Drawing Lines

or, Artistic Frustrations

Anyone can become angry- that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way- that is not within everyone's power and is not easy.
-Aristotle

Lately, I've been trying to articulate, mostly for my own benifit, vague feelings and attitudes I've had for, what seems like, a very long time.

I find myself in situations that, well, irk me, and when asked why, I can't exactly put my finger on why. I have trouble explaining certain frustrations.

I'm going to vent some frustration about making art. Whatever I call what I do, people lump it with everything else under that bland, meaningless, empty word. I don't like my automatic association with everyone else that does "art". Actually, usually, whenever someone compares me to anyone else that does "art", it offends my sense of devotion and skill to what it is that I do.

Where do I start?...


Objectivity.
To be truly objective is very hard. Whether it's you or a friend, your work or theirs, looking at something as if you've never had any exposure, or other biasis, no ties, no history... Being truly objective in forming opinions, thoughts, or whatever, is extremely difficult.

I still struggle with it, but it seems like people I encounter haven't even heard of the concept. Not just for art, but just in their lives, in general. 

I try, very hard, to be objective when I do something that I think matters. When something needs to be "good". For example, let's say I make a chair. I've spent a week measuring, cutting, sanding, hammering, staining, and coating a chair. Taking extra special care to not get carried away, forget myself, or get in a rush to finish. To intentionally give every stage of this process the care and attention that I could best give it. I took care to make a chair and now I have a chair.

Now, when I was younger, like, a kid, that would have been the end of it. I made a chair and that's all that mattered. It didn't matter if it looked good or not, it was a chair and I made it.

But, I'm grown now. I'm smarter then I was as a child. Now, for my own sake, I take time to inspect the work. If I'd never seen this before, what would I think? Are there any flaws? Mistakes? Could something have been done better? I try to be as honest with myself as I can. How can you be proud of something you yourself haven't judged?

By objectivity, I suppose I mean not overlooking half-assedness.

It seems to me, that an awful lot of people never grew up in that same way. They don't care about being honest or looking objectively at what they've made. They made a chair and that's all that matters. It's wobbly, full of splinters, and the stain's splotchy. But it doesn't matter, because it done, and they made it.

Now, my problem, is that this chair that I made, that I spent a week painstakingly crafting, that's all but perfect, is on equal ground with the crappy chair they just sort of happened to make. They're one and the same. A chair's a chair. And if anything, I'm the worse at it because it took me longer to make mine.

Okay. That is an example of one of my frustrations.

Yes, your cousin drew a picture of his dog that you thought was good. It wasn't, you just have no reference for what 'good' is. You're comparing it to what you think your ability would be if you had to attempt to do the same. That's generally how most people judge things.

That's not how it works. Or, at least, not the way it should. It's like comparing a $4,500 bottle of top shelf wine to Kool-Aid someone mixed with rubbing alcohol. Yeah, a caveman living on an island, who's never had either might not be able to tell the difference, but someone who works with it probably will.

Just because you can't tell a difference, doesn't mean there isn't.

It's been my experience, that people who've no guage for drawing, prefer the ones with the most marks- the most superficial detail. The one with the most pencil on the paper. They especially love when someone indiscriminately shades the entire page.

I got that type of drawing out of my system around 7th grade. This is what those drawings look like to me, to my eyes.

...The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand.


It's taken me a while to draw as well as I do. A very long time, actually. And it's just like in an RPG. Every time you level up and get a little bit better, that just means that it's going to take even more experience, take even longer to get better the next time. 

So, it's always frustrating, being compared to that one family member who drew that one drawing, once, and everyone thought it was good, and so-and-so still has it framed on the wall in their living room.

That's completely not what I feel like I do and you're missing the point.

I find myself frustrated when people try to connect what I do with what they think it's similar to. I don't care that your friend made a zine last week, out of their closet, in a day... once. That doesn't interest me and it's really unrelated to what I do. 

I don't care that you used to read Superman when you were a kid, but you just grew out of it. I hear variations of that one a lot. 

