Monday, October 29, 2012

Watch My Mouth

INTP's "are sometimes surprised by the high esteem in which their friends and colleagues hold them." I am learning the hard way, that I have to increasingly watch what I say.

I have always observed and assumed to be self evident, that people are different, you and I are different. It seems to me the most apparant and obvious thing in the world. Everything needs to be interpreted and evaluated in the context of your own ambitions.

Thus when people share with me their opinions there is a bunch of discounting and appreciating that goes on. But ultimately it is important to me what other people think only as far as our objectives converge.

eg. if I draw a picture that I want to communicate some particular message, then almost any person's opinion matters (except those whose opinion reflects an intent to be malicious/sycophantic regardless of the context, eg disingenuous opinions, these opinions never matter, except where they give rise to holocausts.) because it is a test of encoding/decoding and whether my message is obvious enough to be recieved, yet opaque enough to be rewarding/maintain interest etc. for example.

When I'm dishing, rather than recieving though, I generally make the error of assuming that people understand my feedback equates to nothing more than 'this is what I think' to be evaluated against what the artist or creator wanted me to think. But nothing more. nothing more than that. So I assume that people assume that I am not an authority on what they are trying to do, on being a playwrite, drummer, band manager, producer, actor, writer OR even visual artist.

I am only an authority on what I think. But as my friend said to me 'how many times can you say "it's just my opinion"?' And I guess it's just that, to some people it is just an opinion. To others though, an opinion is a big deal.

These are the unfortunate truths regarding opinions though, that we all at some point have to learn to live with.

Everybody has them.
Most are made subconsciously.
They are not always expressed.
They need not be factual or even rational, but opinions are facts.

Take heart though, how you choose to react to opinions once expressed is entirely your choice.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Back In Therepy

Why? Largely because I could.

There was no real incident that precipitated going back. Whereas the first time I hilariously obtained my doctors referal in such a way as to have nothing more than the bullet point 'delusional stalker' on my medical record (I have been found to be neither) this time I hilariously found a strange lump that I couldn't squeeze like a pimple, went to the GP with all those skin cancer ads on my mind and was told 'it's a pimple' leaving us with 13 minutes of nothing to talk about, so to kill time she referred me for another 6 sessions.

I had that referral up my sleeve, and well I can't really go into detail in the public domain of why I decided to finally cash them in, but the essential epiphany was this:

I got everything I ever wished for. I just got caught out by how little I enjoy losing.

I had the epiphany on my ownsome, so now I'm just fleshing it out with my therapist. It's been really productive, and it's illustrated how consistent my approach to everything is.

I always thought it was a shame that most people (if ever) only seek therapy when shit has boiled over, where much of that boil over could be prevented simply by observing our daily behaviour.

Unlike every other time I have turned up to therapy struggling and go out feeling great, this is the strongest I've been going to therapy and it's been really constructive.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


So a few days ago I took delivery of my first commissioned work, by Sarah McConnell of the unupdated Serial Multiplicity. Very talented artist, I took a risk asking her to draw a pheonix, from looking over her shoulder at work and peering into her sketchbook back in the early days where she used to sketch in a sketchbook all the time at work, I knew she was capable of drawing it in a technical sense, but in most of her finished art I'd seen to-date definite forms as subject matter aren't typically what she does.

Anyway, I loaded her up with reference and set all my terms and she did this:
I think I accidentally got a steal of a deal, because I asked for 'drawn and inked at least' but since 99.97% of all the art I look at is by comic book artists in my mind that means 'pencil drawing, then inked with a pen' whereas to Sarah a fine arts graduate from the VCA 'inked' probably meant 'painted with inks'

Anyway this is but the first small step for me towards 'Melberenze' and my first act as patron of the arts myself. The big worry of course was always that I would fulfill the stereotype that 'slaves make the worst masters' when it came to me commissioning artists, so I am overtly self conscious of not doing all the things that have made my own commissions transform from exercises in mutual goodwill to bitter experiences that I now have to somehow translate back into positive experiences.

