Monday, April 29, 2013

"I Am Art" by David Stodolny

As someone who is very prone to 'museum fatigue,' I really enjoyed this short by Dreamworks animator David Stodolny.

He has a making-of video as well. Great to hear him talk about his process.

I confess to be a person who, most of the time, does not 'get' fine art. I can certainly appreciate the techniques of the old masters - but much of modern and contemporary art especially is lost on me. My interest lies in what most people would call commercial art. I like well-executed drawings of characters with lots of appeal and charisma that make you curious about their story. I like sprawling, epic visuals of fantasy worlds with lots of color. I like art that tells a (fairly) concrete story. I visited the Brewery Arts Complex this past weekend for their biannual art walk and read an artist's statement that had something to do with "breaking down the viewer so they can build themselves up again and find their true self and purpose". The art looked to me like lots of grey and blue and tan smudges on a huge canvas. I guess I didn't try very hard to be broken down and reborn while looking at it, but that certainly wasn't my experience.

However - a while ago I wrote about the Andy Goldsworthy documentary 'Rivers and Tides.' If my memory serves, the movie as a whole asks the question of 'what is art'? More specifically, because it takes so long to build Goldsworthy's pieces, and then he then leaves them to break down over time, when are they art and when are they no longer art? You can go down a very long road with that line of questioning - is art the idea in the person's brain? Is it still art when all the natural pieces he uses have broken up into their separate, individual parts again? Were those pieces art before he even started, merely via their potential to become art?

I have always remembered the very last scene - Goldsworthy walks out into a field in wintertime and throws huge handfuls of snow into the air. He lets the sparkling pieces drift away on the wind and watches them go. And then he turns around and walks back home. I remember, at the time I watched it, having my mind opened to the idea that he had created art that lasted only 4 or 5 seconds.

At the end of the day, it's my belief that 'art' is really anything anyone wants it to be. It's anything you find beautiful, or that appeals to your emotions, or makes you look at or think about something in a different manner than you had before, or that serves its function in an extremely efficient and pleasing way (in which case, the Dyson vacuum that I bought over the weekend is a work of art. THAT is a beautifully functional machine). I may not have 'understood' that artist's work at the Brewery Art Walk this past weekend - but at the end of the day, his art makes sense to him, and it also makes sense to someone who's going to buy it for tens of thousands of dollars, and he'll get to continue living in a beautiful downtown loft throwing colors on canvases all day, so who's really got the last laugh there?


Posts are gonna be really few and far between for the time being - I've even stopped doing daily instagrams (though I'm still making sure to sit with a sketchbook for at least a few minutes every day). Work continues to be crazy, and our lives are about to get crazier still - May and June hold several trips, visitors, AND a new art class (I am signing up tomorrow for Concept Design Academy's 'Sketching for Environment' with Ed Li). My motivation levels are running very low lately, which I think is due to a combination of a crazy work schedule, lack of exercise, lack of a class/artist environment keeping me accountable, and perhaps even a little bit of art burnout. One day I feel like anything is possible and everything is attainable - and the next I feel like I'm peering up through layers and layers and layers of inadequacies and things I'll never have time to learn. It's the ciiIIIIIRRRRclle of LIIIIIiiiife...

© Gina Florio 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TED Talk - Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That's OK

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about how increasing technological automation will affect the future of the art industry, and the future of society in general. It was mainly inspired by a post on the same subject from the Muddy Colors blog.

Today I came across a new TED video that poses the same question, and seems to have an answer for it as well.

"As much as 80% of people hate their job... that's 4 out of 5 spending most of their useful lifetime doing something they don't particularly enjoy." [...] "We are in a kind of work paradox. Because we work long and hard hours on jobs we hate to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't like."

This reminded me of an article I read recently, Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed:

"We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing... The 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work."

Many people might think this all smacks of conspiracy theories and lofty ideals not grounded in reality, and I wouldn't necessarily disagree. And I'll reiterate that I count myself as one of the lucky few people who enjoys my job, or at least the creative aspects of it. But, as people do, I often find myself dreaming of the things I could do if my life were free to pursue what I wanted. The article continues -

"I’ve only been back at work for a few days, but already I’m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing. The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time."

I think I could safely call myself addicted to learning. Obviously I'm passionate about art, learning to draw and paint - but there's so much more I'd like to achieve with my life. I'd love to learn to play an instrument, or two or three. I'd love to learn several languages. There are so many books I want to read. I want to learn to sew and make my own clothes. I'd love to really get to know food... grow my own fruits and vegetables, bake fresh bread, create great meals. Animation. Photography. Sculpting. Woodworking. Archery. But I know I'll never truly have the time to learn any of those things to the extent and level that I'd like.