In my head, when I hear stuff like that, I entertain the idea of mirroring what they said back to them, but about what they do. Like, "Oh, you're in construction and build buildings for a living? Yeah, I built a dollhouse once. Building stuff like that isn't too complicated. Pretty much anyone who tries can do it."

And what's equally offending is when people try to compliment me, but, insist it's a talent- I have a talent for it. I take what I do very seriously. I can acknowledge the absurdity, and comedic aspects of it sometimes, but when you take what you're doing as a joke, you're a joke. I work very hard to be good. Whether or not I actually am good, I work at it. I strive to be better.

Some people are naturally good at dancing- have a "talent" for it. But you wouldn't insist that the ballet dancer that practices for fourteen hours a day, every day, so they can do what they do as good as they do it, is only riding on their "talent", and that you wish you had their "talent". No, they work hard for it. And it would be insulting.


Jack of all trades, master of none.
Another frustration, is that EVERYONE's an artist. Or, rather, insists that they are despite really caring about what they're making, if, really, anything at all.

My wife and I talk about that one a lot. She has a peeve about people that don't care about what they do, they just like to add the title to their name. Every person we meet is an Artist/ Designer/ Illustrator/ Dancer/ DJ/ Business Owner/ Writer/ Author/ Director/ Producer/ Actor/ Sculptor/ Photographer/ Musician/ Singer/ Songwriter/ Singer-songwriter/ Carpenter/ Private Investigator/ Bounty Hunter/ Title/ Title/ Title...

But they don't particularly care about backing any of them up with credible work. Over-titulacation, I guess you could call it. 

But at a certain point, you just have to grow up. Be honest with yourself.

Just because you dabble in something once or twice a year, you're not that. You took two portraits? You're not a photographer. You painted one painting? You're not a painter. You're a designer and you drew a crappy illustration to go in a logo? You're not an illustrator, you're still a designer. You've done some work on your house? Awesome, but that doesn't make you a carpenter.

A lot of "artists" do one or two works a year, I've seen, not because they're compelled by any true "artistic" reason or drive, but because they've already committed to that one show or that one other obligation, and they don't want to lose that title of "artist". Just keeping up appearances.

I think there has to be a certain amount of integrity that goes into what you do. Trying to be good for just the sake of being good. Someone can pay you to do something, but being paid doesn't make you that. I think a lot of people love to get paid for something, even if it's just once, so they can add "Professional" to whatever they think they are or want to be called.

Yeah, no. For REAL titles, I think integrity, honesty, objectivity, and, really, reality should be factored in more than they are. I can want my official title to be "King of the Americas", but just because I want it, think I deserve it, doesn't change reality.

By the same loose standards people call themselves "artists", I really could, technically, title myself a lot of things. I've helped injured people, technically performed surgery, so, apparently, therefore, I'm a doctor. I build large things that look pretty good. I'm a carpenter and woodworker. I'm pretty sure that I've had jobs that count as contracting, too. My business card should say Illustrator/ Designer/ Computer Programmer/ Nutritionist/ Personal Trainer/ Hacker/ Engineer/ Doctor/ Carpenter/ Woodworker/ Biologist/ Etc...

My problem, is that in most other fields, if people titled themselves as often and as willynilly as they do "artist", it would be major, major fraud, and they would be called out on it.

Again, I take what I do very seriously. But, as long as I'm drawing, and I'm enjoying what I'm doing, I don't care if people call me a bean farmer. And I guess that's part of it; I care more about what I do than what I'm called doing it. I feel like it's- true versus superficial.

I'm afraid all this is sounding hateful or snobbish, but at the same time, I don't really care if it does. I don't want to sound bitter, either. I don't really care about being "accepted" in the world of "art". Again, I don't care what I'm called, as long as I care about what I'm doing.

I didn't particularly care for Pixar's Ratatouille, but I remember the end. They'd articulated something- 

"Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist *can* come from *anywhere*."

Not everyone can "art".

I really feel like anyone CAN be an artist, but not EVERYONE can.


