Saturday, April 08, 2017

Shakespeare Never Did This

A couple of things.  Lately I've been working on some artwork.  The local gallery in town has a new show that is opening tonight called Pretty Ugly.  I entered three pieces, which I thought were all pretty good, however, the judges just picked one.  I guess I should feel honored, and I do somewhat.  But at the same time, I'm a bit disillusioned.  Is this really how artist get started?  Somehow I don't think so, and I think about it like I do a lot of other things that deals with artistic endeavors with the exception of perhaps writing.  Location helps.  Location might even be twenty-five per cent of it unless you're a writer.  These days you can just about live anywhere and submit your writing to a publisher.   With visual art though it really would be better to live in a big city with more galleries.  However, from what I've seen, the process of getting shown in a gallery looks to be the same, which astounds me to a degree.

I know this is going to sound like sour grapes, but I shall continue.   At any rate, I guess I should be grateful that this small town I live in pop. 94,000 even has an art gallery.  Even though 94,000 sounds like a fairly mid-sized town (at least for Texas it is), it seems like the mentality is more around a town of 24,000 or more ie. small-town minded.  Anyway it's Texas, what can I say.  At any rate, I digress.  But from what I've seen with these art solicitations calling on artist to submit their art work, what happens is you pay an entrance fee up front to do that.  Here locally it's not too expensive, just twenty bucks.  Other towns do the same thing.  Twenty bucks here, thirty there, etc.  In a lot of ways it's very similar to the way one submits poetry for publication.

Poetry magazines call on writers for submissions of their poetry, and generally they'll allow the writer to submit up to three of their poems, and they'll judge whether they want to use them in their publication.  Sometimes they may have a theme that they want the poetry to fit into.  However, they want twenty or thirty or whatever amount of money so that it helps to pay for the judges to read the poems or view the art work, and it also helps to sponsor the events as well.  Defray cost.  The upshot of the poetry submissions is that you might get picked, or you might not. 

The same thing applies for visual art.  With poetry however, they don't pay you (generally) for your submissions, they'll send you a copy of the publication that your poem was published in.  I guess that's something.  Sometimes they may send you multiple copies of books, and I guess, that all can go on your resume.  The same is true for entering a gallery show, except, getting a piece of artwork accepted just allows you to show and potentially sell your artwork there.  If it sells good, but then the gallery also gets a commission.  Here it's 20%.  And if not, it can go on your resume.  Have you ever heard the term starving artist?  Therein lies the rub, or a bit of my frustration.  

So up front, the artist buys his materials, which is costly these days.  Pays $20. or more just to be judged to show in the gallery, and then charged a percentage if it sells, which all varies depending on the gallery.  What I'm saying is it gets can get costly quick, and that's even if you sell a painting or whatever.  And people wonder why art is so high priced?   No less the time, the energy, and effort. 
At any rate, above is the artwork I submitted, and that was selected for this recent show.  It's called Tempus Fugit.  (That's Fugit, not Fug it.)  I think it came out pretty well, and was happy with the results.  Below are the other two pieces that were not accepted.
I was fairly pleased with both of them too, but they were rejected for whatever reason.  Actually the bottom one, which I titled Roots to Branches, might be the one that more closely echoes the theme of the show, Pretty Ugly.  That theme is a bit misleading initially.  I had a different take on it as well, until I read further about it and saw some examples.  The term Pretty Ugly was further defined by the aesthetics of a philosophy known as Wabi-Sabi.  To my understanding of that philosophy it's a more minimal approach, one that allows some of the mistakes or accidents to exist in the work or it might just be the subject matter like flowers that are transient by nature.  Here's a further link if you'd like to explore other artwork that is exemplified by that aesthetic.   Actually, I think the floral impressionistic artwork above it also closely fits that criteria as well, but what do I know...  Plus I'm not the judges either.  Therein lies the rub...

A point of contention for me though occurred at the last show.  The theme of that show was, Things With Wings.  So I'll let your imagination dictate what that means.  But for me, I thought of several subjects from the obvious, like birds, to angels, and butterflies, but also dragons, gargoyles, to even a pig with wings, or vampires, super heroes, and so forth.  I enter two pieces, one an abstract acrylic painting about birds (which was accepted), and the other a watercolor of a marsh with birds in the background sky.  Granted the birds aren't the main focus of the painting, but there are birds overhead in it.
 I was fairly pleased with it as it was maybe the second watercolor painting I'd ever done, and it came out pretty decent.  But they rejected it.  No biggie really.  But...  I attended the opening of the show, and there was a lot of well-made art there.  I'm always a bit surprised that even though this area of Texas is made up of a lot of smaller type towns, the art scene and the artist here are pretty good.  Some very good.

