Wednesday, November 26, 2014

fgr dwngs





Movement: Elements of Composition

Excerpted from Painting: About.com - Elements of Composition: Movement

Movement is the creation of a sense of an ebb and flow through a painting which turns it from passive wallpaper to a dynamic extension of the viewer’s psyche, the creation of a inter-reaction that takes the viewer on a path of discovery.

When creating movement in a painting, think about the choreography of the process, what you are revealing to the audience, what is being left to the imagination. A painting should be a question, not an answer. Calling to the audience's imagination allows different viewers to interact in different ways, which is why it’s recommended you always leave something unsaid in a painting, to give the audience the chance of a unique interaction.

The painting should reveal itself slowly to the audience, it should offer nooks and crannies that lead off the main path. In other words, the painting should be a journey not the destination. A painting which offers only a static viewpoint is no better than a holiday snap (it would provide the photographer with a key to their memories, but merely be an arbitrary image to anyone not emotionally involved). The artist should encourage the viewer to interact with the subject, to learn and grow. The painting can be a simple anecdote, or an heroic tale, but it should speak to the viewer with the joy of a story being unraveled.

The artist is a conductor, bringing the viewer’s eye through the painting using a myriad of techniques which give the painting a feel of motion, either through space, or time, or even emotion. Movement can be given in a painting through a strong fundamental image, say the flowing of a river; by the light of a gentle evening sun, which implies the passing of a day; or through the emotion of a portrait embellished by surrounding iconic symbolism, that shows how the figure arrived at that feeling. Movement can also be achieved through the effect of growth or decay. A vibrancy that infuses the subject, and says to the viewer, this is life, this is motion.

{Paragraph deleted because I don't buy into the idea that we 'read' pictures from left to right and top to bottom. I've never parsed a picture that way - I can instantly tell the difference between an image and text, and I assume everyone else can too. I also don't buy that people's eyes enter at the bottom, unless the image is life sized and positioned to create the illusion of being a real space. My eye is drawn immediately to areas of greatest contrast, to faces, or to other striking parts of the image.}

Movement can be indicated by the flow of objects in the painting, their arrangement and pattern; through the use of perspective. Movement can be implied by the direction that figures face -- a passive painting would have a synergistic grouped direction, whereas randomness in the direction of figures will give a wildness, and energetic vitality to a painting.

Next the artist can consider the use of color (including such optical effects as blue moving away from the eye, and red approaching it); brush stroke (mark making can add to the flow of the painting through their direction, as well as giving a velocity to the movement through variation in the size of brush stroke); the pattern of light and shade; and tone (which is important to peripheral vision, and therefore can draw the eye away from a central subject). Consider reinforcing the main directions of movement by echoing (for example, making the clouds in the sky flow in the same way as the waves on the sea) and cycling (bringing the eye back to the starting point, so the journey can begin anew).

Learning to see - recent science relating to drawing

Excerpted from an article @ Livescience:

People who can't draw well aren't seeing the world as it really is. When we look at an object, our visual systems automatically misjudge such attributes as size, shape and color; research over the past three years shows at least some of these misperceptions translate into drawing errors. Paradoxically, in other circumstances the misperceptions help us make sense of the world. For example, objects appear larger when they are closer than when they are far away. Even so, the visual system practices "size constancy" by perceiving the object as being approximately one size no matter how far away it is. The visual system, "knowing" a distant object is really bigger than it appears, sends false information to the brain about what the eyeball is seeing.

Those who draw well are better able to override these visual misperceptions and perceive what their own eyeballs are really seeing.

Rebecca Chamberlain, a psychologist at University College London... and her colleagues recently conducted experiments investigating the role of visual memory in the drawing process. They believe that drawing skill results in part from an ability to remember simple relationships in an object such as an angle between two lines from the moment the angle is perceived to the moment it is drawn. Additionally, "drawing seems to involve focusing on both holistic proportional relationships as well as focus on detail isolated from the whole. Perhaps it is the ability to switch between these two modes of seeing that underpins successful drawing," Chamberlain told Life's Little Mysteries.

Based on their research, the psychologists recommended the following techniques for getting better at drawing: Focus on scaling a drawing to fit the size of the paper; anchor an object in its surroundings by showing how it sits in space; focus on the distance between elements of the object and on their relative sizes; and focus on the size and shape of "negative space," or the empty space between parts of the object. Lastly, they recommend thinking of "lines" as what they really are — boundaries between light and dark areas.

As Chris McManus, a member of the research team, noted, "There are few human skills which don't improve with practice."

EDIT

After sleeping on this, it seems a lot less momentous to me. The findings are nothing new - in fact they're mostly incorporated into any decent drawing course. There's a huge emphasis in figure drawing from the model or reference on comparing things to imaginary horizontals and verticals and on accurately measuring angles, normally by holding your pencil against the model (visually.. ) and moving it to the drawing without changing the angle. The first part is interesting though, about the ways the brain interprets visual imagery and filters out 'distortions' like size difference. It does the same when your head is tilted or upside-down, which is why those POV shots in movies always feel so weird. We tend to feel that we're seeing things right side up no matter the orientation of the head. And the techniques listed in the 3rd paragraph are also well-known to any art student. 

