Monday, December 25, 2017

Art is Magic*


Don't listen to the Brony propaganda.  I'm here to tell you that the true magic is art, not friendship (by extension, if Deidara is right, and art is an explosion, then true magic is an explosion, which means my childhood inspiration that fireworks looked like magic was right.  Birdwalk complete).  I'd guess there are a lot of people in the world who don't get a kick out of making cool shit, but I was never their teacher.  Last fall I found myself feeling nostalgic for my art school days - some of my favorite times in college consisted of staying up way past midnight, drinking tons of Hy-Vee cherry cola and working on projects.  Printmaking students were granted 24/7 access to the studio, and there was more than one time when after dark - heedless of the numerous drug dealers and rapists who were undoubtedly lurking (joking!!!  Everyone knows that sort of thing happened on the other side of campus) - I walked down the hill from the Tropicana, across Brookside, between the Twin Oaks, and back up past the conservatory and student union to the art building, where I'd call a campus police officer to let me in.  (In actual fact, I think I did this once under a tornado watch.  Art makes me want to do crazy things....)
My favorite painting from Taka-san's

So I spent a goodly portion of my last year in Mongolia reliving the glory days.  This started after being exposed to all that art and otaku culture in Kyoto...I got back to UB with ideas and a need to do something.  All the professional development I did that year probably also had a hand in it.  I had actually been thinking about doing more of my own sketchbook work after Amsterdam - in my IB training, we learned about the comparative analysis DP art students do, and I was very flattered when our teacher asked if he could use my gallery work from the Stedelijk for a guide he was writing about DP art, but I wanted to actually try it myself with something I was passionate about.  And that's why I started sketching and writing notes about ukiyo-e prints, Impressionism, Art Nouveau, and anime and manga.  Call me crazy, but it's FUN.  I learn something new, and it sends me off looking up something else.
I actually started with the paintings I saw at Taka-san's, which made me wonder about other artists creating "fine art" using the anime style.  This led me to Takashi Murakami's Superflat works, and his establishment of Kaikai Kiki.  As I looked up some of the artists in this collective, I found Aya Takano's Keisai Eisen with Oiso Station 9th on Her Back, which directly referenced the ukiyo-e prints I fell in love with back in my wild college days.  From there, I started comparing ukiyo-e with modern anime - the use of line!  The color!!  The compositions!!!  At the same time, I was finishing up a plushie.  Ironically, it was the only non-anime one I made, which I kind of hated, but while I was working on it, I had to make it a tie, and I ended up painting a plain scrap of silk to do so, which made me remember how much I liked painting silk.  At some level I knew this, or I wouldn't have had all the materials I needed for it, but actually getting my lazy ass in gear and doing it forced me to notice the way you can use line and color in silk painting.  After a lot of sketches and a little frustration because male characters are way harder to make artistic, not least of all because they tend to be less colorful), I finally made a painting...but I still haven't taken a picture of it - maybe I'll add it to this post once I get back to Yomaha.

Finally, I planned to share my resume.  I got this idea last December that I should make an illustrated resume, in manga style since I was hoping to get a job in Japan.  When I was living in Shanghai, with dreams of becoming an illustrator, I did the late night art party pretty regularly, listening to the deed-o deed-o of people coming and going from the Seven-Eleven across the street, which blew in on my cross-breeze. Sitting in my parent's dining room over the holidays last year wasn't really the same thing, but then again, having my Dad in the next room watching tv in his recliner and my mom bustling in and out as she worked on whatever - to some extent, it had that same way of demonstrating that I wasn't the last person alive.  It was comfortable, working on my resume in those circumstances. 
I ended up being ridiculously proud of the damn thing, but it still took me til June to get the job I'd been praying for.  The layover in Narita a year ago was a twisting knife in my gut - I read the newest chapter of Shingeki No Kyojin, smelled curry, was overwhelmed by enlargements of some of my favorite Hokusai prints, and teased by a duty-free shop called Akihabara...so close, and yet so far away!  I actually didn't get to do much more art the rest of the year, because I was so busy wrapping things up in Mongolia, but that just meant that when I started working on the first class for my master's degree, a painting course that I just finished, I was full of ideas and raring to go. 

*So...this was sort of a flashback post.  I wrote most of it last year in Mongolia, but never finished it.  I figured it was a good lead in to writing about the work I did this semester, so went ahead and published it - albeit with a few tense-changes and slight tweaks.

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