So I did this by:
1. making clear what I expected, and that my commission was based on my belief in the abilities of her work to date (of course with the exception of what I mean when I say 'inked', but this I think produced a delightful outcome)
2. relaxing the 'personal meaning' of the subject matter. I just asked for a pheonix, and didn't elaborate on what it meant to me.
3. Set a price and translated that price into how many work hours I expected to be spent on it.
4. Set a short deadline.

These sorts of things are what I am, going forward, going to set up for my commission policy, I have one remaining commission that is none of those things, and though I am excited to finally be doing it, this excitement is outweighed by the stress and anxiety of doing it. I have simply accepted that I probably won't be getting paid for it, that is the only thought that relaxes me enough to do it.

It's a lot more fun being on the other side of the equation, I have commissioned Tim Molloy next so expect more artwork on this blog soon.

By Accident Not Design

My own drawing journey has ended up more or less exactly like this.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


One thing that surprises people about me is when I tell them I hate surprises. Probably because I enjoy being confounded, caught off guard, outwitted, out played etc. but these are all processes that I am actively engaged in.

Whereas yesterday I had a cryptic day, and being cryptic (even unintentionally) annoys me. It started off with a contextless notification from facebook to my email that I had been mentioned. Here was the mention: 'tohm ******?' the stars are blanking out my last name, I don't mean to be hypocritically cryptic, I just don't like putting my last name up on a blog. When I went to facebook though, there was no such notification of such a mention, creating the exasperating illusion that this contextless message was made in a context worthy of deletion. I'm sure it's nothing, but this is the kind of cryptic bullshit that drives 'facebook anxiety' the most powerful argument for getting the fuck off facebook.

Then later in the day my phone goes off to notify me I have a message on voicemail, even though my phone didn't ring. I checked the message to find 'hey tohm, this is Misaki. You know what I'm going to call you again later?' I haven't spoken to Miki-swan since I left Shizuoka last year. Furthermore since breaking up the responsibility of who has to carry the load of keeping in touch has always been unambiguously on my shoulders since she is the kind of masochistic workaholic that puts my masochistic workaholia to shame. So her calling me must be for some reason.

Now watch my mind unravel. Has her father died from his lung cancer? Has her beloved Grandma died of Alzheimers? Has she gotten engaged to one of her suitors? Has she misremembered my birthday? Is she coming out to Australia? Has her business folded? Is she pregnant (not mine)?

There simply is no fucking information as to why the fuck she is calling me for the first time in a year. Her tone was perfectly neutral as well. Miki isn't deliberately trying to stress me out, she speaks her own brand of English and lives in her own brand of reality.

Now I have to carry my phone with me at all times and keep it by me when I sleep because I have no idea or indication of when she will call again (or even if the call will actually come through or go straight to voicemail) but just in case it's one of those unhappy scenarios...

I don't believe in appetisers, I see them as pointless, just serve the main already. I find it a pity Russian service has displaced French service worldwide. I am not tantalised or intrigued by mystery. A good story is one that is captivating without obfuscation in my book. I don't mind making decisions on limited information, or gambling, or risk taking. But I like to be able to participate, these half-sentences and contextless messages just get under my skin and drive me insane with speculation, knowing I can't actually know what they are about until somebody condescends to tell me.

Hate is such a strong word, obviously, Miki is really important to me, somebody I will naturally worry about when there is any doubt as to what is going on. And I should state, the contextless facebook notification and Miki calling me on the same day are totally unrelated. Most of the time I just find cryptic shit annoying and or boring, like the cryptic crossword puzzles.