What is interesting to me about it is the idea of visual memory and the ability to train it, as well as the concept of switching between holistic and detail modes of seeing. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fundamentals

This is an extremely frustrating subject - everybody says learn the fundamentals, but nobody can tell you what they are, and to start a conversation about it only invites argument, vagueness and arrogant assertions with nothing concrete that can actually be studied. A google search for art fundamentals turns up a of of useless links. And for every item somebody lists as a fundamental others will angrily deny that they really are. So I searched Conceptart for old threads and ran across one that's helpful. Here's what I gleaned from it:

"Expert use of the fundamentals is the only basis there is for learning to draw. These fundamentals can be listed, studied, and carried out in your own way. They are: proportion, anatomy, perspective, values, color, and knowledge of mediums and materials. Each of these can be the subject of infinite study and observation."
- Andrew Loomis

Even this is deeply problematic -  you must already be expert before you can learn? I think he got some wires crossed or something - maybe he means you should be striving toward expert understanding of them. But if you remove the word expert then it makes sense. I listed these below, along with ones added by CA  members:


proportion
anatomy
perspective
values
color
knowledge of mediums and materials
composition
construction
design
storytelling

Thursday, November 20, 2014

So many muscles!!

Last night cable and internet went out AGAIN - this is the third time in about a week, and it seems to last longer each time - as I recall it was a few hours beginning at around 3:00 am the first time, then a couple days later it hit at about 7:00 pm and went for at east 10 hours, by which point I went to bed and when I woke up it was back on. Last night I don't remember when it started, but it went all night and was still out when I woke an hour or so ago, just came back on, so now I'm getting in to post while the positing's good!!

Apeman

Jackyl variant version


Well the good news is, with nothing else to do I got lots of art done!! Decided to switch to greyscale and really push anatomy with an emphasis on lighting and form. Both from imagination (after looking at a lot of Biz) and from reference. HGH FTW!!!

Oh, also starting to work out something akin to a speedpaint method. Gonna be a while till the speed part comes into effect..

And here I thought I was just gonna close out the final 3 months of 2014 the same way I did 2013, with a bunch of studies from reference! Did the MMA series then, just for practice. But instead it seems the end of this year is a time of massive learning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Monkey man


Looked at a lot of Simon Bisley tonight and wanted to do a hypermuscular beast. Creative play. Suddenly realized a ridiculous percentage of my favorite artists are cartoonists or very close to it. It really loosens up the creativity and opens whole new vistas you couldn't hit if you were being all stodgey and serious. Oh and hey, if you're struggling with hairy linework, make it work for you..

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Composition on an anatomical level - doing good art is hard - and keeping your edge

Typed this up 2 days ago when cable and internet were down for at least 10 hours - sheesh, what a torment!!! Guess I better post it before I forget completely:


I don’t remember where I ran across this recently - a book or somebody’s youtube or something, but somebody said that as you get really good at art it takes more and more work, at a higher quality level. So people tend to push for a while, get better and better, and then quit because its just so much damn hard work.

Tonight I was looking for some tracing paper - I have a couple of giant pads of it but I wanted 9 x 12 and was too lazy to cut a sheet down, so I went digging through old art boxes from yesteryear. All kinds of pads of paper, and even some tracing paper - even a 9 x 12 - but apparently with time it wrinkles up and becomes crap. Oh my aching back and shoulders, going through all those huge boxes!!!

So I came away with nothing, except a nice trip down memory lane, and a new perspective on my personal art history. There were several times when I really went to work and started to get good. But I never maintained it long enough. At least twice I polished up my inking and penciling skills for comic drawing, and I could see definite improvement - but I never did it for long enough to get any lasting results. There were also several times when I worked on anatomy and at several points I was much better than I am now (seems really weird, don’t it?) - but I always stopped after apparently a short while and so none of the knowledge lasted.

Oh, it was Jeff Watts I heard say that now that I think about it. Tonight I watched him interview Stan Prokopenko - who I did not know was Watts trained and also one of their instructors. And they talked about how fast the skills deteriorate if you don’t keep working on them.

My gestural figure drawing has been coming up nicely, and just over the last couple of days I’ve been applying the same principles to anatomy - developing a system very similar to - and largely based on - the Reilly method. Finding those connections and the flow over around and across the figure. It occurred to me that this is in a way composition on an anatomical level - designing the anatomy in a pleasing manner with a good flow for the eye to follow. You also compose the figure itself the same way, and the environment - every part of a picture in fact, all the way up to the overall design. Composition on a nested series of scales, all throughout the image.

Another thought I had while walking Pepper - back in the day I used to consider pencil drawing finished art, and so I put a lot of emphasis on finish and detail - which also affected my whole approach. Now I think of it more as just sketching out a design, so I don’t worry about it much, but I think working on the finish would push/pull it through to a new level. Or at least to one of my previous levels.