But my point of contention was one person had entered several photographs.  One of them was of jets planes, but one was a colorful photograph of leaves from a tree that had fallen on the ground.  It was colorful, pretty, well composed, but how do leaves have wings?   Yes, they tumble to the ground from gravity, and sometimes drift in the air carried up to the heavens by the breeze or air currents, and sail through the air hither and yon.  But wings?  I rest my case.
I ran across a couple of things over the past few weeks while doing artwork and other things.  One is a nice lecture on Joe Kubert.  Joe Kubert is a comic book artist that created many characters, and sometime back in the 80s created one of the first schools specifically catering to comic artist.  I'd known about Kubert since childhood as I bought some of his Sgt. Rock comics along with Easy and Company, G. I. Combat, The Haunted Tank, and some others.  For whatever reason his artwork always had a certain gravity and grit to it, and actually conveyed how I thought war should have looked.  I'll also say, I wish I could draw even an inkling that well or as well as some of my other favorite comic artist.  Those guys are pros and don't get much respect.  A very underappreciated field and ghettoize by many academics (snobs really) who think of themselves above looking at comics or think that comics have no value.

This also goes back and relates to some of the art world.  For some time I've been looking at what is sometimes termed fine art.  And I'll admit it's broad within that scope--anything from abstract, to surreal, to representational, plus any combination thereof.  But once you start looking at that stuff there's a blur.  Don't get me wrong, I love some of that abstract expressionist action painting style, but I think it's over done.  I don't have too many qualms about the originators, although I find some pretension there as well.  But it does seem like there are a bunch of imitators as well, and I'll admit I'm one too so I can't throw stones.  I guess it all boils down to ones taste. I've seen the reversal of that from comic book artist I have know as well.  They can sometimes look down their noses at a lot of the fine artist like de Kooning or whoever.   So I guess it swings both ways.

At any rate, I'm rambling.  I found this cool lecture on Joe Kubert on Youtube.  If you enjoy comic artwork or Kubert check it out.  I found it pretty absorbing.
The lecture takes a minute or so to get going, but once Arlen Schumer delves into Kubert's career it really got interesting for me.
Sticking with the topic of comics, I ran into a pretty cool one recently called  Symmetry by Matt Hawkins with artwork by Raffael Ienco.  It's a science fiction comic about a utopian society in the future where something happens and upsets the current world and allows some of the citizens in that world to peer out and see what the real world is really like.  If you'll go over to Amazon, there's a free preview of several pages of the comic and story.  One of the first things you'll notice--at least I did, was the art work.  When I saw it I went Wow!  It is really that good.  The story from that free preview drew me right in.  It sort of reminds me a bit of something like Logan's Run or some other SF tale where on the surface all looks great, but underneath it all things get a bit darker, and once examined, it's not all that great.  But it has some AI robots in it which I loved, and other neat tropes taken from SF.    Also in that Amazon preview you'll notice that they give you some of the notes in the back of the first collected book by Matt Hawkins.  He talks a bit about his creative process, where he came up with the concept for the story, and his take on that world.  I found that all really interesting as well.  Smart guy.  You can find his blog here too, by the way:  matttalks.com

Oh, here's one more thing.  Sometime back I picked up a collection of The Best of Philip K. Dick stories recently on Ballantine Del Rey press with a forward by John Brunner.  I started reading a few of them just on a lark.  I don't always click with Dick (ok that sounds a bit funny).  Anyway the first two short stories I read were Beyond Lies the Wub and the other, Roog.  They were two of his earliest stories he'd written and published.  They were pretty good, but with Roog I didn't totally get it.  I thought I got enough of it to figure out what was going on, but I felt like I was missing something.  Do you ever feel that way with a story or movie?  Sometimes I don't know if it's just me or the creator.  So I when I got up this morning I went to the web.  Evidently I feel better now as when I went to Wikipedia I found out it just wasn't my lack of understanding.  It really wasn't written clear enough--I'll put it that way.   By the way while looking for something on the Roog story I found a place you can read it free online, along with several of his other short stories.  So if you are curious about it; read it first here.  Then if you feel the same way you can read the Wikipedia page as well.    You can also go here to for a little more insight about the story Roog.  It's a 1971 interview with P K Dick.