Thursday, June 30, 2011

Who am I trying to impress?

One would rather have the warm tongue of a critic licking his asshole than the tongue of his spouse. It gives him a sense of validity and power. He seems to defy gravity. ~ Mike Patton

"The costs of specialization: architects build to impress other architects; models are thin to impress other models; academics write to impress other academics; filmmakers try to impress other filmmakers; painters impress art dealers; but authors who write to impress book editors tend to fail." ~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb

There are no easy answers, or perhaps there is a whole spectrum of easy answers... in fact for my question there will be an answer certainly that is observable by my behaviour. 'Who should I try to impress?' is perhaps the most valid question, but do you ever hear anybody verbalise that? I don't know.

What? Oh yeah, the first quote by Mike Patton is one of my favorites and most memorable, in his essay 'How we eat our own young' and it's relevant, I assure you. The second one put me in this mindset from the bed of procrustes it is an aphorism I will stretch and cut like the books legendary namesake to suit my purposes.

I have a deviant-art account which has no artwork on it. I have a facebook account which has most of my recent artwork on it, and I have some webcomic pages. Having studied marketing and economics and finance and gone to a school where the year twelve art class students could be counted without taking your shoes off, my social circle consists of few practicing artists. Thus thusly, my facebook page exposes me to an audience of 'lay' people when it comes to art.

I used to think that I could be encouraged by the positive feedback I recieve and then 'graduate' onto DeviantArt an online community of artists once I was producing artwork I was happy to share with other artists. That is my personal question - should I be making art to impress people, people with jobs and money and their own distinct lives? Or shoud I be trying to impress other artists?

As John said to me when discussing our gestating-foetus of an art project "I definitely get that you need to find the balance between masturbating onstage and giving the audience the reacharound now and then." because we are pursuing a holy-grail type challenge.

That's me. I see a lot of live music over the course of a month, and look at hundreds of pieces of art every day. The question of who to impress informs how accessable our work will be. I have been trained in public speaking and presentations, and most processes (at least all the good ones) emphasize that the first step of any presentation is to identify and analyse your audience. The most recent presentation I did was preaching to the choir, and thus almost a complete waste of time. It's objective was to reassure in essence that we were still doing stuff.

But broadly speaking, before performing in any capacity you need to know who the audience is, who matters and who doesn't. Magnanimously you could say 'everybody matters' and yes they do, due to the unpredictability of life in general, but then it also depends what you are trying to achieve.

For me I adopt Seinfields attitude 'I just want to be one of those guys' for me though I'm not so sure if it's about impressing artists and performers as being accepted by them and identified with. That is what I am working towards.

At the same time researching for an exhibition sort of fills me with resentment, that it's almost obligatory that I become part of an 'artistic community' here I am at my most hippocritical. I exert a lot of energy trying to lure collaborators into becoming part of a scene, but my ego prevents me from trying to join an established one. Maybe I just need to lead, and it prevents me from following. I have to reconcile this, but not here.

I see bands though where they are sustained by gimmick, but that seems to judgemental. What they do well is perform. PERFORM. Seeing them play is not like attending a recital, which is a recitation of music, music that was composed by some of the most gifted improvisers in history now forgotten due to the formality which constrains 'classical music' which is the other extreme, still a performance but so formalised that the audience is part of the performance in a way that standing on beer stained carpet in Pony trying not to collide with a skinhead is not.

That is to say, that music aside if I was (and I will kill myself the day this actually seems like a good way to enjoy music) to draw up a scorecard, technical ability, composition, execution etc. would be criteria alongside banter, stage presence, costumes etc. That is I see bands that get some of these things right, some that get none (though this is very rare) and some that get all, and they are usually bands I have to line up at 7am to wait for a ticket vendor to open at 9am and hope my order can get processed in 30 seconds before 50,000 tickets get sold out.

The point being that performance is holistic, and in this context it is easy to distinguish between 'musicians' musicians' and I don't know how to articulate the alternative. But I have seen performances where the performer takes the attitude 'let my music speak for itself' and then literally not spoken to the audience. Sometimes, given some peoples ineptitude at banter this is appropriate, some times it actually destroys the performance. Much like watching somebody eat a snickers bar between courses at an accliamed restaurant would.

