Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Concepts and philosophies regarding art and development – In Brief

There are few things that interest me more than art. I love art in the broadest of applicable terms, far beyond the narrow, established criteria. I consider art to be an interchangeable term used to denote the driving force behind any and all forms of creativity and endeavour, with sloth and disinterest through self doubt being the primary forces that act as a counter-weight to creativity.

Whilst I am principally a visual artist, I don’t believe that any artist worth their salt should restrict their self entirely to the limited scope of one or only a few areas of study. Everyone is an artist in more than one way, only that some are more focused and thus proficient in their chosen areas of focus and endeavour. To some extent, I consider the way in which some people are set apart as artists to be both naive and unnecessary, and that some are elevated to the lofty title of polymath for excelling in a diverse manner, even more absurd.

I’ve always felt that if a person is proficient in one medium then they realistically should be well on their way to unlocking their talents in other areas as well. To be less confusing, the manner in which I view the flow of an artist from one field to the next is illustrated in the following example:

If you were to take a person who is considered to be artistically barren and with care and quality instruction showed that person how to draw a variety of subjects using a pencil, enabling them to understand the creative processes involved, it would be only a small step to then teach that person how to adequately colour their sketches via the use of coloured pencil or a tool emulating flat colour in Photoshop. From understanding flat colour to then applying shading and understanding how light is utilised in 2D is another manageable step. From there a person who is able to master the techniques behind the pencil should not find the paint brush to be a great task and painting in many ways is no different to colouring in a pencil drawing. The skills inherited in learning how to draw and paint are quite readily transferable to sculpture, industrial design and flower arranging which in turn may lead to a greater appreciation and awareness in areas as diverse as architecture, engineering and building. For further examples that may be seen as extreme, I also see relatively little as a realistic barrier between the art of a musician and that of an author, actor and visual artist in turn. Yes they are all considered art forms already, but generally they are not viewed as interlinked aspects of the same skill set as is being suggested here. Each takes specific skills, but each skill is no more than a matter of concentration, perseverance and rhythm (or timing if you prefer) and differ only in that they are the alternate faces of the same universal tools that are used in every action that we take.

In some situations it can be found that a deficiency in a focus area such as painting for example, can be made up for by strengths in a another quarter, such as being proficient in the art of storytelling and self promotion. Never let it be said that being a bullshit artist is not a true skill. Many of the best known artists of times both modern and ancient are or were imbued with strong oratory promotional skills whilst lacking sufficient development in their visual pursuits. Those who define art by aesthetics and emotion within will argue against that. Whilst controversial, these are views that I am quite happy defend in the face of intelligent criticism, particularly from capable art critics and so-called experts, whom I believe should have been the first of the “useless middlemen” onto Adams’ “B. Ark.”

The hierarchy of how art is taught in the modern world (or the semi-modern Australia) is a bit of a cruel joke, starting with how children are introduced to art in their formative years. More often than not a child’s first experience with painting in a class room is an abysmal failure, regardless of their potential. This is owing to the almost outrageous ignorance exhibited by most teachers who give their students paint brushes that relate to a child’s hand and paper in the same way that a large brush used for house painting would apply to an adult and their canvas. Many kids even at such an early age can be frustrated by such a thoughtless approach to their education, but more often than not will lack the skills to adequately convey their frustration or requirements. I’ve taught children at such ages to paint and draw with relative ease, and much of my successes have been due to having removed the roadblocks placed in their way, rather than any major instruction.

Art instruction within the Australian school system is no more advanced at year 6 than in Kindergarten. Rather than frustration, many children by this point in time have already thrown in the towel. Sometimes their interest can be rekindled via a new and enthusiastic teacher or upon entry to High School and a new environment, but that too relies upon the makeup of the teacher.

Art teachers in High School come in three flavours; there’s the capable artist who is interested in developing the skills of their charges, the incompetent artist who maybe offers the student an outdated textbook introduction to art history, whilst completely neglecting their skill development, and then there is the bullshit artist who although caring for the student’s development as an artist can offer only regurgitated philosophies and sub-par instruction. If the student lacks the drive to facilitate their own development during the high school years, or is unable to access private tuition then more than their chances of progress and continued engagement within the arts are slim.

High School is a critical time, because it makes and breaks and sometimes mutates budding artists in terrible ways. The mutations of which I speak are the larval stages of the bullshit artist and potential “fine art” critics, whose theories and polluting views are to art what creationism and biblical literalism are to the sciences. I despair at times, but then I come back from the edge for one reason – art is a joy, and not a matter for critics to overcomplicate for their own slick fingered requirements.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Book book book

I'm behind in my reading. I've a pile of books that I've purchased or have been blessed with temporarily that I am due to read but simply haven't had the time as yet to look through. This of course hasn't stopped me going on another book buying spree or two recently.

My nature is that of a compulsive collector. I don't gamble, drink heavily and I don't smoke. My vice has always been the need to go on a spree in search of... something. Giving it some thought, there has always been one thing or another that I've been in search of. With that particular something ranging as my tastes and interests have developed over the years. When I was 5 it was lollies. In 6th grade it was footy cards. At the age of 13 it was comic books. 15 and it was tattoo magazines. Right now it's books.

Not only am I collector, but I'm a hoarder. I have every football and basketball card, comic book, tattoo magazine, CD, DVD, film and gig poster, records, computer magazine, beer bottles, book and genealogical scrap of data I've ever collected - save for those I sold in my late teens in an effort to buy even more collectables. Oh, and the wardrobe worth of material that I palmed off onto my brother safe in the knowledge that he's just as bad in this pursuit as I am.

