Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lynda Barry love, animals getting drunk, did I mention I'm an art school dropout?

I was a very creative little kid, which led to a lot of kits, and journals, (I believe I've blogged about those before) and various arts-n-crafts situations from distant family members. Some I used, some I didn't. I didn't really like other kids, I found most of their shenanigans insufferable, so I spent a lot of time doing stuff in front of the television or listening to books on tape. Creating stuff always came pretty naturally to me as a child, and then I grew up and went to art school (for a hot second) and found it really very difficult. Art school wanted me to investigate why I created, and how I could better that instinct, and most importantly, how I could make money off of that instinct. Those are all really important things to think about if you're pursuing art as a serious career; I have been working for Abstraks, which is an online art journal run by my friend Darius Loftis, in an interviewing capacity. In my work interviewing artists, I've found you really have to know you're stuff if you're planning on making this into a career choice.

I remember once in Art school, in one of my foundation classes, I spent hours making this digital collage that was supposed to reference this science fiction genre of comparing space to the final frontier, (this was a thinly veiled excuse to talk about my favourite television series of all time, Firefly, which is about space cowboys) and I was psyched about using photoshop, something I had been teaching myself in my own time since high school (so now that I'm reading this I'm realizing that I am the hugest nerd in existence and should probably just be stopped). I spent so much time crafting this complicated vista of vintage photographs and stills from movies like "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and "The Lone Ranger", and I really tried very hard to make this thing that spoke to my interests in a format that I understood, and of course, the teacher didn't get it. It was about space? But cowboys? What was the deeper meaning here, what did space and cowboys represent to me? I was incredulous. My narrative was falling on deaf ears, but more than that, I myself didn't really know what I was talking about, and I had hoped that art school would help me figure that out. When it didn't, I left.

I never stopped thinking about it, though. I don't know why I personally create. Some of us don't, I suppose. To some of us it might just be a natural form of communication; my parents are both quietly creative, my mom writes a little, my dad is a master color-er. I learned pretty early that art makes people happy; not necessarily the content, but the fact of art. Draw somebody a picture sometime, watch their reaction. It doesn't have to be what you would call "good". Around here I'm known as a pretty serious doodler. I recently made some silly art for a friend's kitchen, and she remarked that her last apartment had practically been a museum for another artist friend. I said, "You should make your current place into a similar museum; Billy-Bob (names have been changed to protect the innocent) is a much better artist than I am." My friend replied, "Billy-bob is a very good painter, but she's not as silly as you. Much fewer animals getting drunk." Sure enough, there's a monkey in a bow tie drinking a glass of wine on the piece I made for her. It's not fine art, but its definitely a line drawing of a monkey drinking a glass of wine. Just the fact that it's good for nothing else makes it art, and I stand by that sentiment. And when she looked at it, she got jazzed about that monkey drinking that wine. Come on! It's a monkey drinking wine! What's not to love?

The point I'm getting at is: Art don't always have to be beautiful, friends. I don't mean in the feelings department; sure, art can be used to manipulate emotions in a bevy of different ways, and I don't mean to shock you, but sometimes art is not meant to make you feel good. But you guys aren't dummies, you know that, you've listened to Joni Mitchell, you know the drill. I'm just worried that sometimes we don't let ourselves create because we think what we're going to create is going to be 'bad' or not look good. If that's you, then let me hip you to the groove of one Lynda Barry, author of these books and a few more:

Lynda Barry gets me, you guys. I've mentioned her on here before on my list of Greatest Booksmith Author Events I've Ever Attended, and she is truly the queen of creation. Barry addresses any and all of your qualms about Makin' Stuff and Bein' Artsy, not only does she address them but she lets you in on her own creative angst, to boot. Her creative angst! This, from an amazing woman who's published several graphic novels and a few fictional ones. And yet, she too, lets herself get in her way sometimes. I love Lynda Barry, I hope everyone who longs to make stuff reads her books and starts a-makin' in their own way, at their own speed. The books themselves are pretty gorg, too boot - I'm batting my eyelashes at you, gift book lookers-for. Yeah. You heard me. I would get this for any Empty Nesters Looking To Expand Their Suddenly Free Time and Young Family Members That Sorta Like Reading And Being Alone. I'm totally kidding, you see right through me, internets. I would get these books for anyone, ever, that's how much I love them. I don't just love them, I loooooooooooove them. I wanna leave an anonymous note in their locker and then never make eye contact with them again for as long as I live. You know, usual adult stuff. You know.

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