Hello again fine folk of the internet and good people all around. It's time for another weekly installment here on project-discovery where we, for a change, will take it easy. Yes, summer is here, the weather is nice (hopefully) and there are plenty of reasons to relax. But are we? Outside of the weight of current world events which are certainly a cause for pause in our daily routine and the humdrum of having to ask someone to take days off (unless you freelance like a boss) stacked on top of other obligations like tax forms, stuff that breaks down, bills, and general annoyances alike it seems difficult to completely disconnect. I can only speak about one thing which is the most closely related to the core message of this blog, the pressure to art. So hopefully we can put things into a bit of perspective as we take a walk on the metaphysical wild side
As we are on the internet and talking about relaxing and feeling good I could not ignore the age-old plea for cats, so I hope you enjoyed this highly addictive video. Quick note, if you are highly relaxed then there is no real need to keep reading, unless reading relaxes you more in which case I wont stop you. To delve a little bit deeper into the meaning and purpose of relaxing, a term which over the years has grown significantly in usage and meaning, we have to understand a little bit more about relaxing and take look at it's counterpart, stress. Take this for example:
Personally I blame the sharp drop off of both graphs in the end on the invention of the internet and the fact that apparently nobody reads books anymore, even tho you totally should, especially the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Moving on, one of the key parts here is that stress was not a word referring to mental health before 1936 when it was coined by Hans Selye. He found all sorts of interesting stuff happens to the human body which is not easily attributed to one thing. As of today defining stress can be a difficult thing since it's so broad and is therefor applied to many things, possibly making things worse because we are so aware. With the rise of the internet and terms like stress self diagnosing has taken off like a rocket, even giving birth to the new term "Cyberchondria", which coincidentally is an amazing name for a retro 70's sci-fi city.
Safe to say stress is terrible for our health, it seems than, we are suffering from more pressure than ever, whether it is because we are more aware of it or, because the world is moving at a faster pace and we are all struggling to keep up, or both, is irrelevant. The one thing that matters is how you react to it. Especially when it comes to art.
This is a pretty big and complex problem, so to make it easier, we need to define certain things a bit better before we can break it down. In regards to art and the why of things it boils down to one of two things.
1. You art for the sake of art and expression
2. You art for the sake of paying the bills
Now we all hopefully know real life isn't as black and white as this and you probably have traits of both but in it's essence there is a core reason which relates more strongly to one or the other. With one there is a desire to maximize self expression and the other it's to sustain a lifestyle. Both come with their respective troubles but in order to further narrow it down we need to go deeper. These problems as defined in the book Flow can be put as:
1. Autotelic, for a purpose in and of itself.
2. Exotelic, for exterior purposes.
Both categories can suffer from the same problems and pressures but the internal pressure for art shows itself most in the first category because it is more pertinent for it's survival. Without the pressure the artistic capabilities might not be pushed which can directly compromise the likelihood of success since artistic expression and growth are the goals. Before I was talking about the pressure to art and this is it. That internal pressure to get better because it's vital to the survival of the skill. Now that we have that out of the way we can think about what making art actually entails. Here is what most people think or on some level feel it is all about:
- Painting / drawing art as much as you can
- Painting / drawing as realistically as you can
This is, to put it mildly, a really simplistic view. Making art, like with almost any other skill, is part of a much bigger whole. It's observation, your knowledge, your energy levels / how good you are feeling and so forth. So this is a more complete list:
- Painting / drawing when you can
- Reading about art
- Reading about things that might inspire (I don't like using that word)
- Going out and experience things (which you can later draw from)
- Taking breaks to process information (yes, this is a important thing)
- Taking a step back and reviewing your progress
- Exploring different media en ways to express
- Thinking about what you want to say with your art
- Thinking about why you want to say this
- Thinking about who it is for
The last three are quite flexible and can be updated through your artistic career, which moves through phases, and the rest should be maintained throughout. Now that it's becoming a bit more clear what the full scope of the artistic lifestyle is we can more easily identify culprits for stress. I have this feeling that part of the stress might come from the self imposed pressure that art is all about working and not about relaxing. I know that this was true for me! Sometimes it still is, even with constant reminders that I should relax! Because we all know that relaxing...
We talk a lot about understanding yourself and how you react to things, in fact, that's the whole purpose of this quasi diary like blog. With that in mind I duly encourage everyone to look at all the steps in the creative process, how engaged you are with them and if you can work some more non painting time in. Painting is a important aspect of life for many of us, but it's not the only aspect. Our subject matters, should be, heavily influenced by our experiences and interest. Therefor our paintings are usually only as good as a mix of our technical skills and our understanding of our interests.
Here is a rather depressing image in which I have applied the time relevant to me:
Assuming I keep working until the day I hit 85 I can start crossing off every week. Its a very sobering experience looking at life this way. What this means to me is not how hard I should work to get good at art with the "little time" I have left on this pale blue dot but more a mirror to show me that other things in life are important too. Enjoying time with friends, reading, playing games, seeing a movie, forgetting about time, forgetting about art, travel.
The more you understand that art is about a showing how you see the world and externalizing this the more you will find that it's not all about painting or drawing. In fact, it's not even about how good the work is on a technical level. It's about your ability to vocalize, in any way shape or form, the thoughts and ideas you have. This is why it's vital to engage in other mediums like photography or finger painting. So you see, time is on your side. It's not your enemy. You need time to grow, you grow just as much when you are not working than when you are. I often see these crazy schedules of people working 16 hours a day and having everything planned in to the last minute, this might work for some, but for most this is incredibly ineffective. There is a time and place for everything so when you are in the very beginnings of understanding fundamentals it's a good idea but I would recommend for everyone else not to do this. It's unhealthy. Oh geez, I passed 30 and it's instantly lecture time...
Hey look a pretentious quote! No worries, I googled it, it used to be a saying in our household, "there is more between heaven and earth" my mom and dad used to say.
If you are feeling bad because you can't relax because the pressure of getting better at art in fear of getting left behind I know how you feel. But just like the quote said, only interpreted differently, there is more between heaven and earth. There are other things to explore. Life isn't all about art in the form of spending time painting or perhaps for some of you reading this it's not even about art at all. It's about so much more stuff that's so crazy important. Relax. Now you can, hopefully, find out where the pressure and stress are coming from and how to mitigate those factors and just...
P.s All of this stuff is written on a personal level, and maybe it's more obvious to me now because I'm "getting a little older". That is to say, during most of my twenties I feel like I was an insufferable asshole. I worked all the time and it's proven to be only sort of effective. It wasn't until I changed my schedule that my attitude changed. Less grumpy, more smiley. Even tho I can rage like the best when losing at Overwatch. This shift into a more positive attitude led me to do more things, be nicer to people and as a result my work has gotten better. As if somehow the message I had in my mind was much more clear to understand, as if I could hear myself talking more clearly now that the asshole brain was shutting up a bit more often. My work has gone through a ton of phases, ups and downs, stuff people liked and stuff people didn't care about and all of that's fine. I think before realizing this stuff this would've stressed me out a lot but now I know it's just part of the cycle. I used to get insane back aches because of stress, crazy. Another big thing which was crucial to me was looking less at other people's work and achievement through envious eyes. That helps no one. Just do you, that's complicated enough already. And here too I'm still also addressing myself. Take care everyone!