I've also been to exhibitions where I spent most of the time reading the explanatory plaques on the wall, because they were sadly more interesting than the artworks. I've also been to exhibitions where there was no explanation whatsoever. I don't know which is better, or which is which but there are elements of holistic performance even in gallary spaces and exhibition layouts.

Everything effects the impression we give, and we should tune these elements to the people we are actually trying to impress.

Who am I trying to impress? I still don't know yet. I would like to say myself, but that would be dishonest. Probably some girl.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Enough Preaching

Some art, I'm looking at doing get going on some animation projects.

For some reason I like taking on lost causes. I don't think it's masochistic as such, though I do think I certainly have masochistic tendacies. But I mean there are these 'Holy Grails' out there, that just the dreaming of achieving fills me with excitement.

For example, drawing a cute girl with a prominant nose. Leonardo managed it, once and I can't be bothered inserting a picture of the sketch where he pulled it off. At any rate I feel a little defeated everytime I have to go back and erase the bridge of a girls nose in a picture to 'fix' it. It's a challange that captivates and perplexes me, because in my time I have met many beautiful women with quite defined noses.

Another is doing good animation with realistic characters. In many ways the 3D computer animation is 'catching up' with 2D because they build models with realistic proportions and it is only the past couple of years that most have realised they should go back to the simple geometric constructions of traditional 2D animation, particularly Golden Era.

But if anybody came close to pulling off that holy grail, it was Milt Kahl with his dance sequence in Disney's Sleeping Beauty. The old school Disney Animators were the fucking shit, and I've read some of them wound up living in caravans and stuff, which is a tragedy given the lasting legacy and beauty of their work.

But I mean that's what I love about Art, we've been drawing on cave walls for over 32,000 years or something and there's still all these frontiers with something as simple as putting lines on paper. Since everything in a 2D image is an illusion, as pointed out beautifully in the below Magritte painting:

The french reads 'this is not a pipe' which is true, it's a painting of a pipe.

I remember seeing maps of the world as a kid, and as was replicated in the Truman show, thinking 'man, everywhere has already been discovered.' and you know looking wistfully at history when you had frontiers of the unknown, trails to blaze and a whole 'New World' as stumbled upon by Collumbus. That's the when I wanted to be in (though not to butcher and infect indigenous populations) but just to go somewhere where you had literally no fucking idea what was over the crest of the next hill.

When I look at all the artwork I want to do, it's full of Holy Grails, and Everests that I must attempt to climb 'because it is there'. Simple things like drawing a nose on a lady, or animating somebody that is built like a real person, it is a wild and untammed country.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


This is no post for false modesty, in my brief working life I have recieved advancements and promotions relatively quickly and frequently.

I have in my time turned down two promotions, one recently and one many years ago. And in both cases I made the right decision.

I'm thinking about these incidents because today I decided to take my dog for a walk and read this:

"You are rich if and only if money you refuse tastes better than money you accept." ~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes

I have a feeling NNT wouldn't like me, or my blog. But I do feel rich, there are times when I contemplate seeing a psychologist about money's inability to motivate me. I have read somewhere else that people enjoy being flattered even when they know they are being flattered. In a similar manner, I think many people enjoy taking a promotion without really thinking about whether it would be good firstly A) for them, B) for their career C) for the company.

The first one is distinct for the second because it is holistic, work is but a facet, an important one for life but as it starts to usurp your time outside of it you need to consider that even though my career may advance my life may be deteriorating.

The first time I turned down a promotion it was at hurdle B, and admittedly A, and probably C as well. The company needed somebody to fill the role of shipping clerk, which for an importer was pretty crucial, and the departing employee was highly valued for their expertise and intimate knowledge of a crucial excel document. (That I hope has been replaced). I was in the sales department, sales is not my natural forte (I am an introvert and find social interaction exhausting, though I've gotten better at it), and this may blow your mind, but most companies are organised in a pyramid. Slow down egghead! What's with the geometry, well if you built a highway like a pyramid it would be very ineffecient at getting people to where they want to go.