I hate cryptic days though.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Commission #1

So last week some time I finally finished my first commission. I was commissioned exactly upon October 14th, 2010. So I just made it within two years overdue. Here was the original brief:

My favourite book of all time is ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran. I consider it my soul on paper and it is very special to me. The basic premise is that a wise prophet. Almustafa, has been living in a community for 12 years waiting for a boat to arrive to take him home. The book begins with the arrival of the boat through a thick mist and as he makes his way to the sea wall the townsfolk ask for his wisdom on various topics such as love, justice, death, pleasure, beauty and sacrifice. There is a woman, Almitra, a seeress (prophet) who has a deep love for Almustafa. At the end of the book she stands on the sea wall and watches the boat disappear into the mist. She knows he must go: ‘our love would not bind you nor or needs hold you’. I want a picture of Almitra standing on a sea wall. In my imagination she is very beautiful and from Lebanon -otherwise it is up to artistic interpretation. I want it to be at least A3 in size.
Because of the delay, I blew it out to A1 or 4x A3. But I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about what I have learned about commissions by doing them/not getting them done.

1. I work best under pressure and short deadlines. Which was reinforced by working on hairspray. The longer I have to do a task, the larger I make the task in my head. And then there's just straightforward procrastination issues. Flexible deadline meant there was no urgency and hence hendersforth, as soon as any other project came up, the commissions dropped in priority.

2. On procrastinating, I believe it be perhaps a necessary phase in a profession like visual art etc. that almost inevitably the people that support you early on will be people near and dear to you. And there's a temptation to treat a commercial transaction as an act of charity. That is to say, you are so grateful to get the commission that you just want it to be the best piece ever. This drives the '3 Ps', perfection, procrastination, paralysis... of which there's a great write up to be read here. And I mean you can read the commission above, I am bringing to life my benefactors 'soul on paper' of course I want it to be perfect, and this overwhelmed me for ages. I didn't spend two years on this piece, but it did take me two years to get enough knowledge of what I was and wasn't capable of drawing to come up with the above representation.

3. There are many types of artists, I'm not most of them. Two years ago, I was literally taking on any project, fuck, six months ago I would take on any project, and did, without doing really basic research. I had only the vaguest impression of what hairspray was when I agreed to do it. I draw pictures of people, in a very comic inspired style, but even then the comic style is away from the 'realism' end of the spectrum. And that is almost exclusively what I have been drawing for the past year and a half. And yet with this and all my other commissions, I've accepted tasks that don't reflect my existing skill base... I think... my next commission (almost as overdue as the first) seems so foreign to me that thinking about it feels like this memorable seen of George Costanza's career:

I am going to throw myself at it though, and be inspired by my commissioner whom just takes on tasks and lets them evolve on their own. But in future I am going to put a policy on the subject matter, because asking me an illustrator for example to do a sculpture or oil painting requires me to learn whole new skillsets, which is fine and valuable and good, but do I build that time consuming past time into the price? I haven't even learned perspective yet.

4. Pricing, pricing, the most stressful part of it all, for commissions #1 and 2# prices have never been discussed. Originally I thought this was smart, a risk reducing strategy for both parties since I felt they were dealing with an unknown. Meritocratic payment. My first two commissions also pre-date my exhibitions so I had no reference point. In hindsight though, this is one of the major things that blew my mind out into the pieces needing to be perfect, a notion that my clients would given their love for me, probably overpay hence I needed to make the pieces so perfect they couldn't possibly overpay. Which when you write it out and read it sounds completely fucken crazy, but when it's just in the back of your mind (because despite whatever philosophy you adopt, more money is always useful) it plays you. Whereas if you have a fixed price like my 3rd commission then you can quantify just how much work and what quality is expected of you to put in. It's easy to share an understanding of meaning in that case. You can even reduce it to an hourly rate - if you are getting paid $400 and you put 10 hours into the piece then you are a $40 an hour artist, I'm not a $40 an hour artist, I think I remain a $20 an hour artist, and of course there's materials etc to take into consideration. But a firm price agreement I think reigns this shit in.

In summarium, it's about keeping the task real, understanding that you are being commissioned based on the work you have done, not on the work you imagine you are capable of. Not idealising the commission itself, but gaining some perspective on just what you are expected to produce and capable of producing. A commission should be rigid rather than flexible. At least for me, and how I work. I don't think I am the kind of artist that people want to go away and just wait on to get around to doing the best possible piece. At least not yet.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


Permit me to nerd out. I fucking love Eichiro Oda, just fucking love him. One day oh I wish, I wish, I wish I could just sit in his studio and watch him draw. To my knowledge he has no DVD like Takehiko Inoue (the best in comics probablutely ever). But this is good, it gives me impetus to try and make something of myself so I can be the kind of person that just calls up and is all like 'moshi moshi, Oda san? hai! ore wa tohm desu. eto ne, moshi chance ga atara anata no studio ni kitemoiidesuka?'

