Monday 27 July 2009

Art Monday: remembering my first time

I'll never forget the first time I felt my artwork had reached 'professional' quality.

Every piece of artwork on this blog was created after this one drawing. It is the second page of a narrative assignment done in my first year of Fine Arts at university. The series is called The Three Fates and the Acorns, and it consisted of 10 drawings in total. This was page 2, but the first part I had completed and I felt I had created something special.

I had been using .3mm leads since high school, and still had many unformed opinions about mythology, religion and folklore. I was using acorns as a motif that year, both to symbolize nascent wisdom and to represent birth. In the series, each of the three fates (Norse, Roman or Greek, I didn't specify) was dying due to acorns. The one above is drowning because a tiny cluster of acorns is tied to her toe. Fate defeated by wisdom.

Mainly I was really happy with the tightness and quality of my cross-hatching, and the minimal style of disconnected pieces of sinewy bodies.

On critique day, I was initially disheartened as our professor made his way around to see the work before group crit started. He said he didn't get it, it didn't flow, and it was up to me if I wanted to show it to the group. I insisted I should.

In group crit, I went through each piece. Some "ooo"'s, some comments about the line work. A couple of people agreed the deaths depicted in the series were misogynistic. I was taken aback by the accusation. Misogynistic! It had never entered my mind. (Some would say that's the problem, I suppose.)

The professor replied before I could. He had done a complete about-face on the series due to my presentation. He loved it! He began to vigorously defend it as decidedly not misogynistic and said that was overly dismissive, or some such. He marveled to the group that he had not "gotten it" when I showed it to him before crit.

After class, one of my female classmates stopped me to tell me that it was the most beautiful series of the year. A couple of others with her agreed. I left class with a huge rush at the overall responses. To this day though, I worry myself with possible misinterpretations of my art, particularly because so much is secular and science-based.

Sometimes I wonder. How much of the positive response was from my brief explanation, and how much from the images? Does it make the images less potent if they must be explained?

- - - - - - - -

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery
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Weapon of Mass Imagination said...

Misogynistic... I laughed pretty hard at that. It sadly fits in with the snobby art student sterotype. I'm glad your prof jumped in to defend you though.

I'm not getting the misogyny. I try to think of an equal pretensious word to match that, but I'm failing epicly. There was a reason I never made it into art skool! I thought it was because I don't have talent, but maybe it's because I can't speak Pretensionese :P

I am getting the drowning though... Though it is a graceful death, as you'd expect fate to have planned for itself :P

Before I caught the bubbles I thought it was a zero gravity dance, which I guess is true of drowning. Its just a matter of how you play it out those last throws that determines the type of dancing you do...

I won't worry too much about the art being misinterpreted. When you think about it EVERY form of human expression gets misinterpreted and spun when absorbed by others. You could explain your art till the cows came home, but we'd all not quite get it. Problem with none telepathic or hive minded organisms I guess :P

Besides you've achieved something many artists don't, if your even noticed enough to be misinterpreted! Afterall how many other non-science trilobite artworks have been misread throughout the ages ;)

With that science and fossil foundation your art stands a better chance of having someone hundreds of years in the future being able to decipher part of what it was about, when cyber archeaologists dig up the lost layers of the internet. The written language surrounding your work will be unreadable (due to english having decayed into texting lingo or they just talk in 0 and 1's :P), but the symbolism of your work will still be recognizible.

You're work would be put on display in a museum, like a cavedrawing. Proof that primitive none cybornetic humans could still make digital art. Just with such a primitive understanding of science and the universe.

(Aside- Thinking of misinterpretations, lets take a moment to sympathize with those poor early humans who did the cavedrawings. With western cultures assumption because it was long ago it must have been stupider then us we look down on them for "trying" to make art. Those guys were cutting edge in their day, and I think it is sick how they often get protrayed or depicted in pop culture as jokes. That's misinterpretation! Aside over!)

Okay so my response to your post kind of jumped the shark... but I think there is a good short story in the works with the cyber art historian of the year 3009 digging through the primoridal layers of the cyberspace and finding your blog Glendon!

And just like that I illustrate misinterpretation, despite your great and intelligent explanation against it ;p Way to go stupid me hehehe

Sean Craven said...

