Friday, March 6, 2009

The Real Thing

If your work can't make me want to throw up, then I don't want to see it.

Illustration has become masturbation.

Very few people know what they're doing with themselves. They all know how to paint, how to draw, how to build an image or convey an idea.But they don't know why they're doing it.

I don't know if I feel comfortable in this place anymore. I'm sitting here at my desk working at semi-abstract images, dealing with raw emotions and heavy imagery, and all I get are awkward chuckles and confused looks. I'm pouring my heart and soul into work that's some of the most important artwork I've ever made. I'm putting myself out there, and the only reaction I get is a laugh when someone doesn't get it. Even more than that -- they don't want to get it. It doesn't punch them in the face with its meaning, so it's not worth looking at. People ask what it's about, but I don't like to talk about it because no one understands it or even cares to.

"The mass hovering above the trench is a physical manifestation of the emotion of hopelessness. It is endless in it's blackness, it's shadow. The trench is empty, any remaining vestige of humanity would simply be redundant. The humanity is implied, the figures suffering in hell. The hopelessness is so heavy, yet it is not falling -- it is held aloft by the hope of the humanity in the trench. The indomitable will to survive when faced by unimaginable horror. "

I dare someone to talk about their work that way in Illustration 3, or in Word and Image, and not draw a whole bunch of stares and awkward laughs, and that bothers me. People can talk about their work, but only on such a physical level. There needs to be more positive space. That anatomy is wrong. I like the light and shading effects you have done.

But what do you get out of the image? Why is it good? Why am I sitting here looking at it? Should I even be here looking at it?

Tell me why you made it, what it means to you, and then maybe I'll care. I look at good art and illustration and it makes me feel like puking. Not because it's bad, not because it's disgusting, but because it MOVES me. Because I'm jealous. Because I'm witnessing a moment of pure artistic vision. I'm seeing someone get something perfect.

And I'm not there yet.

So if you're going to sit in the studio and complain about some banal, trite homework assignment instead of changing it and making it something you enjoy, then you need to take a few minutes and think about why you're here.

I'm doing this. And I'm sick of being pulled down by those who aren't.


Sam Koch said...

okay, first of all, this blog is not a place for you to whine about how righteous you think your artistic vision is.

secondly, I know what you mean about illustration being too technical and rigid sometimes, but to assume that no one "gets" the "depth" of your art is ridiculous.

illustration is not for everyone. If you want to uninhibited artistic expression, why don't you become a painting major.

Cole Swavely said...

I think you took what I said the wrong way.

I'm frustrated because people have so much potential to look at their artwork as so much more than it is, i.e. finding deeper meaning.

It's not that no one gets it, and yeah I know it sounds righteous and douchey, but the reaction I've gotten is depressing. It's a general uncomfortableness with talking about people's art on a deeper level -- instead of just doing illustration work, really enjoying it and growing as a person rather than just going through the emotions.

Also, I don't think I'm whining when I'm trying to do something about it rather than just bottling it all up.

And shouldn't we have uninhibited artistic expression in Illustration?

Ledanator said...

I agree with all that you said.

I think that most people either feel "They wont understand my art even if I tell them."
Or they are afraid of what people WILL understand.

Mariessa said...

I do agree with what you've written. I get frustrated too, wondering what the point of a lot of the work that I see people do, and assignments that we get. But I think you have to also understand that this is illustration, a business that is not focused on the deep emotional connections of imagery. Although people who graduate as illustration majors do use their art in that way, there are still many that are here more for the sake of making commercial illustrations. People who are going to design characters, do adds for things they don't care about, people who are trying to make a living wage who are just enjoying the process of making art, who may not want to think about why they are doing so. Also, we're still students, and still relatively young. There may be those of us who don't know what they want to express yet, and are just trying to build up their skills so that they can figure out what they really care about making and saying with their art later.

I think you should consider yourself lucky for knowing what you want to express with your work, and feeling confident enough in your views and your technique to share it. I think that instead of being frustrated with the other artists around you, you could be trying to expand their thoughts about what their work can be, give them another level of thought that they may not be considering. Many artists spend decades trying to figure out the right way to express themselves, so try not to resent the people that you think haven't reached that point.