Anyway, Eichiro Oda is the fucking best in just a totally different way to Takehiko, Vagabond, Real, Slam Dunk, these speak to the deconstructionist in me, they are very much about the human condition in a way that brings depth and understanding. Oda is all heart, both appeal to me as an animist, but the difference to reveal myself as a fantasy dorkas malorcus (as the latin scholars say) but the difference is the same as Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin, GRR is Takehiko, you feel vulnerable, art imitates life, you project all your hopes onto a character only to be confronted by the reality that nothing works out as you expect. Deconstruction of the narrative tropes that create our expectations not just of how stories are supposed to be, but how life is supposed to be. Cruel and caring at the same time. Oda is like Robert Jordan, he gives you exactly what you want.

And right now, it's just a great time to have Thursday's in the week, where I wake up and 4 times out of 5 the new One Piece has come out, and right now, there's this character Vergo that has just captured my imagination.

It's just a constant smack down. I should say, I have a really anti-intellectual bent, I don't know why, but around the time that my friends were discovering the masters of film like Kubrick and Coppolla, I had reached the resignation that I just wanted to watch Jackie Chan films and then, largely for the last 40 minutes of final fight martial art choreography.

Gesture is something that dominates my own artwork, and in the character of Vergo, Oda is just doing week on week all the shit I wish I could capture, and delivering it beautifully. Vergo is 'hard' literally 'hard' the character has an unyet unnamed ability to harden himself up into iron or something. But he's also a master martial artist, and I just like the unrelenting way he says stuff like 'I will have to destroy them', ultimately his hubris will come undone, Luffy will get to Vergo eventually. But over the past three weeks he has gone up against Sanji (always just a visual delight of gesture when Sanji fights) and the two of them fighting, it was like the best thing I've ever seen. Then Vergo took out Law this week, and it was just perfect, perfect exposition of this guy as a physical quantity, and this fight was preamble for Vergo taking on his betrayed subordinate Smoker.

You know, I just admire so much about Oda's storytelling, I can remember exactly in the Skypia arc where I just went 'woah' at his ability to foreshadow and create real emotional impact in such a tried and tested genre as 'the hero with the thousand faces'. He is really advancing a field that you just thought as one of the oldest stories to have been told, couldn't really innovate any further.

But Oda just has this incredible foresight, the late Robert Jordan got caught out by constantly expanding the WoT universe until the story got away from him and his own fanbase got frustrated with the 3 or so volumes of his epic that were just boring sidetracking. There are often times where you become convinced that Oda is doing the same, (the series has already gone double the time he imagined, but he stated he was simply 'having too much fun' and the readers are too) but every questionable character he introduces, he just makes work until I question how I can ever doubt him.

Vergo is an excellent case in point. He seemed so poorly designed, I thought he was a 'waffle' man because he just wears a quilted coat, and appeared to have some kind of waffle armour piece on the side of his face when introduced. The waffle stayed there for three weeks before another character asked Vergo if 'he liked hamburgers' and he replied 'yes they are my favorite' and it was revealed that he had a whole hamburger patty stuck to his face (which he then ate). Just the fact that an artist goes to that effort for a gag. A fucking gag, just makes me love Oda.

It's also that way of blending the visceral excitement of a 'intelligent thug' archetype (like Bane from Batman) and keeping him a light part of the universe by illustrating such a simple character flaw like forgetfulness. 'Where is my sword?! I must have misplaced it!' ... 'But Vergo, you aren't a swordsman?' ... 'Oh yeah!' I just love that ability, that accessibility Oda brings to the intricate mechanics of good narrative.

I just fucking love him, and wanted to document that right now is a great time to be a One Piece fan.