Tuesday, August 8, 2017

State of the Artist: August 8, 2017

Today has been exploring colored pencil in greater detail, in particular ordering layers:

Some of the Caran d'Ache Pablo color pencils layered with one another.

I really do love the shimmering of color layering in color pencils, particularly with the rather transparent color pencils from Caran d'Ache.

Also I realized that Pablo's composition is some oil and more wax (as opposed to Luminance's some wax and more oil composition). The results for Pablo probably isn't anywhere close to oil charcoal pencils (like Cretacolors), but they're definitely as or nearly-as water-resistant as oil charcoal.

And since oil charcoal pencils are ideal to mix with watercolor for sketches and mixed media works, I wondered what might happen with color pencils and watercolor. An experiment has resulted in neatly obscuring/hiding the pencil lines when they match the base color of the layers they border. A high contrast pencil line, on the other hand, would probably show up clearly, given the general transparency of watercolor.

So that means I don't have to buy oil charcoal pencils to get a certain effect I want—maybe. It also means I'm likely to stick to Pablo instead of exploring much of the Luminance line, since I'm still mainly fond of watercolor.

Some personal ramblings follow beneath the cut.

I thought a lot about artist conformity. About how many artists have this expectation of realism or naturalism being the highest art—of putting down and belittling non-traditional art as inherently worth less.

(I think possibly the most offensive version is where they drop quotes around the idea of cartoonists, animators, illustrators, or non-Western artists in general as being art masters. Like "Oh, I love those Chinese 'masters', I guess they had some good ideas." Or "Oh, that Audubon, doing those 'masterful' studies of birds, too bad they're just real life birds." How pretentious and small-minded they sound.)

Or how such artists might not actually love realism/naturalism, but are following popular tastes and trends instead of seeking art after their own heart; how many artists seek to replicate the style of other artists they perceive as representing a specific goal and end of their artistic journey.

Sometimes I wonder—are such artists really so naive? Or are they envious, or even afraid? Do they need to put others down to feel awesome about themselves? Do they desire popularity, or define the value of art being linked to its popularity by society?

These are value judgements I'm making, of course. This isn't how I want to live and explore art anymore.

I posted some stuff to Instagram recently and it largely went unliked and unloved. In the past, this made me sad; but I was surprised to find out that I now no longer care about the amount of likes. Pursuing art after my own nature has become its own delight and highest goal for me—whether or not others understand, whether or not others find my art not holding up to their ideals and prejudices. In the grand scheme of things, society liking or hating or being indifferent towards what I do just doesn't matter.

Heck, I could easily start racking up likes by posting tons of cute kitty art. I did it a few times and... then I got bored. It turns out I don't enjoy making art unless there's something about the piece that challenges me, unless I don't know how to do something I need for the piece, unless there are mistakes and mishaps along the way.

I've thought in the past about the purpose of my art. How I thought I needed to make art that served the needs of society, that this was the ultimate pursuit. I've been taught to not be selfish; but what if it's the case that art that comes from my heart, without considering what I think society might need, helps others anyways? What if it's the best way, in the end, to help people?

The stories I tell with my art, the mood I establish for every piece, ultimately is a story or mood that suits me. If it suits others, that's awesome too, but it long since stopped being the goal of my art.

I'm very aware that doing this "pursue art after my own heart" thing is not, like, gonna make people want to help me. That I will not serve any value to the majority of folks. That this is the epitome of the stereotype of the useless, vain artist.

But I'm tired of needing to provide value to others to be worthy of existing. I did that for over a decade in a job that shredded my health and mind, and it turned out that despite being useful I still wasn't actually valued as a human being—only my output was valued.

In the end I found people who loved me unconditionally, and I learned there was more to life than pursuing value through the approval of others.

Life's pretty weird these days. I remember I used to quail at the thought of pissing off creators with large audiences, because I wanted them to think well of me, no matter how they might treat others. And now, even though confrontation triggers a lot of my work-related trauma, I do stand up to big creators, and somehow I don't care whether they get angry or not, or if they decide to pursue some senseless vendetta.

(For secure creators, my ire doesn't matter; but I've met some insecure creators who... shall we say... get antsy about someone with 10 followers who disagrees with them.)

Of course, the side effect of pursuing art after my heart is that my heart is weird and off-kilter, which results in some unique takes on certain subjects. I've a much better chance of finding some niche that few or even no other artists occupy.

Like painting flowers on fire. Constantly.

Or drawing little people in ink living little lives in still lifes, like dropping Chinese-style landscape scaling into Post-Impressionistic fruit arrangements.

I mean, and then there's my tendency to desire weird twists on composition, and a fascination with negative space interactions, and preferring to capture mood over real lighting/shadows/perspective.... these are all things that a lot of my peers do not want to do, for whatever reason.

Ah well.

Ava Jarvis is an ink and watercolor artist with a portfolio site at avajarvisart.com. If you found this post useful, consider a one-time tip or supporting Ava on Patreon.