Now that I understand this pattern - pushing to get better, art getting harder and harder, and then the tendency to quit - it explains several things to me. Add to this pattern the fact that, though I like the way many comic artists draw, I don’t care for superhero stories and I definitely could never see myself drawing the same characters, in the same damn costumes even, over and over indefinitely for years or decades on end. I remember this was always a big factor in why I would quit. But now it’s at least somewhat different, because now I’m working on fantasy painting, which has none of the crap factor of comic book drawing. At most you might have to do the same characters a dozen times or so, if you’re doing a series or something. Plus fantasy painting doesn’t need to be as stylized in such a limiting way as standard superhero art. PLUS - I’ve decided now that it doesn’t even matter if I end up doing this for a living or not, I can’t see myself living out my entire life without ever being a damn good fantasy painter in a very 70’s vein (something that probably would go over in today’s professional field about as well as lime green shag carpeting in a modern SUV). So this time I’m not just doing it for a job - I’m doing it for me - because I need to do it and I love it.

figs & thmbs










Saturday, November 15, 2014

Big dudes


Making some advances in anatomy - I need to be able to draw Fafhrd in his older form, when he's much brawnier, and I've never tried to draw big muscular dudes before. Started with the triangle chest above, derived from the Reilly method, but it's actually very flat, and I wanted a form that can easily be turned, so I went with the sphere chest from one of my recent Bridgman studies. This allows me to first draw a basic figure, then to place center lines and etc, as well as shoulders, at whatever angle/placement I want.



Note how much more gestural this one is - thanks to using the 3 big spheres for the major forms and then connecting them with the neck form all the way to the hips, then adding the big inverted triangle, it all fits together nicely. Then I just wrap lines around to add in the anatomy. Voila!!

Composition video


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Apparently I re-invented a classic composition

Recently I made a post comparing all 3 of my Fafhrd/Mouser illos done in landscape format orientation and noting compositional similarities:



Well, here's the same composition, done by Gainsborough...

Ironically (?) it's in a book I just Kindled called Pictorial Composition: An Introduction. Yes, I'm investigating composition with new vigor because of the discussion about it in relation to talent. This old Dover book is apparently an amazing work on the subject that has rarely been matched. 

And now behold:


Well hey - it's good to know that I re-invented a classic!! This has it all.. 1 - a path leading into the distance and curving around the tree on the right, 2 - a sort of wall form (trees) coming in from the right edge to wrap around behind the tree, 3 - the close figures on the left with a tree behind them that the space seems to pivot around, … Only thing missing is a little Mouser off in the distance!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sword Lore

I've been doing a lot of research into swords - mainly through videos made by or about this guy.


.. And, since Blogger can't seem to let me post any of these videos, here's a link to Irondoor Studios channel, with more great videos. 


"Ideally, you should have done it all before you started painting" - words of wisdom I still need to learn

"The first thing is because you've lost sight of your plan. It is a good idea to keep the sketch on your side so you can look at it as you paint. That would reduce the risk of drifting away from the plan gradually.

The other thing... you are approaching it the wrong way. You are trying to fix the painting by trial and error, instead of stepping away from it and doing a quick test, going back to the planning. Lighting does not work? Leave the painting and do some quick lighting tests to find one that works better. Structure turns out to be off? Draw a quick sketch to figure out and tighten it. Don't like the facial expression? Draw a few sketches with different ones and pick the one you like.

Ideally, you should have done it all before you started painting. But if you see that you've missed something in your planning when you are already at the painting stage, it's not too late to go back to planning.

If nothing else works, scrap it and start another painting."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Comparing F&M illos




I opened the older ones yesterday to see how the new one compares, and here are my observations. First, and this is what I was specifically looking for - the poses of the main characters are exceptionally weak in the new one. Though Faf was poorly posed in Spearpoint as well. The mouser is well posed in the top 2 images but not the newest one. The strongest 'heroic fantasy' pose and shapes - definitely Fafhrd from Double Trouble (middle image). It's largely because in the latest one I was thinking more Golden Age illustrators than Frazetta. But actually, the Golden dudes used great poses too - it was just more subtle. I need to keep that in mind, even when I'm going for less muscular, more human images.

And then I noticed a couple other things. Each image is divided vertically into 2 parts, on the left is a figure or figures close to viewer, and on the right space drops away into the distance with a figure or figures away off back there. Also some time ago I did a comparison between just the first 2 images and noted other compositional similarities. Those exist in somewhat mutated form here as well - the mist forming a rippled triangular shape descending from the right that sort of wraps around some closer landscape/architectural form on the left (the building). Stream, wall and cobblestoned road all form a path emphasizing this wrapping-around into the distance.

Weird factor - each image has a red creature, or with a large red mark anyway. In the last case the eye was described as red in the story, so that wasn't my choice. I also notice the new creature is placed very similarly to the red flying lizard.

Well, at least these similarities aren't too apparent, and I suspect it's fairly common to use similar compositions in the learning stage. I'm definitely going to thumbnail from here on out, and that will allow me to consider compositional choices consciously rather than just letting them happen randomly.

