Under the Hood (theory)

A happy thought...

 

Walking down the street earlier today it suddenly hit me. I don't know why. It just did. This very clear thought:

Nobody is paying attention. 

Nobody cares. 

So you can do whatever you want.

I realized I had stopped walking as I was thinking this.

 

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It is true, isn't it? When you start out to do something, whatever that is: writing a theater play about an owl family, starting a one-man Dixieland jazz band, outlining a novel in sixteen parts, painting the same landscape over and over again, whatever, whatever your wild plan is... nobody cares about it. 

And that's a good thing.

The trouble starts when you decide you want to change that. When you want people to care, when you want them to notice what you are doing and even worse,  when you want them to like what you are doing...

Then you start wondering whether or not, and maybe if I, or better yet,...

Then you start second-guessing yourself. Should I? Can I? Did someone else already do this before me? 

What if you just didn't? Just... did... not... care...

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But we do, don't we?

We always do.

 

We just can't help ourselves...

On things.

What is it about things that make me want to cry?

Pictures don't do that. Words, maybe, sometimes, but not often.

But things... 

A hat block, shaped like a rocket, half eaten by woodworms. 
Four rusty screws, held together by a piece of twine.
A stick. And a feather.

Earphones.
A small, circular labyrinth, hanging on a nail, not quite centered.
A blue plate.

A sweater. Two blocks of wood, painted.
A typographers magnifying glass.
A stone.

Some of these things are mine. 
I bought them, inherited them or someone gave them to me.
Others are not.

But that doesn't matter.

They all do it.

On doubts.

 

There is something comforting about working hard all the time, I imagine.

When you work hard you get the feeling that you are doing alright, that you are on track, and that everything will be fine.

But what if you don’t.
What if you doubt yourself all the time.

Isn’t there value in that also?

"Sure," they will say "a little doubt is good! You shouldn't take things for granted! Questioning yourself might lead to new things. It gets you to find different solutions"

But what if it doesn’t?

What if you just keep doubting? 
What if you don’t reach any solutions?

What if the only thing you end up with is a large collection of doubts? 

Isn't there value in that?
Intricate well-formulated sincere beautiful doubts.....

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Failing hard.

I'm failing again today. Not gently. Hard.

I should do something, but I'm not doing it. What that is? I'm even embarrassed to tell you. 
Alright, here goes: I should connect my drawing tablet to my laptop and install the thing.
I've been saying I'm going to do that for weeks now. Still haven't.

I'm not going to be doing it today. It's already too late and I have to go in an hour or two.
If that wouldn't have been the case I'm sure I would have found another excuse, tho'...

Why is this so "difficult"? Yes, I had some problems with it when I installed it before, but I fixed that. It should be working now. 

But what if it's not? 

It's like I don't want to be in that place. The place where something is not working and I have to figure out what I have to do to make it work.

And what if it does work?
Then I have to stop not using it.
That is.... even scarier.

Yesterday, I talked to a friend who had to start working on her new website. She also had been postponing doing that for quite a while. She said: "Tomorrow, I'm going to work on it." And I replied: "No, you're not. You say you will, today, but tomorrow you are going to chicken out and do nothing - you just wait and see...."

I am such an asshole.

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She worked at it from noon 'till two or something.

Shows me right.

 

Three things about the previous post...

Two days ago I posted a doodle I found on the back of a beer coaster in a bar. It wasn't mine. Somebody unknown to me made it. I just  found it, thought it looked nice and posted it here.

I also did it to test out the mobile blogging app I had on my phone. 

Looking back on that post, I came to realize three things...

1) The blogging app works fine. It's a nice way to make a post "on the go", which in some cases could be very useful. Posting directly from an event, or a picture of something you see on the streets, things like that. However, the possibilities you have adjusting and tweaking your post on a computer are much greater than on the mobile app. I think that's a pity, but I'll live with it...

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2) When I posted the doodle two days ago, it was only after publishing it that I realized that it wasn't really a doodle after all... It's a game! It's Tic-Tac-Toe. (Well, actually it's a variation of Tic-Tac-Toe as it is often played here in Belgium called "OXO" where the object is not to get three X's or O's in a row but - you guessed it - an O, an X and an O combination.)

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That means it wasn't made as a drawing. It just kinda "grew" as the game took place. You could say it's the residue of the act of playing. In another post I made earlier this week, I suggested that doodling was akin to dancing. It doesn't really come from the wish to draw something, to depict something, but rather from the urge to make hand-movements. To criss and cross and swirl about the paper. In that case, the drawing is also the residue. Something left after the dance.

(I'm not sure where this is going, but the idea that dancing and drawing have something to do with each other, fascinates me. To be continued, no doubt...)

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3) Isn't it strange that I didn't notice the fact it was a game of Tic-Tac-Toe immediately? The reason I picked this "doodle", this beer coaster, was that I just thought it looked nice: the pattern of the O's and X's, the smudgy pencil marks, the way the cardboard surface was damaged,... 

Apparently, these are the things I notice first. I started thinking about how I look at drawings and paintings in general and I have to admit I very often do not "read" what the image is depicting. Even in comic books, where this reading can be taken quite literally and is sometimes crucial to understand what is going on in the story, I often neglect to do so. It gets worse when an image is very busy, has a lot of details, lots of things going on. Then I can't be bothered at all to start looking at all of that... I don't seem to really care what a picture is a picture of...

What I do care about is the colors and the composition, the textures, the rhythms,... What gets me exited is how a green turns into a blue and suddenly erupts into an orange. What makes me look again is how a composition seems to be "off" but actually isn't. Or how there is almost nothing going on in a painting, but you can't stop looking at it. I often catch myself doing this almost imperceivable little dance where the muscles in my neck and shoulders contract and release as my eyes follow the movement suggested by scribbles and marks on a canvas. Or I zone out in front of a large field of color. A very dark, almost black blackishness that never really becomes black but you can't really say what it is in stead. 