I have to say that I have really appreciated seeing a lot of the work that you've been doing, especially what I've seen so far for your degree project. It all seems like a great step forward from the earlier work of yours that I had seen, however limited a scope.

I hope that you can find a way to not get fed up with the work around you. It's more important for you to focus on your own art and growth then to spend time worrying. Surround yourself with the artists whom you think share your ideals, and take more fine art classes where you may get more of the understanding and feedback that you are looking for. And know that you will graduate soon and fill your life with the work and people that make you fulfilled.

Cole Swavely said...

Mariessa, I think you made a great point about the fact that we're all students and that some people are still working on their vision and artistic place. I think I may have jumped the gun a little bit, you helped bring it into a better perspective.


LunchBox Illustration said...

I'm with Sam on this one dude.... It's great that you strive to push your art to a deeper level- but keep in mind that illustration is to convey a message. If you want to make a living off of it- you have to convey it CLEARLY so people don't have to laugh or give awkward "i don't get it" smiles. Otherwise- if they don't get it- you don't get paid.

After living in the illustration world beyond college- I learned this quickly. Focus on your craft, make your style distinct, and learn to LOVE IT. That's the only way you'll get noticed and hired.

Don't forget that the illustration department, as stupid and frustrating as it is (because it definitely IS), is basically giving you time to build a killer portfolio so you can eat food and live under a roof after college.

Don't think too far into it. You'll go mad. For the deeper side of art- take a few painting classes in the fine arts department.

good luck!

alex.carlson said...

this is something i feel like happens way to often. Adam and i were talking about it actually a bit last night after i first saw the post. It's the industry. In the past, its been meaningful and thoughtful and the artist was a respectable member of a community. Remember how artists were like Gods in the Renaissance? Were a commodity now, a service at most. i agree with what whats-his-face said about learning to love what you do in order to get hired, but at the same time, i see you fitting into the gallery world alot more then the commercial world, so i see why you have your anger about how we are taught things or told to think.
not to toot my own horn or anything, but consider this; I understand MassArt can be frustrating. But it's so much better then so many other places. The school i transfered from made my heart shrivel in frustration every single day from the facilities, faculty, and students. MassArt is on a pedestal by comparison (aside the fucking administration.)

Be happy with what you can do, take the next year and a half to really focus yourself. Just because no one can critique in class doesnt mean you cant learn from people around you. You always know a select few of us can give you good comments when you ask.
You'll make it work, i have faith in you. :-)

Halley P. said...

I think this an interesting post, especially since it has inspired people to react.

I take a bit of offense as I, who have graduated, still do not know how I want to express myself. I've been stagnant with my work, barely sketching and I have finally figured out that it's because I felt cornered and pressured into making work that I didn't actually like by teachers and peers. The only thing I feel I can say about my portfolio is that, "It's nice." I hate that I compromised my happiness and creativity for a grade and to appease teachers. I knew so much more about myself 4 years ago before I went to massart. But now I have the personal challenge to overcome my weaknesses and do the art I WANT to do.

Every creative person, regardless of media or talent, struggles to find their voice through their art or music, or writing at one point in their life.

And while you admitted finding a new perspective on the "problem" I feel like it is unfair for you to judge other people's progress/message/passion without fully understanding what their goals are, or where they are on the "path" to finding their voice.

You are extremely lucky to know what you want to do. Because I am still figuring it out. Massart served it's purpose. My goal was to become technically better than I was before, and I am; however, I still have a long way to go before I feel like I've fully found how I want to express myself.

I don't know if this was the place to post this, but I think it's great that it opened up such a discussion and I think we should welcome this kind of talk. This blog is here for us to help each other. Post your work that you need a critique on or ask for help, or offer your help. It should be used to it's fullest potential.

Leonard Dente said...

Labels: art, fuck, you

I've had my rants of course, who doesn't need to vent frustration?
However, it's not acceptable to throw tantrums here, or to moan about being pulled down to us - show us your successes, tell us of your growth!