I remember when I did the flying lizard I did make the color choice to link it to the earlier creature - though that one isn't menacing but friendly. I think it all relates back to a decision I made on the Cosmos film to use colors to encode certain things - I remember deciding that "in this fictional/symbolic world gray represents utilities" (trash can, water pipes, etc). That decision seems to have carried through. Well, or rather my film studies have prepared me to encode things by color and other symbolic traits - shape, placement etc.

UPDATE

I just happened across a painting using the same composition as mine. Ironically (?) it's in a book I just Kindled called Pictorial Composition: An Introduction. Yes, I'm investigating composition with new vigor because of the discussion about it in relation to talent. This old Dover book is apparently an amazing work on the subject that has rarely been matched. Behold:


Well hey - it's good to know that I re-invented a classic!! This has it all - the close figures on the left with a tree behind them that the space seems to pivot around, a path leading into the distance and curving around the tree, a sort of wall form (trees) coming in from the right edge to wrap around the tree… Only thing missing is a little Mouser off in the distance!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My take on analytic versus synthetic thinking - "a strong emotional through-line"

My own take on this, based on some research into the unconscious (reputable scientific research) and observations of my own and others' behavior:

"The unconscious (call it subconscious if you will, though they're not completely identical) is much older evolutionarily, and it thinks in terms of emotion, memory, intuition and instinct. The much newer conscious apparatus housed in the neocortex is essentially a double-check mechanism, built to analyze and evaluate the immediate unconscious decisions. This is the basis of science and logic. And in comparison it's incredibly slow and unwieldy. So our immediate responses to things tend to be primitive - emotional, superstitious, fear-based etc. It's only with an effort that we then apply the filter of logic or science. And as Kev suggested - unconscious = synthesis / conscious = analysis. This is why dream 'logic' and waking logic are so incompatible. The funny thing about it though - the dream logic is really the more fundamental of the 2, being more ancient and more immediate. Its the way the innermost mind really works. In experiential terms, dreams and fantasies are every bit as real as waking life events - actually more so since waking events must be filtered in through the senses and processed and often contain much that is incomprehensible.

I'm not suggesting science and logic are irrelevant or that unconscious thought is somehow superior - they're two great tastes that taste great together, but it's important to understand how each functions in their symbiosis. Without logic and science we'd be lost in an endless dark age of superstitious dread and religious mind control. And on the other side of the coin, science and logic actually grow from the shifting sand of the unconscious, but do function as a bullshit detector."

Plus the bonus weird material I ended up not posting:

"Adding a bit more (and some will feel it's getting increasingly irrelevant I'm sure) - I did an extensive study into story, and wading through the depths of Theater of the Absurd I ran across this nugget - "The story can be completely meaningless and incomprehensible as long as there's a strong emotional through-line" This immediately clicked with what I know of dreams and the unconscious, but I would add conceptual to emotional. What's important in dreams (and thus a good indicator of what's important in the unconscious) is mood, atmosphere, and the emotional or conceptual through-line. The rest of it - order and meaning and historical accuracy etc - is all just set dressing."


.. And the response:


"Actually, I think there is a more important and fundamental principle at work, which is that knowledge isn't a singularity, it can't be. There is no core to the onion of understanding. Knowledge is always relational. And if we understand what it means to be relational, and all the different kind of relational structures, we realize that that is exactly how the brain is set up structurally... from the various regions of the brain down to the neurons and synapses. So even our most logical and critical "double check" thoughts are still going to be relational-sensual in nature. It can't be any other way.

Another consequence of this is that all thoughts, in order to be a relation, must be a movement of some signal, electrical or chemical, along some route through the brain. There are no static thoughts. Which means that everything we imagine, everything we think, no matter how inert or still, no matter if it is a fact or an object, is understood through a sensual movement of signal.

And what this means is that there are no aesthetic nouns. That isn't how we digest information. There are only aesthetic verbs... only sensual movements of signal. Which leads to the idea that, internally, everything, even nouns and letters and the idea of nothingness, is understood via aesthetic verbs. Which, I would posit, means that we don't understand a pot on the floor, for example, except by how it is translated into aesthetic verbs.... in other words, by what it is doing or what it can do or what it has done. Which is to say, we only understand things according to their potentials and their prior and current actions."


I just bought On the origin of stories: evolution, cognition, and fiction by Brian Boyd - Kindle edition.

Intuition, synthesis, and closure

More from the ongoing and lengthy Talent discussion. It's not just about talent, though that is the center of it all - but this stuff is vitally important whatever your beliefs concerning talent.


I would argue that since no two paintings are alike, and no two brains are alike, and one can only feel the full of effect of a painting once (thereafter the effect diminishes significantly with each viewing), only the most general aspects of the experience of "aesthetic arrest" will ever be available for study.

In fact, I think this general aspect is already known, because the entire basis of the aesthetic experience is what is now called "closure" ... the closing of "gaps" in understanding though intuitive insight and epiphany.

