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Musings on Artistic Mental Laws

Woke up this morning, did the usual waking-and-checking-email-and-coffee ritual. Pulled up a blank page of Painter. Did three roughs of almost scary gearworld pieces--nude women with masks and gear tattoos, in crevices and alcoves in the concrete.

Said, "Hmm, those are kinda interesting."

Flipped open a new page and did a sketch of the female follow-up to "Valley of the Wang" again featuring our horrified lizard hero. Snickered a bit.

Some days I feel like the bastard child of Goya and Beatrix Potter.*

The thing is, there's no mental switch. It's not like one side or the other is a mental indulgence. My brain is as likely to spit out cuddly slugs and the lizards who love 'em as concrete craziness, and vice versa. People tell me that they like the funny stuff, or the cute stuff, or that they prefer the dark stuff, but there's no division in my brain--it's all just The Stuff. I don't have to be in a particular mood. There are sketches of gearworld paintings that include puffins with umbrellas, and quiet, grim little hooded mice in blindfolds that are starting to get almost creepy.

And this is why I don't really buy into what some people have told me--that the gearworld paintings are real art (with the implication that the other stuff isn't.) If any of it is, all of it must be, because it all happens the same way. If I had to go into some kind of trance and pop in the Tool CDs and dim the lights and do an hour of tai chi, then I could see it, but...no. It just wanders out when its in the mood, interspersed with horrified lizards and chicken doomsayers. In my brain, the gearworld is a place, and I am not allowed to do things that don't fit there, but these arbitrary rules apply to other things as well. Some things just don't fit.

I am reminded at this point, of my hero, James Christiansen. He was doing a painting of a man with a pet scallion on a leash, and couldn't find a scallion. His wife suggested a green onion. "Don't be ridiculous," he said, "nobody'd have a green onion for a pet."

I understand this perfectly. Lots of people suggested on the Lurking Turnip that brussels sprouts were scarier than turnips, but feh, brussels sprouts don't lurk. (They skulk. They will also stampede if you get enough of them. But they're not lurkers. They don't have the patience for it.) It's not just veggies. The world inside the artist's head looks completely random and made up from the outside, but in fact there are very strict and often arbitrary laws. It's just that the gearworld seems to have a lot more of 'em than the lizards, and it takes a lot longer to tease a painting out past the building codes. Navigating the laws of the lizard world is like wandering through a field with the occasional big rock in it. Navigating the gearworld laws is like navigating the gearworld itself--labryinthine, full of dead ends and blind corners and false leads.

Maybe real art is defined by whatever you manage to weasel out between increasingly restrictive mental laws of what fits here. Maybe that's why commissions are so hard--they're based on someone else's mental laws, and some part of our brain is going "Feh! That's not how it works!"

Maybe I should shut up and go paint.

* Not to rank myself up there with either of 'em, mind you. I could never paint "Saturn Devouring His Children" if I lived to be a thousand. That's the only painting that's ever stopped me dead in my tracks while my spleen kept right on going. The first time I saw it--in the school library, in a fairly small reproduction--I felt like I was on a fast elevator and my stomach had dropped out. One of these days, I'd like to see the thing in person, which would probably be the closest I'd come to an artistic religious experience. Beatrix Potter, if I live long enough, I might concievably have a remote shot at, but Goya's just plain outta my league. But I'm cool with that.

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I think for alot of people it comes down to the line between art and illustration, you gear images tell a more subtle story in comparisson to you lizzards and goldfish toting donkeys. Mind you the line that drawn between the two is a matter of opnion, and not one I can agree with as art and illustration are the same in my mind.

I see subtlety in the lizards and goldfish-toting donkeys - but maybe that says more about my mind than the images themselves.

[Alopex] *Makes mental note of yet another essay of yours on art that really ought to go in your Artistic Visions book*

I saw a Goya exhibit years ago at the MFA. I think it was in eighth grade or high school. I believe the term "Creepy Ass Shit" fits perfectly. Man, that man was neurotic and paranoid. Granted, his stuff was a direct reflection of what was going on in Spain, and his style is amazing. But to see his works in person? Brrr.... I think that's why I swore off horror movies. You can almost feel the pain and anger flowing from them.

