Friday, December 26, 2008

showing and telling

My peak of the season, my wife's 91 year old mother comes for dinner. She is one sharp and snappy whit, a retired grade school art teacher and artist in her own right. She, over the years has nipped and tucked at my artistic endeavors and I have resisted on principle. You see, I believe one should embrace the training you received while developing but, don't make it a hard rule to instruct the next generation. In principle, things like composition, balance, color, etc; never change, methods may change and media always changes. Even motivation, inspiration, vision, and meaning will greatly change the reason for doing art. Then there is this thing called permission. If an art "student" has the desire to be placed under your tutelage, you have permission to overshadow them. If not, you will be the harshest critic to the student, inflicting uninvited guidance, might even snuff them out. So you see here is a kind of tension between myself and my experienced artist mother-in-law.

She went to art school. They prepared her to be an artist professional so she could make a living doing art. It's not always a glamorous outcome. They break you and remake you and train you. You have many skills in the end, have tasted many techniques. Mother's specialty was watercolor, she is pretty good. Had her paintings printed in a book written by one of her instructors and won a few museum art shows. Then she taught grade school art many years.
Oh, did I tell you she has never used a computer at all, for anything. She, does not understand or appreciate computer art production. I tell her she needs to embrace the new media for what it is. I think she thinks much of the art that surrounds her today was done the way she learned it. Photoshop is not in her vocab.

Then there's me. The art muse ran in my family also. My own mother took a correspondence art course. She used to draw our hands and feet. If she was not so preoccupied with raising us she would have been a fine artist. I was always coloring and drawing on something. As a teen I took to drawing houses, buildings in pencil then ball point pen. I jumped from architecture to drafting electrical circuits in my professional life. To keep the artist alive, I kept sketchbooks. If you don't jot it down, dreams tend to dissipate, ideas fade away. I got my first computer never dreaming I could do art on it. Computer aided drafting swept the engineering world and over the years I received hard training. But I did learn to play, to doodle, to dabble with lines and shapes and colors, to escape the boundaries of electrical product design. I learned to do what's in my sketchbooks on my computer.

How did our encounter go? A picture is a picture whether on the canvas or on the PC screen. She wrestled with the concept of how it's done but was more a teacher than anything. She said I should draw scenario after scenario as if I was working with a pencil. I showed her how I could move elements around, tweak and adjust them in real time, even change color, density and size.
She liked my work but had reservations about my outcomes, even cringed at the thought of printing on a printer. The best part was she is still open to new technology, though she would never leave what she knows and I was not saddled with pursuing art by the way she learned it.

So some advice to you folks who play, doodle and dabble. You are an artist already, because you have the inkling to do it. You might need a little training to learn composition, skills and techniques to help your expression outcomes be appreciated by other people. If other artist are your target audience, you are playing to the wrong crowd. Perfection is the ultimate lie, can be a time wasting obsession and is only appreciated by others so afflicted. Don't cast aside so quickly the beginnings of your fascination, first sparks are like seeds. Keep sketchbooks, visual diaries as a matter of habit, the best ideas come when your not doing art. Don't put off for ever using what you have learned to do, find a way.

If you are like me there is no excuse. I can't afford Photoshop or any pricey artist software but I have discovered open sourced Inkscape and GIMP, they are free. They work well to manipulate digital pixels which is the point. And if I ever have the need or desire to get the pro stuff the option is still there. In the meanwhile I can do digital art with what tools are available to me. Life is sweet! And I haven't even mentioned Linuxville!

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