What is not well understood yet, because of the poor quality of academic linguistics and the complete lack of sensible research into real aesthetics, is just how fully this simple process of intuiting the gaps between what is stated or factual comprehends every single aspect of thought, large and small. (Already known 100+ years ago among many artists and philosophers prior to analytical philosophical/materialist domination of academia and culture.)

And the implication of this is that thought and knowledge is all intuition or sensation-based, which is to say, relation-based. Which means synthesis is the foundation of thought, not analysis or deduction or factuality. (A whole other massive conversation I don't have time for now.) And the analytical philosophical tradition, which rejected synthetic thought out of hand for ideological reasons, which has had a global effect on education (including science education), has set back the cause of human progress a hundred years. (A whole other massive conversation I don't have time for now.)

The practical aspect of all this is how to cause, as artists, the aesthetic effect. As stated above, we artists already know the practical cause... closure using aesthetic means, which are compositional in nature, and executed best via intuitive mark making after extensive training has been internalized.

So, you see, the only pragmatic benefit to the mri is to basic science. Not to art. If you want to be pragmatic as an artist learn as much about composition as you can, and put it all into practice as much as possible, so you can maximize your talent for inventing and orchestrating closable expressions of aesthetic meaning.

Read more: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php/5466-The-Big-quot-Is-there-such-a-thing-as-talent-quot-Thread#ixzz3I9X5PVg3

Throwaway Status!!!!


Wow - how did I ever forget??!!?

Throwaway Status!! This is a term from before internet, when I was drawing on paper. And I came to realize that sometimes the problems you're having on a piece are because you're hung up on certain things - afraid to do what needs to be done. Inhibited in other words. And at those times, what frees you up is when you reach throwaway status on it. But you really have to decide in your mind that you no longer care bout it - you have to literally be just about ready to crumple it up and trash it. Then, instead, go to work on it with a vengeance. You'll find you can now do whatever you wanted to do but had decided for whatever self-defeating reasons you just couldn't, or were afraid to try. Screw it - just do it, right?

That's how I brought this one around. I had literally made a post on my sketchbook announcing that I was done with it, it was too messed up on a fundamental level and not worth all the remaining work to finish it. Then a few hours later I started thinking - hey, you know, I could at least just do a little more work - put some texture on the close rock - on the trough behind them, and detail out the slab they're sitting on and the close cobblestones…

And when I started in on it I suddenly remembered Throwaway Status!! So I just went in with no mercy and no fear and started doing everything I had thought about - such as putting them in their winter gear, raising Faf's arm and giving him some reason to be looking way up there. Little did I realize this would also push the house back and demote it from over dominant status. I re-read the descriptions in the book for something Faf could be looking at, and lo and behold! He raised his sheathed sword up at one point, at just the right point actually. Too good to be true!! Also realized the brazier should only have a little charcoal in it. And I finally decided to go ahead and darken up their glowing faces. Twice. Much much better - the picture is starting to knit itself together now and develop some unity.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Truth about talent

I'm giving this one its own post rather than just add it to the already overlong mass post about talent. There's so much here, and it stands as a powerful statement of truth on its own. 

"It just so happens that I know a number of artists who received some of the best training available in the world, who work at art day and night as their careers, and are still are held back by their limited talents. And always the issue is what I have already discussed, their inability to fall into a waking dream state, to visualize in this weird emotional way the ongoing work, and to instinctually perform it through their chosen plastic medium such that their audience feels something of what they felt while they were creating it. This lack of unconscious guidance always results in dead work, lacking in authority and aesthetic life. I can't prove this to you, of course, but there it is all the same.

It is absolutely so that a person without ambition or training will fall increasingly behind someone of equal talent who has dedication and good training. While the latter is maximizing and energizing their talent, the former is minimizing and ignoring theirs. There may be some point beyond which the talent dries up like an unwatered and unfertilized garden; whatever that unique creative energy is that can generate belief and express it through plastic form simply flickers and dies out from neglect and the pursuit of other interests in life. (Depression, illness and heavy responsibility can also all destroy that ability. )

But if there is that ability to obtain that belief state, it is quite hard to hold it back from expressing. This is the problem with your premise. If the artistic impulse is there, it tends to find a way, by whatever means necessary to express itself. (Again, this is something artists have observed and talked about for centuries, but I can't prove it to you.) And if the impulse keeps up, ambition seems to follow, and attention is sought, educators put in their two cents, peers give compliments, a larger community of artists is sought out, etc. Or the artist become a monomanical autodidact (Stanislav Szukalski, for instance) and attempts to train themselves. So generally if you are looking at anybody's work over the age of 27 or so, you can assume that they have made it through the crucible of the "get a real job" era of life with their creative impulse intact and they have some degree of dedication, have pursued their craft in some way, and probably have been at it for over a decade.