"Feh, brussels sprouts don't lurk. (They skulk. They will also stampede if you get enough of them.)"

This made way too much sense in my brain. This makes me slightly worried. And also a bit amused.

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not entirely on topic

I was wondering if you'd seen today's Goats comic. It has a Lurking Lemon in it. (it's not in the archives yet that I can tell, so I don't know how to put up a permanent link)

More gearworld? Any of them done enough to post?

gearworld and the pre-raphelite stuff are your two "styles" that I love best. I've been hoping for new art...

You have the same favourites as me, then. :-)


I'm sometimes (often) loathe to post about many of your entries... partially because any thread that winds up with 50+ comments seems... well... what am I going to say that SOMEone else isn't going to? I don't like feeling redundant. I'm SPESHUL! :p

But... I have to agree with your comment about it all coming from the same place, and it all making sense. I think that's one of the most critical elements, really - is that it DOES all make sense. However deranged, there is an internal logic and consistancy. From puppies sharpening daggers for their warhund parents to the avacado over there, patiently biding it's time. It's all from the same world, it's all from the same (admittedly deranged) mind.

And the fact that it DOES have this internal consistency makes it stand out as something more than just a bunch of weird, but seperate, vignettes.

And I like green onions, I just think you have to treat them with respect. They're not domesticated... you can't expect them to 'sit' and 'fetch' or whatever, like you could a scallion.

But then, I keep parrots, RL, too, and work with raptors. Not a domesticated animal, and not really 'tameable', but... you can build a cooperative relationship.

So that is why I've had so much trouble with my green onions. I really thought they could be trained.

*L* I love your brain. I understand about the internal laws thing, and that well, it all comes from the same place. Out from the seething primordial mental pool of creation slimes forth both happy faeries and mechanical monsters made out of teenaged girls. I wouldn't have it any other way, but it does end up in me making confused faces at folks who want to insist illustration isn't 'art' or is less than 'art'.

And now I have to check Goya out. Well, not right this instant, I get the feeling it might not be a good thing to do before breakfast.

Some days I feel like the bastard child of Goya and Beatrix Potter.

Remember when you weren't sure what to put in a bio blurb for cons and such? Next time, put that line in.

What scares me even more than 'Saturn Devouring His Children' is the fact that he painted it on a wall of his own house, at the point when he'd withdrawn from the world. Looking at that piece every day, reflecting what's inside your own head.... now I'm all creeped out. Must go find some Beatrix Potter.

I think you'd perhaps understand the way I feel about numbers... they each have their own personalities, and I can't imagine, for instance, a "4" being uncooperative or a "23", for that matter, being chirpy.

And I don't even like math all that well (but then again, perhaps this is why...)

Dude! I do that too! Although I always thought 4 was kind of cold. 5, on the other hand, is charismatic. 8 is old and somewhat befuddled. 9's a sleaze.

I could go on, but y'know.

The lack-of-boundaries fuzziness thing reminds me of my intermittent why I don't get genre rant.

It's all of a piece. Just . . . there's the bit on this side that tends to be a bit different from the bit on that side.

From the same brain that spews forth Horrors and steel-clad flying leviathan warships to menace my Earthdawn players, also comes a rough draft of a Pokemon roleplaying game written for small kids. It's all from the same source. It just comes out different sometimes. I had a player ask me the other day where the ideas came from. I told him, "Sears bargain basement." (cf. David Gerrold) He blinked, and I tried to explain that everybody has creativity, some of us just listen to it more. What's scary is what the voices in my head tell me. What's scarier is that you pay me to tell you about it.

Has anyone told you/warned you about baaaaabyanimals? They have baby capybara. And a baby wombat!

I had to share.

The cute! The terrible cute!

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