In the Mood for Art (but not difficulties of terminology)

The arty sites have a plethora of contests, just for fun, and I’ve been finding them a source of inspiration. I’ve only entered one so far, but got an honourable mention. I’ve been working with others in view, and it’s had the effect of making me even more prolific but not actually posting anything… just in case I post something I could have put in one of these small contests. Most of them say “only new images please.”

I’m usually reasonably pleased with the pictures I turn out, but something unsettling has occurred. The last four pictures I made… I didn’t just like them; I loved them. I was using techniques I avoided before (drawing and painting) and didn’t set out meaning to; it just happened. Even stranger, I only wanted to make one of them, and that was in the nature of a quickie (to try out a Photoshop tutorial).

A short aside: I have a bit of a mental block when it comes to talking about this particular hobby. I don’t like saying ‘my art’ or ‘my artwork’ as it sounds so pompous, and usually alternate between ‘my pictures’ and ‘my images’… but that gets old quite fast. Another mental block I have is when it comes to digital stuff, I can never say “I painted” or “I drew,” as I see those being for traditional media only (real pencils, paints, paper). I know that ‘painting’ and ‘drawing’ are accepted terms in digital media too… isn’t drawing with a mouse or a tablet pen just as much a physical process as drawing with a pencil? And it’s not even as precise, half the time. Still, I avoid it, as I know if I said “I painted a picture today,” most people would assume I’d had the watercolours out.

That leaves me with the problem of how to describe the process… “I made something, created something, did something?” Icky. Overtones of school and Blue Peter.

About the four pictures I made that I liked more than I expected to… I was fairly sure none of them would work, and if they did, it would take some hard slogging to make anything of them; wouldn’t it be easier to make a vector picture with gradients and layer styles? I was in two minds about trying these projects at all. Even worse, I disliked the raw material I started out with… two ugly fractals, an artificial vector flower (made by myself in Paintshop Pro), an untidy Photoshop brush (still be to superceded… deliberately spelling that with a ‘c’…) and a shaky drawing with the small El Cheapo tablet dating from the Year 2000 which I recently dug out from a plastic bag. (It doesn’t go with Mac System X, so I had to put it on the PC… and even then the installation was a bit iffy).

The tablet is supposed to make drawing easier, but my first effort was messy and not worth a second look. I thought “never mind, I’ll send it across to the Mac so the little white Mac-mouse can clean it up.” That’s not what the tablet is for… but the shaky drawing is now in one of my Golden Four pictures.

The thing is, you often hear people say (usually of photos) that if it was bad to start with, you can’t make it good. I disagree. You could take the worst photo in the world and turn it into a thing of beauty, though it probably wouldn’t be a photo any more.

To start with, it’s all I can do to keep on with these tough projects, but as time goes by and I see signs that something good is emerging, a sense of wonder creeps in… and you couldn’t drag me away.

This might not seem to be connected, but we were watching Stargate after missing the beginning. It was about an alien city in a dome; the citizens were linked to a main computer and were being brainwashed. People were being killed to keep the population small and manageable, and the survivors’ memories were altered so that they wouldn’t notice their fellows had vanished. I was convinced the Council (or some higher body) were the villains, but they were as much victims as anybody. At the end, I said to Mum, “who was doing it?”
“The computer,” said Mum, squinting strangely at me.
“I just thought… someone must have programmed it to do those things?”
“It was the computer. It got into their minds, like it’s got into yours, and makes them all unseeing and unheeding…”

So, the computer’s the villain. Such a weaver of fantastic worlds and things that don’t exist… even pictures that aren’t on paper. Though, the other day, someone I was talking to said it wasn’t till she had one of her fractals professionally printed and held it in her hands that she realized it was real.

Sometimes I wonder what will happen when I die… will all these pictures, including the Golden Four, be zapped? My diaries burned, disks shredded, words lost? My whole life on computer, deleted.

Mum says she doesn’t care what happens after she dies. The whole planet could blow up; it wouldn’t make any difference to her. But it matters to me. Apart from caring what happens to cats, trees, and dolphins, I want to feel I’ve left some kind of mark. If the planet implodes, so do my pictures. Maybe I will be the only person (apart from Mum and the Computer) to have seen them.

It’s funny how the subconscious mind operates. The other night I dreamed a young student was procrastinating by churning out fractals and Apophysis scripts instead of studying for his exams. His study topics included fractals but he was wasting time on fractal art instead. He even wrote a little poem which he put on his site… and this is it, word for word, not a woolly half-memory of a fading dream:

If I don’t do fractals,
They will turn up, lovingly wrapped,
In my hand.

The breaks are in the wrong places but it has exactly 17 syllables… like a haiku. Yes, I suppose the computer has got into my mind.

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