If the statement: "So if you're going to sit in the studio and complain about some banal, trite homework assignment ..." is referring to specific people, talk to them, tell them of your epiphanies concerning their lack of vision. Attempt to help those who (apparently) need your help directly, you will grow from the experience.

I'm sorry that 0 comments ended up on the same post on The Purple Hoodie, but this ├╝ber personal post should have stayed there. Don't shed your professionalism just to make waves, it's only worth it if it doesn't come off as self righteous drivel.

The "Real Thing" isn't hot air, it isn't talk ...
Show us something next time.

David Wentworth said...

Cole, i agree with what your saying wholeheartedly- it is indeed frustrating, and i would like to think that based off the conversations we've had in the past, that you know i too do have such thoughts in regard to my work- although i usually dont express them in class for the very reasons you and Leda[nator] listed, they are personal, noone asks, and people (sadly) usually dont care/wont understand ect.

although on the same extent you shouldnt have to talk about what your work means in class for them to understand it- at least in their own way- since everyone takes their own meaning from something no matter what you do or say. to the people who rudely suggested that he join the painting major, i respond with all art is basically illustration, all art tells a story whether its intended or not-

and a blog is a place for whatever we-as the members of it- fucking want it to be. and if other people dont like us expressing ourselves, perchance it is them who might go instead.

as far as understanding it- not everyone will- and thats okay- some people look at the mona lisa and see the intrinsic values of life and death as depicted by the lively and deathly scenes behind her, and wonder as to the nature of man by the fact that her small grin implies that she knows something we dont- and whatever that could be has a million different avenues of interpretation.
some people look at the mona lisa and see: a nice portrait. a reaction depicts whether or not something has succeeded to convey- but what it conveys to different people is different modes of success.

by your account what you really want to do is vomit :P and thats a reasonable reaction- but a laugh can be just as powerful- YOU and YOUR work has evoked SOMETHING in another person- puke or giggle, it has affected their lives.

think about that. another person- another lifetime of experiences that no one else could ever -dare- to understand- and you made them feel something. thats powerful.

when my friends talk to me about art- the first thing they always say is "they love art, but dont like 'abstract' art-" to which i always reply- "then their art has succeeded-" even if those people(viewers) dont like the art, their distaste is a reaction- it has evoked something in them, and by that account it is successful. i love all art (though i may only like some of it)

and given the nature of some of your work, i think a giggle can be in order- while i -love- your rendered work and the moods they evoke, your gorestorm-cartoony-demonblade-mages are definitely funny- despite what deeper meaning you may credit them.

as for classroom discussions usually discussing the physical nature of the work, i think in that there are two causes- the first being that the personal emotions behind the piece are just that- personal, and people dont want to offend each other.(though by all means discuss with me personally the meaning of your imagery and ill gladly discuss it- in that i derive personal meaning from works even when people dont intend it, and as you probably know about me am comfortable discussing it)

the second, and arguably more important reason is because if an image doesnt flow physically, very rarely does a person take the time to observe and derive meaning from it. the average time a run-of-the-mill gallery viewer spends on each painting/piece is 5 seconds. thats it. five.seconds. to depict whatever emotion you can- and if your artwork is truly successful they may even stop for a few more seconds afterwards.

what i suggest is to actually ASK- in class- what people are feeling when they make something- why they make it- and what they feel when they look at yours- i have a suspicion more people are in your camp than you know, but are silent for the same reasons as you.

as for homework assignments- i think people just complain while theyre brainstorming-

there are always exceptions to this- and to those people i agree with you.

although this frustration isnt a curve ball from you- we've discussed it on several occassions, and i know where your coming from, sympathize, and have been there on many occassion.

but seriously- talk to me anytime, and good luck.

i hope your having a great break :)

Cole Swavely said...

I'm glad I got such a huge response.

This was originally intended to generate a discussion, and that it has. I've read all of the comments and it was really refreshing and made me think different in a lot of ways but also reinforced some ideas.

I'm glad that we can have this forum to discuss these things, and I knew I was going to step on a few toes by posting, but this should be a place where we can say whatever we are feeling.