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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Books I Read in 2022: The Fail Edition


Blogger wiped out about 80% of what had been a 2,000 word post right before I could save it. And no, I didn't write it in Word first, like an idiot. 

I was pretty happy with what I'd written, too, and flew into a fit of angry depression thereafter. Happy New Year to me. Bah. 

Hopefully I can muster up the desire to rewrite this post in a couple of days, based on what little was saved. Sigh. 


Jeff Shyluk said...

There's this artist I used to admire (and probably still do, but I've lost track of who he was!),and I read a story of one of his students. My admiration diminished when I found out the kind of lessons he taught, but the main idea remains impressive. You know, I'm not even sure I am remembering this story correctly, and you may have even told it to me. Doesn't matter.

This student is thrilled to audition for the artist's master class, it's the highlight of her start into a career in the arts. The teacher has her make a drawing, and she does, and he tells her everything he thinks is wrong with it, and the list of items is long. She perseveres and makes a new drawing correcting as many of the faults as she can. The teacher acknowledges the improvement but points out new faults. So, the student makes another, tighter draft. Again, improvement, again many faults. The student is clearly struggling, but she continues to draw.

The teacher has her combine all of the lines she used in her previous drawings so that the newest drawing is very dark, and almost imperceptible portrait buried in a massive mess of lines. The teacher gives her an eraser. He tells her to erase all of the things that don't work in the image, and to keep only the lines that serve their purpose. She does so, and a very strong portrait evolves. The student is awestruck: she had no idea she was capable of such finesse. The teacher is likewise impressed, he insists that this is her finest work, and it is.

The teacher then has the student make a final draft, employing every technique - additive and subtractive - to make the best portrait possible. The student does so, and renders an absolutely lifelike and stunning portrait of the model. There are no faults, it is perfect. The teacher has demonstrated his acumen, and has passed on his wisdom to the student who has achieved the finest art possible.

"Now rip the artwork into shreds," he commands.

She refuses, it's her best work, and she's poured many hours into the project. She wants to keep it. She is defiant. She is angry, and she yells at the teacher. "How can you make me do this? I've worked so hard!"

"You're right, you've done excellent work, and if you want to keep this piece, you should. But I want it torn into shreds, and I am not apt to repeating myself."

Fuelled my rage, she tears the thing into several unequal pieces.

"Congratulations, you can be in my class. The other applicants did not tear up their artwork, and so they failed."

Jeff Shyluk said...

So point being:

Do you have the willpower to destroy completely anything you've made? I like to think that I can. I'm probably definitely wrong, though. But I will consider this as a thought exercise when I do make something I like.

Perhaps it's a personality fault, I should be able to enjoy finishing a piece, to revel in its completeness, but that seldom works out. Or maybe I can take the long view: all art disappears over time. There's a toe on Michaelangelo's David that has been smashed out of existence. It can be duplicated, but it's not the original. And that's just one masterwork: what about all the mediocre art? Pessimism, or realism?

It's one thing to choose to destroy your stuff, it's another when the medium destroys it for you: digital art is extremely fragile that way. Computers definitely speed up the creative process, but at the cost of being brittle against time. You could use quill and ink, you know. That would slow you down and you'd choose your words with greater care. If you used vellum or parchment and a good lightfast pigment ink, there's a high probability that your words could last on paper for hundreds of years, maybe even a thousand if kept in good conditions.

Angry despair and depression are all part of the artist's lifestyle. Sometimes, often, you can even use that dark wellpool of emotion to your advantage. It's not healthy, though, or maybe it is. I would never tell you that your feelings towards destroyed art are wrong, but I would suggest that you can recognize them for what they are and prepare for a certain amount of healthy nihilism in your work. Maybe you'll be so great that Piero Cannata smashes your stuff with a hammer he hides under his coat, while stunned bystanders look on in horror and disbelief, and the Accademia guards arrive, but too late.

Earl J. Woods said...

Lovely parable, and in truth, I felt pretty silly for getting upset over a silly blog post. I think my reaction speaks more to stress than anything to do with the post itself. And, just as in the parable, the draft I posted today turned out better than the first (though with just one extra iteration, it is, of course, far from my best work).

"All art disappears over time." Nothing lasts forever.