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So in short: I like abstract art. Or at the very least, the "abstract qualities" of an image, as opposed to the "figurative qualities", that what is depicted. Which leaves me with one big question: why don't I just make abstract work myself?

Urh...

I don't really know.

I feel very uncomfortable whenever I do try making completely abstract work. As if I don't really know what it is I'm doing. As if I don't know what the "rules" are. As if I am just remembering other abstract works of art I've seen somewhere and copying them, or rather: vaguely doing something like them. 

As if I'm an impostor. As if I'm cheating. 

(Now if you are an artist who is doing abstract art, please don't get upset! I'm not saying all abstract art is cheating. I'm just saying That I don't really know how to deal with it, somehow, yet,.... Mmmmm. Ok.)

I always promise myself to try and explore doing abstract work more and I did do some in the past. I'll try and dig up some of it and show it to you in a future blogpost.

For now, I'm gonna leave it at that.  Which might be kinda halfway between things and not really a very satisfying ending, but I guess that's where we are right now. So there....

Drawing spirals - a comic (masterpiece).

I have an headache. Been lying down for an hour or two, half asleep. Feel a bit better now, but not really. I have to meet a friend in a few hours and I still want to get a little work done today, but I can't seem to find my stuff. Where are the brushes and the ink I wanted to use? Didn't I bring them? 

I end up doodling in a sketchbook. Scribbles and squirly lines. Then I vaguely remember someone I read about who was an art teacher and she gave her students the assignment to draw spirals. Perhaps it was Lynda Barry. I can't remember. You had to draw spirals and draw them really meticulously so the lines would be as close together as you can get them, but they couldn't touch each other or you would get electrocuted. Kind of a meditation thing, I guess. 

I draw a spiral. really slow. The lines as close together as I can.

I get bored.

Draw a spiral really fast: woosh-woosh-woosh, around and around - lines all over each other.

Then I make a sequence: first a fast spiral, then somewhat slower. Another, even slower. A final one, very slow. 

It's a comic. An abstract comic. Yeey!

It's an abstract comic about time. See how productive I got, even with an headache. I made an abstract comic masterpiece about time and the universe and... 

OK. I'm just kidding. It's just a stupid doodle.

Drawing spirals - a comic.

Drawing spirals - a comic.

But there is a lot to be seen here. Questions to be asked... Why do I think the fast spirals look better than the slow ones? And why is it that the fast one are obviously "less controlled", but in a way the slow ones show my lack of ability to control the lines more. How I can't quite manage to control the line-distance. Even the shakiness of my hand comes through more. So in a way, maybe the slow ones are "less controlled"?

I'm sure there are more things to be said about this.

But I still have an headache. Maybe I should eat something....

 

 

(Oh, for the record: it was Lynda Barry. In her book "Syllabus - notes from an accidental professor", page 76. Nice book. Check it out.)

Nietzschean Funny Bunnies.

I'm sitting at a lecture taking notes. It's interesting and I have to really concentrate on keeping up with what is being said, but a little while later the lecturer is reading from a text we have copies of and there are no notes to be taken at this point.

And then I feel it: my hand, still holding the pen, wants to dance.

It moves to the margin of the page and goes up-up-up, and circles back down, and back up twice and down again just a little wider now. One half of me is listening to how Zarathustra is carrying the Spirit of Gravity up a mountain and the other is drawing a funny bunny.

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What is going on here? You have done this, haven't you? Listening to someone on the phone you are filling in the little pre-printed squares on a page of a notepad. Or drawing ever-expanding rectangles or stick figures. Or, indeed, funny bunnies. Or a spider creature eating babies.

They say these doodles - that's what those scribblings are called - have meaning. That they can reveal some hidden truths about your mood or personality. That might be true, but that's not what I'm interested in at the moment.

What I'm interested in, is that initial feeling. That urge you feel to make those scribbles. Something that wants to move, that wants to loop and hatch and criss-cross. It's not about meaning at that point, it's about rhythm. It's about repeating the same little movement over and over again and then changing it to something else and repeating that. And go back and forth between the two.

And maybe then you suddenly see the beginning of the funny bunny. It emerges from the circles and spiky-forms you made. Maybe someone else would have seen a rocket ship in those shapes - that's where the "meaning" might come in.

But first, there is the dance...

Beginnings...

I'm trying to take a picture of my studio to put on this site. It's not working. None of the images satisfy me. Not sure why....

I take a break and read. Then suddenly it dawns on me. I realize why it's impossible to get a good picture of the studio. Because this place, it isn't a studio. Yet. There has not been any work done here. There is just some junk on the desk. Pencils and tubes of paint and stuff. Half of them are staged; I've put them there for the picture. (I'm not saying you should never stage anything for a picture, but in this case.... nah. It's just not working.)

I still need a picture for the site, tho'...

...

We're an hour and a half later (that's what the "..." are for) and I've got a picture. A close-up of some pencils lying around. If the studio isn't really a studio yet, at least it is the sketch of a studio.

The pencils also made me think of a line from Frank Ze's "An Invocation for Beginners":

"There is no need to sharpen my pencils anymore. My pencils are sharp enough. Even the dull ones will make a mark."

Very appropriate.

I know the picture isn't the greatest idea in the world. Some pencils for an art-blog? Really? But at least now there is a picture. I think it looks fine, for now. I'm pretty sure it will get changed quite soon. But for today, this is the mark I make.

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Now: Let's start this shit up!