Is This Why People Doom-Scroll? I’m Here For It!

The popular rise of artificial intelligence, which I feel we should all just admit is not “AI”, has given rise to something awesome: widespread, boarder-line irrational anger. I can appreciate this because I both do not care, and find it hugely entertaining. I guess there’s AI out there where you tell it something like “creepy Victorian child who is frail but also a Dyson vacuum cleaner in the style of Harry Clarke” and it goes out to whatever image collection and language interpretation database it has been trained on and a machine learning language engine algorithm spits out a drawing for you. Let it be known I do not know any of the proper terms, I skip those paragraphs, they’re boring.

Some people do the prompt crafting and enter the result in art competitions, and win. A that causes internet fights.

The argument is usually between a side that says “you didn’t produce this art, it’s not your work, you should not have been allowed into our competition” and the other which says “I had to come up with an idea, and then I had to carefully craft my instructions to the AI to get this image, I made it, it’s art.” Maybe they say they tweaked it some in photoshop. This opposition is great ‘cause someone, eventually, always mentions assistants.

Is this really a Rembrandt or did van Rijn just sign the work of one of his apprentices? Is this really a Koons or did he and the gallerist just get to cash the check? And it gets to be so wild because the fine art market and it’s participants made their choice centuries before Warhol’s factory made it acceptable to talk about, and now all the paint-spattered, charcoal-smeared, my-hand-feels-like-numb-claw, lower-caste artists are solidly rejecting that position. And it’s like, it’s not your fault, but you’re the reason big names in the fine art community even exist. Withhold your artistic labor, your technical skill, and the big names will collapse.

The proletariat doesn’t just own the means of production, they are the means of production.

And people know, but it doesn’t matter because even if 99.99% of the anonymous working artists out there went on strike, a couple hundred people are sure to be willing to bet that this is their chance to transition from nameless assistant to name on the shingle. That could be true to, if they’ve been careful about swiping phone numbers. Seriously, like having the right number is a fine art fundamental. But none of that’s knew.

And not all the threads last long enough to make it to the obvious. When they do though it’s amazing cause you can practically witness both sides just silently mouthing “well… fuck.” See, my position is just make it. Produce. That’s the opposite of consumer culture, producer culture. Like the good stuff that the world is better as a result of, the secret stuff that is created under compulsion because you have to, the terrible stuff that you gotta get out of the way before you get to the real stuff.

Abandon Fine Art Photography, Be a Photo Operator!

I’m thinking about photography more than normal lately, an upcoming post should explain why, and when I think about things I have to read about them. It’s a coping mechanism to help keep loud things quiet. Now, I’m reading Photography After Capitalism, and you should too, it’s great. Don’t get me wrong, like everything in the genera parts of it read like randomly generated postmodern nonsense. Fortunately, most of it is just very dynamic and original.

One section early on talks about Francis Hodgson and a distinction he draws between photographers and what he’s termed photo operators. It’s a method of addressing the photograph as art debate. I love it. The thing is though, I think there are only photo operators. Photographers are a popular delusion of the fine art market, everything making photographs is a photo operator and it’s simple and beautiful.

Like, Earthrise, is an amazing photograph. Is it art? Is William Anders a photographer because of it? Terry Richardson was an anointed photographer, now he’s just another Harvey Weinstein with a shorter (for now) list and literally indistinguishable from any amateur pornographer on the web. How about that random lady Vivian Maier? Well, how badly do you want to see some arty people fight? Ask them! Ever see one of those one-in-a-million shots where a bird blocks the number plate on a speed-trap or red-light camera? Is something like that a great photo, or would it be if a person took it?

The answer to all those questions, is simple, it doesn’t matter. All those photos exist because of photo operators.

Review: Black Light four stories by Julia Gfrörer

A friend of mine bought me a handful self-published works by Julia Gfrörer a while back. I’ve found I can’t review anything while it’s new to me, I’m too centophilic in my tastes for that. So, here we are more than a year later and I still find myself turning the pages every week or so.

Physically, Black Light is eight pages of blue eight and a half by eleven, center folded and staple bound. It’s heavier weight paper than you might be imagining, the thickness is like that used for invoicing by the self-important and I love it. It’s thick enough that none of the printing shows through from one page to the next.

One more aspect of it’s physicality I particularly like is the arrangement of the cover art to the cover itself. What would traditionally be considered the cover is only an artwork without any distracting text or cluttered design. However, when opened flat the title and all that, which is on what would be considered the back cover is visible as is the complete cover art which exceeds just enough to be considered graceful. Maybe it’d be better if I just show you.