I'm usually always trying to distance myself from things I don't want to be associated with. 

Hopefully, the first and foremost thing that does that is the quality at which I am now making drawings. I was going to say, "...at which I can draw.", but making drawings also includes the processes with which I use on the drawings.

Secondly, I like to think what I draw matters.

Part of what I've been drawing lately, is just because nobody else seems to draw it. What, and, what.

I don't really care about what I'm called or seen as, but, unfortunately, I do care about who and what I'm associated with. Enter N-F,F,Fs. I might elaborate more on this point later.

Right now, I sort of see myself as... well, imagine a monk, that saw weakness in himself, set off in the wilderness, to be in solitude, to train-- better himself, and will emerge when he sees himself ready. However long it takes. 

Sort of a universally known story, I feel like.

Now imagine that monk, emerging from the forest, or wherever he deemed the best place to put himself through the hell he thought he needed to stregthen himself, after years of, probably, nightmarish training to the rest of us. Traveling back to whatever small town he came from, he stops somewhere for a meal or drink. 

Most people know what's next. Someone tries to be a tough guy, show off in front of their friends. But, because the monk truly respects what he does-- the knowledge he has now, the effort he's given, he'll try his best to leave without any confrontation, or, at least, as little as possible.

The time he took, the effort he'd given, the devotion he'd shown, wasn't to show off or be better than anyone else; it was to become better than his former self. For his own sake. He respects all of this, and acknowledges this.

It was a personal journey. 

Now, it may not be the best metaphor, it's the only one I could think of on the spot, but that's sort of how I feel about drawing. I may not be at that master level yet, but in just the time I've worked at it, I have that sort of respect for it.

Yes, I could draw whatever the latest pop-culture* craze is, maybe make a few dollars selling psuedo-legal merchandise of some kind, but... sometimes, after seeing my one thousandth and one drawing of whatever crap that everybody else is drawing, I just want to grab them and shake some sense into them.

"Yes, you drew that picture of Heath Ledger as the Joker. Yes, people are buying your print of it. BUT, they're not buying YOUR ART, they're buying THE JOKER. And they're only buying it from YOU because you're selling it for five dollars less than the guy in the booth next to you."

That isn't art. Or, that isn't AN art. That's commercialism. Your selling things. If you're only creating art that you know will sell, because it will sell, from whatever franchise happens to be popular at the moment, then... well, that's no more artistic than Wal-mart making cheap knock-offs of name brand items.  

Another reason it's frustrating to be constantly compared to other people that draw stuff. I care about what I do. Very much so. I don't care that your cousin Steve draws his crappy version of Spider-man and sells prints of them at fairs. He's doing it for ten bucks a pop. I feel that that couldn't be farther from what I'm trying to do.

I'm striving to be better. For my own sake.

I feel like these people are cheapening it for the rest of us. These are the people I feel like I'm always compared to.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with making money at what you do, but I think there's a line you have to draw somewhere. I guess everyone has to find it for themselves.

I guess that's what this is all about- drawing lines. I'm going to try to be more vocal about opinions thoughts from now on. I don't say, "Mark my words" enough. And even when I do, nobody marks them, and no one remembers when what I say happens or is revealed as truth. I'm going to try to mark them. Here.

I'd also like to start every conversation I have with, "The time for mincing words has passed...". Then say what I really mean, instead of lying or tiptoeing around, trying to be nice.

*I don't like the word pop-culture. I don't think it means what everyone else does. Trying to label things pop-culture, is like trying to create a definition for hipster. The very essence of what it means, means that it is always changing. The entirety of human history is just past pop-culture. In the 1800's, pop-culture existed , it was just, I don't know, girdles and cocaine headache medicine. To me, pop-culture, and it's grown up brother, popular culture, are just buzzwords people use when their vocabulary fails them.

I'm not really sure how to wrap this up. This was more stream of consciousness than intentional writing.  And if anyone thought it was especially hateful, or anything... Who cares?

...And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding, but a dream,... 
...right?