Federico Pistono makes the transition to a fully automated society sound very simple in his TED Talk - and perhaps it COULD be that simple - if only all of society hopped on board at the same time. However, I doubt it will be the case, for the simple reason that money exists. Not only does it exist - our entire society is based on it. Speaking generally, people love free time - but they love money more. I feel like one of the only people I know who have realized that time is infinitely more valuable than money.

Watching that TED Talk actually made me sad - because I had the crushing realization that I don't think this will happen in our lifetime. I think the people in power will fight tooth and nail to keep our society based on money. Full automation probably won't happen for 100 years or more. And I'll probably never be a crackshot with a bow and arrow. But, I suppose worse things have happened.

© Gina Florio 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

'CosWorld' news / Remastered Super Metroid Screenshot

Despite appearances, I AM still alive and I DO still plan on keeping up the blog and daily sketches... it just might be a bit here and there over the next few weeks. Work has really ramped up and is keeping us pretty busy. The good news is, I'm editing the first show that I'm actually really excited to work on. It's called 'CosWorld,' a docuseries following several well-known cosplayers as they build their costumes and compete at comic conventions around the country. It will premiere on SyFy on August 27 (right after Face Off, one of my favorite reality shows)! Full press release here.

An awesome Zelda cosplay, which is NOT in the show because that would be illegal for me to show you.

Team Rocket... that's right! Also not in the show.

Needless to say, as a huge nerd, I'm very excited about this and have been enjoying my time cutting this awesome footage immensely. I'm also simultaneously disappointed at the number of people in my life who I've explained the premise to and their first question is "What's cosplay?" I tend to forget that not everyone lives in a nerd bubble like myself...

But I digress. Art things!

I came across this video some time ago on Laughing Squid. It's a timelapse of artist TJ Townsend's process 'remastering' a screenshot of 1994 SNES game Super Metroid. Even having never played the game, I got a lot out of watching this video. What's amazing about this artwork is that he didn't draw a single thing - this is all internet found photo manipulation. When I watch videos like these, I'm reminded of what an amazing program Photoshop truly is.

TJ says,
In order to give the screenshot a 16×9 aspect ratio this is not an actual screenshot from the game, but made up of several screenshots and sprite sets. Included in this scene is a metroid, which is not accurate to the game, but believable since there wouldn’t be a logical reason that one could not wander into Mother Brain’s room (And I really wanted to remake the metroid).
Have a great week, everyone - I'll be back as soon as I can!

© Gina Florio 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ze Frank: Thoughts on the Creative Career

This man's eyebrows are off the charts... and the words that come out of his mouth are pretty great too.

Anyone else noticing a theme here? Ze Frank: "If you want to be a writer, you should be writing... not tomorrow, but TODAY." Austin Kleon - "Shut up and write the book." Noah Bradley - "If you want to make art then you need to MAKE ART." Martha Graham - "JUST DO IT."

And just so you know, I talk a big game like I follow this rule inherently and just churn out drawings like clockwork, but it's amazing to me how still, sometimes one of the hardest things to get myself to do is sit down and just fucking draw. These past couple days especially I've been plagued by negative thoughts throughout the process, I haven't turned out a single thing I like, my hand seems to have an entirely different agenda than my brain, and it's frustrating and depressing and annoying and hard! I'd rather just watch TV or do ANYTHING else that doesn't require me to think and feel so much! But goddamn it I'm going to keep doing it even if it keeps being frustrating and depressing and annoying and hard! Does that make me a masochist?

© Gina Florio 2013

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Daily Sketches Weeks 13-14

Last couple weeks of work.

Mar 22 - drawings of Zosia Mamet that don't look like Zosia Mamet

(I was still working on the poster at this point so I missed a day)

Mar 24 - initial sketches for a personal creature design project

Mar 25 - I'm slightly obsessed with the BBC's 'Sherlock'/Benedict Cumberbatch

Mar 26 - more Cumberbatches

Mar 27 - preliminary Watson sketches

Mar 28 - gnome lady

Mar 29 - a visit to the Getty with my family, who was visiting

Mar 30 - cartoon versions of family

Mar 31 - some silly easter bunny concepts

Apr 1 - finished Watson

Apr 2 - Moriarity

Apr 3 - Sabor y Cultura Café - Dave's and my drawing/writing spot

Apr 4 - goats - research for the creature design project

Apr 5 - random giraffe professor

Apr 6 - I'm short.