Apologies to Julia Gfrörer if they’re not okay with the reproduction of their work in this context, I hope they let me know.

The first story is titled River of Tears and is ten pages of primarily nine panels each. I could be shallow and call it a story about drugs or relationships but I feel like it’s more than that and I’m just not learned enough to pick up the greater meaning. There’s an early reference to semiotics and the ability of the senses to convey meaning or context plays a role in the remaining pages, be it the cold of overdose, darkness of the street or salt taste of a mistake. The art is detailed in a way that makes the reoccurrence of a scene or motief unique each time.

The second work, All is Lost, is four pages in length. It’s done in a twelve panel per page format and packs quite a narrative into just a few pages. Although I can not place it, there’s the impression that it’s the retelling of a some folk-tale or myth. It’s a sad story and something about it makes it feel much longer than the four short pages it spans. I can’t decide is the details of the narrative that are kept obscure is because it’s assumed the reader will know the story or because there’s a tacit agreement that any fan will fill in there own background. Either way, it just works.

Unclean is the title of the third tale and it’s an eight page return to the nine panel format. It’s my least favorite of the included works but that’s mostly because I just hate everything about the creature populating this one, it’s nothing to do with the work itself which is once more beautifully illustrated and well composed. I find that I read too much perhaps into the title. Is the explicit act what is unclean, the protagonist, the relationships both pictured and alluded to, the break of a deleted contact when one can not delete a physical presence?

The final entry in the slim volume is six more nine panel pages, titled Phosphorus. It makes sparring use of a yellow ink (like that seen on the cover) and benefits from reading under a, you guessed it, black light. It’s a story of rusalka-auto-erotic-asphyxia which is something I never knew I wanted to exist.

Here’s a link to Black Light at Julia Gfrörer’s Etsy shop where you can pick up a copy for the very reasonable cost of $8.00 USD. You should buy one today because honestly this is the sort of medium that’s availability never feels assured. I mean, this was first available in 2013 according to the date on the work itself, and it’s hardly guaranteed that the author will keep making copies in perpetuity (although I hope they do).

Sketch Every Day by Simone Grunewald

Cover of a good book.

The book Sketch Every Day by Simone Grunewald is 207 numbered pages, each 24.5 cm tall and 17.5cm wide. I mention the size of the pages because it’s large enough that the drawings don’t feel super shrunk-down as they can in smaller books and it’s not so large as to be unwieldy.

The book is broken up into seven sections of varying length. Starting with a page of introduction and three pages of the My Creative Life which is a short biography of the authors art career, we move on to thirty pages of Artists Advice. This sections makes such recommendations as getting into the habit of sketching, not being afraid of social media and not doing that thing that plagues every artists who reads book reviews online is guilty of; believing that this tool or that will make one a better artist.

We then get to the meat of the book with just shy of fifty pages on Art Fundamentals. She covers everything form using light and shade properly color theory and narrative construction. I particularly like that she doesn’t gloss over the importance of highlights and how to use them effectively.

Now, the bulk of the book is some eighty pages on Character Design, which honestly doesn’t interest me much. Don’t eat me wrong, it’s enjoyable to read and the artworks are lovely to see. It always a joy to read any author who’s writhing from a place of love and enthusiasm. I just don’t care about creating characters. The authors real life work experience in the video game industry is really going to make this section worth while for some people, just not for me.

Second to last is twelve pages of Family Life which is a peek into the authors day to day. This is nice to see as I do think far to many people who pursue art get the impression that people who make their living from art practice it to the exclusion of all else. She then wraps up with a page of Thank You.

I’m happy I picked up the book and it’s enjoyable to read and just leaf through. I don’t think I would have bought it if I knew before hand how much of it was devoted to a topic that doesn’t light a fire for me. I’ll definitely keep it but if I lost it I don’t think I’d buy it again.

Book Review: Urban Sketching Step by Step, Krause Meier-Pauken

So urban sketching is a thing. It’s a thing I want to do which for me means reading way way too much about it before actually giving it a shot. As a result I’ve got a stupid number of books about it, here’s one.

Urban Sketching Step by Step subtitle: Techniques for Creating Quick & Lively Urban Scenes is a 96 page work written and illustrated by Klaus Meier-Pauken. Klaus is a former architect and urban planner who is now a working artist and professor. I like that I’m getting a book from a person who’s trying to teach me something when that person is actually a teacher, it makes me feel like this book is going to have some solid structure as far as getting me from point A to B.

