Thursday, November 12, 2015

I just don't know what to do with myself.

At one time, things were easy. Now, not so much.

While I'm not (nor have I ever been), an organized person I like to take my time planning things. This is perhaps where my fascination and deep love for wargames comes from. The time it takes to assemble, paint, base organizes, plan, adjust, deploy and generally play a game often takes weeks, months or even years. Hell, my model case alone literally contains thousands of hours of work.

A Labor of Love. Or quite possibly insanity.

The devil of the thing is, quite frankly, that all of my interests run deep. And by deep, I mean that everything I'm interested in is deeply time consuming. Not only are my interests time intensive, but they are also focus intensive. It takes a hell of a lot of focus to get through reading material like this:

It's a complicated as it sounds.

Aside from my interests, there is also my vocation. I'm a painter (obviously). iIve also had a good deal of success so far at what I do; in both realms of painting and teaching. I feel like I've made tremendous strides in my ability to paint. I've written extensively about the Dunning-Krueger effect (where the more you know, the less confidence you have in your ability). Since my confidence in my work has been sliding for a while, I suppose it only means I'm getting better... right?

Totally missed the mark... right?

My interests have in a way always defined me. I've always thought of myself as somebody who learns to do things. I am the sum total of what I can do. 

Then this happened. 
Daddy solos the childcare quest in World of Babycraft

Suddenly, I found myself in a world without free time. Being the only one of a pair without troublesome things like a "work schedule" or "responsibilities" I willingly (and happily) opted to become a stay at home dad. But as I took on this new slew of duties, I found that the the swaths of uninterrupted focus abruptly disappeared. There was just no way in hell I could piece together anything even remotely resembling "free time". Up to my ears in diapers, and up to my neck in something totally new. I have been effectively buried for nearly two years. 

Now what once was a sleeping baby in the stripy onesie above, has metamorphosed into this:

Announcing Princess Deep Trouble 
from the Kingdom of the Terrible Two's. 
(which are ironically not as much trouble as everyone makes them out to be)

And recently, for the first time in what feels like forever.

I am bored.

I find myself in a unique position. It's not because I'm not busy, because I am. I'm terribly busy. kids are an egregious amount of work, pretty much all the time. But now, I have just enough sleep and just enough of a lull between naps, snacktime and park trips to cobble together "free time." It's not a lot, maybe a couple of hours a day and one full day a week (when Charlotte is at daycare) where I get to once again become my own master. However, it is enough free time for me to recognize that I should be doing something other than watching television.

The hard part is that often this free time is not enough time to do much other than take a deep breath, or occasionally a nap. But once in awhile I get just enough of a break I can actually contemplate doing some of the things that I used to think worthwhile. I am the sum total of what I can do... right?

Unfortunately I'm having some difficulty deciding what that should be. I hesitate to start any new paintings, simply because Kasey and I are actively planning for a second baby. It wont be long before I'm bitch-slapped back into the land of 4 hours of sleep at night and endless bottle feedings, (plus the added magic of a 2andahalfyearold demanding an "upside down day" (which is where I hold her upside down and walk around the house).

The solution is this far, not blatantly obvious. And really, I don't think this blog gets many visitors, so really I'm just asking the wind questions. And I'm fine with that. Mostly because I'm fairly convinced that at some point, the answer will become obvious. It's the way things have always worked. Whenever I've been at an impasse with no obvious answer in sight, something comes along and shows itself to be the obvious resolution. It worked that way in college. It worked that way with Mission:Renaissance and it worked that way when we bought our house; it seems to be the way the universe functions in these matters.

If that is in fact true, then it's important to remember that all roads lead to Rome. If the resolution comes to you, then in some sense it doesn't matter what you do, the resolution comes when it's ready to get there. So like everything else right now, the solution is simple:

I should take a nap.

Thanks interwebs. You've been most helpful.

-Genius zzzzz....

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ghost in the machine Pt. 1 an Introduction

For a along time I have wrestled very deeply with my aversion to contemporary art.

The first question that always came to bear whenever I talked about my wrestling with the eternal "why" of painting and the contemporary was, oddly enough; "why". Why care? Couldn't you just ignore it if you don't want to be part of it?

The short answer is no. The long answer is incredibly long, but the medium length answer is that contemporary art has always been the grain of sand in the oyster of my understanding.

God. That's horrible to look at isn't it? 

That sounds kinda icky, so let me put it another way.

I have always understood things in terms of systems and categories. Whenever I undertake a new project, especially if the subject is complex, I first spend a lot of energy attempting to learn the system by which it operates. The mechanical side of painting was very much like that, and my training made it doubly so. The idea that all the values in a given subject can be organized into three (called 3 general tones) and further broken down into another three for each given area of tone (a light middle, a medium middle, and dark middle) instantly appealed to my understanding of how to approach subjects of nearly infinite complexity.

Likewise the ability to break colors down into Munsell notation, or the ability to think of color as existing in a three-dimensional "color space", was extraordinarily helpful in pushing my ability to render objects in a way that replicated reality. This was fundamental in pushing my painting style toward that of tromp l'oeil which now comprises 90% of my work.

My name is Frank. Sometimes I paint stuff.

A system of thought is a lot like a system of language. It allows us to describe and categorize things in a way that we can understand and utilize to get things done.

Now imagine you come across something that there is literally, no words for. It is not even like anything you have a word for. In contemporary philosophy, this is referred to as a "singularity". And by most accounts of such things exists throughout history (like the first time people saw men riding horses in combat, or when gunpowder was first used on the battlefield) it is often met with fear, terror and panic.

Not to say that I run screaming from a building any time I see a painting by Jenny Saville, but the effect is not dissimilar to the aforementioned grain of sand. It's profoundly irritating.

Actually, I might run screaming 
from this one

Also, this is not to say that the individual works of art themselves are irritating (although that happens) but that the very idea of the "contemporary" itself does not fit within the system of art as I have come to understand it. It is the equivalent of listing the primary colors as "red, yellow, blue, and scream" or listing a values in a painting as "light, middle, dark, and scarf."

It would also be one thing if this singular anomaly were isolated. But it's not. Being an artist who is profoundly interested in the systems of art, you simply cannot interact with anything art related with out bumping into it on a regular basis (perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be it smacking you in the face with a wet fish on a regular basis). Inevitably if you are hit in face with enough wet fish when walking through a desert, you eventually begin to wonder, "Where the are all the fish coming from?" And also, "Why the fuck are there even fish flying through the air all the way out in the desert anyway?

I have wrestled with this problem over and over. And I think I have an answer but it is a complicated one. It is a synthesis of history, theory, language and even a little money and class thrown in to boot. The posts in this series entitled "The Ghost in the Machine" will eventually become the basis for a book I am in the process of writing entitled "The Architecture of the New and the Phenomenon of the Avante-Garde." I'll attempt to make it as theory light and humor heavy as possible.

I'll also have pictures of bunnies from time to time:


Watch this space.

Genius out.