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Category: Musings

Good Art, Bad Art, It’s Hard to Tell the Difference If Your Definition Is Broad Enough

Good Art, Bad Art, It’s Hard to Tell the Difference If Your Definition Is Broad Enough

And I think it should be very broad, indeed. As in, not restricting it to things you admire or even like, beyond to what you find chaotic or obvious.

Because creativity is vast, and the things humans make are sometimes unexpected, and sometimes they look like a mess, framed.

But it’s hard to tell when someone is sincere and when they just have no idea what they’re doing. We praise a child’s exuberant stick figures, but disparage them when they come from an adult. Unless they’re funny! I’m that case, we can’t get enough of them (XKCD, Cyanide and Happiness).

Looking at Paul Klee’s work, there’s a childlike energy to it, and it’s still dismissed at a glance for being too simple or cartoonish. But there’s a deep symbolism within, sometimes invented, sometimes referenced to real world things. You can certainly dislike it, but it helps to look beyond the labels “good” and “bad.” Even in things you find gross or dumb, there’s often a lot of hard work that went into making it the way it is. Sometimes, even the fast sketches and drips contain years’ or decades’ worth of study and practice behind them.

It’s not that you can’t call a thing bad. Opinions are had by us all. But consider leaving it at the cursory or joke level, and always give a shit about looking deeper. It feeds and informs your work to be charitable and open to the stuff you encouter.

Let’s Have Another Quick Look at the Day Job, or, As Most of Us Call It, the Job

Let’s Have Another Quick Look at the Day Job, or, As Most of Us Call It, the Job

Look, after all, maybe your day is at night. I think to qualify, it has to be something you’d rather do less than the other thing you wish could support you. This is why I think a lot of us spend time putting it down, telling other people it’s not what we really do.

But I think this isn’t being kind. This isn’t fair to the job. If you imagine it’s a person with feelings, they’re going to be hurt. On the other hand, if we don’t get something happening with the thing-we’d-rather-be-doing soon, we’re going to be hurt. I’m trying out a different way of thinking about it.

Rather than resent my day job for taking me away from art, I’m trying to think of it as partner to creation. Maybe there’s an element of that in the job, but I’d say usually there isn’t much. But focus on those little aspects—as well as on the things that make it different from art—make it easier to go to work every day. My job isn’t my enemy, it’s my partner-in-crime, secretly enabling me to work on projects that I’m not ready to ask for money for.

If you find yourself hating your job, it could be time to hunt for a better one, but if you’re just wishing you could spend the time working on the creative stuff, maybe this framing can help. I’ll try to remember to post a follow-up in a while.

Sometimes the Way Out Is the Way In

Sometimes the Way Out Is the Way In

I took this photo for other purposes. But I’ve been staring at it, wondering if there’s a message to be extracted. Exit and entrance are the same opening. It’s the same size and appearance for both, nothing is different except which side you use.

Is art the same? Existence? Work, consumerism, relationships, comedy, water? I’m not sure. We can only interpret for ourselves and keep moving forward. If it means it’s time to turn around and go out the way we came, we’re still working on the journey, and still not giving up.

Just Quickly, How Much Would You Sell Your Latest Piece/Thing/Joint for? How Little?

Just Quickly, How Much Would You Sell Your Latest Piece/Thing/Joint for? How Little?

We have dreams of making a lot of money with our work, most of us. Those are easy fantasies. Harder is to look in the opposite direction.

What your work is worth is, really, a balance between the most anyone would pay and the least. Which, let’s face it, is nothing, even assuming both ends of the scale are occupied by people who want your thing. But just as art is a gift to you, it’s also one you can decide to make.

Consider that, rather than lowball a piece or store it away, you could give it to someone—a person—who will value it as a precious gift, rather than squeezing the thing for pennies because you have a hard time getting the dollars.

Sometimes gifting is a choice of high value, not lowest possible profit.

The Recursion of Second Guessing When You Hesitate

The Recursion of Second Guessing When You Hesitate

Not all instances—and certainly not in art—lend themselves to quick decisions, but most often, forging ahead with decisions and paths is the best.

Hesitation and too much thinking about choices and potential outcomes can easily spiral inward in a disappointing and never-ending lack of finishing. Gut feeling doesn’t always work, but it does get you started.

The Things That Fulfill Us as Human Beings and Remembering What’s Important

The Things That Fulfill Us as Human Beings and Remembering What’s Important

I spent quite a few hours just talking with some friends old and new this evening. I’m battling a cold, and really not feeling 100%, physically or mentally.

But the chance to latch onto contact with others is valuable, and I feel it’s lacking and overlooked by many of us as we go about lives that are overwhelmed with agendas and obligations.

On paper, just stated as a concept, it’s trivial: a few people getting together to chat. But the connections we make and maintain are vital to all other aspects of existing.

You can’t create your best work in complete isolation. Art feeds off the everyday and ordinary, because that’s how it connects. The most unusual and mysterious pieces need a human connection in order to resonate and compel.

On Being Where You Want to Be, Especially If You’re Not Where You Don’t Want to Be

On Being Where You Want to Be, Especially If You’re Not Where You Don’t Want to Be

Lots of us have an idea of a perfect place to live, and getting that place is a major life goal, at least at certain times. I’m going to come out with it here: I thought I should be in the Pacific Northwest right now, and though I’m not sure there’s such a thing as perfect, I’m here, and it’s magical.

But even more so, I think, because I’m no longer in a place I was tired of, weary, even. My cynicism and charitableness toward the place I was had grown paper thin, and I think you need a good measure of those things to sustain you through the tough moments when your ideals aren’t met and the place slaps you across the face like a city-sized Joan Collins.

This is why I think there aren’t “perfect” places to live. Every place has advantages and drawbacks. You give the advantages your enthusiasm and give the drawbacks your charity.

Because it isn’t anyone’s fault that the place you live doesn’t always thrill and sustain you. At least, not usually. And I recognize it’s a privilege to be able to pick up and move a thousand or more miles away. I’m grateful I have that.

But I am enjoying the change, which is necessary and beneficial in and if its own right.

Advice of the Moment Includes Waiting Till the Morning to Ponder the Details of Your Life

Advice of the Moment Includes Waiting Till the Morning to Ponder the Details of Your Life

I arrived in a new city a bit of a mess. There was too much left undone, too few people bid goodbye, a traumatized cat on a plane. I felt a hovering sense of doom, weighed down by something like failure, but it wasn’t quite that.

I remembered reading someone advising not to think about your life too much after dinner. It was well after that.

The dawn came, as always, and with it a fresh sense of perspective, and openness. It felt exciting and just a little dangerous, the way you want any adventure to begin, no matter how small or mundane. Regret is for the night, but try not giving it too much attention then.

The Weird Things One’s Brain Comes Up With Under Extreme Duress

The Weird Things One’s Brain Comes Up With Under Extreme Duress

So, belated apologies for missing one of these daily posts completely—and they’re unwarranted, I know, but after some pretty consistent, um, consistency in posting, it still feels appropriate. 

I’m in the final throes of moving to another city, and not just that, another state. I haven’t done that since 1992. California has been home for a very long time, indeed.

But I’m tired of the Southwest, and it’s long past time to experience everything new. Or anew. I’m really too tired to figure it out.

I’ve been putting everything I own into boxes to move, bags to throw out, and piles to donate. There’s now a lot less that I own. Something else: I keep noticing a soundtrack running in my head as I do all this, and it’s annoyingly full of—what used to be, to me—”Classic” rock. The brain is a marvelous phenomenon, but it’s also full of trivia. Today’s tracks were the above Phil, and this Bad Company song, which I haven’t heard for years.