First impressions on flipping through the book are good. It’s good size, like A4 so things look a size that they could be drawn if you wanted to practice by copying some. There’s a lot of illustration but a fair mix of text as well. The drawings have a real sketchy quality that I love (clean lines and stuff can be nice too, but learning should be messy so I’m glad it looks a bit less neat). There’s a mix of pencil and pen for the line work and it looks like colors come from everything from pencils to pastels and watercolor. There also seems to be progressional drawings as well and they aren’t the stereotypical draw a line, draw a circle, finish drawing the horse type which is nice. It’s a little infuriating when someone trying to teach you something wont show you how to get from blank page to finished sketch so no worries on that front.

Reading the book it’s obvious it’s a translation but it’s still very readable. Klaus takes some firm stances early on as far as the paper you should choose goes but it’s not off-putting. I like that he doesn’t seem to feel you must use a sketchbook; that’s probably just ‘cause I like loose sheets.

There’s solid information about the usual things, composition and perspective, as wells as how to pick a view that’s going to be rewarding to draw. I love that he touches on the one thing about perspective that always seems to get left out, where people will be in relation to the horizon. I feel like everyone gets the lines stretching to a vanishing point right away so it bugs me when there’s no mention of how to position things that don’t follow those same rules.

All in all I say this is a pretty great book. Especially if, like me, you’re ready to start but haven’t got a clue where to start

Contemporary Art Sucks

If you’ve gone to MoMa or the Tate Modern, hell, if you’ve picked up a recent copy of Art Digest or gotten by clicking about art in Wikipedia you’ve seen some modern art. Chances are you’ve seen it and, even if you didn’t say it you thought, damn that’s terrible. Oh, so and so spent 2 million on it? guess I’ll look again and try and rationalize. Or, maybe you swallowed it whole and just beleive that the capacity to generate a “cost” or end up in a museum or find a space in a gallery is what dictates the worth of an artwork.

So, I just ready Julian Spalding’s Con Art and in a effort to hear a cojent argument against that position I read Susie Hodge’s Why Your Five-Year-Old Could Not Have Done That. I was rather disapointed in both. Spalding just seems to accept that his position is correct and doesn’t need any sort of a defense. Hodge on the other hand give you her position in the title, just as Spalding does, and then proceeds to defend her stance in a way that totally disregards it. A more apt title for her work would have been, “Why The Art World Wont Defend Anything by Your Five-Year-Old.”

Spalding’s argument is something along the lines of, and I’ll paraphrase here, “What the hell is wrong with your morons? None of this is any good!”. Hodge’s is “We can bring all kinds of context to the analysis of this Unmade Bed or Uncarved Block so it’s deffinately worth a bunch of recognition and museum space.” I think their both wrong. I think they’re both looking at the wrong thing. I think this because terrible movies get made all the time and no one has any problem speaking up and saying they’re terrible.

Take Gigli. This is a movie that ends up on all kinds of worst movie ever lists. It had stars who people liked, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, and a budget of $75.6 million dollars. It made $7.3 million. If you invested $11.00 in making it, you got a dollar back on that investment and lost ten. The public at large and professional critics have no trouble at all panning the film. Why desparage Gigli but not the most expensive photo ever sold, a useless, photoshopped travesty called Rhein II?

Well, to sell Rhein II for $4.3 million one only had to briefly convince a few dozen high net worth idiots in an auction house that it was any good. In order to make a profit on Gigli you’d have to convince the public at large. Look at it this way, the fact Gigli got made is proof you can convice a few wealthy people that shit (even if it isn’t canned) is art that’s valuable. That it made no money to speak of is proof you can’t convince the world.

Oddly enough, everyone in the art world probably knows this. Everyone. It’d be hillarious, if it wasn’t so sad.

The Urban Sketching Handbook: Understanding Perspective

So I guess there’s this series of books, from Gabi Campanario, the founder of Urban Sketchers, that’s all about inspiration and instruction for people who want to sketch or do already. I learned about the books from this guy, Teoh Yi Chie’s youtube channel. I picked up one of them, called Understanding Perspective: Easy Techniques for Mastering Perspective Drawing on Location by Stephanie Bower to start with. I like it.

Early on in the book it has an excercise suggestion that it compairs to playing the scales on an instrument. It’s about filling pages with lines. I gave it a shot and made some notes. Now I’m gonna sketch every day for like a long-ass time and see if the results of the exercise change over time.