There is the lane though on this pyramid highway that goes to the top, and that lane ran through the sales department, not shipping and logistics. So while the promotion was genuine, it was a dead-end one. After that there was one more step for (logical) advancement. There were other factors as well, it takes time to build up relationships with customers. After 6 months in sales, I still recieved calls from wholesale customers that weren't aware I had replaced 'Nic' my predecessor. The sales mangers were happy with me, and shifting me after only 6 months and forcing them to have to get used to a new person was possibly not in the best interests of the company.

The point is, companies can make mistakes when offering promotions as well. In this case I think they saw an urgent, but in the long run, unimportant position to fill and felt I was the quickest fix. But really it was a job where you talk to almost nobody and quietly dick around with an excel sheet in a corner and your view is of a wall. It would have been bad for me straight out. I remember helping them for a week and it nearly crushed my soul completely. I was ill suited to the work, and the work was ill suited to me.

More recently, I was offered a promotion that for most people would be an easy decision to take it, and subsequently was difficult for me to turn down. The thing is, that I didn't need extra money, and thankless (actually that's not true, you would be amazed at how many people thank me during the course of a shift, the ratio between thank-yous to 'fuck-offs' is in excess of 100:1, I've never really thought about that before) though my job is it has its advantages. The first is that it rotates me through interactions with amazing people that in perhaps one of life's greater mysteries even a prestigious job would struggle to recreate. I don't know whether I will be sitting next to an actuary or a musician from one shift to the next and sometimes a person can literally be both.

Before I got this job I was in a slump of an existential crisis. I had no direction or structure to my life and was living off the considerable savings of my former career (where I also turned down a promotion). The primary benefit of my job is the social opportunities it provides. In the context of the actual job I do, looking at the base isness of what it is - conducting repetitive surveys it is easy to dislike. The benefits and enrichment the work environment brings my life, more broadly I find hard to ignore and thus it is hard to resent my job.

In a sad irony, working in a call center has brought me more opportunities for happiness than the supposed 'real-job' I had. I am fitter, more social, happier (whatever that means) and more relaxed than I was at 23. I am more productive and achieve more of my won goals. In my particular case I identified my own needs and found the job that suited them. The dream can't last forever, I know, but it would have ended prematurely and foolishly had I accepted a promotion that isolated me from the primary benefit I recieve.

The promotion was real, it was more pay, more responsibility, more job security etc. But I don't have my job because of the pay (I can earn more full time), the responsibilitys make it harder if not impossible to overcome alienation from my peers and the job security is false because security doesn't really exist.

These decisions I have made, and I can never really know the features of the road not taken, but the money I refused tasted delicious.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


A friend at work gave me this sketchbook she'd hand made using tracing paper instead of regular paper. It has 48 pages, and I have this idea of how to fill that many pages with a coherant illustrated story.

I don't wish to give too much away but in essence it will progress from page 1 to 48 going from my shallow superficial facade into my depths and what they are and how I try to represent them visual. Like a metaphysical anatomical guide for an aspiring surgeon of the subconscious. I probably gave too much away.

Anyway of necessity I am going to have to include those aspects I don't like about myself. My negatives. I am as prone to engaging in irrational behaviour as probably everyone, and by everyone I mean 'the norm' probably not say substance abusers or peeps with actual personality disorders. The substance I do abuse is food, my diet is aweful and I probably should arrest the behavior that has me consuming my own death.

That is a negative I possess that I could get rid of and not really bat an eyelid. Sure maybe once a year I will be drawn to Sydney Roads KFC for the artistic installation it's bad service and worse food is, but I can probably live quite happily without junkfood in my regular diet.