You then look at the work, and if there isn't something to it that one might call hypnotic or magnetic or full of some eerie or strangely powerful quality of life that you can't quite put your finger on... then you aren't seeing the product of a highly talented person. You may appreciate the polish of it, how finished it is, how much it looks like a photograph, how clean and bright the colors are, or how simple the design or something, but you won't feel it in the sense that I mean.

Now, I wouldn't say that it takes talent to experience this quality in a work of art. I think it does take talent to distinguish that quality from craft in any particular artwork. People who are highly intellectual but not talented always look at the wrong subtleties in art. People who are highly talented and accomplished are much more sensitive to real artistry, the hints and suggestions that only talent can provide a picture through vital instinct. (Can't prove any of this, just know it through long experience.)"

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Words of wisdom about talent - the need to connect your art to life

Compiling selected quotes here from a long discussion. I was already aware of some of this, but it gets very specific and there's some stuff that's fairly new to me. One discovery is that talent is one of those super divisive subjects like religion or politics that get people all fired up - that actually took me by surprise. I'm sure I'll be writing more about some aspects of this as I process it and can begin to develop my own thinking on it more. I became aware of the importance of 'drawing from life' in my writing many years ago, and of course I know the importance of literally drawing from life, but now I'm seeing the need to draw inspiration and detail for characters and settings from life for illustrations as well as stories - makes sense. I was already basically doing that, just hadn't really connected it all together consciously. 

From a few people on Conceptart:


"My brother is 2.5 years older than me. He used to love to draw as a kid. I started drawing too. And within 6 months of drawing together almost every day I had gotten so much better than him that he quit drawing. He turned out to be an incredible musician, but art wasn't where his talent was. I remembered what I saw. He did not. I believed what I was drawing. He couldn't. I could close my eyes and see images. He tried and tried but it just didn't happen for him. Simple as that.

"I've heard similar stories from many other artists regarding their own siblings. These stories couldn't be simpler proof of the existence of talent.

"On the opposite end of things; I've known quite a few people who have been artists their whole lives and never got any good. Yet they practiced and practiced, and a lot of them even made careers as artists, although always at the low end of things (where most artists who are good enough to get work, but not good enough to distinguish themselves from the pack, reside in the industry). Most of those weak artist I have known are only too keenly aware of their limitations. They look and look at Frazetta and the Golden Age illustrators, and the Famous Artists Course, and Loomis' books, and the great painters, etc, and they appreciate with all their hearts, and try to learn, but they can't even begin to fathom. It just doesn't penetrate. They know art is not magic, yet they still can't learn the tricks. They don't have visions that they believe. They can't live in their work. The best they can be is weak comic book artists, hacky illustrators, or production people."


"Every super talent I've met has their own kind of unique mind, a guiding philosophy, a strong sense of humor, a great ability to tell story, and strangely keen perception. And all of them have an ability to engineer all manner of things besides artworks without ever having taken a single class in engineering.
 "This peculiar ability is the same thing that great actors have, great musicians have, and great artists have. Children, adults in dream states, and crazy people have half of this ability, naturally... the ability to fall into an imaginative belief state about their conceptions. But it is the ability to transmit the belief state as emotion-encoded fiction to an audience through a plastic medium that is the major difference." 






"All of us are limited in so many ways. For instance, we all have some level of imaginative ability; nobody's imaginative ability is the same. If we could truly imagine how people who are more imaginative than us imagine, we would be able to imagine as well as them, so they wouldn't be more imaginative anymore. But that's not how it works. Some imaginations have tremendous scope and some are insignificant. The insignificant, definitionally cannot imagine the tremendous. We simply cannot comprehend more than our potential for comprehension allows."

"Many can train themselves to copy stuff flawlessly, many can gather all the technical, factological, enciclopedic knowledge about tools, perspective, colors, composition, styles, teaching methods, history, cultures, many are devoted fans who know everything about their idols, artists can develop good working habits, humility, reliability and stay in the business for decades, ,... and it should be obvious that these artists possess everything there is needed to express their visions with authenticity and truth. But they can't and they don't. Their imaginary creations look good and correct, but don't feel believable, they don't provide the full depth of sensitive immersion.
I could settle for a big-T Talent to encompass Giftedness as well.
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit.
Genius hits a target no one else can see.”
–Arthur Schopenhauer
And I think this ties in with Schopenhauer quote like so; when you take "infinite pains" to create your work in your chosen field and medium, you not only begin to have an intuitive sense of how things are working in that milieu, but you also begin to see the domain in which you are working in with much greater clarity. You begin to see the light, so to speak. And that is when one begins seeing targets that nobody else sees. Which allows you to aim at them, and possibly hit them.
As well, "taking infinite pains" also goes hand in hand with the idea that "craft exists to maximize talent." So in taking infinite pains, one is pushing one's craft to the limit in order to maximize the results of one's talent. So Genius is wholly tied up with one's considerable gift of talent taken to its limit by ambition and craftsmanship.
And the goal of all this ambitious pushing of one's craft in order to maximize one's talent-gift is, I think, to produce a masterpiece in one's domain of endeavor. And, actually, I think the production of a masterpiece is really the only proof of genius we have. Even if an artist only produces a single masterpiece in their lifetime, I think it can be said that they were a genius when they did it.
I don't think there is such a thing as a genius without a masterpiece, without some astonishing discovery, without some profound innovation that isn't simply creativity for its own sake.
However, down the line, once some professional level competency is reached, making really strong art is always exhausting. And pushing through exhaustion takes some willfulness that the nominally talented may have more practice at, as compared to the super talented."

