As someone who trained at an art school as an artist, yet works professionally in the entertainment industry, I ran across a quote today in a book in PDF form someone referred me to.
“Art and entertainment do different things.
Entertainment distracts our attention.
Art focuses it.”
And then it just keeps going. Listing one thing after another that applies to how I am, how I work, how I live, and it is, in the few short moments after reading it, already helping me slide headlong into a new mode of thinking about work. Or not working. Or keeping it all under control. There is much to think about here.
They have a goal to make 100,000 artists read this, and the PDF is a free download. I will very likely end up buying the paperback, mostly because I love the message and still love the tangible feel of a good book in my hand. So go head, download it.
I just got back from a trip to Colorado, one of my favorite places on earth. Granted, that seems a grand statement, for I have not seen a vast majority of the earth. So let us say… it is one of my favorite places on earth that I have visited thus far. And one thing I am oddly enamored of… the outhouses. No really. Outhouses. For you see, Colorado has some of the most scenic outhouses I have ever seen. Not old-fashioned relics of rickety clapboard with a moon cut out in the door, but actual functioning places in which to conduct one’s business while in pretty remote locations. Most up bumpy old mining roads. One of the main reasons I find these fascinating is simply the implications of what it took to get them there. The tenacity of early miners to get their equipment up there with nothing but a few recalcitrant mules already has me in awe, but in this modern day there are still folks out there (the Forest Service, local parks departments, volunteers) who not only built, but maintain and keep clean outhouses at 11,000 ft. Give or take a couple thousand feet. And so, as I tiptoe through the morass of pictures taken from this last trip, I submit to you one of the outhouses I came across in Eureka, Colorado. This is actually pretty accessible, gotten to by a county road (unpaved, all gravel, but still pretty easy compared to the mining passes.) It sits near the ruins of a massive old mill. Which I also have pictures of. But right now, you are more interested in the outhouse, aren’t you? I know you are.
So I’ll confess. I have never taken a course in typography. Through years of experience I have gained knowledge about the concepts of it, proper usage, etc., etc., but I never really knew the history. And now some lovely fellow has made a lovely little stop motion video. Which I also appreciate just due to the obsessive nature of making a stop motion video.
Once upon a time, I went to graduate school. An art school. A school revered around the world. And I worked very, very hard, and took all the advice and wisdom given to me by my favorite and most admired professors very, very seriously. Sometimes to a fault, but there is more on that later. I went to an art school that was, for lack of a more eloquent term, very “arty.” Commercial ventures were not outright sneered upon, but everything I studied was postmodern poststructuralist digital interactive using this new medium to create art that lives only in galleries or the occasional public space, drinking in theory, discussing the ideas and conflicts in the art world with regards to digital, as it related to the questioning of the validity of photography and film when those emerged, as they could be mechanically reproduced, and how did that affect the intrinsic value of the artwork and… well… you get the idea. It was graduate school. A wonderful bubble where these things were all you considered.
But here’s the thing. I never felt like I was ‘arty’ enough. I like creating characters. Concrete ones. Silly ones. Serious ones, but still… I am not exactly the Ellsworth Kelly of digital art. And so somehow I always, despite the encouragement of my professors, felt like I really did not belong. I was never the one who was about to create a large interactive digital space. But I kept thinking I had to be that person to justify my spot in that program. I had to be that Artist with the capital A. I had to be someone that I am not, at least in the way I thought they thought of me. One of my most influential professors told me I would become a famous artist in my own right, and that I should never work for a major studio because I would then be owned by them. I took that advice very much to heart, even though I still tried applying to Pixar and whatnot. Then I moved to Chicago.
I must admit, I appear to have a long standing love affair with light. I started out as a stage lighting designer. Then I designed architectural lighting for theatres and small galleries. Then I went to grad school and fell in love with 3D, where once again, I could light, but this time I could defy physics by telling lights to cast or not cast shadows, or telling them to not cast light on certain objects at all, the discovery of which made me cackle maniacally in a the way only a lighting dork could. Then I started learning mental ray, the physics-based lighting and rendering system inside Maya, my program of choice at the time, and now I work with Vray, the physics based rendering engine for Cinema 4D, my current most-used 3D program.
And then I got a camera. Not a point and shoot. A nice DSLR. Then I got a better one. I got better lenses. I spent some time in the mountains, and received a book of Ansel Adams wherein he outlines his zone system for conceiving of and developing photographs, and I was suddenly yanked out of my virtual world of lights where I became a goddess of photon-based physics and back into an art form that is truly just the capturing of light. Everything we see is light bouncing off of objects, and in photography you are capturing the light as it bounces back into the camera lens.
But with all of my past build up of lighting, I had no idea how to actually manipulate light for the camera. A camera can not pick up nearly the range that the human eye can. Ask anyone who has ever taken a picture in a low light situation. You’ll see it. And so with my growing passion for photography, I decided to take a class in studio portrait lighting for photography so I could learn the magical ways of lighting in real life for an actual live camera. I have to confess… it makes me giddy. Somehow this has managed to reach all the way back to my early days working with theatre lights, pull it back into the present and combine all of that with my knowledge of the digital art world, and just concepts of composition in general. Below are a few of my favorite samples from the class. I am sure they are rough, because I literally just laid hands on lights for photography for the first time in this class, but oh my, the possibilities I can see…
OK, it’s not always better, some sometimes it is. Like this. Taking a new website out for a walk. It’s not perfect, it’s stumbling around, it’s missing a few parts, but it will get there.
Sometimes as a creative professional, you can get caught up in how you are “supposed” to do self-promotion. I think sometimes you can get lost in that. Your personality, the projects that really ring your bell, get buried, and that sparkle, that thing that makes you you, that thing that makes people want to hire you, seems a little dull. That sort of defeats the purpose, right? You are dulling your own personality in the interest of doing what you think others might like, and if this isn’t where your heart lies… well… you will just be perpetually frustrated. So this new relaunch is about finding balance. Finding balance in that which I do professionally and that which I do creatively, late in the night, a glass of wine in one hand, a stylus/camera/pencil in the other, hoping to better all of it. It can totally be done.
So welcome to my relaunch of palecow.net, and stick with me while it grows!
I almost wrote that title with a straight face. I knew, even back when I was 19 and signing the declaration for an undergraduate theatre major, that this would not be easy. Of course, back then I apparently had a very, very different definition of easy. I think I even did at 27, when I waltzed through the doors of an art school after almost not getting in, driven to get my M.F.A. Notably, most people go back for the more sensible M.B.A., but trust me, if I had one of those, the economy would collapse into itself like a black hole. And even then, even after the M.F.A., I brazenly went forth waving my fancy credentials, still thinking this would somehow be easy. Ha. Because it has been incredibly hard, shifting through from stage lighting to animation to motion graphics to photography and now writing, with moments of despair, and moments of joy, realizing that every part has added onto the next, even on days I am harangued by self-doubt and wonder if I should have stuck harder with just one and done something different, or would that have been fruitless, and getting frozen by the unknown. It is still all something I really wouldn’t trade. And Ze Frank, an artist I deeply admire, says it all so beautifully.
Last year I was approached by a very talented Chicago editor/producer/writer/what have you named George Zwierzynski of Purple Stuff Productions to work on his wildly successful “Guys Book Club” series. What ensued was a creation based on a certain ubiquitous social networking site with a few… embellishments. It turned out to be quite a work of puzzle pieces, and one hell of a lot of fun to work on.
I give you… Guys Book Club. Season 2.
(OK, this is just one small part of it. Watch all of it through the link above. You know you want to.)