There are other negatives though I find curious as to why I keep them, I mean I keep them suprressed, I don't act on them (any more) and in accordance with the two-dogs proverb I learned from a Daredevil comic 'There are two dogs fighting in each of us, one that hates and one that loves. Do you know which one wins the fight? The one you feed the most.' my 'bad' nature I haven't fed for years. Yet I can't bring myself to kill it, nor am I sure I can. Maybe controlling our worst behaviour is the best we can do short of a lobotomy.

But I'm in a strange looping loopness of negativity. One part of my negative nature is that I can be quite ruthless, and I have been kind of ruthless in removing negative influences in my life. And by 'remove' I mean 'not spend time with' but I'm not sure if fighting negative with negative is the right way to go.

Some clarification, by negative it is based purely on how somebody makes me feel, I don't mind if people are arseholes to me (it is literally part of my job) and I subscribe to the view of conflicting emotional states, that the most consistent state wins out. At work when I call somebody who is pissed off, I am more or less constantly in a positive frame of mind, and I find that people come up to my positive state almost 99% more often than I sink down to theirs.

The qualities I'm talking about are people that are infectiously pessimistic, selfish, angry, boring, foolish, distrustful etc. it is not just that they are in a bad mood or act annoyed when I annoy them, it is integral to their world view.

I am optimistic when it comes to people including myself. Optimism lends itself to dissappointment sure, but what of it? Finding reasons to dislike somebody is the easiest thing in the world. I am not naive enough to think that people have any difficulty finding reasons to dislike me. What is not much harder though and infinitely more rewarding is finding reasons to like and love people.

Miki taught me this, and is truly master of it. Within 10 seconds of meeting Miki you are gaurunteed to recieve some massive compliment and find yourself feeling warm and fuzzy inside. I remember her meeting my former housemate Sabine and after the usual formal introduction 'Miki, Sabine, Sabine, Miki' she turned to me and said 'Wow! you are SO lucky to have her.' Such exuberance I am unlikely to be able to pull off and sound genuine like Miki did. And certainly Miki is capable of having negative opinions of people, however she is never and I mean NEVER particularly invested in them and these are deviations in her nature that always trues towards her entrenched habit of finding reasons to like people.

And getting entranced by sentimentality is also a trap, Miki has shortcomings (that like everyone else are easy to spot) just as I do. But what I admire about her is that she also possessed a tough, ruthless core. I am starting to suspect this is the secret.

What I mean is, if you take a pessimistic view of people, 1. it's easy. 2. you expectations will almost certainly be fulfilled. Reliable people are rare, but that doesn't mean some slim minority is worthy of your optimism, people let me down, even people that I love. But what of it, I'm not going to deny them the chance to come through for me, and when people do let me down...

it's no big deal. They will have their reasons, and fundamentally - I am optimistic enough about myself to know I will survive and thrive despite let downs. That's the secret, true strength isn't erecting an impenetrable barrier of defence against harm in life, it is being open to attack and just not caring. These are the people who cannot be hurt, those who cling to the defence of pessimism I have generally found to be much better at hurting themselves than almost anybody* else could be.

*the exception of course being dictators, tyrants and sociopaths.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Oath.

Kate was the first I heard to believe in me. I heard it third hand through our mothers gossiping mouths.

She and her mother had been walking the lake and she remarked 'Tom's* going to be famous isn't he?' with as much fidelity as three people's memories can provide.

And her mother said 'Tom* is famous he is on R#$e Ar&^nd the C#rn@r.' and then Kate said 'No. I mean really famous.'

I'm not sure if fame is what I seek or something even worth aspiring to, but I took that as a faith that I was worth paying attention too.

I woke up today to my first Monday as a full time aspiring artist, the day has been mostly clerical but I did make a list a few weeks back when going through a down faze of the people that really, truly believe in me and want me to succeed.

I'm sure it's not an exhaustive list, but it is list enoough to start with and more than any individual has a right to in ten lifetimes let alone one.

The number and calibre and amazingness of the people that believe in me humbles me. I am conscious of your support and thus this is what I swear to you:

I vow I will do my all to do your faith in me justice.

From this day forth I am going to dedicate my energy to realising your belief in me. I am going to believe in myself. I believe in myself as you believe in me.

*this was what I used to be called.