My collectable obsessions are broken up into sub sections quite easily. All of my collections relate to some of my major interests: art, team sports, technology and history. As such, the above can be seen in the last couple of hauls I've picked up when exploring Melbourne by foot and via Amazon and Ebay, only some of which I've read so far:

True Blue - The History of the NSW Rugby League
HOW Magazine - October 2008
British History - 1815-1906
Earthship - Volume I
Earthship Volume II
Moving the Goal Posts (Souths book)
Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
The History Today Companion to British History
The Emigrant's Friend (A facsimile of an 1848 guide to the British colonies of Australia)
Whitlam on Australia's Constitution
Wired - The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi
Nowhere People (Koori history)
The Other Side of the Frontier (Koori history)
Mapping History - World Religions
The Master (Rugby League)
Krakatoa - The Day the World Exploded
Rum Rebellion (History)
For God's Sake, send the Trackers (Koori history)
Rough Guide - The Universe
Darwin Awards II

..and whatever other crap I can't remember!

Monday, 15 September 2008


Two weeks in Melbourne and they flew by in the blink of an eye. In-between chasing Ethan around slippery dips, hanging clothes, cooking, washing dishes, spending quality time with my partner Lucy, and venturing into the city, I also had some time to check out a few genealogical details at the Library and VIC archives.

What I found out was quite interesting. Whilst my mother's family ties are limited in Victoria, my dad's are more extensive and showed up some fascinating details. Perhaps the most interesting being that I now know where my height comes from. My folks are both beneath the 6ft mark, whilst I'm 6ft 3. According to a cousin I spoke to, my great grandfather was 6ft 11. Quite a surprise, and a revelation that has me now revisiting the theory that he may have had African origins in addition to his well documented Aboriginal side.

I learnt that my great great grandfather owned 98 acres of land near Moama, 10% of which was sewn with wheat, that my great uncle was training to be a lawyer in the 1930's (unheard of for Aboriginal people in that era) and I unearthed a few more baffling genealogical mysteries.

Beyond my trips to the archives and library, looking through acres of fiche of the Sydney Morning Herald obituaries, some shipping records and electoral rolls, I also managed to dig out enough free time to check out Hellboy II. A fun flick, I quite enjoyed it.

Perhaps the highlight of my stay was pulling Lucy out of her choppy weekend routine and checking out both the Souths v Melbourne Storm game, and then a jaunt to Mount Donna Buang to show Ethan his first glimpse of snow.

Mount Donna Bunag is a bit under an hour north west from Melbourne, in the Yarra ranges past Healesville and close to Warburton. A warm day, we arrived with the expectation that we had probably arrived too late in the season to see any snow, so we took our time enjoying a rainforest walk on a lower slope of the mountain. The rainforest walk was a highlight, although I'm not sure if I was more disturbed by the 20 metre high canopy walkway that seemed less stable than a temporary rock show stage, or the strange photo that Lucy took of a tree that appears to have a few faces in it, peering back at the observer.

Beyond the oddity of the rainforest walk, it was highly enjoyable, and helped Ethan in learning how to count with each of the many steps he climbed. One.. two.. six.. zero.. he's getting there!

At the peak of ole' Donna was a sight we had expected. No snow.. until we looked beyond a shrub in the car park and Ethan found this pitiful excuse for powder...

Looks excited, no?

Anyway, after climbing the observation/suicide platform, we saw that there was still quite a bit of snow down the side of the plateau and we climbed down to explore it. Much better, a nice covering which was more than enough for Ethan and Lucy to make a snowman. Well, kind of...

In all, a great day out and a wonderful two weeks. I can't wait to go back.


Back to Lithgow after two highly enjoyable weeks in Melbourne and I already miss the place. Well, I don't miss Melbourne much, but I am looking forward to seeing my partner and her lad Ethan again soon.

The two week trip helped me experience a solid taste of what sort of life will await me when I move to Melbourne permanently in November, and I'm very excited for what the future holds after experiencing that taste.

Life in Melbourne and with Lucy is a lot faster paced than what I'm accustomed to, but it is not an uncomfortable difference. I'm not an early morning person, but waking sometimes at 3 or 4am to let a 2 year old into the room to sleep with his mum, and then waking again at 6am and earlier for the start to the day are efforts easily adapted to, at least once I let go of my usual late night routine of reading and writing. Up at 6am, to bed no later than 10.30pm.. it's very different, but my body has appreciated the change.

I'm also liking the overall healthier lifestyle I've slipped into. I now eat very little meat, have had a chance to walk more than an hour each day, spend the weekends out and about, even if it is only to walk to the State Library and locking myself away there reading microfiche, or at VIC Archives giving the staff there a workout.

Perhaps one point that I need to work on however is that especially with my new responsibilities of looking after an extremely energetic 2 year old I also have a lot less time to look after my own hobbies, pursuits and indeed keep up with people outside of the 3 person unit I've happily welded myself into.

Less reading, less emailing and less conversation. It's a good thing that I don't watch TV because I wouldn't have the time for it now even if I wanted.

On the other hand - there's more emotional fulfilment, happiness and I also have a renewed sense of purpose and vigour in regard to the future. I don't believe that I've ever been as happy.

A serious blog post? Yeah whatever next! Later I'll write about what I've actually been filling my time with in Melbourne over the past two weeks.