Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tying it together - improv and artists who paint themselves

I don't think I really explained why I consider improvisational art and artists who draw inspiration from their own experiences to be the same thing.

First, this is key to my understanding of improv - I learned it from a guy going by 1BigLebowski on the stopmotion board a few years ago. He had a troupe of live stage actors, and he was learning claymation to project a little film up behind them for the actors to interact with. I pretty much led him through everything he needed to know, and was very cognizant of his extreme time constraints, being incredibly busy with running the troupe and staging performances and all. All I asked him for in return was some insight into live stage acting and how it can relate to stopmotion.

He very generously took the time ti write out a big block of very informative material,  the gist of which was this: he said he doesn't want actors who must rely on a script. In a live stage show you can't shout cut if something goes wrong - all the actors need to be strong in improv skills so they know how to roll with it, even if say an actor's dress falls open or somebody falls down in the middle of a dramatic monologue. If they can all handle this without freaking out, then it often enhances the performance and makes it a hundred times more memorable for the audience. Its about being self-reliant and not needing to keep stopping and starting over.

The way I think this applies to painters or illustrators is that some of them tend not to like to do thumbnails and a lot of pre-planning, instead they rely on their own intuition and improv abilities and are ready to accept anything that happens and find a way to incorporate it into the piece. Its actually more honest than deleting and starting over whenever reality fails to happen the way you want it to. It becomes performance art - it reflects the realities of what happened during the performance.

And of course all of my favorites are of this type. They've all said they hate the demands of art directors to see prelims and comps and sketches before even beginning. They all feel that takes out all the creative spark - apparently the feeling of diving in head first ready to handle whatever happens is a big part of the artistic spirit for them.

And to me it seems natural that artists of this type are also ones who draw their inspiration from their own lives and experiences. Frank Jeff and Kent tended to paint themselves often as their main characters, and their other male characters (and in Jeff's case females as well) sort of represent other versions or aspects of themselves.

Every one of them would have been an excellent model if not an artist. They all have presence and a great physical look. That's not me however. While I do aim to emulate them in some degree, I won't be taking picture of myself, or if I do it'll only be for pose or lighting reference. But while there's little actual physical resemblance, I have had people believing that Fafhrd was in some way me, and I suppose there's some truth to that. When I'm painting both him and his little buddy I feel a kinship with them - each has some of my qualities. So I suppose even though they don't look like me, they are in some way standins or alter egos for the artist. That might help explain why whenever I paint them I do far and away my best work, and am willing to put 220% into it. Yep, I definitely fall into the camp of artists who put themselves into their work.

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