Not all of the songs I write will be good ones. Actually, a lot of them will be ridiculously bad (experience has also taught me not to show those songs to anyone for obvious reasons). But when an honest, four-dimensional, hook-filled piece of humanity is finally born, there is a clue to recognizing it’s timelessness. There is a peaceful, non-judgmental appreciation that falls over me when I hear it, a feeling — or even a knowledge — that we songwriters really had nothing to do with its creation in the first place. It’s as if we were archaeologists at a dig and all we had to do was chip away the stone and brush away the sand that hid it from view. We were just lucky enough to be in the room that day when it showed up to sing to us.—Darrell Brown, “The Three Hs (Honesty, Humanity, Hooks)“
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I met a printmaker a few weeks ago and he was going into his lengthy process, the many stages of sketches and drafts he goes through. He didn’t have a website, and I suggested that he should think about just starting a Flickr account and a blog to get himself out there, start a viewership, etc.
His response was, “I don’t want to start creating work for the internet.”
I asked him to explain.
He said, “A lot of the artists I know who start posting their stuff on the net…they start CREATING their work for the net.”
Now, as an artist who has embraced blogging whole-heartedly, at first I found this to be really, well, kind of backwards. I mean, my kind of ideal business plan for young artists these days is: embrace the net, put yourself online, create a readership, find a way to sell your stuff directly to your readership. Forget galleries, forget publishing deals.
But I have to admit: since I started blogging, my art has changed. Instead of writing short stories, I do visual poems. I’ve gone from thinking about doing a graphic novel to thinking about doing a webcomic.
It’s the nature of the beast: shorter, more visual, faster. A click of the mouse, and thousands of people can see my stuff and give me feedback.
And I wonder: is the internet helping me to think “big” or think “small”? Is using my blog as my primary artistic outlet limiting my work?
Back to the printmaker: he makes these huge, colorful monoprints—stuff that you probably can’t process on a tiny screen. How can putting it online help him and not detract from his vision?
My answer is to document the process-side of the work: the “small” stuff. The sketches, photos of the in-progress prints, etc.
But still, I wonder: does making our art live online create a temptation for us to think “smaller” not “bigger”? And as my friend Tim points out, maybe it’s not a bad thing?
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Narrative art is about storytelling in the clearest possible ways. In illustration an artist can direct what the eye sees first, second, and third. You could even parse an illustration as one would a sentence, with a subject, predicate, object, as well as adjectives and prepositions. Your eye, in about a nanosecond, may be tracked looking at the elements of “The Creation” (at Michelangelo’s firm direction) in this order: 1. The hand of God, 2. Who is a powerful and beneficent presence, 3. Who is reaching from his Heaven, 4. Surrounded by angels, 5. Touches and gives life to, 6. Adam, an ordinary guy, in the, 7. world below. The artist is in control and the picture tells a story. A very successful illustration! It is in the area of thinking in pictures that illustrators do the heavy lifting. The finishing of a piece of art is nothing compared to the struggle to get the thinking right. There must be extreme economy as well as meaning. To me where simplicity meets power is what constitutes eloquence, the big “E.” It’s the thing you work for.— Steve Brodner, excerpt from Freedom Fries
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It’s time to kill. And it’s time to enjoy the killing. Because by killing, you will make something else even better live. Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.— Ira Glass on storytelling
Sunday afternoon I went to the Ransom Center to see Jack Kerouac’s original “scroll” manuscript for ON THE ROAD. It’s quite a sight—crumbling on the edges, but still very readable. Kerouac cut drawing paper into long strips and taped it together so that he could write uninterrupted, “spontaneous” prose. The scroll is essentially non-fiction: none of the names have been changed…
“I first met Dean not long after my father died.” That’s the way the first draft begins. He later changed it to say, “I first met Dean after my wife and I split up.”
The last line of the book mentions “Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found.” That would’ve made for such great symmetry! Losing the father, searching for the father, never finding him.
What happens when you kill something good?
There’s a part in the scroll that I don’t remember reading in the book that goes like this:
My mother once said the world would never find peace until men fell at their women’s feet and asked for forgiveness….[husbands] getting drunk while the women stay home with the babies of the everdarkening future…if these men stop the machine and come home—and get on their knees—peace will suddenly descend on the earth…
Boy, do I like that quote.