I've now been keeping up with sketch-a-day for 3 months, and I'm so glad I have. Last fall, it was so easy to start my day, sit down at my computer in the morning, and think, "I'll just draw during lunch at work." Then lunch would roll around, and I'd think, "I'll just draw tonight." And then I'd go home from work, cook dinner, collapse on the couch and say, "I'll just draw tomorrow." But now that I've been keeping up with it for so long, it would actually be hard to stop, because I'd be ruining my own running streak. Some days aren't great (Easter bunnies). But some days I go to bed being proud of what I produced that day (Moriarity). And those days make it worth it.

Side note - Becky Kramer's Brother, the band whose poster I drew, had their first concert in a while on Friday night, and I was very excited to see that they had gotten prints of the poster! And not only that - they'd set aside a poster for me and all signed it. I may not be thrilled with the final result - but I have to admit, it was really special to hold a print of my first semi-official commission, and my first digital painting, in my hands. It's up on my home office wall now, serving as a reminder of what I've accomplished so far, and of how far I have still to go.

© Gina Florio 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013

Begin at the Beginning

Wise words, which have taken me a year to understand.

Or, put more succinctly:

© Gina Florio 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Self Help for Nerds" by Chris Hardwick

I had plans to post about other things today, but then someone sent me this article and I knew: This is what I must blog about.

(Wired magazine)

I'll try not to say too much because really, you should just click the link and read it. But I'll just say that, for me, the pursuit of artmaking skills that I've been undertaking for the past year now is, in large part, a psychological shift in the way I've been living my life. I wrote a whole post about this already so I won't go into detail here. And I'm certainly not saying that a year ago I was an unemployed alcoholic and now everything is great. But I was certainly at a low point, and I was aimless. Having goals and being driven has literally changed my life, as it did for Hardwick.

When I began to draw again, it was because I had the startling realization that I only get this one shot at life and I had to try to do something with it - otherwise I would be sitting on my deathbed feeling I'd wasted it. This is perhaps my greatest fear, deathbed regrets.

On a side note - I've realized recently that it's possible to be too overambitious. Originally I had myself on a set schedule of having to have a stellar portfolio by July of this year and jumping right into supporting myself as an artist, hopefully at a major animation studio. This has made me rush through studying a lot of the things I should be taking more time with. I need to learn to slow down and really absorb - otherwise I'll never truly learn, and the time will have been wasted. Hardwick's observation that "Nerds tend to spend a lot of time in the past and future, but to achieve happiness you have to cultivate the skill of living in the present" applies completely to me. I have stopped attaching specific places of work and even a certain timeframe to my art - as long as I'm progressing, learning, and enjoying the work, I'm happy with myself. Keeping an end goal in mind is a good thing - so long as it doesn't get in the way of your focus in the present. "Enjoy the burrito," as Hardwick says.

© Gina Florio 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Austin Kleon - Shut Up and Write the Book

I wrote about productivity and distraction a few weeks ago. In his recent blog post, writer Austin Kleon (author of one of my favorite books on creativity and artmaking, Steal Like An Artist) shares his methods for staying focused.


He touches on things that I'm definitely guilty of - namely, doing things that seem like they're productive (reading books about drawing, watching drawing tutorials, writing a blog about drawing) but that aren't actually productive. Well, they are, to a point - but after so much of it, I'm doing it in lieu of actually DRAWING. That's the main reason I started doing the daily sketches. Like Noah Bradley says - "If you want to make art, then you need to MAKE ART."

Kleon's fourth point - "Less notification, more meditation" - is intriguing to me. I find that when I'm working, whether it's drawing OR editing, I can usually start off the day with a good burst of energy and momentum, but as the day goes on I suffer from scatterbrained-ness and distraction more and more. I've done a few things recently to help remedy this. 

1. Going cold turkey. I installed the Firefox add-on Leechblock, and now I can't get on Facebook, Reddit, etc. during working hours, except during lunchtime. I've also turned off all notifications on my phone. The only time it makes a peep is if someone is calling or texting me.

2. Make a plan. I've been writing my goals for the day on a post it note every morning and sticking it up on my computer when I get to work. If necessary I have breakdowns for each task. I try not to waste time doing anything not pertaining to those tasks.

3. Meditate. - I have always remembered telling someone about my issues with distraction (a year or two ago) and they immediately said "Meditate. I sit still for 30 minutes every morning, and my whole day is better." I had never given it much thought, until I read Kleon's post - in which he linked to a post about meditating that put my mind more at ease about it. I've only tried it once, but I did come out of it feeling more focused and calmer.

In general, I'm trying to keep in mind that all the little things we get caught up with in our day-to-day lives don't really matter. I have a tendency to try to do too much with too little time, take shortcuts and rush things - but if I just slowww dowwwn, do one thing at a time to the best of my ability, and really absorb and learn from whatever I'm doing, I will lead a much less frantic and more fulfilling life. (We can all dream, right?)

© Gina Florio 2013