"My understanding of talent; the ability to sustain emotionalized belief in an imaginatively synthesized fiction as it is performed through a plastic medium, such that the emotionalized belief state is sensually encoded in the fictional enactment. Thus, an audience member when experiencing the enactment, may also receive the emotional encoding aesthetically."

"Pyle once said that all truly great paintings are popular, but not all popular paintings are great. He obviously was living in a time before people could be so brainwashed by media or academia, and so controlled by the same, that they not only have no idea who Brangwyn, Fechin, or Sorolla were, but they wouldn't even know how to process such work except according to received dogma, buzzwords, and soundbites. My feeling is that great work will always be celebrated by those who have that sensitivity. The problem for any particular great artwork or artist is having access to an appreciative audience that has not been either brainwashed by "elite" pressure to hate great art as inherently fascistic, undemocratic, commercial, bourgeoise (or some such bullshit) or been conditioned to consume only entertaining sensationalism by mass cultural forces (peer pressure, marketing, bandwagonism, etc.)"
"That not all people are equally talented, or equally sensitive to talent or creative energy, again, does not make any of this magic. No more than a telescope or a radar system is magic when compared to the naked eye.
 "This is why I think it is absolutely the case that only great mathematicians can fathom just how great the really great mathematicians are. Same with engineers, same with actors, artists, musicians, rhetors, atheletes, pilots, or whomever. Laymen can appreciate the heck out of a true master in any discipline, even worship them, but they will never truly appreciate the greatness without have some degree of it themselves in the relevant discipline. It takes talent to truly appreciate talent, it takes intelligence to truly appreciate intelligence, experience to appreciate experience, wisdom to appreciate wisdom, depth to appreciate philosophy, imagination to appreciate imagination, craftsmanship to appreciate craftsmanship, etc.
"Equally, it is so that the smarter we get, the more we realize how little we know. And this is where epistemology comes in and saves us from so much assumption based on second hand ideology and received "wisdom.""

"Talented people are much better at constructing an authentic imaginary world (which doesn't necessarily mean scifi/fantasy) because they can sensually experience reality more deeply, intensely and subtly and then weave these felt experiences into the visual structure of their work. Because they can do that, their work arouses these feelings in the viewer so we can not only see the imaginary world, but sensuously experience it too. Not just in terms of nice colors, dynamic designs, perfect perspective and cool monster heads, but in terms of honesty, truth and universality. The drawing of a tree doesn't just look like a tree, it feels like a tree." 

"I think the snag here is in terminology. When that immersive and empathic (einf├╝hlung) capacity and sensitivity reach that ‘super’ state, incorporating high creative capacity resulting in a strong ability to poetically communicate essence as well, it transcends the basic notion of Talent and enters the purview of Giftedness (in need of a better term), with the third and higher quantum level being artistic genius."
"There are levels of talent, levels of giftedness, an issue of range rather than a difference in the essential quality we are talking about. One might say that everybody has talent to some degree, but there are some people who are more gifted with it, have it in great preponderance, than others. And those people can make a living in the arts in some capacity. And among those who are tremendously gifted with talent there is the capacity for great success in the arts and even genius. And in this regard, I like how this Thomas Carlyle quote about genius plays into it: Genius is the capacity to take infinite pains."
"It seems probable that the greatly talented work at their art more often than the weakly talented simply because the talented get immediate encouragement from their quicker results and so keep doing it, while the less talented are more likely to get frustrated or exhausted because they are working harder for weaker results. Plus the stronger talents will be given more offers to use their talent, both in collaboration and on professional assignments. Thus they will be incentivized to continue. Weaker talents, if people are honest with them, will be dis-incentivized and will seek out other, more productive uses of their time. Unless they have some kind of sad obsession with being an artist. (Howard Pyle said, "If you are going to be an artist, all hell can't stop you. If you aren't going to be an artist, all heaven can't help you.)"
Read more: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php/289608-Talent-is-an-illusion#ixzz3HxOHenVh

And by Fritz Lieber from his speech/essay Fafhrd and Me, which incidentally I just re-read 2 days ago and covers very similar ground, without ever calling it Talent:




"We were using all our characters, including Fafhrd and the Mouser, to comment on life and the affairs of the world.

"Fafhrd began as a somewhat regulation hero, though he has grown much less so. As for the Gray Mouser, one can point out faint similarities to Loki, Peer Gynt, Fran├žois Villon, Etzel Andergast in Wassermann’s Kerkhoven trilogy, Spendius in Flaubert’s Salammbo, Jurgen himself and Horvendile in The Cream of the Jest, even the Pied Piper of Hamelin and Punch as a young man, but they are greatly outweighed by the differences—quite unconvincing. The Mouser stubbornly remains the Mouser alone.