I've been thinking about it and I realized that the moment when I first felt as if I was doing professional work happened quite recently -- I started getting that feeling when I had some of my paleo stuff accepted for the University of Bristol DinoBase. Seeing my work next to people like Sibbick and Hallett blew my tiny mind.

Then when I took my first Digital Printmaking class last year and saw the response my work for Swill garnered from real artists kind of sealed the deal.

Heck, Glendon, your encouragement actually played a roll in my new egomania.

Craig, got to say that the idea of the cave artists being anything but masters is a new one to me. That stuff is incredible. I scored a nice big portfolio of reproductions at a yard sale a few years back -- the mind blowing gorgeousness, the sense of design combined with observed detail... Those guys or gals are right up there as far as I'm concerned.

(Capcha word? lowcal. Is that a hint?)

Glendon Mellow said...

Hey Craig,
Perhaps with the rest of the series any misogynistic and cruel overtones would be revealed differently than they are now...but it sure wasn't my intention. As Ambrose Bierce noted: "Painting: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic."

Thanks for the trip into the future of the intertubes/blogohedron. Nice to know my stuff will live forever. Now if only I could blast it into space like radio waves to propagate around the universe...

Sean, I know what you mean about seeing your work with the "big kids". It's a rush. Much more exciting than selling an original (which makes me sad), is selling an illustration for reproduction. It's a type of virile meme-propagation.

Thanks for the kind words, both of ya.

Christopher Zenga said...

I believe that The impact an image has on the viewer is no greater or less than it would be if it had prefaced by an explanation. I think that the emotions you experience when you are first presented with an image happen in THAT moment. If an image terrifies you or shocks you, angers you or brings you to tears it's going to do that regardless. My best example was when I went to go see the Body Worlds exhibit, I knew G√ľnter von Hagen used cadavers as his medium, I even saw the images on the 11 o'clock news the night before the show, but nothing prepared me for the feeling I had when I was in there presence. I'll go one better, Michele was 8 months pregnant with Madison and we knew we were approaching the exhibit with fetuses', in particular, a corpse of a woman who died during child birth with the baby who died along with her still in her now dissected womb. That was powerful, heart wrenching even and I knew it was coming. A little story is nice, the Wedding Vanitas write up is something I just recently read and after all those years of the painting being on my wall, it was nice to take it down and get a little re-education about the piece, but the painting was every bit as powerful before hand.

That's just my two cents, for what it's worth.

Later days,

Christopher Zenga

Glendon Mellow said...

Hey Chris,
I agree the Body Worlds show can certainly rock you to your core once you see it in person. And the explanations to each person/artpiece became a refuge to avert my eyes from the powerful nature of the show.

Perhaps I could solve the problem by putting up the art, waiting a few days, and then posting an explanation. But that seems a bit messy. Hm.

Peter Bond said...

Art works on levels. The viewer will not "get" all the levels and some will need to be explained. But the viewer will always "get" at least one level (specifically the base aesthetic level - "do I like this or not?")

I like the piece! More specifically, the detachment of the body form when you get closer. I had to zoom in to see all the detail.

I think I have yet to experience the moment of "doing professional work." But I'm sure it feels sweet!

Glendon Mellow said...

I don't know that normally I would notice my artwork ratcheting upward in quality -I hope I have made some jumps since- but in this instance remember being very happy and impressed with my self. Different from the normal spots of doubt that mar my view of most pieces.

Marco Meredith said...

Happy 500th post. Ive recieved one of your post cards the other day, 'Myhtical Flying Trilobite Fossil 1' and seeing your work in print is totally differnt to seeing it on the screen.

your work has a really distinctive feel to it, your confidence with drawing shows and i think its when you reach that stage were you can convey your subject with an almost minimalist touch yet give it so much personality that you succeed.

Really hope that things pick up for you Glendon, youve got the talent so lets hope bigger and better opportunities roll in for 2011.


Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Marco! (Why'd you comment way over here? No biggie.)

Ah, you picked up the postcard! Yeah I agree. Work done traditionally often seems to me to transfer well to print, whereas without the back-lit screen, digital work can look a little muddy.

My wife says the same: I tend to throw too much into my work, and need to remind myself to simplify. My more successful paintings are simpler, more minimalist ones.

Thanks for the well wishes - for you as well my friend! I'm excited about 2011 so far, though I don't know where my next pay cheque will come from. I just know there will be one.

All the best, Marco.

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