals first. So I have to figure out which festivals and how much money I want to spend applying, blah, blah, blah. Why do I have to submit it to festivals anyway? I really don’t know. Because it means I am serious? Am I serious? Are festivals serious?  Which festivals are serious? Trying to answer that question leads me to asking what the purpose is, an existential quagmire that never leads to anything except a bad mood. I guess to know what I am doing it helps to have a handy why. And when I can’t find one, I stop moving forward.

That leads to the third obstacle, fear. Fear is imagining a bad outcome. I have a giant project that I got very hopped up about and did a ton of work on and then just up and quit. I didn’t even do myself the curtsey of telling myself I quit. But what else do you call it when you have done nothing in 2 years? In this case I did strike while the iron was hot. I struck a lot. But I didn’t Finish Before it Turns to Rust.

However, and this is a BIG HOWEVER, as in the whole point of the title, because I at least started that project, I could, if I wanted to, pick it back up. Once something comes into existence, however neglected and ill tended, it can be brought back to health and possibly grow to maturity. But if it never even exists, well, it never even exists. It won’t even get to go extinct. I did myself the service of starting a blog post with this title 8 months ago. There wasn’t much there but there was something. There were this sentence:

After years of evidence showing me which ideas went from attraction to intercourse to baby and which ones miscarried and which one never even kissed, I can conclude that for myself, if I don’t get to it right away, I am not going to get to it at all.

The password protected video I mentioned above has now been submitted to several festivals. In fact I interrupted the writing of this to finish that task as it was causing me too much cognitive dissonance not too – thank you blogging.