"Authors, of course, inevitably put much of themselves into their characters. So in a sense Harry Fischer is the Gray Mouser and I am Fafhrd.



"Being Fafhrd to some degree has been, over the years, an interesting responsibility, which I have fulfilled more in imagination than reality.

"I do fence with the three weapons and I have owned workaday sabers, both the fairly comfortable weapon of the Civil War and the ponderous straight blade issued to the U.S. Cavalry just before World War I, which I can liken only to a skewer suitable for broiling roast-size shish kebab. I have occasionally toyed with one of the latter weapons in the manner of Fafhrd, handling it as a foil rather than a broadsword, and I find it really is better for thrusting; if you swing it in a great swashing stroke, you’re apt to fall down.

"And occasionally I look down at my unexercised frame and I think of Fafhrd and I go out and climb a fifty-foot mountain or scale a ten-foot rock wall. Or drive a mountain road just fast enough to make the tires start to squeak. Or sail a sailboat in a lagoon. Or plunge into a medium-size Pacific roller, but not one of the really big ones that come crashing in for three days every three years, all the way from Japan.

"For a while I was handier at living up to Fafhrd’s reputation for wine-bibbing, but I discovered that this was incompatible with being the skald and scribe of the expedition. As the poet Peter Viereck puts it, “Art, like the bartender, is never drunk” —though he rightly stays in the midst of every wild party.

"I was working up a many-chaptered novel of the Mouser and Fafhrd, which had as a working title The Tale of the Grain Ships. In the written chapters of this novel Lankhmar became more real—a sort of dark counter-Rome, eventually “The City of the Black Toga” —but, perhaps more important, another country emerges into view. In a letter to Harry Fischer postmarked December 9, 1936, and sent from Los Angeles to Louisville, I say that I am planning a new story, “...set in a country that has just been sent by kind dreams: a land a little like Norway in its houses, but more like Thrace because of its city-states and empire.”


"Later, in the body of the same letter, I drew a rather blocky, yet moderately detailed, map of my new country, this Land of the Eight Cities. Borders were left open, names incompletely listed. And while I seemed to want the world of Nehwon definitely linked to the real world of today, I didn’t want to specify exactly where it lies and whether in the past or the future.

"In the following years the World of Nehwon, mapped in greater detail and artistry by Martha Fischer, became more definite and self-consistent, but its linkage with our reality has never been precisely determined. It seems to lie in an alternate universe.

"...the real origins of the intrigue-ridden, pleasure-sated, sorcery-working, thief-ruled city of Lankhmar, its fat merchants and cut-throat rogues, its gilded courtesans and shrewd mountebanks, and its linkages to a certain city in our own world (New York), than perhaps even Sheelba knows...

"Fantasy must be fertilized—yes, watered and manured—from the real world."

He imagines Lankhmar as "A dark Counter-Rome" mixed with modern New York. It's clear if he would only have based it on his ideas about ancient Rome it would not be so sharply drawn or keenly observed. But he lived in the Big Apple, knew its stinking steaming dirty alleys and its loud vulgar people and its hustle and bustle intimately, so he was able to impart some of that feeling into what would otherwise have been a lifeless fantasy city based entirely on similar fantasy cities depicted in the work of other artists/authors.

The best artists unite their art with life on an intimate level, all across the spectrum. No part of their art is entirely artificial - they don't compartmentalize the two like most lesser artists do. The hacks are the ones who base their work only on the work of other artists, and don't draw their inspirations as much as possible from life itself. 

GreenMistSquidMantis - aka Do Gesture Dumbass!!! - aka Thumbnail, Dumbass!!!


In the story (The Temple of Hate) it isn't green, it's white, but it needed to be green here. I tried white. Maybe if I had actually - oh, I don't know - like THUMBNAILED or something (!!!!) I might have worked out a color composition that would allow it to look good white and actually fit the story better. But I'll chalk it up to a learning experience, and never again start an illo without thumbnailing. I hate the poses of the 2 main characters too. I do rather like the silhouetted fellows though. I tried the 2 front ones several times, and each time it didn't work until I did 2 things differently - I had to actually draw with line first, and I had to think in terms of GESTURE - a long flowing line from head or shoulder to one foot with a sense of balance and intentionality to it. Oh, and  I also had to start with some idea of pose - at least which way the character is leaning (even though I flipped #2 (second from the front) because he was annoyingly paralleling the Mouser's sword, #1's sword,  AND the angle of the fog). This is why he has fog obscuring the left half of his lower body rather than the right as I originally did, but it works - there does seem to be a thicker concentration of mist there. Also quite incidentally (or did I subconsciously do it?) the front 2 silhouetted dudes are standing on long dark 'shadows' on the cobblestones. Ok, I did #1 that way intentionally after noticing he was quite near something that looked like a shadow, but I didn't notice it for #2. The shadows actually aren't aligned well though. Should do something about that.